Sunday, April 25, 2010

procrastination is a learned skill.

on friday i attended jοrge cham's procrastination talk. walking home that night, i resolved to take the next day (saturday) off.

reaching my apartment,
i promptly collapsed into bed,
happy with this idea. [0]

i reconsidered this the next morning. a day off wasn't impossible, but it wouldn't necessarily make things any easier.

"Ο-Ren Ishiι: You didn't think it was gonna be that easy, did you?
The Brιde: You know, for a second there, yeah, I kinda did.
Ο-Ren Ishiι: Silly rabbit.
The Brιde: Trιx are...
Ο-Ren Ishiι: ...for kids."

// stolen from Kill Bill, vol.1

sunday, i realised, would be full of work:
  • writing a final,
  • writing a makeup final (for a different class) [1]
  • writing a substitute lecture for monday,
  • writing up solutions to a calculus quiz
  • and the grading .. \-:

    .. ye gods, that awful grading ..!

then again, a day off was such a grand, inspiring idea. i couldn't just let it go, so i took the morning off (or what was left of it). i decided to do what i wanted to do instead of what i should have been doing ..

.. which was going to a cafe, drinking coffee, and reading.

the first two would be easy enough. as for the third, nothing in my apartment seemed like good, casual reading.

looking around, i adapted my search ..

.. and uneasily picked up Analysιs and Geοmetry on Grοups by Varοpoulos, Salοff-Cοste, and Cοulhon.

to clarify, i quite like this book;
i've been meaning to read it in detail.

it's just that, at the time,
i was looking for something less technical.

in the end, i didn't read much of it: the preface, the foreword, the first chapter. i leafed through some of the second chapter before i became distracted with some other ideas. this involved thinking of research ideas -- gauging what i knew and of what i was ignorant, what seems possible, what seems interesting ..

so yes, i ended up "working" [2] \-: ..
.. but to be fair, it was fun. (-:

some habits are hard to break. some items are paired well together, like coffee and maths. perhaps i should have bought a newspaper instead.

i do like jοrge cham's work. ultimately, though, i couldn't take his advice to heart. at first this depressed me, but then i thought of something.

he wasn't talking to me;
he was talking to graduate students.

he was talking to TAs who don't write their own lectures and who defer the hard questions to those who do write the lectures and structure the course;

he was talking to research assistants, not necessarily to researchers who are juggling several projects in various stages of progress;

he was talking to those members of academia who have the luxury of dropping everything and suffering no repercussions for it.

it's fine to procrastinate when nobody's really counting on you, but that was a different time in my life. it's not that i never take time off, but ..

.. never mind. there's no easy answer, here;
besides, i have to get back to work.

[0] no, this isn't meant to be a (western) haiku. it wouldn't be formatted appropriately, anyway.

[1] one student from last year's linear algebra class took an incomplete grade. these (non-calculator) exams are particularly annoying to write, because one has to make sure that the numbers are "nice," that the characteristic polynomials aren't too hard to factor, etc. [sighs]

[2] i wouldn't call it actual work, because it was speculation. i never actually proved anything, never did anything hard.

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