Goings On

I haven’t posted in ages, sorry about that. I have a lot of hobbies and things and generally I am doing those things, or in too much pain to do anything.

Which is actually kind of neat, to be honest. Except for the pain bit, which I keep meaning to sort of expand on in a post because sometimes I feel like there are THINGS to be SAID about it, but frankly I can’t figure out what those are other than “dude this sucks sometimes”. Anyway, this post is essentially “whats up with me right now”.

I’ve got an amazingly supportive boyfriend. Its really impressive. I hope he knows how much I appreciate him. I mean, I tell him a lot, and in those words, so I think he does. Again, I’ve entertained the idea of writing a post to say THINGS about this, but all I got is “this is pretty awesome”.

My new apartment came with a piano. Said piano is also in tune (!!). I think I’ve practiced piano more in the last month than in the entire time I was taking lessons. Further evidence that for me, I learn better when I lead it. I’m trying to keep up to at least doing Hanon exercise 1 in both C and G a few times, maybe #2 in C, and one of the pieces in an old book I’ve got. I’ve surprised myself that really, I’m not much worse than I was the last time I tried to play piano, so that’s interesting.

I’ve been working through some online classes via MIT OpenCourseware and Coursera. These serve not just to teach me stuff, but are helping bolster my confidence in my ability to first want to do something and then follow through and do the thing, even over a period of weeks with little external support or motivation. Also my confidence in being able to do things in general. Right now its just linear algebra (which I took, but with a professor who made no sense), and R programming. Neither of these are actually particularly new to me or are all that challenging, but are things I want a better grounding in. I’ve not had the opportunity to really do much with R, since my college classes used MATLAB or MAPLE for math scripting, and SPSS for stats analysis. I like R better than these, though that might be because its free. Linear algebra just sucked the first time around, and I’m honestly going to blame that one on having a terrible professor for it. I’ve recently talked to the guy who was my TA for Calc III at Pitt and he corroborated my impression that the guy was a genius, but he makes no sense in lecture and his tests were frequently off topic both from what actually was in his lectures and what was supposed to be taught. Of course, I was also a hormonal undergrad in a class with my then-new-boyfriend and all our friends, so that probably didn’t help. The MIT course has been blowing my mind with how much sense it makes.

I’ve also got a number of projects that are going to pull on this stuff that I’ve been brushing up on. One of them is, as simply as I can put it because it barely exists outside of some notes and drawings I’ve got in a notebook, a tool for playing with network models and simulating them in various ways. Actually there’s a couple simulation things I’ve been wanting to make.

Another project is playing with a dataset that the CDC put out that has arthritis prevalence data. Their report didn’t really answer some of the questions I wanted to ask, but they handily put out a good chunk of the data for the report. I may not be able to get exactly what I want from it, but from what I’ve seen of the data set, there are a few things that I could do with it that get closer to what I want. Its a pretty big dataset, and its got some problems- for one its survey data and I think that the survey was lacking, but like I said, I might be able to do something with it.

I’ve also been thinking about doing is putting together a website where I can put up some of these projects. I’m going to be applying to grad school soon here and I think I would benefit from a site and a github account to point to. Also one of the simulation projects I want to do is based off of an extra credit project I did in one of my first computer science classes, and since that professor is one of the only ones that might remember me from grad school,  and I remember him thinking that extra credit project of mine was pretty interesting. We also had a long chat about how one might make a knit computing algorithm on one occasion. Anyway, I think I’m going to ask him for a letter of recommendation and when I do that, I’d like to be able to point to at least that one project to jog his memory. And while the project I did for his class was interesting, there was a flaw in it that’s been bugging me ever since I noticed it (well less of a flaw as something misleading about it, making it seem more interesting than it was), which was about five minutes after leaving his office when I turned it in- so I want to go into that in more detail.

Speaking of grad school, there’s a good number of people that are trying to dissuade me of the idea, saying that its not really worth it these days, what with the current climate of academia, the stress of it all, etc. And I get where that’s coming from. But I want to do research. And last time I checked, you needed a PhD for that. And I want to deal in things with a level of complexity above what I’ve encountered so far. I want to learn, and I want it to be hard and challenging and all that. I know there’s an inordinate amount of grant writing and dealing with what your advisor wants and being broke and excruciating criticism and not having funding when you need it and not actually landing jobs that let you do what you want. I don’t care. I don’t. This is what I want to do and I think I can, damnit. I think I’ve got ideas worth testing, I’ve got the ability to do them and I would really regret not putting myself out there and letting myself try in the name of taking the safe route. I’ve taken the safe and sensible route most of my life. Its boring, it sucks, you can do everything right and still end up with a shitty disease, so fuck me, I’ve finally figured out what I want to do outside of that narrow script and basically what I hear from people is “it’s probably not worth it.”

Whatever.

I’ve also been biking to work, that’s cool and fun and now I want a better bike. The city bikes I use weigh so much I get passed by people on mountain bikes hauling a kid trailer with two kids in them.

The boyfriend, one of our friends and I took a spur of the moment trip to somewhere in northern Minnesota to try to see the Northern Lights after the recent solar flare. We didn’t get far enough north by 3 AM, so we ended up just tromping around in a rather foggy and gorgeous state park with some waterfalls and then heading back to the boyfriend’s dad’s place. The next day we did a bit of hiking with his dad, and I ended up needing to borrow a pair of shoes. It turns out I’m the same size as his mom was. If you didn’t know, his mom died about a year before I met him. I never met her, and the BF doesn’t bring her up often, but I now know she was overpronator. Its an odd thing to know.

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