I have been meaning to write about what I am upto, in general, for quite some time now. I remember that the reason I started blogging was to keep in touch with friends, and keep track of my Ph.D. I started maintaining a livejournal account about 2 years ago, a couple of weeks before I was to come to the United States for my Ph.D. It was supposed to be a means for me to keep in touch with friends, and myself. So let me try to describe the state I am in.
I had read and heard about how the second year can get to be a low point, with regards to motivation, and productivity, in a Ph.D. program, but I really wasn’t expecting it to happen to me. A much delayed response from NASA regarding a proposal we submitted got me down. Even before that, a neat idea we were working on, and put a lot of hours into fell flat on it’s face, leaving me with a feeling of mild despair. Now, we still haven’t heard from NASA, but I am hopeful, in a way. I have had to be a teaching assistant for these two years, and haven’t yet become a research assitant. The thing with being a teaching assistant is that you have to put in work on that front, as well as into research, whereas if you are an R.A. you only have to do the research, and you get paid for that, so that seems like a lot less work. I was fortunate enough to be able to teach a Senior-level course, and that was fun. I made a few friends, and was satisfied with the whole deal. The last semester was a waste of time, in a way. I was trying to change a program to do something I wanted, with no result. After that frustration, I had to deal with a program of my own. Thanks to the Gnu Scientific Library, which I discovered one night, when I was really down in the dumps, I am seeing some light. For the first time in my life, a program I wrote compiled and executed the first time I tried after writing it in it’s entirety! The result was amazing too, far better than I had expected. When I was coding that, I did not sleep all night, I was afraid that if I stopped, then the next day, things wouldn’t continue to work my way. When a programmer gets superstitious and starts beleiving in luck, you know his confidence is shaken! The problem I had with my code was that I was not sure if the mathematical function I was coding was random enough and dependable. How was I to test it? Thank God for the Gnu Scientific Library and the plethora of tried and tested functions in it. So, now I have something to build upon. By August 1st, I have to prepare a paper, and that’s what I will be doing for the most of next week.
I got my Master’s last semester, but in summer, I was taken ill twice, the second time was a bit more serious than the first. It was a sinus infection of some sort, and it took the better part of two weeks for me to get back to normal, and that disrupted a course I am taking this semester. I have a take-home final with me right now, and a final on Wednesday. I hope I’ll do well, but I have a lot to learn, and study. I am done with most of my coursework, but will take the occasional interesting course. My adviser has advised me to take my candidacy exam in Fall, so in three month, there is a bunch of things that need to get done. I hope I can find motivation, and interesting ideas when I need to. What do you do when your mind is a blank, and refuses to think? you mope around, drink lots of coffee, browse aimlessly, kick yourself, stare at the monitor and get back to moping around.
I had the oppurtunity to work in a software development firm part-time, but the international students’ office, and the co-op education office together managed to mess things up enough to confuse me so I had my hopes high to begin with, and finally, just before I got the last letter authorizing me to work off-campus, I came to know that I will not be able to work off-campus, come Fall. I did the only graceful thing to do, which was to inform my (prospective) employer that I would have to stop working in three weeks, and that it might not therefore be in their best interest to hire me, though I could work for three weeks. They were surprised, and the lady even said, “But why didn’t you just work till August 22nd and then tell us you are leaving?” or something to that effect. I beleive in karma, so I did not feel upto the task of misleading them.
My name’s up on the wordpress about page and that is gratifying. There is a truck load of things I want to do, related to WordPress, and I will get to it, when the current list of academic todos grows shorter. There is the break between semesters. I can’t wait for it, though it is not like it’s a complete break from school. What bothers me is some small projects that have some loose ends that need tying up. I can’t wait to complete them, when I have the time.
I don’t have an appetite anymore. Hunger doesn’t seem to bother me. I eat because there is a rule that says that living beings must eat. I do not want to look into the future and see when certain things will happen, like getting a life, a house, getting married, settling down, supporting my father and earning an income. My finances are not too robust, thanks to the pay cut I took in the Summer semester. I want to visit India this winter, and have to book the tickets soon, but can’t seem to find the money. I am sure I can find a way out. My life has a pattern, but it lacks discipline, and it bothers me no end. When I talk to some folks who are also doing their Ph.D.s, I feel reassured. My adviser talked to me about what’s happening to me, and he seemed to see right through me. I cannot express how kind and understanding he is, and how sometimes I feel I should work harder, if only to repay him. He is one thing I love about my Ph.D. program. I have a hoard of books to read, and I haven’t played the violin in ages. At times I wonder if it’s a depression, but since we’ll never know, and since I believe that the best medicine for that is to get involved in something useful, I usually don’t give it much thought.
Two years later, I sometimes think of what might have been if I had been working at Oracle, or Wipro, in India. I guess I would have been feeling the same, albeit about different things. I hope all this leads to a life-well-lived.
I have a lot of catching up to do, with a lot of things, and I intend to start with sleep It’s late in the night, and the bed looks inviting.