Sunday, November 27, 2005

A New Journey

So Thanksgiving was this past week. Want to know where I went? Click and find out!

Yeah. I traveled a whopping 1.5 miles for break (because my dad and his girlfriend came here). It's the shortest I've traveled since....well since I was a high school student. At least I didn't have to spend time packing and catching a plane. But still, I wish I could have gone somewhere for break to get my mind off of my life for once. You know, I realized this weekend that I have not been outside of Austin (save for a few drives up to Dallas to see my dad) since winter break last year. You might say "so what?", but for me this is the first time I've stayed in one spot for more than a few months. Although I like Austin a lot, I REALLY want to get out of here for a while. I think it will help me to not think about school. And work. And research. Well I'm leaving on Dec. 20th for Phoenix so I guess I'll get my chance.

Anyway, this didn't even feel like a break to me. I'm beginning to question if I'm mentally ill, because I just.....I can't enjoy a single damn thing anymore! I have no desire to live, or to try hard in anything (which is really one of the defining features about me). It's like the fire in my soul has burnt out, and I've been desperately trying to re-light it, and failing time and time again. I just don't know what to do anymore. And then throw this whole neuroscience PhD versus engineering job and things get even worse. I showed my father my offer letter this past weekend and he said "You're taking it." Yeah, thanks dad. [/sarcasm]

You know what I think I really want right now? I want to live in the present. Everything I think, everything I do is for the future. I'm sick of thinking about the future damnit! But I can't help but think about it because in the next 3-4 months, I could be making a decision that will change my entire life. I've been wasting so much time these days watching anime and playing video games because it's the only way I can get myself to stop thinking about this. Urgh, I swear I can't keep this up for much longer. Well anyway, I'm done ranting for tonight.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005


It's really strange. Two weeks ago I was at a peak level of depression. I realized that I had totally lost my drive and my ambition to accomplish anything. Why? Well I think it's mostly because after working my ass off for so many years and being "successful", I realized that all that that brings is just more work. There's no reward system in my life! So why should I continue to work hard, only to make myself more and more miserable and bogged down? This isn't just affecting my school/work life, but my running, my social life (or what's left of it) and absolutely everything else.

Then the week after that (last week), on Monday I felt so much better. It's weird, but I think its because the weather changed suddenly (it finally got a little cold here), and the cool Fall air felt really refreshing. It just lifted my spirits up I guess, and I actually had a pretty productive week. But even then, I'm still far from being my old self of ~2 years ago. Honestly, I think grad school has made me dumber. As little as around a year ago (when I first started school at UT) I had so many (good) ideas, and I was excited to be here learning. Now its totally the opposite. Its like there's a barrier surrounding that part of my brain that used to be the innovative dreamer, and my intellectual vision has been so ridiculously narrowed now it's no longer enjoyable for me to do this anymore.

Anyway, I got a call from the HR rep at Freescale today and they approved a full-time offer for me. Now a normal person (in other words, someone who's not me) would be ecstatic about it. I still have another semester and a half or so till graduation and I already have a nice comfy job lined up for me. But then there's this whole neuroscience thing I've been pursuing, so now I feel that I'm at the decision point much sooner than I expected!!! I feel like one of these two paths will be heaven for me and the other will be hell, but I have no idea which is which! I have an exam later today and now I feel like I won't be able to study for it because my mind is going to be occupied with this all day.

For the record, the base salary I was offered is $65,600/year, with a $5k signing bonus, and then there's this system where if the company does good, and your boss thinks you do good, you get another huge end-year bonus. I have no complaints about the pay :) (even though money is really not that important to me). I wish time could just stop for a few weeks so I can get caught up on my own life sometimes. :(

Sunday, November 06, 2005


I realized today that my posts are composed of so many random bits of things I need to start titling them by sections. :)

My running this week sucked because I was lazy about it, so I'm not even going to bother posting it here. But I do believe that I am finally recovered from my shin splints, because they barely hurt at all now. I also lifted weights on Thursday for the first time in about 4 years, and yes I'm really really sore from it.

Here's a funny little story from this morning. One of the bathrooms in my apartment was starting to get an ant problem, so I moved out all my stuff and sprayed the place. Little ant bodies are continuing to accumulate all over the bathroom. To my surprise, today I went in there and saw the ant queen hiding on the top of my bottle of shaving creme. So I got my insect spray and did what needed to be done. I felt kind of bad about it though. I've never seen an ant queen, but I've always wanted to (she was one big momma!). And I actually really like ants (I'd say they are my favorite insect) and I played SimAnt all the time when I was a kid.

Things with Allacrost are going really great right now. Ever since I dropped that class I've had so much more time to work on it, and our whole programming team is fired up again now. We've finally figured out how to bind C++ and Lua together effectively, which was the major barrier holding us back. I don't see much from stopping us anymore. It's only a matter of code and time now. :)

My future in Neuroscience?
On Friday, I went and spoke with a molecular biology professor about the Neuroscience program at UT. What happened during that meeting was totally unexpected. First of all I've been really concerned about my complete lack of biology/chemisty knowledge, but he said that doesn't matter. In fact, they've actually been looking to bring in people from other fields (especially mine). So that was certainly good to hear. I also confirmed that the students that they accept automatically get a fellowship for their first year (and maybe their second) and after that its their advisor's job to find them funding. Much different than what I've gotten used to in ECE! But what shocked me the most was when the professor asked me for my credentials (GPA, test scores, publications, etc.), he said that if I would have applied last year, he was pretty certain I would have been accepted. At that moment I thought "HOLY CRAP!", because I thought that if I would get accepted into this department at all, it would be by the skin of my teeth. But he made it sound as if I would have little trouble getting in, as long as I played my cards right.

Ever since that meeting, I haven't been able to stop thinking about my future. I'm losing sleep over it, and even when I do sleep my dreams are about it. This is the biggest decision I've ever had to make in my life. Do I pursue a PhD in neuroscience, or do I stick with what I know and work at Freescale after I graduate? I've been weighing my options and I just can't make up my mind! I'm almost certainly going to apply though, because I have to get accepted first to be able to make a decision at all. Here's an analysis of the two options:

PhD in Neuroscience
+ I know for a fact that I love learning the material in this field.
+ My research can have a direct (positive) impact on people's lives, which is something that I've always wanted to do.
+ I find research in the field so much more motivating/enlightening than work in computer architecture, where there isn't much innovation at all (just faster clock speeds or more processor cores: big deal)
+ I'll be able to learn a hell of a lot, and I love learning

- I'll probably be committing six years of my life to this. In other words, I'd be about 30 when I graduate, which is SCARY!
- I have no idea what it means to do research in this field, or in molecular biology. So I have no clue whether I will actually like this type of research or not.
- I have some ideas of what I want to do with this knowledge after I graduate, but I don't know how difficult it would be to be able to do the type of work I would like to do (as in, getting support for it)
- How much free time will I have? I want to still be able to dedicate myself to other things while I study for my PhD, including Allacrost, translating Japanese, etc.

Fulltime job at Freescale
+ I'll make more money than I think I'll ever need (money isn't that important to me though)
+ Its an area I know and know well. I already know what I can expect from taking this path.
+ I really like the company and its policies. As far as work in computer architecture goes, I don't think there is another company in the world that I would fit in with this well.

- I don't feel like I'll be able to accomplish anything in life if I just become an engineer here. I'll help make some processors a little bit faster or consume less power, but that just...won't make me happy I feel
- When you do nothing but write code at work all day, the last thing you want to do when you come home is write more code. Working could be very detrimental to my contribution to Allacrost
- It will be so much more difficult for me to make friends and have a social life. That's something I've been trying to work on lately, because I finally realized how important it is to have those things.

The main question I'm trying to answer for myself here is "What path would make me feel the most happy?". From studying/working over the past year, I've discovered that being successful does not necessarily make one happy. Right now I'm leaning more towards the PhD in neuroscience, but the fact that I don't fully know what I'll be getting myself in to is why I'm only sticking my feet in the water right now instead of taking a full dive.

Wikipedia trivia
Okay, now here's my Wikipedia question of the day: How is Alan Greenspan related to the emacs editor?

- Alan Greenspan is an advocate of laissez-faire capitalism.

- During the cold war era, laissez-faire economics assumed a stronger ideological edge, and some argued that if the Free World was truely defined by it's freedom, then it's citizens should have full economic freedoms.

- Richard Stallman uses the term Free World to describe the set of software, people, commercial/non-profit companies, that adhere to the 4 basic freedoms of free software.

- Richard Stallman is one of the original designers of the emacs editor?

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Change is good...right?

My running stats for last week were better, but still far behind what I would like them to be.

Mon 4 miles, slow pace
Tue 10.8 miles, stationary bike
Wed 4 miles, slow pace
Thu (lazy)
Fri 14.4 miles, stationary bike
Sat 12 miles, slow pace
Sun (rest)
Week Total: 18 miles running, 15.2 miles stationary bike

I thought I'd be sore from the biking (especially in my quads) but I wasn't sore AT ALL, even though I was pedalling my ass off and sweating like a hog. It kind of pissed me off. But I ran this morning and my legs feel SO much better these days, so hopefully I can make a near-complete recovery and get my mileage back up where it should be.

So last week's prominent event was taking my first steps toward pursuing a degree in Neuroscience. I spoke with Dr. Neikirk on Friday about how I had been thinking of pursuing this path, and asked him what he thought I should do. He gave me some really great advice and after talking with him, I felt even better about making this decision so I was really glad I asked him. Some of the more important opinions that he gave me were to not go back and get a bachelor's in biology (which I had been considering, because I have such a huge deficiency there). He also told me that getting your master's degree in natural sciences is totally different than in engineering. In engineering, it's perfectly acceptable to get your master's, not pursue a PhD, and then go on to be successful in industry. In natural sciences though, everyone goes for a PhD, and a master's is just something you pick up along the way. He said someone who only has their master's and not their PhD in natural sciences is someone who "couldn't make it all the way through". So now I know that I'm going for a PhD, if I decide to really take the plunge into this field. I talked with the professor of my neurophysiology class today about this too, and talking to him made me feel better too. Both of them encouraged me to pursue it if I really want to do it, and not let things like the fact that I've never seriously studied biology get in my way. Oh yeah, and I haven't mentioned anything about this at all to my advising professor, because I don't trust her to help me make this decision at all. Isn't it ironic that the only professor I don't seek advice from is my advisor? Please, feel free to laugh at the sweet irony with me here.

Now the question remains should I really apply for the program, and if so when? The deadline for Fall 2006 is January 15th, which is soon. Plus there's the fact that my boss at Freescale still wants me to work for them full-time once I graduate (hopefully in Spring, probably in Summer). So I'm considering going to work for a year before applying to this program (if I ever get in) to take some time-off from school for a while and earn some money. But there's also a part of me that doesn't want to interrupt my education, and wants to go ahead and start next Fall. Its hard to explain, but I feel like I'm going to lose a lot if I quit school for a year. For now, all I can do is keep talking to more people and get a better picture of what it is I really want to do.

Okay, for closing this post I have a fun little analysis of the linked structure of Wikipedia, which I find absolutely fascinating. Very often, as I am reading Wikipedia articles I unconciously start following links as I read articles, and then somewhere down the road realize "Hey, why am I reading this? What was I initally rading about again?" So my question tonight is: how are sharks related to Bob Newhart? The answer:

- A famous historical incident of shark attacks were the Jersey Shore Shark Attacks of 1916

- The Jersey Shore Shark Attacks of 1916 inspired the creation of the movie Jaws

- Jaws was successful and three sequels were made, the last being Jaws: The Revenge

- Jaws: The Revenge was a god-awful movie which was nominated for worst picture in the 1987 Golden Raspberry Awards

- The movie that actually "won" worse picture in the 1987 Golden Raspberry Awards was Leonard Part 6, co-produeced by Bill Cosby

- Like Bill Cosby, Bob Newhart can be humorous without resorting to profanity.

Wasn't that a fun little example? Maybe I'll these more often in my posts. :)