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

October 25, 2010

And Life Keeps Moving

Filed under: blogging,grad school,kamakula,pittsburgh — kamakula @ 10:29 pm
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I’m still behind on my research work. Nothing new when it comes to that. Slow trudging work for now. I think like many other things, one of these days I’ll either go over an edge and suddenly things will feel like they are moving too fast. Or I’ll reach a dead end. Whichever way it happens, I that will be it for me.

I’ve improved my media system. With my usb enabled router running dd-wrt, I finally bit the bullet and got a 2TB drive. With a dual bay dock, I could potentially increase my storage by another 2TB. We’ll see what prices are like for black friday and Christmas. In the meantime, all of my existing media, apps, backups, and pictures can go there. And probably not even use more than 40% of the available space.

The xbox (running xbmc) is pretty awesome. . . but as more things are available in HD and when my projector finally dies, I will definitely want a HD solution. . and the ability to watch Hulu without needing my laptop. From what I’ve seen, roku is looking like an awesome solution. For just about $60 shipped, I can have a little box that will take care of all that. In fact, the roku box + my drive/dock combo and router all take up less space than the xbox uses now. So that’s another plus.

My cooking abilities just leveled up too. I’m getting better at making my faves. Time to start adding some more dishes to the usual repertoire. I’m also making steady progress on the debt front. . .though breaking my cars and having to fix those isn’t helping. . . But I guess that’s how you learn. And I suppose the more I do this, the more experience I get if I ever want to startup the hobby of flipping cars with major, but cheaply (in terms of parts, not time) fixable problems.

Speaking of hobbies, I haven’t worked on a robot or any programming project in a while. There is always the trinity competition and I’ve got a game to port to my newest platform of choice – Android. . . though I suppose I also want to do the iphone as well at some point. I tell myself that once things look good on the research front, I will devote more time to these. . .I guess we’ll see.

It is annoying just how obvious it feels right now that if I were working fulltime, I’d have the resources and free time to do so much of all of these things that are on hold or moving by so slowly. I suppose that should be motivation to make my current life choices worth it, or matter more than they feel like they do now.

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October 2, 2010

This Doesn’t Have a Title

Filed under: grad school,kamakula — kamakula @ 2:17 pm
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Yes, that’s right. This post does not have a title. Though it’s not a gimmick or device of some sort. I just couldn’t think of one. When I try to pick out a string of words to use, I end up experiencing the swirl of thoughts and only grasp random words. My past experience with the mind storm (that’s what I’m calling it here) – which I know despite sounding like “brain storm”, actually refers to an inability to generate ideas in my case, has usually been on tests or working on a difficult project or problem. I try to think of a complete solution, but my mind is too chaotic and I can’t really see much in the storm.

It is a frustrating experience and the way out is to stop and just start doing what you already know. Don’t worry about figuring out now the complete sequence of steps from start to finish, just begin. We all know the basics, usually of whatever it is we are attempting to do. So rather than obsess over figuring out a complete solution, I just start the problem. Write down what I know, the basic calculations or information you’re supposed to extract. . . and as you do this, something magical happens. You’re making progress. Putting one foot in front of the other and in many cases you arrive at a solution.

So, rather than spend the next few hours trying to figure out a title, I’ll just write. The title can sort itself out on it’s own. I republished some posts that I’d previously unpublished for various reasons. The short summary is that my gf and I had broken up, gotten back together, and now have broken up again.

I had a thought as I was prepping a late breakfast that all of my relationships seem to have fallen apart at the beginning or end of a school year. Though further reflection indicates this is likely just coincidence without any meaningful significance since I’ve been in relationships that lasted through those periods in other years. I guess the real takeaway is that I’ve been spending too much of my life in school, and perhaps to not enter into serious relationships until after i’m done.

Speaking of which, as of 4pm yesterday, I finished my comprehensive exams. We’ll get the official pass/fail email in a week. Of the four exams, I feel extremely good about two, pretty good about the third, and no so great about the fourth. I suppose I’d expected to do the worst on that one, but I still feel bad about it. Regardless, I think I’m still going to pass since I didn’t totally screw it up and I did well on the others. The minimum grade to pass is a 3.25. Given that I expect A’s on the other three, the only way I’d not end up with an average of 3.25 or better is to have gotten an F on the fourth.

Failure. If I was working full-time and after 3.5 years of work had a screw up that got me fired, I could likely get another job. You take a loss, but only of a few weeks to a few months of your life and earnings. If I screw up here, I lose 3.5 years. All gone. Because while this has been a goal and dream of mine, and has had great positive impact and experiences for me, it is not a process I intend to repeat. There aren’t markets for failed PhD candidates. You go back to whatever you were doing before or the jobs you could get if you’d done the smart thing and left school with just a BS or MS.

This reminds me of a webcomic which I think it’s about time to do my yearly catch up. BS – bullshit, MS – more shit, PhD – piled higher and deeper. Jumping completely to a different topic, I still have the morning food aversion. It appears if I eat slowly and small amounts, it is manageable. I’m pretty sure it just takes a few months of making myself eat every morning to get rid of it. I just don’t really have strong enough motivation to do so. Yeah, I’ve got some body fat I’d like to lose and eating regular, small meals including one at breakfast time is a good way to help implement that and manage energy levels and hunger throughout the day. . .but I think I’ll stick to the current plan of just ignoring the need to eat.

Or maybe not. Because following my current plan hasn’t really been working out for me. At least not in the short term, that’s not how it feels now. But what can I do? I think I’ve gotten to the point where I’ve learned to trust decisions I’ve made until I have an overwhelming reason to change my mind. I can’t remember what my dad said, but the last time I visited my parents, he asked a question or made a comment about something I was doing. And I gave him a couple reasons – which were not good enough. . . – but on the drive back, I kept thinking about it and realized or remembered that there were other considerations when I’d initially made up my mind. Which then fully explained to me why I did what I did. This has probably been a very vague description of what was going on, but the point is that though I may feel now sticking to a path is stupid or not worth it and can’t think of good compelling reasons why I should continue, in fact I have already thought through all of these things and so I should trust myself, as crappy as things my seem right now.

So perhaps this is why this post doesn’t have a title – or why the title is appropriate. There hasn’t really been a coherent topic of discussion. Just like the process of grasping for the title, this has been me jumping from idea to idea, thought to thought. I guess food for thought – just how much of this post is a reflection of an underlying or subconscious intent and how much is just a product of going ahead and trusting the process of “just do it and things usually work out”.

February 22, 2010

I am Tired

Filed under: blogging,grad school,kamakula,politics — kamakula @ 2:46 pm
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I am tired of a lot of things for a lot of reasons. I dislike the financial juggling act that has been my life since January 2006. I thought after working full-time for a year, I would finally be free of all that. However, that turns out not to be the case. I’d hopes that even first quarter 2010 may be the time I finally step out of the red so to speak, but that door seems to be fast closing in my face.

I’m tired of the state of our country. Our financial and health systems. The lip service we give to education. The idea that research and engineering and innovation can only be driven by the private sector. I ask you – who drove Boeing and Lockheed to come up with anything? If the US government was not engaged in wars, would they be the powerhouses they are now? Or rather, would the be the American powerhouses that they are now? So much of the technology and innovation we take for granted today has been driven by the federal government. Yes, ofttimes as a byproduct of defense and nation security ambitions but also through basic research.

Did the free market really need a space program capable of landing men on the moon? I think not.

I also want to address my previous post. In case I did not make it clear, I do not support the actions taken by Joseph Stack and in no way condone such violence as a means of expressing his frustration at the world. This tragedy serves as a prompt for discussion yes, but sadly because of the lives lost so horribly and not because violence was the only way to bring it to the forefront. I know I’ve not gone too much into political and related discussion here, but such topics are constantly flitting through my mind being worked for some semblance of rational solutions.

Returning to my main thesis, I am tired because in a couple hours, I need to have the barebones of a conference or journal paper written. The meat of the work has yet to really be done, but to be honest, I should have written 1/3 of the paper by now. I could have written that much. There isn’t much that would go in the abstract or introduction areas that I don’t already now. Certainly not much new will come up in the next couple weeks as a product of my work.

I’m tired because I’m splitting my time between research (which at the moment sits on the back burner), a robotics project, my relationship, and putting together the mess that is my finances. Supposedly starting at the end of this week, I will no longer be unpaid. However, I’ll also start a part time job where I’ll be working about 30 hours a week. The intersection of time between research, project, and work before the project ends will probably feel worse than this. Maybe. Perhaps once I have an income, I will be able to relax even in the midst of doing other things.

Who knows.

February 18, 2010

When will I be Done?

Filed under: grad school,kamakula,rant — kamakula @ 8:55 pm
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This question probably pops into my mind at least once a week. That measurement is not an average – perhaps it is better phrased as “it pops into my mind every week”, just some weeks I spend more time thinking about it than others. Going strictly by the requirements for the degree, my school requires about 4 years to complete. Official documentation suggests students taking more than 6 years may find themselves booted without a degree. While I don’t expect to take up to 6 years, I’m likely going to push close to four. And that’s even accounting for already having a Master’s degree.

Then again, in the grand scheme of things, my degree doesn’t matter – well the grand scheme of things that encompasses only my graduate school. Why? We are allowed to transfer up to 30 credits (10 classes x 3 credits)  of “graduate” work. Due to my . . .unconventional passage through my undergraduate program, I barely have that many classes available. Furthermore, I cannot transfer a course similar to one I’ve taken here or a course for which there isn’t an analogue. That rule eliminates about half my eligible courses. So, I ended up only transferring a bit over a semester of classes. That doesn’t even shave off a year from the time here – though theoretically, if I’d started the graduate program at this school, by the time I would’ve received the Masters degree, I would have completed about 2-2.5 years of the program towards the PhD.

So, what does this mean for me? Well, when my dad calls and wonders why (now) two years after starting, I still have not graduated, what can I say? I’m tempted to bring up this issue, but it feels weak as an argument, that the extra effort in getting a Masters degree only netted me about one semester in a 4 year program (instead of 4). All the other requirements that normally would have been fulfilled by that degree still need to be completed. What about research, do I have a dissertation topic? No. Well, what are you waiting for? I’m still working on coming up with one. Why, just get yourself an adviser who has open topics, then you could be done, right? Well. . . and what can I say?

I could argue that then I’d be working on something or a topic where I don’t have much interest. We’ve had this discussion several times before. About almost everything I’ve done since high school. When I took 6 months to get a job and refused to apply to the (at the time) numerous jobs in EM fields area so that I could find a robotics or embedded systems engineering job, I was told “Why does it matter – you’re going back to school anyway”. Now it’s “All that matters is that you have a PhD, not what you got it in”.

Perhaps that is true. And for some, that may be enough. Perhaps that is the immigrant attitude, get a terminal degree in some field and take the high paying job afterwards. But for me, this has not just been about a stepping stone to some higher place. Perhaps I am lucky in that I have the luxury of giving up so much of my life for the pursuit of something where I don’t really have a significant economic interest. Because honestly, if it were about money, if I never went back to school, I’d have been making more by the time I graduate than I could immediately command with a PhD.

Well, is it that you love research or teaching? While the answer is yes, I do enjoy those things, they are not alone in the core of my rationale. The core reason, what made me fill out those applications at costs of $1000+ when I was broke, what made me leave a nice job in a nice climate zone, was that this is something I’d always wanted to do. It is not quite a feather to line my cap, it is an experience that I am determined to have. An experience, like visiting the White House or traveling to a foreign country. So I do it, and do it my way. And in doing so, wonder if I’m losing a part of myself and feel like some sort of interloper amongst those who are motivated for other reasons.

Almost two years ago, I read a book entitled So You Want a PhD. I probably even wrote a post about it. I’m sure it is one of those events that turned the tide from me feeling depressed about my life back to optimism. I guess it comes to mind today because once again I sit pondering what is the real path to take between here and graduation? How do I live my life as a person who absolutely hates to borrow money from anyone, especially his parents, but for the past two months has been unpaid due to the bureaucracy of paperwork?

And I wonder how this affects my personal life and relationships. Certainly I know how it affects my activities with friends. I make excuses as to why I can’t go out because I don’t have the money to support such an activity. I wonder if I’m stupidly hanging on to some life I can’t have now because I have a car – which sadly now needs replacement parts I cannot afford. I live in an apartment with rent that seems reasonable, but I know there are much cheaper smaller places out there.

In my attempt to have it all, be a grad student, work on side projects at other schools, own a car, live in a relatively nice neighborhood, hang out with friends, have a relationship, perhaps I’ve just setup the situation where I can have none. Maybe I should have listened to those who told me to just focus on the school work, live in some apartment with 2 other grad students, leave only to goto my lab or get food, wall off all other distractions and be done with it.

Earlier this week, it occurred to me that regardless of where I am in life, I will always never have enough time. Work consumes a good chunk of my week. I’m constantly working on side projects. I’m constantly fixing a car that breaks down. If I were to just “focus” on one thing, there will never come a time when I could have it all. I would have gone from focusing on my undergrad work to focusing on my graduate research to focusing on my job. For what? So that I live out the image someone else has of a successful life and career? So that I attain some success which means less to me than it does to others? Or maybe they were right and I’m just trying to lie to myself and justify the life I’ve lived so far.

February 17, 2010

Welcome to 2010

Filed under: blogging,car,grad school,kamakula — kamakula @ 2:42 pm

It has been a while since I’ve written a post. I sometimes visit my own blog in a vain attempt to trick coerce or otherwise tempt myself into writing something new. But here I am today. I’m not sure there is a point to this other than to mark that once again I’ve reached a time where I have to make decisions about my life. Decisions that for better or worse will have impact that I will feel for a long time to come.

I’ve been in a relationship for about a year now. It’s had its ups and downs and a couple hiatuses. Now though, I’m not sure whether it can continue. However, this could be because I’m feeling stress in other areas of my life. I’ve started working on a research project and have been unpaid for the past two months. Running broke with my car breaking down and requiring repair, behind on bills, work, and projects, my outlook is no longer as optimistic as it usually is.

When this happens, my patience for other things wear thin and suddenly things that may bother my slightly become problems. I start to wonder if this relationship is ok for me because it always sours when I’m under a lot of stress. I guess I feel like I carry the weight of supporting both of us and while I honestly don’t mind am happy to do so under normal circumstances, there are times, this is the time that I want the roles to reverse and they can’t.

As I find myself approaching 26 years of age, I wonder just how much of my life I’ve wasted. Could I have accomplished more? Probably. No, definitely. If I worked harder 6 years ago, I could have started the grad school process 2 years earlier. I could be right now at this moment putting the finishing touches on a dissertation or even be done and starting work somewhere as Dr. Kamakula. I could be in a stable relationship with good credit and buying a house.

But I’m not. And I look to my future and only see things getting worse. I have a year left and only a vague outline of the research and work between here and graduation. I will need to spend 40-60 hours a week working, reading, studying, testing. I will also want to spend time fixing my car, building my robots, and working on side projects. Between school, work, hobbies, and friends, do I really have time for someone else?

A couple days ago I was asked to list the qualities in my ideal girlfriend. At the time, I thought to myself, that is not possible, that people are different and I cannot expect to find one set of qualities in a person absent other idiosyncrasy that would bother me. But maybe I should make this list. I find myself daydreaming about going out, meeting someone who may for example say “I’m a physics major and work for X company” and asking her to solve some freshman physics problem and responding with “It was nice meeting you” if I don’t get the correct answer.

I’m sometimes often accused of being cold and emotionless. Uncaring and not willing to sacrifice anything for a relationship. Does this mean that I’m not truly invested. If I were an outside observer, would I draw different conclusions than the ones in my head? What does it mean that the same charges are leveled at me over and over again? The cynic in me says there is only one answer – you do not learn, you do not change.

There are times when I wish for a guidebook to life, even though I know, like just about any other source of advice that has been volunteered to me, I will read, listen, then follow my own lead anyway. I think this is just a search for validation. I don’t need guidance, I just want an authority that tells me my decisions are always the right ones.

October 15, 2009

You may be a hardcore engineer (or PhD student) if you

For those who are not engineers, this can serve as a handy guide to sniff out those of us around you. For those who are, but may be questioning your credentials or trying to play down your nerd card, this is your wake up call.

If you apply engineering principles to your regular life? I.e. the noisy channel model to dating, optimization methods to arranging your dishwasher, minimum entropy to your porn, you are likely a hardcore engineer.

Perhaps you solve “interesting” problems just to solve them, not for any possible benefit – grades, pay, extra credit, impress your boss/adviser – just to see if you can do it. If you regularly use up what is likely scant resources of your time and brainpower on problems that have a very low chance of actually paying you back something later, you are probably a hardcore engineer.

Or maybe you’ve having a conversation with a friend about something you’ve been working on and they ask for the “simple” explanation. And after you give them what is arguably the elementary school (in your head) explanation, they ask you to dumb it down some more. Until you end up saying, “well, pretty much I’m trying to *verb* *noun* much more {efficiently, cheaply, faster, simpler, to use less resources} and only then is when they nod and make that ‘aahhh’ noise that says “I still don’t understand but you’ve probably reached the limit that you mind will allow you to simplify this problem”, you are most likely a hardcore engineer.

Do you have boxes, parts, notebooks, and files on projects that you started in the past, where you were really excited about what you were going to do, but somehow never finished because you started on another project that had similar potential, but you never throw them away because one weekend, after you’ve caught up on the work you’re doing now, you’re going to go back and finish? You are definitely a hardcore engineer.

Did you read this and spend the whole time thinking, wow, this is all so familiar, but in actuality you spend your days teaching kids how to draw, or designing purses to be made out of eco-friendly fibers, or writing copy for a news article? If so, you are likely a hardcore engineer’s girlfriend.

October 24, 2008

The Latest Front

Filed under: drama,grad school,kamakula — kamakula @ 5:46 pm
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The latest front in the presidential race, well, not really latest, this line of attack has been going on since the beginning, but certainly rearing it’s head again on the heels of Colin Powell’s support of Barack Obama – Powell is only voting for him because he’s black. Yes, that’s the conservative pundit’s best attempt to marginalize the implications of Powell’s remarks. As usual, those idiots don’t quite realize that by implication, they are either suggesting that they themselves are voting for McCain because he’s white, or that black people in general are neither smart enough nor caring of their community, their nation, the economy, or any of the other issues to be able to make an informed decision.

It’s funny, the essential charactization of Barack Obama voters are either the actual racists in America (black people) or elitist white guilt assuaging arugula eaters. That’s why the McCain camp would have your believe there are “real” and fake parts of America. For example, nothern VA, fake. The rest of VA, real. Part of the racism issue is that many people, especially those in the majority, believe that racism is defined by intent. That is totally wrong. Unlike murder, there is no self-defense argument for racism.

But enough about that. Last week, I more or less officially chose a thesis advisor. This has been a tough issue for me. From all I’ve read and advice I’ve gotten, choosing an appropriate advisor has far reaching effects on one’s career. Now, I have a pretty solid idea of what I’d be doing in the first few year immediately following graduation, but in case that does not pan out, I want to be on solid footing if I choose a research or academic track instead of going back into industry.

By solid footing, I mean I want to have experience and skills in exactly the area I’d like to work, decision making with mobile intelligent agents. So, the best thing would be for me to work with a professor doing research in that area because a graduate student’s own research tends to be along the same lines. The issue, lack of options in that regard at Pitt. So, either I work on transferring to CMU (or another school), or I find myself doing work that’s tangentially related to what I really want to do. Anyway, whether or not I transfer, I still needed to choose an advisor for the time being. So I went with the guy I’d most likely want to work with, whose research is in a similar area and got the shock of my week:

He’s willing to help me develop my own research topic and essentially guide me along, if that’s what I want to do. It would require more initiative on my part, working on finding avenues for funding, coming up with ideas, etc, but, he’s willing to help as long as I put in the work. So, turns out that I probably made the best choice after all.

But leaving that aside for now, tomorrow will be pretty much an entire month (ok, exactly 4 weeks), since I last spoke with HEC. Interestingly enough, she hasn’t called or texted me in that time either. I was hoping I’d be over her by now, but uh. . .not quite. I guess this is one of those that only goes away when someone else takes her place. . .grr.

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.

September 9, 2008

The Fire Has Been Lit: A Stirring Tale of Ambition, Motivation, and Fraternization

Yesterday I had a meeting with the Graduate Student Advisor. He was very informed about me and what I’ve been up to. Kinda scary actually. The thrust of the meeting is that I’ve been going with the flow here and need to get my butt in gear so I can graduate quickly or I should transfer to another school (he picked up on the big robotics stuff in my application, resume, and that I spent the past summer working at CMU). Not that I necessarily have to obey (well, there is some slight coercion – he’ll guarantee me the TA assignment I want in the spring), but I need to pick a thesis advisor and get started on a planning committee and perhaps negotiate my prelim assignment. . . within the next two weeks.

So, the good news, we reviewed Pitt’s requirements, aside from the actual dissertation, comprehensive exams, and other things, I’ve got 72 credits total to collect before I pass graduate and collect unemployment insurance. The planning committee can transfer up to 30 of those from my Masters work. 16 will be thesis credits, and by the end of this semester, I’d have taken 18 at Pitt. This leaves me with just 8 more credits to take – pretty much three classes (or less, if graduate seminar counts, I could be done with classes).

It’s kinda scary and kinda exciting at the same time. On the one hand, within the course of two semesters, I’m almost halfway done with my PhD program (nevermind that the other half will take 2-3 more years). Still, I’ll be Dr. Kamakula by the time I’m 26 or 27. Awesome. On the other hand, I actually have been thinking about transferring to CMU and would have to go through at least the prelim process again if I do.

Then again, there’s still no guarantee that I’d actually get into CMU and the only professors at Pitt that I’d want to write me recommendation letters are the ones I’d want on my committees here. Well, I’ve learned a few more things:

  1. There are people here who will help me meet my graduation goals even if it means giving me swift kicks in the posterior.
  2. The graduate student secretary apparently tells other people in the department what I’m up to -there was no paper trail (here) on my CMU activities.
  3. I really have been slacking off and losing sight of the goal here: wham, bam, thanks for the PhD ma’am.

In other news, it must be raining cute psych majors. The girl I’ve been chatting with after my 230p class in the CS building (psych), the chick I chatted with on the bus this morning who goes to CMU (psych). The hot graduate student who gave the “Handling Difficult Situations”/sexual harrassment/don’t f*ck your students – talk at the TA orientation this past saturday (psych). [Oh, I forgot also the extremely hot chick sitting in the row in front of me in said session – also a psych major].

I think I’m finally getting over my crush and in doing so, I’m getting to know her better. Besides, I need more female friends. I’m going to see how things go over the next few months.

August 20, 2008

A New Technical Term and Other Business

Filed under: grad school,kamakula — kamakula @ 5:26 pm
Tags: , , , ,

To describe a procedure where we vary the location of an antenna to attempt to either average out the effects of multipath or remove it altogether, we’ve started talking about jiggle. There have been whole conversations whose verb and noun make use of that word. Teleconferences where engineers with 10, 20, 30+ year experiences are throwing that word around. And so, I must concede that jiggle is indeed now a technical term.

In other news, it looks like my energy level is down. Instead of going out Tuesday night, I stayed at home relaxing, reading, and watching anime. I figured that would be a good way to recharge me – WRONG. All day today (keep in mind that I overslept), I’ve been tired, listless. Food has not changed it – so it’s more of mental thing than physical. I want to go home and just sit down and read but I feel obligated to stay here and put in some more hours (it’s pretty much my last week).

It’s funny, I’ve been trying to cure Nate of his feelings of obligation to places that don’t deserve it (or probably even care) and yet I’m here doing the same thing. Classes start next week and I’m a TA this year, so I’m going to need to up the energy level and soon.

I think I really need to define a research path for myself and soon. Writing this post has triggered a chain of thoughts whose conclusion is that I’m starting to lose my motivation again.

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