Reflections on the Past Week: 1/15/2017

So remember how I said last week how I hated not getting anything done?

I didn’t get much done this week.

And yet…I don’t feel like shit?

It’s strange. Usually I feel terrible for not doing anything. I almost always have a fear that I’m perpetually falling behind everyone, in every aspect. Whenever I don’t accomplish my goals, I get down and not in the dancing/party/hip-hop sense. But this week, I just…meh. I don’t know if much has changed in my psyche. Maybe I’m exhausted after working so hard the past couple of months. Maybe I’m used to it. Or maybe I’m like Arsenal. They got it done this week. They left it to really, REALLY late this week. Nearly didn’t come up with the vital 3 points. But they won. It’ll likely change nothing. Chelsea will steam ahead towards the Premier League title, leaving Arsenal in its dust. But Arsenal and we, the supporters, can always still hope. Arsenal is known for being perpetually optimistic. We play Chelsea in two weeks, right? If we win the next game and that game, we can get close right? At least 5 points right? Am I a perpetual optimist when it comes to my graduate career? Or have I just decided that being top four is good enough? It gets Arsenal into the Champions League year-on-year. Why be best and miserable when you’re good and happy? When you have that inner contentment? I don’t know what happened this week. I’m disappointed but not miserable. Maybe that’s what matters.

 

I actually know why I’m not miserable. Arsenal won today so I feel good. Had they drawn or lost, I would have felt like shit and would have been talking about how like them, I dilly-dallied etc., blah, blah, blah. But I guess that goes back to the point. Arsenal won, weekends mornings are good, why bother to worry about not ‘accomplishing’, whatever the hell that means.

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Reflections on the Past Week: 10/30/16

Generally, the same as last week. I’m sort of in a peat bog.

Time for sports metaphors!

No, I won’t be talking about the Cubs. Mostly cause every time I watched the game, they did poorly so I refused to watch history being made. Instead…

Obligatory Arsenal comparison!

So Arsenal tied this week against Sp*rs. I didn’t see the first half when they went up a goal, but I was there for the second half when they conceded a goal (At this point, I feel like I should just stop watching sports aside from Ohio State with my dad). It’s now November for the Gunners which is a particularly tricky time for them. They are known to get stuck and come undone in the title race during this period, from now to February. And they are showing signs already. This is their second draw in 3 weeks. Had they won today, they would have been at least second, possibly first. Now they are likely to be 4th. I sort of feel like this is what is happening to me. Started off well early, was working really hard, progressing well in my studies. Now I’m becoming a bit undone. Mathematics is tricky, computation is hard, and I’m trying to edit a paper I’m not too convinced about (or at the very least, will take massive edits to make publishable).

I don’t want to become undone. I want to be able to continue on the good run of form I’ve been on recently (see what I did there!). I’ll try to push harder. Let’s see if it works out.

Reflections on the Past Week: 10/16/16

Expect the unexpected as Plucky Duck would say. That’s the lesson of the week.

In keeping with sports metaphors leading to life lessons, Arsenal tied with Middlesbrough and Ohio State lost to Penn State. With regards to Arsenal, they had been really advancing, winning 7 games straight and having gone unbeaten since the Liverpool opener. They usually win against recently promoted teams, which Middlesbrough is, so this should have been 3 easy points. With three points, they would have been 3 points clear of Tottenham, their local rivals. They also would have been top of the league right now as ManCity, the only team ahead of them, just got a draw today. It was certainly a missed opportunity.

As for Ohio State, they were doing well, generally winning. They had a tough time last week against Wisconsin but found a way to win. The Penn State game was supposed to be like Wisconsin (both away games in a hostile environment) except with a weaker team. Penn State was unranked. They were in control in the third quarter, looking to seal a victory. Instead, they lost.

I’m pretty sure Arsenal and Ohio State prepared. I’m sure they prepared well. They probably expected to win. But things happen.

This week, I was trying to do some grid searches on my computer. It involves non-linear equation solving which can be very tricky. Previous use for problems went well so I had assumed future use would work as well. And since the grid searches were tough and took a long time, I tried to automate it, expecting all would go well. It didn’t. The equations were too complex for the solver to get a good solution (even a crappy one sometimes). A hurdle appeared.

Things happen all the time. If you expect an ideal, you’ll likely get burned. Now I have to find a portal to bounce through.

On the flip side, sometimes the unexpected yields rewards.

Lessons Learned

Weekends, I imagine, are quite enjoyable for most people. It’s a designated time of rest after spending five days working hard. For me though, weekends are sacred. Especially the weekend morning. Coming from a household of five (including me), it was one of the few times I ever really had space and I used that space to make it my own. Some of my deepest treasures came from weekend mornings. I remember watching Ebert & Roeper Sunday mornings when I missed it the previous night; it’s where I got my appreciation for film. Discovery Channel used to have three hour blocks of nature documentaries the same Sunday mornings which I got up at 7am to watch — pretty much unthinkable for a teenager; watching those documentaries deepened my appreciation for nature. Sunday’s as well, two hours or three episodes of Monty Python would come on BBC America; that’s what started my enjoyment of absurdist and/or British comedy. I would read books about evolution and natural historians weekend mornings, and then during those times I realized I wanted to do a PhD in ecology and evolution. Weekend mornings are my space, the time where I shaped my identity.

Weekend mornings are now filled with a different love. Though first and foremost a Buckeye nut, my favorite sport is soccer. I love the fluidity, the flowing motions of the ball and the footballers as they run around the pitch. I love the drama and emotions, how one goal can change your mood from despair and anguish to elation and relief . I love the sense of community that comes with it, whether it comes from the common love that adheres citizens of a nation or the 100 year histories present in the world’s oldest clubs. I love almost everything soccer has to offer, and I especially love watching it weekends mornings. Unfortunately, like all sports, soccer dishes out the highs as well as the lows. And this Sunday, Arsenal, my team, lost to Liverpool in the Premier League. 3-4. It’s not at all a striking scenario. I thought it was quite likely. But the way it happened left me more than frustrated. Arsenal went up quite early, only to concede four goals before trying to get back in the game. It wasn’t the result; it was the lack of trying except at the last minute. The players only really cared when all was lost, even then left scraping for a draw.

But this is essentially Arsenal top to bottom. They seemingly lack the will to make signings and seem to fret more than take big action. Early on, they looked to make strong moves, taking in Granit Xhaka and going for Vardy, but have tapered off towards the end. Despite injuries to their defense, they failed to make any defensive signings recently which is why they lost to Liverpool the way they did. Better defense and they would have surely won the game, at least a chance. But being too wary, too lackadaisical (both players and management) meant an avoidable situation happened. Had the club been more forceful, more daring Liverpool wouldn’t have gotten the better of us.

There’s a lot of fear when doing a PhD. Discovering new knowledge is an inherently risky proposition. Many times your ideas prove to be unfruitful and wrong; what you want to be true and what is true rarely match up. It’s even worse in this climate when funding is being cut forcing hyper competition among researchers. It’s a bit like the Premier League really. All that matters is cash and results, grants and publications. As a person who likes to enjoy life, this system filled me with fear and trepidation. I was very hesitant to do anything because I was unsure over what may happen. Having failed and have bad things happen to me, I was too cautious in my dealings with academia.

As Arsenal were playing, I was also working on a paper of mine. It had already been rejected twice and in a most resounding fashion and I was doing edits for another hopeful submission. The research analysis itself wasn’t the strongest, but it did lead to some very intriguing hypotheses and was the best we could do with the data we had. Looking through the manuscript again, I realized that perhaps I was too cautious. I had overemphasized the flaws and undercounted the positives. Oddly enough, being too cautious may have lead to the rejection. And if not, the outcome would have been the same regardless. Damned if I did, damned if I didn’t. So why not do?

I write this because the same hesitation that made me write that manuscript also prevented me from writing in this blog. I was often too cautious, too fearful, worried about saying the wrong thing or “writing improperly”. I hope to (once again) restart this blog. I hope that I can write a lot more. Whether it may be good, who knows. But I’ve learned a lot with my time within academia. I hope to learn some more with this blog.

Weekend mornings…