Author: Sten Sjöberg (page 1 of 2)

Voltaire, Gardens and Making Ripples

“Cela est bien, repondit Candide, mais il faut cultiver notre jardin”
– Monsieur de Voltaire

Above is the final line of Voltaire’s Candide, a book I read just before coming to Princeton at the start of this academic year. Responding to the book’s optimistic philosopher Pangloss as he raves about how “this world is indeed the best of all possible worlds,” Candide responds that “this is well put, but we must cultivate our garden.” Although its meaning may well be nothing more than its literal meaning per se, I believe that by the end of the book Candide comes to the insight that the world does not progress just the way it is meant, nor that it is the best of all possible worlds. In this realization I believe that Candide refers to the garden as an analogue for his own life and destiny, meaning we are the harbingers of our own destiny. We must tend to ourselves and our life in order to flourish like a well kept garden.

Since coming to college I have been trying very hard to cultivate my garden in order to flourish at Princeton. Indeed that seems like a natural thing to do when the motto of the University, Dei sub numine viget, literally means under God’s power she flourishes. In this attempt to make sure not to waste a moment here I have been studying fortuitously; before fall break I would spend long nights perfecting papers and finishing problem sets meticulously. Furthermore I wrote posts for this blog in quick succession. I wasted no time getting to know people, hear their story and tell them mine – building excellent quality friendships. It was great fun to be active and constructive, constantly producing something, be it a wholesome friendship, a quality paper or a simple blog post.

Surely, you see the but coming from a mile a way. Indeed, however much fun it is to be creative and make ripples, there has to be balance, quite like in all other parts of life. In my case balance restored itself by my watching six seasons of a TV show (that I had already watched once before) in the span of around three weeks. Hardly validating my earlier post on being afraid of missing out here on campus. By committing to production, creativity and a regime of production I forgot to allow things to slow down, the result of course being my binging of White Collar (an excellent show I do feel the need to point out).

As the semester slowly comes to an end I am starting to fall into a more stable balance. The trick to it, I have found, is to read (or in my case listen to audio books) rather than to watch a show, when I need a healthy dose of passivity and consumption. Although the two words certainly carry a negative connotation of laziness and boredom, far from all consumption is bad. In finding material that is not tailor-made to reel the consumer in with an unexpected cliffhanger at the end of each forty minute episode, I have found it easier to stop when it is time to work and as such I have found better balance.

Let this be a warning to those of you like me. No matter how much one wants to create, produce and form ripples – one must also allow oneself to sit back and consume, rejuvenating in doing so. Hopefully this lesson, now learned for me, will make the coming years just a bit easier. More importantly though, I am fortunate already to have learned the lesson of realizing my mistakes, admitting to them, and learning from them – which is what this is all really about.

Get my new game Boller!

Note: if you lose instantly when you start playing it’s because you aren’t holding the phone perfectly straight. When you tilt the phone it pushes your ball to the direction in which you’re tilting.

What is Boller?

Boller is a simple game where you tilt your phone to steer a ball to keep it from hitting the borders of the screen by jumping on scrolling platforms. Although I have hopes to add more diverse gameplay in the future I can assure you that the game is already intriguingly frustrating, rewarding and addictive.

Get the app here!

How I made it

The project started out about a year ago but due to issues with the App Store and college applications it was never released. A few months later I reformatted the hard drive in my computer, accidentally deleting all of the source code. Finally though, I remade an even better version of the game!

Technically it was built with Swift 4.0 and SpriteKit. I used the MVC design approach, although most of the model is handled by SpriteKit directly. I incorporated a game manager class through which I handled In App Purchases, Game Center integration, ads from AdMob and presenting different views (i.e different “screens” in the app”).

On ads

Originally I did not want to have advertisements in my app because of ethical concerns, however I decided to add them anyway for a few reasons.

Firstly, in order to release an app on the App Store one has to buy a $100 certificate that enables having apps on the store for a year. In a perfect world I’d get exactly $100 from revenue so that I at least didn’t lose any money in this endeavor.

Secondly, I want to be realistic as to why I am making apps at all. First and foremost Boller is definitely a fun and educational project and although I have become a rather proficient Swift and SpriteKit developer through making the app, I am not going to stop there. In trying to learn about development I also need to understand the monetization and business side – something that I am definitely doing by introducing advertisements to the app.

For those of you who cannot stand apps there is also an option to buy out of ads forever, and it would cost you only $1. It is also a chance to support the developer and his ridiculous student debt <3.

#7 – Semi-semesterly evaluation

“A goal without a plan is just a wish.” – Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

Below are the five goals I set up for myself seven days before coming to the US for the first time. However, as Antoine de Saint-Exupéry there is no point in goals lest there is a plan to go along with them. As such, I have instated a plan. I will be doing semi-semesterly evaluations to see how well I am doing. These will be based around each of the goals by themselves and hopefully I will find ways to improve every time.

Graduate with honors
Something I have found out since starting here is that honors are only rewarded based on the grades received in the core courses of the department in which you graduate. What this means is that right now my grades are not directly affecting my prospect. Nevertheless, I am very satisfied with the grades I have received so far – still, I aim to improve.

Make life-long friends and contacts
The people here, as I am sure I have stated on the blog before, are nothing short of awe-inspiring. No one student is the other quite alike and from each and every one of them I have been able to learn a lot, a lot of the time without even realizing it. Indeed, one must keep in mind the high standard of individuals at Princeton, otherwise one might find oneself smitten by every other person one meets. Through my work as class officer I am also granted many opportunities to speak with interesting people, most notably from my most amazing class of 2021, but also with our parent and grandparent classes of ’71 and ’96 respectively.

Get interesting internships
During fall break I had some time to apply to a few different internships. For freshmen however, it is usually rather hard to get really interesting internships so I have also considered taking the opportunity to spend time in France to finally learn the language properly and perhaps also develop some apps to build a portfolio. No matter I have definitely started making good work on it. For example, my resume has been revamped trice already with the help of Career Services on campus.

Write for this website
You are reading this, so it must be going well. The metrics of the site speak to the same thing as my unique visitors count has nearly doubled from last year. There is not much more to write about it other than that I hope the quality will be greatly improved after I take Writing Seminar next semester. Right now, I should really become better at adding nice – and preferably relevant – photos to my posts.

Vain attempt at relevant photo

Vain attempt at relevant photo (actually the open windows are those of our quad-sized dorm)

The auxiliary time spent sailing I have decided is too much; running however has become more important than ever. Like I mentioned in my last post my running is usefully in a multitude of different ways including, stress-reduction, mindfulness and keeping myself sharp. For example, I proudly set a PR in 10k yesterday evening, running it in 52 minutes.

Mentioning the last post, I wanted to share with you my key-takeaways from the Fall Break Challenge. Firstly, caffeine had more of an effect on me than I thought and I will limit my intake notably in the future to reduce anxiety and stress. Secondly, I am awful with sugar and I desperately need to keep working on limiting my cravings for it; I suppose it mostly has to do with raw will-power but that will not stop me from doing some research into it anyway. Finally, running with audiobooks is great and I regret not trying it sooner.

Also, I am working on a little side-project that I hope to release within the month, hang tight!

#6: The Fall Break Challenge

Right at this moment I should not be writing this post but instead the 800-word essay I need to hand in tonight for my freshmen seminar. Professor Kernighan, if you’re reading this; I am sorry. On a gladder note however the aforementioned essay (which I, by the way, am having a lot of fun writing) concludes my mid-term week. Considering it is my first time writing tests in English at Princeton I feel quite alright about my results, although I definitely aim to improve. I realize it is important for me to quickly get used to the tests here, as they are completely incomparable with the tests I have done so far in my academic career.

That is something I will consider more after one of the most important weeks of the year: the well-deserved much-needed post-midterm fall break. Most people waste no time, leaving campus to go home as soon as they can, and as a result of this there is a very high risk of my being supremely bored during this week. Of course, that is something I simply cannot have that and as such I have conceived The Sten Sjöberg Fall Break Challenge to keep me occupied.

The Challenge consists of five different sub-challenges based primarily in physical and mental health. Indeed, the reason I write that the fall break is one of the most important weeks of the year is not only to be funny (although let’s be honest I totally am) but also because it is an opportunity for us students to slow down and let the soul catch up. Here are the five sub-challenges:

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Sten Sjöberg for Class Officer

Having finally settled down at Princeton it is time for me to start making things happen. In the spirit of this sentiment I am delighted to announce my candidacy for Class Officer of the Class of 2021. I want to be one of the five students representing, caring for, and enabling the great Class of 2021. Not only this year but for many years to come.

In my class representation philosophy there are two dominating topics: community and fun. The two concepts might seem trivial but I have always believed that God is in the details. Indeed, we do not always need magnificent innovation to make something better than it already is; sometimes all we need is a stickler for detail, and that stickler could be yours truly.

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#4 – Endless Learning

One of the biggest differences between high school and Princeton is the feeling of endless learning I have found here at the University. It might sound cliché to talk about endless learning at a liberal arts college but to me that means a few more things than just liberal course selection.

My newly bought blackboards by my desk feat. PHY103 and MAT202.

The newly bought blackboards by my desk feat. PHY103 and MAT202.

First of all the pace here is absolutely insane. Take my Linear Algebra course as an example. Every week we have three lectures of fifty minutes each. In each lecture my professor will go through about two chapters of our course book. That is about three or four times the pace of high school. Upon that we have around 20 (usually very challenging) questions for homework each week. Of course, this crazy pace does pay of. Never in my life have I learned this much this quickly as I have been doing in the last two weeks. It is as amazing as it is demanding. That brings me to the four courses that I finally decided I will be taking this semester:

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#3: Getting Oriented

These first few days have been really intense so I just got up a few hours earlier today in order to write a short post to you all about what has happened so far.

Before arriving on campus I meet a pair of very generous relatives in NYC, with whom I stayed overnight at their house in Stamford.

Right by Princeton Club where I went to meet a very kind relative with whom I stayed overnight before Check-In started.

I arrived together with all the other internationals for International Orientation on the 30th of August. It felt amazing to finally arrive on the campus that I had wondered and dreamed about for so long. The first three days were filled with activities to makes us internationals feel at home. Davis International Center did a great job with it and I feel much more prepared in regards to topics such as culture shock. Among other things we had great fun navigating the campus on a scavenger hunt which we almost won. Unfortunately I missed the backside of the scavenger hunt paper we were given, which had us missing out on quite a few points. After IO ended the Americans of the class of 2021 arrived on campus. Continue reading

Debatt: Inkludera SD innan det är för sent

Sverigedemokraterna är farliga högerpopulister. Partiets missvisande retorik bygger på misstro mot den ledande eliten och ett inkorrekt anspråk på den “tysta majoriteten” och det “faktiska folket”. SD är, likt världens alla populister, ett allvarligt hot mot demokratin och att fortsatt utesluta SD kommer bara leda till deras ökade inflytande.

I boken “What is Populism?” förklarar Jan-Werner Müller, Professor i politik på Princeton University, termen populism. En term som många slängt sig med under de senaste åren utan att faktiskt veta vad den faktiskt innebär. För en fullständig beskrivning över konceptet rekommenderar jag boken men här följer en kort sammanfattning:

Populister skapar ett inkorrekt koncept som är folket. De inbillar sig att folket är homogent, har en vilja och är felrepresenterade av alla andra partier. Populisterna anser sig själva vara legitima förespråkare för det inbillade folket. De använder sig ofta av den “tysta majoriteten” i debatt. Fastän populister gärna utlyser folkomröstningar så är det inte för att höja det politiska engagemanget. Snarare handlar det om en vilja att bekräfta vad de redan tror sig veta att folkets vilja är. Populism är den representativa demokratins mörka baksida och är ett allvarligt hot mot demokrati.

Låt mig då applicera definitionen på SD. Partiet representerar det svenska folket, en inbillad homogen samling människor med en vilja: att behålla Sverige svenskt. På deras hemsida hittar man bland annat citatet “Sverigedemokraterna är hela sveriges parti.”

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#2: My last day

Two days ago I implied that you wouldn’t hear from me until about three weeks from now, but as it turns out I already have something I wanted to share. Today I finished my last day at the Department of Clinical Chemistry at Karolinska Institutet Huddinge. I started spending my summers here two years ago and I can’t exaggerate how much I have learnt during my time here.

“That’s it for my goal-setting, you’ll hear from me again sometime in the next three weeks.”
– Me (technically not lying)

My work has been very interesting, although I can’t go into much detail since none of it is published yet. What I can tell you is that working with clinical chemistry is excellent. The job requires constant thinking and second guessing what you’re doing. Although much of it is following protocols, you are never in the exact same situation as the author was in when she wrote it which means there are always subtle differences that you need to take into account. Thanks to this I have developed an attention to detail here that I most definitely didn’t have when I started (just ask one of my supervisors). I have also learnt a lot about the scientific method; for example I know how to think about handling batches of tests in a way that avoids systematic errors and I can almost see contaminants come and go when I put on gloves, wash something or use a pipette. Research, and most things surrounding it, is really more about learning how to learn rather than learning obscure specifics and I really think that insight will help me in college.

Although the things I mentioned above are really interesting the most valuable experience from my time here is being around all of my excellent colleagues. Continue reading

#1: My Goals

Today, there are just seven days left till I leave for The States. I said at the start of the summer that I’d rather go into hibernation and wake up on my flight to Princeton, than impatiently wait the whole summer. As I’m sure you understand, I can barely contain myself now that there’s only a week left. The last few weeks have been moderately uninteresting. I’ve spent my time getting my Visa, receiving around twenty thousand different vaccines and fighting with the National Board of Student Aid (CSN). I figured this first proper blog post of my life should be a bit more interesting than that though, which is why I’ve decided to write about my goals for the coming four years instead.

Warren Buffett is said to have recommended an interesting approach for achieving goals, and I’ve given it a try. The Oracle of Omaha explains that you should write down twenty-five goals for the coming years and then kill twenty of these darlings, leaving only five. His thinking is that the remaining five are the true objectives, and that the others will only distract the goal-setter from their proper ambitions. I will attempt to only give attention to my primary goals.

I’ll be keeping the twenty distractions to myself, but please allow me to present my five goals for the coming four years.

  • Graduate with honors
  • Make life-long friends and contacts
  • Get interesting internships
  • Write for this website
  • Exercise (sail and run)

Internships, good grades and contacts are pretty self-explanatory. I don’t think there are many of my peers in the class of ‘21 that I don’t share these goals with. The other two are a bit less orthodox and I figure they deserve a proper explanation.

The first three goals are all very dependent on the quality of my work during the coming years. The quality will be dependent on my creativity, time management skills and stress handling. This is where the last two priorities come in to play. Writing has always helped me collect my thoughts and force me to really think through my life. For example this post has helped me set very clear goals for the following years, something I never would have done otherwise. I also obviously get better at writing and improve my workflow and creativity.

Running and sailing contribute to my creativity, time management skills and ability to handle stress. While doing something completely different from work and school I’ve always had my best ideas and I always manage to see my heavy workload from a different angle which usually helps me realize it isn’t nearly as heavy as I initially thought. Of course, overall health and happiness is also improved by exercising, and that certainly doesn’t hurt.

That’s it for my goal-setting, you’ll hear from me again sometime in the next three weeks. When I arrive in New York I will spend the night with some very kind relatives in Stamford and the morning after I’ll (hopefully manage to) get to Princeton by train. The first few weeks are filled with activities so I don’t know how much time I will have for writing. I guess we’ll see!

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