Wow. I feel like I learned so much about Henry and Dave that I never ever knew before. I could comment endlessly on it, but whatever, that’s their thing and I don’t want to impede.
One thing though. I just find it curious that both of them think I’m smarter than them. Not just because I’m not sure it’s true, but also because I don’t understand their basis for that.
Dave mentioned this, that he can only say I’m intelligent by proxy. But he really has no basis for saying how intelligent I am other than just an impression. We took only one class together ever – freshman year, Music In America. I got an A; no idea what he got.
There’s a famous story with me and Music 5A. I’m using “famous” in the same sense that Dave does, meaning, I’m fairly certain no one in the world knows this story. Anyway, yeah, don’t ask me why, but I was obsessed with getting an A+ in this class. Maybe because it’s a music class? Not sure. Thing is, there was no curve. So I’m pretty sure the only way to get an A+ was by getting 100% on everything.
The thing was, the exams were strict memorization. And, dunno if you know this, but I’m incredible at short term memorization. Short term meaning like, a couple days or so. Seriously, give me any test that’s just memorization, and if I try at all I’ll absolutely rock the house. Just, for whatever reason, that’s one thing I’m incredible at.
So for the stupid Music 5A tests, I was seriously absurd. Like, they even gave us study sheets, and I was memorizing every definition word for word. You have no idea how absurd this was. Not just the definitions – I was memorizing everything word for word. I still didn’t study more than a night, but where an hour or two might have sufficed, I extended it to absurdity.
Oh wait, there’s another famous story. One year, I think it was Winter ’97, but a bunch of FiCS frosh and some other people (Dave Choi?) took that class, and one night me and Dave were at Late Night and found out they were studying for it in Twain lounge, I think. So we decide to visit them to see how they were doing and it was absurd – they were studying for it like mad. I think they pulled an all nighter for it. For Music In America??? Ridiculous. That year (FiCS ’00) worked way too hard in general, I think. I just can’t relate.
Anyway, the famous part is that when we walked in they were playing the tape of the music they needed to know and we immediately identified it: “Hey, that’s the blind fiddler song”. And they were just in awe. Like, they were ready to bow down to us and offer breadstick sacrifices.
Uh, that wasn’t relevant at all.
So yeah, I got an A (not an A+) in the only class me and Dave took together but it was an easy class and I was being absurd about it. So, is that his basis for his claim? Doesn’t make sense.
And Henry has even less basis for that claim. The one class we took together was Freshman CIV. And Henry did better than I did in this class. Wait, does he know this? I’m fairly certain he does. Like, he famously won the Tanner prize in a lecture he didn’t attend. And we famously “studied together” spring quarter for the CIV final and when we got it back, he got an A, I didn’t. I think. I’m pretty sure I got a B.
I actually “blame” him for that. Let me explain. I don’t remember the details, but the gist is correct. So, what happened was, night before the final (I’m not even sure now it was Spring quarter, but I think it was), I have no idea how this happened but we both ended up in Wilbur dining studying for the final. And, the way it worked was, it was something like you had a sheet with 9 possible essay questions, 4 of which will be on the actual exam. But you don’t know which ones will appear on the exam so you have to study it all.
Henry and I “studied” by discussing for 2-3 hours (I don’t think I’m exaggerating here) which combinations of questions could and could not appear on the exam, so we could figure out the absolute minimum we actually needed to study. We spent more time talking about this than actually studying for the freaking exam.
And that was fine for Henry. But not for me. Here’s why. The way Henry’s mind is, he’s a master at grasping the gist of things given just an overview, and putting that all together to understand things. That’s all he needs – the overview, and he doesn’t need or care about the details. I feel pretty sure about this because he’s says as much on his webpage repeatedly. Give him the basic concepts – that’s all he needs, and spare him the details.
Which explains to me why he’s good at the last second cramming, at least for particular classes. CIV is one of those classes. Because really, they don’t want the details in CIV. They just want to make sure you understand the concepts and can analyze/synthesize those concepts coherently and clearly (by comparing and contrasting them). And Henry does really well with that. He has another advantage also, at least with CIV, in that he’s a good writer. Just, read our pages and it’s pretty obvious that his writing blows mine out of the water. So, combine his concept understanding skill and writing ability, and he rocks in classes like CIV.
But my brain works a little differently. Side note. I don’t think I’m a particularly original thinker. So like, I don’t think I could ever get an advanced degree in philosophy, an idea I’ve toyed with from time to time. Reason being, at some point, you need to develop your own ideas, something new and original. And I don’t think I can do that.
What I can do, and what I’m really good at I think, is synthesis. SN to my side note. In elementary school, my teacher from 4th to 6th grade was super into stuff like Bloom’s Taxonomy. Did anyone else learn this? Basic idea is there are 6 levels in learning. Knowledge, Comprehension, Application, Analysis, Synthesis, and Evaluation. The thing is, in learning, most people don’t progress past Application or Analysis. She was really big on taking out thinking all the way, and I think it really affected the way I process information. So like, we would take concepts we learned and create new things based on those concepts. I’m not explaining myself well, but the point is, when you use all 6 levels, you get a level of concept understanding that’s pretty deep and highly analytical.
So yeah, what I think I’m good at is synthesis. Meaning, I can take a huge amounts of disparate data and influences and coalesce them into a meaningful whole. Maybe a Gestalt type thing? My web page is basically this. Just, I have a huge amount of influences, like sports, entertainment, literature, science, bunch of different things. I’m an information junkie, and my interests are really eclectic. Not to brag, but that’s why I have no weakness in Trivial Pursuit. I have maybe above average recall, but the range of my interests is way above average.
And what I think I’m able to do is take all these disparate sources and see how they all fit together. Which is why I loved Symbolic Systems so much. It combined Philosophy, Psychology, Linguistics, and Computer Science. It’s amazing to see how they all fit together, but it truly does. The same themes would come up again and again, from slightly different angles, and that’s fascinating to me. That’s exactly me, except I draw from even more sources.
So really, what I need to do in life is find something that involves doing stuff like this, putting a bunch of different information together coherently. Dunno what kind of job that involves, though.
OK, so let me explain how I think I’m different from Henry. Because Henry’s good at this also – like I said, his gift is taking the gist, the basic concepts of things, and putting them together.
The difference is in how we do it. It’s something like a top-down vs. bottom-up thing. Whereas Henry just needs/wants the basic ideas, I need the details. The way I understand things is by delving into the details, so it comes from the bottom up. It’s not completely like this, but that’s essentially how I work.
This is reflected in how I study. Few if any people know how I study, but if you saw me, you’d think I was absurd. Because I am. The absurdity is, I procrastinate so I always have to cram at the last second. But when I cram, I go through everything in order. So like, the way I studied for the CIV final in a previous quarter was, I holed myself in the library and read every single thing we were supposed to that quarter. I still remember I read like all of Plato and the Greek philosophers in a single sitting. Utterly exhausting. But that’s how I do it.
Another little known (famous) fact about me. I never highlight when I read. I think I’ve tried to before, but I just don’t know how to do it and it doesn’t work for me. Just, to me, everything is important, or it wouldn’t be there. So I read everything, and it’s only after reading everything that I can figure out how it all goes together. If I were to highlight, I feel somewhere that I’m missing something. I’d be skipping over some of the details, and that affects my understanding. So yeah, none of my books have highlights in them.
And like I said, it’s absurd, not in and of itself, but coupled with my procrastinating. Even if it’s the night before, I go through everything in order, without skipping anything. Does this make any sense at all? No. In fact, this is the reason I got a C in Bio 32. Side note. I’m one of the only people I know who got an F, a C, and an A+ at Stanford. And it’s completely random in which subjects I got good/bad grades. No reason to it at all.
Anyway yeah, in Bio 32 for some reason I didn’t do anything all quarter. Actually, I know exactly why I didn’t do anything. It’s because I did well in Bio 31. For some reason, when I do well I feel like I don’t need to work anymore so I always do worse after that. Like, I did really well in Chem 32 so it’s like my mind said, “Chem is easy” so I stopped studying for Chem. So I didn’t get another A in Chem for a long time.
Famous story. That Bio class had like 5 lecturers. I didn’t know what 4 of them looked like. Pretty bad. So, it’s finals time and I’m absolutely screwed. I need to learn the material of a bunch of lecturers I’ve never seen, who all taught different things. And what do I do? I start reading everything in order, without skimming anything. And, of course, it’s too late for that; there’s just not enough time. So I only get through a fraction of the material. And I know that portion really well. But of the rest I know literally nothing. So I fail the final (I think I got an A on the midterm) and get my grade.
Obviously, at that point the right thing to do would have been to skim everything, so I could at least give some kind of answer on every question and try for partial credit, instead of knowing everything about a little and nothing about a lot. But, I just can’t do that. It’s hard for me to really understand things without understanding the details. Just the way my brain works.
And that’s why I think I did worse than Henry in CIV – we were studying his style. Cramming the gist. And my brain doesn’t work that way. I needed to study my way – reading everything, but I didn’t do that. And this isn’t Henry’s fault at all. I just think it’s something I realized afterwards.
There’s actually another reason I didn’t do well on the final I think. We were allowed to take the final wherever we wanted after picking it up, as long as we turned it in on time. So, we both went to Meyer and typed it out. I don’t think that was a good idea. It’s related to the above. But, my way of typing papers is also kind of absurd. What I do is I write everything, and figure out how to organize it afterwards. That’s just my natural tendency.
Problem is, there’s not enough time to do that on an exam. Fortunately, when the exam is pen and paper, I’m forced to outline in my head what I want to say before writing anything. So when I’m writing, I organize my thoughts fairly well and get it onto paper. But because we typed it on the computer, just the fact that it was possible to edit and whatever screwed me, I think. Just, I went back to my natural tendency of writing everything and organizing at the end, but that doesn’t work when there’s time pressure and it didn’t turn out as well.
So getting back to the original point – in the only class Henry and I took together, Henry did better than me, so what’s his basis in saying I’m more intelligent? Unsure.
OK, so now my armchair psychoanalysis. It’s clear to me that everyone is better than everyone else at something intellectually. Like, Jieun is way better than me at languages, which is clearly an intellectual skill. And I’m better than her at memorization (just facts; not conversations). So yeah, compare yourself to anyone else and you’ll find you’re better at them in some intellectual areas, and worse in others.
So like, it’s really hard for me to say who’s more “intelligent” because there are so many possible criteria. And it seems to me that Dave and Henry disagree as to who’s more intelligent because each one’s criteria is an area in which the other is better.
So my claim is Dave is more like me, detail oriented. I’m totally unsure about this, so Dave, slam me as required. But to me it explains a lot. By detail oriented I mean, we both need to understand the details to really understand the concepts. And again, maybe I’m wrong about that, but to me it explains a lot.
Like, I remember Dave’s coterm year him talking about how he didn’t know all this basic stuff that his TAs couldn’t believe. What he had done in the past was know just enough to answer the question. But he hadn’t gone into enough detail to really understand the concepts. So my take on things is that it’s only when he went back through those old concepts and saw the details that he really understood them.
It also maybe explains to me Henry’s example where Dave was able to understand some figure and Henry wasn’t. Just, Dave’s a detail guy, so when he actually goes through the details, it makes sense more easily for him, whereas Henry’s an overview guy, for whom details don’t matter and maybe are more difficult.
And it’s also related to Dave’s whole data collecting thing. Just, the way he talks is that his existence involves collecting a bunch of data points which he analyzes to figure out how to behave. When he gets an interesting data point, like Scott Kim, he gets excited. Isn’t this totally a mindset of understanding comes through details? Are you with me? I dunno, that’s my claim.
But yeah, this is mostly out of my butt. All I know for sure is how I am, and definitely for me, I need to go through everything to “get concepts.
If my hypothesis is true, though, and Dave is a “detail” person, it explains why Henry did better with the cramming method. Just, once you reach a certain point of procrastination, you can only study the overview of things. And for Henry, that’s enough to understand. But for Dave, maybe it’s not. Maybe he needs the details to really understand it, and cramming doesn’t allow this.
Anyway, that’s why I think maybe Henry thinks both me and Dave are more “intelligent” than him. Just, we’re better at detail oriented stuff. Like strict memorization. And random trivia. And that’s true. But, Henry’s way better than both of us at other things. So yeah, answering who’s most intelligent is like impossible. I’ll back Henry up on certain criteria but I’ll back Dave up on others.
So my claim is this. Henry has an advantage over me in classes that involve overviews or high-level concepts, like intro classes or probably his IE classes (I’m guessing). But, I have an advantage in classes that involve more details. So like, he did better in Philosophy CIV, which makes sense as it’s an intro overview class, but he would not have done as well me in say Philosophy 80, which, while still an overview class, is a lot more about understanding the nitty gritty details. That’s my claim.