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Archive for the ‘edification’ Category

Hibernation

I’ve been laying low for a bit, post-defense (was on Friday, passed, hooray!).  Hopefully my mind will un-smoosh soon, because having jello for brains is pretty worthless.

To bed!

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Turned my dissertation in to my committee a week ago today.  Since then I have:

1.  Hung out with my parents

2. Spent a weekend drinking excessively with frisbee friends in a secluded cabin in North GA

3. Became an Aunt!  Woo baby time.  This involved logging many hours in a hospital, and dealing with some forlorn cats at my bro’s house.  Oh, and nibbling on adorable baby fingers.

4.  Taught my advisor’s classes

So, despite being pretty damn busy…  I’m curious to know why I feel like I’ve totally withdrawn from life for the past week.  Maybe I’ve just been on mental vacation, or maybe it’s because I’ve been so absent from my house (and my roommates).  Certainly it’s because Husband is gone, and that has an odd way of making it seem like it’s been one interminably long day since I dropped him off at the airport.  I think that the next month (or two) will be an interesting mix.  I don’t feel inclined to socialize in my town anymore – most of my network is a minimum of an hour away.  And for some reason, SusieTime (i.e. me, alone in my room, generally watching something stupid on ABC family…) is increasingly important.  Maybe I’m gearing myself up for the fact that, come January, it’s going to be mostly SusieTime for at least a while.  But that seems silly – seems like I ought to be maximizing the fun?

Looking at my little list up there, though, I guess it seems like I am.  I guess I’m just not as mentally present for all that as I could be.  Because mentally, I’m all over the place – Atlanta, Washington, Savannah (hi!)…  I haven’t been fully engaged in most of what I’ve done recently, because I’m always thinking of someone else who is somewhere else.

At any rate, the overarching feeling I’m left with after turning in the dissertation isn’t necessarily relief…  it’s actually loss.  That’s not quite right though.  I guess I just feel kind of unmoored, not sure what to do with myself.

You know, since actually starting to work on my defense presentation hasn’t yet seemed necessary.  Great plan, Susie!  Let’s see what happens.

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Remember when I mentioned that one of my committee members was unavailable for, oh, the whole semester?  Well, I ended up replacing him with Dr. Magoo, a bit of a bumbling professor who is actually familiar with my research.  All was well with the world, and there were rainbows and puppies everywhere.  Except, well, Africa and the Middle East and maybe also Capitol Hill, but I digress.

On a Friday afternoon conference call for a committee I serve on, coincidentally with Dr. Magoo, though it has nothing whatsoever to do with my University, we were all attempting to schedule the next call.  I mentioned that I would prefer late November, as my defense was scheduled for November the 13th.  We all had a good chuckle about my nerve for scheduling it on Friday the 13th, and then went back to scheduling – at which point Dr. Magoo mentions he also would prefer late November, as he will be in Asia until the third week of November.

He will be in ASIA until the THIRD WEEK of November.

You have got to be shitting me.  I email him immediately, while still on the conference call, and as soon as the call ends, I call his office (fully expecting him not to be there, as it is now 5:30 pm on a Friday and he is not known for his diligence).  He answers, and I ask him about the alleged Asia trip – he happily answers, NOT EVEN AWARE that he is ruining my life.  I bring up this point, in a much mature fashion than I am presenting it here, and he is utterly unconcerned.  He says he will get back to me with the specific dates of his trip, but that he will definitely be out of town for the currently scheduled date.

You CANNOT reschedule a defense this late in the semester.  Not for 5 busy scientists, and not around all the other room requests.  Not before Thanksgiving, which is absolutely necessary.  And so, this is how I came to replace the replacement member of my committee a month before my defense.

I emailed the graduate coordinator and asked her to be on my committee; as she is the one who has to sign change of committee forms, she will presumably exercise a bit more foresight about her availability.  She agreed as of this morning (I spent the weekend hyperventilating), but I’m asking again, just to be sure.

In the meantime, I’m trying to get my dissertation formatted as per the graduate school’s instructions…  so far that’s three hours of my life I would have rather spent scratching my ass and staring at a wall. Why is it important for an electronic dissertation to have suppressed page numbers on the first three pages, and the first page of every section?  Why must it have 1.75″ margins on the first pages as well as the first page of every section, and 1″ margins elsewhere?  Why can’t they provide templates for this shit if they are going to be so bizarrely nit picky?  And why do the instructions contain jerry rigged approaches for this formatting?  And the sample pages contain dummy text about how infuriating formatting is.  I will cut you, grad school.  You better run.

Sigh.  Husband got his official start date, and it’s in 3 weeks, so he’ll be moving a good bit in advance of me.  I think it’ll be fine, since I have so much work to do anyways, but I will miss the support.  It’s sort of a weird dissonance – preemptively missing my husband and wanting to join him as soon as possible, and feeling totally unprepared for moving away from my friends and family.  I think the ambivalence will morph me into a crazy jerk for a bit (obviously I am totally blameless in this shift in my disposition), and thus, I am sending myself to bed.

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I.  Friday

My advisor is editing the second third of my dissertation.  He sends a series of emails, over the course of 15 minutes.  First, Your writing style is good. Then, This figure detracts from the validity of your model. Then, I do not think you are done with your research.  That last one, it made my stomach drop, like a particularly rickety old wooden roller coaster.  See, back in July, we (he) decided my model was Good Enough – that adding more complexity to my mathematical model would be purely theoretical, that it wouldn’t be anchored to the experiments I performed.  And now, in September, I must do just that – add more complex code, and write more complex paragraphs explaining it.

At least we kicked that unschedulable dbag off my committee.  At least we bought me another three weeks to work on this.  At least advisor is being reasonably helpful, and wants me to succeed.  But I’d just like to be done with this.

II. Sunday

My third to last frisbee tournament of the foreseeable future was last weekend.  We headed up to Chattanooga to play in the annual spirit of the game tourney.  Our biggest competition showed up late both days.  The first day, it caused them to lose a game, which resulted in us playing them in the quarters instead of the semis (I’m sure that is confusing, I don’t speak bracket very well).  Sunday, they showed up an hour late for the quarters game “because it was raining” (though every other team had managed to be there for two hours already), but because it was a spirit tournament, we weren’t allowed to assess points.  We were all livid, that this team, who never respects their opponents enough to show up on time, should not be penalized for more of the same.  It’s as if their M.O. is to get their opponents angry and riled up, and then – keep pressing buttons during the game.  We lost, fairly narrowly, and I maintain it would have been a different game if we hadn’t been so pissed.

Later, when we tried to head home, my car key snapped in two.  IN TWO.  It was the cherry on top of a fantastic morning.  Though, if I’m being honest, it could have been worse…  it could still have been raining, and the tournament could have ended and we could have been alone.  Instead, we got to sit around with our friends and watch the finals game while some gentle giant cut me a new key from the pieces in the back of his mobile locksmithery.

III. Tuesday

I obtained some pharmaceutical motivation, and had the most productive day in my memory.   I got all of my model code working, surprising my advisor and myself.  I edited the worst paper ever written by a native english speaker (not me!), and went to frisbee.  I worked for 12 hours, and went to frisbee for 3.  It was glorious.  I was super happy all day too.  I’m filing this experience under “when psychiatrists screw you by giving you an intelligence test instead of the ADD battery and then say you are too smart to have an attention disorder, and then you go around the system and it totally works,” or perhaps “self-fulfilling prophecies/the placebo effect.”  Definitely one of those.

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Freak out!*

I was talking to my advisor yesterday, trying to get my defense scheduled for the beginning of November, where it belongs.  You see, you can’t wait until the end of November, because that’s basically Thanksgiving, and then after that the semester is pretty much over and there isn’t any wiggle room for screw ups or dbag committee members bitching about commas.  Right, so, first half of November is defense season, at least at this grad school.  We email out to all my committee members, thinking this should be easy, as only two of them are professors with pesky teaching schedules – the other three work at federal agencies, and oh let me tell you, their days consist of staring at their computer screens (most likely Stumbling Upon things) and pushing paper.

Well, Dr. Moldy gets back and says he can do it either October 19th, or if we must, November 2nd – he will be out of town for the rest of the god damn semester.  I immediately start hyperventilating, because none of my other committee members are available on Nov.2, because because, oh yeah!  Dr. Moldy ass face is only available for three hours each of those TWO days he deigns to be available for the entire freakin semester.

What about Oct.19, Susie?  It’s ok, everyone can do it that day!

….. but jesus, I don’t know if I can!  That means, I have to turn my full dissertation into my adviser in three weeks.  Because he has to edit it, I have to fix it, then I have to get it to my committee members by Oct.2, so they have two weeks to read it, make edits and meet with me about them, and then I have to fix the edits, and oh yeah make a presentation, and find some freakin xanax because oh my holy hell I am going to spend the next two months losing my damn mind.

Because because because – I also have to, oh, I don’t know – get married?  In three weeks?  Like, my rehearsal dinner is a couple hours after my dissertation has to be turned into my adviser.  Because back in March when we were planning it, we (all of us, not just this idiot, because I took a damn poll of family, friends, and academic advisers) thought that the end of September would keep it from interfering too badly with my defense.  Hah.  HAha haha.

What a day to be out of gin.

*I’m going to have to get a new theme for my post titles.  I guess I’ll worry about that in November.

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I realized today why teachers so often schedule tests on Fridays.  It allows them to day dream, such an easy Friday – just mentally gear up for the weekend.

Alas, I’m not a teacher – I have to turn in a draft of my dissertation today.  Just the methods, results, and figures for the computational part (though right now that constitutes 17 single spaced pages!) …  I detest writing this stuff, it shouldn’t take nearly as long as it does.  I spend half as much time dragging my feet about it as I do actually writing.  It’s just that I have so many other things to occupy my mind – wedding in 29 days (oh dear, not at all done with that to do list), frisbee every weekend, except for that one with my bachelorette party, all the things I want to do before we move…

***

We went to Tybee last weekend (through Tuesday actually).  It was beautiful.  It is probably the last trip we will take while the ocean is swimmable.  I will miss the ocean, floating in the waves so long that when I finally get out my equilibrium is messed up, and I feel like I’m still going up an down for hours.  Boat rides, Fiance’s lovely parents, the way the marsh goes on forever in their back yard.  I hope we end up there when we are old, in that house his father built.

sunset in the backyard

***

We went and got our marriage license and our wedding rings during our lunch break on Wednesday.  It was so easy.  All that stands between us and legal betrothal is the signature of a friend and a postage stamp.  It seems like the act of marriage should be more difficult, should require us to jump through more hoops.  But I guess the hard parts come after, continue to come forever and ever till death do us part.  I’m excited.

chasin some birdies

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One of my twittery friends turned me onto Track Your Happiness, a research project that aims to gather data on what, exactly, governs happiness.  After signing up, the website emails or text messages you a link to a survey three times a day.  The survey wants to know how you feel Right Then!  What are you doing?  Have you eaten/exercised/slept?  And etc.

I have some criticisms of the project – it targets iPhone users, as we happen to be attached to our devices and able to answer the surveys right away, yielding more applicable results.  This also means that the population they are gathering data about is not a representative sample – we are generally affluent, for instance.  Thus, the conclusions drawn from the data really only apply to um… iPhone users.  I’ll stop before my scientist brain gets too into this, but you get the idea.

Despite my criticisms, I have found the project to be very useful for me personally.  In answering the surveys and looking at the little bits of results they give me about my individual habits and happiness, I have realized some things:

1.  I am, by far, consistently happiest when I am busy and working towards a goal.  The only thing that so far compares to that level of joy is seeing an old, dear friend.

2. I am much less happy on the days when I procrastinate.

3.  Watching TV does nothing for me. Possibly because it makes me feel neither busy nor goal-oriented.

4.  I often sleep too much (9+ hours a night).  I know, that’s sort of criminal.

Some of those things sound obvious, but it’s cool to see them on a graph with semi-quantitative data about me.  Since I have started participating in this, I have been more goal-oriented about my work, and also about working out.  I have also been making an effort to consistently get 8 hours of good sleep, no more and no less.  And to not watch TV unless it’s a program I really enjoy (like the Daily Show, but not the Colbert Report) or something that I do while interacting with other people (like making fun of legitimately enjoying ABC Family shows with Fiance).

I still haven’t learned how to stop procrastinating, but I guess being aware of the consequences on my psyche is a good first step…

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