Tuesday, September 13, 2005

On the Edge

Someone like me, prone to hyperbole might get skeptical responses by claiming that life as situations currently are is overwhelming. Yet, I will say it anyway, and if you choose to believe it great. The last week has by far been the most academically challenging week I have had in my college career. That is not to say that things weren't rough when I was taking o-chem, human anatomy, cell biology, and physics at the same time. What is different is that last time this happened, I got crushed. I left my biology major, and switched to CS. This time, there is no leaving, no switching. I don't want to. But that means that I have to figure it out, which is much harder than quitting. Not only that, but it is more frightening.

I won't even speak of the hours I have spent thinking about problems only to come up with a solution that isn't a solution. Does this mean I am not fit to be a computer scientist? I sure hope not. It feels like I am being attacked in every weak place all at once. I am growing as a problem solver, and as a mathematician, but apparently not fast enough.

I don't see things getting easier, and that is ok, but I do need to gain capacity to be able to work through it, and come out on top. I guess 8 hours of sleep may just be a luxury that I can't afford. But what do you do when you have stared at the problem for hours on end and haven't even the slightest idea as to how to approach it? Does sacrificing sleep somehow bridge the gap?

Should I be reading more books?
Should I be trying more problems?

I refuse to believe that puzzle solving can't be learned. That idea just sounds preposterous.

So I'll keep trying, and hoping to find the light at the end of the tunnel, or at least a faint glimmer.


Kelly said...

Keep up the good fight. You will do it. By the way, Happy Birthday! Remember, you're not getting older, you're getting bitter.


Joe said...

Kelly -

Thanks for the birthday wishes... oh, and by the way the new blog format looks AMAZING.

I hope that rather than getting bitter in my old age I am getting bEtter.


rfin said...

Joe, You can do it. All your blog readers, friends and family are pulling for you! p.s. You'd love the scenery here in Carbon County.

Anonymous said...

A can tell you that the U of U's Discrete Mathematics class nearly did me in. I went in to the class not having a full year of the math prereqs that apparently were apparently invaluable to recurrence relations. I spent countless hours in the library reading math books I didn't understand. When the final came around, I was in a panic because there were only six questions, and even though the professor gave partial credit, on two of the questions I couldn't even lob a guess for fear of showing I completely lacked any understanding of the nature of the problem, let alone the solution.

All I can say is, I'm glad that class is behind me. I'm pretty sure I'll never use anything I learned in that class, if only because there are thrones in heaven for the people that can write the types of programs that require an in-depth understanding of mathematics and proofs, and I'm confident my name is not on any of those thrones. I'm quite content not blazing new trails in the land of more efficient compilers, revolutionary encryption, speech recognition, a more efficient red-black tree and the like. I'm stick with the trusty STL and Google to help me get through my old-fashioned, comfortable applications, thank you very much.

Oh yeah, and if this is any consolation, even though I was utterly sucking wind in discrete math, I still somehow managed a "B" because I got the homework in on time, religiously attended every class, tried my best on the exams, and was bumped up by the curve. They have to pass most of the class, otherwise the professor has failed, and they can't have that :-). Embrace the curve.

Joe said...

I love it!

"...there are thrones in heaven for the people that can write the types of programs that require an in-depth understanding of mathematics and proofs, and I'm confident my name is not on any of those thrones."

I am glad to hear that I am not the only one that feels that way. Last fall I took "Discrete Mathematics", boy was that ever a fun one. For some reason, I thought it would be "fun" to get a Math minor, so the math that is torturing me right now is Analysis. I am also working on a rather frustrating "bit" assignment right now. But that is neither here nor there to the conversation at hand.

Thanks for dropping by and sharing your story with me. I love the quote about the thrones; it has been stuck in my head all day. On many levels you are indeed correct. Though I don't see myself doing any ground-breaking work in CS, I sure do love trying to understand how exactly it works.

Oh, and the curve will save us all in the end.