Monthly Archives: October 1997

one of my computer science requirements is a course called cs51. although the professor is extremely nice, he is also known to be rather dull and confusing. to make matters worse, he knows that he is dull and confusing but this does not manage to eliminate this problem. every day i enter his class feeling semi-confident about the topic at hand only to be utterly confused by the discussion or shall we say lecture. i get angry at his inability to teach and am always smacking my head thinking “how can this man be allowed to teach?” i know that he is nice but i still always walk out of the class being pissed.
on a regular basis, i speak with both the tas and the professor about this problem, ask him to be concrete and he goes about his merry way. i depend on the tas to “reteach” me everything that i do not gain from class.

like any other day, today was a repeat of these problems. i walked into class feeling rather confident of my understanding of fsms and was quickly confused by every word that exited his mouth. i asked questions and he seemed annoyed by my confusion. my mental response was to get annoyed- pissed that he did not try to relate to his students, angry that he constantly told us that we understood and that is why the class was good (even though every person in the room had some form of perplexity on their face), frustrated that he did not try to make it better.

then something dawned on me. i was being completely unfair. he knew that noone understood and was frustrated himself. he truly had no clue how to help us. he felt out of control of the class because of the distance between us and him but he did not know how to fix it. rather than verbally acknowledge the problem, he constantly tried to convince himself that we really did understand by verbalizing this. when students asked questions, it was obvious of the gab and that flustered him. he was afraid of the truth and of the fact that he was doing a poor job. more than likely, he will never be able to communicate with us about models of computation. even his book that he constantly admires is only a way to cover his fear of our confusion and the reality that he is not getting thru to us.

so, i sat back and relaxed, no longer angry. i am now fully aware that, for me, the class is pointless. i will continue to go (and continue to be confused) because it would hurt him so much for us to not go. but, i will not worry about the material. i will talk to the tas and try to understand outside of class. and i will continue to give him advice but i will not expect anything from him. it is the expectation that makes me frustrated. when i expect him to teach well and he lets me down, we both lose. if i expect nothing but gain knowledge then i will not be at a loss.

for the last few days, one thought has been on my mind- “kill your parents.” it was just one of the words said at a dharma talk two weeks ago… i have no idea how to kill my mother. the monk was 100% right though- i am entirely attached to my mother. i had not thought about it before that talk but it is so true and i have no idea how to stop it.
it is a pretty uncomfortable battle. i love my mother and she me. we have a very close bond. she does not understand many of my decisions and we argue thru everything. she is often the first person that i contact when i need to talk thru something with someone. and she depends on me. it is definitely mutual dependence.

i am also attached to her monetarily- i am in college and i don’t have the money to fund my way so she does so willingly but requires certain things of me because of it.

how do i kill my mother?

mmm.. good meditation this morning. i love meditation. it was the first time that my leg ever fell asleep and it was a weird feeling but not one that stopped me. i was awake and enjoying the meditation and relaxed within myself. i am still a bit nervous about interviews on wednesday but they can’t be that bad. even jon came with me this morning!
and then tonite! wow! zen master dae kwong came and answered questions- i really like him too. he is relaxing and calm. also, we had a five minute meditation that flew by soooooo fast! it was amazing! i never thought it would go so fast…

i have been having this thought on my mind though.. why does buddhism say that drugs are bad? is it the attachment or the substance? hyon gak sunim mentionned that many people of his generation in zen got involved in zen thru acid and whatnot. even dae kwong tonite mentionned drinking in social settings. yet i remember readings saying that drugs are bad. what is the deal?

i had a dream last nite (and not one of those world changing types).
for some reason, my entire community (composed of all my friends and loved ones) was away from our homes (which all existed in succession of each other in some far away world). late in the afternoon, we all came home to see that our entire community had been demolished. although some random items were taken aside to be saved (stuff like bed sheets and kitchen knives), most of our precious belongings were destroyed when they collapsed our dwelling. the entire community was hysterical- everyone was screaming and crying and angry and pissed off. but i wasn’t. i was standing in the middle of all the hysteria, scratching my head and wondering why the government hadn’t asked us ahead of time- we would have moved..

well, i got frustrated today. actually a lot frustrated me today. it was a frustrating day. but one thing happened that was rather odd. i went to the religious studies building for their open house to check it out. i knew that i did not like one of the profs and figured that if i was going to possibly major in it, i needed to meet other profs. so, i went to the reception.
almost immediately, i started talking to someone, a professor. he asked me about my interests and if i had taken religious studies courses. i mentionned rs3 and started talking about my current religious studies course. very excitedly i mentionned that i was doing a religious studies course with mark unno about zen buddhism. he seemed disguested from the start for no good reason and started quizzing me about what i was doing. still excited, i spoke about the course and how everything was done over the internet and how it was a very rewarding experience. well, things went downhill from there. he was pissed off that i could get credit for such a thing, saying it was against university policy and was not in the name of education. he kept ranting. i mentionned that brown was specifically interested in helping people learn what is interesting to them thru alternative means. he flipped stating that it was only acceptable with tenured professors or something and i mentionned that it was thru a tenured professor, or at least the supervision was. and he flipped. he kept going, annoyed at me.

rather than getting angry or pissed, i just left. as soon as the conversation took a pause, i grabbed a cookie and slipped out the door.

i learned something today. actually, i learned a few things. i love brown’s open policy. if it was not for my buddhism class, i would be absolutely off my rocker right now. i also realized that i do not want to major in religious studies. the topics intrigue me but this university does not have the quantity of profs for me to major happily. i love what i am doing and i will continue to do it.. but i don’t care for the brown religious studies department- it is not me. that was my lesson of the day. now back to my frustrations with cs31..

ok, so i had a _complete_ mental breakdown last nite – 100% crashed, on the floor bawling, uncontrollable hysteria, hyper-confusion, hyper-furstraion, anger, annoyance, loss of any contral whatsoever – complete breakdown.
so, it was 12 o’clock and i was working on riscque, my current cs31 assignment. it was the only time that i could meet with someone to discuss my frustration and confusion, to be set straight so i could start the assignment. all i wanted to do was go to sleep so that i could wake up for morning meditation. it was the one thing that i wanted to do. but as i watched the clock tick minutes and my confusion grow, i realized that i would not be in bed in time to get up… (i have found meditation futile with less than four hours of sleep).

as i was trying to understand the assignment, thought os the weekend seeped into my brain. [what a wonderful friday with the monks!] [you spent all of saturday doing cs51!] [fire and water was soooo cool and relazing] [today was stressful- all day in teh CIT and it was such a beautiful day out] [why are you doing this anyhow?] [you are not enjoying this!] [you have sleep class tomorrow and have not done any of the reading!] [idiot! when is the last time you did any reading for sleep?] [or for classics? you got an “a” on a paper without doing any reading!] [classics reading is fun but you don’t have time for it!] [you have been skipping exercise on a regular basis lately!] [where is all your time going?] [COMPUTER SCIENCE CLASSES!!!!!!] [the only thing that keeps you sane is your buddhism class – not the readings but the practice] [but computer science is eliminating all time for practice and reading] [your life revolves around computer science!] [why? you are not enjoying it!] [what aobut cs32? you won’t make it thru that class – your wrists will give way!] [if you get thru that class, it will be all good, you would be home free…] [but if your hands crash, it will be the final time – you will never be able to do anything with your hands again – look at todd!] [but your mother will kill you if you drop it! it is your only worthwhile interest!] [but your life will be ruined by it] [but there is no way of getting around it. you have eliminated everything in your life to be able to do it – just get thru that one class!] [but what if? why? AHHHHHHHHHHHHH]

and i lost it.. my mind exploded. i was so frustrated, so confused and so angry that i had to make this choice. i was trying to figure out what i loved about it anymore and the only thing that came to mind was cs15. i loved that course, for all the glitz and the glamor! it was fun, caught my interest and intrigued me. but i have not enjoyed anything beyond that. 16 was fun. 22 was horrid. teaching cs4 and cs15 was an absolute delight. the people are terrible. the hours are horrid. the pain is unbearable. and why? my hands hurt now! why?? and i couldn’t hold it in… i made friends with my only privacy – the bathroom.

curled up in the corner below the window, next to the tub, face in one hand, roll of toilet paper in the other, i let the tears stream down my face in agony. i cried, i bawled… hysteria set in and i could not control it. all i wanted was a panacea to this whole big problem – the problem of where my life is going? the problem of what am i doing? the problem of why?

stuck in that level of insanity, i did not know where to go… the only person i wanted to talk with was my mommy… it was 3am or so. jon came in, hugged me but had no idea how to help me. i had no idea how he could. i made up my mind to call my mom…

i tried to calm myself down as i headed downstairs towards the phone. luckily no one was home so i crept into the living room, put on someone’s sweater which lay in the middle of the floor and curled myself in a ball on the black fancy couch. i picked up the phone. it rang three times and ryan picked up. i know he was confused… he got mom and once i heard her voice, i lost it again.

Well, she calmed me down and we started talking. her voice is so soothing. i spilled my brain, telling her all my frustrations with cs and with my work and with where i am going, etc. she started asking questions.

how are you feeling about your house? i love it – i love coming home to it, it makes me so happy! but i am so jealous when i look outside the CIT and see my housemates reading or relaxing, playing music or doing art on the front porch. i want to be home more. if i had time to read, i could do it at home… but i don’t… hmmm…

how is jon? one other good thing in my life! i feel so good around him. i chuckled and we talked about how i could never imagine breaking up with him and how everything is perfect and whatnot. how are your friends for the most part, everything is fine. xxx is super-hyper about everything and i never see her. somehow, i don’t think we are on the same wavelength about everything. that is frustrating. she is constantly annoyed at me but does not tell me why. and she always bites my head off for no reason. xxx is really good although i never see her either since she has too much to do all the time. my housemates rock. jon rocks. all that is good…

actually, the only thing right now in my life that is going terribly wrong is computer science and my fear of cs32 and the amount of time i spend dealing with cs!

are you enjoying taing? again, i love it. i love teaching. i love the lightbulbs.

but it is cs. but it is the glitz and glory class. yeah, it was hard but it was fun and the results were cool and the class was exciting!

how are the people going in cs? it’s at the whatever stage. i can cope with them. they don’t impact my life much except to keep reminding me that i don’t belong here. sad part is they are probably right.

what about san francisco and your exciement about working there? yeah, i am still psyched to do that but i can’t do that if my hands crash in 32 and i can’t do it if i don’t take 32. it’s a catch-22.

what do you like about your current classes? 51 is models of computation. i don’t know if i like the material. since i don’t understand the material as presented in class and the book is written by the same professor so it makes the same lack of sense to me. i love scheme, the language, but i don’t understand what i am supposed to do in scheme. when someone explains the concept, the programming is easy. the homeworks are impossible since i don’t understand the material. cs31 is a different story – the material is interesting, the class is interesting, but the work takes too much time – there is always more than one assignment out and the result of everything i do is that i don’t apparently understand the material. i thought i understood what we were doing, but the exam did not test any of that. in fact, the only result i got out of the exam is “ha ha, we know more than you!” and it pissed me off. our exam did not test anything we learned. as a result, it makes the class miserable. constant negative feedback does not encourage me. it utterly discourages me. and the prof decided that the class is too easy so he is adding a hard core program to the end of the semester – a compiler! i don’t understand a compiler and i am not accustomed to writing that much code! what am i going to do? i thought this class would reexcite me about cs since i found the material interesting but to no avail.

and they want to attract people! that is the big problem with computer science. courses are hard and they like em hard. pascal, the teacher of 31 said on the first day of cs31 that the class is too easy and that he wants to make it harder. no one wants to make the classes easier. they want it to be a more exclusive club. classes that are hard stay hard (or try to get harder). classes that are easy get hard. i expected that cs31 would be pretty simple but the prof does not want that. in fact, the average on the midterm exam was in the 40s! mom, remember a teacher can make the class hard- the tas are the graders and the people that hold hours, etc. the problem with computer science is that it implements the snowball theorem- always keep making it harder!

What things related to CS do you like?

HTML & web stuff
programming on my own terms
I just don’t think I can cope with the bullshit of majoring… it doesn’t really relate to what i like… another friend of mine dropped cs on friday because of this…
but if you do cs, won’t that help you with what you like?
assuming i can get through cs

don’t you only have one or two classes left? 3 – cs32 and two classes of my choice… but cs32 stands in my way…

what do you want to study? and being a buddhist monk is out! why? being a monk (actually nun) is the only thing that sounds interesting right now! i am not paying $30,000 a year for you to be a nun! besides, do you really want to give up everything? mom, buddhist nuns can be married and have kids. regardless… fine! but i have no idea what i want to study! if i did, i would be studying it!

danah, what do you want? i don’t have a solution for you! i know… i just needed someone to talk to… i need to take time off and get away from here.

you can’t quit. in 6 months, your loans will kick in. you have a responsibility to yourself and to me. when you started, you knew that. when i started, i thought i knew what i wanted. i was wrong. and i just want to take a pause

danah, you can’t quit and you can’t pause… that is what the summer is for. you have been miserable since you have been at Brown. first it was your roommate, then your hands, then the cs boys, now this. what do you want? I DON’T KNOW! but i can’t handle this anymore. [breakdown]

discussion continued… we talked about possible majors and whatnot. i had no clue what i wanted. all i knew was that my life is completely out of control. i don’t know what the direction is that i should take, where i should go or what to do.

we agreed that a solution could not be reached tonight and started talking about next semester. mentioned that the one thing that i really wanted to do was coordinate BACH and we agreed that that is a bad idea. my life is too out-of-whack for that to be feasible or even reasonable. being responsible for other people is stupid when i don’t know how to be responsible for me…

what a mess! still confused and frustrated, we acknowledged that a decision could not be made any time soon and that i just need to figure something out…

so we said goodnight and i went upstairs. i didn’t want to be touched or anything. my hands hurt so i just went to bed. hours later, i should have gotten up for class but i had no desire. i was too burnt. so i didn’t. and i didn’t get up for exercise. i just stayed curled up in my ball avoiding the world happily.

when zephyr finally woke me, i took a relaxing shower and went back to my room. dan and i started talking about the previous night. he had no advice so we started talking about the one aspect of cs that i currently enjoy – teaching. he asked why i didn’t just go off and teach cs in high school. in many ways, he’s right – i would love it but if and only if my students wanted to learn… i don’t know how to teach people that don’t want to learn. and could i cope with the politics of education? my experience was so miserable… regardless, it is an interesting option… so my miserable night ended…

i am peeved. i just sat through an hour and a half of two tas yelling at each other over what the correct answer. this would be perfectly acceptable if it wasn’t a class where i have a midterm in two days, don’t understand one word of what is going on and this was the help session. so, confused and frustrated i started to think…
why am i in cs? yeah, i enjoy programming; it is fun. i don’t even know if i want to do it for the rest of my life and the classes that i have to take confuse me more than help me. i don’t understand what i am doing and i spend more time on those activities than on anything else. most of the computer science classes should be the only thing that you do that semester for the amount of time that it takes up. shu had one good point the other day: computer science warps your idea of “long time.” someone tells me that something will take a lot of time so i think 30/40 hours and they thing 8/10 hours. weird.

doesn’t it seem pointless? i am just so confused and i feel like i am wandering with no direction and that that is bad. i am failing exams (even though everyone else is, it is frustrating). yeah, i can let it go but isn’t that a problem? i am letting everything go so now i am more confused. argh! frustration!

i have a question in my mind: what are my priorities?
just in the simplest, should i get up at 6:30 am for meditation when i went to bed at 2 or should i make my own meditation time that fits my schedule? what is the advantage of doing 6:30 am meditations on non-mwf days? quite often due to committments it is not possible to go to bed early- if i could, i would gladly get up but i feel that i am depriving myself when i don’t sleep in order to meditate. maybe i am wrong or have a bad attitude, but that is where i am uncertain. regardless, it bothers me…

and what about other things? zen readings say that one should not forget meditation in order to do something else. well, this is my frustration. quite often i feel responsibility to that something else and would like to do it. i have found that it is better for me to skip that timed meditation and do what i need to do in the “real world” with a meditative mind. my life is going so much smoother now, not because i meditate at 6:30 am but because i apply that mentality to my daily rituals. for example, last nite… i love cooking but quite often it can be such a drag. you cook for many many hours, build up a sweat, smell and don’t get much else done. often my mind starts to view it as a chore. but, with a clear mind (cook after meditate), cooking is an enjoyable venture- building something with your hands and relaxing after the day. same with most chores. now, if only i could get that view when doing school work…

what an enjoyable, exhilerating evening! a few weeks back, i extended an offer to hyon gak sunim to come to finlandia and experience what our coop was like- dinner and everything. last nite he came. the house got super-excited and cleaned! well, at least as much as is possible when you are dealing with a coop. john and i made veggie pad thai. well, that was all we were going to make until we looked outside the kitchen at 6:50 and saw 30 some odd people (many new faces) who heard about the monks and were excited to hear them speak! so, we all rushed and threw together some couscous and tofu and veggies and whatnot… all was good.
the monks came (hyun gak sunim and hyon moon) and seemed delighted by our atmosphere (and we were excited to have them there!) everyone ate lots of food (to the point where tummies were overfull). questions went both ways- housemates asked about zen, monks asked about house, both groups discussed zen and philosophy. hyon gak sunim entertained everyone with stories of how many buddhist/zen people got involved thru illicit drugs and how they got their master to explore it (his only thoughts were: same as always, nothing different even after 4.5 hits of acid). the coop was rolling on the floor. both monks told stories for hours and the coop responded with joy!

then there was zephyr. we have this 6 month old mut of a dog who is precious. zephyr is always around and is the most friendly of all dogs alive. the monks loved him and he loved the monks. they were so overjoyed by showing his zen nature to others and playing with him, wishing the zen center could have a dog.

after the meal, we gave the monks a tour of the house and hyon gak sunim and i discussed the possibility of a zen cooperative. they were impressed with the similarities between their atmosphere and ours and we were impressed just talking with them. the final laughter of the evening was when hyon moon (who is not fully comfortable with english) blurted out “what are pot heads?” after seeing the wall. we lost it and hyon gak sunim had to explain…

the nite went so well. i walked out of the house afterwards with such a large smile on my face. shu and i went on to fire and water where i was just at peace with myself. i went to bed smiling….

what a terrible day yesterday! what a great day! i had two exams yesterday. normally i get myself all worked up and annoyed about them. i knew that i would not ace either one of them but that was not the problem. well, i woke up early morning, went to meditation (no prostrations since my wrists are SHOT) and then home. i ate, enjoyed the morning air, went to class, and then relaxed (trying really hard to make my hands happier). i went into the first exam 100% relaxed and the only thing that annoyed me the whole way through was my wrists (they really are pissed off right now…). while i was “thinking” through a problem (ie: needed to clear my mind to deal with it), i said the prajna paramita mantra to myself quietly:
gate gate paragate parasamgate bodhi svaha
it worked and i left the exam with pained hands but a clear mind. i entered the next exam with the same mentality. although i may not have aced either exam (actually i know that i did not come close), it did not matter since my mind was clear about both.
the rest of the evening was spent happily helping cs15 students and reading kaye. what a great day!