TL;DR "talking to myself in order to keep my head on straight" post. I forsee many of these coming out during my preparations for quals and the end-game of my dissertation.

It's been a while since I sat down and continuously listened to music; this break has been excellent for that. I've been on a fingerstyle guitar listening kick lately, but other things have popped into my musical field of view. First, Beatles covers; it's wonderful to hear what so many people have done with the same song. Second, Variations on a Theme of Paganini by George Thalben-Ball is written for pedalboard and looks like a lot of fun to play - particularly the last variation which is all sliding feet glissandos. I wonder what it's like to have to coordinate your feet and your hands at the same time. Being able to stably play music and build instruments is another argument for settling down. (Eventually. A long time from now. While still continuing to travel a lot.)

I need daily rituals that I can take with me wherever I go. Right now I've got my computer and writing, which is nice, but I'd like to be able to add something physical to that, and something musical. Either I haven't found it yet or I haven't been doing it long enough consistently enough to realize that I've already got the makings of those. I'm still a novice on bass and guitar, and can't move across those instruments with fluency - for that matter, I want to get better at playing with (not just playing) the piano. Conversation. I want to be able to use music to have a conversation. I want to be able to have a conversation by kicking or hitting or throwing a ball or by sparring with my fists and feet. But conversations require partners, and the only way I have of keeping up a stable conversational partnership is via the internet - not particularly great for music or sports. Hm. Wait, that previous statement isn't quite true. This is a problem I could solve. Hm.

There is a game called The Game of Nom. (Windows-only, alas.) The title alone fills me with great amusement.

Today, I...

Did some budget/equipment/logistics research and continued some conversations on the possibility of a small SoaS pilot/testbed this spring. The pieces might fit together; I'm going through and identifying, quantifying, and then minimizing possible areas of uncertainty and risk to see if we have a chance of staying under time-budget, figuring out the resources (mostly people-time) available, and weighing that against other possible time-investments to see if this is what would give us the most leverage... several hours into this I started laughing because I abruptly realized that this sounded a lot like what "entrepreneurship" is, except without the "money" part.

Had one of those wait what's happening to me? moments wherein I panicked that learning to think "this way" would diminish my ability to "do engineering" before logic took hold and reminded me that the two aren't mutually incompatible and why was I so freakin' obsessed with the latter anyway? (I am; I have this thing about wanting to stay an engineer - as if I could stop being one! - which is a knee-jerk reaction I don't fully understand, and therefore need to look at more.)

Finally went and set up my research server; right now it's fairly boring, but I (and anyone, really) can...

git clone

The notes themselves haven't actually been checked in yet; they're on another hard drive I'll get to back in Boston. It's at http:// rather than git:// because I haven't figured out git-daemon yet, nor have I configured DNS (I haven't actually set up A records before, but subdomains don't look that hard to figure out) nor have I played with mod_rewrite (or indeed done much with my apache configs at all), nor have I even started to think about anything else. I'm messing around; this box is all staging right now, and it'll take a good amount of configuration and experimenting and breaking-things and testing for me to be able to say "yeah, these services are production-ready for me." I do imagine that after some years I will decide I no longer want to be my own sysadmin and switch back to having someone else do it, but if that happens, I will know I know how to do it, which is always nice. I've wanted to do this sort of thing for years and it's good to kick my own ass into finally taking the next step.

Heard family stories about the courtship processes of a series of older relatives, which was most fascinating. The stories mostly sound like this: "Our families have known each other for many years, we're in the age range at which one is supposed to get hitched, and we kinda like each other. Let's investigate this idea of you and me getting married, ok?" (I'm sure there was more to it than that.)

Colloquial German, chapter 3. Wherein Mel learns adjectives and how to conjugate comparisons. I feel like slowing down and getting more vocabulary into my head before diving into chapter 4, but need something different as a breather, so I'm going to do some auditory training with the FSI course tomorrow now that I have my portable audio player. Mmm, portable music. I finally figured out how to convert things to ogg vorbis, and then spent some time reading about the file format.

The list is looking pretty good so far - tomorrow I'll be wrapping up #1, doing #8, and hopefully making major headway in either #2 or #11, plus a SLOBs meeting to prep for and attend (I owe SLOBs a blog post on the recent trademark decisions and a proposal on how to revise the formal statements regarding them). That leaves #3 (start Thursday, finish Friday), #9 (Thursday), and... the longer-term stuff, which I've been at least working on a little bit each day, although today's contribution to grad school apps was "throw out old statement of purpose drafts because they're absolutely terrible."

   1. All recommendation letters I’m writing for people will all be mailed (yeah, need to do the "get stamps" part)
   2. Grad school applications will go from “asymptotically being finished” to “finished” (this is the big one, and it’ll have to be broken into subtasks.) Working... on it.
   3. Belated Christmas presents will be shipped (it’s so much cheaper to get Christmas presents after Christmas) and all necessary returns made.
   4. I will begin my research pile by getting a VM slice and setting up a git repo for reading notes on it.
   5. Get through Chapter 6 (”Present Tense of Haben”) in Colloquial German. So far, so good.
   6. Convert the FSI mp3s for German Headstart into ogg format; use Christmas money to get an ogg-compatible portable media player (current top contender: Sansa Clip + firmware upgrade) and begin playing former-mp3s-now-oggs on it to start learning how to listen to the language.
   7. Exercise differently every weekday this week in order to try out the different schemes you were considering; pick one on Saturday. So far, so good.
   8. Scholarly societies: make sure your memberships are up-to-date (ACM/IEEE/ASEE), that you know what publications you want to watch this year, and that they automagically get delivered to your inbox. Tomorrow!
   9. Year-end finances: roundup, 2010 budgeting. Thursday.
  10. Finish transcribing, tabbing, and learning “Lullaby to an Anxious Child” on guitar (so far I have awkward fingering on everything except the bridge and none of it’s transcribed; I’d like it to be nice throughout). So far, so good. Also, I discovered tuxguitar today.
  11. Ye Olde Annual Inbox Purge (this will need to be done a little bit each day)
  12. Spend at least an hour each day doing Nice Things for/with Family. Hopefully longer. This may be the hard part – or then again, once I explicitly make it my responsibility to take this initiative, it might magically get easier. So far, so good.

Vacations are hard!