Tuesday, March 31, 2009

A New Direction

I'm taking a break from my religion/science blogging this post to talk about life. Actually I've been wondering lately if I should start a new blog dedicated to the topic of religion since I write about it so much lately. Right now I don't think I will, but if the readers of this blog tell me that they are only interested in a specific topic that could influence me to do so.

Anyway, other than my studies on religion and science there isn't a whole lot for me to comment on right now. Sadly I admit that my time spent on Allacrost has fell to almost nothing. An upgrade cycle I did back in February somehow rendered my Linux images unbootable and I haven't had the time and motivation to fix that yet, so that's a major contributing factor. I hope to get it fixed in a couple weeks and slowly get back into the swing of things, but I realize now that I have other interests and hobbies outside of Allacrost and I don't think its feasible for me to dedicate myself to that project at the level that I did for so many years. I'll continue working on it until the final release or until my death, whichever comes first. :)

I've been struggling to get back into good shape for triathlon season. I've mostly been focusing on my running now that I have custom orthotics and shin splints don't seem to be a problem at all for me anymore (YAY). But I've been plagued with some sort of problem in my throat for nearly two months that has left me with a chronic cough. The doctor said he thought it was a bacterial infection and the medicines he prescribed worked great, but as soon as they ran out it came back. I coughed so hard that I actually damaged my ribcage and its pretty painful. So the coughing and damaged ribs really hindered my training in a big way. So I wasn't in top shape for the Capital 10K race which I ran last Sunday. It was disappointing because I had been looking forward to that race for an entire year.

That race last Sunday, by the way, was the one year anniversary of my return to competitive athletics. The race itself went better than I expected to and I actually beat my time last year by a little over a minute. I finished at 40:59.4, which is 6:36/mile pace. I think the reason I did so well was because I ran it smart, conserved my energy, and ran negative splits (last year I ran the first half of the race too fast and died in the last half). I didn't take my splits, but I know my first mile was 6:50 so that means I definitely sped up as the race went on. As I was on the final stretch, I knew the 41:00 mark was coming up and I wanted to beat it, so I sprinted as hard as I could for about 10 or 15 seconds. And then about 20-30 seconds after I finished, I threw up. And I mean I really puked my guts out. I threw up at three different places in the finish area (all off to the side). It felt good because I know when that happens, it means I really pushed myself beyond my body's limit. I haven't done a post-race puking since my last race in high school in early 2000, where I ran the 2-mile race at the regional track meet in a personal best of 10:24 (I think I PRed that race by 12-20 seconds).

And now an important announcement. I've decided to leave my current job. In this economy I know its a bit crazy to do that, but I am financially stable and I feel confident enough to make this move. The reason I decided to do this was largely because I'm not interested in the work I'm doing there. It was a really hard decision to make because I love the company and the people, but I'm still pretty miserable when I have to spend 40 hours a week doing something that I don't enjoy and that is not intellectually challenging for me. My manager (who has been totally awesome about this) helped me try to find other work in the company to see if there was another group I could transfer to where I could find my niche, but even after looking around and working temporarily with another group it just wasn't happening. My last day is April 10th (next Friday).

So what do I do now? Well I don't have anything lined up yet, even though I've kept my resume posted for the past four months or so. I've been keeping an eye out but I just didn't find anything that really fit my interests and my preferred technologies. I really want to go back to a Linux development environment. I hate dealing with Microsoft, Windows, and all of their crap. Sadly, the best positions that I have found that meet what I'm looking for have been with defence contract agencies. I'm a bit apprehensive about designing "tools of war", but I've decided that if another defence opportunity presents itself to me, I might as well interview and see what happens. I'd prefer that the results of my work go to the betterment of life, not the destruction of it (I know that defence is a necessary industry and war/conflict is unavoidable, but I would like to avoid having a part in it if I can). I'd really like to work for a research lab or institution and help design software to enable scientists and engineers to better do their jobs. That way, I can also learn about another field. I would really love to be able to design simulators. Biological, chemical, structural, electrical, any kind of simulator really.

But I'm not limiting myself to just a typical job either. I had dinner with my friend Hari a few weeks ago and he actually proposed that I try out working for myself as an iphone game developer. Apparently there's a lot of money in that if you develop a popular game. It sounds simple enough and I think I'm easily capable of doing that work on my own, so I think I'm likely to look into it and give it a shot. If I can make a living that way, be my own boss, and not have to put a ton of time into it, I think that would be great. I could spend more time and effort dedicated to causes that I care about that way. I've also considered going back to school to get my PhD, either in computer engineering or possibly in another field like neuroscience or psychics. My primary concern with returning to grad school life though is how much time working on my PhD will consume. If you recall some of my posts from my grad school days, they were not happy times for me. I got physically and mentally sick from working myself to the bone every day without respite. I started a thread on the PhD comics forum asking about time commiments in different majors.

I'm also open to the idea of moving away from Austin if the right school or job opportunity presents itself to me. I love Austin a lot and it is difficult for me to part with it, but a part of me feels like I should not stay in place for too long. I need to shake things up every few years and intentionally put myself in a new environment where I am not comfortable. I don't want to live in a bubble called Austin, or anything else, for the rest of my adult life. I've been considering California or perhaps somewhere in Europe, perhaps Germany. I don't know German but its a language that I would like to learn one day. I could try Japan too, but I don't know if that country would be a good fit for me to live in. I'll visit it someday to be sure, but living there is another matter entirely.

Anyway that's my life for now. Hopefully my life will become more interesting as I leave my current job and I'll provide more frequenent updates on happenings in the near future.

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Anonymous Lil said...

Wow, well done on your sporting achievements! The time is very impressive (I only managed 60-61 minutes per 10K when I did a ladies' mini marathon last year, albeit it was my own fault for I didn't train much for it to start with) and keep up the good work!

Graduate study experience varies for one person to another. Overall my experience has been pretty positive despite a few setbacks now and then, but that's to be expected. I must say I have been extremely lucky that I have very supportive supervisor who believes in me even more than I do myself. He also believes in personal development so over the years, I've been given the opportunity to travel to international conferences (that cost a bomb for him every time I took a trip) so that I get to learn in a different environment. Like now, technically I'm out of funding (I'm writing up at the moment) but not only he found way to continue to support me financially, he just ok'ed me to attend a conference this summer in USA. Pretty awesome :)

Do what you feel is right for yourself. In deciding PhD program, talk to the people in the lab that you're interested in, away from the advisor. They tend to be more frank in that situation so you can get a better picture of what working in that lab is like. And also see if you get along with the advisor and the people. They will play a relatively important role of your enjoyment in the lab. Best of luck!!!

2:16 PM  
Blogger Sean Leather said...

I definitely wish you some good luck as you figure out where to go and what to do next. Let me know if you make it to Europe.

7:48 AM  

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