A Tribute to the Amazing Professor

Before I started my sophomore year of college, I wrote out a list of several things I wish I had known before I began. In it, I talked briefly about the different kinds of professors you meet during your academic life. Particularly, I said this about the really good ones:

And then there are those professors, the ones that see something in you and make sure they get to speak to you about it. These are indeed a rare breed and, not including my Honors profs, I have only had one of them. But let me tell you, he was amazing.

That man's name is Dr. Sungwook Lee. At the time I had him for Calculus I, he was an associate professor in the Mathematics department. He stopped me after class one day to ask what my major was and what I planned on doing with my life. I told him I was in Information Technology and hoped to be doing web programming. He said he had no doubt I could have a fulfilling life in IT, but he thought I was wasting my potential. Dr. Lee wanted me to switch to being a mathematics major, and then I could dabble in web programming on the side if I wanted. He even offered, on the spot, to be my advisor. I respectfully declined but walked away feeling so giddy. This man, who barely knew anything about me, had made it a point to try to convince me to do something different with my life simply because he thought I could be better.

I don't pretend to think that I was someone special; I'm sure he's given similar advice to dozens/hundreds of his students throughout his career. But I never forgot that. I knew that I wanted to do web programming, and that hasn't changed. However, as a sort of penance to him I decided that I would at least minor in math. And it wasn't a difficult decision; I have always loved and enjoyed mathematics. Heck, I wear both of these shirts with pride. Besides, taking 18 hours of extra classes didn't seem to be that hard. I could easily pull it off.

Thursday I walked into the Math Department's offices to drop my math minor. I had been able to only take nine of the required hours, and there was simply no way I could take the other nine before I graduated in May.

Now whenever you change majors or add/drop minors, the university requires three signatures: yours, the chair of the major/minor department, and the dean of the college. Guess who's interim chair of the Math Department?

I walk into his office to collect his signature, and the first thing he says to me is "Long time no see." After almost three years, Dr. Lee still has not forgotten who I am. And telling him that I had to drop my math minor was honestly one of the more gut-wrenching tasks I've had to do. I don't think any other prof has come close to influencing me like he has, and, though it's silly to think so, I felt like I was disappointing him.

Of course, this isn't over. Maybe later on in life, I'll go back and major in mathematics. With the career that I have in mind (which has expanded from just "web programming" to "programming in general with web technologies being favored"), a math degree certainly wouldn't hurt.

But if it weren't for one Dr. Sungwook Lee, this guy would have finished his Cal I work and probably never touch another math again. For that, I am extremely grateful.

Heck no to "Heck-No Techno!"

Luckyday is challenging the University of Southern Mississippi to a 24 hour technology fast!

Can YOU handle the challenge??1

I know what Luckyday is trying to accomplish by holding this "technology fast." They're trying to get us (read: Generation Y) to look up from our iDongles and Samsung Universes and experience life, to make connections with those around us. As if this isn't what we're doing already.

In one of his TED talks, Ze Frank argues that life is being lived in those devices.2 And while it may seem that a person is ignoring the people and things around them, they are connecting with other humans in ways no different than if it was IRL. Jeff Jarvis goes a step farther and dismisses the whole idea of it being rude to use a phone in front of friends, saying, who's to determine which connection, be it physical or electronic, is more valuable?

Technology allows me to send pictures of stupid little stick figures to my girlfriend when she's feeling sad. Technology allows me to talk face-to-face with someone in the Netherlands. Technology allows me to read, in real time, what Steve Martin thinks about the Super Bowl.

A few days ago, I put out a small service built on Snapchat. I called it "Need A Puppy?" The basic gist of it was that whenever a person sent a snap to the handle "needapuppy", they would instantly receive a cute photo of a puppy. It's just a small script, something I cobbled together after wanting to build a thing using Snapchat's unoffical API. I posted about it and thought that I might get a couple of people to snap me, probably just friends. As of this writing, sixteen people have snapped me a total of thirty-one times. They send snaps of sour gummy worms, their own expectant faces, and their pets. I even got sent a picture of a baby! Without the internet, I never would have been able to connect with these people and see them smile. And this is what the internet is great at doing: bringing people together and letting them connect3.

Whether it's by catching up with a lifelong friend over coffee or sending a picture of a puppy to internet strangers, we're still interacting with flesh-and-blood humans. Humans that have hopes and dreams and irrational fears and inappropriate jokes. Humans be-ing.

To limit the ways we communicate with one another because they're new or because they're not the way we used to does a disservice to all of us.

Further reading:

  1. A technology writer for The Verge left the internet for a year and wrote an epilogue about it. He concludes:

    I'd read enough blog posts and magazine articles and books about how the internet makes us lonely, or stupid, or lonely and stupid, that I'd begun to believe them. I wanted to figure out what the internet was "doing to me," so I could fight back. But the internet isn't an individual pursuit, it's something we do with each other. The internet is where people are.

  2. Baratunde Thurston left social media for 25 days and praised the experience on Fast Company. He argues that technology has its place in our lives but it's a dangerous line to toe.

    The greatest gift I gave myself was a restored appreciation for disengagement, silence, and emptiness. I don't need to fill every time slot with an appointment, and I don't need to fill every mental opening with stimulus.


    I am still a creature of my technological time. I love my devices and services, and I love being connected to the global hive mind. I am neither a Luddite nor a hermit, but I am more aware of the price we pay: lack of depth, reduced accuracy, lower quality, impatience, selfishness, and mental exhaustion, to name but a few. In choosing to digitally enhance, hyperconnect, and constantly share our lives, we risk not living them. We have collectively colluded to take this journey, but we've done so inches at a time, not realizing that we have traveled leagues in the process.

    While I'm not sure I agree completely with him, I can appreciate taking a break, from real and virtual life alike.

  1. They posted about the event on Facebook. I don't know if they saw the irony.

  2. 6:09 at his video. Although the whole thing is worth a watch.

  3. And also generate an insane amount of cat pictures. Seriously, I probably should've named it "Need a Kitty?"

With Our Powers Combined...

Louis Schijve, CEO of INCONTROL

Yesterday, I attended my first press conference. I mean, I guess it was my first; I don't remember any others I've attended...

Anyway, I attended a press conference yesterday. It was held by the company that I work for (NCS4) and the Netherlands company we work with (INCONTROL) where they announced that INCONTROL will be opening an office here in Hattiesburg. I was asked to be there because I'm the only SportEvac student developer1 here at the moment2, and they wanted someone who had actually worked on the product at NCS4 there.

I'm glad I actually kind-of dressed up that day and didn't just wear basketball shorts.

We work on the 2nd floor of the Trent Lott Center and the event was on the 3rd floor, so I walk up a flight of stairs and into the room. There were a few other NCS4 employees and some other Southern employees there. Now while I work with these people, I don't actually "work" with them on a daily basis. I mean, we know each other but other than my boss and the center's director, I don't usually have anything to do with them. I mean, we don't even work on the same side of the building.

So I basically just stood around awkwardly or talked a little bit here and there. A few mentioned that the new version of SportEvac3 was a vast improvement to the old version, and I would thank them. I hadn't been told how it went over at the conference so them telling me that was a great relief.

Oh, and I also was introduced to the President of USM, Dr. Bennett, by my boss before it started. So that was pretty cool.

A few minutes later the CEO of INCONTROL, Louis Schijve, and his family came in. I had met Louis before when him and another INCONTROL employee visited NCS4 to talk about the possibility of a move. I think he remembered me because we spoke for a little while. His family introduced4 themselves to me and I to them. After waiting for WDAM-TV to show up, we started.

The press conference itself was pretty boring. Steve, my boss, welcomed everyone and then introduced Dr. Bennett. Dr. Bennett did what all presidents do and spoke about the importance of the Center and the work being done here, but he did it in his own style with jokes and the like. Next, the head of research at Southern spoke a bit, then Steve thanked some people including me. He actually made me wave my hand "so people know who you are". I think we could have done without that. Next Lou, the director, spoke a little and then Louis spoke. He actually cussed while at the podium:

I could say that moving to Hattiesburg was a part of my overall strategy, but that is bulls***.

I liked him a little more after that.

Then we had some finger foods. I had some kind of lemon squares and a strawberry. The Dutch spoke in Dutch unless they were talking to one of us. I certainly don't blame them; I would have done the same. After a bit, I went back down to the lab to work until I had to sit in on a meeting between Louis, Lou, Steve, and a lawyer about their future partnership.

And that was my day.

Image Source

  1. And I say "student" because I'm a student, not because there are senior developers here in Hattiesburg; there aren't.

  2. One of us left NCS4 and joined a game development company and the other is currently doing an internship in Mobile, AL.

  3. I promise I'll stop talking about the darn thing one day.

  4. Introduced meaning they shook my hand and told me their name, and I told them mine. But with the Dutch accents, the Dutch names, and the quickness of the interactions, I certainly don't remember their names as I'm sure they don't remember mine.

No Will to Live in Death and the King's Horseman

This was my final paper from a World Lit class.

Wole Soyinka advises the reader in the author's note of Death and the King's Horseman to not read nor produce his play as a "clash of cultures" story as it is not one. The play rather depicts the similarity between two cultures, the Arumba and the English. Because both cultures have a lack of communication and self-expression and are driven by the power of social expectations, the play suggests that free will does not exist in either one.

When the play opens, we see Elesin Oba and his Praise-Singer heading into a market talking about the former's soon-to-be death. The king of the Arumba has died and by law and custom, Elesin must also die to accompany the king into the afterlife as Elesin was the king's horseman. The women of the market approach him and begin to sing his praises with the Praise-Singer. As they are singing and Elesin is dancing, he spots a beautiful girl. This girl is so beautiful that he tells Iyaloja, the "mother" of the market, that he wishes to marry the girl. Even though the girl is already betrothed to Iyaloja's son, she accepts his request since his time is short. Iyaloja warns him to be careful, travel light, and to "be sure the seed you leave in [this earth] attracts no curse."

Act II begins with Simon Pilkings, a District Officer, and his wife, Jane, practicing their tango for a ball that evening. One of his officers--Amusa, a native--goes to the house to report that "Elesin Oba is to commit death tonight." However he is rendered near speechless by the death clothes that Pilkings and Jane are wearing. Even with coaxing and threats, he will not speak to them while they are wearing the clothes; eventually he writes his report on a pad after they had left the room. After reading it, Pilkings calls for his servant Joseph, also a native, to deliver a note to the police station about the matter, thinking Amusa meant that Elesin was going to murder people. Joseph corrects him saying that the chief would commit suicide instead. After sending Joseph to the station, Pilkings and Jane head to the ball.

Amusa and two officers begin Act III by going through the market to arrest Elesin. The women push them back, mocking them and telling them that they, as men, have no right to be in the market. The officers leave but not before promising to return. Elesin, after having sex with his new bride, begins to fall into a trance and starts dancing a slow, heavy dance; his last it seems.

Act IV opens at the ball with the Prince and all the British residents present. Pilkings is called away after receiving a message regarding the ritual happening in the Arumba camp. After finally dismissing Amusa for again not giving a report, Pilkings takes some men and heads quickly for the village. Jane is left behind and meets Olunde who has come to bury his father. They both talk about the other's culture and the night's events. Pilkings walks up again and is surprised to see Olunde. He gives quick instructions to the aide-de-camp to prepare a cell in the basement of the residency for Elesin, who is heard trying to break free from his captors but is unable to. At the sound of his father's voice, Olunde freezes. Elesin, upon seeing his son, runs to him and falls on his knees. Olunde calls him "eater of left- overs" and leaves, walking back down to the village.

The final act takes place in the makeshift cell in the basement of the residency. Elesin and Pilkings discuss the evening, and Elesin tries to make Pilkings understand what damage he has done to his society. They are interrupted by the news that women from the village have brought something. They place it in front of Elesin, who believes it to be the king. He asks Pilkings for permission to whisper the words of his oath into the ear of his king, but Pilkings refuses. Iyaloja pulls back the sheet covering the body to reveal Olunde. She tells Elesin how Olunde died to retain the honour lost by Elesin. Stricken with grief, Elesin kills himself with the chains around his wrists and arms. The play ends with Iyaloja and the bride leaving the cell.

The lack of communication can be seen from the very first pages of the play as Elesin is walking through the closing market. When the women of the market proclaim "We know you for a man of honour," he shouts for them to stop, that he is "bitterly offended." The women had every right to tell the man (tell the man what??) who had just said "Life is honour. It ends when honour ends." It was a compliment saying that they knew that Elesin would remain an honourable man to the death. When asked what they said to offend him, Elesin only answers in riddles until the Praise-Singer asks him to be clearer. Elesin laughs it off, hiding the real reason behind his annoyance with the lie that he was ashamed because of his clothes.

In Act II, Amusa has a report to give to Pilkings about Elesin and his committing suicide that night. When he reaches their house, he discovers that they are wearing the garb of the egungun. Amusa refuses to give the report because "how can man talk against death to person in uniform of death?" Pilkings tries to reason with him, saying that Amusa usually is not one for believing in "mumbo-jumbo". He even threatens him with discipline, but Amusa does not budge. Pilkings eventually leaves the room letting Amusa write his report on paper. There is an obvious lack of communication here: even though Amusa tries to explain to both Pilkings and Jane, they seem to not listen with Pilkings, simply demanding that Amusa tell him.

There is also a lack of communication between Olunde and Elesin. When Olunde leaves Nigeria to study medicine in Britain, Elesin publicly disowns him. They do not speak to each other again until the night when Elesin is supposed to die. When Elesin sees Olunde, he falls at Olunde's knees begging him to forgive him and to speak or at least acknowledge him for Olunde had ignored him up to this point. Olunde looked down and said, "I have no father, eater of left-overs," essentially disowning him. They do not directly speak to each other again for the rest of the play. Through Pilkings, Olunde tells his father that he is not angry at him and wants forgiveness for saying what he did. The most that is shared between father and son happens when the women bring his dead son's body to Elesin. The dead body speaks to Elesin, showing him the consequences of his hesitance. After seeing his son's body, Elesin strangles himself with his chains.

There are also several social expectations cast upon many characters forcing them to act against their will, the main one being Elesin. In several places it can be seen where Elesin does not wish to die but is still forced to adhere to custom. First, he grew annoyed when the women of the market tell him that he is a "man of honour". As said before, he says that he is simply upset that they would call him a man of honour when he is wearing such terrible clothes. Instead he actually was simply tired of hearing them remind him again and again about his upcoming death. Second, Elesin is still attracted to a beautiful woman and wishes to have sex with her. A man that is preparing for the next life should not be thinking about this one's pleasures. Nonetheless, he marries this girl, has sex with her, and so leaves his seed behind. Third, and most damning of them, Elesin himself admits to his bride that he did not wish to die.

"First I blamed the white man, then I blamed the gods for deserting me. Now I feel I want to blame you for the mystery of the sapping of my will...For I confess to you, daughter, my weakness came not merely from the abomination of the white man who came violently into my fading presence, there was also a weight of longing on my earth-held limbs."

Elesin does not wish to die. He does not wish to have to complete his role as the king's horseman. Yet both the law and his culture demand his obedience; his thoughts on the issue do not matter.

Amusa is also expected to give up his free will. In the aforementioned scene, Pilkings reminds Amusa that he is a servant of His Majesty's Government and threatens discipline if he does not give the report. Amusa does not say a word until finally writing it down on a notepad. Later at the ball, a similar scene occurs when Amusa returns from the village after receiving the taunting from the girls. Here again, he refuses to give his report due to Pilkings wearing the egungun. Instead, Pilkings asked Amusa to set aside his personal beliefs and fears. Since he was an officer, he was no longer allowed to make his decisions for himself; instead he must obey the commands that best serve Pilkings and His Majesty's Government.

In an example of both lack of communication and free will, women from both cultures are essentially not allowed, or at least discouraged, to speak. The best example of this is with the bride, who never speaks throughout the play. She is simply in the background subservient to the wants of those around her. She is married to Elesin without any input from her and closes Elesin's eyes only after Iyaloja rebukes Pilkings. Another example of the lack of free will for women is with Jane, who is constantly waved away by Pilkings throughout the play and then by Olunde near the middle of it. She is openly rebuked by Elesin, who basically tells her that she should be like his bride and not say a single word, that this is male business. Women are simply not allowed to speak.

In another example of having no free will in this culture, Olunde is obligated to take his father's place. While the others would be faced with ridicule or admonishment for their lack of following society's expectations, Olunde faces no societal repercussions if he chooses not to kill himself. It is not expected of him to do so as he has already been disowned for leaving the society. Even though Olunde is not forced to, he still does not have free will in this matter; it is simply an illusion. He is duty bound as the oldest son of Elesin to follow through where his father did not. As Iyaloja proclaims, "There lies the honour of your household and of our race. Because he could not bear to let honour fly out of doors, he stopped it with his life."

Soyinka's play is much more than just a clash of cultures trope. It is an example of how both cultures, the indigenous Arumba and the outsider English, do not have free will. This is apparent by the great expectations society places on the characters and then also by the lack of communication among the characters themselves. In this context, the reader understands Soyinka's instructions that this play depicts the similarities rather than the contrasts between the two societies.

_You can download this paper._

17 Things I Wish I Knew About College

Having two semesters of college behind me, I have learned a lot. Not only academically but culturally and socially. These are 17 things I wish I knew before I went to college.

There is no one type of professor. You have those that have their lecture from their notes. You have those that prepare nothing but go instead by premade Powerpoints. You even have those that can walk into the room and just talk for thirty minutes. So don't expect that just because you have always been taught one way, that that is the way you will be taught in college. And don't think that just because one professor teaches one way, that all others will teach the same. The hardest thing for me in college was trying to figure out the best way to take notes for my classes. For World Civilization, I ended up practically writing everything Professor Chambers said. However for Computer Science I and Political Science 101H, I was just fine with the Powerpoints provided.

The professors are not required to care about you. One of my Computer Science professors last year was, let's just say, not the best teacher. You could tell he knew the stuff but could not for the life of him teach it to you coherently. Case in point: he called one aspect of the language "magical". His main thing was to wave a laser pointer around whatever point he was talking about and repeat the information on the Powerpoint. Pbbt. Now for his class we had programming assignments. And on one assignment I made an 80, his reasoning being "The program works, but the result is incorrect." I emailed him asking him what string of characters he had used and what the output was. I wasn't arguing with him that I had it wrong; I simply wanted to know what I had done wrong so I could not do it next time. I have yet to receive a response back from him.

The good professors learn your name. So far, with the exception of that CompSci prof, every professor has attempted to learn who I was. Of course, this is understandably hard for my classes where I have 100 or so other students with me, but they all have tried. And most have succeeded. It's always quite nice to walk into class and have the man\/woman say "Jacob?" and know they are talking to\/about me. So I'm glad that, at least at Southern, you're not just a number (you are a number, but they also see you are a person).

The amazing professors make a point to talk to you. And then there are those professors, the ones that see something in you and make sure they get to speak to you about it. These are indeed a rare breed and, not including my Honors profs, I have only had one of them. But let me tell you, he was amazing.

People don't usually go to class in pajamas. Contrary to popular belief, students really don't just show up for classes in pajamas and junk. I know, and I was just as disappointed as you are now. Most actually dress up somewhat nice. Then there are those like me who really don't care how we look; never can go wrong with shorts and a t-shirt.

You will pull an all-nighter and you will regret it. You will probably end up staying awake all night to finish some unexpected report or complete a project that you have procrastinated on. And when you finally finish it, you'll be ecstatic. You'll feel like you can conquer the world. Until you start getting ready for your next class; that's when you get so so sleepy. You're nodding your head every 5 minutes in class. You can't remember the last thing the prof said to you. But hey, at least that report is done.

If people pity you, you could get free stuff. My first week of college, I decided not to bring an umbrella or even a rain jacket. So like second day of class it's flooding. I have no choice but to run out in the rain and hope for the best. As I'm walking to the library where my class was, a faculty member saw me and offered her umbrella to me. She said she got it from the lost-and-found and didn't need it anymore. I still have that umbrella.

You will make friends if you don't be a stranger. Just go out and hangout with people. You don't have to say anything or do anything. Just hangout. Good things will happen.

Study groups in college are not like "study groups" in high school. You either dreaded or loved that day, the day when your teacher assigned quote study groups unquote. You knew who was going to have to do the work and who you should actually trust with theirs. You also knew who was going to be like\/unlike you and do nothing. Well that's not how it works here. Here, students actually do the work that was assigned to them by the group and come together to exchange answers, usually while laughing and joking. But they get work done. And it is awesome.

That mental picture of students living on caffeine? It's true. Especially around exam time. Everywhere you turn, you can see students looking down at papers or notebooks while drinking from a cup coffee from Starbucks. But you'll only see it for a second because you'll be drinking while studying too.

Doing your own laundry isn't that bad. Throw the clothes in the washer. Wait. Throw the clothes in the dryer. Wait. Optional: fold them up and put them away.

Talk to your professors in person. This was something I wish I knew freshman year. Almost every professor has an email address and a phone number they can be reached. Even though these are available to you, always go and see the prof in person. Not only will you be more respected, but you are guaranteed an answer each time. Plus it puts a face to a name.

You will learn to love water. Cokes, Mountain Dews, coffee, tea; all that's great. But water is the single most amazing, refreshing drink there is. Bar none.

College provides so many social events... Theatre productions, dance recitals, intramural sports, videogames in the lobby, late night Waffle House runs. It's all great.

...but you need some time alone, too. But don't forget to also spend time with yourself. Take a break from studying (in moderation). Watch that movie you love. Finish that book you've kept putting off. Nap! If you never napped before you certainly will now; and you'll wonder why you haven't before.

You have to study. If you didn't have to study in high school, you will now. This is a challenge, but you love challenges. So study. Read the assigned materials. Do the practice problems.

College isn't awesome by default. You're away from home, by yourself. Besides the low maintenance required with your room, you have zero chores. You're there with the some of the most intelligent individuals in the world as teachers and with people who have the same interests that you do; make the most of it!

You do all that and you'll have a great time at college. Let me know if I've missed any. Jacob out.