It has been one month since the start of school. I'm attending Western Washington University, an NCAA Div III school in Bellingham, WA. Now, I'm not a social butterfly, but my schedule is pleasantly filled with responsibilities to a couple clubs and my classes. I'm very happy with the way things have been going.
My math class is the low point of every weekday. I walk in not knowing whether or not I'll learn something. I walked out halfway through the class yesterday because I didn't care enough to sit through the bullshit. My Engineering Design class is exactly the opposite. I know nothing about engineering, so everything is new and interesting. The drawing portion is especially cool. The older prof, Raudebaugh, wrote a book based on the idea that one doesn't have to have the inborn artistic talent, that many schools seem to agree is necessary, to draw. It has been going incredibly well. No, I'm not an artist or anything of the sort, but I can generally get better shapes down than I could have before I started. I picked up a full graphite pencil today, along with some sketch paper. I might actually take it up as a hobby, it's getting so fun.
Probably one of the nicest things about Washington's Universities is that they seem to have an incredible amount of clubs. Western has more than 100 and allows clubs for nearly anything. In fact, we have a Slurpee-lovers club. There will soon be a talk show lovers club. According to a friend's father, there was, at one point, an S&M club. If there was, there was, and it does not exist anymore. I've personally joined the anime club (Aiya!), the Formula SAE team (for which I will create a node at the end of the competition), and the Kulshan Aikikai Aikido club.
As often as I can fit it in, I go to the Vehicle Research Institute's shop and work with the other Formula SAE guys. It really depends on what is going on for me, because my schedule is very spotty. I think that I should explain the process, since there is no node on here about the FSAE: We, a group of 20 or so college students, design, fund, build and present to a fictitious company a car that will be a weekend racer. We also take them out to the track and weed out the weak. Western has possibly the most comprehensive of any program, building as much as we possibly can while still breaking even. They even designed, machined, assembled and ran a ~800CC V8 a few years back. Completely machined in the shop, the piece was a beaut. We're now restricted to a 610CC engine with a 19mm intake restrictor. (The restrictor is different per fuel type; 19mm for the ethanol mixture we're going to run. The engine needn't be a custom job; we're using a Honda CBR600F3 four-pot.) I've been trying to help wherever possible, but I know very little. So far, I cut Carbon Fiber kit for the tubes, doing a CATIA model of the ECU (so they don't put it in such an idiotic location again), and helping acquire materials.
Tuesday nights is the anime club. Standard geekiness here. We're watching a bunch of series that I don't remember by name, Full Metal Alchemist, Bleach and Kyou Kara Maou. The people are great and nice. And total geeks. After last Tuesday's meeting, they drew a transmutation circle/hexagram around the fountain in Red Square with sidewalk chalk.
Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays are all Aikido nights. We practice for an hour and a half each night. Ukemi and throws have made this possibly the most enjoyable exercise I've ever had the pleasure of experiencing. I'm so used to high school P.E. that I forgot one could have fun and get a workout at the same time. I've learned how to take a fall, how to roll, how to generally not have my ass handed to me without putting up a defense. No, I won't win any awards for fastest learner, but I'm learning it as quick as I can. Tonight was the bi-annual dojo cleaning night. The judo club wanted to take the mats for their competition, for which we obliged to help with the removal. The Judo club here at Western is the reason we have mats and there are links between Judo and Aikido/Aikijitsu, so much respect was had for the Judo club's request. This is really nice because the dogi will probably be distributed Monday night. Clean dojo and a brand new dogi, there's a nice idea. Of course, only a dozen of us have any need for a dogi, the rest already have them.
Since I have arrived here, I haven't been able to get my hands on any red meat. I mean, nothing worth eating. It's either food service hamburgers or in such small amounts that it isn't worth it. So I took good advantage of the fact the Aikido club was going to the Boundary Bay Brewery and Bistro after cleaning. I took down three rootbeers (not being of legal age to drink, after all), part of a small caeser salad and one hell of a delicious steak. A medium-well 10 ounce New York steak, cooked in a demi-glaze over real mashed potatoes. Absolutely amazing. Not tough, not burned, not too much fat (and less wasted meat as a result), very juicy, tender enough and a good taste. The potatoes were just a great extra (I'm Irish, after all). BBB&B gets my recommendation to anyone going through Bellingham. Good service, quite a different selection of food, and tasty rootbeer. I think I can go back to being a dining hall vegetarian now that I have been satisfied. Or maybe not. We're going to have a FSAE party tomorrow night, after all. Maybe I can convince someone to let me cook some teriyaki hamburgers.
The thing that surprises me the most is the sheer number of people that I meet every day. I continue to meet at least three people a day, which is down from the some-odd-dozen. Mind you, I tend to keep to myself, like most geeks do. But just three clubs and three classes and I am meeting all kinds of people. I find irony in people, which is just plain amusing: The Japanese transfer student woman who is studying American culture is taking Japanese Humanities in America. The vegetarian pass-a-fist who can sing upbeat tunes while wrenching your arm into exquisite pain. (One word: kodegaishi.) I love the people watching, the natural feeling of the Fairhaven dorm stacks and everything else.
I've finally found home, but I still feel like this may or may not be a place to take root. It's not decided. I'll remain this way till I move away and realize I love it here, probably. So I guess I'll take it easy, get to know the people and go to classes. Yeah, sounds like a great plan.