So Let it be Written, So Let it be Done!

October 8, 2008

Confessions of a Bad Student

Filed under: blogging,grad school,kamakula,pittsburgh — kamakula @ 8:02 pm
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My pen name is Kamakula, and I’m a bad student. Perhaps even a bad person.

Let me explain. For the past two weeks, I’ve been waking up later and later in the day. I’ve done very little for my TA assignment – arguably one of the cushiest, an open ended project where I have latitude to plan and spend to my hearts content. The only constraint is that I devote 20 hours per week to this as per my contract as a TA. I doubt I’ve even accumulated a TOTAL of 20 hours on this project 5+ weeks into the semester.

Meanwhile, I’ve been waiting till the last minute to do homework. Last week, I was unable to complete the homework for one of my classes. It was sacrificed so that I could finish work in another. This week, last minute work plus a dying battery and having to find a place to plug in resulted in my not completing the hw for another class.

Theoretically, a good student could recover from this missteps. After all, the assignments are fractions of 10-15% of my grade, not enough on their own to take me down. However, I already know I’m not a good student. Then, with all this going on, I’m taking the weekend off. Driving up to my alma mater. This means that there will be no work accomplished from Friday until Monday.

So, it can be shown I’m a bad student, but that does not necessarily mean I’m a bad person. Well, for that to be true, that would mean that the majority my “person” qualities are bad. So, if we define person qualities as the set consisting of

  • Student quality
  • Son quality
  • Friend quality
  • Citizen quality

We’ve already demonstrated I’m a bad student. What about son? My dad has been getting emails asking him to sit on decision boards for several fellowship foundations. He’s been encouraging me to apply to these (and I’ve been saying that I will). Because of my (anticipated by him) participation, he must recuse himself from serving – conflict of interest issues.

Now, most of these programs have deadlines at the end of this month or beginning of November. Given the catch-up I’ll be playing, my likelihood of applying decreases which means I’d curtailed my dad’s ability to serve on those boards. This will cause my parents to be disappointed in the future when they learn I did not earn any additional funding while I continue to be a (non-producing) financial burden to my department.

Also, I’ve been “encouraged” to choose a thesis advisor this semester. I’m not sure which category this falls into. Essentially here is the problem. My field of interest is robotics. Specifically, I’ve come to decide that I want to conduct research in the area of reasoning and decision making systems. There are two professors who do work in related areas. One is primarily a pattern classification guy. I’ve taken one class from him and currently I’m taking a second. I know without a shadow of a doubt that I CANNOT work with this guy. It’s not just that what I want to do is not really pattern classification or that he doesn’t really work with actual robots, but based on having him as a teacher, I know we’re not compatible.

The other option is my current advisor. He’s a young and rising star in our department. However, his focus is in biomedical robotics. Now, I’d admit that I haven’t read much of his work, so perhaps there’s more areas of convergence between his work and what I want to do, however, from talking to him, he’s reluctant to take on a new student. Now, I’ve learned that I have department funding for about two more years. More than enough time for me to get involved and work out an RA in the future. I’m not sure if he’s just unaware of this, or if there is more to it.

I knew coming in that there were few professors in my department who were actively doing research in my areas of interest. The other schools that accepted me had more opportunities (or stronger ones) however, I chose UPitt because I was awarded a fellowship, my best friend lived here (at the time), and I’d be closer to CMU (and somehow entertained fantasies of working there while being a UPitt student).

Hmm, citizen-wise, I routinely break speed limits. I’m not talking 45-50 in a 40. I’m talking 100mph in a 30. This typically happens tuesday and friday nights . . . nevertheless. I’m also driving an uninspected car. I know it will fail inspection, there is at least one thing that I need to fix before I even attempt to have it inspected, probably more. But I’m hoping I can get some sort of exception for the other issues.

So, how am I a bad friend. Well, there is a group of us who have loosely joined together to develop ideas for a potential tech company. The nominal head is currently busting his ass at an 80hr/wk job where he’s getting first hand experience with the running of a startup. Others are working hard at jobs or school. I’m viewed as one of the major technical drivers of the group. This means that I’m one of the two or three who’d be expected to do the major hands-on work converting our ideas into an actual working project. Yet based on things, I’m probably the laziest and least motivated one. I’m letting my friends down by not working hard at school, to complete my degree in a timely fashion, to take advantage of my schooling to make me highly qualified so that when our resumes are shown to prospective investors, they can feel safe investing with a group of people who have a proven track record of academic excellence and demonstrated capabilities of taking projects from start to finish.

Possibly though, my biggest failure as a person is recognizing my failures and still not actually doing much of anything to correct them beyond the useless tactic of writing about it. If I review my blogs and other writings, this is a recurring post. This means over the six years since I’ve graduated from high school, there’s been essentially zero personal improvement. I’m pretty much the same 18 year old except I have more responsibilities, more debt, and know a bit more about my field.

It’s ironic. I want to create rational artificial decision making agents yet I’m unable to make rational decisions in my own life. Fucking blind leading the blind. Or in this case, blind leading himself.

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5 Comments »

  1. A good majority of people [including myself!!!] procrastinate, speed, sleep in, & fail at certain things.
    What are some good things that you’ve been doing lately? I’m sure you can think of a few 🙂

    Comment by jen — October 9, 2008 @ 12:06 am | Reply

  2. I totally understand what you mean when you say that you recognize these faults, yet feel you’ve done nothing to change them. But be encouraged in the fact that at least you KNOW your faults. Do you realize that sometimes it takes people years, decades even, to acknowledge their faults?

    Now all you have to do is fix them.

    Comment by 8th Wonder — October 13, 2008 @ 10:11 am | Reply

  3. I cosign with 8th Wonder’s comments. Do you know how many people are walking failing epicly not knowing why and blaming everything/one that it is NOT? You are extremely smart and you’ll figure out a way to get things aligned properly…

    Comment by Naturally Alise — October 21, 2008 @ 2:29 pm | Reply

  4. Well they DO say first step is admitting. Now how long you stay stuck on Step 1 is another story.

    Comment by Luvvie — November 7, 2008 @ 2:07 am | Reply

  5. I totally understand your predicament, but don’t beat yourself up about it. Just take it one step at a time and you’ll see that you’ll start getting things done. Maybe motivation is an issue…

    Comment by Alilbitsilly — November 9, 2008 @ 10:59 pm | Reply


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