Plans to Destroy the Universe & Other Secrets

I am James Laslavic. Pretend I'm a villain.
ask me anything.

Not so inconsequential after all.

It’s 7:53 AM. I can’t stop my legs from thumping, and I know it’s because I’m excited/nervous about my graduation.

I got the UX internship at Cooper in San Francisco, and I was offered a scholarship for the Masters in Design Studies at Parsons The New School of Design in New York City. They make me excited and nervous too.

So, there are three things keeping my knees bouncing and my eyes open: the graduation, working at Cooper, and enrolling at Parsons.

1. The Graduation

The thought of leaving Carnegie Mellon University genuinely makes me sad because it’s been such an amazingly good fit. I basically went through the five stages of grief when the graduate admission office told me to go elsewhere for my masters. But I’ve gone through those five hoops.

I guess another part of it is that there’s this sense that I didn’t do everything I was supposed to. I was academically successful, but whoop-de-doo. Outside of my projects, I wasn’t very experimental or daring until my last year. Even then, I’ve been tame. I’ve been a coward in a lot of ways for my whole life, but at least I’ve been able to admit it. I’ll give myself a little credit for at least being a little more adventurous each year, but still, there are a million “college experiences” I missed out on.

I’m not dumb enough to try to rush through them in these last few days, but I do feel hyperaware of how the clock is ticking down. Just a few more days, and then the bucket list becomes the regret list. So which things should I do with these precious last few days? Soon, I won’t have a campus or collegiate accomplices. What to do, what to do.

2. Working at Cooper

This one is short.

I’ve been doing freelance work on the side for years, but I don’t actually know anything about working in a professional studio. Sure I can imagine what it’s like, but I have no way of knowing for sure how close my imagination is to reality. Doing my best has done well for me in school, but I was also paying customer. What the hell should I expect?

I keep telling myself that I was good enough for them to hire me and give me a chance, and even if I don’t have the expertise to know for myself that I’ll do well, they do. So, maybe I should just stop worrying. But still, this is going to be an entirely different way of doing things for me even if only because the schedule will be so different. Or at least I assume it will be. But what do I know? And here we are, back at the beginning of this section.

3. Parsons

Going to get my undergraduate degree, I was swimming with the rest of the fish. But going on to grad school to be a design theorist? Not as many fish with me now. And a design theorist who also wants to be a practitioner? It makes perfect sense in my mind, and I can describe what I envision it in a way that’ll get people to say how much it makes sense, but the truth is that I’m going outside the recommendations for both normal design practice and normal design academia.

Not only that, but I honestly feel a huge weight as I enter the field of Design Studies. It has been made very clear that it’s an incredibly young field with unbelievably few people in it. Considering how much power and influence design itself has, you’d think that there’d be a healthy community of theorists to “steer the ship.”

Frankly, there isn’t. There’s barely anyone. There should absolutely be more design theorists and more rigor in our studies. It’s terrifying. Even if I was to have a change of heart right this instant and decide that this field wasn’t for me, I’d still be terrified because I can’t “un-know” how design influences absolutely everything, yet moves forward based on what just a barely existent handful of people suppose. Every mistake I make as a design theorist could have disastrous consequences.

For example, what if some theory I develop leads to some designer making a missile control interface with a design defect that causes the operator to accidentally blow up the wrong target? Or the wrong city? Or the world? Maybe a farfetched example, but what chills me is that maybe it’s not so farfetched. But if that example is too much to take seriously, then restrain your own imagination as much as you deem fit and think for yourself about the kind of impacts design could possibly have on urbanization, modernization, healthcare, warfare, and so on.

Even if I don’t make a theory that leads to disaster, my theories could still be terrible merely by being an obstacle to other theories that would do real good. What if I cause something to never be discovered or explored? Nobody would ever know. We’d just be doomed to something worse than something else, and we’d never actually know what we could’ve had or how bad we have it relative to that denied possibility.

So that’s why the situation scares me, and consequently, that’s why I feel a huge responsibility. And I haven’t even begun my studies at Parsons yet. Yikes.

It’s 9:06. I’m going to try to go to bed again.

Forward to victory!

So far, I have not seen decision letters from half the schools I applied to, but here’s what it’s looking like:

  • CMU: Declined. Somebody informed me that “they all thought I was a good candidate and that I’d do very well,” but that they believed “it was in my best interest to work for a year or two and then come to grad school.”
  • RCA: Declined. No reason given, but maybe the same as CMU.
  • Parsons: 90% sure that I’m accepted based on interviews and emails! Have not received the official letter yet, but this seems to be going well.
  • RISD: Have not heard anything at all yet, so I’ve got no idea.

While I was waiting to hear from the schools, I was also going to some job fairs. There was a school-wide fair, then one basically just for the School of Design two weeks later. I was looking for summer internships and jobs, but after having talked to my professors and the recruiters, I’m starting to think more about working for a while.

Here are the places I’m currently talking to that currently seem interested:

  • Case Commons
  • Cooper
  • Microsoft
  • Mozilla
  • Palantir
  • Yahoo!

I’ve also reached out to Hyperakt, but didn’t list them because I haven’t heard anything back from them at all yet.

There’s still a good chance that even if I go down the path of working for a couple years instead of going straight into grad school, I’ll start with an internship. I’ve told the various places that I’m now much more interested in making a longer-term commitment than an internship, but 1) it’s sort of hard to switch tracks since I’m already multiple interviews deep into their process, and 2) I don’t have an internship to my name yet. Even so, there’s a decent chance that I’ll end up with a full-time position, which is weird to think about.

So that’s the scoop. Stay tuned!

How This Helps Me Destroy the Universe: A possible reorganization of my timeline.

The Chosen Grad Schools

The real question is, which will choose me? Anyway, these are the schools in my first round of applications:

  • Carnegie Mellon University
    Pittsburgh, PA
  • Royal College of Art
    London, United Kingdom
  • Parsons The New School for Design
    New York, NY
  • Rhode Island School of Design
    Providence, RI

I still go back and forth between them, but I find myself most frequently leaning toward CMU. If I don’t hear back from them in time, or if I’m simply not accepted to CMU, then I will also be applying to these schools that have significantly later deadlines:

  • Aalto University
    Helsinki, Finland
  • Hong Kong Polytechnic University
    Hong Kong, China
  • University of Reading
    Reading, United Kingdom

We’ll see what happens!

How This Helps Me Destroy the Universe: Will influence where the lair ends up and accent of minions.

Defining Moment: Academic Idealism vs Pragmatism

This semester, I enrolled myself in Philosophy of Mind purely out of interest. At the time, it seemed like it would also contribute credits towards my minor in ethics, but really it was one of those things where I thought the topic sounded interesting. And sure, there was some hubris. I’ve never met a psychology or philosophy course that I couldn’t ace, and didn’t expect this to be different.

Well, it’s been tough. I’ve never had to exert effort just to merely comprehend assigned readings, but the literature for this class – which has no prerequisites or anything! – are always extremely demanding and frustrating. The assignments have been equally aggravating, and I don’t even think I understand the professor during lectures most of the time I’m there. I get glimpses of comprehension, but not the kind of satisfying, thorough, comforting level of understanding that is real understanding. Basically, in this class of arguments, I feel like I could win none if I were put to the challenge. And that’s annoying. Somewhere between 40–60% of people that were there at the beginning have dropped the course, so I don’t think I’m the only one. Plus, it’s a morning class, which just makes life that extra little bit more miserable.

But in spite of these things, I am still interested in the course content. Maybe I’m not understanding everything, but I’m getting something from the class. And today, I got the draft for the big semester paper out of the way, which took big burden off my shoulders. The professor seems to be improving, and also changing his expectations of us so that the deadlines are a bit less demanding and that sort of thing, so he’s showing a desire to help us.

What’s all this matter? Well, today is the last day to drop classes without being assigned a withdrawal grade. I’ve been tempted to drop this class almost every day. It was a class I took for pleasure that was giving me frustration, it would negatively affect my GPA (if only slightly, since I’m getting a B and expect to end with a B), and makes me get up early when I already don’t get enough sleep as it is. Lots of pragmatic reasons to leave.

Ultimately though, I’ve decided to stay in the class in spite of all of those reasons. Maybe I’m a sucker. I worry that I am, but my reasoning is that I don’t want to be the kind of person that values GPA over learning. I am still getting knowledge of interest out of the class, and that provides me with a very distinct time of contentment. Maybe I have to exert more effort than normal, be frustrated with it as I struggle with it, and get up a little earlier, but big deal.

Until now, I’ve never really had to make a decision between learning more and having better grades. But here I am! And I am willfully choosing to lower my precious 3.8 GPA to 3.75 (or something like that) in order to stay in a demanding, frustrating, but interesting class. Pragmatically, I should’ve left the class, but I guess I have more idealistic valuations of my priorities. In a way, I’m grateful that this issue came up to force me to define myself. It’s one thing to talk about idealism, but there’s a certain peace of mind that only comes once you’ve set a precedent with action.

But if this in any way affects my grad schools plans, then I’m sure I’ll be singing a different tune.

How This Helps Me Destroy the Universe: Having a better understanding of what the mind is will help me make mind-slaves out of everybody. Oh, and developing a can-do, never-give-up character is good for anybody (except mind-slaves).

Glutton for Punishment?

I’m looking at grad schools. Whenever it comes up, I say something like, “It’s just like senior year of high school all over again!” In some ways, I suppose it is, but not as much for me as for other people. I had to spend a year doing some boring medical treatment stuff, so I missed out on the rush to do college applications.

I made up for that later, when I was transferring to CMU. The final event that led to my decision to transfer happened barely a month before applications were due. That was certainly a scramble. Fun fact: the other school I applied to never sent an acceptance or rejection letter or anything, but nobody in my family cared because CMU was the dream school anyway.

Anyway, here’s my plan right now. I’d like to have a Ph.D, so if I can go directly into a Ph.D program, then maybe I will. But that’s not exactly a common thing, and even though I think I have a shot at it, I’m not delusional about the odds. Therefore, I’ll probably get a masters degree first like most people. The upside of going directly into a Ph.D. would be saving about two years, while the upside of the masters degree is that I could in theory go to two more schools instead of just one (which I see as a pretty big pro since I didn’t have a chance to study abroad).

Here’s where I’m looking to get my fancy degree in graphic design/communication design/interaction design/design studies/design and technology/etc:

  • Carnegie Mellon University, MBA or Ph.D
  • Massachusetts Institute of Technology, MFA or PhD
  • Harvard University, MDes or Ph.D
  • Rhode Island School of Design, MBA
  • School of Visual Arts, MFA
  • Parsons The New School, MFA
  • Illinois Institute of Technology, MDes
  • Yale University, MFA
  • Virginia Commonwealth University, MFA or Ph.D
  • CalArts, MFA
  • California College of Arts, MFA
  • Royal College of Art, MFA or Ph.D (Great Britain)
  • University of Gothenburg, MFA (Sweden)
  • Malmö University, MFA (Sweden)
  • Aalto University, MA (Finland)

The list isn’t in any particular order, and it’s still growing. I don’t intend to apply to every single one of them, but not writing anyone down that I’m not at least casually thinking about.

And yes, I’m definitely considering staying here at CMU. It’s one of the best programs in the world (listed as the best by more than one publication, and my time here has been absolutely fantastic, so of course I’m strongly considering it.

How This Helps Me Destroy the Universe: Supervillains with “Dr.” in front of their name get bonuses like robot bodyguards and more techy lairs.

Ok, I’m back.

I admit that I’m inconsistent about posting here. Oops.

So anyway, my last summer at Montecito Sequoia was great. Made some new friends, learned from some life experiences, and left on very good terms. WIsh I could keep working there for a few more years, but it’s time for me to enjoy other things and have new experiences. Looking forward to visiting though.

Now I’m back at Carnegie Mellon University for my last year as an undergrad. I’ve kept myself busy with even more activities than last year, but I’m still happy. Here’s what I’m up to.

Courses

  • Senior Studio (Design)
  • Information+Interaction+Perception
  • Philosophy of Mind
  • Health, Development, and Human Rights 
  • Civil Rights and World History
  • Swim Fit/Stroke Improvement

Extracurricular Commitments

  • Captain of Archery Club
  • Activism Chair of ALLIES (LGBTQ-Straight Alliance)
  • Treasurer of Aha! (Atheists, Humanists, and Agnostics)
  • Soon-to-be officer of a secular humanist club being formed
  • Senior Design Show organizing crew
  • Voter registration volunteer
  • Obama campaign volunteer

I’ve also been practicing guitar a lot, working on a long-term branding project for a new client, and catching up on important things like season 4 of The Venture Brothers and the queue of heist movies on my Netflix that I watch with a new friend. So that’s my life on campus.

Two weekends ago I went to Harrisburg for the first annual Pennsylvania State Atheist and Humanist Conference. The entire trip was great, and I learned a lot about myself, too. Hurray for life experience. Also, last weekend I went to Washington DC to see my friend Collin (who just passed his interview to become an ambassador for the Foreign Service, holy crap). This weekend my mom’s visiting and we’ll be attending a wedding, and next weekend I’ll be in Chicago with the CMU Design League. And sometime probably next month, I’d like to visit New York again because I love that city.

In conclusion, things are going really well and I’m happy. I average 6 hours of sleep per night, so that could be a bit better but isn’t really terrible either. And I’ll try to be better about updating this tumblr so that there aren’t any more lengthy life updates like this.

How This Helps Me Destroy the Universe: All of the connections I make will be blackmailed in about twenty years. Every. Last. One. But don’t tell.

San Diego Time

After my finals, I went to Portland for few days to catch my breath, see friends, and enjoy the city. It was great, but in spite of sleeping in aplenty, I still wasn’t quite recharged by the time I left for San Diego.

I got home on Wednesday, so it’s been a little over a week now. I’ve already started seeing friends here too, but today, I finally feel recharged. I can tell because I’ve been to start being proactive about doing things instead of just sort of blowing with the wind.

What to do while I’m in Southern California?

  • Japanese Friendship Garden
  • Local breweries (Coronado Brewing Company, Karl Strauss, Stone Brewing, Ballast Point, Gordon Biersch, and The Beer Company all come to mind)
  • Find a scotch bar
  • Find a video game arcade
  • Disneyland
  • Go boogie boarding for the first time in years
  • Jet skiing
  • Brunch at Hash House A Go-Go
  • Movies and anime

We’ll see what my friends will be interested in.

How This Helps Me Destroy the Universe: People will not suspect my villainous nature until my diabolical plans are already unstoppable.

A Modest List of Places

Bold means I think it would be awesome to work/live/study there. Strikethrough means I’ve already lived there. Everywhere else would at least be cool to visit.

North America

  • Boston, United States
  • Chicago, United States
  • Montreal, Canada
  • New York City, United States
  • Pittsburgh, United States
  • Portland, United States
  • San Diego, United States
  • San Francisco, United States
  • Seattle, United States
  • Sequoia National Forest, United States
  • Toronto, Canada
  • Vancouver, Canada

Central America, South America, and the Caribbean

  • Havana, Cuba
  • Panama City, Panama
  • Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
  • San José, Costa Rica

Europe

  • Amsterdam, The Netherlands
  • Berlin, Germany
  • Berne, Switzerland
  • Brussels, Belgium
  • Budapest, Hungary
  • Dublin, Ireland
  • Edinburgh, Scotland
  • Florence, Italy
  • Helsinki, Finland
  • London, England
  • Moscow, Russia
  • Paris, France
  • Prague, Czech Republic
  • Rome, Italy
  • Stockholm, Sweden
  • Vienna, Austria

Asia

  • Bangkok, Thailand
  • Beijing, China
  • Hong Kong, China
  • Jakarta, Indonesia
  • Kyoto, Japan
  • Macau, China
  • Mumbai, India
  • Naha, Japan
  • New Delhi, India
  • Seoul, Korea
  • Tokyo, Japan

Africa

  • Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
  • Algiers, Algeria
  • Antananarivo, Madagascar
  • Cape Town, South Africa
  • Casablanca, Morocco

Middle East

  • Cairo, Egypt
  • Doha, Qatar
  • Istanbul, Turkey
  • Jerusalem, Israel
  • Manama, Bahrain
  • Tel Aviv, Israel
  • Tripoli, Lebanon

Oceania

  • Auckland, New Zealand
  • Brisbane, Australia
  • Canberra, Australia
  • Christchurch, New Zealand
  • Melbourne, Australia
  • Sydney, Australia,
  • Wellington, New Zealand
Should only take me a bit more than a lifetime to go to all these places.

How This Helps Me Destroy the Universe: One of these places will be my secret lair. The rest will have missile silos.
Happy Easter, everybody.
nevver:

Pantone

Happy Easter, everybody.

nevver:

Pantone

(via loveandfightitoff)

Life Update

Mason inspired me to get back to writing tumblr entries for all the countless people interested in keeping up with my life you.

I’ve done blog reboots a few times before, and each time has been with the promise to take it less seriously than the time before it. Continuing with this fine tradition, I’ve decided to adopt a theme. From now on, all my posts will end with some explanation about how the post’s topic relates to the cartoonish supervillain’s goal of destroying the universe.

So anyway, school is still a big part of my life that you probably don’t care a whole lot about. Basically, it’s going really well. I’m taking lots of classes, I enjoy all of them, and I’m getting great grades too. The only thing uncertain right now is whether or not any of the teachers will pick me for a “design award” either at the end of this year or next year. There is no criteria for earning the award, so I just have to sufficiently impress somebody. If I do, then I get to graduate with college honors. That’d be swell.

My fitness situation has been bittersweet. I saw a nutritionist at the beginning of this semester, and found out that some of the medications that I need are catabolic, which means they destroy muscle. All my aspirations for being an underwear model may go sadly unfulfilled. In spite of this, I’ve continued to work out, and I feel really proud of myself. I swim five days a week and lift weight three times, and I intend to start running outside five days a week for about half an hour. (Outside is important because if I must be lanky, then I’ll be damned if I can’t at least be tan and lanky.)

And for the romantic possibilities previously mentioned? Over the course of the semester, I’ve tried to get to know two different girls (WOAH, WHAT A PLAYA, RIGHT?), but they both turned out to be very busy, or they are just both very nice and tried to come off that way when they realized I was trying to get closer. Unfortunately, being busy all the time is as much a hindrance to forming friendship as to investigating romantic interest, but I completely respect that it’s up to them what they want to make time for. I certainly don’t feel entitled to anybody’s company. Anyway, I think I’m going to throw in the towel this semester unless somebody suddenly reaches out to me like I’ve reached out. Hopefully something will work out this summer or next semester.

How This Helps Me Destroy the Universe: My key weapons as a final boss will be intelligence, strength, and seduction. Oooooh yeaaaaah.