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So I had an exam and I stopped writing in my blog and I stopped having fun which isn’t so good. One of my most cherished memories of Sydney is when my friend came up to me during STUVAC looking stressed, and said, “If I can’t handle exams, how am I going to raise a family?” (You know who you are!)

Anyway, I’ve managed to do some interesting things (Cornell is full of interesting things) – watching “Being John Malkovich”, jumping off a 25 m tower, and someone finding out about something that’s very personal to me.

So the title of this post is “What would happen if you entered into a portal into someone else’s mind?”, and this is the basis of the movie “Being John Malkovich”. At Cornell, the Neuroscience department had a brain wave (HAHA get it, get it?) and thought it’d be interesting to run a series of brain/mind/philosophy movies for the students and then to follow it up with pizza and some thought-provoking discussion. I really enjoyed it – one of the points that came up was the idea of self. Here’s the argument, and just pretend you agree when I say, “Yes,” even if you don’t. If I took away your hands would you still be you? Yes. If I took away your arms and legs would you still be you? Yes. If I took away your entire body but managed to magically keep your head alive would you still be you? Yes. If I put your brain in a magical vat so it stays alive – would that be you? Mmm…

The second exciting thing I did was jump off a 25m tower – here’s a picture.

Tower.jpg

The idea here is that you are connected to a rope at your waist and then when you edge off the tower, you free fall for 5–6m and then swing into the trees like a giant human pendulum. It's really fun – but going off the edge has been one of the most disturbing moments in my life. I don’t think it's actually that bad – but the problem was that the girl before me had sat on the edge, roped up and ready to go, and sat there for 15 minutes before deciding that she wasn’t ready to trust her life with a rope. I got to the edge, and every part of my brain told me not to go (I guess the “Don’t jump off high places” behaviour would have been advantageous during natural selection) – but I just went anyway. It was amazing and I’d recommend it to anyone.

The last significant moment I had was two days ago when I was going back to my dorm room after a yoga session. I do yoga because I enjoy the magical state between sleeping and waking and because I just feel better after doing it. Anyway, so I’m walking home and here it goes – I do this thing which is a little strange, and I hope you don’t judge me because of this: If someone starts walking beside me and they walk faster than I do, I’ll make a point of walking as fast as them. I'm not sure why I do this - it could be a psychological transfer of my driving inferiority complex - when I'm driving and someone overtakes me (which is quite frequent since I drive at the speed limit), my first thought is that the overtaking driver is thinking along the lines of, "You're an incompetent driver taking up space on the road, why don't you learn how to use the accelerator?" I can't do anything about it on the road - but on the pavement...

There you go. Yet another thing you didn’t need to know about me.

So I can see someone in my peripheral vision walking to the left of me – and I’m feeling especially cocky since I’ve just done yoga – and I do my usual thing and speed up. I’ve done this for much of my life, but never has someone challenged me! She yells out, “You’re on!” and she speeds up and I try keeping up with her but I just broke out into laughter and admitted defeat. It wasn’t too awkward – she turned out to be really nice and we shared our perspectives on the life and death of Steve Irwin - turns out Americans were as deeply affected by, or perhaps even more, than Australians.

Comments

I have to say, Abhijit, that you're not alone on your 'not letting anyone overtake me on the pavement' thing. For some reason I feel particularly inclined to do this when I'm walking through the tunnel at Central Station. So weird eh!

Glad you're having fun at Cornell! That tower thing looked fun!

By the way, how did you manage to get to do Neuro & Psych in Cornell? I thought the exchange agreement was with CALS...

Please do let me know, as I'm applying for exchange in semester 2, 2008.

Hello - don't let CALS put you off! Initially I was like "I don't do agriculture or life sciences, I feel a little uncomfortable doing an exchange for a semester with the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences". But the fact is CALS covers a lot of disciplines (economics, neurobiology, pharmacology) and you only have to do half your study load with CALS (and I have a feeling that can be negotiated as well). So my cognitive neuroscience and drugs and the brain courses are under CALS, but the psychology classes aren't.

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