prettyarbitrary: (Fuzzy Cthulhu)
1: Vacuumed and cleaned today, and got to spend all day with that feel-good feeling of a clean house around you. ^_^

2: The weather was stunning today, and I had nowhere better to be than lounging around in it.

3: I truly do have an amazing job.  I enjoy it, it challenges me, and I know I'm making a difference, both for the bottom line of the college where I work and for the students and scientists.  It's the kind of job that people talk about when they say, "If you love what you do, then it never feels like work."  Well...truthfully it does feel like work, but it feels like work you WANT to do, which makes all the difference.  I had a hell of a week this past week, but I knew it was only in passing, and that furthermore a lot of it was due to the overabundance of success in the past couple of weeks, and most importantly that it was WORTH it.

If you're wondering how you get a job like this, incidentally, I got mine by working my butt off for it.  I decided somewhere around 2006, working a job that was already beginning to impact me from long-term stress and unhappiness, that I wasn't going to rest until I got a job and career I loved.  I then spent two years searching for a field that I could both enjoy and make money in, another year and a half preparing and researching for grad school, another two years mining grad school for everything I could get out of it, and finally a year on the job market while I filled my time with short-term freelance work, refusing to settle for positions that sounded only kind of okay.  It took a lot of preparation and a fair amount of luck, and more than once I had months of abject terror and anxiety as I jumped into the void and trusted that I'd land safely.

It was not easy, and I did it because I knew that my long-term happiness and security were at stake.  I am not a person who CAN work in a job I don't love for very long without it impacting my physical health.  It all started with me confronting that and admitting to it, and then deciding what I needed instead.

But listen.  It wasn't ONLY luck.  Those times when I cast myself into the void, it wasn't at random.  I looked at my goal and what it would take to get there.  I lined up the skills and resources I'd need.  I looked at the risks and did things to minimize or survive them as much as possible, lined up as many points in my favor as I could manage, and then sweated through the wait and anxiety attacks to discover the fruits of my work.  A change like this is terrifying.  A goal like this is huge.  But it IS something you can orchestrate.

GRADUATION

May. 9th, 2012 10:42 pm
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GUYS. YOU WON'T BELIEVE. GUYS, I HAVE SURVIVED.

I just submitted my final papers tonight! Graduation is Sunday! Jobs...are...exciting prospects! ^_^ Whatever, I'm leaning a bit off the beaten path anyway. The right one will turn up.

I'm going to be a magistra!
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So if you're wondering why you haven't heard anything from me lately...well it's because sometimes I fail at keeping in touch with people. Sorry about that.

But also it's because this is my final semester of grad school! I just spent last week chugging around filing the paperwork to graduate. It feels kind of weird, like I just got here and now I'm leaving already.

So yeah, anyway, hi! How're you?
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It's not that I haven't been around LJ. I just haven't been around this part of LJ. I've been lurking in backwater comms and getting distracted by Internet Things and also watching a lot of stuff on Netflix that I've wanted to see for years and never quite got around to. I also rediscovered my obsession with Sherlock Holmes (I periodically do this, every few years) though it's extra fun when there's also a new movie and TV episodes to look forward to.

So, I wish I'd remember to keep up with my f-list a bit more, but you haven't heard a word out of me because I haven't really had much to say.

Now what has been noteworthy is this summer crash course I took in digital forensics! Taught by Mark Pollitt (who founded and built up the FBI's digital forensics unit), this class was amazing. It's a wildly different way to think about information technology. In fact I can't really call it IT, because even though it uses a lot of the same technology and skills, the goals and mindset are so different that...well, it's just a whole different paradigm really.

BUT I can now comfortably use a hex editor, I know how to find and recover deleted data off a storage device (that will undoubtedly come in handy sometime in my life, though I wish I'd learned how about 15 years ago when I went through a plague of hard drive failures), and I have conducted three digital forensic investigations, written accompanying forensic reports, and participated in one (1) mock court trial. Which was like being roasted slowly over hot coals, but an enlightening experience nonetheless! Detection is just as satisfying a puzzle as they make it out to be on TV, though it takes a hell of a lot longer and does not make for visually arresting images. It was fun as hell, but:

1. Forensics turns out to be a lot like being let loose in a packrat's storage room and told, "Find something useful." There is stuff lying everywhere. You need to make damn sure you've worked out the questions you need answered before you start poking at things, because otherwise there's no way to sort out what might be relevant evidence from what's just crap.
2. LOGIC LOGIC LOGIC. The logical precision required makes me drool. (Yeah, shut up, you have my kinks, I have mine. Kids in school used to tell me I was a Vulcan.) Delineate very, very carefully the differences between scientific conclusion (inarguable, hard-evidence FACT), opinion supported by facts (logical extrapolation), and speculation (personal opinion --> useless). A forensic examiner's career rides on getting this right.
3. Once you have either found what you are looking for or decided it's not there, you have to write a forensic report and then testify on it in court. This is like enduring the world's most grueling peer critique and simultaneously the essay test your entire degree rides on for every case you work on. Forensics examiners can destroy their careers by fucking up their testimony or report just once. How do people do this for a living?

In short, forensics is hard, you guys. Oh my god. I don't think I've ever encountered such a rigorous discipline. The precision it demands of you is brutal. Never mind scientific research; digital forensics is like doing timed geometry proofs on a sugar crash.

But it is so cool. Also Mark was utterly fantastic. He had so many stories, like the time the Director of the FBI went all cloak-and-dagger on him when Mark had to go sign for Monica Lewinsky's dress, and doing undercover work in the Baltimore Projects, and working with tech-head Mounties when the RCMP and the FBI were both building their digital forensics units.

Oh, and he would wish me to make it known that contrary to what you see on TV, no one wears $1000 suits to a crime scene. You wear the crappiest clothes you own to a crime scene, and then when you come home, your wife stands outside with a garbage bag and your bathrobe so you can strip them off before you enter the house, and then you burn them. Because most crime scenes are nasty.
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Hallo! Yes, I still breathe. More or less. Heh. Spring. I've survived my first year of grad school, though the last few bits of work cling with a stubborn refusal to be shaken off.

I meant to get an internship this summer, but I...sort of didn't get around to it, so I suppose I'll just be lurking around finding ways to keep busy, then. Money. Money is good. We like to not rack everything up into student debt.

And, uh. Well, that's about it, really. How are you?
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So, for my Information Policy class, I'm doing a presentation on Anonymous. This means I've spent the whole week immersed in the bizarre world of hacking, internet anarchy, and lulz. I mean honestly, this stuff is almost too insane to be real.

Then I made the mistake of watching V for Vendetta.

I feel like I've fallen down the rabbit hole between reality and fiction. @_@
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I seem to have lost time. Last time I looked out the window, it was September, and now we've suddenly got four feet of snow on the ground.

So I made it through my first semester of grad school! It was...easier than I was expecting. Wrapped up my first class on Tuesday, leaving two finals and some odd change to take care of by next week. \o/

Looking forward to trying out some dangerous winter activities over the break! I haven't gotten down to the ice skating rink on campus yet, and since there are no fewer than five ski resorts within half an hour of the city, I'm going to wrangle some friends to go snowboarding with me. Hopefully someone will be able to catch me before I plummet to my death.

So, uh, how are you guys? Still kicking? Have I missed anything interesting?
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Last night I sat out back and watched the fireflies put on their show. The back yard looked like the night sky had fallen in.

Also, GOOD NEWS EVERYONE! I've got the go-ahead on a great apartment! Now I must file the paperwork for all the background checks and verifications so they can reassure themselves that I am in fact me and not a shape-shifting alien predator who plans to eat all their other tenants. Wish me luck, because if they find out the truth I could be in trouble! ;)
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Got my financial aid summary. Syracuse is offering 2/3 tuition remission for four semesters, the leadership scholarship (which I absolutely didn't think I'd win; I don't feel like I have much in the way of leadership skills), and a faculty assistantship with 10 hours/week stipend (specifics of which will be determined at the beginning of the semester). On top of that being the program I like the best, it makes my decision pretty easy!

Any of you bunch happen to live in upper-state NY or New England?
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Today I was informed of my acceptance to University of Pittsburgh! Actually, I discovered this when I received notification that a Pitt computing account has been created for me. I guess the letters must've gotten crossed in the mail.

I also got a letter from Indiana declining my admission. I'm amused, because they said I had fantastic references, an excellent resume, and a well-written and thoughtful essay. They just thought my old grades were too low. In other words, "We love everything about you except for this ten-year-old thing that's not especially relevant anymore anyway." Joke's on you, Indiana: I wanted both Syracuse and Pitt more. I got turned down by my safety school but accepted to my top choices!

So now I have a decision to make: Pitt or Syracuse? Both are excellent schools. Pitt seems to lean more toward the "hard" end of Information Systems and is renowned for its research programs, while Syracuse has an assortment of faculty I admire and educational sharing with Cornell and the University of Rochester. At the risk of sounding mercenary, it may all come down to the financial aid packages I'm offered...
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 I've been accepted to Syracuse!  

It's my first acceptance letter, and one of my top schools!  Even higher on the list of schools I'm actually likely to be able to get into and afford.  OMG, SO MUCH RELIEF.  So excited!

I will not confirm right away.  I've got a couple of other schools with programs that're equally good in their own ways, and there is the question of financial aid.  If I can get a graduate assistantship for one of these places, that'll tip things in that school's favor.  But one way or another, it's certain!  I'm going to grad school!
prettyarbitrary: (Default)
Things I've learned during the application process:

Doing your research )

Admissions essays argh argh argh )

Letters of recommendation )

And another thing: deadlines. Oh, and the nature of the people you're actually dealing with. )

I hope that's helpful to those of you who're going through the same thing or thinking about it!

My schools

Dec. 2nd, 2009 11:01 am
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It occurs to me that I've got some f-listers who're looking at grad school too, so it could be useful to share my processes. Also a few friends have asked. So for anyone who's wondering, here follows my thought processes on choosing schools.

On-campus vs. online. )

The breakdown of my schools and my reasoning on my selections. )
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I just got everything settled regarding my letters of recommendation. That situation is now in my references' hands, which is apparently a good place for it to be, since when I told them I was applying to grad school, they jumped on the chance to write for me before I could even ask them.

This makes me giddy. I'm really doing this! I think I had a kind of mental block. I mean, I've started the application process at all my schools, but somehow having other people involved makes it feel real. Eeeeee!

Now, I need to start spit-polishing my admissions essay. I've got it out to two people for feedback, but I shouldn't wait since I don't know how long it'll take them.

Ah, U of Michigan has moved downward on my list, since I apparently misread the tuition costs and...yeah. Mucho more expensive than I was thinking. Still, burningly great program. Very competitive to get in, but if they accept me it's worth thinking about how I could make it work.

Then again, all the programs I'm applying to turn out to be top schools in the field. Looks like I know how to pick them.
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The problem with being trained to hold forth at length on any given topic is that you run out of room really fast in a shorter piece.

NOT ENJOYING writing the admissions essay.
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I've been so busy actually doing it that I forgot to tell people!

I'm pretty sure that when I put it off last year, people assumed I was actually politely bailing out on the idea. Not you people; RL people who know my habit of poking things curiously, shrugging, and going, "Eh, more effort than I feel like expending." I'm very slothful laid back.

But not so! After a year of personal crises and fiscal responsibility, I am now hip-deep in the application process for a Master's in Information Systems. Target is Fall 2010.

I've got my schools selected, my recommenders tracked down, my apps begun, my transcripts sorted, my GREs dealt with, I'm sweating bullets over the personal statement and (as usual) tearing my hair out over my resume, even though I'm pretty sure there's nothing really wrong with it.

I still need to contact professors and instructors I'm interested in studying or working with, in hopes someone will want me for an assistantship or at least some sort of part-time work. I haven't touched the financial aid applications yet. I looked at the insanity and swooned; I'm going to need help with that (how am I supposed to give you a budget for my schooling when I'm applying to you to give me money so I can set up a budget for my schooling?!). And then when I'm done with that dance, it's on to the scholarship safari!
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Today I head off to Yale for my first business conference. Well, technically it might be a tech conference. It's a business tech conference! It marks the beginning of an adventurous time for me, since I have the conference from today till Friday, and then Saturday I attend a baptism a couple of hours away from here, and Sunday the final project for my class is due, for which I am the head writer and still waiting for the rest of my team to get their material to me so I can do my job.

Fun times! To think, a few weeks ago I was looking back and wondering how I managed to get all my work done for my degree. Now I remember!

At any rate, I hear they have some fantastic restaurants in New Haven, and I get to eat on the university's tab!
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The seasonal Great Migration of the students has begun once more. It's a majestic sight, to watch them emerge from their warrens, bundled up in wool coats and fluffy knitted scarves to trudge through the winter weather in trickles and mobs toward their classrooms.

I think I understand what that one zoologist meant when he said that humans are so very primate.

And I'm returning to classes myself, this year! Albeit online. I'm pursuing an IT certification, in order to brush up on my student skills and beat my CV into better shape for grad school. My first class in the program went live this morning, and I've been squeeing with excitement while reading the syllabus.

It's a team-oriented class. I have to start talking to people and collect six other teammates, whom I'll be working with for the rest of the semester. I've worked on teams before, but never to such an extent. Not quite looking forward to it...but I suppose that means it's an area I need to improve on. Anyway, most of the folks in this class are post-college work-lemmings like me, so I won't be dealing with the plague of students who want to slack off and make somebody else do their work. And I am looking forward to meeting them. Working online, it does kind of lack the personal touch you get in the classroom, at least unless you make an effort, so really it's a great move to set things up this way.

The final project is to create a 5 to 8 minute long video on a piece of modern technology of our choice, and take a quick look at what it is, how it's used, and how it affects the way we live. Very briefly. Glancing at the syllabus, it looks like a lot of the technologies we'll be looking at are ones I already use, but I have not done video editing, so this is both intimidating me and making me smile at the challenge of learning new computer crap.

Anyway, that's what the teams are for. I've got the communication skillz, and I can do as the team coordinator OR the researcher in a pinch (but not both), but I'll be looking to round up people who know more about video editing than I do, and who preferably have access to the equipment necessary (I can get it, by dint of working for the library, but it'd be easier if somebody else already has it).

In other news, [livejournal.com profile] alice_montrose at least will be happy to hear I've worked out the problem with my jasmine tea. It has more tannin in it than usual, so I'm having to heat the water more. Normally I go easy on that tea, because it gets bitter if I scald the leaves, but this batch apparently likes it rough. I don't know if that's a permanent change in the preparation, or just a quality in the leaves for that particular harvest, but either way, I can work with it. Good news.

And now I have a tag for tea. I didn't have one before. I suck.
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Tomorrow's that great American poultry-slaying holiday, Thanksgiving. The roommates, as usual, are heading out to see their family, which just leaves my sister and me. We don't go home, because the university doesn't close until Thanksgiving itself. Instead, we're having our dad down again. He doesn't associate with our mom's side of the family much, so we don't get to see him as often--and he doesn't hang out with people much anyway--so we like to set aside Thanksgiving just for him.

We had him down last year and the three of us brined a turkey and made dinner together, and then Sister and I spent a couple of days taking him to some of our favorite haunts and watching amusingly bad movies. It was so much fun that we figured we'd do it again this year. So if I get behind on a few things I'm in the middle of, that's why.

In other news, I have registered and scheduled my first course for the IST certification I want to pursue. I'm so excited to be going back to school that I'd be making a fool of myself if you were here in person. I'm making good use of the 75% tuition discount university employees get, and buffing up my study habits and my transcript besides. I've got a hard date for moving now--August 2010--and by then I expect to have completed this and another related certificate and be heading to grad school. :) I was looking at web-based programs, but now I'm open to go pretty much anywhere. It's very exciting. :D

Ah! One other thing: any of you know anything about New Orleans? I'm thinking of heading there for my vacation this year. I've found some good inexpensive hotels and b&bs, but I'm interested in good restaurants (I'll take good food over popular tourist venue anytime, but price is not so much an issue), music venues (especially jazz--not missing Preservation Hall), ghost tours, and anything else that just seems like a good time. Somebody told me I could visit the aquarium and then take a riverboat down to the city zoo.

Anyway, any ideas you lot have to throw at me, I'd be glad to hear. Happy late November to you all!

PANIC!

Feb. 7th, 2008 11:12 am
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Two days before my GREs, and the panic has just set in.

God, I'm just sucking on the math practice. It's not that I can't remember the equations, because I can. They come back to me with the ease of old friends almost as soon as I look at them. I even enjoy the math. It's kind of neat, sort of nostalgic but useful and it stretches long-neglected bits of my brain pleasantly. It's just...such sloppy thinking! I've picked up awful habits. I get distracted and skip over important logical points; I find myself taking lazy shortcuts; worst of all, I keep doing the simple math wrong. :P I need to convince my head that 55 + 9 =|= 66. Just garbage. I need to pay more attention, that's all there is to it. But I suspect I've always been like this; it would explain the frustration among my math teachers and why my grades were always mediocre even though I was sure I knew what I was doing in algebra classes.

I'm focusing on the math because I am pretty much absolutely confident in my linguistic skills. I can do verbal associations with the best of them, and I do not fear the essay (ironic, since I'm betting that's the bit most people dread). But if I'm going into an I-Tech degree, I need to get over the sloppy math-thinking for my own sake as well as my test grades. So I panic.

Argh. I want another week.

On the other hand, I have the rough draft of my letter of intent hashed out. It took me a while; I ruminated over it for about a month back in November, and finally put it on the back burner because everything I came up with was too florid and long-winded. But it popped out at me this morning on the way to work, and now I have a cool (if yet untidy) 750 words of "Why you'd be doing yourself a favor if you took me into your program." Hee. It's fun to phrase it that way. Makes me feel good about myself.

Now I just need to put the information packages together and hit up my targets for the letters of recommendation. One of them is my boss (the crazy one, yes, but she's important and well-known in the proper circles and her name'll look pretty darn sweet on the letter), and the other will be a professor I haven't yet found the guts to approach. There's no good reason for that, except that it's been years since I was in his class and I feel weird about the whole thing. But he's a prof; it's not like he'll be unused to people coming back six years later to ask for documents. Hell, when I graduated he even said he'd be pleased if I were to think of him for a letter of recommendation. But still, my head is saying, "But that was years ago!" More panic. Blarg.

Anyway, the awesome thing about working at the university is that I can take a quick trip down the block during my lunch break and get official transcripts forwarded everywhere I want them to go.

I suspect that I may miss the deadlines for applying for the coming semester, but...ah, what the hell. The school I really want is Drexel, anyway (I have far more confidence in their program than anybody else's after having interacted with them for the past few months, plus they're the cheapest and I can get a discount though the American Library Association), and their quarters are divided differently than everybody else's, so I could still get in there for fall. And if I end up being accepted for next spring instead, I suppose I can live for the rest of the year with knowing I've got it covered and I have several months to save up whatever extra I can.

*breathe* So. Yes. I feel a bit better now. If any of you out there in LJ-land have any words of wisdom on applying for Masters programs, this'd be a brilliant time to share them.

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