I’m glad to see you again. The first year post was quite long, so I was afraid I’d lose you. I’m here to talk about my second year of university. I was worried this post would end up even longer, but it turned out to be about the same length as my first one. This is when things start to get interesting, as I start taking more than just writing courses and other trivial electives.
I’ll begin this story from the summer after my first year, when, I got an email from student housing telling me who my roommate would be. There were still a few months left until university began, and I wanted to know what kind of person he was, so, of course, after having attained such powerful information (his name), I couldn’t help myself and had to look him up online. The internet nowadays is pretty amazing. When I was a kid, I was told to never put my personal information online, but things have really changed, haven’t they. Using your real name has become a common thing with the rise of social media. Now, it’s possible to find almost anyone and learn about what they like and dislike, who they’re going out with (if anyone), and more. It’s like a human encyclopedia. If you ask me, you should be prepared for anything you put your name on to be found. So I found my roommate, and learned some valuable information. He liked anime. Now, unfortunately, he hadn’t watched nearly as much as me, so we couldn’t talk about too much, but it was still cool, and throughout that school year we would watch some of the same shows that were airing and talk about them every week. This was a much welcomed change from the people I had before.
If you recall that I lived in a newer style of room during the spring semester, that was the same type of room I had now. The building was a lot taller than where I lived before, by about 3 stories, so I got a much better view from the lounge.
I also saw a cool looking red bird when walking to school once.
And there were once moose outside my window. They eat really strangely.
You might not know this, but physics majors are extremely rare. At the time of writing this (my fourth year), there were only 14 people majoring or minoring in physics at my university, and I was the only student in my year. As well, there was only one student in the year below me. That said, our university is doing really well in this regard. About one in one hundred students here are doing a physics minor or major, whereas at most universities the ratio is closer to one in one thousand. It’s still a small number though, and there were even less people during my second year, so I figured I would be the only physics person on my floor, but I was mistaken. This was where I met who I call physics-senpai. He was doing a double major in math and physics and it was his final year. We shared the same name, so I liked to joke that I was there to replace him. He was the smartest person I ever met, and I strove to match his grades, even asking him for his transcript so I could set goals for myself. Sometimes I did better than him, though most of the time I did a little bit worse. I did manage to impress him a few times though, despite being a rookie. One such time was when we had another trivia competition for a pizza party. This was the exact same game from my previous year. Exactly, down to each and every question being recycled. The host must not have thought anyone from before would be there, in this new building. In fact, I certainly recall him saying something along the lines that nobody would possibly remember the questions even if they were there previously. And this time, it was a free for all, for all team members. That is, any team member could answer a question at any time, and I still remembered a decent amount of answers from last year. Whereas I didn’t help at all before, this time I was the MVP and carried the team to victory. Physics-senpai would look amazed as I answered each question that had a trick answer, and I won pizza for my floor.
I was really excited for this new year, I must say. Having finished precalculus, calculus 1, linear algebra, and calculus 2 with straight As, I was excited for calculus 3. I was also taking my first real university physics course: general physics 1: mechanics. Then there was intro to programming, issues in world politics, and intro to creative writing. It all looked like a lot of fun, but it turned out to be very 必死. That is, it felt like I was walking along the border of death.
Let me start with my easiest course: calculus 3. In this, we learned about infinite series in great detail, and then multivariable calculus afterwards. This was a very easy class, though that may have been due to the professor I got, who everyone loved. He was a bald Russian guy, and all the girls in the class thought he was cute. Not to mention he gave lots of bonus questions and posted all his notes online. As easy as the course was, I’m not sure how he could have made the course material hard. Partial differentiation and double integration is very straightforward. Everything in multivariable calculus is simple as long as you understand calculus 1 and 2. The infinite series thing took a while to get used to, but it proved to be pretty simple too. Just memorize the convergence tests and when they should be used, and you’re pretty much good to go. I really enjoyed the Maclaurin Series though, where you could describe functions such as Sin(x) or Ln(x) as infinite series. Previously, I had always wondered “If sin(x) is equal to opposite over hypotenuse, how does your calculator know what it is just knowing x and without knowing side lengths? There are too many unknown variables here!” But that’s how you calculator does it. With series expansion.
Creative writing was a fun course. We basically wrote, well, whatever we wanted to during own time, read it to the class, and that was that. When other people read, we critiqued their writing. I don’t exactly have much to say about it, but it was good practice, I think. Honestly, it was the only writing course I ever enjoyed, though I kind of got lazy midway through. I had more important courses to focus on, but it was okay, and I had a writing trick up my sleeve. A perfect trick that nobody will ever be able to figure out. Of course, that means I can’t talk about it here either, haha. Sorry. A magician never reveals their secrets.
The political science course, “issues in world politics”, was also a writing course. I thought it would be about the relationships between countries and was initially excited, but instead, a lot of it was about water scarcity, governance, and security, which I thought was really boring. I barely paid attention in class and skipped quite a few classes. Once, a guy from my creative writing class, who had missed a week, asked me what happened, and I couldn’t tell him anything. He was like “Come on, you’re smart” but hell if I cared what was going on in this class. The lectures were given via powerpoint slides. Also, the professor had some slides in German. Yeah. German in Canada. I’m sure everybody is going to understand that. Some slides were also packed to the brim with text. It was honestly the worst powerpoint show I ever saw in a lecture. Even worse than what high schoolers produce for their projects during the night before they’re due. I did see some horrendous slides in my fourth year, but that’s a story for then.
The first and only midterm for that class was extremely bizarre. I was expecting us to have to explain concepts and prepared accordingly, but instead, we were given 10 questions with 1 word answers. Also, we had to write in KAPITAL LETTERS. That’s not a typo on my part. He spelled it with a K. Here’s an example question: “What are the BRIC countries?” Answer: “BRAZIL, RUSSIA, INDIA, CHINA.” Nobody was expecting the exam to be like that, and we all did pretty badly. We were expecting having to write long answer questions, not this. He ended up giving everyone a bonus 10%. If I recall, I got a 60% after the bonus. Yikes. Not only did it seem like I wouldn’t get an A, or even a B, but I was at risk of failing. The professor gave us one hint though: that the final exam would be just like this one. So I memorized short facts like that. I’m not sure how many I memorized, but I was pretty sure I would be ready this time. Skip forward to the final exam, and there we go. 20 questions, just like before. Except, something was wrong. Questions from the midterm were being recycled? Wait, the entire midterm was on this! Half of the questions on the final were the exact same. Normally, during exams, you’re permitted to leave only 30 minutes after it begins, and let me tell you, everyone was ready to go after 5 minutes. Never in my life have I seen such an easy exam. It brought me up to an A+. I’m not sure if I got a single question wrong. I have a theory for this though. An important thing to note about this class is that it was mandatory for nursing students to take. Strange, I know, but most of the class was made up of 4th year nursing students because of that. I don’t think the professor wanted to prevent an entire wave of nurses from graduating just because of a random political science course, so I’m sure he made it easy on purpose, and I was lucky to be there.
Then there was intro to programming. I wasn’t so lucky with this one. I thought I understood it, and I was feeling pretty good about the first midterm, but guess what. The whole class basically got an average of 30%, including me. To this day, in all of university, high school, and anything else, that has been the lowest mark I’ve ever received on anything. I managed to make up for it to a certain extent on the next midterm, and before the final exam, I decided to make my own math program, named “Mathlord’s Servant.” It would be able to do most things from my linear algebra course. Of course, I also gave it a personality, with a multitude of lines it would say. My first shikigami. This gave me a very strong grasp of programming, and I was able to finish the final exam and get a final mark of about 75%. Not an A, but hey, for my first time ever seeing a programming language and getting a 30% on that first midterm, it could have been worse. The labs were the worst part though. In those, we had this dumb little robot that we had to program to get through certain challenges, like following paths. For example, for our final lab, we had to program it to be able to solve any maze. This thing had a lot of problems. If you told it to turn 90 degrees, it would overshoot it, so you always had to compensate, and sometimes the detectors wouldn’t work. This is because performance varies depending on battery life. Of course, we were never really explained anything either. It was just “This is what you have to make it do. Here are some functions that you might find useful that we won’t explain. Go do it.” Things never worked as they were supposed to. Programming is fun, but only when you’re doing it for yourself, not for a class. At least, that’s how I feel. I had my vengeance in my fourth year though.
I’m not gonna lie, general physics 1 made me question my choice to major in physics. We had a professor I hadn’t seen before, and to be honest, I didn’t really like him much at first. I wasn’t exactly a fan of his teaching style either, but it grew on me, and nowadays I think he’s a cool guy personally. We were given a small quiz every week, had 2 or 3 midterms, and a final exam at the end. Oh, and I almost forgot. 3 hour labs every week. The beginning of the course was relatively simple. It was aimed at first years who were able to take calculus 1 in high school, so he taught assuming people hadn’t taken linear algebra yet and introduced concepts on his own, such as vectors and the dot product or cross product. This was extremely easy to me, having taken an extensive course on it, so these kinds of questions were giveaways. But the physics wasn’t that easy. At least, at the time it wasn’t. I did really badly on most of the quizzes and labs, but somehow, through some sort of miracle, I always did great on the tests. This was the main factor keeping me going. We covered kinematics, (with projectile motion being within the first week or two of class,) dynamics, energy, and rotational motion. Now, I took a single course of physics in high school, so I already knew kinematics, dynamics, and energy to a certain extent, but my trigonometry skills were rusty and I still needed to cement what I learned from precalculus, and by no means were the professor’s questions easy. But yeah, that’s the thing about math. You can take a math course and understand the algorithm behind doing something, but it takes application to actually get a deeper understanding. At least, that’s how I see it. For example, just because you can integrate doesn’t mean you know how to use it for things other than finding area or undoing derivatives. You can only see it in a math context. Anyway, getting back on topic, I had a good time with kinematics and energy, but dynamics was killer. And I wasn’t able to tie together my knowledge of rotational motion. Soon enough, the final exam came. I did my best, and somehow, while trying to answer a torque question about Warrior Princess Xena having to close a door before a dragon reaches it, magic had occurred. After I answered it wrongly, I stared at it for a few minutes, and suddenly, as if I experienced a revelation from the heavens, everything made sense. I erased what I did and fixed everything. Suddenly, I understood rotational motion. I’m not sure how it happened. And as it turns out, I did the best in the class on the final exam, while I barely spent time practicing before it. In a class full of engineers (with two or three other physics majors) who all had much better high school educations than me, it was I who came out on top. What the hell, man. So I ended up getting an A, and considered myself worthy to be a physics major, for now.
I suppose I should reveal a secret. This semester was the beginning of my spritual awakening. Let me tell you a story from the beginning of the semester. I just finished moving in and brought my bible for some reason, which I stood up on the shelf above my computer. Weeks pass, and one day, I accidentally had my alarm set an hour late. I was asleep, and there was not much time at all until my first class of that day would begin, but at that moment, my bible fell down, landed on the keyboard, and woke me up. I woke up just in time to not be late to class. Now that’s what I call a true biblical miracle. For weeks it had been on the shelf, but it fell at that perfect moment. I could barely believe it. I still can barely believe it, but it happened. And before that physics final exam, I had channeled the spirit of Isaac Newton with that same bible in hand. I am sure he guided me from beyond the grave. Whenever I was stuck, I just had to stare at a question for long enough until an answer popped into my head.
Fast forward to the winter semester and a similar thing happened. I was taking general physics 2: oscillations, waves, and electromagnetism. I said this before, but I was only able to take one physics course in high school due to certain circumstances. That means I never took the one about electricity and god knows what else, so I was at a disadvantage here compared to everyone else, but I wouldn’t let that stop me. I made another vow that if I was to be a physics major, I must prove myself and get another A. I still wasn’t doing great on the quizzes or labs, but the tests were my saving grace again. The labs were a special kind of hell, where we had to manage electronics and circuits which I had never seen before. As for the final exam, I only reviewed for maybe half a day before. Before going in, I channeled the spirits of the physics lords, and despite not feeling like I knew what I was doing, I again got the highest mark on the final exam. Getting the highest mark once was one thing, but twice? It couldn’t have been luck at that point. Was I secretly the main character of some show? I also ended up getting an A exactly. One mark lower and it would have been a B. Phew. At that point, I knew it was my destiny to keep doing physics.
What I thought was my easiest course that semester was vector calculus. We had the same professor as we did for calculus 3, which was a good sign. The first two thirds of the course were extremely easy. I didn’t have to pay attention, and I could save the homework as something to do for fun rather than something to trouble over. The only thing is, during the last third of the course, the homework became optional, so of course I stopped doing it. This was my mistake. And of course, just my luck, the final exam was predominantly focused on that last third, which I wasn’t prepared for and thought I could go without. It was a disaster. I went from 100 in the course to a lowly 80 or so. Still an A, but wow, that was a big drop. What seemed so easy gave me the Judas Kiss and betrayed me at the last moment.
I also took a Zen Buddhism class. It was very easy, but there was a big workload, which I wasn’t a fan of. It was a writing course, of course, and we had to do a lot of it. There were a lot of essays, and we had to write meditation journals, and more. Yup, meditation journals. Sounds funny, doesn’t it. We had to meditate at home, and then write a page or two about it. I can’t remember how many we had to write, but I saved it all until the end of the semester and just made things up. The lectures were really chill though. You’d walk in to relaxing music, then once class started, we’d always meditate for five minutes or so, and from then on, it was just the professor taking his time either going through some concepts or chapters from one of the books he assigned, or talking to us. You could easily skip all the classes without missing anything. This semester was particularly strange though, in that I went off topic for a few essays and in return, did much better than I normally do. Once, in this Buddhism class, we were supposed to be explaining something, I can’t remember, but I dove right into talking about the Japanese language for a big part of it. The professor loved it. He even talked to me about it in the middle of class. Pretty cool. The other time something like that happened was in my philosophy of religion class.
Taking two religion classes at once as a science major probably seems pretty strange, but I think it’s pretty interesting stuff. At least, some of it is. Philosophy of religion was not. We looked at three or four texts. One was by or about some neo-platonist, called Plotinus. All this metaphysics stuff about the soul and forms and whatnot, I thought was really… well, how do I say it. I didn’t like it at all. “Where the hell did he come up with these ideas?” I thought. Religions like Buddhism, or Christianity originate from people and the stories surrounding them, but this Platonism stuff did not sound like it was grounded in reality at all. I apologize if I offend any Plato fans, but I wasn’t one. The most interesting part of the course was when we looked at Saint Thomas Aquinas and his thoughts. He analyzed biblical messages from a logical perspective. I thought that was pretty cool. We also looked at some Islam guy and some Christian woman (maybe a Saint, I don’t remember) and their texts, but they weren’t particularly interesting. The woman’s text was completely the opposite of Saint Aquinas, in that it wasn’t based on logic at all, but of spiritual experiences. Telling of how she went into trances and received revelations from God and stuff like that. Eh. Maybe it happened, maybe it didn’t, but that’s not something I was interested in reading about either way. Writing the essays for that course was extremely painful, but for the Saint Aquinas essay, where we had to explain his proofs of God’s existence, I went on an Owarimonogatari style tangent at the end, explaining how perfect Euler’s identity was. Again, like with my off-topic Japanese in Buddhism class, the professor seemed to have liked this, and I got a better mark than I normal.
The worst class that semester was by far technical writing in math with physics-senpai. I had the toughest math professor on campus for it, which I hear is the reason it was so bad. For the first project, we had to write a program in our programming language of choice that could solve a system of three or four linear equations and apply this to a linear optimization problem. Luckily, this was a problem Mathlord’s Servant was fully capable of dealing with. With a quick riposte of his sabre, he swiftly cut down the demon that challenged me. But the challenges were more to come. It was a good course for one thing though, which was that I got to learn writing in Latex, which I used every now and then later on for things like lab reports or writing presentations. In this course though, we had to write extremely detailed project reports that were to be over 10 pages each. I think the last one had to be 20 pages, maybe one or two pages more. Our second project was considerably easier, I think. We had to make a program that could integrate using whatever number of trapezoids you desired (think Riemann sums) and output the area and a graph showing the trapezoids and the function. The third project was even easier, and it was the one I did the best in that course. Each student was given a different topic to create a presentation on. Mine was compass and ruler constructions. The hardest part of this was using tikz to create pictures in latex, but overall, it was pretty cool looking, and everyone liked my presentation. It helped that I added a bit of humor, and that even inspired physics-senpai to add some for his senior physics presentation, which went really well. The final project was a monster. I can’t even describe it here, so I’ll just post a picture of it.
This was a mess to program. I couldn’t even come up with an algorithm that wasn’t trial and error, but what I had worked at least. Sadly, I only got a B in that course, but it was my only B that semester. Still, it ruined my perfect math record. At least I’m not a math major. The worst thing about that class was how long it took though. The level of work that needed to be put in was as much as 3 classes at once. This is part of what contributed to me neglecting my vector calculus and physics studies, but at least I did good in those.
So, I made it through my second year over, and it was time to go home. This time, I wasn’t taking any courses during the summer, so I had to get… a job. Very frightening. I had never had a real job before, and was not looking forward to it, but it turned out that my old high school was looking for tutors. I had done tutoring work previously, so I figured it would be easy. For the most part, it was. The way it worked was you stayed at the high school all day in your own office, and whenever somebody needed help, they would come in. And here’s the thing: you got payed whether or not anyone came in. For the first few weeks, barely anybody did. So I got to watch a lot of anime and movies and just dick around in general while getting paid. But when somebody did come in for help, I put my business face on and got to work. I think I managed to have a real positive impact. On top of this, I was doing private tutoring on the side for two students. They were both doing pretty badly, but man, once they took their final exams, they shot right up. One of their teachers said she had never seen anyone make that kind of comeback. Personally, I think textbooks and most teachers explain concepts in the most obtuse and roundabout way possible. Put things in simple terms, and most people will understand it. If they don’t, try explaining it a different way. There are always multiple ways to explain things. However, these positive experiences would eventually come back to bite me.
That about concludes my second year. While I think it was more interesting than my first year, the fun has yet to begin. I succeeded in my bet and became a true physics major, while also discovering the power of magic. While I would normally go straight into the next year, let us first take a detour. Earlier, I had mentioned that there were various circumstances in high school that caused me problems in university. As well, there’s a serious lack of character development up to this point. It’s time to change that and explore the past. Next up, the Amen High School Experience.