Now that you have crossed the digital doorway into my Personal realm, I would like you to know a little bit about me. I guess I should start with the basics.
My name is Brian Fitzsimmons, and I am a first-year student at UVA. I went to Mount Vernon High School in Alexandria, VA, where I received the IB Diploma and other various awards that you can peruse on my Resume page. I have not declared a major yet, but I am considering foreign policy or media studies as potential candidates – or maybe some combination of the two.
How did I become the man I am today? Undoubtedly it was a myriad of factors, but of course there are those select few that stand out in my mind. I would like to share those with you below, starting with…
Ahhh…music. It may seem a trite passion, but music is unique for everyone who actually appreciates it. I myself am a pianist of 14 years. I’d like to think I have a huge repertoire under my belt – I have dabbled in classical music like Debussy and Rachmoninoff (who are both much better than Mozart and the other iconic classical artists), jazz like Gershwin and Duke Ellington, contemporary, and improv. Piano is not only a source of both entertainment and relaxation, but I consider it a mental challenge as well. Sheet music is certainly a language, and there are multiple studies that tie music with math and geometry. I did not listen to Beethoven as a child, but I’d like to think piano has helped me in my studies.
Piano may be my main interaction with music, but if there is one genre I love, it would be…disco. I’ll jam to Earth, Wind, and Fire, Michael Jackson, and any other artist that can lay down a good beat. Of course, I’ll also spend time in classic rock, oldies (you can never go wrong with the Beatles), and even hip hop. Nevertheless, if there is one genre of music that I consider radioactive, it would be country. I am not even going to waste precious character space to describe my dislike of country, so take that at face value.
Practically a cousin of music, I would be lost without…
No, not grinding. I am talking about honest, heart-pumping, grooving. For instance, I am part of the Swing Dance Club here at UVA, and I could not find a cooler place to learn new moves. If anything with an upbeat tempo comes on, my foot starts tapping, my fingers start snapping, and my head starts bobbing. It’s infectious. In fact, for my application essay for UVA, I responded to the question of “What’s your favorite place to get lost?” with: “the dance floor.”
So far, I may seem like I was born 30 years too late. But my next passion certainly dispells that…
Video games have saved my life. I’d like to think I have returned the favor many times over – I’ve saved the galaxy more times than I can count – but the fact remains that video games, along with piano, act again as a form of both relaxation AND learning. What!? Video games as a source of learning? Preposterous! But in fact, studies have shown that video games make children better problem solvers, more patient, and all around more sociable people. This flies in the face of adult assumptions, but as Jane McGonigal said, video games are raising the next generation of problem solvers. Here’s her TED talk if you do not believe me: http://www.ted.com/talks/jane_mcgonigal_gaming_can_make_a_better_world.html
I’ve played it all – GTA, Halo, Mass Effect, Call of Duty, LittleBigPlanet, and dozens of others. They have shaped me in ways I may never know, but I certainly know one thing: the adults have it wrong. Games do not make us more violent – if you play Grand Theft Auto, then go on a murder spree, you were messed up before you got the game – and they do not rot our brains. They increase visual perception, basic problem solving, mental mapping, and more. In fact, the Army is using video games recruitment centers now to usher in the next generation of soldiers with better hand-eye coordination.
As a form of relaxation, video games are quite similar to reading a book or watching TV, just with more interaction. They blow off steam after a stressful day at school, they connect you to your friends, and, as Ian Bogost would say, they serve as a form of cultural critique (GTA excels at this). In addition, I can say with 100% certainty that video games are art: they combine story telling, graphical presentations, acting, language, cinematics, and so much more. Michaelangelo’s David does not even compare to Sony’s Playstation 3.
I’m not all just fun and games though. For the past three years, I have taken a serious attitude towards physical fitness and health. While running, pumping iron, and doing 300 situps is certainly effective, I take a more varied approach. Enter…
Admittedly, I have become obsessed with this workout regime. It focuses on full body, heart-pumping workouts that can last from 4 minutes to 40, giving you short but intense bursts of pain. I will not talk much about CrossFit here, because I have a dedicated page, aptly called “CrossFit.” Check it out if you want more details. In relation though, I wouldn’t be a true CrossFitter if I didn’t follow the Paleo Diet. A good rule of thumb for this crazy way of eating is: If a caveman could eat it, you can eat it. Of course, it’s a little more nuanced than that, but if you are reading this for the first time, take it as a good starting point. I’ve been on this diet for 5 years, and it has worked wonders for my physical fitness. In fact, my ultimate dream is to open a paleo fast-food restaurant (think Chipotle but healthier). If you want to invest in it, you know how to contact me!
As a kid, I went through the typical “career” phases: paleontologist, contract superhero, architect, spy, tomb raider, etc. But the one passion that has stuck for all these years is…
Astronomy! Just look at that photo. Isn’t that absolutely mind-boggling? To think that that nebula is thousands of light-years across, when our solar system is barely 1/1000th of a light year across…. And upon further inspection, you can even see a distant galaxy in the lower left. Astronomy has captured me because it is SO BIG! It amazes me that all of human history has taken place on a grain of sand in the cosmic beaches of the universe. 3 million year human history? Bah…it takes that much time for a star to say its first words. To know that there is something bigger out there than Earth simply thrills me – we have so much to discover. And like Einstein said, “the most incomprehensible thing about the universe is that it is comprehensible.” Space is exotic, alien, yet we now have the tools to understand its very existence. I have taken multiple classes in astronomy and cosmology, and it never ceases to amaze me how strange yet fantastic the cosmos is. From the tiniest scales of quantum mechanics, to the largest structures of galactic clusters, there is absolutely nothing that cannot seize my attention when it comes to astronomy.
Unfortunately, the job market for astronomy is a little bleak right now, so I’m not seriously considering a career in it. But I will always consider it my number one hobby, and I plan to stay on top of every new discovery and experiment. Below, you will find links to some of my favorite astro-related topics. Astronomy Picture of the Day is an amazing site, governed by NASA, that releases new astro photos every day. It is always interesting to see what new objects they find. The LHC, while not strictly “astronomy,” certainly applies to high-energy physics, which is essential to understanding the Big Bang and early universe. And while I (so far) do not have the credentials for this business, I am including a link to the recently formed Planetary Resources, Inc. which plans to mine asteroids for precious metals and water. This is something I have dreamed of humanity doing for years, and I am excited to see entrepeneurs (especially Google’s Larry Page and Eric Schmidt) take the bull by the horns.
And speaking of how big the universe is compared to us: