Monday, June 15, 2009

Good progress

I have of late, but wherefore I know not, lost all my mirth. And by "mirth," I mean "enthusiasm for my current research project." And it is a slight lie to claim that wherefore I know not. I have some musings on "wherefore."

My advisor tells me I am making "good progress," but I am doubtful. (Note: advisor's word = pronouncement of truth, and can be accepted as true axiomatically in every model. I AM MAKING GOOD PROGRESS.)

My project is insubstantial, as so much theoretical computer science is. I'm not building anything real: I'm not gluing or sawing or constructing anything that can be held in the hands, passed around in a circle, plugged into a socket, or brought in for show-and-tell. The only sense in which I'm building is a metaphorical one: I'm building mathematical tools. I'm holding theories in my hands and passing them around for comment. I plug one logical system into another. I write on blackboards and tell people about this mathematical project I'm constructing. It's exceedingly abstract, even in metaphor.

If I were to wink out of existence, little of my research would endure. Some papers, some files. But most of my project is in my brain: the motivations, the way each little mathematical tendril wraps around another thing to root my project in the context of significance to computer science.

I think I need to get some Lego robotics kits and spend some time outside. Maybe find a pottery studio -- that kinetic therapy improved my abstracted, mathematical senior[thesis!] year. This frigidly air-conditioned cinderblock cell where I work is responsible for this funk. It's beautiful outside. Maybe next summer I'll get a job as a bike messenger. I'll deliver your messages promptly, with a quick side-dish of context-appropriate Shakespeare. ("News from Verona! How now, Balthasar? How doth my lady?")

This post's theme word: recondite, "abstruse." (That is, "difficult to understand.") Abstruse is the 13th most-looked-up word on the New York Times website (via MetaFilter).


Andrea said...

get yourself some sunshine and woodworking tools. hand projects can totally enliven the mind.
and if you deliver that news, please emphasize that she's not dead! She's only fake-dead because of a magic potion! no need to do anything rash.

George said...

I enjoyed throwing lots of pottery at the Gardiner ceramics museum.