I am very glad this week is over. I could identify a friend getting me sick as the cause
of a lot of my problems for the past couple weeks. I had a few interviews, a few projects to and reviewing for technical interviews. I haven’t done any form of working out for a couple weeks and I feel weak and fat. Today was the first time I did something physical and that was just going for a two walks. Tomorrow I will touch a barbell in two weeks and one challenge is solidifying a training routine. I get the impression I will just struggle to maintain my current strength levels and when the semester is over go back to getting stronger. One thing I forgot since the semester has started was how nice it is to stay home and do some of the “boring” chores and going outside for a walk. The school I go to is located in a small city and walking there is extremely different that walking out in the woods. I think I will advantage of a doctor’s appointment this week to set aside some time afterwards and read outside, the one activity that always relaxes me.
I may also get a cup of coffee at a local coffee shop one thing I found was to cycle my caffeine consumption, meaning some weeks I drink coffee and others I don’t. This is relative to how much work I need to get done and what other responsibilities I have.
I think that in an age where we as humans don’t participate in as many physical challenges as our ancestors we need to find new ones. What’s that saying about a ship being safe in a harbor but that’s not what ships are built for? I find school to be one of the greatest challenges I have taken on, while I would argue that may be a sign of how soft my life is (and that I have to make up fake work to have the same respect as my ancestors), it is a worthy challenge. This is something that keeps me up at night and wakes me up early because you only get one chance to see how awesome you can be. This is also something I can’t just brute force or man -handle my way through, it makes me have to use my brain and compose a strategy. Challanges like these that make me grateful for my own life. I definitely decided to study computer science because I hate having fun and sleeping.
“You probably won’t believe this, but the trend today is either being ridiculously fat and awful, or skinny and weak! There’s this new pride in the world and it revolves around being physically pathetic.” ~Jim Wendler
I think that there is a trend of being pathetic in general (professionally, academically, physically, and mentally). I see it a lot in school where a lot of students complain and there are some legitimate things to complain about in terms of education in America. No one in this world got anywhere by complaining, people ascend their current situation by putting their head down and working. It’s not always an easy, enjoyable or great process but it is the only one that works. I remember listening to Matt Vincent on a podcast talk about how he “has to make up fake work (lifting weights/conditioning) to have the same respect his ancestors did.” I feel the same way about getting work done and doing something that gets me sweaty, if either don’t get done in a day I feel like I wasted the day. A challenging that I consistently have to overcome is burning out with school work and while it may be funny sometimes the work that needs to get done that day is relaxing. Sadly as a human you can’t be at 100% all the time, you body/mind/etc needs time to recover while balancing out doing things that make you happy. Another lesson from Matt was his consistent message of “you only get one life to go on adventures theme” that I fully embraced. Since following him on YouTube I have started to travel more something I never wanted to do in my earlier years. At the age I am more and more people are spreading away from their home state and this means trips to see them. Also it is great to experience new foods, places and experiences. My respect for both men is incredibly high, I can’t wait to shake their hands. Their messages resonate with me and something I find myself drawing from.
One class in particular has been really challenging for me. I have been seeing the professor at her office hours weekly and she knows I am not messing around. Still though I am making little progress in that class and it is turning into a question of faith. Thankfully she is starting to “pump the brakes” since a lot of the class is having trouble at first. Sadly most professors are not this reactive and will often ridicule you for not knowing something. Aren’t you paying for school to get an education? This challenge though is proving to be a great test of my character and values. Life doesn’t always provide you with these very often so it is important to enjoy them. A lesson that I keep reminding myself is every great expert in any domain started as a complete beginner, she/he had to be taught the basics and most likely struggled with them, but continued to progress. I am at the tough part the understanding the basics part. It is frustrating like learning any new skill but life always goes on. I recognize my problems are nothing compared to the problems experienced by others, such as the ones the people of the Caribbean are facing currently. It still doesn’t mean it is easy but I will march forward down this crazy adventure called life.
No matter how much planning I do I can never really set a schedule for myself until a few weeks into a semester. Factors like traffic, study space availability, and when I can schedule extra curricular activities cannot always be determined unless I am in the semester. By the end of the month I should have a more solid schedule planned out but it isn’t until mid October that I can definitively say this is my schedule. It amazes me that for a school so large it is really hard to find a quiet place to study that also has a white board, since it is nice to plan out what you are doing, make diagrams etc.
This weekend I have a wedding in Maine to go to and it will be nice to see some of my family. I hope to get some time this weekend to do some fishing and relax.
I have resumed school and over a conversation with my adviser talked about the title of this post. He talked about attending a talk by Dr. McCarthy about time management. Dr. McCarthy is incredibly accomplished relative to his age working on the Racket language. He is a family man and certainly not one to have a ton of free time. Dr. McCarthy talked about the creation of a task list and focusing on one thing. If the task is to make a list he will just make a list, that singular focus is something that is hard given the myriad of distractions that can hit us. I brought up the pomodoro technique (25 min of work, 5 min break, then repeat four times, then take a short break) which my adviser thought this was a good idea and a good way to help me minimize semester burnout. A big message I took away from our conversation was “when you are on you are on, when you are off you are off” meaning if you are going to do school work focus only on that, if you are going to relax just focus on relaxing and not worrying about other things. This singular focus is something that can and will be honed over the course.
For me this will be a challenging course not because of the number of classes but diving into some of my weaker academic areas. Both Algorithms and Foundations of Computer Science dive into areas of math that are more proof based and not computationally based. My mobile robotics course uses a fair amount of probability which is an area I feel like I can always strengthen. Searching for a six month co-op is the highest priority goal that I have this semester. Rounding out my academic responsibilities is learning and practicing HTML/CSS. Outside of academic pursuits I would like to get stronger at a slightly lower body weight. This is slightly inhibited by my love of pizza and sushi. I also wanted to spend some more time exploring the towns around me. Yesterday my girlfriend and I finished walking parts of the Concord Freedom trail. Posted every few miles are little historical tidbits about the [American] Revolutionary War. Growing up around here you forget how much history is around us and I want to see more of it.
September is now upon us, in New England this means the leaves will change, days will get cooler and pumpkin flavored beverages will start appearing. The fishing is slowly starting to fade which is a shame because I started using some new lures. I am going to try to keep going till it becomes futile. Fishing gets me outdoors and is a moment for me to reflect on life. Currently the start of the new semester seems to be on my mind the most. I have a rather dense course load this semester and only have to be on campus three days a week. I am hoping the days off can help me reach one of the most important goals this semester which is getting a six month co-op. The days where I don’t have to be at school can be used to prepare for interviews, go to interviews and just learn more in the wide field that is Computer Science. Regardless of whatever part of CS that I choose to work in, I will always be learning more and more as technology changes. Despite the pressure to succeed I am also looking to getting to know my friends and classmates better and do more things outside of academics.
Yesterday was Labor day and my girlfriend and I went for a walk down a trail in Concord, MA. Growing up in Massachusetts you forgot how much history is in the state. Along the trail were information about the Revolutionary war and some of the farms still stand today. Despite being next to where I grew up I had never gone down this trail and it was awesome since it was flat and shaded. It will be nice going down another section of the trail later down the road and see all the colored leaves. One thing that I love to do to relax outside is to make a cup of tea using a backpacking stove and just sit. This simple act of enjoying a cup of tea really helps me recenter myself and leaves me wanting more. It amazes me how little time most people don’t spend outdoors often confining themselves to sit in front of a screen. Go see things through your own eyes.
Classes start for me next week. Thursdays will be long for me, Tuesdays and Fridays much shorter. I have already started to plan out a rough schedule for myself with breaks planned in. An element of school that is often overlooked is the constant pressure that is contained within a semester. Unlike some forms of work school work is always there for you to work on. From moment you get handed a syllabus to the moment you submit your final exam/project you are under constant pressure to kick that course in the dick. There isn’t much room for breathing since you have to constantly be working towards preforming well. Education is the US is mostly focused on exam performance, clearly if you can master taking an exam that you are a champion of that subject. Anyone older than twenty five can see the futility in this. There are very few industries where things are held constant, in the age we live in change is both constant but accelerating. I wish that instead of so many exams there were more projects and reflections of working with others, this would feel more realistic since most work areas are focused on certain pushes, breaks push again. Don’t get me wrong school is often just bare bone foundation and you got to take your education into your own hands and supplement as you see fit. For me that involves looking at MIT open course ware, buying supplemental books and studying people I admire. Despite my limited talent I recognize how small of a fish I am in a sea of true monsters (in terms of application of knowledge) and that analogy is constant in the major fields of my life. This is an adventure that I am somewhat reluctant to start but will have a good attitude towards.
Something that I want to experiment with this semester is more scheduled breaks and fun activities, which will hopefully minimize out burnout. I have been making a list of places to go hiking and am trying to plan a backpacking trip to mix it up. Also trying to make time to spend time with friends since like any good friend you don’t have to explain much to them they know the path you are walking and the struggles you face. I have taken the rest of the week off of my strength training after this exhausting four hundred and five pounds. It seems pulling sumo didn’t transfer as much as I thought it would, which is fine just another note to put in my training log. I made a video comparing my pull from the first of the year to last Sunday: here. I feel I lost a lot of speed off the floor and will have to work on that for a few months. In addition to physical training I plan on doing some reading and writing outside away, I have a zero gravity chair which I like sitting back in outside. There are so many places to go that it’s hard to get sick of scenery, it feels like a place I can breathe deeply and relax. There is something refreshing about being outdoors and in a quiet place, it is a free spa that I hope to indulge in to balance out with. For clarification balance for me doesn’t mean everything has equal weight but more in line with the definition of priority. Doing certain activities because without them you know you won’t preform well. For me the highest priority is making sure I sleep well. If I don’t sleep well everything deteriorates so making sure I get to bed and feel rested is highest task for me.
I am back from my Vermont vacation. I stayed at the same campsite that I did last year but with a different couple joining my girlfriend and I. The first night I made pulled pork in cast iron, which rekindled my love of cooking in cast iron. It turned out well and was a great opportunity to relearn somethings about cooking. The next day was focused on exploring a state park and we all went on a hilly hike and climbed up a tower to see various mountains in New Hampshire and Vermont. After we washed up we went to Montpelier, the state capital. We ate at a lovely pizza place and the Skinny Pancake a wonderful place to get crepes. On Friday we went and took a tour of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream factory. It was cool to see the influence of a company that makes ice cream has had over the years especially regarding political issues, as well it was cool how they did things for the local community such as a free ice cream day for the town, using Vermont cows milk and sourcing their ingredients from responsible vendors. From there we went to Burlington and shopped at some of the stores before concluding the trip by walking around a small Lake Champlain and having a maple soft serve ice cream. Our little adventure group departed after exploring the Randolph farmer’s market. I stayed in Randolph and did some fly fishing and waded in cold stream. It was super refreshing and fun being in water that was almost emerald green blue color.
Something about adventures that I never put together till now was that it takes a small amount of effort to go on one. I used to be under the idea that adventures just happen and I just had to wait for the next one, no you need to go out and actively pursue adventure. Planning and making sure you have the right resources ensures that more and hopefully more fulfilling adventures come to you. Another big shift for me was looking at uncomfortable events as just adventures and learning points. Anyone who has ever had a camping mishap or got rear ended can relate that not all adventures are awesome but I would rather have a bad adventure than no adventure at all. After all you only get one lifetime to experience things and what can be really concerning is you never know when you check out and move on the final adventure we all go on. For me the upcoming fall semester is going to be a great adventure one worthy of tales over drinks with friends. There are going to be some tough challenges to overcome and I may not reach all of the goals that I want to try to hit.