Tuesday, April 18, 2006

An introspective

I sit outside today enjoying a beer and sunshine (wonder weather!) after school, typing with Dani's labtop outside (I apologize in advance for that one, Dani.) Warning, this post is a bit self-reflective, and as such, automatically boring ;)

/start rant

Ah. It seems many people I know at the moment are at cross-roads in their life, and I feel the same way ;)

For me, most things in my life are going great. My relationship with Dani has never been better, stronger, or more fun. Family and friends are great. Movies, video games,reading, and even starting to work out a bit. Life is great.

School? That's where it takes a bit of a downturn.

My first semester was spent being sick of school, admittedly, which I was expecting. Finished a course, read alot of background on my thesis topic, and did some GA work. Enjoyed the weather while reading literature, but enjoying the "view" (warm weather brings quite a bit of eye candy at the University.)

Now this semester is approaching a close. I finished my Image Processing / C++ course, which, admittely, ate atleast 20 hrs or so a week, on average, of my time at school. I refused to do any of it at home; homework is for undergrad, I told myself. Where did the rest of my time go? Not sure. I have a daily planner, and try to get something accomplished every day, but it hasn't seemed to get any good end result as of yet (oh, read yet another obscure paper... bah).

My supervisor is becoming increasingly frustrated (I don't blame him) of my lack of progress in my thesis work. In parallel, I've did most of the planning for a hardware-in-the-loop (HIL) simulation, as well. It's only been a few pieces I've yet to figure out that's holding me off really starting implementing it. Troublshooting is a pain, because the simulation software (OpalRT and Carsim) are hardly what I would call "robust" programs. Any little thing seems to set them off with errors, licensing issues, etc.

Lately, I've been having difficulty focusing on one topic for an extended period of time (though I had no problem in my coursework, for some reason). I've been having mild anxiety attacks due to the fact I don't feel as if I'm progressing in my work, which in turns makes it more difficult to get work done. I seem to have a lack of confidence in myself, with negative thoughts seemingly overpowering my normal, more positive thoughts. It seems to disturb my sleep, if I wake up, I can't seem to get back to sleep, my mind racing with useless nonsense. Now, mind you, most people have probably experienced, or will experience similar issues at some point or multiple points in their lives; for me, I think, the difficulty comes in that I've never experienced them to any degree near this before. Yep, this anxiety is much worse than even the toughest exam; I seemed to get through those okay by just making sure I understood the most important concepts very well, and not worrying about anything else. I'm getting better though (note: I better be, I don't have the money for a shrink , hah! :) )

Well, this passive attitude isn't getting me very far. Nor should it, and active attitude is neccessary for success in most things in life.

My supervisor, in previous meetings, has questioned my ability as a master's student; he can't seem to understand how someone apparently very intelligent (at least from a school standpoint) would be unable to progress in thesis work, or combine concepts to produce a better result. I didn't have any answer for him, and still don't . A possibility is that this research stuff isn't my cup of tea (which, I admittely, I don't think it is. I've come this far though, no sense giving up, just gotta hack at it some more.) He's basically said "get some results or you are out".

In my meeting with my supervisor yesterday, which I handed in a thesis progress report, he basically glanced through it, didn't comment on any of the ideas I had (hrmm) . I think the fundamental problem here is he is more interested in control theory (well, hey, that's what he does) and of how elegant the solution will be ; whereas I just want to get something that works ;) Control systems are neat, don't get me wrong. It's a very broad, multidisciplinary , interesting subject. I enjoyed the 2 courses were had on it (taught by my supervisor) in undergrad. When it gets any more advanced than that undergrad level though, the crazy math just starts pouring out. That's the thing I sincerely don't seem to enjoy about it.

Anyway, he simplifed my problem for me, and basically said "use paper X idea with paper Y structure to produce result Z." Very specific, super, a great place to start a new, but still lots of work to do. Now all I have to do is learn a bunch of abstract mathematical concepts, of which, learning on my own, I seem to be very, very, very bad at. He says that I don't neccessarily have to complete the HIL platform to get my degree; fine, I told him I'd still like to work on it. He then told me that if I finish the above problem,then I can proceed with the HIL platform. I certainly want to atleast partially complete the HIL platform, perhaps for another student to finish, as a good chunk of my time so far has been spent on that very subject. It's disheartening when your supervisor no longer has very much confidence in you, and seemingly wants you out of there as quick as possible, heh. :)

Of course, I understand that his job is not to be easy on me; that's not how the real world works. He's been very upfront with this as well, so it's no surprise.

It's funny, yet again, I've discovered more about what I don't want to do than what I actually want to do, so far. That's okay, even if the whole researcher thing isn't for me, there's a multitude of other things to do out there ;) And hey, it's a learning experience, and in no way am I limited in future work based on what I did for my master's work. The most important thing is to make sure I'm still learning something.

My hope is by talking things out with Dani (which I already have, and will continue to, as she's very supportive and can see things where I am seemingly blind) and perhaps a bit of personal reflection and planning more often, that things will fall into place.

I end with a few Homer quotes:

"The lesson is kids, never try"
"Go crazy? Don't mind if I DO!"
"Alcohol. The cause of, and solution to , all of life's problems."

/end rant


At 5:02 PM, Blogger Zutroy said...


At 5:02 PM, Blogger Zutroy said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

At 7:09 AM, Blogger Medieval said...

Oh come on now John, you removed a post. What's up? :)

At 1:15 PM, Blogger Medieval said...

You might be on to something there.

Too much of a good thing is bad in almost all cases.

At 4:45 PM, Blogger Zutroy said...

I removed it because it was a double post.


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