One step at a time, one hope then another

Week seven draws to a close. And do you know what's special about the number 7? It's supposed to be the most magical number. And you know what made my seventh week  magical? I SAW A LIZARD! A real one! It was climbing a tree. It was brown. I was so excited!!! I've never seen a lizard outside of a zoo before. I tried to take a picture but it turned out really blurry. When I saw it I called my parents and my best friends, but no one was as excited as I was. Not even my eleven-year-old brother. Oh well. That lizard made my week.

As far as our project goes, we are working on finishing touches this week. My big task deals with saving the sketches. The framework has already been written to save a sketch to an XML document, but I need to save many, many of them to one file. For each question, we need to save any number of sketches drawn by the teacher, the student's sketch, and the sketches  saved in the student's scratch paper panels. There may be any number of questions, so this has the potential be a pretty big file. I'm almost done, but the display of the reloaded data is a bit buggy right now.

As a lab, we've finished … so much. It's really hard to list it all. Any-way-you-draw-it truss recognition is almost ready. We're working on changing colors of strokes. We have new cursors and button graphics. Our recognition alternates are done (like if a user meant to draw a circle but it was recognized as a line instead, recognition alternates allow the user to change that). Our correction-checking and helpful feedback is working quite well, and similarly our undo/redo buttons are working. As I said, I'm working on revamping the save feature, and we're very nearly done. I think we'll be able to start working on a paper soon. Our grad student mentor, Marty, wants to publish a paper about our research, so hopefully he'll help us with ours, and then we could all be published!!!

Outside of work, life has been pretty incredibly uneventful. Except the sighting of the lizard of course. My lab-mate Alexis and I went things-to-do shopping on Friday morning (the busses only run on weekdays), and we found some treasures. :-) We each bought another jigsaw puzzle, and I bought a cross-stitch project. She bought some embroidery thread for friendship bracelets and a few paint-by-number projects. We brought the thread back to the lab and convinced most of the grad students in our lab that they needed bring a little more friendship in their lives. Some of the guys got really into it and dedicated two or three hours to the fun. We had no idea it would be such a hit!

I spent most of the weekend working on my cross stitch project. I haven't done cross stitch since I was twelve. I feel kind of like an old lady, but I'm getting desperate for things to do. As I've been puzzling and stitching, I managed to finish all 7 Harry Potter books (the unabridged audiobook versions) in a week. I finished all four of the Twilight series last week. I'm listening to Wuthering Heights now, and plan to continue through the classics. The University of Southern Florida has a lot of the classics in audiobook format on iTunes U for free! If you're interested at all in audio books or the classics, you should check it out. I hope they do Pride and Prejudice soon. I'm probably completely boring you. I'm sorry if you read all of that. You'll know, though, just how exciting my week has been.

Aside from all the puzzles and literature, I've used my thoroughly exciting week to do some serious contemplating of what I'd like to do beyond  my undergrad. I'm still not completely sure but this is what I'm thinking:

Five years for a Ph.D. is a really long time to sit still and wait. I want to get married and have kids and start my life. I can't imagine myself as Dr. Stephanie Valentine anyway. It doesn't sound right. I am considering grad school for an M.A. or M.S., but I'm not ruling out going into industry. I think I’m going to apply for both. There is an amazing-looking program at Iowa State in human-computer interaction that I'm interested in. It'd be a dream to go to Carnegie Mellon, but I'm not going to hold my breath. It's been my number 1 choice for a while, since I saw Randy Pausch's "Last Lecture", but I think Iowa State just took over.

I am realizing that my ambitions in life are changing. I've always been academically competitive; I constantly strive to be the top of the class, the best I can be. Now, though, I think I want to take a step back. Maybe it's a step forward or sideways or diagonal. I'm not sure. I will still strive to be the best that I can be, keep my grades up, but I need to remember that I am a person too, and my happiness is important. I've learned here in Texas that the love of my friends and family makes me happier than any academic achievement. For a few years now, when I think of what I want to be when I "grow up", my first thought is, "I want to be happy." I'm pretty sure I can be happy without a Ph.D.. I wouldn't be happy doing it because other people think I should. I need to lay my own path now. I'll have to wait and see where it takes me!