Punishment

Over the last few years, I’ve come to accept that I am a masochist in my academic pursuits.

Computer Science is a very jealous mistress, clingy and insatiably needy.  Combine that with the rigorous academic environment of a top tier engineering school like Georgia Tech, and you’re in for one wild ride over the next four years (or, more likely, five…or six…I’ve even met an 8th-year undergraduate).  Long hours were spent not only programming, but also designing, testing, arguing over the methodologies used in the designing and testing, ordering pizzas, and bashing our skulls over the incandescent monitors when the inevitable and infuriatingly unpredictable server crashes and network downtimes reared their despicable faces.

To say nothing of actually trying to have a quasi-normal life.  You know: sleep, socializing, sleep, friendships, sleep, dating, sleep.  And especially sleep.

So, fast forward an undergraduate career, a bachelor’s degree, and a move up to Pittsburgh.  I felt like I was a seasoned and battle-hardened veteran, capable of withstanding the worst academia could throw at me.  My mind was a veritable sieve through which knowledge and learning inextricably flowed and axon connections established at dizzying rates.  Do your worst, Carnegie Mellon.

Man, did I get my ass kicked.

People have been telling me “it’s your first semester,” “you’re in an entirely different field,” “you moved to pittsburgh,” and so on, but if I’m honest with myself, I can admit the truth of the matter.  I had to relearn how to learn and completely restructure the way I study in order to perform up to expectations, CMU’s and mine.

The second half of the semester was phenomenal.  As much as I ranted and raved about the difficulty of my Statistics course, I know without a doubt that I absorbed quite a bit from it (check out this small test of the Random Walk problem I performed; I plan on expanding upon its implications, even though the preliminary data is fascinating).  Furthermore, my grades in Biology, Chemistry, and Biochemistry skyrocketed.  The problem was that the hole from the first half of the semester was so deep that, right now, it looks like my GPA is going to even out just shy of a 3.0.

Disappointing in a lot of respects.  But with it is the satisfaction of knowing I kicked some serious ass from mid-October onward.  So much of the chemical processes we take for granted in our daily lives are playing themselves out before my senses, and I actually understand the workings behind them now.  In fact, just yesterday I purchased a book by one Dr Phil Plait who keeps a blog called Bad Astronomy.  The book, aptly titled Death From the Skies!, takes a very scientific approach in exploring the ways in which the Earth and all its substituents can meet an untimely demise at the hands of the cosmos at large.  A ton of the science revolves around atomic interactions as well as the formation and sustenance of life.

In short, I could follow along precisely with the author (though it does help that I’ve wanted to get involved in space research since I was a tot).  It was rather exhilarating.

(there was, however, one glaring omission in Dr Plait’s armageddon list: I’ve posted a picture of it at the end of the entry)

So here I am: physically, mentally, and emotionally drained, but ultimately no worse for wear.  I know now (or, at least, have a much better idea of) what I must do in order to perform well in my new habitat.  I never make the same mistake twice.

In the meantime, I plan on taking the next few weeks of vacation as an opportunity to make some headway on my dormant personal projects, the most important of which to me at this moment is the redesign and redeploy of my main website that has laid dormant for the better part of the last two years; my ultimate goal is to create a brand new content management system that is ideally suited for small to medium sized websites.

Comments on any of these projects are welcome, from the main website to the CMS to the Sudoku algorithm!

At any rate, I hope everyone enjoys their holiday season.  I will certainly still be in touch, and will most likely find topics over the next few weeks to rant and rave over.  For now, here is the aforementioned suggestion to Dr Plait for inclusion in his next volume.

funny-pictures-death-wears-a-cute-little-bow

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About Shannon Quinn

Oh hai!
This entry was posted in Academics, Graduate School, Holidays, lolcat, Programming and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

12 Responses to Punishment

  1. eksith says:

    Sweet!
    Can I contribute some layouts when your CMS is complete?

  2. magsol says:

    Dude. Absolutely. I’d love it.

    On that note, I also read your latest entry. You are truly a master at rolling out phenomenal website layouts at the drop of a hat. I can create fairly decent websites, but it seriously takes me days to weeks to months to fight and struggle and argue with the CSS and HTML to get the page to look the way I want. You can do these things in minutes.

    So yes, I’d love some layouts! I’m working on one m’self, but it was certainly my intention to have several and rotate between them. After all, what’s a CMS for anyhow? 🙂

    Thank you very much!

  3. eksith says:

    Wow! 😳 Thanks!

    I think it may be the disappointment at seeing certain things not fall into place exactly as you expected that’s the real source of frustration. Instead of fighting those issues, I usually try to work it into the layout.

    That menu, for example, came about because it kept jotting out too far (looked kinda ugly). I figured, I’ll just stick an arrow in there to fill the gap and get two birds with one stone.

    Thanks for letting me contribute.

  4. eksith says:

    I forgot to ask this before…
    But is it “magsol web” or “magsolweb” or “Magsol Web” or “MagsolWeb” ?

    Or are you just going to stick with the “MW” ?

  5. magsol says:

    It’s the compound version, and depending on the situation I’ll alternate between the second and fourth forms of it you wrote out. But if I’m going for shorthand, I’ll use “MW”.

    Uber bonus points if you can figure out where the word “magsol” comes from 😉

  6. eksith says:

    “Ponts”… Hmm.

    Let’s see…
    You like RTS games.
    You’re an admitted technogeek.
    You have two younger sisters.
    You like a secret TV show…

    Taking a wild guess here, but is it a combination of “Magmortar” and “Absol” ?

  7. magsol says:

    Hahaha, I like your train of thought! Unfortunately for your guess, though, I am not at all a fan of Pokémon, or any sort of animé for that matter.

    I can give you a hint as to what “universe” to investigate. I will warn you, though, that the term is extremely obscure; hence why I’ve yet to meet anyone who actually knows immediately where it comes from.

  8. eksith says:

    “Magnetic Solution” ?

    This wouldn’t be from Star Wars would it?

    There was this device used to drain life energy (I forget what it’s called), but I think they injected the victim with it. They used living beings as some sort of battery.

    But I remember it was “magnetic solution” or “magsol” for short.

    Don’t recall who used it on whome or anything else about it.

    Did I get it right?

  9. magsol says:

    NICE!

    Spot on, my good man!

    I picked the handle waaay back in high school, because of the whole “sucking the life out” thing and whatnot. The name has kinda stuck since then. 🙂

  10. eksith says:

    WOOHOO!!

    Boy, you weren’t kidding about the obscure part!

    The only reason I remembered the substance was because I had a little debate with someone over the possiblity of creating a “living” power source similar to the way humans were used in the Matrix.

    The short answer was “no”. Though we decided it’s possible to use algae to create hydrogen, but not bio-electricity. It was one of those high school techno/philosophical debates.

    Seems like those days are always the most productive in someone’s life. Then it all goes downhill from there 😉

    I wanted to know about the name because I was wondering if you would be interested in new logos for this. I was doodling the other day and just came up with a few sketches. But I wasn’t sure about how you prefer the name to be formatted.

  11. magsol says:

    The term is only mentioned in a single book, The Truce at Bakura, and doesn’t even appear on Wikipedia or other prominent web sources that have information about the Star Wars extended universe. I have to say, I’m extremely impressed. 🙂

    I’m intrigued by your discussion; without having spent the same amount of time debating that topic as I’m sure you did, my first impression is that, given the proper technology, it could be done. The molecular and biochemical energy stored in humans (and constantly created through the reactions that take place over our lifetimes) would indeed be massively substantial; the trick would be somehow harnessing it from all its current chemical pathways without disrupting them.

    Very interesting. Seriously, like you said, some of the most enlightening discussions of my life have been utterly unrelated to whatever I should have been working on at the time. 😛

    Dude. Those graphics are badass. You are incredibly talented in all facets of web design. I don’t have a particular preference for name format and whatnot, though I have become partial to the stacked “M” and “W” characters, particularly when they’re mirror images of each other. I have also kind of like the name when the “M” is in a slightly larger font than the other letters, while they’re all still in caps. But I also like the name all lowercase. And as for a specific font…no real preference, though I’ve tended towards fonts you’d see on a video game website. 😛

    I think I’ll stick with my single layout and the CMS on a whole, and let you work your magic, cause it’s mighty impressive. 🙂

  12. eksith says:

    Why thank you, sir!

    My friend is a huge StarWars geek.
    I think he’s taught me to more stuff about the universe than Lucas himself!
    Of course, I’m still a poor student who can’t remember names or titles 😛

    The whole dilemma was that if an organism is complex enough to produce usable, surplus, bio-electricity, then it may be conscious or somehow self-aware.
    He brought up the StarWars trivia when I brought up the “human farms” (the Matrix was just released).

    That’s why we settled on simple forms of life. You can experiment all you want without having to worry about ethics. Also aglae is very robust and easy to care for.
    Plus you can always grow more if you need and if some sort of genetic engineering is required, algae are unlikely to protest… Or revolt 😉

    So bio-electricty was out. The answer had to be a liquid byproduct or a gas.

    I’m glad you liked the logos.
    And thank you for letting me work on the designs! 😀

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