Feeling marginally more adultlike today.

Had one of those long talks with my parents about The Future over lunch. My "year off" is almost halfway up, and they're concerned - heck, I'm concerned, I think all the mentors I've ever had share this concern - that I'm unfocused. Still drifting. It's one of those battles I've fought all my life and will continue to until I leave this world (and even then, I'll probably be bouncing around the afterlife distracted by everyone's shiny haloes).

I want to go to graduate school. I want to get my PhD in education, doing a lot of qualitative fieldwork, focusing on the intersection between how hackers learn and how engineering undergraduates are taught. Before I do that, I'd like to (1) teach full-time for at least a full school year, because I want to ground my theory in experience this time around, and (2) work as an electrical engineer, because I'm... highly skeptical about my technical abilities (yes, intellectually I know this fear is ungrounded; see impostor syndrome) and want to prove myself wrong, lest I spook from tech stuff in the future. I love electrical and computer engineering. I don't want to be terrified by it.

How am I going to do this? I have no bloody idea. I'm hitting the library and the internet in preparation for hitting my address books and calling people up for advice. Homework doesn't end with graduation. (Yay!)

That's more or less the semi-gelled part. The rest is a little fuzzier. Somewhere down the line, I want to get my PhD in engineering and become an engineering professor. Somewhere down the line, I'd love to start my own business, but I won't be too crushed if that never happens; it's likely I'll be involved in startups anyway. Somewhere down the line, I'd like to spend at least a year, solo, traveling around the world. Lots of stuff I'd like to do somewhere down the line, but somewhere down the line is fuzzy and far and Very Very Tentative. Maybe I'll get a round tuitt.

It's still a broad sweep, but it's less broad than it's been in years past. I dug up some old stuff from high school while cleaning my room and spent several hours re-reading the stories my friends and I wrote as teenagers (about us battling the vile Ma'ath* across the Koor-D'net Plains, and such) and got together for drinks with some high school friends, who were mildly amused to see me quaff a stout, as I was the Small Innocent Person of the crew.

I got to think about the past for a bit and how much I have learned to focus since. I've gained a lot of focus, surprisingly. (So you can just imagine what I was like as a kid.) I think it's like debugging and optimizing a really kludgy hack - the messy junk works when you kick it so you think it's almost-done, but as you clean it up and squeeze more performance out of it you realize how deep the knots are raveled, how making it work better usually makes it more broken in the short run, how pushing it under tougher conditions leads to all these issues you never noticed before when you were working in a nice shielded lab.

Hacking yourself usually gets worse before it gets better. I'm finally beginning to creep out into the "better" part for this revision of the Focus feature.

Contrary to this post, I've also been trying to teach myself not to spend too much time worrying about the future at the expense of the present (...young padawan).

So - the present.

Bricked my XO last night while fooling around with OFW (translation: I was messing with my computer and totally locked it up). After several hours and some words I'm glad my parents didn't hear, I gave up and submitted a ticket, Adam sent me my developer's key tonight, and I have a working laptop again in time to head to the OLPC Chicago meetup Tuesday night.

Also registered for my first official "schooling" of the year - I'm taking a Mandarin immersion weekend at SUNY New Paltz. It's more money than I've spent in total since the end of September, but it comes from my 529, which actually contains some money thanks to the Olin scholarship. (As I've said more than once, that scholarship lets me think about saving the world right after graduation instead of "must sell soul to pay debt.") I'm trying to save what remains of my 529 for grad school, though. Especially since I plan on going through quite a bit of that in the future.

This is part of my vow to never let an academic year go by without seriously studying something. Another part of that vow involves being an independent learner and not letting credentialism taking over my soul, but I've gotten to the point where I'm at a plateau and can't kick myself to the "next level" without help.

The cough syrup sleepydrugs are kicking in. It's off to an early bedtime.

*Lest you think I hated math in high school, I should hasten to explain that the Ma'ath were a twisted corruption of Math, the glorious beings who once ruled the land of Eemsa. While the Math did awesome things with vectors and abstract algebra, the Ma'ath introduced perversions like Timed Tests, Scantron Sheets, and Stupid Plug And Chug Textbook Problems. So. We were warriors of The Light. (Then again, all warriors like to think they are.)