Go with a smile!

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Staying the course

OK, things are proceeding with rapid pace now. 2011 will be a very interesting year. In a way, 2009 and 2010 were about me preparing for 2011. Considering how nervous I was about getting into CS grad school it’s nice to know that I haven’t been rejected from any yet. I’m already in a local uni (acceptance rate 1 in 4). I’ve been accepted at the University of Mexico (1 in 10, actually maybe 7). Plus Mexico is not obscenely expensive.

When you hire a prostitute, there are prostitutes who a famous for being really good in bed, based on word of mouth reports. There are others who have nice legs, nice figures, but are basically virgins. I would categorise myself as a virgin.

I had hoped to get a 80% percentile on my subject test, but instead got a 70%. And I thought, oh no not even Mexico would want me now. (But at least that's not true.) And Mexico's not my safety school - there are no safety schools, because if you don't get into a school you really want you may not do the masters.

Somebody left my department and I’m the last person who knows how to pick up his slack. So I’m actually quite busy this year. I thought that I would be devoting more time towards charting out the new course in my life. I’m actually stuck with more work, and balancing it out with my part time course. This was not exactly what I had in mind, even though, the certainty that comes with it is welcome. Although it could distract from my pursuit of my dreams in the near future, it is a way for me to learn new skills.

My relatives are beginning to catch on that I’m thinking of a master’s overseas. I don’t know if they’ll try to dissuade me. I know they don’t like it. But what are you going to say to somebody who has just spent a few years doing something he’s not sure about, due to contractual obligations, and now has his own ideas about what he wants to do?

One of them told me, “I don’t think you should be teaching the next generation”. I replied “you probably think I should stay far away from babies and not have children ever.” He must have realised that he just said something really offensive because he turned the discussion into something really incoherent after that.

The idealist in me would have loved for me to do stuff like pure maths and philosophy. Now, I'm glad I didn't go all the way down this path, because it would have meant a dead end road. I'm also glad because I realised that the real world where real people live in is very much more interesting than the world of pure maths and philosophy.

Again, the idealist in me wants to do research and solve the problem of artificial intelligence. The pragmatist in me would just want to find a way to leave his job. But if his job is already pseudo research, it needs to be that much better for me to leave. Otherwise this is a monk-like existence, with the "leave me the fuck alone and let me do research" not an unhappy state of being. I thought that I would leave my job but now that looks more and more tenuous.

Anyway, I've yet to hear from Bottom of the Hill uni and Palm Tree uni. There's also Uni of Big City which I haven't applied for (the deadline is really late) which I'm not sure about because it's really expensive, compared to Mexico. Ironically, if I get into both Bottom of the Hill and Palm Tree, I will be wondering why on earth I didn't straightaway apply for a PhD in the first place.

I've thought about exploring more options. Maybe I should have done more of it last year. Maybe I should have sniffed around and looked at the industry. Because, I've come to realise, once I start school overseas, and once I start paying more than $2K a semester (which is the going rate for a part time master's in a local uni) the clock starts ticking. And sometimes I wonder why I went to Snowy Hill uni when just about 90% of the stuff I learnt, I learnt through reading textbooks. It's not to say it wasn't a great experience but not as great as it could have been.

Looks like I still got a lot of thinking to do.

What I’ve learnt about PhDs.
1. It’s fairly amusing to be reading all the forums about graduate education. Edulix, Urch, Gradcafe. It’s very informative about how to prepare for graduate school.
2. I’ve believed that I have some of the qualities for graduate school. And I’ve tried to incorporate that in my admission essay. Intellectual depth and breadth. Tenacity. Curiosity. Creativity.
3. I chose my 3 letter writers as such: one would testify that I could study, another that I could teach, and a third, that I could work.
4. So many people think about PhDs as a waste of time that it’s scary. And people have accused the authorities of giving the misleading impression that a PhD is a much better prospect than it is. And even then, it’s ridiculously hard to get into a PhD program, especially in computer science.
5. When you are deciding whether or not to go into research, it’s not about enjoying the rewards of research, ie the sense of achievement that goes into writing an important paper or making an important discovery. What really matters is that you must like the day to day work itself: the long hours, the reading of endless papers, the grinding out results, the programming.

Well I thought – I formulated what I want to do – I want to be an inventor. Which is a broader category than a researcher.


Post a Comment