My fall semester of graduate school is underway. Classes officially started yesterday, but I didn’t have anything to do with either of them until today on an official basis.
Both of the courses I’m taking this fall are interactive television courses; I’ve only had one previous experience with an ITV course, from this past summer, and it wasn’t a particularly good experience — mostly because I did not enjoy sitting by myself in the large interactive TV studio on campus. Tonight was similar; however, the professor seems to be interested in making a conscious effort to get the students in the remote labs more involved in the flow of the coursework. So far, it seems to be working; I had several opportunities to work with another student tonight, and in the first course I never communicated with anyone. So, good start.
Also, I’m working with several people to get a connection to the course broadcast on my laptop, so I’m hopeful that tonight’s session in the ITV lab will be my last. I will so vastly prefer the opportunity to do this from home.
Tonight’s course is on system thinking; the textbook seems like it’s going to be difficult to penetrate, but I’m very interested to learn more about this. We talked about some things this evening that on the surface seemed relatively straight-forward, but as we examined things in a little more depth they weren’t as simple as they seemed on the surface. I love things like that.
The second course is simply called scholarship; it is essentially a “how to write a thesis” course and will set the groundwork for the capstone paper I will have to write to complete the requirements for my degree (I’m taking a non-thesis option, and have already completed the additional course that this track requires). This course gives me pause, as I’m worried about my ability to keep up with the reading and writing.
Both of these courses, even on day one right out of the gate, feel like they’ve got the potential to be courses that are actually going to require me to put some effort into them. I don’t shy away from this, but if that holds true it will be a polar opposite experience from that during my first 18 credits of coursework.
What I’m Playing
I’ve spent quite a bit of time playing a rail shooter on my iPhone called Major Mayhem. I cleared the three campaigns in the game a couple of weeks ago, and since then have just been farming the game’s myriad achievements. There are 150 mini-achievements, like “score 50,000 points in a single mission” or “get sliced by a giant blade of death,” and I’ve cleared 149 of them. There also are 100 primary achievements — those are far more significant, along the lines of “kill 50,000 enemies” and “complete all three campaigns without dying.” I’m through about 40 of those, and honestly have been putting more effort into finishing the 150 mini-achievements first. The 150th mini-achievement is something I can do relatively easily (I’ll probably do it tonight as soon as I finish this post, in fact), and from there I’ll start farming through the primary achievements.
The ending of this game teases a Major Mayhem 2 that will probably take place in space; it’ll be interesting to see what the devs have in store for the sequel.
What I’m Reading
On a “people online sure think this is good, so I’ll check it out” whim, last month I picked up the first issue of Marvel’s new standalone Hawkeye series, written by Matt Fraction with David Aja art. I liked it quite a bit; enough that there wasn’t much hesitation when wondering whether to go ahead and pick up the second one this week. I’m really glad I did — as much as I enjoyed the first issue, the second issue is fantastic. I’ve really enjoyed Fraction’s Invincible Iron Man series, but he seems to have taken his game up to a new level with this series. It’s hard to pin down exactly what it is that I like about the writing; the characters are just solidly defined and everything flows well.
And Aja’s art is phenomenal. There were two pages in particular in the second issue that simply blew me away; there’s a sequence where tiny individual black and white panels are drawn showing a character mouth each letter of the phrase “That’s so cool,” with a series of panels in between showing Hawkeye shooting three arrows at the target, which brilliantly illustrated how quickly the action was supposed to take place in real time. it’s one of those rare circumstances where static two-dimensional images that don’t move on a page can be used to show an abstract concept like the rapidity of events which take place in the span of only a second or so. It was great. There’s also an amazing 35-panel grid on one page toward the end showing the back-and-forth of a telephone conversation that is just marvelous to follow.
I’m in on Hawkeye for awhile, I think. And it’s not because I have any great affinity for the character; through two issues, it’s just a fantastic comic book.
I’m also still reading IDW’s G.I. Joe comics, but I may not be for much longer. The writer has just reached the point where the series of things that flat-out don’t make any sense or are contradictory to what he’s shown earlier in the series or completely wasted opportunities to develop the story in interesting and meaningful ways are piling up faster than my ability to tolerate them simply because it’s a G.I. Joe title. I’m up for giving this about one more story arc, and then I’m going to start asking some questions about how I spend that $12 each month.