Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Choosing an Escape Path

I don't believe I've ever mentioned this before here, but those of you who know me personally know that I dislike my advisor. Hell, it has become borderline hatred now. I'm not going to get into the details about why, because they are long and irritiating to recall. It actually isn't so much about how she screws me over. That ticks me off of course, but I manage to stay away from her so it doesn't affect me that much. What really pisses me off is how she treats my friends and fellow labmates. I'm not a person that is easily angered. In fact, you have to try really really hard for a long time to get me angry usually. But the maltreatment of other people I know and respect is something that I absolutely can not tolerate.

Anyway, so I'm trying to graduate by this August. Technically I could graduate in May, but I don't want to push myself too hard like I did last year, so I'm not setting that as my goal. What I'm concerned about though is my so called advisor (who has never actually given me any real useful advice on anything) not approving of my thesis and therefore nullifying both my full-time offer with Freescale and also my possible entry into the neuroscience program. You see, my advisor likes to put things off until the very last minute and only after it's way past too late, does she actually give any feedback on the work/paper that she's signing off on. It's happened to me twice already in the last year (and also caused me to get a temporary incomplete in my thesis course last Fall), and I can not afford for it to happen a third time.

So today I spoke with one of the higher-ups in my department about my situation and asked him what I could do, or if it would be possible to switch advisors at this point. After a long discussion, I found out I basically have four options.

Option #1: Do the thesis and manipulating her into granting a pre-approval
Basically what this entails is sending my advisor an outline of everything I plan to do and what my thesis will consist of, and getting her written approval saying "Yes, this will be sufficient." Then if she tries to pull a 360 on me at the last minute and won't sign the thesis because it's missing content or whatever bullshit excuse she gives, I have a good reason to backfire at her and tell her she already approved of this work, and that's what I've done. It seems like it could be a bit of a risk, but I have powerful allies in this battle that she may not be able to contend with.

Option #2: Take an extra class and turn the thesis into a report instead
Virtually anyone can sign off on a report, and it's less work too. It's basically a term paper that is extended out (which I've already done with some previous research by the way). I'll have to take a summer course to get out this way though. Seems like a weak/pathetic option out, but at this point I don't care. My goal is graduation, nothing more, nothing less.

Option #3: Forget the thesis, take a couple summer classes, and be done with it
After this spring I'll have 24 credits of "real" classes (ie, lectures, projects, exams, etc.). For a no-thesis/no-report graduation, you need 36 credits, but the very wise and friendly person I met with this morning told me that you only need 30 credits of "real" classes, and that the final 6 credits can be "fudged", as he put it, with conference courses or some other crap. I would have to take two real classes over the summer and employ some help from the department to help me "fake" the other 6 credits, but it is a way out with less flak.

Option #4: Switch to an advisor for "technicality" reasons and avoid a political fiasco
Of course in the ideal case I guess I would want to get rid of my advisor as soon as possible. That's kind of tricky now that I've already completed one thesis course with her, but after discussing things this morning we found a hole. My thesis research right now is really more of a data mining problem than a computer architecture problem, and because I know of a certain data mining professor whose class I took in Fall 2004 and who already knows a little of the work I'm doing, I might be able to get a mutual agreement so that I can switch advisors with no political fallout or hostility.

At this point, I think I'm going to try to go for option #1 and see how my advisor reacts to that. If I get a poor or otherwise unsatisfactory answer, I think option #4 is my next best bet. You know, it's so much easier to graduate when you are an undergrad because all you have to do is take courses, pass them, and then you're done. I wish I could go back a couple years in time and appreciate that back when I had it. Well, we'll just have to see how things go. It's graduation or bust now!

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Recovered at Last

It's been a month since my last post and nothing much has happened. And that is a good thing. Finally, I have been able to rest, recover, and rejuvenate my battered pysche. It's amazing how much better I am now. Compared to myself a month ago, it's like night and day. When I got back to Phoenix, I pretty much did nothing but sleep 12-15 hours a day and play video games for the first 12 days or so. After that, I suddenly became myself again, and I started being able to feel emotions, and especially happiness. So let me tell you, it's great to be myself once again. I'm determined to do anything I can to prevent my life (and my blog) from turning into the pathetic state that it was in for most of last year.

Enough about that. Allacrost has seen a huge burst of activity and productivity in the last 3-4 weeks. We went on a hiring spree in the first week of January and got an amazing number of applicants. We have since hired two programmers and two artists, and more could be on the way. I love it when we're this productive, even though it's a little more taxing on me because people want my input into just about everything they produce sometimes. :) We're also releasing a lot more information and content regarding the game, in the form of a wiki which I absolutely love. The wiki is going public on Monday, and I'm kind of hoping that it will help generate more public interest among the project.

I've also been thinking about getting back into translating, which I haven't done since August last year. But I'm going to commit to only a fraction of what I used to (like a chapter every week or two instead of an entire volume every week or two). That way I can keep up this hobby and not let the pressure it once put on me become too great. I will admit that for a while I was considering abonding translation altogether, or perhaps seeking a different, less abusive group to work with, but I'll give it a second chance.

I started work at Freescale on the 11th of this month and I'm working 25 hours a week currently. It's nice being able to work for them again, especially since it's only part-time. School started up on the 17th, but I didn't have my first class till the 20th. The two classes I'm taking this semester (in addition to a thesis course) are: 10 Unsolved Questions in Neuroscience, and Introduction to Theoretical/Computational Neuroscience. Both are three hours long (yuck), but only one day a week (yay) and are actually being co-taught at UT Houston, so they are being telecast to Austin half the time (weird). I haven't had the theory/comp course yet, but I had the 10Q course on Friday and it seems pretty interesting. I hope these two courses help me to figure out whether I really want to do this whole neuroscience PhD thing or not, which by the way I am still undecided on. Recently I did finally change my preference to choosing the job over choosing the PhD after getting some opinions from random people on a forum and from talking to an old friend, Hillary. Hillary and I worked at Ra sushi back when I was still an undergrad and I worked at a sushi bar during summers/winters. She's a really good friend, and one of the few people who I can be totally open with and not feel uncomfortable around. It's kind of weird, because she and I come from such different worlds (she's studying photography and accounting, I think), but I always feel great talking to her.

Anyway, here's to hoping that my blog actually becomes something semi-interesting instead of a place for me to whine and complain about my mental issues. Ha ha.