cafés: the key to overcoming study-blocks

13/12/2009 at 22:57 | Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments
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I don’t know what it is about coffee, or about the coffeeshop atmosphere, but there is something about it that makes it easy to overcome motivation-blocks and move into the realm of active thought.  Something about my weeks makes me completely shut down on Saturdays.  Literally, I spend my Saturdays in bed all day… maybe watch a movie or two… then read a bit of a book and ponder how depressing my life is (which it really isn’t – but on Saturdays it feels like it is)…  But on Sundays, I try to get out.  Last week, I was at school (I should probably go in later today and make some buffers, actually).  This week, I am at a local coffeeshop.  (That’s right, I’m breaking with society’s norm, and I am not at Starbucks!)

Mid-December finds this place packed with students studying for finals, and people visiting with friends before the holidays really kick in.  It’s a little loud at times, but there is nice music in the background… and lots of light… and I love picking up on little conversations around me…. It just feels more alive, I think, than a university library.

Mid-December, the libraries at the university – even the arts one – are filled with tension.  You can feel it when you walk in, and your steps echo through the place.  Only a few students look up, you feel that they are thinking: “why the hell are you here if you can’t walk quietly?!”  The ones that don’t look up send the message that despite your loudness, they are scared enough for exams that they don’t care anymore; “fuck your shoes,” they are saying.

What am I doing today?  You ask – well, apart from getting motivated about my life and how crappy it isn’t (positive self-talk is important!).  I am working on finding answers to some theological questions my friend Daniel has sent me.  I know nothing about the theology he is presenting… but I do know some things about an opposing form of thought that he is interested in.  The only problem is that since I do not know much about what he is talking about… understanding his questions is extremely challenging.  Actually, while I respect his beliefs… I do not find the questions as important.  The nuance of when God created the universe… whether there was a gap in time between the creation of the universe and His existence, these things are issues that I am not very much concerned with.  But, I find Daniel’s knowledge of the philosophy of science interesting…  So, there needs to be some give and take!

Anyway, the moral of all this rambling is that I have not yet found a better cure for lack of motivation than going to a café, doing some reading, and seeing other people – just seeing them makes me feel more human!

Ok… I’m off to read up on creationism….

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riding the high

11/12/2009 at 06:34 | Posted in science | Leave a comment
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so, i have had an epic week of experiments.  murphy’s law could not have been proven more true.

ok, that’s maybe a bit of an exaggeration… but still.  yesterday, especially, was just one of those ridiculous days where you regret making it to school, simply because if you hadn’t,  you probably wouldn’t have screwed up so bad.  i literally mixed up my samples to the point where i was causing the machine i work with to crash… and anyway.  it was sad.  i’ve never messed anything up to that extent before.

so the obvious question is why, right?  but let’s leave that for another post…

so, i went home distraught, frustrated, and generally mad at the world.  life is terrible when a simple calibration curve takes you two weeks to make.  my evening was terrible, and i went to sleep in misery.

this morning, i got up, in the same mood, and went to school despite a strong desire to stay in bed and die.  i went to school… and fortunately or unfortunately, all the samples that i hadn’t effed up turned out to agree with each other.  so, i, carefully, redid everything.  i won’t be able to process the data until tomorrow, but the raw data seems to agree with my work yesterday.

how am i feeling right now?

FANtastic!!!!

not totally on top of the world (i, at least, don’t have a totally all-or-nothing emotional response, thank you very much), but substantial enough that i no longer feel like life is terrible and antisocial and so on. literally, the difference is night and day.

sounds a little messed up right?

well, i have a theory.  or… at least a hypothesis.   basically, i ride the highs.  i live off of the things that go well.  the problem is that when your work involves you trying something a billion times in a row hoping that it works that one time… you really won’t survive if you can only keep positive and happy during times of success.  the key really is to stay positive regardless of the results.

so, here’s to trying to roll with the punches and take things in stride.  the facts are facts.. and pouting won’t change anything for the better!  (though it might make it worse ahah….)

Part 2: reality check.

07/12/2009 at 23:57 | Posted in science | 11 Comments
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I came into the lab yesterday (yes, on a Sunday), and was pleasantly surprised.  One of my labmates was also in, and she had brought her friend – let’s call him Daniel – along.  He’s a grad student in another department, studying New Age thought and science.  We ended up having a nice chat about the very topic I had brought up here earlier – why religion and science are fighting a duel, and what is the root of this battle?

From what I understood, this fight is simply one of egos.  It was refreshing to hear someone say something that was so clear, so simple.  It’s not because science or religion is fundamentally at odds with the other, but that scientists and religionists have massive egos that apparently need feeding.  Good for them.  I proudly consider myself a scientist, but I respect that I am merely studying one source of knowledge… something that seeks to describe half of our universe.  Anyway.

As for the root of the battle, apparently that starts when the Moor libraries are captured and St Thomas Aquinas begins to integrate Aristotelian physics with dogma.  And of course, after that, if anyone sought to build/modify Aristotle’s work, I guess it was considered to be against the Church… hence the whole situation with Galileo.

So, that was quite an exciting experience for me!  Of course, if I have misunderstood, I am very open to learning more.  Thoughts?

the quest for a hobby

05/12/2009 at 07:52 | Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments
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A few months ago, I decided that I was going to take up photography.  I’ve always wanted to, but I’ve never had the time for a course or anything serious like that.  Regardless, I threw caution to the wind, did some research, dug out my savings, and purchased a glorious (and cheap) DSLR.  I took photos all summer… (and they were satisfactory) but, again, I’ve lost the drive.

Today, after a much-needed conversation with a friend, I have decided to take a course!  I have done a quick search, and found one that suits me – but it might be full… unfortunately, I am realizing this at a very ungodly hour, and apparently these schools close at such hours.  Alas!  The world does not understand that students are awake 24/7.

Side note: one of my friends today came up to me and was like “did you hear about [Lauren]?”  “No,” I said.  “What happened?” “Dude, she was totally behind on her essays – she had two due today – and so she’s had like 4 coffees, and 2 redbulls today.  At about 2:30pm, she was hallucinating.  [Sean]’s been keeping her company… but apparently nothing she says makes any sense!”  (we laughed at Lauren’s expense – but this is the sad reality of caffeine overdose)

Anyway, so that is the start of my quest for a hobby.  Something that people can relate to, and that will exercise a different part of my brain.  (Although, my mother suggests pilates. Apparently, it makes you taller).  I’ve included a sample of what *I hope* is to come!

studying reality MUST be shitty – part 1

03/12/2009 at 23:06 | Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments
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Since starting my grad studies, I’ve found it increasingly difficult to fess up to what I do.  People, obviously, ask: what do you do?  And when I inevitably say “oh, I’m doing my Master’s” and specify the subject… they are stunned (I probably don’t look much like a scientist), and the conversation fizzles from there.  And I’m stuck wondering if I should try and demean what I do… or appear interested in their work, or just let the conversation fizzle out and walk away awkwardly.

(often, I try to appear interested in what they do – it backfires as soon as that line of questioning is over)

The odd time, I’ve had people ask me about my project.  They listen for a bit, and then suddenly the conversation becomes one in which (apparently) I am the Devil’s apprentice, and the world’s problems and apocalyptic destiny is completely and utterly my fault.  Then they start to wonder aloud about how such a wonderful person with so much potential could fall into such an obvious trap.  If these people were strangers, I might tell them to eff off, but sadly, more often than not, they are friends of the family, or spouses of my friends, etc.  In other words, even as they heap injustices on me, I have to smile and nod and praise their obvious greater insight.

For a while now, I’ve been following the tags on wordpress, and I am amazed at the results that I get when I search under “science”.   So many people are ranting about how terrible science is, and how much it denies God and the like.   I actually find it rather confusing.  Why are they considered mutually exclusive?

Science is a means by which reality can be investigated.  Religion is also a means of investigating reality – this is why they are two repositories – sources – of knowledge.   And there are not two realities.  It is simply that within this one reality, there are two human conditions, the physical and the spiritual.  This is why spiritual attributes such as love, generosity, kindness, and justice have an effect on our physical world, just as lack of such spiritual qualities also does (ie. Hate, greed, malice, and injustice).  The physical, contrary to what many believe, also has an effect on the spiritual.  Consider the effects of such physical accomplishments such as speech and communication, transportation, medicine, and housing, on the amelioration of the human condition, and how much that has advanced our abilities to acquire and develop spiritual qualities.  Consider how the detrimental physical things that we see in society – the development of armaments and war, poverty, consumerism, to name a few – how much these things hurt our hearts and cause our souls pain.

So when these links between science and religion are so clear to us, why do we fight and attack each other so much?

favorite xkcd comic

03/12/2009 at 06:28 | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

unfortunately, one busy week, i read all the xkcd comics to date.  now i hit refresh every so often and get excited when i see new ones.  they are epic.

Post 1

02/12/2009 at 22:29 | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Seven months into my Master’s program and I am – like most others in my position – knee-deep in long, gruesome experiments, and completely buried under my “to do” list.  I feel happy when I think about how epically cool I consider my work, and exhausted when I consider that I do not have a life outside of this world.  I fight the reflex to talk about school with my friends.

Yesterday, I met up with my best friend and her sister, and found myself silent for half an hour (I couldn’t think of anything not-school-related to talk about!)…then finally gave in and told them about my day.  My friend’s response “see?  This is what you’re supposed to say when I ask ‘what’s up?’!!”  I smiled, and nodded.  But what could I say?  What response would have explained to her: I need to not think about school for the two hours a week I can actually laugh and be with you, so that I can go straight back to the lab and keep on working?  She might say “just go for a walk” or “listen to some nice music”.  But actually, I’ve started to do calculations in my head as I walk (the stereotype of an absent-minded professor is becoming very real to me!).  And when I am with people I find myself planning my next set of experiments… scheduling various assays and incubations… trying to figure out how I can overlap them in the optimal way so as to do 2-3 things at once.  Then, wondering, do I really need to do laundry this weekend?  How important is unpacking anyway?  (I moved over two months ago, and still live out of half a suitcase of clothes – the sad part is that I’m sorta impressed by how little of my crap I can get by on…)  …you get the idea, I’m sure.

I guess the tough part is that I really love my work – but there’s a point at which you need to do something else.  You need to exercise those other parts of the brain.  You know, get out there, be social, find a hobby, take up a sport, go travelling – those sorts of “normal things”, that sub-genius people do.  😛  I’m obviously kidding about the “genius” part, but the rest, I’m quite serious about.

So, I think this is what this blog is about.  The quest to live life – in all its wholeness.

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