Saturday, March 08, 2014

How I picked Vanderbilt

Was looking at my Instagram account which just has a few photos (for now) when I thought about the picture I posted of my certificate from Duke University for going to their program called TIP. And the thing is I was trying to find something to put on Instagram, saw that hanging on the wall and figured it would be a way to preserve it.

And also now I'm seeing how to link to an Instagram photo in my blog so trying something out here. Would be nice if the photo would pull into the blog but I don't know if that can be done so just have the link for now above.

But along with that thought I'd explain why despite having very much enjoyed my times at Duke with TIP, and dreaming for years about going there as a student I didn't even apply later but thankfully at least applied to Vanderbilt University where I got accepted and from which I graduated.

I grew up in the South and did ok I think as a black kid trying to figure out how the world worked and working hard to better my life and get that education thing people were often saying is important. But I was from a lower middle class family and stuck making a lot of decisions myself primarily because my parents were overwhelmed. How were they supposed to know any of this stuff?

It was up to me to figure it out, and with my limited knowledge of things I was often intimidated. And oddly enough, knowing more about Duke University pushed me away from the school as the more I read about them the less confident I was that I would get accepted to that school! And even now since I never applied I don't know.

But I should add that when I was 17 looking at colleges I was lucky enough to have a high enough SAT that a blizzard of schools sent mail to me, including one of the Ivy Leagues and I was just this intimidated teenager saying to myself, no way.

I had no precedent for the experience. And found it hard to see myself as a choice of any of those big names at those important places.

I was just a kid from the rural South trying to figure out how to try and do ok in this life.

And along with the flurry of mail that took a rural Georgia kid by surprise as I tried to manage myself through these decisions completely out of my family's experience there was one from Vanderbilt University.

Thankfully, I had never heard of them. Which is kind of funny as Vanderbilt is one of the best known colleges in the South but I didn't know that at the time.

And oddly enough, as one of those Southern things, I never really thought of Tennessee as the South as I'm from Georgia which I know is the South, but those more Northern states I kind of think of as quasi-South, which I guess is sort of silly.

But somehow the thing that stood out for me was the name. And it's like, I'm wondering to myself, do the Vanderbilts have a school? I had heard of the Vanderbilt family. Turns out of course that the school has received varying attention from the Vanderbilt family, including an important grant from the original famous Cornelius Vanderbilt himself who was often called the Commodore.

And it's like one of those random things as I applied to Vanderbilt University which was the only school I tried.

I don't even remember if Duke sent me anything which may mean I blocked it out.

Thank God I did get accepted by Vanderbilt University and as an adult who has learned a lot more I am so very grateful that my lack of knowledge when a teenager of the best approach to getting into a decent college did not screw up my future.

I was very lucky. And turns out I picked a great school which thankfully did accept me, so it worked out regardless of how.

Ironically I also was recruited after I applied to Vanderbilt by University of Tennessee which felt really good and I do wonder why schools don't recognize that kids from low income families may just not know enough, so it does help to actually be recruited even if you're not a sports person. Why recruit sports folks directly and pay less attention to academic potential? Or do they? And I was just not interesting enough for direct contact for anyone but University of Tennessee?

I think especially for students like myself the personal touch makes a world of difference. Just to know that certain schools wanted me shifted how I looked at myself as before I felt like a reject.

In any event so now I'm a big fan of Tennessee as kind of a second state to my home state of Georgia. Where also I am a big fan of California, so I have 3 main states of which I'm a fan. My Big 3.

And Nashville is a very important city to me, and I find I cheer University of Tennessee as long as they're not playing Vanderbilt, of course.

Interesting how certain choices greatly shape your life and likes.

Wednesday, March 05, 2014

Why money no longer rules

When I grew up here in the United States in a region commonly called the South, it was a world where money ruled. What we saw on television was decided by wealthy people for the most part, which was also true of what was in the newspapers. Movies were dominated by the wealthy who could fund making them which is still true today I should add. And, also like many think it still is today, for politicians to gain power they needed vast amounts of money to buy advertising on, yup, television.

Money ruled because lots of money was usually necessary to get your ideas out there.

Today the web has completely eradicated that reason.

Now it's actually the opposite. People with lots of money can go down in utter flames, especially in politics, listening to advisers who convince them that all they need is to spend enough money on consultants and political ads, when that is not the case.

Entire governments can fall when wealthy rulers, even with billions at their disposal, and the power structures of state, lose anyway simply because people can talk about their corruption, and decide as a nation to make a change to pursue better.

Whether they get better or not is, of course, a different matter, but now it's not like before when the conversation could be drowned out by people with lots of money.

The difference in our day is that I can talk to a world, on a blog, without spending any money at all! And write up a post while drinking my morning cup of coffee because I thought of it a few minutes ago, just a bit after breakfast.

I really enjoy a cup of coffee in the morning.

But words can topple nations. Thoughts and ideas shared with others can unite in a common vision to at least try to have a better world.

Can we at least agree to try to have a better world?

And petty tyrants can tremble in their gaudy palaces. Can worry as they eat off their gilded plates. And sweat while they pretend that their money is all that matters in a world where the writer can take you apart by just believing enough in humanity to share.

The web now rules.

Soon that lesson will be the great one learned as it shakes this world, changes the future direction of humanity, and I think leads to a better reality for us all.

Ok, now back to my coffee.

Oh yeah, so how long does it take me from start to finish? Kind of in a rush this morning so about 15 minutes. After I do a rough draft which I may post, I'll keep coming back to edit. Generally I'm done editing in two days.

Why put up rough drafts then versus waiting till I've finished primary editing?

Because it helps me edit to have a rough draft up, as it puts the pressure of knowing that what I have up there is already being read by some in several countries where it's usually half a dozen.

And I like that pressure. Besides, even my rough drafts I confidently believe, are usually good enough.

Now I'm back in the early afternoon after lunch, and I'm in edit mode, where I check through what I wrote before and decided to continue down the path I started this morning of, for once, talking about how I tend to do posts.

First I do a read through of what was written earlier checking for obvious mistakes of any kind, and then I do another read through for how the writing flows. I will also be thinking to myself, does it make sense? What am I really trying to say here? Who do I think the audience is?

I make changes as I edit, and then repost with the changes at various points depending on my mood. Sometimes it's just kind of like an itch to just get it out there. And having finished this post below (I think) I'm doing more re-reads. I think I'm on read 4, and probably will read at least 8 times all the way through before I'm done. Along with that will be other mini-reads through sections of the post where it's not worth it to try and estimate a count. Writing about the process is interesting to me as well, so I'll be finding that fascinating in my own read throughs.

Reading through again should be fun, or I will probably decide the writing missed the target. The thing is I enjoy both the writing, the reading and the editing, as all are needed. And without that pleasure in the activity, what would be the point of doing it?

Which raises the question: how effective do I think my own writing is?

My answer is that it fulfills my needs and sense of purpose in the ideal. We actually DO have a wonderful situation in our modern times where anyone can get out here on the web and SAY something that can potentially be read all over the world.

And that's just makes for so much giddy fun.

For me writing is so much of the point. If it does help the conversation that is great as well and I write on topics I think should help--not harm. But how does anyone really know how much good they do?

I think the best thing with what we can now is to try.

And now I have more reading and editing to do with this post. But I have a feeling it is otherwise done.

James Harris