Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Sore and tired

I erged (ergged?) yesterday and did my abs workout. This is a bad combination. Today all the muscles on the dorsal side of my body are achingly sore. On the bright side, I went to bed so early that I awoke before my super-early alarm. This is good, because I was so tired that I forgot to set the alarm.

It rained yesterday and all the snow melted and washed away. It was a pretty dismal day. (Exception: I got to talk to D., which was excellent.) I miss my family, my Harvard friends, and being able to use words like "pallor" in casual conversation without having to spell and define them. I don't mind having to do this for non-native English speakers, but for crying out loud -- doesn't anyone read books anymore? I would go hang out with grad students in the humanities, but they wouldn't understand my nerdy jokes. Sigh. It's so hard to be an academic elitist sometimes.

Perhaps next I'll memorize the alliterative v monologue from "V for Vendetta."

Good news: in a few weeks, I'll be at home. Cookie swap, Geometry Wars, pies, Patapon 2! Not soon enough!

Bad news: in a few weeks - ε, I want to submit a complete draft of my Master's work. Too soon!

This post's theme word: cacology, "poor choice of words" or "incorrect pronunciation."

Monday, November 24, 2008


Sorry for the recent silence; I've been very busy. Things are going well, I'm getting enough sleep and food and socialization. I am accumulating posts (and photos) I want to post, I just have no time to organize my thoughts. There will be a deluge here after December 15.

This post's theme word: macropterous, "with well-developed long wings."

Tuesday, November 18, 2008


It's supposed to snow today! Huzzah! I have oodles of work but I might go stand outside at lunch just to be snowed upon.

This post's theme word: piccalilli, "relish of chopped pickled cucumbers and green peppers and onion." M. lost the spelling bee on this one.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Swim meet

This weekend I had [flavorless, colorless] gelatin applied to my head with a paintbrush, glitter applied to my face, and a purple (6th place) ribbon applied to my synchronized swimming team. Photos and a video of our performance are available on facebook (as long as you are in the right network to align with privacy settings).
It was fun, but I prefer rugby, pain, and mud to swimming, asphyxiation, and makeup. No surprises there. It rained the entire weekend, which didn't really matter since we were mostly inside (and wet anyway).

This post's theme word: flouse, "to splash."

Thursday, November 13, 2008

What is a PhD good for?

In a momentary lapse of grad student stamina, I had the following conversation. (I actually think that a PhD has real value.)
A: What is a PhD good for, anyway?
L: To make your parents proud?
A: Nope.
L: For personal betterment?
A: No.
L: Papier-mâché?
A: Yes!
L: I think there are easier ways to obtain paper for papier-mâché.
This post is dedicated to new reader Y. It also has a featured mantra: "no more smiling sports." Repeat it to yourself; I know I will. The first synchronized swimming meet is on Saturday.

This post's theme word: paragoge, "The addition of a letter or syllable at the end of a word, either through natural development or to add emphasis. For example, height-th for height."

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Puzzle challenge 2008

My team did a lot better this year. You can see the puzzles and solutions here, if you're interested.

This post's featured quote (interchange):
- Now I know how a dynamic programming algorithm feels.
- And how is that?
- Confused.

Friday, November 7, 2008

NP-complete person

Earlier today I updated my facebook status to be "Lila is a complete person. NP-complete."

Just now, I had the following conversation with Y.:

Y: You are an NP-complete person?
L: Yes. I haven't figured out a solution, but I also haven't figured out how to do anything nondeterministically yet...
Y: So it takes... time... ?
L: Well, it's an open problem.
Y: Of course, right, it's just a conjecture.

This post's theme quote is from Robert Heinlein['s character Lazarus Long]:
Anyone who cannot cope with mathematics is not fully human. At best he is a tolerable subhuman who has learned to wear shoes, bathe, and not make messes in the house.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Runner's high, election high

I felt kind of gypped yesterday, because I ran three miles in the morning and didn't get the elated "runner's high" that I was expecting (and that I usually experience).

I ended up getting my high in the evening instead, watching the election. That ungypped me, fast. Huzzah for voting!

Today my knee is sore and a little swollen, but I'm happy.

Back to work! ... thesis thesis thesis thesis thesis thesis...

This post's theme quote, in honor of the internet-savvy seen in this campaign, is from William Gibson (via):
The limitation to what you can find on Youtube is basically your own imagination. When I think of something, if I don’t automatically think of searching for it on Youtube, I will never see it. When something comes to mind, I try to train myself to google it and then look on Youtube, often with the most amazing results. I think, in the end, if we just kind of run this technology out to its logical conclusion, we will end up with something like a single retina that covers the entire inner surface of a sphere, looking at itself, being quite self-sufficient, and made completely of Youtube videos.

Monday, November 3, 2008

High stakes

I know that I am a fairly confident, competent public speaker. I have given good presentations on subjects not in my field while an undergraduate. Yet I just finished leading a[nother] one-hour student seminar and I feel like I've walked through flames (psychologically, at least). I'm not so self-conscious that I refused to admit my nervousness, though -- in fact, I cited it often, since admitting that I'm nervous actually helps me to be more relaxed.

Afterwards, Y. told me that I had nothing to be worried about; he followed the whole thing, it was fine. But in the reciprocal situation, he is often nervous and I always have no trouble following.

I've experienced the same effect in writing; it's much harder to write in my field that outside. (I wrote some terrific English, history, and opera papers!) What it amounts to is this:

The cost of failure is very high.

If I botched a paper in a humanities course, it meant very little to me; it was not a field where I had declared any interest or professional intent. Compare that with now, writing my master's research paper: every word seems heavy with meaning, and not just because the topic matter is dense. It has import; the stakes are much higher, since this is something I want to do well in, something that affects my planned career path.

Unfortunately, the only way to overcome this performance anxiety is to just keep writing and giving presentations until it becomes natural.

This post's theme quote is from Johann Wolfgang von Goethe:
Mathematicians are like Frenchmen: Whatever you say to them they translate into their own language, and forthwith it is something entirely different.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

A. is standing

It's such a big event that she requested I blog it.

This post's theme word: obamulate, "to walk about." She's doing that now.


Fine, not very hot. One egg.

This week was very tiring, and the weekend is totally booked; no downtime.

That is all.

This post's theme word: orthoepy, "study of the pronunciation of words" or "customary pronunciation of a language."