good saturday after all

Saturday, December 3rd, 2005

i got about 4 hours of sleep last night, but it was my own damn fault. i thought that i might drive to columbus (OH) for winter warmup, which is a great contra dance weekend, and i have since to make it to a contra dance weekend in my graduate career, which is downright embarrassing. david and matece were already going this time so that was promising. and yet, alas, school won out again. i ended up having to schedule a pervasive computing meeting for this morning. we really needed the meeting, and i was glad to make progress because i was getting worried, so what can ya do.

i ended up able to fill another traditional committment this way, at least – the overnight at the uu church bazaar. they have a big art and stuff sale every year as a major fundraiser, and everyone feels better if someone is in the building with all those thousands of dollars of merchandise, so several young adults stay over and run around and make cookies and stuff.
how very wholesome of us, eh?
i got there around 10 or so, and katie and kelly and heather were there. we did this little candle lighting meditation thing that kelly thought up, and talked about how we thought we’d feel older by the time we got to be this age, and shared thoughts on how marriage does or doesn’t fit in to our developing senses of self. it ended up being a pretty honest talk with people i don’t really see that often, and that was nice, even though it probably sounds like sap as a retrospective.
so it goes.
to add more sap, i was a little amazed at how thoroughly transfixed we all were by the candles, and how well they contributed to the mood, despite the fact that i could also acknowledge that we looked like a freaking magazine insert with a title like “5 quick ways to find your center amidst the hustle and bustle of daily life”

what can i say, we humans are some pretty easily suckered machines.


i made a cv

Wednesday, November 30th, 2005

just like that!

not quite what i thought it would be, but a start nonetheless, eh?

i should have been in bed hours ago.

did i mention that smart is different than Smart?

Thursday, November 10th, 2005

An update, for those of you white-knuckled with your popcorn over whether yesterday’s application will be allowed to go through:

Dear Kynthia Brunette :

Thank you for your interest in the National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research Fellowship Program (GRFP).

You do not have to sent us another transcript. Transcript without transcript form or applicant ID will be process using the first and last name.

Thank you for this confirmation.
Email without past tense will be post for amusement and general celebratory tomfoolery.

and a few random shorter things…

Wednesday, November 9th, 2005

i finished my nsf application, ON THE WIRE, but now i’m afraid that they won’t accept it because i learned that i was stupid and didn’t use the right form when i sent in my transcript.
that’s the kind of thing that i think is so silly that it should be rectifiable, but then i think things like: “Kynthia, they are trying to decide if you are smart enough to spend $50,000 on… if you aren’t smart enough to submit the application correctly, that’s a big hint…”
and then i slap myself on the forehead and wonder how the hell something like that happened.
and then i think “wait… smart and Smart are different, right? will they really care?!”
and then i think, woah, that sentence is ridiculous, go eat some dinner!

yum! dinner!

doctor, doctor, are you the cure?

Tuesday, October 4th, 2005

this week i have done a lot of bouncing back and forth about what i’m going to do after graduation, which i have somewhat whimsically narrowed down to:

  1. stay at IU for the phD program
  2. work at Google
  3. travel until i run out of money

i say this is a whimsical list because it does not include any fallback options, which many find foolish.
the conversation goes like this:

them: so you want a {phD, job} eh, Kynthia?
me: umm…maybe.
them: Well, you’d better apply to as many places as you can!
me: that Does seem the reasonable approach…
them: [pause]
me: cookies and cream is a really good ice cream flavor, isn’t it?

see, the answer seems to be that i Don’t want a {phD, job}. i either want to stay at IU because i have found an exciting community of people here who are pushing me to do good work and i feel like i’m finally figuring out what i need to do to get my game on, or i want to go work for google, because if i take them seriously when they say that they’re out “to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful”, then we have a lot in common, and if i’m trying to learn what’s really being done out there and what i can do to help, then there are probably few better ways than going to work with a bunch of really smart people who are currently in the center ring of the cultural circus that is shaping our technological reality.
or at least that’s one perspective.
the other is that i would get sucked up by california and yuppie culture and free food at work and swimming pool treadmills and all that would allow me to become so entranced by the work of helping gmail conversations become what they really are longing to be that i’d forget about what makes that whole “universally accessible and useful” business really resonate with me – the fact that there are a hella lot of people out there who are poised to be excluded from the work and play of gathering and sharing our collective human knowledge, and i want to do what i can to make sure that doesn’t happen, because i don’t believe we’ve the right to call it our “collective human knowledge” otherwise, and i don’t see why we would want to aim for anything less.

so i’m of a split opinion on the matter

this week i’ve been bouncing back and forth (is that how this post started?), and the things i tell myself at either extreme are:
phD – “you’re in a place you love, working with people you respect and you feel momentum toward defining and realizing your goals. your whole life you have been thinking that you will find answers somewhere else, sometime later, when you’re more ready, and so why the hell would you leave a place where you feel like you’re cultivating the skills you need to feel comfortable in the here and now to go work for a place that gives a lava lamp to every employee?! are you high?!”
google – “you’re at a point where you can recognize what you think you want to do, and these people might be doing it. your whole life you have been thinking that you will be more ready for things if you just wait and learn a bit more, prepare a bit more, so how can you give yourself that same speech now and think that it is anything other than the same old fears of success with trickier psychological clothing? the only way you will get sucked in and end up somewhere you don’t want to be is if you stop caring about what brought you there and stop looking yourself in the mirror. Why don’t you give yourself some credit?!”


all of this, of course, supposes that both of these options are really options, and they’re probably not. when i graduate in may, i will be just about qualified to be what google calls a usability analyst. But that’s not really my ideal job there, and it’s wicked competitive, and my speeches to myself about wanting to build skills are really rather relevant – remember that four years ago i was a political science major, and before that i was learning to make movies. i don’t regret those experiences in the slightest, but i’m in super-learning mode right now when it comes to the computers, and school seems like a reasonable place to be learning…
(but i would have to get into the phD program, too, ya know, so it’s not like anything’s a given, and since, as mark twain has told me since highschool – “i never let my schooling interfere with my education”, it’s good to remember that it’s sure as hell not like i wouldn’t learn about the computers if i friggin worked at google…)

so yeesh! nothing is resolved here!

the practical money’s on the phD, i suppose, but the moral of the story is that i’m applying for both so that all of the voices of my conscience will be satisfied

i’ll just do a bunch more bouncing in the meanwhiles, and if i call you in may asking if i can crash at your house on my way across the country or around the world because neither panned out, just don’t say i didn’t warn ya…

K501 – assignment 1?

Thursday, September 22nd, 2005

so i’m only taking two classes this semester (and working 20 hours), but i’m also striving to give myself a little self-led crash course that could be titled “stuff i should know about web design, but am forced to admit that i don’t (and i damn well better get over it)”
first on the syllabus is the development of a less-scattered understanding of css, and that’s what i’ve been tackling for the last few weeks, with the help of this book i bought. i’m a bit intimidated by how well this has gone so far, and am afraid that the next topics i have outlined for myself (php/mysql and then javascript) won’t bode as well, since they’re more complicated.
but anyway, apart from giving me the ability and confidence to tinker with the skin on which this blog is based, i decided that the best first project to tackle with my new knowledge was the monstrosity that i had inherited when i signed on to be part of the beacon steering committee at church (and admitted that i wasn’t afeared of the internets).
now it looks like this.
it took about a half an hour to shift from one to the other when i finally sat down to do it, and though i’m not done yet, the whole affair still pleases me.

take some freak-out, pass it around…

Thursday, September 22nd, 2005

crises seem to be the scene du jour for my classmates right now, so much so that i’m having a bit of a meta-crisis because i don’t really feel like putting on a tutu and getting on the roof for a rousing rendition of wooly-booly.
what’s wrong with me?!

seriously, though, it’s not the first time that i’ve felt compelled to wonder if my venting mechanisms are poorly wired, and now i’m starting to think about what it means with respect to my budding professional and/or academic goals.

it’s not like the first weeks of school haven’t provided me with things to rant about, and it’s not like i don’t feel signs of some slippage, but what i’m most worried about isn’t freaking out, it’s dropping out (not in the leaving school sense, or in the timothy leary sense… ok maybe i should pick a different metaphor… stepping back? but that doesn’t have the “out” in it for symmetry… whatever).

to put it more directly, i am coming to believe that the danger for me is not that i will collapse from the pressure of taking on too much, but that i will, in the name of preserving my sanity, convince myself that i shouldn’t feel any responsibility to take on any more than is comfortable (what are you trying to prove?, the grog challenges me in the morning, as i choose between sleeping another hour and getting up to work), and as a result, i will never find out what i can really do if i put my whole self on the line.

somewhere sometime somehow i came to equate wisdom with resisting the rat race, and over time the truth behind that impulse (keep perspective, don’t think that your worth is a function of the success of any of your specific endeavors, don’t forget to just enjoy being alive) has become tangled up with a fear of looking stupid (by not being wise, i suppose, despite the fact that i’m quite ready to admit that being afraid of looking stupid is a surefire way to avoid the accrual of wisdom… just because brains are rational does not mean that they always make sense), and so the result is that i stay on the fringes of my potential, waiting for a strong enough sense of rightness to yank me into the fray and give me the conviction that i need to both get things done and keep my head above water.

i’m either getting closer or i’m just getting sick of waiting, but admitting that to myself sometimes causes a backlash, and i seek equilibrium by staying in bed all morning, or by not doing something i said i was going to do and telling myself that i was asking too much. that’s what my meta-crisis felt like last week, and that’s when i actually started this entry, so it feels a bit different to be finishing it now. maybe i should disallow drafts for a while because otherwise i’ll try to hard to get it “right” when all i’m trying to do is get something out…
that’s another topic.

for now i’m just saying that i feel a bit less stuck in my head about whether i’m doing enough to stay on top of what i have to do, but i’m also feeling somewhat precarious… i got some good things done this week but i’m not confident in my ability to sustain my momentum, or in how much it matters one way or another. that’s the question i really have to tackle before i dive in for the long haul.

Here’s a song I like when I get to wondering whether success as we tend to conceive of it is just an excuse for not thinking about troubling things. If you like it, you should buy the whole album; it’s good stuff, and just about every song there hits me at one time or another.