Wednesday, August 27, 2008

A day in the life of Transient Theorist...

Again, quite a lot has happened since the last time I wrote. I usually prefer writing in the evenings, and the house I've been living in the last two weeks or so doesn't have internet. For a geek, this is a serious matter - see xkcd comic via Aspiring Ecologist. I guess this means I can no longer deny my geekdom.

Life has fallen into a routine here again, although things are about to get shaken up again, more on that in a second. Most days I rise before 7:30, pack a lunch, and ride a borrowed bicycle a mile or so into the lab here. I wasn't sure I'd like it, but I think biking to work everyday is great. Much of my days are spent sitting in front of a computer - it's really nice to move some in the morning and get my heart rate up before settling in for work. And in just a week and a half I've already noticed that the commute is a lot easier - my legs hardly complain any more. It's starting to get cool here though - I definitely appreciated the sweatshirt I wore for my morning ride. I frequently see deer in the agricultural fields I pass every day. They don't seem to know quite what to make of a funny looking guy on a bicycle. All in all, I think I'd enjoy situations where I bike into work in the future. It is pretty frustrating in such a rural area to try to exist solely on bicycle though - I hate asking other people for rides to the store and such. Even if they don't mind, it still bothers me. And trying to plan out things carefully enough that I have everything I need for the foresee-able future is kind of stressful. The store is just too far away to ride to, although I have found a small local market over by the lake where I could pick up essentials if I need to at some point. I'm very please with the rack on the back of the bicycle I'm using - my own bike back at my parents' house doesn't have a rack. This thing easily and securely fit my entire bag of dirty laundry and detergent!

After making it to work, usually I toast up a bagel in the toaster I found upstairs near the administrative offices, and then wander the internet a bit while munching on breakfast. Research/computer work until lunch around noon, then several more hours after lunch. Still playing pick up soccer twice a week, although the last several games have been quite sparse on people, resulting in lots of running. Most nights I'm here until at least 8 pm, jumping on the bike in time to ride back to the house I stay at before it gets dark. After riding home in the dark one night earlier this week, I decided that, while exhilarating, it isn't something I want to make a habit of. Back at the house, I make up some dinner, and then read or talk on the phone until I fall asleep.

Right now there's only one other person living in the house - a temporary residence for people visiting the station. It's possible that he works more than I do, so I rarely see him. I've never met someone that eats sooooo much fish - pretty much every meal I've ever seen him cook involves chunks of fish, fennel, green onions and some combination of vinegar and soy sauce. Not sure what to make of it, although it's making me sort of paranoid about wiping down counters and dishes an extra time or two. But yeah, all in all, it's really quiet and a little lonely here right now, in comparison to earlier in the summer when all of the summer research students were here and I lived on campus.

I guess in one sense though it's in keeping with some of my goals for this year off - I'm definitely challenging myself a little after being so used to living with friends on a college campus and seeing loads of people every day. I've definitely always been pretty self-sufficient in terms of being able to look after myself, cook, clean, make decisions and the like. But I'm getting the feeling that this is sort of a new kind of self sufficiency that I'm tasting in a small way - figuring out how to depend only on yourself for company, a sort of emotional self sufficiency. Certainly this is a mission that historically many thinkers and naturalists embarked on, from Thoreau to Abbey and the like. I almost think it would be easier their way though - jumping out into the wilderness, and forcing yourself into a pretty total isolation, instead of being partially disconnected from things. With this partial disconnect, you're still frequently made aware of the small separations that have been made and the things and people that are missing, sometimes in unexpected and emotional ways. Hard to say for sure though, unless I set off on a more severe solo experience for comparison's sake. Looking back on my life to date, I've never really been alone quite like that. Maybe I should try some solo camping/backpacking(?).

Research itself going quite well. My adviser has been significantly impressed by what I've shown him the last several times we've met. The programming language I've spent the summer learning - Mathematica - is really starting to feel comfortable, which means less frustration and more productivity for me, although I still have lots to learn. One thing that struck me today, after talking with some of my friends who are starting up fall semester, is that I can do research all day (10-12 hours of it often here), and my head never gets to the point of numbing, blah tiredness. Don't know why this is - maybe all that brain-stress I remember from previous years derives from those days where you've got 4-5 classes in unrelated subjects and you have to keep switching gears, whereas with research I just keep thinking about the same sorts of things most of the time. Beats me.

Upcoming in posts in the next few days - news on a new job I'll be starting soon (continuing my transience), books, more from the writing a journal article saga, and maybe transportation/housing. Fascinating. But I'm being encouraged to go home and cook dinner at a normal hour, instead of waiting until 8:30...


"When we have found all the mysteries and lost all the meaning, we will be alone, on an empty shore."

"Then we will dance."

- Tom Stoppard

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