Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Things that can happen in just four months

Its been almost exactly 4 months since my last post. There is no single reason, but the main one was that I have been insanely busy for 4 months (even more so than usual). My life literally took a 360 degree turn in the last 14 weeks of my life, and some incredible things have happened (unfortunately, most of them are incredibly bad). Below is my attempt to summarize the last four months, which sure isn't easy considering all that has happened. @_@


- I finished up my neuroscience class (the one that I didn't drop), which took some effort and almost an all-nighter to pull together my final project. I was quite happy with what I turned in though, and I think my presentation was one of the better ones.

- The doctors still could not identify the cause of my illness after getting back more test results. I setup an appointment with a psychologist for a "different" type of testing to be done in a few weeks.

- My job was quickly becoming frusterating for me because I was having trouble with a simulator that I needed to use to write a large part of the proof for my the methodology in my thesis. Repeatedly trying to identify the cause of and resolve bugs (my co-workers did all of the resolving) sucked up a lot of time and put me really behind schedule on my work. I was increased to work 40 hours a week early this month, at my own request (since I was already working more that much anyway, I figured I should get paid for it).

- I spent a few days in Chicago and went to the Play! Symphony. It was awesome! I got to see the likes of Nobou Uematsu and Koji Kondo in the flesh (two very famous Japanese composers, the first did a lot of the music in the Final Fantasy series, the second created music for many Mario and Zelda games). I really, really, really enjoyed it a lot. :)

- A lot of great progress with Allacrost was made during this month. I had originally proposed to the team that we shoot for a May 30th goal to have a playable demo released, since we were in a very capable state to do so. Unfortunately I didn't realize that a lot of people were still in classes until mid-June, so we expectedly fell short of that date.


- My summer class "Intellectual Property" started. This, put me as full-time student status at UT, and simultaneously I continued to work full-time at Freescale and working on my thesis. It was surely a recipe for disaster and nothing short of madness on my part. Actually I would have been able to handle it if things didn't continue to go south for me.

- Problems with software and systems at work persisted, and I found a bug that was so bad.....I can't even say how bad it was. It was not only bad for Freescale, it was really bad for me since this effectively shut-down any progress on my thesis. I still can't really believe that this much-worse-than-I-could-ever-imagine worse-case scenario truly happened to me.

- Allacrost made some really good progress this month as well and was looking pretty good. Unfortunately we were short on a lot of things because people couldn't devote as much time as I had hoped they could/would, so the deadline date slipped again. It was also not good for me because I had planned to step down from my leadership position starting in June to focus on writing my thesis, but the deputy lead went on several vacations across the globe all summer (lucky bastard) and the lead programmer who initially agreed to step up had to back down because he got involved in a presonal project of his own (which I don't fault him for). Someone has to keep the show running, and that someone had to mostly be me this month. :(

- My apartment bedroom sprung a MAJOR leak and the ceiling started dripping all this yellow water (apparently from my A/C unit). It took the idiots running the place forever to actually come look at the problem (I sent two e-mails, and had to make 3 phone calls before they finally came). Then they waited another day or two to actually bring someone to fix it. This all happened while my mother came to visit, which was just wonderful. I abanonded a whole section of my apartment because they never fully fixed the ceiling in there.

- They finally figured out what the cause of my illness was. I took a series of tests (that lasted 4 hours) with that psychologist. He tested all kinds of brain functions, from basic arithmetic, reading, memorization, matrix solving, making rational arguments, etc. etc. etc. The good news was that I showed no signs of "organic brain dysfunction" (trans: my brain does not appear to be physically or chemically damaged) and I did very well on the intellegence tests. Apparently I also took an IQ test in that battery of tests (I was unaware of it at the time) and I scored in the superior range (I didn't expect to score that high). But the problem was that I showed a very high level of anxiety, in the 99.5 percentile (I shit you not), and thus all of my problems with sleeping, memory, concentration, etc. all boiled down to the fact that I have been suffering from an extreme anxiety disorder for who knows how long.

My prescription was to A) attend relaxation therapy short-term, B) start taking anti-depressants, C) if at all possible, take some time-out and go relax on a beach in Mexico or something. Too bad the C) option was not possible at the time.


- Following more problems at work, it became clear to me that there was no way I could graduate in August and feel good about it. Especially with my recent anxiety disorder diagnoisis, I decided it would be best not to try and push myself harder than I already was. I resolved myself to graduating in December.

- I talked to my boss and convinced him to allow me a three week hiatus in August. He agreed with only some minor reservations, which kind of surprised me. I'm glad that he's so flexible though, because I could not survive without that kind of flexibility.

- I met with my advisor to discuss my thesis work at her request. It went really bad, and I realized that she has not read a single status report or any sort of information that I have provided her over the last year. It pissed the hell out of me because I found it to be very disrespectful of her (I don't ask for much, I just wanted her to understand what it was that I was doing and why).

- After talking with several professors and other people qualified to comment on my situation with my advisor, I decided to find a new advisor because my relationship with her (or lack there of) was not beneificial for either one of us. After talking to another professor that I came to know through the UT marathon team, he accepted my request to be my new advisor (which I thank him for every time I e-mail/call/see him now ;). I went to my old advisor and tried to politely and cleanly break with her, but she went off on a tirade and called me "selfish" and said that I was taking advantage of her or some bullshit like that. Ironically, I had felt the same way about her for almost an entire year. I wasn't going to stay there and take her verbal abuse, so I fired back and after we had argued with each other for 30 minutes, she finally accepted my departure (and she definitely was not happy when all was said and done). I'm just happy I don't have to bother myself with her any longer.

- Allacrost continued making slow but steady progress, but this month we had a lot of personnel problems. One guy who was key for our new website design had an emergency and was incapacitated with that for nearly a month. Another guy was asked to leave the team after not producing any tangible work. And a lot of other people were on vacation, etc. and so we only had a small group working towards our demo release goal for most of the month.


- My apartment lease expired at the end of July (thankfully), and I moved in to a 3-bedroom, 2.5-bathroom in North Austin, just a half mile south of where I work. It is very, very nice not to have to spend an hour of my day commuting to/from work anymore. :) My new roommate is awesome and he and I get along great (he's 26, works at National Instrumets as a mechanical engineer, and is a very active triathlete). I love my new home very very much, and it has really helped to relieve a lot of stress from my daily life. :D

- I was pretty busy at my job in the first half of this month as I was transitioning my work to others during my hiatus. Things went well for the most part though, and I started my 3-week break the week of the 14th.

- Allacrost got really close to getting a demo out, but we unfortunately lost even more people and there are a lot of bugs to fix before we feel it is ready for public consumption. Almost all the art is complete with a couple exceptions, the music is complete, we are still lacking a signficant amount of sounds, and like I said there are a number of bugs present. We were originally planning to release a new website, new screenshots, and the first playable demo of the game simulatenously, and then seek to recruit new people to help us fill in some gaps, but we are really short on programmers and artists right now and so we are probably going to release the first two and save the demo for when it is polished and ready for action. Hopefully the new site and the screenshots will go live by the end of this week. :)

- I finished my Intellectual Property class and did very well in it. I truly enjoyed this calls a lot and it was probably the most useful class I have ever taken at UT. I actually think that law is a pretty cool subject, because there's never an answer that is truly correct and never a formula that always applies (unlike engineering). I actually thought the (take-home) exams were fun because you were presented a case, and had to analyze the arguments of both sides in the case and come as close to a conclusion as possible. Taking this class almost made me want to become a judge (but definitely not a lawyer) ;)

- The past week and a half, I have been spending working hard-core on Allacrost (this is the first time that I have been able to do so since January of this year). In the next day or two, I'm going to start getting hard-core on my thesis instead because this is the perfect opportunity for me to do so. (It feels very strange not having anything that I have to do by the way.). Now I'm getting myself to run regularly again and get my sorry ass back in shape (yet again). And then I've been taking care of odds and ends that I just have not had time for in the past few months. Oh, and I bought a Nintendo DS Lite as well! :D It's a lot of fun, but I'm not addicted to it yet (and I hope I don't, otherwise I'll be screwed).

- I am taking one Fall class next semester, "Advanced Computer Architecture", which my new advisor is teaching. I actually don't need this class to graduate, but I need it in the sense that I really would like to have a better understanding of computer architecture than I currently do. I'm going to be working 25 hours/week during the Fall semester like I originally planned to in the Spring (hopefully it won't shoot up to 40 hours again) and spend the semester working on my thesis, which I will have plenty of time to finish now (as long as another catastrophy occurs). If all goes well (and it should!), I will graduate in December and start my professional, salaried job at Freescale.

So all in all, I've been through hell for most of the summer, but my life is getting to be more tranquil and enjoyable now, and I really hope that will continue throughout the rest of this year. That's all for now!