Thursday, June 24, 2010

Mini University: Day 5

We kept busy last night by devouring Irish Lion puffballs, drinking a beer at Bluebird, waiting an hour for an incorrect delivery of fresh-baked cookies from Baked, and waiting another hour for a correct delivery, but this morning we were up bright and early for our last full day of classes.

I started the morning with a class on the blues, taught by legendary professor David Baker. I was thrilled, because his classes are so popular at IU that, as a student, I always got wait-listed. He talked about the origins and evolution of the blues, and he played us lots of examples.

Funny story: He doesn't have any fancy PowerPoint with audio files. Oh, no. His wife came with him and sat at a stereo, inserting CDs on command. This guy really needs a student assistant, who could probably digitize his music collection in 43 seconds flat.

Despite that, the class was interesting, and it was a good jumping-off point for more in-depth research on the genre. I now have a list of songs and artists to explore more deeply, and I have a better understanding of how the blues influenced other genres of music, from jazz to rap.

After breakfast at Runcible Spoon, Jessica and I started the afternoon with a class called "Robots as Helpers and Companions: Social Challenges in Technology Design." We all got to play with Paro, a robotic seal used in pet therapy when children have allergies to real pets, and he was definitely the star of the show. But we also learned about current research in robotic design, and we talked about the potential ethical challenges of replacing real, human social interactions with robotic interactions. Unfortunately, it sounds like Rosie the housekeeper robot is still a few decades away.

My final class of the day was "Artists' Courtships and Early Marriages: A Time of Creative Inspiration," which discussed painters' portraits of their lovers. We discussed the context in which these were made, plus lots of romantic gossip about some of history's most famous artists. The paintings were beautiful, but the session was a tad bit dry.

Can you believe we have only one more class? I start tomorrow morning with "The Gospel of Judas: Introducing a New Discovery," but then it's time for our commencement ceremony (and the answer to this week's most pressing question: Will Jessica be named outstanding freshman and win the green beanie?).

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