My love-hate relationship with computer science

I’ve had one hell of an extended absence from the internet. My last post was last September. It’s March now. What happened to me?

Well, this happened.

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Yep, my foolhardy self decided it would be a great idea to move across the country and learn computer science. In a master’s program. Even though I’ve never touched code before.

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My program is a little different from your typical CS master’s degree. The first year is supposed to be a “crash course” in comp sci, an intense information overload designed to get you up to speed. After that, the rest of the program is master level courses.

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I mean, it’s impossible to fit four years of coursework into one. Not that they haven’t tried. Our professors are not afraid to introduce content fast. 

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And the professors are not afraid to give us work. The assignments we’ve received have been long and daunting. When I’m not at work or in class, I’m coding.

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Even when I’m not coding… I’m coding.

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And when I’m REALLY not coding… I’m thinking about how I should be coding.

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Hell, the only reason I’m able to blog right now is because I’m on spring break. Even as I write this, though, I’m thinking:

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Learning computer science is different from learning biology. Biology requires a lot of memorization. Even if I didn’t understand something fully, I could often BS my way through class from sheer rote memory.

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Computer science is not like that. Learning comp sci is like learning how to solve increasingly complex logic problems. You have to understand everything, or your program won’t work.

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Thus, I’ve developed a love-hate relationship with programming. Programming can be incredibly frustrating. I have spent hours and hours stuck on one problem, unable to debug it or Google a solution.

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I’ve never been this intellectually challenged, ever. I made it through college! I can’t be that dumb. But in this program, I feel flat-out stupid.

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Yeah. I’m 60% sure that my professor thinks I’m a dumbass.

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Or maybe we just like to give each other shit. (In all honesty, though, he’s a great teacher!)

So, yeah. Coding! Who knew that it would mean hours upon hours of frustration, swearing, stress eating, and punching walls? Sometimes, all at the same time?

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Since I entered this program just to try it out, my friends often ask how I’m finding it so far.

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To be honest, I don’t know if it’s a yes. Those hours of banging my head on my keyboard? They suck. But when all that struggle turns into a running program, I’m all like,

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Either way, I’m lucky to get to try it in the first place– and I think I’ll be sticking with it for a little longer.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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How some wooden floorboards changed my life (And 6 other things you might find mildly amusing)

I’ve been nominated for another blogging award! And by “award” I mean another blog chain-letter, you know, like the last one I did. This time I’ve been nominated by the awesome kindredspirit23, the same blogger responsible for this post. I’m very flattered that he picked this site again! The rules are, this time, to basically write a post announcing your nomination, nominate some other bloggers, and write seven interesting things about yourself.

Whoa! Hey! Whenever I do those “get-to-know-people” icebreakers, I have trouble coming up with one interesting thing, much less seven! Well, I’ll give it a shot. Sorry if they’re not the most exciting facts ever!

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(Okay, so Battle Angel Alita wasn’t the very first comic I read, though it was the first manga. At the time, I didn’t even realize it was Japanese! It was– and still is– very inspiring to little ol’ me, though.)

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Whew! Thanks again to kindredspirit23 for the nomination. And now you know!

Edit: AHHHH!! I forgot to nominate other blogs!! I’m a terrible person. Ok, here are 15 blogs that I particularly enjoy! I think these are for… the “Very Inspiring Blogger” and the “Versatile Blogger” awards? And, nominees, don’t feel any obligation to put up your own post. This is more of my way to show my love for these sites!

  1. Stuffgradslike
  2. Undeaddad
  3. Ramblings of a Foolish American
  4. Just Me & My Dad
  5. WINGS FOR LIBERTY
  6. The Chronicles of a Skinny-Jeans Wearing Toronto Girl
  7. Reasonably Ludicrous
  8. The Nomad Grad
  9. notlateone
  10. Live, Nerd, Repeat
  11. A Word From Japan
  12. You know you’re over 40 when…
  13. Dolldelight
  14. zemotion
  15. When Geeks Wed

I get to meet another one of my heroes! (Chris Ware, author of Jimmy Corrigan)

I MET CHRIS WARE!

Please excuse me– iTouch photos aren’t the best.

This is turning out to be the best year.

I mean, this spring, I actually met another one of my cartoonist heroes, Art Spiegelman. And I actually talked to him about how much I loved Chris Ware, another cartoonist. To prove this, let me cut-and-paste a bit out of that blog post (written way back in March) to here:

I’ve loved Chris Ware’s stuff for years now. In fact, one of the very first blog posts I’ve ever written was actually about his work. His comics are extraordinary. Lonely. Beautiful. Tormenting. When I first read one of his graphic novels, Jimmy Corrigan, the Smartest Kid on Earth, it haunted me for weeks.

How, then, did I get to meet this amazing cartoonist? I credit this one to my roommate.

I had to go. I HAD TO GO. THERE WAS NO NOT GOING TO THIS EVENT. So, last Saturday, I biked recklessly to the venue, an old church in Copley Square.

There was a long line, and the church filled up fast. Graphic novels are trendy, after all! There were four authors presenting this panel: Gabrielle Bell, Chip Kidd, Charles Burns, and, of course, Chris Ware. They all talked about their inspirations, most recent publications, and experiences in the world of “serious” comics. (Well, except for Gabrielle Bell, who instead read us two short stories she illustrated herself.)

Her story went a little like this.

Chris Ware went last. By the time we got around to him, he didn’t have much time to speak about much. However, he did give us a good 15 minutes of powerpoint slides and witticisms

I ended up purchasing his monstrously large new book, Building Storiesto get it signed. Let’s just say: I have never dropped that much money on comics, ever. But it was so worth it

Because I got his autograph. And a photo. And I got to talk to him!

If you did read my post about Art Spiegelman, you can see that I get starstruck pretty easily. It’s just a symptom of meeting the people I admire more than anyone else in the world. As a result, I got a little bit, uh, nervous. So I had a nervously awesome conversation:

Am I a cartoonist? I wasn’t sure how to answer that. I mean, I draw cartoons. I blog comics. But I’ve never really thought of myself as a cartoonist. Cartoonists are the ones who go publish books and cool webcomics and make money and go to art school and are famous. I am a biology student who is a nobody and is struggling in her basic drawing class.

I should just do it, huh? But, isn’t that easy for Chris Ware to say, successful cartoonist as he is? And I’m not a particularly talented person, bursting with creativity and ideas every minute.

And that’s how I met the amazingly brilliant and humble Chris Ware.

You should read these manga

I love all sorts of comics, but I’d be lying if I said the types of comics I read are evenly distributed. In other words, I read a lot of manga. A lot. Simply due to its accessibility, I suppose.

Reading manga is often a hit-or-miss occupation, though. I’ve read some incredible manga. I’ve read some god-awful manga. I’ve read some manga in-between.

What I’d like to share are the manga that I actually liked. There’s a great deal of them, though, so I arranged them by category. And of course, taste is subjective, so these are only comics I think are particularly good– perhaps not everyone will like them.

Shōnen manga

There are tons and tons of shōnen (少年) manga, or manga for young boys. It’s to be expected– judging from the success of Shōnen Jump and its manga (such as One Piece, Bleach, and Naruto) internationally, shōnen manga possess a huge demographic for authors to tap into. Though technically for “boys,” older audiences, and girls, enjoy these manga as well.

Here’s a couple I happen to like:

Yankee-kun to Megane-chan

Popular in Japan, this manga follows the exploits of an ex-delinquent, Hana Adachi, as she decides to become a normal high school student with the help of current delinquent Shinagawa Daichi. It feels like the good ol’ shōnen manga formula: school life, delinquents fighting, a school council– except its great humor and hilarious cast makes it much more.

Shibatora

A manga about a baby-faced cop who works to help delinquent children. The protagonist, Shibata Taketora, will seem clumsy and naive at first– but there’s a whole lot of bad ass underneath that childish exterior. Somehow I was charmed by the art and story in this manga.

The World God Only Knows

The premise of this manga sounds idiotic: it’s about a kid obsessed with dating simulation games, Keima Katsuragi. He is coerced into a contract with a devil, who tells him that runaway spirits have hidden themselves in girls’ hearts. In order to release them, Keima must use his talents in the real world and get these girls to fall in love with him. Sounds stupid? It’s not. The first several chapters are simply amusing as we laugh at Keima’s antics– but midway through the series, it picks up and begins developing a plot of its own. The World God Only Knows has become wildly popular in Japan– perhaps because of its wry sense of humor and unabashed parodying of clichéd romance tropes.

Shōjo manga

I’m a girl too, yeah. I admit that I’ve read a shameful amount of shōjo (少女) manga, or manga for girls. Expect fluffy romances, hot guys, and flowery panels filled with tearful girls. A lot of shōjo manga drives me nuts– more often than not, the protagonist is some airheaded, ditzy, weak-willed girl. Once in a while, though, you’ll hit one that’s genuinely cute. Here’s a pair I happen to like:

Men’s Kou

What do you get when you put a whole bunch of good-looking boys in an all-male boarding school? All sorts of yaoi and shōnen-ai, or… Men’s Kou. This manga follows a bunch of friends living in an all-boy’s school, all of whom are unsurprisingly frustrated by the lack of girls. It starts out clichéd, but turns out surprisingly grounded and charming. One story in particular really grabbed me– but I’ll spoil nothing. Men’s Kou has potential, though perhaps it’s not perfect.

Honey and Clover

A slice-of-life manga, Honey and Clover depicts the lives of five friends studying at an art college in Tokyo. It follows them as they experience love, heartbreak, and the age-old question of trying to find out what to do with their lives. The friendship between the cast is both hilarious and touching. Honey and Clover won the Kodansha Manga Award in 2003.

Seinen/Josei manga

Simply manga categorized as more mature, seinen (青年漫画) manga are aimed at older males and josei (女性漫画) manga are aimed at older women. Readers range from teens to the middle-aged, and seinen and josei manga cover a wide spectrum of topics, styles, and themes. This makes them hard to categorize– so what I put here is simply manga with more explicit content.

Dokuhime

In a distant land, children are raised from birth to resist poisons– to the extent that the poisons penetrate their bodies so much that even a touch can bring instant death. These “Poison Princesses” are sent to various empires as an assassination tool. Lycoris, one such poison princess, struggles to unravel the mysteries beneath the strange kingdom she is sent to. The manga may seem a little confusing the first read-through, but it only makes you want to figure out the mysteries even more.

Oyasumi Punpun

A surrealist manga by the acclaimed Inio Asano, Oyasumi Punpun follows the life of a normal kid depicted as a cartoony little bird. It shows the down-and-gritty realities of life as Punpun copes with his dysfunctional family, unrequited love, and becoming an adult. Oyasumi Punpun is both bizarre and realistic, introducing some of the most believable characters I have ever met, and a degree of darkness and cynicism I’ve never seen in a slice-of-life manga. The art, as in any of Asano’s work, is absolutely incredible.

Franken Fran

Fran Madaraki is a surgeon of prodigious talent: she can save the dying, put human heads on animal bodies, give her patients superhuman strength… any change you desire, she can perform. But the results of these surgeries usually backfire– especially since Fran rarely thinks about the consequences. Franken Fran is disgusting, horrifying, revolting– for the weak of stomach, avoid this one. Those who do read it, however, will find it chock full of enough black humor and irony to balance the bloody content.

Specialty manga

Specialty manga are manga that center around a particular, very specific topic. Yakitate!! Japan, for instance, is a manga entirely about people baking bread. Kami no Shizuku is about wine-tasting. A popular one, Hikaru no Go, is about kids playing the Japanese game of go. Naturally, though, you can find rich plots and character development in these manga as well.

Bartender

Bartender is about Ryu Sasakura, a genius bartender who is aiming to reach the “Glass of God.” This manga lacks a continuous plot; rather, it is divided into one-or-two chapter arcs about each customer Sasakura serves. Each has their own problem, and, with the guidance of the protagonist’s drinks, can usually decide on a course of action. The stories are gentle and touching, nothing intense– suitable for a manga about a soul-soothing bartender. It also makes me wish I was 21, so I could go out and try all these cocktails.

Team Medical Dragon

Another manga about a genius surgeon, except this one focuses on the Japanese medical system. It follows Dr. Asada Ryutaro and his medical team as they struggle to save lives within a maze of medical malpractice, power politics, and corruption. The team aims for the top to try to reform the failing healthcare system. While sometimes the manga comes off as unrealistic, it is nonetheless an interesting account of modern healthcare issues. There’s some sexual content and nudity in this one, though– be warned!

Bambino!

Bambino! is not only about cooking, it’s about Italian cooking. Follow Ban Shogo, a feisty young man working in an Italian restaurant in Tokyo. The manga focuses on his character development as he goes from dishwasher to full-fledged chef. Ban’s drive and stubbornness make the story, and the lavishly illustrated pasta makes me hungry, to boot.

Webtoons

A rising genre lately seems to be “webtoons,” or Korean webcomics. While these technically aren’t “manga” (manga implies Japanese origin) some webtoons are extremely high-quality and definitely worth a read. Warning: Webtoons, as they are read online, take advantage of the “infinite canvas”— in other words, they’re not formatted page-by-page but instead in one long infinitely-scrolling comic. If you can get over the vertigo, you’ll find some awesome stuff.

Melo Holic

Melo Holic starts out as the seeming love story of a cynical teacher with the ability to read minds. It quickly turns into a mystery/suspense toon, though, leaving you hanging on the edge. It’s already been completed, so you’ll be able to read it in one go.

KissWood

I’ve read a lot of comics, but this one definitely ranks among the best I’ve ever read. KissWood is about an old man living in a concrete city, until a fire engulfs his house and throws him into a coma. He finds himself transported to an alternate universe where trees dominate the landscape, a seeming utopia at first. As he tries to find a way back home, however, he begins to discover the cruel realities beneath his new world. The plot is fascinating, unpredictable, and well-thought-out, and the characters are memorable and unique. The art, too, is gorgeously rendered– the color definitely makes all the difference. If you read any of the comics in this post, I’d say go for this one. But perhaps that’s just me.

Pardon the particularly long rant! I just really like manga. Sadly, this could be even longer– there are just too many great comics in the world!