Truth Universally Acknowledged

October 28, 2010

Wednesday Words: Chalk

Filed under: Uncategorized — mboesl @ 3:57 am

I have always loved chalkboards.

Something about the way the fluorescent light glares off whiteboards has always been a great nuisance to me. In my perspective, whiteboards and their cold, bright sterility have a better place in a hospital than in a school. Granted, the variety of colors endemic to the whiteboard experience is remarkable, but it never feels like one is writing anything of note. The marker can be so quickly and completely erased, leaving no lasting image, whereas chalk takes effort to erase. When something is written in chalk, it feels like it is harkening back to hundreds of years of academia, continuing a line of knowledge passed down through generation. Regardless of what is written in Dry-Erase markers, it always seems to me rather childish and highly unacademic.

To be honest, as I looked at colleges, I took careful note of which ones used chalk and which had the accursed whiteboards. I am happy to report that at Yale, classes are entirely with the old-school blackboards. Chemistry, Music Theory, English and German all use the traditional chalk method. There is nothing more pleasing than a teacher writing notes on the board, something ethereal about the clip-clip-cha-chip sound of the chalk as it meanders its way across the board. Regardless of the nebulousness of the subject, here at least, there is a distinction between white and black. Knowledge shines through from the darkness of the board for a brief instant before being wiped away from all memory.

In a way, this is our lives, a mere series of scribbles, shining for a brief moment from the murky blackboard, to be erased after only a few short moments.

What will we say?

 

October 25, 2010

One of Those Days; or, why potassium permanganate should stay in the bottle

Filed under: Uncategorized — mboesl @ 2:09 am

There are two categories of lab days: survival or apocalyptic. Friday was one of the latter. The lab was a series of simple oxidation-reduction reactions. All you had to do was mix some solutions together and watch the colors change (granted, it was a bit more involved than that, but about as exciting as it sounds). From the very beginning, however, the day was fraught with misfortune. Not only did I have an air bubble in my pipette at the beginning (a big problem, as it throws of the measurement), but my lab partner also discarded a stir bar into the chemical waste receptacle.

But don’t worry, that was only the start to the series of unfortunate events. While pulling tubing off a flask, I knocked over a beaker of potassium permanganate. Now, for those of you unfamiliar with General Chemistry Lab, potassium permanganate is a dark, dark purple liquid that will stain anything it touches a dark brown. In a beaker or burette, permanganate is lovely, a wonderful chemical, but outside a container, dripping down the marble counter onto one’s new dress pants, many of its attributes seem to fade away. However, due to quick thinking and a handy bunch of paper towels, crisis was largely averted, and I escaped with only a small, unambiguous spot of brown on my lab coat.

Fortunately, the time following those first hectic moments of class were a bit more laid back, that is, until I spilled the Sulfuric acid. Again, Sulfuric acid is a wonderful compound and is put to many good uses, such as processing ore and manufacturing fertilizer. Oh yes, and battery acid. In other words, it is not the greatest thing to pour all over your pants. Again, a hearty dose of paper towels came to the rescue.

Finally, the three hour ordeal was coming to an end. We had two steps remaining, heat up a solution and titrate it. Simple, easy, we were going to be done quickly and move on with our day, and have dinner with our par…  CRASH. I was startled awake from my musings by the sound of glass breaking. “How unfortunate for those people,” I thought in my Oedipus-style smug ignorance. “Good thing all our glassware is…” I looked over to where I heard the sound, to see my partner gazing dejectedly at the shards of a broken flask and a puddle of chemicals, all that was left of our past hour’s work.

Sometimes, you can try and try and try, but still things happen. However, this experience was not without some benefit. In fact, I learned several very important lessons from these few hours.

1. Never disconnect tubing from something with a full beaker of acid immediately behind your elbow.

2. Never major in chemistry.

3. If life gives you lemons, spill sulfuric acid over them and hope they dissolve.

Yours,

Markus

October 21, 2010

Wednesday Words

Filed under: Uncategorized — mboesl @ 3:57 am

Squirrels are some of the most present, and dare I say, good looking, members of the Yale community. They scurry up the trees, chase each other through the grass, find food and pose as subjects for the greedy cameras of the many tourists that come through Yale. At Glee Club retreat, I sat reading for nearly an hour under a large spreading oak tree. From time to time, an acorn would plummet down from the tree and a slight shake in the leaves would take the place of a small mammal. Ceaselessly working, this squirrel rained down acorns over the stony path. Grey quirrels are such unique creatures, often just part of the ambiance. But, if you stop to take a closer look, the intricacy of their design is striking. Each fiber of their tails is perfectly aligned, incredibly sensitive, which is vital for both balance and a signal of its mood. They are very protective of their food source and will fight off threats with great whim.

In a way, the busyness of the squirrels as they throw their acorns from the tops of trees, bury them, and find them again, day after day, is a nice parallel to the lives of students, as we day in and day out work for our education. We are not so different, after all. They scurry away when they feel threatened. They protect their own. They enjoy a good meal as much as we do. Often, times can seem stressful, a paper due, (like one was for me today) a midterm hanging over our heads, a relationship issue or even general homesickness, and we can’t imagine the world going on. This must be the end, there is no way to finish. It is too hard, too tiring, too uncomfortable, to maddening, too boring, too worthless to strive forwards. Yet, each morning, we get up and see the insignificant little creatures busily working away, storing for the future, remembering the past (I mean where they hid their nuts, but that is probably a really large stretch. Oh well.) and we know that life will go on like it always has. We will find a way to finish that paper or mend that relationship or improve the way we live and study. Perhaps these few words on ground mammals are silly and useless, but I guess they illustrate for me two reassuring points.

1. He who spent the time to create the function of every one of those squirrels silvery hairs, also spent the time creating every fiber of my being. How reassuring to know that if he cares for them, how much more will he provide for me.

2. Secondly, the patient perseverance of these little animals is a reminder of the, cliched, but too often forgot idea: that though things may seem tough at the moment, perhaps there aren’t quite enough acorns for the winter, perhaps things didn’t go well today, but there is always tomorrow. As Marilla says in Anne of Green Gables “Tomorrow’s a new day, with no mistakes in it.” What a reassuring fact to be found in such an odd subject.

Your nature loving friend,

Markus

October 14, 2010

Wednesday Words: By the Numbers

Filed under: Uncategorized — mboesl @ 4:11 am

Some facts and figures from around campus.

Cost of tuition, room and board at Yale in 1995: $27,630

Cost of tuition, room and board at Yale in 2010: $49,800

Cost of a Styrofoam cup to carry hot liquids in the dining halls: $.25

Number of singers in the Yale Glee Club: 87

Number of years the Yale Glee Club has been in existence: 150

Number of directors in that amount of time: 7

Number of consonant chords in the modern piece we are premiering: 3

Number of Students in Chemistry 114a Lecture: 254.00000

Number of significant figures in the previous number: 8

Distance from Coos Bay, OR to New Haven, CT: 2586.28 mi.

Distance from my German class to my English Class: At least half as much.

Number of students sharing the bathroom on my floor: approximately 8

Number of showers in aforementioned bathroom: 1

Number of registered undergraduate organizations at Yale: over 300

Amount of people the Yale Bowl (football stadium seats): 64,269

Number of football national championships Yale has won: 17

Number of years since Yale has won a football championship: 101.

Times per week the dining halls serve some sort of tofu dish: 5

Number of people who eat aforementioned dish: 5

October 9, 2010

Windows without Walls

Filed under: Trips — mboesl @ 11:27 pm

So the story goes like this:

Jonathan, my suite mate, had bid on tickets to a private tour of Phillip Johnson’s Glass House property at a silent auction. Much to his parents’ chagrin, he won it, as well as several more items. So a couple of us Yalies made the trek over to New Canaan early this morning to embark on a private tour of the property.

Phillip Johnson was probably the most influential American Architect of the 20th century. A Harvard grad who had studied the classics, he pioneered the architectural expression of modernism in works such as the Seagram Building in New York, the JFK Memorial in Dallas, PPG Place in Pittsburg and the Chrystal Cathedral in Orange County.

His home in New Canaan, CT (In 2005 ranked the wealthiest county in the United States by median family income) has only recently been open to the public. Here are some pictures that poorly capture the sublimity of the place this eccentric and incredibly influential man built, lived and died.

October 7, 2010

My Address

Filed under: Yale — mboesl @ 7:44 pm

If any of you ever have a desire to mail me anything I just thought I’d put my address up on here:
Markus Boesl
Yale University
PO Box 204964
New Haven, CT 06520-4964

Wednesday Words: Yale, some preliminary comments

Filed under: Yale — mboesl @ 4:14 am

Yale is a funny place. On the one hand are long-standing areas of academia that go back hundreds of years, on the other, programs on the cutting edge of ideology and technology. Mass spectrometers are put to use next to blackboards and chalk, and ancient looking gothic spires buttress an modern glass applied physics building. A large faculty, including Nobel Laureates and former directors of the CIA, teach classes on everything from “The Cultures of Medieval Spain” to “West African Islam: Jihad Tradition and Its Pacifist Opponents” to “The Political Economy of Healthcare.” (In selecting these examples, I simply opened the course catalog randomly and wrote down the first title I saw.) One of the facets of Yale’s enigma is its extensiveness. Graduate schools cover drama, music, management, medicine, forestry, religion and on and on, while the undergraduate curriculum encompasses hundreds of academic disciplines. Politicians (Both Bushes, Clintons etc), entertainers (Meryl Streep, Paul Giamatti), Thinkers, and Authors all spent time here. These were the people that shaped and continue to shape our world.

Yet in such an environment, one does not think of it being “Yale.” But only, my dear Alma Mater. Occasionally, I’ll catch myself looking at a building and thinking about who might have looked at the same scene hundreds of years before; I’ll catch myself meeting people and vaguely wondering what wonders they will accomplish, or how I will tell my grandkids, “I knew Senator X, or I went to school with Professor Y” These moments are few and far between, quick glimpses of the future, usually between rushing to classes or working on homework. In many ways, Yale is not so far from any other school.  The Ivory Tower becomes usual, the gothic structures mundane, even chintzy, and the grandeur wears off to stark reality. However, the flame of what it means to be “Yale” never fully goes out.

This is because Yale is more than a “school,” more than a place to get academic prowess, to attend classes, to get grades. It is an a place to get an education. We have the privilege of  becoming a part of an incredible place, with the brightest, most influential people, where prestige, power and pride are put aside for friendship and the common goal of learning. In the people we meet in classes, the discussions we have with one another, and the history we live with daily, we become more complete individuals.

That’s the theory at least.

October 5, 2010

Brief

Filed under: Trips — mboesl @ 2:45 pm

I’m going to New York City this afternoon. I’ve never been, and am very excited. The Spizzwinks(?) are singing at a dinner put on by the Yale School of Management in one of the New York Stock Exchange buildings. To the big city… after English.

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