Monday, August 15, 2011

If I’m So Smart, Why Did I Wear Pants Today?

Aaaaaaah . . . the start of a new semester is in a week. I feel strange now that I’m a second year grad student. I’m also a bit sad that once classes start, I’ll have to put a hold on watching the X-Files while eating rainbow sherbet.

It occurs to me that I haven’t written about actually being a grad student. It also occurs to me that this might be because it’s not really that interesting. But, unfortunately for you, this is what I’m going to attempt to do. So ha!

I wake up and it’s always hot. Really, really hot. . . . and humid sometimes. I decide today to wear pants instead of shorts, because I’m not really a shorts kind of person. I actually hate wearing shorts and flip-flops, but summers in Tucson are like the death throes of Sylvia Plath – you feel like your head is in an oven, frying your brain until you go slightly crazy with each passing day. So, I usually make due with the least amount of clothes I can live with. If I make it to my air-conditioned car before death, I can watch fried people on the street do stupid things. For instance, I saw a woman screaming to herself on campus today. Some may call her crazy, but I call her a “Native Tucsonian”.

When I make it to my office, I prove (like I always do) that I’m not as smart as I think I am. I volunteer to give two talks during the semester over email. Why? Because I can. Was that a smart thing to do? Absolutely not. Nonetheless, I notice that my email must be controlled by a secret government project, because the next time I look at the clock, it’s time for a meeting with my advisor.

Advisor meetings always go the same. They go something like this:
Advisor: Hello. How’s it going?
Me: I made progress! See?! See?! Please believe me . . . LOOK AT MY PLOTS!
Advisor: They look a little funny. Did you think of [insert easily foreseeable problem].
Me: Oh. Yes. I should have thought of that.
Advisor: Ok. See you later.
This takes 3 minutes (ok, I may be exaggerating a little here. It takes around 5 minutes).

After I get direction, the real work begins. It starts with me looking sadly at my iraf script (iraf is a computer language I use to do some of my work). Then I open up lots of internet browsers in search of something to fix my code. I get a headache within 20 minutes. However, it’s ok, because now it’s lunch time!

I walk through the scorching desert heat in search of food. I wish I had worn shorts instead of pants.

I get back into the office. I’m uncomfortable because my pants are now sticking to my legs. Ugh…. I hate that feeling. Now, where was I? Oh yes, trying to understand iraf… I get my headache back again. I curse and scream because iraf uses different parsers for the command line and its scripts. So, even though I find something that works on the command line, it doesn’t work in the script. After a couple of hours, I find out the weird little problem that kept my script from working. It was something about assigning structures before strings? Heck if I know . . .

I get tired of working. I visit another person’s office, steal their wheelie chair, and push myself in circles for half an hour. I make a lame joke and laugh for way too hard, way too long. It is at this insane moment that I decide I can tackle iraf again.

I run my program again. It doesn’t work, even though I changed nothing. I finally realize that iraf was made by the Devil . . . er, no . . . Astronomers . . . what’s the difference? I laugh out loud. I decide to go home. I walk to my car.

It’s really hot outside.

When I get home, I put the X-Files on. I change into my pajamas, eating rainbow sherbet. I write this blog. I’ll repeat this day tomorrow, and perhaps the day after that, but one thing will be different: I’m going to wear shorts instead of pants.


  1. Well, you did learn something--to wear shorts instead of pants. I would call that -progress-.

  2. If you're wearing pants, you're at least ahead of Chester.

  3. Yeah at least you decided on shorts or a skirt even. I wish I had that choice or maybe that I wasn't producing 40% more blood volume which makes me even more heat stressed than anyone on earth that isn't making a baby right now...