Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Summer Midpoint Update

My summer is halfway over: fewer than two months have passed since I graduated, and fewer than two months remain until NSO. It will be helpful to me to see how well I've been doing with all of my summer plans, which I described here. This is a self-indulgent post, more me taking inventory than anything, but hopefully someone else might benefit.*

*I think that is one of the "themes," so to speak, of this blog: I write about ordinary and personal things because universality of human experience &c.

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  • Read a lot.

I've read all the books that I bought/that others gave me except for the collection of Conrad stories that my sister got me for Christmas. I have to be in a certain mood to read Conrad, and that mood is, I think, easier to achieve in cooler weather.

As for other books: my reading habit fluctuates, and right now I'm in a rut where I don't make time to read. But it's good for me, so I'll keep at it.


  • Deepen my knowledge and practice of programming.

This entire month I've struggled with writing the code for a program that will back up my files for me. I think that I've got it now but I still have to run tests. Furthermore, I set up Git on my computer but I haven't used it much yet, and a few weeks ago when I tried to read other people's code on Github I got scared because of not knowing anything and stopped. At the moment, I am reading through The Hitchhiker's Guide to Python, a guide to Python best practices under a variety of scenarios. I've also hit a wall with Project Euler challenges, which is disappointing, but I think it will be to the good if I take my time and go as far as I can with the math part before letting the code do the computation work.

The more I read about programming and computer science, the more I realize how truly ignorant I am, and the more I wish I had gotten started earlier.


  • Relearn calculus and physics.

Relearning calculus is going reasonably well. I'm using online notes provided by Professor Paul Dawkins of Lamar University. Calculus I is equivalent to Calc AB, and Calculus II, which I'm working through now, is BC and then some.

As for physics: I'm typing up my old notes this week and after that will probably find some physics C resources to help me. I've heard that you're not really supposed to study for the physics placement test, but since the class was a year ago I'm shortchanging myself if I don't brush up. And I really want to do well, because a 5 on Physics B only gets you into Physics 25 while engineers want to take the Physics 40 sequence.


  • Improve languages.

I spoke a lot of Chinese in China but, to be honest, haven't touched Duolingo since the first week of summer. I'm still writing my journal in Italian and I think I did well on the written placement test this morning, so if I go back to Duolingo it'll probably be for my German.


  • Research and write a lot in Ubermadchen.

Research has been spotty, piecemeal, as-needed. I'm missing plenty of places where better research could make the story stronger. On the other hand, I don't want research time to take precedence over writing time. I've gotten into a routine in which I flail around a bit for the first few days in a new section of the story, then write down a list of scenes that I want to happen during that time, and as I write the scenes proliferate and order themselves.

Thus far, the system is working. I had a few really productive weeks after getting back from China and I'm hoping to sustain a slightly more moderate pace for the rest of the summer. I have written over 100 new pages this summer, of which I am rather proud. Not sure how many words that is, but the order of magnitude is in the tens of thousands. Just keep moving the story forward.


  • Refine social media presence.

Blog redesign--check. Story box Tumblrs--aside from the Ubermadchen one, not really kept up, but as this reflects my real story output I don't mind terribly. Case closed on this goal.


  • Practice trombone.

I hit a rut fairly early on and wasted a few weeks not being productive, but running through a bunch of (not all) Remington exercises helped get me into a more disciplined mindset, as did watching Christopher Bill tutorial videos. Next Monday I'm playing at the first day of band camp before returning the trombone, whom I think I shall name Angelique.

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It looks as though I'm doing all right. Could amp up the efforts on language, physics, programming, and reading, however. To be honest my goals do cause me some stress, and I have developed some rather bad sleeping habits. But, even though I don't enjoy being stressed in the summer, at least all these projects are of my own choosing. I can always cut back if I need to, without consequences to other people.

When I reach the halfway point in the summer, that is usually when my morale is at the lowest. And I have indeed wasted a lot of time that I could have put toward my goals. Furthermore, I admit that I feel inadequate when I think about how a lot of people have jobs and internships and volunteering to do over the summer, and I'm just at home in front of a computer most of the day. If you're unlucky then Friday I'll angst more about that.

But I've made substantial progress is writing and calc and trombone, and I'll work on the things I need to work on. What else, after all, can I do?

Seven weeks down, seven more to go. Make it count.

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