FD SCP drug me off to MalWart the other day. Neither of us particularly enjoys the experience and we often find it annoying, like having to sit for too long on an uncomfortable seat, in an uncomfortable posture, while listening to a boring presentation but unable to experience mind wander – day dreaming – because of the discomfort. So we lessen the impact of the misery by sharing. And trying to be non-judgmental when one of us puts something in the shopping buggy that the other considers such.
FD SCP and I have rather different ways of navigating aisled stores. She tends to use something that look disturbingly like a two-dimensional drunkard’s walk, the result of seeking out things in the order they occur on her shopping list. I, on the other hand, tend to sort the list in order of a raster traverse of the aisles, or even just march along scanning the display and the list alternately. Except for catching up on anything missed my trajectory is a model of determinacy to her stochasticity. I rather suspect this is related to ancient learned, and hence genetically embedded, behavior dealing with hunting and gathering, but such is the subject for another blot.
In the progress, which was a mathematically interesting union of raster and drunkard, I noted that the store had dedicated a couple of semi-aisles to what I would characterize as college student equipage. Perhaps a more accurate description would be high shul graduate but not yet college student, and parents thereof, visualization/expectation of what should be carried off to college/dorm life? Anyway, there was a typical MalWart display of tacky sheets and towels, uncomfortable portable indoor furniture, and some study needs such as notebooks and the like.
Then, yesterday I ran across an article [Link] on Lifehacker entitled “Preparing for College: Tech Essentials for Your First Year”. The article – happily – does not discuss stereos or alarum clocks or any such technologies, but sticks with individual computers, eReaders/eBooks, and such; actual learning stuff. But the juxtaposition of the two did provoke consideration of my own experiences in this regard.
In my youth, in that chaotic period between being accepted to college/accepting a selection (campus of the Black Warrior, biggest scholarship) and actually attending my first class as an entering freshman, I and to a greater extend my parents went through this exact frenzy. I do not know whether my mother had articles in her women’s magazines that addresses this rite of preparation; I know my father’s did not because he had begun to encourage me to read these magazines. I did scan them but found much there incomprehensible or banal.
At any rate however, my mother bustled about equipping me with all manner of stuff: towels but no sheets – sheets we were told were better rented, which it emerged, also included towels (one pillow case, two flat sheets, three towels weekly), a foot locker that I never could find anyplace good to stow, an travel alarum clock that died after a couple of weeks of dorm treatment, … And I got drug off to clothing stores that catered to ‘young’ men where they were supposed to know what college men wore. Sadly they lnew all about what fraternity bogs wore but not nerds. And they weren’t about to admit it, for several obvious reasons. Happily I did recognize that I wasn’t about to wander around in public looking like the clerks proposed so I ended up with a compromise of black denim jeans and conservative cotton shirts.
My father chimed in and recommended I get a pair of hush puppies – he was big on them at that time and they did make them in narrow widths in those days, unlike today! – which turned out to be the best advice I got except that the chemicals I used in lab ate through the toes in a few months, necessitating replacement when I was observed with holey topped shoes. This was one of the reasons I didn’t go home often; lack of automobile as a freshman was another. I was also outfitted with a typewriter for typing term papers. Interestingly this, which was perhaps the closest of then technology to the now technology of individual computer was of scant use to a nerd student. I typed two term papers as a freshman, but thereafter only the occasional research paper. I think I may have typed lab reports in one of my advanced chemistry classes but I soon found that in science and maths courses there were no term papers, research papers were better hand written, and generally ill suited to nerd formatting. The latter would haunt me throughout my experiences with individual computers as well.
The most useful thing I got during this period turned out to be the new K&E slide rule that I hinted at and received as a graduation present. It stood me in good stead until Hewlett Packard’s master stroke of the HP-35 in 1972 propagated through the marketplace. I recall taking qualifying exams for the doctoral program at the campus of the Tennessee about three years before defense, but from then back to that summer after high shul graduation, that K&E log-log decitrig ten inch rule, and, of course, bundles of IBM 5081 punch cards and later multi track recording tape, saw me through number crunching.
Happily I was only saddled with the equipage when I settled into the new experience of dorm life. Something like half of it was inappropriate and gradually got lost or taken home over term break and left to disappear in the gibble of stuff that hides in attics, basements, and the back of closet shelves. Things untold and unthought were added over time. The great vacuum was note taking instrumentality. I was unprepared as my note taking in high shul had been a matter of ring notebook and margin punched paper. Upper classmen soon directed me to spiral notebooks (for order sake) and BIC pens. The significant thing was that college spiral notebooks are different size and ruling than those used in high shul, so not knowing and preparing inadvertently saved me embarrassment, a precious commodity for a freshman.
I shudder whenever I think of trying to take notes with a laptop. Even the best note taking clients – I use LeepNote these day, quite a lot – fails quickly in the environment of nerd courses. Equations and sketches of figures and diagrams are doable by hand if one is quick, a task too far on a laptop. And while I have bemoaned the cost of textbooks since I was a freshman – why I wailed do nerd textbooks cost so much more than bog textbooks?; the answer is, of course, supply and demand, there are many bogs so low prices, few nerds so high prices – I love the idea of eReader and eBooks although since the current technology is text-only with no pictures, nor equations!, I fear that these too are bog only these days.
Also happily, FD SCP and I had both experienced this so when we sent SCPdatter off we were careful to not equip her with the learning instrumentality that we knew would likely be wrong. And she was properly embarassed enough with what we did equip her with that we could be assured she would visit the same on her children.
 There was a period in my young adulthood, after I obtained full time employment, that I read Playboy catholically in an effort to know, if not understand, how I was supposed to behave as an American male of my age cohort. The material was still incomprehensible, banal, and additionally, silly.