Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Its my life.

The semester is finally over now. I catch a flight back to Phoenix later this afternoon, so I have to get my act together and start packing (I've been playing games the past two days instead). I am glad its over though, because this means that I am *finally* on a real vacation! I haven't been home in an entire year and I really miss it. So here's my semester in a nut shell. Some of these things I've talked about before and others I haven't.

> Had less than two weeks between summer work at Freescale and Fall classes starting, and as a result was unable to recover for the semester. Spent that entire period working on Allacrost.
> After some initial meetings with my advisor and research group, I became distant from her because she had lost my trust and I didn't see any reason for sticking around.
> Began seeing a counselor because I was so miserable and didn't know what was wrong with me or how to get better. Discovered that I was simply burnt-out and needed a break.
> I gradually began feeling less and less excited/enthusiastic about studying computer architecture, for a variety of reasons. This led me to questioning if it's what I want to do for the rest of my life.
> I started to greatly dislike the class that I TA. It was unorganized, I didn't feel the students were being taught the things that were important to learn, and I disagreed with several other things. I eventually gave up trying to make the class any better because I didn't have the time or energy to, and the professor was rather stubborn.
> Lack of motivation to work forced me to drop my Advanced Computer Architecture class to save myself before my grade and spirit plummeted further. I was relieved of a large amount of stress as a result, and soon recovered from my burnout.
> Interest in my neurophysiology class drove me far enough to apply to the graduate program in neuroscience at UT for a PhD degree.
> After a brief refractory period, I started feeling psychologically ill again. This time not only was I lacking motivation to work, but I became unable to feel basic human emotions such as happiness, sadness, or anger. I began sleeping excessive amounts and my eating habits changed.
> In the midst of my PhD application, I got a full-time job offer from Freescale Semiconductor, which I had to decide on by December 9th. I began stressing out over whether to do the PhD or just take the job.
> My boss at work allowed me to postpone my decision until January or February. Surprisingly, he encouraged me to do both the job at the PhD, which was not the most attractive idea for me. After all, I'd probably only get burnt-out again.
> Met my counselor one final time (it had been about a month or two since we last spoken) and discussed my latest symptoms and the fact that I'm neither very stressed nor burnt-out anymore. She suggested I was suffering from a condition called dysthymia, a form of clinical depression. That's the reason why my sleeping/eating patterns changed, and I'm unable to feel emotion.


A pretty eventful semester, wouldn't you say? Which leads me to today. I'm less certain than ever about what I want to do in my life, yet I need to make a decision soon. I talked to one professor in the CS department last week who is a computer architect and also the faculty advisor of the UT Marathon team (hence we know each other). I told him my situation and how I felt I was going to end up working regardless of what happens because I feel bad that my boss went through the lengths he said he did to secure me a full-time offer. He advised me to stop thinking that and just do what I feel I want to do, because I don't owe him anything. It was then that I realized that I had been letting the people around me push me into things I didn't really want to do, and that was probably the main catalyst for my downfall. Mystery solved? Maybe. But I'm taking his advice and from now on I'm going to start making my own decisions about my life. :)


A couple interesting stories before I go. First, two weekends ago I was driving to the mall to go shopping when I heard some sort of weird rattling by my antenna. I thought that it must be coming loose or something, but after I parked and went out to take a look, I discovered something unexpected. There was a bright red thong hooked onto my antenna. O_o I don't even want to know how it got there, or how I must have looked driving down the highway with a bright red thong flying behind me. I picked it up from the strap and just dropped it right there. I don't even want to think of how dirty that thing might have been.

All semester I had some various insect problems, none that were too serious. But every now and then I'd find baby roaches in my bathroom and I just had no idea of how they got there. But then, just this morning, I met the mother boss. How appropriate that it was on the last day that we finally meet (and how disgusting to think it was crawling around my room as I slept last night). And this sucker was BIG too! I think it might have been the biggest I've ever seen, even bigger than the one I battled at my old apartment. Luckly, I had better weapons with me this time than last. It was on the wall, so first I sprayed it with insecticide and it fell down to the floor. Then I turned on my vaccuum cleaner and tried to suck it up with the hose, but it got away and climbed back on the wall, then even onto the ceiling! After a couple more sprays and suction misses, I finally nabbed it...or so I had thought. I couldn't find it anywhere, even looking around in my vaccuum (it has a clear window for the waste, so I didn't have to open it to peak inside. Finally I saw him in there, still moving around just a little bit. I turned on the vaccuum for a while longer and let him get tossed around with the other crap in there, and then victory was mine.

All Enemies Defeated!
> XP gained: 1279
> Gold: 0 ;_;
> Level up!
> Learned skill: "Spray 'n Suck"

Wednesday, December 07, 2005


On Monday I saw my counselor again for the first time in weeks. The primary reason of my visit was to understand why even though I'm not burnt-out anymore, I'm relatively stress free, and I've had a lot of time to myself, I'm not any better than I was at the beginning of the semester (in fact, I think I'm actually worse now). I've been sleeping excessively and I have no idea why. I always feel tired. I feel no or little enjoyment in all the things I do (even the things that I used to like to do). My concentration, motivation, and intellectual reasoning ability are all at record low levels. And the weirdest thing of all is I'm unable to feel emotion (or very little on a good day). She believed that I'm suffering from Dysthymia, which is a form of clinical depression. So if this is true, the good news is that there's a reason I've been this way and its not just because I'm lazy. The bad news is that it doesn't make things any better. She seemed to think that I'll get over it eventually, but when I read from the Wikipedia article (and other reliable sources) that it lasts about 2 years, I just started to freak. I can't afford to be like this for any longer than I already have been! But I have no idea what to do about it. :(


I finally talked to my boss last week about how I'm thinking of getting a degree in neuroscience. He was surprisingly okay with it (which almost shocked me). In fact, he was so okay with it, that he encouraged me to work at Freescale while I worked towards the degree! O_o At first I was like "Uhh, but its neuroscience..." and then he talked about how they need neural networks for their power modeling or something to that effect, so it would actually work out well. On Tuesday this week I told him I would like more time to make my decision (I have to notify Freescale of my full-time offer decision by Dec. 9th) and he said he'd see what he could do. Not before he made me feel like a bastard though. He told me how they have had to turn away a couple of good, experienced people to get me this offer, and that my boss petitioned to the company/his boss saying "we need this guy". What he suggested (and what sounds like what I'm going to have to do) is to take the full-time offer, but not start until December, and then for Spring semester I could go to part-time (~15 hrs/wk) and see how that works.

I'm still uncertain about it though, because I already know that going to work and going to school simultaneously is tough, but I bet it would be even tougher if there's little or no overlap in what I do at school/work. He called me again tonight and said he could get it extended to January or February at the latest (which still might be before I find out if I got accepted into the program or not). So I have some more time to weigh my options, but I'm not really liking them at this point. Another thing is my boss highly recommended I take the superscalar architecture class being offered in the Spring (which my advisor teaches), and my advisor had told me I should take it too a couple weeks ago. But I already took half of advanced computer architecture this semester (before I dropped it) and I generally understand all the material, so why would I take a class where I already know a lot in the area and won't really learn anything? And besides, taking these two neuroscience classes is going to help me a lot in making my final decision, and taking only one won't help as much. So unless someone threatens/blackmails me to take the course, I don't believe I will.


Final funny (IMO) story from today. They closed down the university today at 2PM because of a freezing rain warning from the National Weather Service. Now I'm not complaining, because I got to cut my office hours short and had a class canceled, but this is weak. I went to Purdue for four years, and every winter there was snow, ice, blizzards, killer snowmen, and they *never* canceled a day of class! Seriously. :p

Sunday, December 04, 2005

What a week

A lot of interesting things happened to me this week.


On Wednesday I got a call informing me that I won a $500 shopping spree for select shopping malls/department stores in Texas. Now, I had actually gotten this call last week and hung up after I heard that because I thought it was a scam. But the fact that they actually called me back caught my attention. I was on the phone for a long time (20 minutes at least) and every second I was trying to figure out if this was a scam or not. The company said they were OnStar Communications and that I was one of the winners of a random selection of shoppers in Texas. They already knew all kinds of information about me (I'm assuming from credit card purchases I made) so I gave them some credit for that. The only thing I had to pay was a $4.95 S/H fee. They also were giving me a phone card with unlimited minutes for 10 free days and I wouldn't pay a thing as long as I canceled it before then, I was assured. In the end I'm still not sure if this is a scam or not, but I figured I'd be a risk taker for once and see what happens. I'm just thinking of it as a $5 bet on $500. :D

On Friday even more money came rolling my way. O_o One was a utility refund account check from the city of Austin for $344.14. I don't know what I'm being refunded for, but hell I'll take it. :D In addition to that, my apartment complex promised a $50 gift certificate for HEB (grocery store chain in Texas) to people who gave them some information by a certain deadline. I had almost forgotton about that, but it looks like they are finally going to pay out. So all in all, I (might) have gotten $894.14 this week for doing next to nothing. Not bad I say. :)


On Saturday I attended an all-day neuroscience conference, as one of my many efforts in trying to decide if I really want to pursue a PhD in this field. It was pretty awesome (much better than the computer architecture conferences I've been to), if only a little intimidating. But I was able to fully understand 6 of 8 presentations, so I guess a 75% comprehension rate isn't too bad for only taking one class for 3 months. :) They had an enormous number of posters too (many of which used too much biology/chemistry jargon for me to read). The confrence was help at The Crossings in Austin, which had REALLY nice grounds and a great relaxing atmosphere. It almost reminded me of the Thanskgiving vacation trips I usually take in Sedona (Arizona), which is like my ultimate relaxation spot on Earth. I didn't know anyone there though and I'm a shy person in those types of environments though, so I didn't talk very much.

At lunch I met a couple of people who were there for a Yoga and Meditation workshop. We shared stories, and they both said that I need a vacation (hell, who doesn't think that at this point?). One of them actually lives in New Orleans, so she was telling us about Hurricane Katrina and how everything is dead in the city now. No squirrels, birds, or sounds of life what-so-ever. That sounds really freaky.

Another person I talked to was the graduate coordinator for the neuroscience program, whom I've exchanged e-mails with as I'm applying to the program. We talked a little bit and got onto the subject of the accident I had when I was 14 years old, where I had an accident involving severe cranial trauma and permanent brain damage. I was describing how I believe that somehow enhanced my powers of dreaming, and she said she wanted to hear more later because she's writing a novel and wants to model the protagonist after me or something. O_o


Yes, it was a very eventful week. This coming week is the last week of regular classes and I have a term project due Friday which I haven't done very much work on so far, so I need to get cracking. Its hard when I'm still having these motivational problems though!