Sunday, February 19, 2006

A Decision Finally Reached

So after what seemed like an eternal debate with myself, I finally came to a decision on my full-time job offer with Freescale versus the Neuroscience program. I decided to take the job, for a number of reasons. (1) My boss said I needed to make a decision soon, and that the end of the month was really REALLY pushing it (I won't know if I got into the neuroscience program or not till the end of this month). (2) I've been working my ass off in school for 6 years now, and figured I could use a break. Especially since I've been having so much mental fatigue in the past 6 months or so. (3) I could really use the money and the time to help me stabalize my life before moving on to the next step. I still haven't given up on neuroscience, and right now I plan to apply again next year or defer my admission if I get in (and they let me defer it, but I don't think they allow that). I think that in the long-run, this really is the best decision for me, even though it means holding me back from what (I think) I really want to do.

I went to sports medicine and they X-rayed my leg last week. Thankfully, I don't have a stress fracture, even though I have all the symptoms of one. But I can't run or do anything else high-impact till my next evaluation in 3 weeks, which royally sucks. This of course means I didn't run the Freescale marathon/half-marathon, which was today. :( The excema on my hands isn't nearly as bad as I thought it would get, and it seems to already be going away thankfully. My wrists still hurt quite a bit, but it's getting better. Last week I had a theraputic massage (courtesy of Freescale of course) and that really helped out a lot, even though it was a tad painful. The girl said she moved my muscles back into "the right places" (O_o). She pointed out to me that my fingernails are purple, probably from bad circulation. She said she was envious of them because they were "pretty". >_>

Along with that comment, in the past I've had two other girls say they were jealous of various parts of my body. In high school a friend told me that I have the perfect amount of hair on my arms. My former roommate from last year said she was envious of my long eyelashes. So here I am, a man of 23 years old with purple fingernails, perfect armhair, and long eye lashes. Seriously, what the hell?

Anyway, I forgot to mention something awesome last week. A little less than two weeks ago after reading Slashdot, I saw someone refer to Craig's list. Now, I've heard of it but never actually visited the site, so I decided to take a look around. I wasn't thoroughly impressed, but I saw that you could place free personal ads there, and that many people had done so. So I figured I'd give it a try, just for the hell of it (including a picture). Within 3 hours, I had 4 e-mails from interested girls in Austin, all of which rated from about a 6 - 8 out of 10 in my book. One of them gave me her myspace page to check out her pictures, but the stupid site wouldn't let me see them without having an account. So I figured what the hell, and signed up. Crazily enough, I've received 3 PMs through myspace from girls who saw my profile and were interested in me. And a handful more of craigslist people rolled in in the meanwhile. @_@ So I could only come to one conclusion: I am an e-pimp. Yes, you heard it right. An e-pimp. Because I can't pimp in real life, but I seem to do really well on the interent (EE power?). I'm still talking with one of them, who dropped a really obvious clue that she wanted me to ask her out. So we might get together next weekend. Crazy huh?

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Broken Body, Revitalized Soul

Broken Body

So last week, I found out that I have a whole bag full of medical problems right now. So let me make a list here.

Even though I've barely gotten back into running, I'm already injured again. I had a pretty bad case of shin splints last year, but I thought they would go away over my 6 week break. Nope. I could feel them again by the fourth day back into running, and now it's so bad that it hurts when I walk too. But it seems localized to my left leg, which is very weird since my right feels fine. I may have a stress fracture in my left tibia, and first thing tomorrow I'm calling the sports medicine clinic to get it examined.

This really sucks. I'm not sure if I am going to run the half-marathon anymore. Even though I could, I don't want to make this injury worse than it already is. :( I'll probably have to pick up biking and swimming for a few weeks while I wait for it to heal. *sigh*

I have RSI (repetitive strain injury) in my wrists from typing too damn much. It's bad on somedays, but not so bad on others (today is a good day, which is why I'm blogging). This also really sucks, because I do so many computer-related things that having trouble typing is like having trouble breathing.

The good news is Freescale is taking care of me. :) I went and had the nurse do an examination last week, and they are sending an ergonomist to evaluate me, and scheduling (free!) theraputic massages for me. If that doesn't help heal it, then I may need to file for worker's compensation. So I guess things could be worse.

I have recurrent excema that haunts me about once a year, always on my palms and always in the winter. When I saw I was breaking out I prepared for the worst, but so far I'm holding up much better than in the past (so far). Usually I end up losing almost all of the skin on my palms, and it hurts REALLY bad (I'm also 50x more likely to get a paper cut in that state). It's genetic though, and there's not much I can do about it. I've seen a numbe.r of dermatologists over the years and I have some cream, but it doesn't help a whole lot


I went to see my mental health counselor on Monday last week. I went there with the intention to thank her, and tell her I'm all better now that I (finally) was able to rest, and ask her how I can prevent myself from getting into that state again. She went over a list of symptoms I had when I first visited her in September and asked me about each one of them. She concluded that although I'm much better, I'm only about 75% of the way there. After thinking about it a little, I think she may be right, because I do have some symptoms left over, and I probably feel completely better because I was at such a low point just a couple months ago.

But those symptoms are starting to get freaky. I am still having some trouble (but not as much) with concentration and memory. I still feel more tired than I should and sleep a little too much. But the really weird thing is my dreaming. My dreams feel so incredibly real these days, almost as real as shortly after I had an accident when I was 14, which left me with brain damage (long story). I'm having trouble differentiating between dreams and reality sometimes, which can be really disorienting. I also have a warped sense of time right now. Everytime I wake up, the events of yesterday feel like they were weeks ago. Things that were a few days ago feel like they were months ago, and last month feels like last year. I've never experienced anything like this before, and honestly I can't say I like it. I'm also having delusions, where I start having conversations with people in my head that, like my dreams, are very real. Some days I can't blank my mind at all, because people just keep talking to me (these are real people in real life BTW, not fictional people I make up).

After hearing this, my counselor suggested talking to a psychologist about this. She knew a couple in the university, so she told one of them about me, and he said I should approach this problem biologically, and see a neurologist. So I was given a list of neurologists in Austin, and I guess I'm going to see one sometime this week or next. Should be fun..... I'll post later about how it goes and whether I'm officially insane or not.

Revitalized Soul

Ok, so I had my interview on Friday and Saturday with the Institute for Neuroscience at UT Austin. It was really fun for me, despite it being part of the admissions process. Here's a timeline of events:

> Friday 8:30AM
Met with the other recruits (there were 15 total) and we had our pictures taken. Then we went to a library where they had posters of current research that was going on up, and we talked with each other, other INS students, and INS faculty. We also had breakfast served. :)

> Friday 10:30AM
I had my first 1-on-1 interview with a professor. I was drilled a little bit about not having any neuroscience lab experience, and I admitted that fault. But other than that the interview went great. The professor talked about the research that he does and I found it incredibly interesting. So much, in fact, that he made my list of professors I think I'd like to rotate with, if I get into the program.

> Friday 11:05AM
I got caught up talking with the first professor and was a little late for my second interview. This one was in the ARC (Animal Research Center) and I actually had to be escorted because it was a high-security facility. I didn't get to speak much with the professor, but she gave me a tour of her lab which was really cool. I also got to wear a white lab coat (we don't do that in EE!!!) and got to see a room full of rats. I've never really seen a rat before, but I thought they were pretty cool and I got to pet one. There was also a machine they had there where they induce localized strokes in the rats to study brain damage, and the machine they used looked like something out of a horror film. >_>

> Friday 11:40AM
Headed to lunch and I got to meet a lot of the recruits before the meal began. There were actually about 9 girls and 6 guys, which was different (in a VERY good way) for me since there are virtually no girls in EE. And most of the girls were really cute too. ;) They were really nice people with various backgrounds, but I was the only computer engineer there. :) Lunch was really good and we had a private dining room. And of course, it was all paid for. :D

> Friday 1:30PM
We then had a half-hour presentation about the program. The room it was held in was actually right outside of my advisor's office, and she doesn't know that I'm applying to this program at all (because I don't like her, and telling her would serve no purpose anyway), so I was a little nervous. Luckly, she wasn't in there though and I made my escape.

> Friday 2:00PM
I then had my third 1-on-1 interview with another professor. He was a really cool and relaxed guy, and he actually showed me his experimental setup for how he observes decision-making processes in primates (monkeys). I got really interested in his research as well, and added him to the rotation list I had in my head. :) We actually went 10 minutes over because I just lost track of time hearing him speak.

> Friday 2:40PM
Then I met my fourth professor. I had actually met with him two weeks ago when I inquired about why he became a neuroscientists (because like me, he was formerly a EE). So he gave me a tour of his lab, which was really impressive/intimidating. The lab has windows all along one wall with a great view. There were microscopes, lasers, various beakers filled with who-knows what, and other hydrolic contraptions I don't know the names for. It is SO different than the EE labs, which only have computers and computers!

> Friday 3:00PM
After that I had free-time, so I went to my usual 2-5PM Friday Neuroscience course, which got out a little early.

> Friday 4:25PM
Went to happy hour at a local pub (which is actually very close to my apartment). The beer was free, but I don't drink so it didn't matter to me. I talked with a lot of the current students there and that was fun, even if it was really loud and difficult to hear what people were saying.

> Friday 6:15PM
Went to the hotel with other recruits and got ready for dinner. The dinner started at about 7:00 and it was pretty good. All the recruits and several current INS students and faculty ate dinner together and it was a great time. We just pretty much talked about nothing in particular for a couple hours.

> Friday 9:30PM
I went home at this point, but some of the recruits and current students went to a bar downtown. I was just too tired at that point to do anything like that (and I don't drink, so...).

> Saturday 10:00AM
We had brunch at the hotel, which was very nice. I spoke with some faculty that were sitting at my table (mostly about cars and random stuff), which was cool.

> Saturdy 11:30AM
Then we all left for campus, and took tours of the various centers in the institute for the next two hours or so. There are three centers: The Center for Perceptual Systems, The Center for Learning and Memory, and The Waggoner Center for Alcohol and Addiction Research. All three were great and the facilities were very impressive.

> Saturday 1:30PM
We headed over to Posse East (a bar/restraunt that is also very close to my apartment) and were treated to a delcious lunch. This time it was just the recruits, some current INS students, and the program coordinator so it was a bit more laid back.

> Saturday 3:00PM
We split up after lunch. Some of us went back to the hotel, some went to the park. I chose to go see the movie Matchpoint at the Alamo Drafthouse with 3 other recruits and a current INS student (whom is also in one of my neuroscience classes). The movie was alright. It was filmed in a very different and artistic manner, and I appreciated that. After the movie, we dropped the other recruits off at the hotel, and I was taken back to my apartment to chill.

> Saturday 8:00PM
That night there was a party at one of the INS student's houses so those of us who hadn't already flown back to wherever went there. It was the first time I've been at a party in four years, so I had forgotten what they were like. It was pretty fun at first and I talked to a lot of people. I met one (cute!) girl who was a third year in INS who I had a lot in common with, and we chatted up a storm. Once the alcohol started setting in though, things got a little more wild and she tried to get me to dance, but I resisted (never been much of a dancer, and with my leg hurting as much as it is I didn't want to aggrevate it). I stayed there until a litle before midnight and then took off. Some people headed downtown to a club and the girl I met again tried to get me to go out with them, but it's just not my thing and I didn't feel like staying all night. I think she had a little too much to drink though, because she made me tell her I love her before I left. :D Oh yeah, and there was free pizza there too.

So that about sums it up! The neuroscience program is SOOOOO much different than ECE for a number of reasons.

1) The professors (from what I've seen) actually treat you like people instead of indentured servants, and they will actually collobroate with you on work and give you advice/direction. Plus they are much more personable. (I know this is a broad and probably misinformed statement, but given what I know about ECE and INS, that's how I feel).

2) There are GIRLS in this department! And a lot of them are cute too! There's probably more girls than guys even! What could be better?

3) The students are all friends with each other (it appears) and they party and hang out together all the time. There's no stupid competitive animosity between parties.

4) The program has a WHOLE lot of money, much more than ECE. And that, my friend, is a *good thing*.

In summary, it was even better than I thought it would be. There is another group of recruits coming down next week (probably another 15 or so), so after that the admissions commitee should be coming to making decisions. Out of over 140 applicants, 30 were called for interviews, and there are only 11 slots for new students. It's pretty competitive, but I didn't even think about that during those two days. The other recruits felt more like my friends than my competitors. Well, now all I can do is wait.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Between Good and Evil

Wow. So much has happened to me lately I don't know what I should talk about. I'll give it a shot.

So on Thursday, I got an invitation for an interview from the INS (Institute for Neurosciene) at UT. This is a good thing (obviously) because it means I made it past round 1 of the applicants. From the faculty and students I talked to in INS, there were about 150 applicants this year, and they typically only invite about 30 for interviews (so I guess that means I'm in the top 20%?). Of those 30, they only accept 10 people into the program. So statistically speaking, I have a 33% chance of getting in without knowing anything else about my competition. Not bad I suppose, but not all that great of a probability either. >_> Interviews take place all day Friday and Saturday next week, so you can be sure I'll blog after that. :)

I had a meeting with my boss last week and he was pretty adamant that I needed to make a decision about this whole neuroscience thing *soon* (like, within a week or two). He's kind of convinced me to just work for him for a year, and then start doing NS next year (meaning I have to apply and get accepted all over again). I'm thinking of taking his suggestion, because I really like the work I'm doing at FSL (Freescale) right now and I want to continue on it past May. Plus I could really use the extra cash since I still owe my dad like $3,500 from a tuition loan last year, and I have almost no money at the moment. :(

Yeah so, I got scammed. :( It happened last December when I was in my weird depressed state. I got tricked into giving my bank account info over the phone number, and on Monday I noticed that this company called Star Communications had made fradulant withdrawls from my account. I immediately called them and was like "WTF!?" and the Indian guy with a thick accent over there said I never replied to some package that he said they sent me (only they didn't) and because I didn't reply they "assumed" I wanted to enroll in some program where I pay them a shitload of money and they give me just shit back. Needless to say, I was pissed. I tried to get the guy to refund my money, but he said I had to write (as in, a real letter) to their HQ and gave me the address. Well I drove straight to my bank (Chase, formerly BankOne) and sat down with a guy there who was really cool. He told me what I needed to do, had me fill out some real fancy official looking paper work, and then canceled my old bank account and started a new one for me. All in all I lost about $400 to these jerks, but the banker said that he thinks they'll be able to get it back without any problem because these guys are proven scumbags.

Well, I guess we all make stupid mistakes in life at some point, so I just need to learn from it and move on. And make sure my mom never finds out, because she would be pissed. ^_^

Superpowers and Injuries
So I haven't talked about running in a long time I think. Back in mid-November, I abruptly stopped running because my spirit just gave out and I didn't have the drive to do it (or anything else) anymore. I ended up taking off 6 weeks total and finally started running again once the semester started back up. I sucked really bad at first (of course) but some miracle happened on Monday. I was able to hold a 6:30 mile pace with ease for over8 miles. I was like OMG, how did this happen? It was crazy, I'm usually never that fast without at least 4-6 weeks of solid training, and here I did it on my 6th or 7th day back into running. So just based off of that run, I decided to race the Freescale Austin Half-marathon. I was originally training to do the full-marathon last semester, but when I stopped running I thought I wasn't going to race at all. The race is in two weeks now, on the 19th of February. It should be fun, even if a little painful since I'll only have about 5 weeks of training in. :)

Speaking of pain, I'm really feeling it lately. For some reason, my shin splints came back just as fast as my speed did, so running is very painful right now. I need to go buy new running shoes I think. Second, I have RSI (repetitive-strain injury) in my wrists from typing too damn much for school/work/thesis/Allacrost/translation. @_@ It sucks REALLY bad, and I'm going to see a doctor about it ASAP (hoping for Monday next week). For someone like me, not being able to type without pain is like for most people being unable to walk without pain. :( And to top it all off, I have excema on my palms really bad. It recurs about once every year, usually in the winter, and it can get really really bad. I mean to the point where you can see the actual muscle in parts of my hands because there's no skin left there. O_O It's genetic and there's no cure, so I just have to tough it out and wait for it to go away. I have some cream I got from the dermatologist, but it doesn't do a whole lot to help.

That's all I have to report tonight. Check back next week. ^_~