Archive for the ‘williams’ Category
As the title of this post says, I am starting The Big Push, the Last Hurrah of my undergraduate career. Right now it is April 10th. On May 19th, I defend my thesis, and on June 7th I graduate from Williams. Hopefully. That leaves just a little more than a month for dicking around and actively avoiding my work (presuming, likely fallaciously, that this will not figure prominently in my later life), and lord knows I have a lot of that left to do.
I think, at this point, my friends can’t figure out why I can’t just get my act together and finish things a little early like normal people do. Sure, there are perfectly good reasons that make for tempting rationalizations—I conduct an a cappella group! I write a blog! I have a hobby—but the truth is, I get some kind of sick thrill out of pounding papers out at absolutely the last minute. As miserable as it is from a material/physiological point of view, there is something undeniably awesome about getting jazzed enough to pull off really good procrastination. Sure, I felt accomplished when I finished my last tutorial paper almost a day early, but I was also disappointed about how it came out and in that situation my usual excuse—that I did the best job I could given the time I had to write it in—didn’t apply.
Don’t get me wrong: I am under no illusion that my procrastination is rational or calculated. At the root of it is the disappointment I alluded to. At some deep, reptilian level, I hate the idea that my work will never be perfect or even as good as I think it could or should be, and a lot of my resistance to doing work comes from a desire to avoid that disappointment. Once I get over the initial hurdle of “oh my god this sucks,” actually doing the work is pretty fun, even though the active search for distractions persists in many cases.
That’s the point where I am now with my thesis: getting over that first hump. And I think I’m just about at the top of it. It’s strange to think that, at least in my case, the biggest challenge of writing a thesis isn’t intellectual or academic (although those certainly aren’t trivial) but rather psychological, but there you have it. I suspect that everyone wrestles with these sorts of issues as part of any really big project, and that may be the real value of these things: they force us to confront our inadequacies and personal demons.
Every semester it seems I have the same realization, sometime during the first week or two, that producing any sort of work to turn in is a long and involved process. This process includes such stages as “the vague feeling of dread when you remember that paper you have to write next week”, and “actively seeking frivolous distractions online so you don’t have to think about that paper that’s due in a couple of days”. And let’s not forgot “not going to bed because you have to stress out about how you are not writing that paper that is due tomorrow”. Still, though, in the end the need to actually do the work becomes stronger than the desire to procrastinate, and a marvelous thing happens: the work is actually fun! Yes, there is a good reason why I go to school where I do, and why I plan on staying in school as long as possible
So, the moral of the story is,for me at least, starting is hard, working is fun. Getting the starting out of the way early is the key for enjoying the work. The funny thing is that I have this same realization every single semester, and yet I still have not learned yet. Maybe it has to do with the subtle changes in the kinds of work I have to do each semester, or maybe it just takes me a long time to “get off the flat part of the learning curve” as my AP Physics teacher remarked about me once.
Yeah, I know it’s been a while, but I’m back. I think I’ve finally emerged from the existential black hole of the last couple of months (knock on wood), and despite a couple of start-of-the-semester road bumps in the last week, I’m feeling pretty good about my prospects for my last semester of college.
So I thought I’d kick off another period of productive blogging by saying that I had a pretty good day today, all told. This has been something of a rarity of late, since the specter of the most momentous transition of my young life has been looming quite large over just about everything I’ve done since coming back from India.
I think one of the only exceptions has been my newest hobby of bicycles. Notice that I do not say “my newest hobby of riding bicycles”, since I am not, in fact, riding bicycles very much, but instead running up large credit card balances ordering parts from my LBS (that stands for Local Bike Shop, which, I’m told, is a good thing that I should support) that have not arrived after a full month of waiting, and pouring over my copy of The Bicycle Wheel, by mechanical engineer Jobst Brandt. Yes it is as awesome as you think. As soon as I possibly can I will kick off my grand fixie project by actually lacing up the electric red Deep-Vs (which I received as a christmas gift) to a set of black Formula track hubs (which are somewhere between a warehouse in Florida and my anxious hands), which I will lovingly fasten onto my (apparently rather rare?) vintage French road frame, rebuild the bottom bracket and possibly the headset, slap on a no-name stem and some flopped-and-chopped bullhorns (or maybe some track drops mmmm) and probably fall a lot as I try to learn how to ride with one gear, no coasting, and no brakes.
But I digress.
I also lie. I did not have a pretty good day. Now that I think about it, I had a great day, an awesome day. I went to my field botany lecture, had the first meeting for my Great Debates in Cognition tutorial, and spent nearly five hours geeking out hardcore and setting up a subversion server on one of the lab machines to finally put an end to the infuriating drudgery of having to manually sync experiment code between five computers and collect data files from the same computers. Thanks to the miracle of SVNServe and TortoiseSVN all that (and more!) can be accomplished by a click of the mouse. Then, to the coffee shop to drink pretentious coffee, have pretentious conversations with my senior friends about our theses (rhymes with feces), enthusiastically solve math problems and talk about nigh-incomprehensibly pretentious things with my Math-Philosophy double major former tutorial partner.
Bottom line is, while I’ve still got a lot to do before I graduate, it no longer feels overwhelming. I’m pretty sure I’m on top of all the really important stuff, and it feels like things are moving along. Most notably I am no longer bitter about getting dropped from beer brewing and drawing II. No, really, I swear! I think in the near future I will have a real life update, complete with tentative plans to make plans for next year.
And the weather today was so bone-chillingly nice! Life update: it’s finals, and I have two papers due tomorrow night (tonight?) at midnight, and two exams left after that. BUT the GQ concert went off pretty well, I did tolerably well on my computer science project I turned in last friday night (things come back quick when your grade is calculated!), and we collected, analyzed, and presented our psych data. Considering that I’ve practically written half my psych paper already, that means I’m more than half way there! Woohoo!
Something substantial soon, I promise.
I gave my math colloquium today (on p-adic dynamical systems, boy-o!), which went quite well (despite a solid 48 hours of panic after a disastrous practice talk), and marks, as far as I can tell, one of the real milestones of my senior year. Things are going well in general, despite still not really knowing about next year and all that. I have certainly settled in here at Williams, which I think is in and of itself a major accomplishment. I have a great class schedule picked out for next semester (god willing), which includes a psych tutorial and Drawing II.
Oh! I’m building a fixie, when I can find the time/money, that is.
Yesterday was Mountain Day, and with the rest of the Williams campus I hiked up a mountain to feast on cider and doughnuts, listen to a cappella and sing The Mountains at the top of my lungs. The weather was perfect, the company was good, and to put the finishing touch on the perfect day I had Indian food for dinner with Poker F and watched the Red Sox beat Tampa Bay.
Today, inspired by the nice weather and a chat on the bus yesterday I took a bike ride out Route 7, stopping with all the tourists to take some pictures of the foliage on Mt. Greylock (see above). There are, of course, lots more photos on my flickr, both of my bike adventures today (including a closed bridge!) and Mountain Day fun yesterday.
(Link to photo)
Just kidding! But it has been a long time since I’ve been around here, so I would understand if you thought I was never coming back. Truth is, I’ve had quite a rough time getting back into the swing of things here at Williams, but I think I’m just about there. I at least can get through the week now without being constantly stressed out, and while I’m still not sure how I’ll fit in a thesis and some paid research, the day to day grind is starting to look manageable.
So, in the spirit of feeling more-or-less myself now, here’s a little life update. Being home for a few weeks was wonderful, and packing my stuff into a tiny car and driving back to Williamstown was infinitely more easy than I had feared. Classes are going well, despite worries that I wasn’t going to like sitting around and dissecting psychology and cognitive science papers all the time. It is very, very strange to be a senior, both in the about-to-graduate sense and in the don’t-really-know-three-quarters-of-the-campus sense. GQ has four new frosh that I positively adore, and Maddie and I are starting ye olde radio show back up; the new time is 8:00-9:00 pm Tuesday night. You should be able to listen here.