Mar 8, 2014

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State of the Union (of Brie)

I’ve been radio silent for a few weeks now, but it’s because things have been busy, and good.

Firstly, this has been the first week of the Saylor.org NASA Systems Engineering course. Being able to take part in this has been super exciting. Adam also linked to this Caltech Science of the Solar System course that’ll start at the end of the month which I’ve just signed up for. I’m excited to see what I’ll get out of these as they are structured like normal classes, with quizzes and a final and the ability to pass or fail. I’m hoping that as I’m hunting down internships, it’ll be a nice thing to throw onto my resume for related coursework.

Secondly, this last Monday I got to visit Agilent Technologies with my engineering class; it was an amazing experience. We were there after hours and had four different guides for different parts of their building(s) on a tour that lasted well over an hour. I only really understood about 10% of what they talked about, but it was so fascinating. A lot of the other students were annoyed about how long the tour took (it went over the end of our class by about 40 minutes) but I wish we could have stayed longer.  It was a lot of walking though, they have four building that are extremely large with varying floor levels. I think I might have walked two miles following the guides around.

Thirdly, my first math test was a couple of weeks ago, I got a 91%, and though that is still an A, I felt ashamed that the mistakes I made were easily avoidable; classically I was just moving too quickly. However, the instructor keeps insisting that this is the hardest test of the class, that this is the one that people do the worst on. I find it hard to believe, but hope that it will prove to be true.

Fourthly, I’m almost at the end of the table drafting course. It’s been a lot of fun, but this couple of weeks we’ve moved into the AutoCAD lab to start exploring the program, and then after spring break I’ll start the actual AutoCAD class. I did really well on our first project which was just basically exploring the controls of the program. I finished it in less than 10 minutes, and then spent the next 10 helping my poor lost classmate.

Fifthly? I lots to do. I have an essay due on Monday and lots of reading plus other projects and math homework… But, today was nice, it was my brother’s birthday and we walked the Golden Gate bridge and then had Extreme Pizza for lunch. I had a headache from my moment of waking though and it just grew and grew, so after we finally got home I took some more meds and crawled into bed to try to nap it off. It was successful and I was able to get together with my Qwerty crew for delicious homemade tacos/burritos.

Everything is Awesome!

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Feb 10, 2014

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Oh man…

So, the week before last was pretty full. There was a lot of homework and things that needed doing, but I pulled through. This week was less full, but there was still a lot going on.

Tomorrow we have a guest speaker in Engineering that  I had to prepare questions for, and I’m currently working on an architectural layout for drafting which has been fun.

I’ve got my first math test two Monday’s from now, and I’m excited to see how that goes; over all I’ve been feeling pretty confident.

Speech is still annoying me, inexplicably. Wednesday I have to turn in nine different scenarios where I might give a speech or presentation; more difficult than not coming up with them.

English is also annoying me, but that’s mostly because there’s someone in my class who was in my English class last semester, and he’s particularly bothersome.

I’m thinking that English and Speech are so terrible for me right now, is because they don’t feel science-y or math-y enough. Like, they don’t connect enough to my major. I’m hoping to get some other humanities out of the way by doing them via online courses this summer. I’m hoping that’ll be an option.

I’m avoiding feeling overwhelmed or too tired so far (though other things have kept me up late this weekend), and having classes only two days a week is keeping me from loathing my commute.

Things are good. I’m happy. I love school, and I’m so excited about my future.

Also, this…

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Feb 3, 2014

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Deconstructing and Comparing the Works of Machiavelli’s The Qualities of a Prince and Lao Tzu’s Tao-te Ching – English 5 – Essay 1

Assignment: Compare Lao-tzu’s view of government with that of Machiavelli. Consider what seems to be the ultimate purposes of government, what seems to be the obligations of the leader to the people being led, and what seems to be the main work of the state. What comparisons can y0u make betwee Lao-tzu’s Master and Machiavelli’s prince?

Grade: 85/100

Comments: 

- You write with clarity

- Your comparison/contrast is logical and well organized

- You provide convincing evidence

- Keep verb tense consistent

_______________________________________________________________________________________

Gabriella Wendt

English 5

02/03/14

Deconstructing and Comparing the Works of Machiavelli’s The Qualities of a Prince and Lao Tzu’s Tao-te Ching

Reading the works of Machiavelli and Lao-Tzu in succession highlight how truly at opposition the messages are. Though both pieces express the desired way to govern a people, the “Tao-te Ching” speaks of peace, simplicity, and letting the universe work its will, while “The Qualities of the Prince” emphasizes the necessity for war, and the natural wickedness of men. There are no particular reasons that these two ways of thought should be in harmony, one written in the 6th century, and the other the 16th, but they are similar in that they are highly revered and the aphorisms taken from the text are often quoted and considered wise, brilliant, and true. Both authors seem to believe that they are experts in the ways of human nature, and at their time in history might have been, but I could argue that their political reasoning’s are so antiquated, that they have no place in today’s culture. That said, contrasting these two texts can emphasize the extremities between a conquering nation and a stagnant one.

One of the prevailing messages of the Tao is that of inaction, or at least inaction until absolutely necessary and even then taking action without notice. “The Master doesn’t talk, he acts. When his work is done, the people say, “Amazing: We did it, all by ourselves!” (207) The Tao believes that the role of the Master is that of silent leader, an example, a sturdy center to the Way; the Master encourages simplicity in all things and knows the universe will move as needed.  To take unnecessary action would be to move outside the center and to upset the balance and the flow of life. Machiavelli, believing in strong actions and leadership as a controlling roll, would find Lao-Tzu’s teachings weak.

Machiavelli opines that “there is such a gap between how one lives and how one ought to live” (224) and concludes that to accept the true nature of men is the only way to rule appropriately. Machiavelli thinks of himself to be a realist and would consider Lao-Tzu a wishful person when considering the people.

In “The Qualities of a Prince”, Machiavelli leads me to believe that the purpose of a government and its leader is to gain power and stay in power; everything is focused on that task. Lao-Tzu states “Act for the people’s benefit. Trust them; leave them alone.” (214) He feels that people at the heart of it are simple and good, and that if only left to the ways of the universe, they would live simple and good lives without ambition, desire, or want. “I let go of the law, and people become honest. I let go of economics, and people become prosperous. I let go of religion, and people become serene. I let go of all desire for the common good, and the good becomes common as grass.” (211)

Trusting in those you lead was not something Machiavelli encouraged though, “[…] men are a sorry lot and will not keep their promises to you, you likewise need not keep yours to them.” (230) He expected plotting, treason, and unlawfulness from his people and wrote his rules as such under the ideals of being a realist. Finding that “they are ungrateful, fickle, simulators and deceivers, avoiders of danger, greedy for gain” (228) the role of Prince was to contain and govern that instead of letting the people prosper or set an example.

Lao-Tzu thought “If a country is governed with tolerance, the people are comfortable and honest. If a country is governed with repression, the people are depressed and crafty.” (211) The Tao speaks on the balance of life that “For every force there is a counterforce.” (208) He understood that through your example as the Master, the people would follow in suit. You cannot force anything upon your people except through force, but if you let things be, everything would fall into place. Machiavelli though, was not shy about what kind of leader you should be.  “A prince must not worry about the reproach of cruelty when it is a matter of keeping his subjects united and loyal” (227) His reasoning’s for being cruel or for lying were that they are the only logical means to an end, when the other possibility is to fall out of power. Everything is done to keep the Prince in power. Keeping the Prince in power is in the best interest of the people.

Lao-Tzu and Machiavelli surprisingly spoke similarly on how a people should feel about their leader, Lao-Tzu stating “[…]best is a leader who is loved. Next, one who is feared. The worst is one who is despised.” (207) Machiavelli insists that though to be both loved and feared would be best, being the two at once is impossible, thus “it is much safer to be feared than to be loved when one of the two must be lacking.” (227) On the subject of being despised, Machiavelli fest strongly that a Prince should avoid being considered that at all costs.  “A prince must guard himself against being despised and hated[...]” (226)

Where I felt the most disagreement between the two texts was on the subject of war. Machiavelli felt it was the single most important thing a Prince could do. “A prince, therefor must not have any other object nor any other thought, nor must he take anything as his profession but war, its institutions, and its discipline; because that is the only profession which befits one who commands.” (221) Lao-Tzu in opposition felt that it was the lowest form and should only be attended if absolutely necessary. He believed “Peace is his highest value. If the peace has been shattered, how can he be content? […] How could he rejoice in victory and delight in the slaughter of men? He enters a battle gravely, with sorrow and with great compassion, as if he were attending a funeral.” (209)

As a pacifist, I am want to admire Lao-Tzu’s messages of peace, however his stance on inaction and simplicity, in their substance, are not qualities I support. I believe that ambition and education are necessary and admirable for our world to continue to advance. Again, as a pacifist, I am immediately judgmental of Machiavelli’s text. Where Lato-Tzu’s message is of peace and feminine undertones, everything about Machiavelli’s is harsh and violent and masculine.

Works Cited

Jacobus, Lee A. “Lao-Tzu Thoughts from the Tao-te Ching and Niccolo Machiavelli The Qualities of the Prince.” A World of Ideas: EssentialReadings for College Writers. N.p.: n.p., n.d. 203-33. Print.

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Jan 25, 2014

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Short Week

Monday was Martin Luther King Jr. Day, so no school, which made for a wonderful extended “weekend”. Unfortunately things haven’t really picked up yet so I wasn’t able to take advantage and use that time for homework, but just relaxed mostly instead.

Wednesday I got right back to it though and ended up with a minor headache all day.

We finished up our first piece of linework in drafting and will be starting on new assignments this next week which will be focusing lettering. I’ve got shit for handwriting, so it should be interesting at the very least.

In math we started to finally started getting into actual coursework, which I’m not sure how I feel about yet, but I have a sizable amount of homework to get done.

Then after a lengthy evening break where I was able to have a nice long conversation with my mother, it was back to Speech.

Again, I was just so annoyed with the instructor, but I’m trying to keep an open mind and just do what I need to do to get through the course with an A.

It feels like last semester went so quickly, but things are moving so slowly now; I’m ready to be in the thick of it again.

 

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Jan 15, 2014

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Spring Semester ’14 – First Week

Monday was the beginning of my second semester and the start of the courses that will count towards my engineering degree.

It was a good day.

I left the house only mildly frantic and had to run back inside after starting my car because I thought I had forgotten my phone ( which turned out to be in my pocket).

But I got up to my second alarm, actually ate some food, and had time to do my hair and put on a little bit of make up; clearly my day was set up to go well.

The hour and a half long drive went quickly and I got to the campus with plenty of time to find my first class.

This year the majority of my classes are in one building which is large and has a confusing room arrangement – I had to wander a bit before finding it. Like a sheep though I took the cue of everyone else standing around outside (thinking the door was locked) and felt silly when the teacher came by right at 9 and turned the handle.

My first class was Applied Technology. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but got really excited when I found out it was drafting. So far I breezed through a visualization exercise and am working on a lining project which is fun and interesting. The second half of the semester will be working with the drafting program on a computer, but I love the manual work.

After ApTech I had some time for lunch then moved on to this semesters math course which is College Algebra. With everything that I want to achieve, I feel silly that I’m so far behind in my math sequence, but I have to follow the steps. It was a short class though, just going over the syllabus and the like, and then today was just about figuring out how to use TI calculator.

After Math I had another short break for dinner and went to Engineering 10, and introductory course. They had us sit in groups at circular tables, we talked about the syllabus and rules and also did a couple of “getting to know you” exercises. There’s going to be a lot of forced interaction and group projects in this class, which sucks, but fortunately for me I’m pretty good at forcing it.

Immediately after Engineering I had to run over to another building for English, which… is English. I enjoy writing, and it looks like there will be a fair amount of that (as well as a ton of reading), but again, more group projects to come.

Today I had ApTech and Math again, but Speech instead of English and Engineering. I had a 4 hour break after Math and killed time watching Greys Anatomy and browsing the web, but Speech… Man that is a class I was not looking forward to.

It started off with the sylabus and class conduct emailed a few nights before, where the first rule of the conduct was that students were not allowed to leave the classroom once class started for any reason or else they woud be marked half an absense. As in, no going pee or getting a drink of water.

How ridiculous is that? What are we, in kindergarten?

For some reason I got the idea that the instructor was a crotchety old lady, but its this middle aged guy who speaks like a cross between bill engval and clinton, chews gum, wears snakeskin cowboy boots, and is kind of a loud obnoxious dick.

I was also informed that we wouldn’t be doing strait up speeches, but there would be a group project, and three arguements where we would have to pretend to be in a situation such as a coach giving an inspiring speech before a game, or speaking to coworker etc. Truly, I would rather just lecture.

Thankfully this is a once a week class.

 

All in all, I’m really excited about this semester and continuing my journey.

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Jan 3, 2014

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Semester in Review

My first semester is over and I rocked it.

 

semester 1 grades

 

After finals were over and grades started coming in I kept having nightmares about getting Cs, or that even though it said I got an A, it would change at the last minute.

It’s official though, I’ve got a 4.0 for the semester!

sucess

Spring semester starts on the 13th and I’ve been taking my winter break to completely relax, enjoy my family, and stay up nearly every evening marathoning Grey’s Anatomy on Netflix ’till 4am.

After this weekend I’m going to get my shit together though; start the semester with an organized and clean pallet, with an empty laundry pile and a clear desk, maybe even vacuum a little.

vacuume

I’m also hoping to do a lot of cooking and photographing to get ahead on our Qwerty Cafe schedule. It would be nice to have a little stockpile of recipes to choose from again.

Next semester will be a lot more work than this previous one, which will be good as I could use a little added pressure.

spring14schedule

 

It’s only 15 units in total, which is one less than last semester, but it’s one class more. I’m also starting an Engineering course, and Applied Technology. It will finally feel like part of the path to my goal.

 

aptech45

aptech46

engr10

math155

 

engl5

spch1a

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Nov 19, 2013

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Religion – English 1A – Essay 3

Assignment – 

Write an essay in which you reflect on Adler’s claim, and discuss your belief in God* — do you believe? If so, what elements have combined to persuade you to this belief? Do you disbelieve? If so, what factors prevent you from believing? Are you unsure? What would you need to learn to move you one direction or the other?

This essay is reflective in nature. No quotes, no research, just your thoughts on a very complex (and, we’ll find, important) topic. Do try to organize it fairly well though(please no rambling!). Please also try to limit any anger or vitriol you might feel towards this topic. I don’t want it to be a platform for bashing a particular group of people.

*I’m using the word “God” very loosely. It doesn’t have to mean the Christian, Muslim, Hindu, Jewish god (although it certainly can). It can also refer to a more general manifestation of deity, but I want to particularise our definition as an entity distinct from a pantheistic/animistic understanding of the divine nature. Don’t use the Force for he essay!

Score: 200/200

Comments: “Thank you for your honesty!”

_________________________________________________________________________________

Gabriella Wendt

Professor A.

English 1A

19 November 2013

Mortimer Adler, in his essay on God, claims that “more consequences for thought and action follow from the affirmation or denial of God, than from answering any other basic question.” I believe this to be true to an extent. Yes, belief or disbelief in a deity can indicate a lot about a person and their actions. However, as we discover from America’s Four Gods, there is so much more to the picture. It is not just whether someone thinks there is a god or not, but if they believe, then what kind of god they think there is, and how involved that god is with our world.

As for non-believers, their disbelief is a good starting point to indicate who they are and/or how they’ll act, but human nature is so deeply complex that there is a myriad of other factors that affect who a person is. To me, because the question of God is so easily answered, it is one I don’t typically think to raise when assessing an individual. I question their charitable nature, the quickness of their temper, and their aptitude for critical thought; only when brought forth on its own does the question of god affect how I view a person or their actions.

Although I wasn’t always an Atheist, I was never a full believer. I was baptized at the age of seven, had my first communion a few years later, and spent many afternoons in a bible class as a child, but to me there wasn’t anything meaningful about it. I enjoyed hearing stories and all of the arts and craft projects, but I never felt a spiritual connection to any god.

As a teenager I predictably spent a lot of time starting to consider the nature of deity and concepts like truth. I openly described myself as an agnostic because I felt such a profound connection with nature and thought that a connection and wonder like that meant that there must be some supernatural or spiritual aspect to the world. I cannot remember the exact moment I realized I was an atheist, I can’t even narrow it down to the year, I just know that it was so natural and obvious, there wasn’t any chance of me feeling any other way. It was truly the only thing that made any sense.

There’s an entire worlds worth of reasoning for why I am not a believer and why this is so strongly my truth but I suppose one of the most prominent reasons is in how diverse humanity is and how rife with disagreement we are. I cannot imagine that we would be this way if we were in fact created by an all-powerful being with any intent to control or even guide the way we live our lives.

If we had a god who was active in our day to day lives and cared about what we did, then I cannot accept that it would be a good god worthy of our respect and worship considering all of the pain and terribleness in the world. If we were created by a distant god who simply got everything going and then left us alone, then there would be no requirement for belief or need for worship. I believe that our entire basis for belief and doctrine is entirely man made and is now a relic of a more primitive time in our history. I no more believe in the Christian God than I believe in Zeus, Thor, Vishnu or Santa Clause.

My lack of belief in any god also stems from the fact that there is absolutely zero proof substantiating any religious claims. Everywhere there is hard evidence backing up scientific theories, but when requesting proof of God I am presented with empty rhetoric on how “faith doesn’t require proof” or circular logic that needs a pre-existing belief in god to validate any argument.

What irritates me the most about religion is the seeming lack of critical thought. Religious people generally follow a set of doctrines blindly and do not question their religious leaders. Their morality is based not on logic or a shared goal for a harmonious society, but instead exists allegedly only because some unseeable creature has put forth a set of rules related through old stories or supposed profits. I often hear atheists asked how we “can find beauty in the world without God?”, but in my mind our universe is all the more awe inspiring and gorgeous because there was no design – it is all the result of natural and scientific processes.

I think all I would need to become a believer is repeatable independently verifiable proof that a god/creator/etc exists. As a scientist I can easily accept new facts to change my point of view or beliefs. Whether it’s God, alien overlords, or a giant computer simulation, as long as there is proof (maybe something along the lines of an instantaneous global communication to everyone), I would accept it as fact.

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