Summertime (And the Living’s Easy)


For the past three years, my summers have been pretty low key:

Three years ago was the summer I graduated from high school. I was accepted into college, had no summer responsibilities, and pretty much just kicked it, hanging out with friends as if this was how it would be for the rest of eternity. The end of that summer was a mixed bag. Leaving the people who’d been my best friends for 14 years was a challenge, but coming to school was amazing. I enjoyed college a lot when it first began – I got to meet intelligent people, take the classes I wanted, and exploit my newfound freedom.

Two years ago was the summer after that first year of college. I had no plan in my head for something to do that summer – the thought of finding a job hardly crossed my mind. I ended up doing a lot of relaxing of course, but I also created a little flash game. It was nothing special, but I learned some ActionScript in the process, and it was a lot of fun. (The game is published on a couple of sites, and has amassed me a grand total of $4.17.) My second year in school wasn’t quite as exciting as the first. A lot of my friends ended up splitting off into smaller cliques, and I found myself in a way homeless. I was never the type of person to invite myself places with people, and so once my friends (shall I call them “acquaintances” instead?) stopped making an effort to include me, I began to isolate somewhat. I still had 2 very close friends, Jon and Angela, who made it feel like nothing was really wrong. I’ve always been someone who has few friends, but close ones, so nothing really felt out of place.

One year ago was the summer of poker. I had started reading all the articles I could find on NLHE at the end of sophomore year, and drastically ramped up my online playing once school was over. Rather than depositing online, I had someone stake me at 4NL (lol, right?) with 15 buy ins. It went pretty badly at first (partially because I was pretty bad), and I dropped my bankroll fairly quickly down from 15 buy ins to about 6. This was a big hit to my confidence, since every one claimed that 15 buy ins was more than enough to play 4NL, even with variance (more on variance and risk of ruin in a later post, perhaps). Nevertheless I persevered, and with the help of rakeback I did eventually work my bankroll back up, netting a total profit of $60 for my backer, and $60 for myself. I decided to end the staking agreement after the minimum requirement of 2 months, because part of the deal was that I would get coaching from my backer. My backer started off that summer essentially as an online pro, and ended it with a real job that kept him busier than a bee. The grand total of coaching I received was one sweat session.

On top of my poker playing and studying last summer, I was doing some programming for a professor named Ben Holtzman from Columbia University. I made the connection through my dad’s coworker, who knew Ben from something or other. Ben has family nearby my house, and he visits them fairly regularly, so I was able to do coding on my own while still checking in with Ben every few weeks. The coding went well and I managed to complete the task that was presented to me (a glorified global geometry problem). Ben suggested that I apply to an internship program at Columbia next (this) summer, and since I was interested in Ben’s work outside of the mathematical aspects, I agreed.

My third year of school was not like the first two. Jon had a tough second year, failing a couple classes, and decided not to return to school. I was devastated at first. Jon is easily my best friend, and by the end of our second year we spent more consistent time together than I can imagine being able to stand with almost anyone else. It also created some other problems for me, because Jon had been in my housing group for the upcoming year. Our co-ed suite would have been split up if we didn’t find a replacement by such-and-such a date, so there was a mad dash to sort that out. I didn’t blame him though. The worst part was that I actually agreed with his decision. It was clear he was becoming disillusioned with things – his school, his social life, his spiritual life. A lot of people would categorize Jon as “very” religious, and though I’ve always found that qualifier “very” to be somewhat meaningless in most contexts, I’d have to agree with those people. So the fact that Jon was having God issues meant that something was very wrong, and despite how much I enjoyed having him around, I knew it made the most sense for him not to come back to school – at least not right away.

But that didn’t make it easy to deal with. I spent much of the past school year becoming more and more isolated socially. I’m an introvert by nature, but I found myself withdrawing more than I wanted to. Angela noticed this, but didn’t know how to address me. She couldn’t engage me as effortlessly as Jon could, and saying things like “I never see you in the common room” only served to spotlight my self-induced solitude. But at the same time I was enjoying school immensely. I was living in the best housing on campus, attending classes I really appreciated, and still playing and studying poker. I was also growing closer into a group of online poker friends, which probably allowed my isolation to continue without too much alarm – many of my social needs were still met, since I had more than my fair share of stimulating conversation through skype groups and forums.

Which brings me to this summer. I applied for the internship and was accepted. The internship works through intern-professor mentor pairs, and I was paired with Ben (surprise, surprise). It is an REU (Research Experiences for Undergraduates) based in the Earth Sciences, and I’ll specifically researching the “sounds of earthquakes” (more on this later hopefully). I write this post from my college-dorm housing in New York City, enjoying my third weekend since arriving here. The first weekend was a field trip for all the interns working specifically in solid earth (rather than oceanic) sciences, but I’ll save that story for another post.

Jon told me recently that he will be coming back to school in the fall, and while I can’t help being extremely happy, I wonder how things will be different. A year is a long time to not see someone you care about, and while we instant messaged and video chatted once in a while, we weren’t in close contact. Jon lives in Hawaii, which made finding times to communicate more difficult than it otherwise would have been, and it makes me worry about what things will be like after school is over for me. I don’t want to lose him again.

But for now I’m enjoying my internship, enjoying the city, and enjoying summer. The living is most definitely easy.

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Poker, Poker, and some random things


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