Oh, September… you’re early! I haven’t even gotten properly dressed yet!

I’m going to save the seemingly obligatory “What I Did This Summer” essay for a little later and jump right in to this poor, dilapidated, ignored-for-seven-months blog. (As you can see, I’ve signed on for another year of Blogsquadding, though hopefully this will be a year with a little more regularity on the posting front.) So, to reacquaint myself (or newly acquaint myself, as it may be, with new readers that don’t want to sift through old posts).  I’ll be rounding out my fourth (out of a total of five years) at UBC as a Computer Science student in the Faculty of Science. I live on campus in the Marine Drive residence with three other girls. I have lots to say about the aforementioned, believe me.

For those so inclined and well-versed in the succinct categorization geeks are best at, my Geek Code is: GCS/S/FA d? s: a– C++++>$ w+ PS+ PE t+++ R+ !tv b+++ e>++ h– r++.

As far as this year goes, it’ll hopefully go by without too much trouble. This year’s timetables will mostly be filled with graduation requirement classes (a.k.a. not about computers and therefore of questionable interest) so that next year will be devoted to directed studies and thesis writing. Specifically, for first term I will be taking Chem 111 (I tried to weasel my way out of this one but apparently it’s absolutely necessary for my graduation, by some twisted logic), CPSC 317 (“Internet Computing”),  CPSC 344  (“Introduction to Human Computer Interaction” – essentially making computers and robots alike more friendly) and Math 221 (standard linear algebra). Nothing is really piquing my interest, apart from the HCI course, so my hope is I can just plug away at it and chip off the credits one by one.

As I mentioned above, I would like to keep up with this blog on a more regular schedule so as to bring some semblance of discipline into my internet life (since, according to some, diligence with Reddit does not count). One thing that I would like to focus on is carrying on Eric’s fine tradition of UBC 101 posts, thanks to his generous permission to let me copy his title! As Eric puts it:

Each [UBC 101 post] will focus on a specific aspect about UBC that I’ve learned/observed. I hope this will help all students considering or already at UBC to get better marks, more sleep, and have a good time at university. Because we don’t pay $4000+ tuition to die before getting our degrees.

I love reading his posts (and all posts of that ilk) so hopefully mine will be useful in some form, if only to see what passes as advice these days. Ho ho!

My more immediate goal, however, will be to somehow, against all odds, get back onto a regular sleeping schedule with as much sanity intact as possible. Over the course of the summer, I became steadily more nocturnal until present day, where bedtime is considered to be 7am. (The fact that I’m writing this post at 4am should speak volumes as to how successful I’ve been, so far… ugh.)

All in all, I’m looking forward to another busy, fun, pleasant-in-retrospect-but-oh-god-the-stress school year.

 

The drawing, incidentally, is one of my own. You could theoretically view more of my drawings on my website; this, however, was a summer project that got usurped by the release of Deus Ex: Human Revolution. 

 

 

Commodifying the Experience: Cuba

Long time no see, UBC Blogsquad! I’m going to contribute to the list of Blogsquadders who have been travelling during their summer vacation. My choice of destination for 3 weeks? Cuba. Yes, Cuba, this great island in the middle of the Caribbean Sea, the land of Revolutionaries such as Fidel Castro. I wasn’t in Cuba as a tourist, but rather as a student who had access to places and people that ordinary tourists would not have, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. Through Land and Foods Systems 302, I studied sustainable agriculture but also had a lot of fun. I had many experience in Cuba, but I will discuss something that I’ve been grappling with since I returned to Canada two days ago.
All of the material things that I brought back from Cuba sit in a small corner. As I glance at them, I can’t help but regret not purchasing more items. I’m starting to regret the decision that I made not to buy souvenirs for my friends, because I didn’t want to leave anyone out. The way I saw it, I didn’t want the products that I brought for them to experience a surge in its social value in the moments and few days after I gave them to my friends, but have them sit there and be donated to the Salvation Army as new relationships drifted in and out of the area of importance. Also, I didn’t want to perpetuate the cycle of production and consumption, because products are replaceable, and I value memories and symbolisms more of the friendships that my friends and I share. In other words, I think the fun adventures that my friends and I share are worth more than anything I could buy them when I’m not with them.
But why the regret? I realized the decision not to buy many things has to do with how I view the commodification of my Cuban experience.
Distance
Some say that distance makes the heart fonder, and I think that as I realize the geographic distance that I have to buy souvenirs from Cuba increases, the opportunity that I have here in Canada to revive and remember the Cuban experience that I had decreases. When I was in the country, I didn’t have to worry about having something to remember it, because I was in the society and surrounded by all its material goods and structure. I think that wanting more commodities from Cuba is a symbol of how much I miss the country, and how part of me wants to go, and be back there.
Income
One of the first things that I learned about Cuba was that the average person who works for the state (the majority of the population) earns about $10 Canadian per month. I think this fact affected my subconscience a lot, and this didn’t occur to me until I was on the plane thinking about my discourse when I was in Cuba. I think that for every product I saw sold, I subconsciously calculated how much of an average Cuban’s monthly salary they were, and how I saw myself as a very privileged young woman who really wanted to try to live a life as authentic to a Cuban’s as possible. While Cuban’s salaries are very low, especially in comparison to BC’s minimum wage of $8 per hour, Cubans receive free healthcare, education, housing, and the products that they need to survive, such as hygenic items and food, are heavily subsidized by the state. Cubans also don’t have to be bombarded with constant advertisements encouraging them to buy more and buy new.
Limitations
While this trip was worth it, it also cost a few thousand dollars, including airfare. With the present economic status, I was worried about having enough money and jobs to pay for this. I spent less money than I brought to Cuba, but I was worried about how I am going to pay for it and my future spending money. Some students on this trip were able to be subsidized for a bit from a Land and Foods Systems faculty grant, but I don’t think there are anything like this in Political Sciences.
It’s funny how when you’re talking-or rather, when you feel like your parents are talking, or lecturing to you, it’s easy to dismiss their comments. I realized how ingrained my parents’ opinions are when I was away from them. For example, there were many extremely beautiful bags sold at the markets, but what held me back from falling into the temptation to buy them was that I heard my mother’s voice in my head and her reaction exclaiming how I have so many at home already.
Thinking that you could find something better-one piece of advice I would give to people going to Cuba to shop is that going around and seeing every stand first is not necessary, whether to compare products or prices. Prices are normally the same in every stand for the products they sell, and if you like it, buy it. I drove myself crazy because I saw things that I liked but could not remember how they looked like or where the stand was-all I could remember was the feeling and the general object. I think if I had purchased things during my first walk around the market, I would’ve brought a lot more.
Answers. I wanted to know where these products were made. I think that I felt that since I was in Cuba, the leader in sustainable agriculture, I put it on a pedestal, even after I saw and thought about the country’s fallacies. I wanted to buy products in a fair trade economy, not goods made in China. I tried asking with my limited Spanish, but got no answers. I still don’t.

Cuba is a wonderful country, and I had an amazing experience not only learning, but I grew up a lot too and learned to take care of myself more. It’s also a very safe and warm (literally, and in terms of the community) country. I think that having these regrets and thoughts tumbling in my head just reaffirms how much I enjoyed being in Cuba.

Not Much Busier, but Stress++

This morning started out comically good compared to most other mornings. Generally, I take one of the express buses along to get to school which is fine so long as you leave early enough. With a 9:00am class, “early enough” is generally around 7:30 to 7:45- an hour and a half early when you live ten minutes away! Otherwise, the bus degenerates into a teeming, sweaty cattle car where you are literally squished against the front windshield, and that’s if you get lucky and a bus actually stops.

Not the best way to start the day.

Alternatively, there is a smaller bus (no, not a “small bus”) that comes once an hour. Whenever I can, I take it since it is hilariously better than the other buses. For example, this morning I managed to catch it at around 8:00ish. The bus route moseyed along Spanish Banks, which looked out upon the pink and golden sunrise against the ocean and the North Shore mountains. The driver was a charmingly jovial elderly man that greeted each person with a little quip. I actually saw puppies gamboling along the beach. Upon arriving to school with time to spare, I grabbed breakfast from Bernoulli’s and strolled leisurely to class in the frosty sunlight with a toasty bagel in one hand and coffee in the other. Tiny birds and butterflies alighted on my shoulder and, at one point, I saw a unicorn! (Not really, but the morning was so nice that I may as well have.) The picture above, by the way, is one I took during the bus ride.

I’m thankful for the pleasantries of this morning because I’m so exhausted right now that anything more stressful would have made me collapse into a pathetic, whimpering heap of stress and bus-induced misanthropy. I’m not really significantly busier than last week, but I feel like I am getting a lot more strung out. I’m not entirely sure why- I’ve been OCD-ing out about stuff for a bit so that probably has something to do with it. I just finished my Stat200 assignment (boring, frustrating, overly simple) and after this I am going to spend the rest of the day studying for my CS320 midterm (interesting, frustrating, challenging) tomorrow. After that, though, I have the rest of the weekend to work on the 422 project JX and I are doing due on Monday. It’s a fun assignment so I’m really looking forward to having the time to focus on that and only that. My boyfriend and I might go to Vancouver Island to visit some friends of ours during the weekend too, so I’m super excited for that. Our friends live in the most idyllic part of the island imaginable and the last time I went, I saw baby deers!

Something that might be of interest to my CS-friends is a talk being given tomorrow by Nando called “On Learning”. Based on the abstract, it seems like it’ll just be a general talk on Machine Learning, which is my favourite thing ever, so I’m looking forward to it. If anyone wants to go, it’s from 3:30-4:50pm in Dempster 110. Details are here.

TODO revisited!



 

In a semi-rare moment of flagrant voyeurism, I’m going to post up my current to-do (or as computer types call it, TODO) list spanning the next week… just in case anyone is curious about the exciting, assignment filled life of a CS major. (I’ll admit that I have a perverse interest in looking at other people’s to-do lists, haha.) Onto the fun! It’s really not as bad as it looks. (Though the formatting is pretty bad because WordPress is horrible.)

 

Upcoming Deadlines
Wednesday Feb 2nd – Stat 200 assignment #1 due (5:00pm)
Thursday Feb 3rd – CS320 midterm #1
Friday Feb 4th – CS422 miniproject presentation #2 (10:00am)
Monday Feb 7th – CS422 a3 due (10:00am)
Thursday Feb 10th – CS320 a3 due (3:45pm)
Monday Feb 21st – CS422 project proposal due
Friday March 4th – Stat200 Midterm exam
Monday March 28th – CS422 project presentation
Wednesday April 6th – CS422 project report due


 

CS320
Study for midterm! (Thurs Feb 3rd)
  • make a study schedule
  • organize practice midterm(s) and assignments
  • Cue cards for stable matching (section 1.1)
  • Cue cards for asymptotic notation (section 2.1, 2.2, 2.4)
  • Cue cards for greedy algorithms (4.1, 4.4, 4.5)
Do tutorial problems for weeks #1-3
Read textbook on Amortized Analysis (section 4.6 + additional material)


 

CS422
Start working on term project (proposal due Mon Feb 21)
  • Brainstorm ideas
  • Meet with TA
  • Draw up formal schedule
Work on assignment 3 (with JX) (due Mon Feb 7th)
  • Review relevant material over the weekend
  • Brainstorm ideas
  • Meet with JX on Monday(?)
Work on second miniproject (presenting Fri Feb 4th)
  • Come up with presentation outline
  • Make/collect images
  • Make powerpoint
  • Create accompanying cuecards
Print out an assemble lecture notes and readings
Take cross-reference notes from the Norvig text
Start working on cue cards (sigh…)


 

CS313
Finish doing cue cards for section 4.3
Read sections 4.4, 4.5
Cue cards for sections 4.4, 4.5
Read sections 6.1 to 6.6
Start cue cards for 6.1 to 6.6


 

Stat200
Work on assignment (due Wed Feb 2nd)
Register MSOffice so that Excel will actually work
Print out lecture notes for chapters 1, 2 and 4
Do textbook readings: chapter 1, 2 and 4
Cue cards for material up until now
Do suggested exercises for chapters 1, 2 and 4


 

Other stuff
Do up invoice for the Rocky Mountaineer illustration
Clean room- maybe set up a cleaning schedule?
Start thinking of a website plan

Trains, TODOs and a Curious Sense of Calm

Click here to view the embedded video.

Just remember that when YOU openly sneeze everywhere, it only looks gross, not strangely provocative.

Today was a culmination of many events, one right after the other.  Now that they are all done, I feel a strange sense of emptiness and I’m not quite suer what to do with myself. I mean, I have lots to work on, just nothing that’s immediately due. Not that that’s a bad thing… at all.

First of all, this morning at 9:00am, I had a CS313 (Computer Hardware and Operating Systems) test- the first of four “midterms”, if you will. Now, I took this class’s precursor, CS213, last spring and TA’d it during the second term of summer as well. While I did quite well in the class, I felt like I didn’t actually learn very much, nor did I find the material particularly enthralling. So, I came into CS313 with low expectations insofar as my interest levels were concerned, but I am actually finding this class pretty enjoyable so far. Our professor, Andrew Warfield, is quite amiable and a good lecturer, which is pretty essential at nine in the morning. Also, lo and behold, the textbook is useful! In CS213, we didn’t use the textbook that much since Professor Feeley wrote a “course companion”, like a mini-textbook, to be used instead. The few glances that I took at the textbook suggested that it was a densely technical, monochrome behemoth but actually reading it now, it’s a great resource.

Anyway. I finished my test around 10 minutes early and then made the long trek (across the Dempster lobby) to my CS422 (Intelligent Systems) class, where I had time to fiddle around with the projector. A relatively large component of our final mark for this class is based on a total of three “mini-projects”- what these are is we essentially investigate applications in the field of AI that are somewhat relevant to the course material, find one that we think is cool and talk about it for three minutes. Today my project was on DepthX and its underlying algorithm SLAM, which probably no one but my nerdfriends from CS will care about. I think that my presentation went pretty well, although there minutes is an incredibly short timeframe to talk about anything meaningful.

Finally, at 3:45pm today, our second CS320 (Intermediate Algorithm Design & Analysis) assignment is due. Let me just say thank goodness for my exceedingly intelligent friend Chris Thompson and his infinite patience with me (and his willingness to collaborate). Not only did I get my assignment done on time, I actually understood (thoroughly understood, as in had the whole “aha” moment thing) every single question. It’s always a pleasure to work with intelligent people, and you really do find that two heads are better than one. I handed this assignment in about half an hour ago.

… so, like I said, strangely empty since nothing is due until mid next-week.

Actually, something non-UBC related happened that’s really neat. A friend of mine from highschool has worked at a design firm for quite awhile, and he recently contacted me saying that they needed a last minute illustration for a kids’ t-shirt for Rocky Mountaineer. Cool, right? I generally do little illustrations from time to time, but I don’t have time to be a full-fledged freelance illustrator… pretty nice when a job falls right into my lap! The best part is that there weren’t really any restrictions besides the fact that they wanted one of their trains in the illustration somewhere. Free rein to draw adorable forest creatures- I seriously could not ask for a more enjoyable job! I’m also happy to report that it sounds like both the design firm and Rocky Mountaineer are pleased with what I’ve done. This kinda stuff really makes me miss being a “professional” artist… Maybe once I get a website set up I can more actively pursue some part time illustration work.

I’d also like to make a public service announcement to everyone to remember to wash your hands! Even if you are indifferent to spreading your own pestilence around with dirty hands and not covering your mouth when you forcibly eject fluids (seriously? how hard is it to cover your goddamn mouth), you should probably care about getting yourself sick. I recently got over a nightmarish bout of stomach flu that left me hating my insides for a week- a week of school missed!- so seriously, be proactive in your hand washing. One sick day can be a nice break, but missing anything more than that is a pretty good way to screw up the rest of your semester.

I’ve also been thinking of drawing inspiration from Eric’s UBC 101 series and starting my  own set of “how to survive UBC” articles, especially now that midterm season is almost upon us (or already here, for some!). If that’s ok with Eric, of course! Hmm…

Flirting With Role Reversal

So I actually wrote this entry on the bus last Monday, but I never got around to posting it on Blog Squad until now.

Over the January 14-16th weekend, I went to the retreat as a member of the BOO Crew (also known as UBC Orientations: squad leaders and O-Team). Although I attended many informative, interactive, and fun workshops, I also got out a lot personally from this retreat. I’m sure that I knew a lot of this already, but instead of reading it in a handout, this realization and life lesson was like an epiphany that hit me like a punching bag near the end of the retreat.

So, Aly, explain. Why is the title of your post “Flirting with role reversal?” For me, I see the act of “flirting” as a temporary mechanism, that this is not meant to last. Maybe the consequences can last over a long period of time, and lead to deeper developments, or will be like sunshine in Vancouver, dropping in every once in a while (just kidding. About the sunshine part. Sometimes. Depending on the year.) For me, I am an extroverted person who can have her quiet moments, but generally, I enjoy meeting new people and bonding with them, like a description of the retreat I heard from a past squad leader of the BOO Crew was “crazy ass bonding”. So it really bothered me when I felt really unlike me during Friday night and on Saturday. I felt like I retreated mentally and bundled my personality into a cave during activities and during conversations with people. I was upset with myself that I was supposed to be bonding with these people, but I felt like I was depriving them an idea of the real me. It wasn’t like I didn’t add my input to projects or bond with people-I did, but not to the extent that I usually do. This bugged me to the point where I had to retreat (haha. pun!) to the “homework cabin” to figure out and reflect why I couldn’t break out of this box that I felt I contained myself in. I was reflecting and kept pondering how “wrong” I thought this behaviour was. I was being too introverted to the point where it was scaring me. But as I did more and more reflection on Sunday afternoon and after a good night’s sleep on Sunday night in my own bed, I realize that practicing role reversal may not be a bad thing after all. I think I knew the answer earlier, likely on Saturday afternoon, but I got so caught up with the activities that I didn’t really have some alone time.

There was this great facilitation game that we played on Saturday afternoon, where we learned about the different roles in a discussion. To have a list of characteristics which define the usual actions of people in a discussion and for us to integrate that list into a game for better active learning was amazing. I had a lot of fun in that activity but never realized the extent that the lesson I would take away from that is that a team needs to comprise of people with different roles. It would be great if everyone contributes to the discussion, but listeners are also very important because sometimes more opinions only cause greater conflicts because of the number of ideas that need to be narrowed down. I realized later that in one of the activities where I didn’t feel like I contributed a lot helped the team, because I was listening to the ideas and letting the experts show and tell us about the physics of the task to help us succeed. When I was listening, I also showed my support for the team and made us better.

When I took a step back at this retreat, I also managed to observe people a lot. I won’t tell you who, but I identified a person who went on the trip as exhibiting behaviours like I am proned to. I watched them and it was like I could see myself, but of course, we’re different people with our own distinct backgrounds. I found out that sometimes, inclusiveness can get to the point of discomfort and people may subconsciously be intimidated or overwhelmed by your personality that they may not be able to show you who they really are. Thus, different people exhibit different behaviours in different environments, and the different elements present-ie: the people, triggers different sides of people.

So, will this period of introversion last? I don’t know. I may get used to feeling a certain way when I’m around this group of people that my behaviour doesn’t change from what they know of as qualities of me. Maybe I’m discovering another side to myself, that as I’m growing up, I’m becoming more introverted. Or, it might just be a phase where my mind and body are teaching me some valuable life lessons about communicating with others and understanding them. Despite the awkwardness I felt at times (sometimes problems just seem to comprise of the bulk of the period where you’re experiencing them, and sometimes in narratives and journals, it is easy to forget the good stuff that happened), I’ve had some fun conversations, singalongs, laughs, and overall bonding with my Orientations team, which include our student leaders, faculty advisors, squad leaders, and more!I’m so happy to have gained such a diverse group of amazing people who make up ths family. You can join too, by applying to be a MUG Leader, Squad Manager, Welcome Team crew, or Eco-Team member at http://www.involvement.ubc.ca/2011/01/14/apply-to-be-an-orientation-leader-for-next-fall/ . Also, I’ve written a lot in my past blog entries about Peer Programs, and the applications are open for that now too! Apply! http://www.involvement.ubc.ca/2011/01/12/peer-programs-recruitment-is-open/

haha. I’m an Arts student. Writing under 1000 words doesn’t usually happen. Anyways, on another note, as I’m actually writing down this entry on the bus, as opposed to thinking about it while brushing my teeth, why are there so many cute, full of character houses being sold for zoning and redevelopment? I’m looking at you, a house on my #480 bus route.

Things I Love ___day

I’ve been grumpy as all get out today due to the routine morning cattle car (i.e. a ride on pretty much any bus that leaves from 4th and Alma), a distinct lack of coffee and two hours of mind-bogglingly boring lectures. All this piled on top of my baseline crabbiness generally turns me into a miserable, seething knot of misanthropy and misery and that’s never a nice feeling. So, I wanted to cheer myself up with a list of wholly cheerful things, even though it’s not Thursday. (Sickeningly positive, I know.)

♥ Passion Pit, Passion Pit, Passion Pit! My wonderful friend Euge “reminded” me of them as I, like everyone else, had previously heard their single “Sleepyhead” on the Little Big Planet trailers. It’s like an injection of sparkles and happiness to listen to them.

Click here to view the embedded video.

♥ A clean room. Many people know that I am messy, but few people know the profound extent of my mess-making capabilities. For the past forever, my room has been akin to a disgusting badger warren. Essentially, it was just a nest of dirty clothes, unnecessary paper and old teacups. A friend wanting to come over put the fear of my secret being exposed into my heart and I tidied everything to perfection in the span of about three hours, vase of tulips and everything. This, I assure you, is a herculean feat considering how bad it was before.

♥ Chinatown. My friends Dave and Kit accompanied me to Chinatown where I spent way too much Christmas money on voodoo skull bracelets, barbecued pork buns and cute stationary (my kryptonite). I can’t wait to go back.

♥ Tumblr! is wonderful. So wonderful, and more addictive than Facebook.

♥ Things working out for the best. Last weekend involved a small family emergency, but everyone has turned out to be ok, thank God. I’m so grateful that I live close enough to my family that I can visit easily.

♥ Peppermint chocolate patties are so good.

♥ This (from my friend Brittany):

Click here to view the embedded video.

First Week

Image is Life as a Wookie by Nate Beaty

Well, another rousing Friday night in the life of a computer science student… though my quandary of boredom is not related to academic overload (for once). My boyfriend is a professor at an art school (I shall not say more, or else I’d be forced to cut out your tongue to make you guard my secrets) and is teaching a four hour class tonight that started three hours ago, with another one yet to pass. I’ve been whiling away the hours by reading about why Macs (purportedly) don’t get viruses, but I am indeed infected with my own virus (rife with irony, isn’t it… I have my fifth cold of the season) and running on about two hours’ sleep. So I figured that I’d share my misery with you guys since that is what a good blogger does.

Today marked the end of week one, and as far as classes that I really like go, I think I am batting around 2.5 out of 4. Or maybe like… 1.5. It’s sort of too soon to tell. I am enjoying CS320 with Patrice so far, mainly because he is a fantastic teacher and I really appreciate his structured teaching style. Plus the fact that he writes on the whiteboards vs. blazing through slides makes good use of my brand spankin’ new (though they’re already a bit chewed up) spiral notebooks. CS313 is ok… I mean, I got 90-something in CS213 and TA’d the material, for goodness sake, but I still feel like I don’t know anything about computer hardware/operating systems/assembly code, etc. A frustrating experience. This is also the first undergrad class our prof has ever taught, which can be quite good or very bad in my opinion. Time will tell with this one. CS422 is not bad so far… it is very project oriented, which I like. I have my fingers crossed that the material will be more interesting than 322. Finally, Stats 200 is seriously enough to put me asleep ten times over. I am bored out of my skull so far. That combined with the fact that the teacher has a very soothing, melodic voice and it’s my last class of the day usually means I am fighting for every ounce of awakeness I can.

Oh my god… Still fifty minutes left. I am so tiiiired…

Goals Revisited

A couple of posts ago, I mused about some things that I wanted to accomplish this term. However, the first week of class is nearly over and I have gotten a better feel for how my classes, schedule and life in general will be structured this term, and I wanted to revisit the plan (or goals, if you will) that I set out for myself.

I am sure that the vast majority of anyone reading this has heard of S.M.A.R.T. goalsetting as it is a favoured paradigm of cheesy grade-school pamphlets and well-meaning parents everywhere. To recap, though, S.M.A.R.T. is an anachronism for “specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely”. That is, any goals you make that you have the slightest desire to follow through on (so this probably excludes 90% of most New Year’s resolutions) should be all of these things. The goals I set out for myself in my last post are pretty much none of these things. In fact, they’re pretty all over the place and even as I was writing them, I realized how unrealistic I was being. Not unrealistic in the sense that I didn’t care about them or wouldn’t/couldn’t do them, but just jotting down a few things I want to do sometime between now and May is a horrible way of actually getting them done.

Before I get to my actual list, though, I wanted to mention something that I find equally important even though it doesn’t fit into a cute little anachronism like above: accountability. Now, I’ve read more than a handful of self-improvement books and articles here and there (my dad started me on this early, thankfully) and this is in fact something that you’ll find has mixed reviews. Some people say that by divulging your aspirations to others, you run the risk of them intentionally discouraging you, telling you that your goals are too lofty and you should settle for less, etc. I suppose that this certainly could happen, but if you find yourself in a situation where people are actively trying to bring you down, you should probably re-evaluate who you surround yourself with. Another interesting theory (which I think I read in either The New York Times or BoingBoing) is that we feel good when we talk about our goals with other people because we feel like we are already on our way to accomplishing them. Heck, I love making to do lists and enumerating my goa– er, plans. However, the danger in this, according to the article, was that this small payoff is enough to keep us from actually proceeding to the harder stuff.

I will not deny that there is probably truth in both of these statements, and certainly your mileage may vary. When I embarked on my running/eating routine during the summer, I told a lot of people. My parents, my boyfriend, my grandparents, etc. To be fair, though, they would have figured it out themselves eventually. In fact, my boyfriend actually did the whole thing with me and got sleeker as well. My dad, at the tender age of fifty-something, started running as well (my dad is badass… he’s a better runner than I am probably) and my grandma made me a deal that, for every 10lbs I lost, she would give me $10. All of that was hugely motivating and whenever I felt like quitting or just plopping myself in front of the computer instead of slogging around in my running shoes, they would encourage me (or berate me) to move my butt. Again, though, you may prefer to keep your goals to yourself.

Anyways. After some thinking, this is what I have decided to commit myself to starting right this moment until May 1st:

    Get above 85% in all of my classes this term.

    • I considered making this a bit lower, like around 80%, since I know that is approximately the average GPA needed to get into UBC’s Master’s program in computer science. I’ve also been told that so long as your grades are around 80% or higher, no one really cares what it is specifically and that you’re better off putting your efforts into volunteering, research or internships since the significance of a 95% over a 92% is minimal, but the effort needed to get that extra three percent can be quite daunting. I do agree with all of this and I would be happy with a GPA sitting on 80%, but I can achieve this with relatively mediocre effort and I’d rather push myself a bit harder.
    • I was given possibly the most adorable agenda in the world (it has a pile of happy pandas on it… god I love Korean stationary) so I am going to make good use of it. On the actual calendar page, I’m only going to write down what simply has to be done each night, as well as deadlines and meetings. These are things that are non-negotiable. Then on the back page, I will keep track of what needs to be done in the next week and month, but not at any specific time. (For example, printing out an assignment would go under a calendar entry. Pre-readings for a class would go on the back.) Since the calendar entries are tiny, it’ll force me to decide what’s really important so that I actually have a snowball’s chance in hell of completing everything. If that makes any sense at all.
    • I will NOT skip any classes except in the case where I am so sick that even puppy-cuddling doesn’t sound appealing. (So, pretty much on death’s door step, in my case.)
    • I will take notes for every lecture, even the inane ones, in a spiral notebook even though I hate them. This way I won’t lose my notes. Additionally, I won’t obsess about making my lecture notes perfectly formatted or error free since this is a waste of time.
    • I will do pre-readings before the class, making them true pre-readings instead of sad, pathetic post-pre-readings.
    • At the end of each week on Sunday, I will summarize all of my lecture and textbook notes for the week in my own words for each class. I will make these clear and detailed enough so that I can study for my final off of them. I will only say that they are acceptable if I feel like I could confidently teach the material. (TAing for CS213 taught me a lot about what it means to “know” something… if you can’t teach it, you probably can’t write an exam on it.)

    Schedule my family to be my first priority.

    • I will set aside Saturdays to go out to Langley to visit my family. Especially my most handsome golden retriever, the love of my life.
    • I’ve put this one second even though it is my most important goal since it relates to the first one. One of my big excuses for not going is that I’m too busy with school. However, I do not want to find myself so behind on everything that I cannot spare myself eight hours for the most important people in my life. This means that I am totally failing at being proactive and sucking hard at everything I just said above.
    • However, shit does happen, as they say, and from experience I know that sometimes eight hours can be very precious during midterm season. In these cases, I will simply bring my homework with me and do it at my parents’ place. Having a sweet, furry golden retriever lying beside you makes homework seem a lot more enjoyable, too.

    For six days a week, I will limit myself to one treat a day and exercise for at least 45 minutes.

    • I detailed my whole history with running and losing weight in my last post, so I won’t bother with explaining my motivation and, er… fitness levels again.
    • I will make a list of activities that get my butt moving for at least 45min. As I said before, this doesn’t have to be something intense like running 10k every single day or anything. Some days, all you can do is 25min of yoga and a 20min walk around campus. Other days, when it’s nasty outside, a workout video might be fun (I like the Jillian Michaels ones), or swimming, or watching TV while on the elliptical. I do love running, though, so I would like to try to run three days a week so I don’t lose progress, but I’m not going to be mad if I run only one or two days some weeks.
    • I seriously have issues when it comes to sugar. Like I could probably motor through a whole box of Oreos if I tried… and I probably wouldn’t have to try that hard either. I cut out sugary treats and processed wheats entirely for about two months, though, and surprisingly I didn’t miss them after the first week. However, I do love treats, so I will allow myself one small treat a day. By “one small treat”, I mean something like one of those 100-calorie chocolate bars or coffee with sugar in it… a bag of Oreos doesn’t count. Sadly. I’ve learned that if I restrict myself too much, I will become bitter and resentful and eventually binge (like what happened these past holidays, haha) and I end up worse off than before because I have to start all over again. Someone gave me the sage advice to only “diet” insofar as you can honestly support it for your whole life.
    • I’d like to lose at least six pounds a month. Before, I was losing around 10 to 12lbs a month but I don’t think I have the time or energy with school to put in that much effort again. Six pounds a month means that I’ll see results a bit slower but, first of all, who cares if it’s slower and second of all, that’s still around 25lbs by May, which is pretty darn good. Anything above six pounds is great, too, but unlike grades, weight loss can be quite hard to predict and pushing too hard can often result in your body holding on to everything with all it’s might, haha. Plus I’m not unhappy with how I look.

    Lastly, I will not become rigid or insane about any of the above things.

    • If I have two treats one day, it’s not the end of the world. If I skip one class, that’s definitely less acceptable but it doesn’t mean that my GPA is going to plummet. I’m not saying that I’m not going to take myself seriously, but everyone needs to treat themselves gently and with patience. In the past, it’s when I’ve gotten overly regimented about my schedule and stuff that I most dramatically bomb after a week or so. It’s important to be lighthearted about the whole thing and recognize that drastic change doesn’t happen without a little blip here or there.

    So there you have it. My life for the next four months. Ambitious? Sure, maybe slightly. But unattainable, impossible or overly lofty? Nope.

    First Day Back

    Well, it’s Day 0 of 2010W2. Or is it 2011S? Or the spring term? Or… I never know how to properly refer to the terms.

    Anyways. My first class is CPSC 320, “Intermediate Algorithm Design and Analysis”. I’ve heard murmurings that this is the worst/hardest class of a CS student’s entire UBC career, though I am not trembling at the knees yet. I come equipped with the past assignments, notes and expertise of a handful of friends that took this last year with the same prof. I’m also imbued with a semi-manic vigor to kick this term’s ass to make up for the pathetic four months that was last term. So, Bernoulli’s bagelwich (delicious) and Starbucks coffee in hand, I’m ready.

    Speaking of last term, however, my CS312 grades were finally posted. I did quite well- probably not as well as I should have, and a lot of it is due to my amazing partner who picked up a lot of my slack last term (much to my embarrassment). Also, the average was 81%, for anyone who cares. Kurt’s classes do tend to have higher averages, but I’m not complaining.

    Also, I’m not sure if I’ve gone over what I’m taking this term yet. As I said before, I’ll be taking CPSC 320 (“Intermediate Algorithm Design and Analysis”) with Patrice Belleville, starting in an hour or so. Thankfully, this is my only class on Tuesdays and Thursdays! Then my Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays consist of CPSC 313 with Andrew Warfield(“Computer Hardware and Operating Systems”), STAT200 with Eugenia Yu (“Elementary Statistics for Applications”) and CPSC 422 with David Poole (“Intelligent Systems”). Not a bad term! It’ll be nice to have three computer science courses, even if they aren’t ones I was particularly looking forward to. I sure hope that 422 is better than my 322 fiasco from last term.

    I’ve bought some spiral notebooks, in hopes that it will help me keep to my New Term’s plan of diligently taking notes in every class. An important part of that being, of course, that you don’t lose your notes, and what better way to do that than have a notetaking format that won’t get lost unless you actively rip out the pages. Ha. I actually have a love-hate relationship with spiral notebooks… love them for the aforementioned reason and the fact that everything is all in one place, sequentially. However, whenever I buy them, I always abandon them because (a) I’m a perfectionist bordering on OCD (in fact, I legitimately do have OCD, but that’s different than just obsessing about notes). This means that if I make a tiny mistake on a page, I have to rip out the page and start over. This generally results in sad, skinny notebooks and me getting frustrated. The other reason I give up on spiral notebooks is (b) there is no good way to insert handouts, etc. However, based on Math 302 last term, where we got a lot of handouts, I actually found it confusing to intersperse them with my handwritten lecture notes anyways.

    So… my feelings on spiral notebooks. Now you have them. Enthralling, right?

    I still have an hour or so before class starts. May as well do some pre-reading or… something. Have a great term everyone!