Saturday, July 26, 2008

Busy couple of days...

As the subject line of this post implies, it's been a busy couple of days out here.

On the research front, the breakthrough related to the scribbles I posted a picture of a few days ago has turned out to be a fascinating set of ideas. It's totally revived my enthusiasm for this project, as well as sparking some interesting thoughts for where to go next. I remain optimistic that this new-found energy will be the motivation I need to finish a paper on this project. There may even be one or two more papers worth of material to be gotten out of a few extensions of this work. Heady stuff. Right now I've been trying to put together the graphs and such that I need to make my case. This has involved remotely running a batch of simulations on a Linux server back at my old school... 2.5 days and counting! Yikes. Hopefully it'll be done by the end of the weekend, so I can take a look at the results on Monday. I'd really like to have a new draft of this paper to show my old adviser in two weeks when we'll both be attending this year's national conference. So far I haven't told him about this breakthrough at all... Can't wait to share the surprise!
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On a more personal front, Thursday and Friday were rather challenging days, as Bait was trying to figure out how to handle all of the BS being handed to her by people she works for at her research institute. Check out her post for the run-down on that. Being a sort of outside observer on all of it, and someone that knows her rather well, it blows my mind that people can be so inconsiderate/petty/blind.

"Rudeness is the weak man's imitation of strength."
-- Eric Hoffer

It's a sad thing when people fail to recognize the talent and resources that others bring to collaboration, and to put such skills to use in doing productive, important work on what are some very important and pressing conservation issues. It's even worse when the reason for their "oversight" comes from not paying attention, or especially, out of feeling threatened by the skills of another person. If not even the people working within environmental and conservation organizations can set aside their egos and power plays for the purpose of furthering the causes they profess to advance, things are in a scary state indeed. We need to stop feeling threatened by each other, and work together instead to address the threats our lifestyles pose to the amazing critters and plants of our natural world, and consequently, ultimately to ourselves.

I'm a lot calmer than Friday night... you might be able to tell even so, but I was decidedly angry about this whole thing. I make it a general habit to not get seriously angry more than a couple of times a year. It definitely has it's time, place, and purpose. As some Greek dude said a long time ago:

"Anyone can become angry. That is easy. But to be angry with the right person, to the right degree, at the right time, for the right purpose and in the right way... that is not easy."
-- Aristotle

I think (hope?) this was a pretty good occasion for getting a bit angry. It definitely would have been more satisfying if I wasn't many many states away, but perhaps that's a good thing too. In the end, I think the best things to have come out of all of this was the conversations I had with Bait about it all. Not easy ones, or happy ones, but very very real ones, allowing us to meet and know each other again in some different ways. If that makes sense. I'm going to lean on a crutch again and use another quote, part of my reflection on the value of having been angry and responded to it by conversing:


"Nonviolence is about speaking the whole complicated truth, the truth of our rage, the truth of our longing, the truth of our tears and our laughter, the truth of our smallest fears and our grandest dreams."
-- Pam McAllister
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Switching gears yet again, and maybe for the last time in this post, I spent most of today researching graduate schools and potential advisors. I almost feel like this should be an entire post in it's own right, so I may not go all out right now.

The jist of the story though is that I've sort of already delayed attending graduate school for a year for two reasons. The first (and better) reason is from the desire to broaden my experiences, hopefully by travelling to new places (different countries?) and stretching myself outside of the comfortable little pocket I've found in academia, maybe figuring out what I want to do next in life along the way somewhere. The second, less praiseworthy reason is that I was wayyy too busy last fall to put the kind of time I wanted to into looking at graduate programs and doing the research necessary for making good selections.

Here I am almost a year later, and I'm not sure how much of that has changed really. I've definitely got an earlier start on the process this time around. But fundamentally, I still don't know what I want to do (ie, what 'topic' I want to study within my field in graduate school). There are just sooooo many interesting and exciting topics out there! The thought of having to specialize is distinctly unpleasant. I originally got excited about double majoring as an undergrad because it meant I didn't have to choose between interesting subjects as much. Without having that lighthouse of a topical direction, trying to narrow down graduate programs and advisors is a real challenge.

More on this tomorrow; I'm starting to get weary, and this is an important topic for me - I want to express it right.

For my closing today, I'm going to offer up two great links I came across while browsing the internet today on the grad school quest:

1) REALLY cool - this site is a compendium of (FREE) online textbook resources on subjects ranging from math and physics, to biology. Some really great resources here. And did I mention they're free??? A nice way to protest the exhorbitant price of a lot of course texts these days...

2) Humor - check out these 'stickers' designed as spoofs of a sticker placed inside biology textbooks cautioning readers about the dangerous treatment of evolutionary theory within the book.

The closing quotes:

"That you may retain your self-respect, it is better to displease the people by doing what you know is right, than to temporarily please them by doing what you know is wrong."
-- William J. H. Boetcker

"The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the word to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man."
-- George Bernard Shaw.

Those are for you Bait. Keep it up!

Later...

1 comment:

Bait said...

I'd like to know where you get all these quotes from! Haha :-)