Friday, October 30, 2009

Fully Drafty

Just sent in my first full draft of my thesis. I'm tired, and disappointed with the latest results. But I also can't quite believe that on my hard drive (and now on Google's hard drive) there is a complete document, be it ever so humble. Alas, that it has so many shortcomings. But hoorah that it exists. I'm not nearly as proud of this as I was of my last thesis. That was real thought, real ideas, earned step by step over months of processing. This has its moments, I suppose, but I don't feel like I've broken through the barrier to being a co-creator of knowledge rather than a tweaker. I still look at those theoretical papers and wonder "how could someone be genius enough to come up with that?" There's a bone ceiling -- my skull -- and I can't get past it. Still, I'm glad to have a draft done before leaving tomorrow to come back to Houston. I expect I'll be wiped tomorrow night. Especially after the bottle or two of beer I'm planning to celebrate with :)

I really enjoyed being in Baton Rouge today. I guess I had low expectations, but the campus and the area around it is just how I imagine a college should be. I wondered if this is how Austin used to feel before it got big (not culturally, obviously, but there's a certain feel about a big university in a state capital where it's a big deal, but there is other stuff). Baton Rouge feels the right size, somehow. I walked down the main road through the campus and took a couple of pics. I saw three good-sized buildings belonging to religious groups. The Episcopal one was a lovely chapel with its doors thrown open in welcome, but no one in sight. The Catholic one was magnificent with stained glass, and absolutely huge. Its doors were closed, but there was one person around -- inside. The Baptist one was less impressive -- neat and practical with large rectangular glass windows, through which you could see students and staff interacting. Seemed like a metaphor for something.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Forestalling the Morning

I'm lying in bed working on the thesis, listening to a Russian Orthodox choir sing a chant called "Forestalling the Morning." It's 5:30am, dark and drizzly. But I feel good about getting stuff written up, even though I haven't made the breakthrough discovery tonight that I hoped for. And the music is fantastic, no -- that's the wrong word -- it just is. I mean, it is fantastic, and beautiful, and thoughtful, but those are qualities of the music. The music itself is more than that. More even than its connotations of drafty monasteries in the frigid Russian winter, and monks gathered to forestall daybreak even earlier than 5:30, kept warm by the smell of incense and the singing of the chant. Why forestall the morning? Why not let the sun rise, and bring at least a little warmth? I don't know about them, but I do understand the desire to stretch the current moment, to stave off even good things because the now is so great for whatever reason: inspiration, productivity, enlightenment. Right now, I'm in a place of thinking "when the morning comes, there will be time to enjoy it then."

I don't often think like that. More often it's "what's the next thing I have to get done," the next duty, the next problem, the next interruption. I wish I could keep this perspective. Focusing only on the tasks and problems is dispiriting -- there are always more problems and more tasks. One more bug fixed? Great -- now fix this one. To begin a day before the day even begins just feels good. If I could, I would probably start each day really early. Usually that never works for me, but at the moment I seem to be on a weird schedule: work, come home, make dinner, go upstairs, work on thesis for a couple of hours, then sleep for 4-5 hrs, wake up around 2 or 3 or 4 or 5, work on thesis, then sleep a bit more before work. Why not just work more on thesis in the evenings and sleep normally? I don't know. This is just what my body seems to want to do. Sleep for me is like Keith's arms. Some positions are comfortable for him, others are intensely painful, and which ones are which is unpredictable. I don't think I'll work this way forever, but for now it feels comfortable. And I get to email my advisor at weird times in the morning, so he knows I'm working hard (which I am in reality anyway).