Guest Post: Push the Limits

If you are a regular reader/ onlooker of this space, you would’ve noticed the process of reinvention of the blog (and my blogging itself) that is happening. I am turning the tables to make things more interactive between me and you. Vivek (A Level Headed Idiot) has accepted my offer/ challenge to be the first guest writer for Priceless Junk! Show some love, will you? :)

*Drum Rolls!*

Disclaimer: This is the first time that I am writing a post outside of my domain. (Ok second. The first one was about this meet up which had to summarized in less than 100 words). The owner of this blog thinks that there is nothing worse that could happen to this supposedly dying blog. Until I took up this offer to write a guest post.

There was a time when I thought I had reached the limit of my capabilities. A time when I thought that my day job (a day represents a considerable portion of the, erm.., day!) was the only thing to worry about. That any investment of time should go into getting better at one particular field, in my case, getting better at the only thing I thought I was decent at, which is programming. (Hey, don’t look at me like that! Software development is a good profession). Then I became a victim beneficiary of social networking. I found awesomeness all around me. Not so famous, yet talented people showcasing their wares. Flickr streams, blogs, sound cloud streams etc. These were common people doing extra ordinary things. I wondered how this was possible.

The realization struck me that these folks pushed the limits. They knew that they had to go that extra step to become better at what they were doing. Putting in that one more hour of work before going to sleep. Testing their own boundaries. Making an attempt to pursue what they are passionate about.

Then I realized that I wasn’t passionate about anything. Except my work. But then, when was the first time I tried something else? When that step started, I realized that I could do myself proud, no matter how mediocre the efforts are in the eyes of the others. Blogs happened. Photography happened. Reading happened. Having opinions about things around me and things that interest me happened. A more meaningful existence happened.

I understood why I liked the things I liked.

I like Opeth’s music because they come up with the most unexpected stuff each time. Surpassing the boundaries of awesomeness they create for themselves each time.

I like Manchester United because most times they are written off, they come back. Often from hopeless situations.

I like programming because every time people think that the limit with respect to complexity has been reached, a new language comes around which packs in more power.

I like sleeping because every time you think that you have had enough sleep, you still yearn for that extra 5 minutes of it.

I like things which are about pushing the limits.

PS : I took up the challenge of writing this because I wanted to push myself a bit to write something with a set deadline.
PPS : Look for inspiration around you. You will find a lot of examples of limits being pushed.
PPPS : Sorry for a philosophical post. I wanted to test myself on whether I could write such posts.
PPPPS : Sorry for too many “I”s in this post. Neither am I related to Apple’s CEO in any way nor am I a fan of their brand of innovation.
PPPPPS : Thanks for reaching this point. It means that you either read the whole thing or scanned for any PS-es.

CLT  : Enigma – Push the Limits

18’th generation teaching style in 2011.

These days, I’m either really frustrated or really depressed. Sometimes I’m both. Everything seems to be speeding up and somewhere along the line, I stop and wonder about how the hell I ended up here or what the hell am I doing?

When 3rd semester began, a lot of us (or a few of us) were very keen on getting into the core course and study ‘biotechnology’ as a field. I am currently in my 4’th semester and I am still wondering if that has happened so far? We have a lot of mechanical subjects added to the course. I am not complaining, but nobody around me (including the teachers) seem to be able to answer my questions any more. Their knowledge is so theoretical and limited to the books. It frustrates me. The whole system is ancient. There is nothing related to application. We do have practicals, yes, but they seem to have no connection with the theory that we’re studying simultaneously in class. Estimating the amount of protein and inorganic phosphorous in the body fluids is fun, yes, but why isn’t it being connected to any of the theory subjects? Bio-energetics has 20 to 30 cycles that has to be studied. And 20 to 30 substrates and enzymes. Learning about them all is at times interesting, yes, but how are we expected to remember them all during the tests and exams? Teachers need to teach us about such skills rather than plain blunt textbook stuff. Even I can mug up the whole of Lehninger’s book and blurt it out in class. Or, make power point presentations (with pages and pages of text – in comic sans) and ‘present’ it to class. Teachers have to help students in understanding the concept and at the same time, help us with the learning techniques.

This not only makes the subject more interesting, but also increases the confidence levels of students. By doing that, maybe we’d want to explore more of the subject/ topic and get involved in it. Molecular biology – one of the most interesting subjects (where we learn about the central dogma of life) is being made so mundane and boring. This is the kind of subject that’d need more of videos and visuals. Not badly drawn 2-D figures of 5/6 enzymes and their functions.

The problem is, these old fashioned teachers don’t want to change. They are not even ready to accept a new idea. We had a lot of discussion about this during the faculty advisors meeting. The teachers only defend themselves and their methods, but nobody wants to bring something new to the new generation of students. How will they understand that the kind of teaching that they had during their times just won’t work now? We do not want to come to college every morning, takes pages and pages of notes, do something in lab that we cannot connect to the real world or even state it’s applications, take more notes, and go home? The system is only bothered about finishing the syllabus on time (before tests and exams) whether we learn anything or not. Nobody is in a position to justify anything.

If you are still a student, are you just going with the flow, or are you trying to change anything? If you were a student, what did you do?! How important are teachers in your learning process?

Smoke.

Till a few months back, I believed that everyone who smoked was a bad person. Somewhere at the subconscious level, when I learn that a person is a smoker, everything associated with sadness and evil gets registered in my mind. In reality, I know that it isn’t true. Smoking is a personal choice. People do it for all different reasons, some happy and some sad. It’s definitely not a sin.

Last year, I got to know that one of my good friends in the group smokes. After a few days, I learnt that a few others in the group also smoke. I mean, our group in college consists of 8/9 folks out of which ~4 of them fag. How come I have never done anything about it? What am i supposed to do? I go around being a good girl, doing the right things, etc and can’t even change the mindset of my own good friends!

But should I tell them what’s wrong and what’s right? They already know it! They are engineering students for heaven’s sake. Students with a lot of problems. Smoking is just their way of releasing stress and calming themselves. So it really isn’t a bad thing, is it? They know that it hurts their lungs every time. A kind of hurt that has no pain. It’s their life, they can do whatever the hell they want to. To be judging them based on this fact would not be fair. I stood for euthanasia once upon a time (and still do). What’s the difference, really?