The Job Hunt

Since the start of October, I’ve been in full-on job-hunting mode. Courtesy of Ph.D. Comics, this pretty much sums up how I feel:

Something any prospective doctor of philosophy should know: academic and industry hiring processes are very different. Universities are going to follow the academic calendar, and therefore are going to advertise start dates near or around the fall of each new year. Given the number of applications they receive per open faculty position, and the process through which hiring takes place–faculty visits, talks, rounds of interviews, committee meetings to decide on candidates–this takes awhile. So be prepared to start applying for positions nearly a full year before you think you’ll be done.

As of Jan 1, I’ve applied to quite a few universities that span the spectrum from R1 to more teaching-oriented academic institutions, spread pretty well across most of the lower 48. It’s a little bit nerve-wracking, considering the level of competition for these positions, and the fact that I’ve decided against an explicit postdoc. I know I can succeed as a member of the faculty, so I’m set on joining those ranks either within a university setting or an equivalent position in industry.

Which brings me to a very exciting announcement: I have an on-site interview scheduled for next weekend at Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo, CA!

Beyond excited.

I’m working on my presentation as we speak. Good vibes are always much appreciated. The phone interview a handful of weeks ago went extremely well, and I can’t tell you how thrilled I am just with the opportunity to visit and meet with the folks I’ve spent so much time reading about.

Broadly speaking, here’s my only problem with academia: the tenure process. It’s a lot more than a little intimidating, especially in the current economic climate. I’ve watched my own advisor struggle through this process, and I thoroughly admire the grace and elegance with which he’s handled extremely crappy situations (with an outcome entirely deserving of his strength of character and intellect, thankfully). But I can’t exactly say I’m excited to enter that process myself.

This article, on the other hand, gave me a glimmer of hope that, independent of the system itself, there were things I could do to mitigate potential problems on my end. This is probably one of the best articles I’ve read in years on how to not just survive academia, but to thrive and enjoy the process itself (reminiscent of my new year’s resolution?). I won’t rehash the article–I highly recommend reading it in its entirety–but I will post the main seven points around which the article revolves.

  • I decided that this is a 7-year postdoc.
  • I stopped taking advice.
  • I created a “feelgood” email folder.
  • I work fixed hours and in fixed amounts.
  • I try to be the best “whole” person I can.
  • I found real friends.
  • I have fun “now”.

I consider myself an expert in a few of these points already (being a “whole” person, having real friends), and some of them I royally suck at (taking advice, fixed hours in fixed amounts, having fun “now”). They’re all excellent points, and I hope to emulate them going forward. At the end of the day, it’s the research and teaching that really engage me, not the cutthroat competitiveness, something I appear to have in common with this article’s author. A little competition can be fun and motivational, but when it defines the process itself, it loses its allure.

I want to succeed and see others succeed not because we published a paper two days before our competitors, but because we made a freaking awesome discovery or computational pipeline that others find useful. Isn’t that the point of science and teaching?

It's how I roll.

It’s how I roll.

Without going too much into the industry side of things, I wanted to make one quick mention: I will indeed be applying to industry positions, but only after this semester. I’ve contacted / been contacted by a couple already, but given that hiring spans the entire year, I’ll need to be closer to graduation before those processes can move forward. I’ll certainly update as things progress!

Posted in Graduate School, i ken make living plz, Occupation, Real Life, Research, Travel | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

How to remember 2013

2013. So much to say about it. The downside is my gut check, instinctual response goes something like this.

grumpy-cat-new-years-resolution-i6In many concrete, quantifiable ways, 2013 was frustrating. Running didn’t go particularly well. I didn’t even finish half of my 101 items from a couple years ago. I spent the entire year working on a publication that wasn’t submitted until just before going on Christmas break. And just beneath everything, stress was omnipresent.

It was everywhere. I have never dealt with such levels of stress. Even though the year in of itself wasn’t awful, the stress dampened enthusiasm, and made everything feel worse than it actually was. It colored events with an extremely negative hue, fostering a “let’s just get this over with” mentality that is, by itself, unhealthy and completely boring.

ALL the work.

Do ALL the work!

I won’t rehash the year’s stressors; they are numerous enough and can likely be distilled from previous postings here. What I do want to hammer upon is something I already alluded to, something is more or less going to be my “resolution” for 2014:

Love the process.

My primary failing in 2013 was spending too much time and energy fighting battles that were unwinnable or simply not worth fighting (protip to anyone reading this who might be planning a wedding: there are LOTS of battles. Choose wisely). Spending so much time struggling against the system or impending deadlines or unreasonable demands spawned a feeling of obligation: I just needed to “get through this” and “get it done.” That’s fine for the occasional, exceptional run or work milestone. However, this is a problem when every single project or training run has the same get-it-over-with undercurrent. One starts looking past it, but to nothing in particular. The mental dialogue goes something like:

“I can’t wait until I’m finished.”

“Why?”

“Because this is stressful.”

“What will you do when you’re done, then?”

“Not be stressed anymore, I guess?”

“So once this is done, you’ll pull an Office Space and sit on your ass and do nothing?”

“Hmm. You make an annoyingly valid point.”

Remember that old adage “it’s the journey, not the destination”? Turns out, it’s quite literally true. Forsaking the journey entirely and focusing exclusively on the destination paradoxically robs the end goal of its purpose: accomplishment.

Love the process.

I really and truly love what I work on. I’ve learned so, so much in my years as a graduate student, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

This graph represents one of the coolest things I've worked on. It's seriously wicked awesome.

This graph represents one of the coolest things I’ve worked on. It’s seriously wicked awesome.

Something I haven’t spent enough time reminding myself of this year is that I love this stuff. I really, really do. I put my heart and soul into my work, which inevitably leads to disappointment when something doesn’t work, but also instills a great deal of pride and accomplishment when it does. And contrary to my knee-jerk reaction, I have accomplished a lot this year. 2013 was a complicated year, and should be remembered as such.

But frankly it pales in comparison to what 2014 will bring: my thesis defense in September, the start of a new job, and marriage to my best friend and partner in crime. It’s so exciting to consider; I’m amped about the work I’m going to be doing to complete my thesis, and I couldn’t be happier to marry the woman I’ve been dating for over seven years. The key in all this, at the risk of sounding like a broken record, will be:

Love the process.

To put it bluntly, stress will be part of the equation. Unavoidable. So rather than waste energy fighting the inevitable, I’ll need to plan for mitigation instead. Focus on how much fun it is to be healthy and running through the great outdoors; focus on how neat each aspect of a hierarchical eigensolver ported across several distributed frameworks will be; focus on how exciting it is to see all these research papers coming together after so much hard work; focus on the anticipation of seeing my wife-to-be as she enters the hall for the first time on our wedding day.

We ran together in single digit weather. If that's not love and dedication, I don't know what is.

We ran together in single digit weather. If that’s not love and dedication, I don’t know what is.

My 2014 resolution, dear readers, is not to join a gym or eat healthier or focus on work more or be nicer to my fellow human or any of that crap. My 2014 resolution is to love the process. Love what I’m doing, when I’m doing it. To wax disgustingly philosophical, we have a limited amount of time here, so don’t waste it looking beyond the present. Even if the present is something tedious, boring, and you’d rather be off doing one of hundreds of other things, it’s still worth doing and doing well, otherwise you really would be off doing something else.

Happy 2014, everyone! Make it a great one!

Posted in Blogging, Graduate School, i ken make living plz, Occupation, Real Life, The Lady, Year in Review | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

101 in 1001: Round 2!

As I alluded to at the end of my follow-up post on the topic, I’ve decided to take the plunge again, taking a stab at accomplishing 101 discrete tasks in 1001 days. Some clever IPython manipulation (ok, a grand total of 2 lines of Python, one of which is an import statement) tells me that 1001 days from now is September 10, 2016. What will the world look like then, I wonder?

Continue reading

Posted in 101 in 1001, Uncategorized | 2 Comments

101 in 1001: Follow-up

Just about a week ago, the deadline for my Feb 13, 2011 post came up. It was a pretty neat idea: rather than go with a “new year’s resolution” that is usually poorly-defined and craps out within the first couple months, or a “bucket list” with a nonexistent timeline for accomplishment, this addresses both issues. There are a large but manageable number of tasks to accomplish, and a time frame in which to accomplish them: 101 items in 1001 days.

The results were illuminating. You can see the final listing of items I did and didn’t accomplish, but rather than rehash them here, I want to confer a couple interesting tidbits I learned.

1: The only failure condition should be time.

One of the core guidelines to this whole process was that the tasks should be “measurable and clearly defined.” For the most part, I did this pretty well. But an important point that was implied but not explicitly stated is that the only failure condition should be the 1001-day deadline. It makes for pointless dead weight if certain tasks can be rendered completely unachievable halfway through the time period. See #41, #84, and any other points that require some sort of minimal time frame to complete.

Granted: the whole point of the 1001-day time frame is so you can accomplish tasks that take more than a day, a week, or perhaps even a month to fully check off. But my feeling is that it should be intrinsic to the task itself, rather than tacked onto the requirements that already specify an overall time frame. This may effectively eliminate recurring events, but the way I see it, getting the ball rolling is the hardest part. If you want to make it a recurring event, that’s extra credit; this list should be initiating the events in the first place.

2: A lot changes in 1001 days.

It’s nice that one has 1001 days to accomplish not-insignificant tasks, to push one’s limits and comfort zones a little (always a good thing). But interests and priorities can shift practically overnight, to say nothing of over two years. I realized very early on that I just wasn’t interested in crossing off some of the items, while at the same time, had other ideas I really wanted to spend my time and effort on instead. #7? Meh. #12? Sure, but honestly I’d rather spend that time getting even better at Python. #15? I like Chrome better now. #93? Maybe, but frankly this book is more relevant and more interesting.

There’s something to be said for using those tasks as a different kind of motivation: sometimes you have to do things you’re not terribly crazy about. But on the other hand, you had full control over what went on the list when you first made it, so as long as you’re being honest with yourself, why not swap out near-irrelevant or uninteresting tasks for ones you feel you’ll get something out of and benefit from?

3: It’s hard to get everything done.

Priorities are everything, and sometimes other tasks take precedence. There are a lot of items on that list that I wanted to get–still want to get done–but haven’t quite managed just yet. Item #1 is something I’m dying to get back to, but just can’t justify putting it ahead of my graduate work at the moment.

But, on the other hand, that might be part of the point: progress is its own reward, and in the process we gain some insight into where we choose to devote ourselves. In that sense, we can evaluate whether our progress is in the right direction or requires a small steering change. For instance, I crushed quite a bit of the Health and Finances sections; Projects was a bit less thoroughly addressed. That can be explained perfectly well by way of graduate school: I learned to operate within the financial parameters of my current employment and used fitness to relieve the stress of work, but the work got in the way of my personal projects.

Conclusion: again?

Ehhh. Not sure yet.

The time frame encompassing the next 12 months is going to be extremely unpredictable, particularly given my impending wedding and graduation. It’ll be tough predicting where I’ll be this time next year, let alone what I’ll be working on.

But! Maybe that’s the exact reason I should still do it: give me something to orient myself towards.

Hmmmm. Decisions, decisions! Any suggestions?

Posted in 101 in 1001, Academics, Graduate School, Occupation, Polls, Real Life | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

No one will notice if the government shuts down

On Oct 1, Google put out a Doodle commemorating the 123rd anniversary of Yosemite National Park (at least in the US), a somewhat ironic gesture considering as of that morning, all national parks were closed and would remain so for a subsequent 16 days. Putting aside for the moment any conspiracy-minded theories that Google did so in cahoots with the government (these Doodles are created weeks, if not months, in advance, not to mention the 123rd anniversary of something doesn’t exactly pick and choose when it happens), it was still a rather timely event.

These are socialist mountains.

I received an email from someone who had a decidedly strong opinion on the matter and decided a whole bunch of us needed to know about it. On the issue of the government shutdown, it went something like this (emphasis mine):

Most people won’t notice. After all, has not it been pounded into our heads that we need that government? That we can not get along without them? I fully expect that we will be reminded of this today, more than ever.

The real irony is that I woke of this morning and the sun still shined and the birds still sung. I did not notice the “absence” of the federal government until someone told me. Perhaps the government today is pared down nearer to the level they should be.

I didn’t respond, partly because I have a philosophical issue with people who make use of “Reply All” just to disseminate their unsolicited political opinion, but also because I was busy reading about the fallout of the shutdown and those it affected directly.

And the stories poured in.

1. No boots on the ground. Slate posted an article detailing the government agencies that experienced the most furloughs. The graph is illuminating.

Screen Shot 2013-10-20 at 9.33.21 PM

Obviously folks with different priorities will interpret this a little differently, but the way I interpreted it: the agencies who do the most direct work for our country–work directly with Americans, advance our scientific and healthy well-being, and so forth–are the ones that took the brunt of the furlough. Our Curiosity rover and Voyager satellites continued silently with no direction or feedback; had something gone wrong in either case, we would’ve stood to lose billions of dollars in research investment, to say nothing of the scientific opportunities we’d lose out on as a result.

Housing and Urban development, Labor, Education, the NIH, Small Business Administration, the FDA…all vital agencies with very important roles to play. I could spend pages discussing how each has uniquely contributed to where the US is today, but their interplay results in more than just the sum of their parts. The shutdown caused loss of productivity at best for each, but with so many time-critical moving parts, damage was done that will take years to repair.

But the sun still shined and the birds still sung.

2. Speaking of setting our scientific research back by years…Politico and Nature had good articles respectively on how a basic research infrastructure that has already been suffering under the budget cutbacks of the last decade was dealt a major blow as a result of the shutdown.

CDC can’t monitor the progress of this year’s influenza, whose season started right about the time the shutdown began. The start of the season is a critical stage in tracking and predicting the spread and virulence of the bug; that process was disrupted. The NOAA was unable to continue monitoring weather patterns, ruining time-sensitive experiments designed to give scientists a better idea of short and long term weather patterns. The NIH was caught in the middle of vital drug trials, testing promising new drugs in the field with Americans who could sorely use potentially powerful new therapies. But these untested therapies come with an inherent danger that requires constant NIH supervision; the shutdown put thousands of patients at an unacceptably high risk.

The world is conducting many joint scientific ventures, but the United States was absent for several this year. The worldwide leader in scientific research and advancement failed to appear; that doesn’t bode well for future cooperation. Along those lines, October is a very busy month for grant applications. With the sequester already constricting scientific research to its lowest levels of funding in decades, this series of deadlines was the lifeblood for most struggling research labs; my own advisor was waiting to hear of his grant application’s status. Now he and countless others are stuck in limbo. Even with the government resuming operations, nobody knows when or if grants will be awarded.

But the sun still shined and the birds still sung!

3. Basic services are disrupted. These are services people rely on day-to-day. Of course, there’s a debate raging right now about how much these services should be funded, and in theory it’s a good debate to have: are we encouraging dependency, or are giving people a leg to stand on until they find both feet again?

However, I fail to see how governmental incompetence can ever be cast as a good thing, especially when it results in the bottom falling out of many individuals’ last recourse to food, shelter, and the acquisition of basic necessities. Tell me how it helps the country at large when there aren’t enough FDA inspectors to track a salmonella outbreak. Tell me how it helps everyone when 9 million of the nation’s poorest women can’t care for their babies. Tell me how it helps our international prestige when we not only furlough our NASA interns, but also toss them out on the streets.

Smaller government is not better. Better government is better, and part of that means a more strategic–and above all, compassionate–approach to revamping our social safety nets. I doubt you’ll find anyone who disagrees that we spend too much in those areas and could stand to streamline them, but simply withholding funds because the Congresscritters couldn’t function at a basic human level is not the answer.

BUT THE SUN STILL SHINED AND THE BIRDS STILL SUNG!!!11one

Epilogue

This was in just a few minutes of Googling; deeper, more insidious consequences for the shutdown are coming in all the time. Speaking selfishly, I’m grateful the the Marine Corps Marathon wasn’t canceled, but even if it had been, it would have been a minor inconvenience. I consider myself extremely lucky in that regard.

News flash: I’m pretty sure the sun will still shine and the birds will still sing if humanity spontaneously combusted. The very first sentence of this article pretty much sums up the callous insensitivity so many have demonstrated during and in the wake of the shutdown:

One of the strange things about politics is that it is considered “smart” to make every conceivable argument against your foes, even when your arguments are contradictory or reveal you to be indifferent to people leading desperate lives.

Protip: it’s not cool to denigrate the people in the trenches when you’re situated comfortably removed from the front lines. If you didn’t notice the government shutdown, congratulations. If you want fewer people to notice it too, fine: let’s have that debate without putting the health and welfare of countless millions at risk.

Posted in Articles, Politics, Real Life, the dark side | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

It’s been that kind of week

This has been an interesting week so far. First things first: a primer for the entry.

BSslBOQCEAAUn6r

This guinea pig is better at Smash Brothers than I am.

Ahh. Much better. Ok.

The Unfortunate Events

There’s been a lot of frustration lately, particularly over administrative issues that have gone on for quite a bit longer than they should realistically require.

  1. Cross-registration fallout. I had some issues registering for courses this semester, and consequently my cross-registration fell through the cracks and have now been without my CMU email for over a month. I’m hoping and praying that nobody important (hello, recruiters!) attempts to contact me at that address during this time.
  2. Accounting errors. It’s been over two months since my return from Oak Ridge, and I’m still waiting for a complete reimbursement for trip expenses. A “small” accounting error double-billed me for the same expense, so I’m currently out roughly three weeks’ worth. Not the end of the world, but not chump change either.
  3. Research communication failure. My advisor and I just learned from a collaborator that we can’t publish on the data we’ve been analyzing for the last several months, because the data itself is unpublished. The most frustrating part of this is that I recall bringing up that exact issue at a meeting with them 6 months ago–“why should anyone believe our results?”, I said–and they signed off on continuing to use the data. Now they’ve completely flipped on it.

It’s a lot of unnecessary hamstringing, and it’s creating a lot of frustration and uncertainty. There’s a lot I can do in the meantime, but these will have to sort themselves out soon.

The Awesome Badassery

Thankfully, there were some significant upsides of late, too. They’ve kept me calm, cool, and enjoying the scenery.

  1. Running is improving. If you follow my running blog, you’ll recall a recent post where I was discussing how my running forays in the last month have felt laborious. I suppose I should clarify: significantly more laborious than I think they should. I’m pleased to say that my most recent long run, a rather bruising 18-miler, went off exceptionally well. I’m nowhere near where I’d like to be, but I seem to be on the mend. And I’m perfectly ok with that.
  2. Submitted two publications. My advisor and I, in collaboration with various folks, sent in two publications in the last couple of weeks: one to PLoS One, the other to a conference in Atlanta. The latter was in conjunction with the folks at Oak Ridge, and we should hear about it on Sept 16. The former was with some of the drug discovery folks at Pitt, and I have absolutely no clue when we’ll hear about it. But I’m pretty thrilled nonetheless, particularly as a perfect offset to #3 above!
  3. Fantastic bachelor party. My groomsmen were in town two weekends ago (The Lady was visiting her college bestie in Seattle and had a phenomenal time), and it was the perfect combination of getting outside my comfort zone while still maintaining a level of semi-controllable chaos. We went to a standing-room-only Pirates game (I’ve never seen PNC Park completely sold out!), hit up the best local restaurants (mmm, Point Brugge brunch), and played a bunch of board and video games. And ate lots of junk food. It was awesome.

Final Score

I give this week exactly one Pretty Lady With A Cute Kitteh.

BTwtSaBIcAANS5Z

Posted in Academics, Graduate School, Running, The Lady | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Routines are boring

…but they are also conducive to productivity. Just sayin’.

It’s been an interesting couple of weeks since moving into the new apartment. No, the moving isn’t finished yet; still quite a bit to go. The key, I suppose, is that everything’s functional, albeit still in flux. Add to the mix the fact that the new academic semester is just getting underway, and there’s quite a bit that’s still up in the air. So finding a rhythm is still a bit of a pipe dream.

So, what have I been up to? Aside from ongoing research and marathon training, I recently journeyed to the nearby Phipps Conservatory to check out this fella:

It’s a corpse plant, duly named because of the rancid smell it emits when it blooms. Which, by the way, doesn’t happen for at least a year or two. These things bloom for 24-48 hours at most, then curl back up for years at a time. So it was pretty neat to see in action; plus, the smell had mostly "died" off (though of course a Phipps employee had a container of the same chemicals for us to whiff…holy crap it smells awful).

Check out the reference smells the Wikipedia article lists: limburger cheese, rotting fish, sweaty socks, and mothballs. How’s that for pleasant?

We also just returned from our annual departmental retreat. Each year, the faculty and graduate students in the joint program journey to Hidden Valley Resort for roughly 24 hours of listening to talks, eating food, listening to more talks, socializing, competing, and oh yes: drinking.

This year I gave a talk on the odor research I’ve been conducting as part of my overall thesis. I think it went fairly well; either that, or I did a really poor job of explaining things in the 8 minutes I had, since I received way more questions afterwards than probably all the other student presenters combined.

One of the students in my year launched an ambitious experiment: creating four teams ahead of time to compete in a series of organized events. Typically, there’s a game of soccer, perhaps some Capture the Flag, and any other games that folks want to bring along. But this year, we had several events pitting volunteers from each team against each other: cornhole, bocci ball, basketball, card games, egg toss, a road race, and even a pedal boat race.

The winning team will be announced this Wednesday. I think ours had a pretty good shot of winning, coming in either 1st or 2nd in every one of the events I participated in (cornhole, tichu) or directly observed (road race, pedal boats, bocci).

This coming weekend will be an interesting one: three of the greatest friends a guy could ask for are coming to Pittsburgh to throw my bachelor party! And since it’s Labor Day weekend, this is going to be a bachelor weekend. The Lady is going to be on the west coast visiting her best college buddy who she, due to sheer distance, hasn’t seen since graduating. So the brand spankin’ new apartment will play host to a groom-to-be and his three groomsmen for the holiday weekend.

Yes, insert jokes about strip clubs here. Honestly, what I’m most excited about is seeing these guys, catching up, and playing some board games and video games. We will be attending the Pirates / Cardinals baseball game that weekend (which will be intense: they’re basically tied for 1st in their division), and we’ll be doing some river rafting and kayaking. But it’s the company that’s most important to me, and that’s what I’m most excited about. Like The Lady and her friend, I hardly get to see these guys anymore (one lives in St. Louis, the other two in Atlanta), so anytime I get to see them, it’s awesome for that reason alone.

I’ll wrap this up with one last thought: I just wrote this entire entry using the IPython Notebook (and nbconvert to put it in HTML format, obvs). It’s not as user-friendly for general blog posts as the native WordPress interface (obviously), but for posts that use a lot of code snippets, this will be pretty freaking awesome. I’ve been using IPython for a few years as a way to stub out code and run some sanity checks, but between its Notebook and Parallel computing, I’m thinking of expanding my own repertoire with it. I probably won’t use it much to post here (probably more often at my research blog), but it’s pretty neat to do at least once 🙂

This is my favorite guinea pig picture ever.

ermahgerd

Posted in Graduate School, Programming, Real Life, Technology, The Lady | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Moving

It sucks. Unless you love books, of course.

The Lady is taking over the guest room.

The Lady + a mountain of books + a guest room = Happy Lady

Quite literally the morning after my successful thesis proposal, The Lady and I started the day-long process of moving our respective items from our respective apartments into our swank new two-bedroom pad. Jokes about “living in sin” aside, we’ve been really excited about this ever since late last year when we started talking about it. Particularly after finding this place in February, it’s been the second-most anticipated event in our collective not-too-distant futures. Heh.

I had a bit of a head start: all my stuff was already somewhat packed, having been in storage since Memorial Day weekend. With the help of more than a handful of friends and the morning hours, we successfully moved all my belongings from the storage facility to our new place before 1pm.

We spent the rest of the day cleaning out The Lady’s old apartment. That was trickier; there’s a certain advantage to having already moved out and having one’s stuff in a ready-to-move configuration. Thankfully, The Lady’s mom was in town to help, and she is quite literally the reason we even had a place to sleep come 9:30pm when we finished moving the very last items to the new place: she had been working on reassembling the bed.

The final boss.

The final boss.

My parents showed up the next day, and over the weekend helped us start the unpacking process. That, of course, is still ongoing, but following two very timely visits from our respective parents, we were only able to get enough rest while still moving and unpacking in a timely fashion, we spent a minimal amount of time in non-functional states. In fact, it was pretty much only the very first night when we had to order our dinner.

Pad Thai and beer for our very first dinner.

Pad Thai and beer for our very first dinner.

Frankly? It was wonderful. Just the two of us, seated in dining chairs in the middle of the kitchen, eating pad thai and drinking beer after a full day of moving. It was a lovely finish to an otherwise hectic day.

Since then, The Lady has resumed her daily bacon-bringing activities, and I’ve been living a dual unpacking-vacation life. I haven’t had a true vacation sans research obligations since August 2012, and aided by the previous resident’s inability to disconnect their Comcast service prior to moving out, I was completely out of touch with the world for a full 6 days after moving in–only yesterday was a technician able to come by and reconnect us to the world wide interwubs. I spent the time watching Stargate SG-1 and Atlantis while unpacking, building the bed frame for the guest room, and generally relaxing (naps are wonderful).

My body is still somewhat on razor’s edge; 12 months is an awfully long time to spend on high alert. It’s going to take awhile to come down. But the new place offers plenty of things for me to keep busy with, plus my marathon training runs have been steadily improving in terms of how I feel. I’ll be posting about that soon in my poor neglected running blog, for those who are interested.

In the meantime, I’m spending a lot of quality time with this adorable fuzzball.

Kitty yoga!

Kitty yoga!

Posted in Graduate School, i ken make living plz, Internet, Occupation, Real Life, Research, Running, the fam, The Lady | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Day 46: Ph.D. Candidate

Photo Jul 30, 7 05 31I am officially a candidate for a PhD in the joint CMU-UPitt computational biology program. What a whirlwind.

This also concludes my “daily photo” postings. In all honesty, I’ve enjoyed these little blurbs; I think it really has helped keep me sane, reserving some small part of my brain for observation outside of the immediate (and significant) stressors associated with preparing a thesis.

My body is calling it quits. Almost immediately after the good news was delivered (“Shannon, I regret to inform you that you passed your proposal exam and will now have to remain in the program and complete your PhD”) my body began shutting down. It took some effort to plow through–there’s still the matter of a paper we’re trying to push out for publication–and for the first couple hours, it worked.

The Lady took me out for a celebratory dinner and dropped me off around 8pm, at which point my body wrested control back from my mind, gave it the middle finger in the process, and prompted passed out within two minutes for nearly an hour.

It took a great deal of convincing to wake up and do some stretching (haven’t foam rolled in 24 hours, oops) and give my Comcast contact a call regarding setting up service at the new apartment (move-in tomorrow!). I’m holding steady, but sleep is a freight train waiting just outside the periphery, and it’s going to run me over the second I relax again.

This feels not unlike pulling an all-nighter. No all-nighters were involved (amazingly!), but here’s the kicker: I haven’t had a true vacation since August of 2012. Without fail, every single “vacation” that fall season came with a massive footnote of work I needed to do during that time, and this past spring was a cavalcade of cacophonous coursework, capstoning, and research (couldn’t think of another “c” word for that). Immediately following the busy spring semester was a jaunt to Knoxville to work with ORNL, and from the second I touched down in Pittsburgh on July 1 it’s been a sprint to this date.

I am, in a word, exhausted. I’m proud of what I’ve accomplished, but it’s been at a price. My advisor, in his infinite awesome, beat me to the punch in saying “I don’t want to see you around here for at least a week” following my thesis proposal. So for the first time in nearly a year, I am taking some–if I may–well-deserved time off from anything and everything work related. I’m staying right here in Pittsburgh, enjoying my new apartment with The Lady, but I’m looking forward to taking in the sights and scenes around me, and delving into some of my neglected personal projects.

And to some quality time with my beautiful fianceé 🙂

With any luck, regular posting will resume soon, here and at my other neglected blogs! Thanks for tuning in!

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Day 45: The night before

Photo Jul 29, 14 10 14Today was one of those days where you catch a glimpse into just how many people really care about you. I arrived this morning to this bag of donuts from the nearby hippie donut shop, courtesy of my cubicle neighbor. My labmates sat through yet another two-hour run-through of my presentation, giving me detailed, invaluable, and tireless feedback. My advisor has stayed up with me to help tweak my presentation. And The Lady took time out of her incredibly busy and hectic packing schedule to pick my sorry tush up from work at 9:30, give me her leftovers from dinner (I hadn’t eaten), and give me a few minutes in her apartment with her and her cat to calm my nerves a bit.

It’s been an incredibly, incredibly stressful past few days. But I can’t begin to elucidate just how grateful I am these truly lovely individuals. They make all the difference.

Days until presentation: 1
Slide deck status: 100% complete
Number of practice rounds: 3
Mental status: COMPLETE ZEN —————X—– SPONTANEOUS COMBUSTION

Tomorrow at 10am, stuff hits the thing.

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