Anxiety Nightmares

Last night had to be the worse night of sleep I've ever gotten, that I can remember (in a puddle when camping might have been close). I blame it on the demos I had to give today and tomorrow. Normally when you say "my demo gave me nightmares," that means that you had an upsetting dream about the demo. Not so in this case. I told people that my research project is a nightmare for me when I'm awake. However, I think the anxiety of having to stand up and show a project that I think is crap for three hours on two consecutive days turned anything I dreamt into a nightmare that woke me up just in time to realize how bad it was. I can remember waking up many times this morning. That's pretty typical when I have somewhere to be that I'm worried about being late to, but each time I woke up some new disturbing image was in my brain.

What could haunt you so, Ben? ShadowPlay is the project I'm working on for research. It is an interface for non-programmers to build interactive characters that react to shadow. I don't know if I really believe that it has potential. Even if it does, it is certainly very far from that. Worst of all, I feel I should have more done that I do, but I don't even know what to do next.

Things actually ended up turning out ok, because when I finally did wake up and get into the lab, I had a realization and was able to add the one feature I had wanted to add for today but was unable to figure out how to before. All in all, the demos went pretty well. Maybe because the people today weren't sponsors they didn't care that my stuff was kind of cool, but not useful. A couple people really liked it and wanted my contact info. Even though I probably won't be around to care, it was nice to know someone was listening to what I was saying and actually cared.

Tomorrow more the same. After that I just have to finish my two projects (easier said than done) and then I'm free. So close I can feel it. I can't wait.
Keywords:Worries | Media Lab | Dreams
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Between coming back from a vacation, this beautiful weather, and the fact that I'm dropping out of MIT after this semester anyway, I'm really unmotivated to do work. School work specifially. In fact I'm quite motivated to be active and get things done now that spring is here. I'm ready to turn over a new leaf and really try to make something of myself. Yet I have no desire to work on all the many projects I have stacked up against me in my 2 classes.

On Thursday I go away again, but until then I have a Sensors problem set, a 15 minute paper presentation in Ambient Intelligence, and a project update to give for that class as well as work that needs to be done on the project. After I get back, I've got tough projects for both classes to do, and a couple more paper presentations.

I wish I could just quit now, and move right now to Pittsburgh and get started. I suppose I probably could, technically, but I think the right thing to do is still to finish at least this semester that I started, especially the project that Alex is depending on me to help with.
Keywords:Busyness | Media Lab | Procrastination | Spring
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Media Lab Woofie

At work on Wednesday, Alex and I settled on an idea for a joint project for our Ambient Intelligence class. This was a load off my mind. First of all, the toughest part of a project is getting the idea. Being able to brainstorm with someone else was only the beginning of what make me prefer not working alone. Having an idea is a big load off my mind. Also, knowing that I'm not going to have to do it alone, but will have someone to help me get over the obstacles, makes it feel much more bearable. I'm glad to be working with Alex both to be working on any sort of group project and because we are good friends and it will be good finally to be able to discuss a project we have a shared investment in. Finally, I think our different skills and preferences will complement each other well.

The idea is one based on a concept we frequently talk about so it is good to have something that already interested us to work on. The project is basically implementing the woofie system from the book Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom. He shared this book with me and I loved it. We frequently talk about their respect based economy, woofie being the name of the "currency". While I don't particually care for that name, the idea of respect rating systems is a good one. It's not original, but whether you call it karma, kudos, plusplus, props, or woofie, there is no existing electronic system that is ambient and pervasive like described in Cory Doctorow's book and like we want to build. Most are restricted to a single website or IRC channel for a limited domain of people. Although for our project and demo it will probably still only cover the media lab, it won't be intrisically tied to this population. Not that I expect our idea to take off, but it's fun to think about.
Keywords:Classes | Media Lab | Projects
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Reapplying to the ETC

I'm back at school now. Have been for a week. Every other year I have been dying to get back to school. I would make my break at short as I could. Not that I don't love my family and enjoy being home, but it is crowded and crazy especially compared to the calm of school during the break and there are always project I want to get back to. This year it was not so. My time at home, by neccessity this time and not choice, was about as long as it ever is but it felt longer. Maybe that was because I cherished every moment. Last semester was tough and I wasn't enjoying myself very much. Most of my problem revolved around finding a project that interested me. I wasn't looking forward to going back, though I do have to be here for IAP.

I thought a lot about the possibility of leaving the Media Lab. Often last semester I had wished I had gotten a job. I've been talking to a lot of people about it lately. Upon reflection, I've done well so far, but haven't really gotten into it. Reexamining the choice I had to make last year, the more the ETC seems like the place that I belong.

Now that I've spent a semster at MIT the differences between the two programs are really clear. I think I based my decision to go to grad school based the ETC as my idea of grad school. Since my freshman year, when I heard about the ETC, I knew it was what I wanted to do when I graduated. If it hadn't been for that, would I even have considered grad school? I don't know that really expected the Media Lab to be like that, but I think I seriously discounted the difference in subject material and methodology.

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Keywords:ETC | Media Lab | MIT | Carnegie Mellon | Grad School
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The last two weeks have been really tough. So much happened but I haven't had a moment to relax, well, not exactly. Here's the recap.

Going Home

I don't mean home in the literal sense, but mentally. Last monday classes were cancelled so I decided to take an esaver and visit Pittsburgh for the weekend. I had to fly out of Providence which meant I was dependant on the train schedule which doesn't always go all the way to Providence. Therefore, I ended up spending the night with Jackie at Brown. It was nice to see and spend some time with her, since we can't do that often.

It was really great to be back at CMU. Possibly it was just because I was on a trip and there wasn't anything I had to do, but the whole time I was there was very relaxing. Just sitting in these familiar rooms on familiar couches with my best friends was really comforting.

Mike Weiss was also in that weekend. He flew in to take his stuff from storage and drive it back to New York in a U-Haul. Nate and I helped him load things up. The U-Haul he was given, old-faithful we called it, seemed a bit beat up, but we didn't quite know how bad it was when we first set up. When we got to the storage facility we noticed that the radiator was leaking. Instead of packing up storage we just had to wait around for a while. After U-Haul determined they weren't going to do anything for us, we had to walk and take two busses home. Then we had to return the next day with a better truck and do the actual packing.

Except the amount of time spent on that ordeal, instead of seeing people, the weekend was good.

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Keywords:Carnegie Mellon | TV | Classes | Media Lab
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Day Awesome

Today has been dubbed, Day Awesome, for no particular reason. In the history of following up a down entry with an upbeat one, I shall follow one of the longest with a rather short one.

For starters I got my Razor scooter today. It was incredibly hard to find but now I have it and my commute is much faster. I got a late start though my morning at home was productive. When I stopped for lunch (it was good) I bumped into Carly. That was nice and I sat with her while she ate lunch (I was already done). We talked about classes and such and then she had to go to one. I think this will be fun, both being here.

At the Media Lab, although I got in very late, I stayed somewhat late, never sitting around or being bored, but actually getting things done. Brad and I rearranged our office and I'm really happy with the new setup. The place actually feels like some place I'll be happy to live and a place where work could actually get done.

In the middle of all of that we had a recitation for fab class (how I will refer to How to Make (Almost) Anything). Being the web guru seems like it is going to be a lot of fun. Even if it will be a lot of work it shouldn't be too bad as a job. It's something to do. I'm excited to start learned Blender to do 3D modelling for this assignment. I'm still not sure what I'm going to model and animate but it should be fun once I think of something.
Keywords:Family | Media Lab | Classes
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I don't doubt my ability to do the Media Lab. I know that my acceptance wasn't a mistake. They accepted me because they liked what I had done before and knew that I have what it takes to succeed here. My problem is that just because I can doesn't mean I should. Each day I have wondered if I wouldn't be better off somewhere else.

At the ETC I would have my friends in Pittsburgh. I think those students are more like me, I know what that program involves and that I would not only succeed but also enjoy it. Of course I question what value it would have for me but that is a different issue.

Here at the Media Lab I don't feel like I fit in. I haven't done as intellectual stuff as other first years. I've never been published, I came straight from my undergrad, and I wasn't doing real research. In this context the stuff I've done before seems even more childish. I wasn't doing research I was just a programmer. And I don't think there is anything wrong with making games, maybe that's what I should be doing.

The realness of this place scares me. I have always been good at coming up with clever solutions to problems. I feel I would have an adequate ability to perform experiments on the solutions to measure their impact or to iteratively improve them. Within a give domain I could probably even identify what might be needing an improvement. But what I am not good at is coming up, out of thin air, "interesting" problems to work on. This is a factor both in my research, where we need to decide what to work on, and in my classes, where my first assignments have been to come up with ideas for class projects with no further guidance.

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Keywords:Media Lab | Grad School
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Ups and Downs

I'm going a mile-a-minute and I felt I needed to write a journal entry before there were too many thoughts to ever deal with. I really just want every thought I ever have recorded any time of day. Maybe I need a voice recorder or something. As far as brains go, my thinker seems to do better than my rememberer which renders the first slightly less efficient than might otherwise be.

Down: Social

No doubts about me as me, but I'm in a very different situation than I'm used to. I used to live with 30 of my friends. Now I live with 3 people. It is a big difference. I never had before and must discover now, the right way to hang out with people. It isn't like I haven't been making friends, I just don't know how to make them good friends. I don't know what to do when people aren't just there.

In addition there is something I wanted to call Not that feeling again! or "I think I'll have that drink now." The reasons for these strange titles are wholly unimportant. The sentiment is that, for all the progress I've made confidence-wise in social situations, I lack certain essential skills neccessary for moving past the types of social relationships I have now that I failed to develope at the time where it was possible.

Up: Media Lab

It was good to finally see my advisor, pick classes, and find that I had an office. Getting aquainted with the Media Lab will take some time, but I feel more comfortable there after touring around. I felt that I belonged. David is cool and I think we can work together.

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Keywords:Depression | Media Lab | Website Projects
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