Friday, October 29, 2010

Why I Love Halloween

Growing up Southern Baptist means that my life was filled with a lot of Halloween Haters. It's the devil's holiday, you know. Many of my church friends didn't trick or treat, and many of my churches put on Fall Festivals or Harvest Festivals to take place of Halloween. And that's cool. I respect all that. Halloween does have a dark and pagan past, and I can appreciate that people still understand and see that.

However, Christmas also has a dark and pagan past. It's called Saturnalia.

Valentine's Day? Look up Lupercalia.

In both cases, Christians made these holidays their own, creating Christmas and Valentine's Day (not that Valentine's day is much of a Christian holiday anymore). Which is sort of what the church does with Fall Festivals. And I can get behind that.

But whether you call it Fall Festival or Halloween, it's really the same thing. We still dress up (or dress up our kids if we have any) and get candy. In a traditional Halloween, this is done in a door to door throughout the neighborhood fashion. In a Fall Festival, we go to the church and we play games from which we can get candy.

However, I love Halloween, including the horror, magic, ghosts, and witches. Why? How can a person who grew up Southern Baptist (and who still agrees with most of their doctrine) love watching horror movies and hanging ghosts in front of her house (if I had a house, I totally would)?

Because to me Halloween isn't necessarily a holiday of horror. It's a holiday of imagination. It's the holiday where we can imagine that anything we want is true. We can be whoever we want to be. We can pretend Martians are real. We can pretend that magic is possible. We can pretend that we're really a Jedi (my personal go-to costume).

But I said I loved the horror aspect of it too. How does this jive with my love of the holiday of imagination?

Well horror (or at least some subgenres of the genre) are speculative fiction, and I'm all about speculative fiction (that's Science Fiction and Fantasy, for those who don't know the terminology). Half of what we now call "paranormal" is really horror. Ghosts. Vampires. Witches. Wizards. Do I think vampires are real? No. (Though I'm not ruling out the possibility that they could be created by a super-virus in a very I am Legend sort of way). I love fantasy, and I don't think any of those things are real.

And I know there are beliefs and religions out there that do view some of the things I view as paranormal as real. And I'm cool with that. I don't think they're right, but it's their right to take Halloween more literally if they want. For me, I just get to take this day and pretend, like I do any time I read a SF or Fantasy book. But Halloween is more than reading a book. It's like acting. It's like playing make-believe. For this day, I can pretend. I can pretend that Jedi's are real. I can pretend that vampires might jump out at any minute, and I can pretend the world is magical.

I know its not true. It doesn't need to be true. I just like to pretend it is. Like when I was little, and I created worlds for my little sister and I to play in.

On Halloween, imagination reigns. And that's why I love Halloween.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

I Know....I Know

So I've totally been a bad blogger recently. I'm really sorry. School is just sort of insane all the time. But this blog is important to me, so I'm trying not to let the insanity of school take over.

Just in case any of you are living in anticipation of what happened at my interview, the interview itself went well but I came out of it feeling very "meh" if not down about it. However, later, the interviewer called me to clarify something and after our discussion I felt much better about the interview.

Anyway, this is all really to say I'm sorry I didn't post for a while, and I will post later today.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010


Sorry about not posting yesterday! I was still in Fall Break mode, and I was stressing about getting a pair of pants hemmed. Why would I stress about such a thing? Because I have an interview this week. And not just any interview. I have an interview for my dream job.

I've sort of had interviews before. I technically interviewed for my job at Disney in high school, but I didn't wear a suit or anything. It was very laid back and pretty much doing an interview was a guarantee of getting a job. I also did a phone interview for my current co-op. However, since it was over the phone, things worked a little differently.

This interview is live, in person, and scheduled to last an hour.

So this past weekend I bought a suit. The pants were about seven inches too long (yeah, I'm short). Thankfully, the mom of two of my friends agreed to hem them for me. (THANK YOU PATTI AND JENNIFER'S MOM!)

Basically this is my first real interview, and its for my ideal dream job. So I really really really don't want to mess it up, and I'm really afraid I'm going to. For example, I just learned for the first time today that you're supposed to send a thank you note to your interviewer. I never knew that! Now I have to buy some thank you notes!

I'm sure that many of you, my dear readers, have interviewed before. Any tips? Any ideas? Any other forms of etiquette I'm supposed to follow? Any tips at all would be appreciated. I really really really want this job.

Fingers crossed! Please pray for me! My interview is at 3:00 pm on Thursday!

Friday, October 15, 2010

Fall Break

So I didn't post yesterday. I'm really sorry about that. I pulled a double all-nighter and yesterday I was a little delirious. Nothing I posted would have made sense at all.

Today I'm going to Boston to hang out with my little sister for Fall Break. (THANK THE LORD FOR FALL BREAK!!!) So other than this, I won't be posting today either.

Really sorry about not posting and breaking my schedule guys. But sometimes, school destroys my life.

Hope you guys are having a better week than I am. And I hope your weekend is as relaxing and awesome as mine is going to bed.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

The Thought Processes of an All-Nighter

6:00 pm
You've spent all day in classes, meetings, and intermittently working on your Orbital Mechanics Lambert Problem Matlab Code. Sure it's far from done and it's due in about fourteen hours, but you've got all night. You're currently feeling good, filled with a nice yummy fast food dinner that you probably got at the student center, but no worries because Chick-fil-A is the holiest food out there. You've totally got this.

8:00 pm
Hah! Take that assignment! You thought you were so tough, but in the last two hours you've dominated three of the six functions you need for your massive subroutine. That's like half the problem. In two hours! By this rate, you'll be done by ten. Sure you need to debug with the provided test scenarios, but you're code is awesome. You won't have any problem.

9:00 pm
$@#%?!? Nothing works! The debugging has revealed an infestation and where the heck are those imaginary numbers coming from? Now you have to recheck all your code again (for the umpteenth time)!!! ARGH!

10:00 pm
You hate your life. You can't figure out what's wrong. Time to scrap every code you've written and start again from scratch. Well, at least it's only ten. You still have the whole night.

12:00 am
Huh. You've never noticed that there are exactly five ceiling tiles above your cube. And that light on the left kind of flickers. Ooo, look, shiny internet. So beautiful and distracting.

12:30 am
Get a grip. You can do this. But maybe you need a quick Library run to grab a snack from the 24/7 cafe in there and some caffeine. That will only take 30 minutes, and the night is young. You still have seven and a half hours to solve this problem.

1:00 am
You're back and ready to start again. You've rewritten you're entire code, so now it's time to debug again.

2:00 am
It still doesn't work. You want to smash you're computer into a thousand pieces. You email your friend in the class begging for help. He's still awake, but planning to go to bed. He doesn't really want to answer your questions, so he just sends you all of his code. You're tempted to just completely cheat and steal his, but then you know you'll fail the test. You're a grad student, and you actually care about learning this stuff. So you pull out some blank m-files and start again from scratch, but this time using his as a baseline.

4:00 am
Code is rewritten. Oh, Lord, please please please let the test cases run this time.

5:00 am
OMG! The tests cases worked! But now you actually have to do the other three codes. But that's just plotting and you still have your friend's code to work off of, so it shouldn't be that bad.

6:00 am
The plot is beautiful, but you realized that's only problem 1. You still have to do problem 2. You kind of what to cry, or die, or anything to make this pain end. Class is in two hours, and actually all you really want to do is take a shower.

7:00 am
Oh wait. Class isn't at eight. What on earth were you thinking? You just assumed an all-night would end at eight, and you could get a little nap in before your noon class. Looks like you might be going right up until noon because problem 2 is worse than problem 1.

8:00 am
Want shower. Really want shower. And people might arrive soon. And you really don't want them to think you reek. So you can take an short break to shower and eat something.

9:00 am
You feel better after a shower and breakfast, and people who can help you have actually arrived in the office. Awesome. You've got this.

11:00 am
You're done. Man, it was awful, but you did it. You wouldn't say you "dominated" the code, but at least it's done, and it sort of looks like everyone else’s answers. Now you need to eat something and caffeinate so you don't fall asleep before class, or in class.

12:00 pm
It's turned in. For better or for worse, you're done.

1:00 pm
Oh crap. He just assigned another even worse homework. But today your priority is to sleep. That's an all-nighter for next week.

Friday, October 8, 2010

I'm a Rambling Wreck From Georgia Tech....

(Apparently, my posting schedule is shifted by one day this week. Odd. But here is the second post of the week that should have been on Thursday but is instead on Friday.)

If you are a Georgia Tech student then you know what this week is: homecoming. And you know what homecoming means: the mini-500.

What is the mini-500? A tricycle race of epic proportions. Last year it was the key feature in Georgia Tech's commercial:

So the commercial was nice, but what is it really like? Well this video shows that last grueling bit up Freshman hill and around to the finish line. The girl with the paper plate that says '2' was my team, and Alisha, if you watch closely you're in this video:

Georgia Tech has great traditions, and even though I know I'm going to be at school all day today doing work, I feel excited and like the day will be short, because at 5:00 pm is the mini-500.

And tomorrow is Homecoming.

I am a Rambling Wreck from Georgia Tech and A HELLUVA ENGINEER!!!!!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

When you don't ask, but God answers

For those of you who have never been grad students at Georgia Tech, you may not know that its a normal state of existence that at least once a month you find yourself crying because you hate your life. Most try to make it home before they let the tears out, but sometimes a grad student finds herself sitting at her desk and about to burst into tears. It happens*.

To me it happened last Friday.

I had pulled an almost all-nighter on Thursday. For those of you who know me well, you know that I go to bed at ten pretty much every night. So staying up to 2 am is a big deal. And I was prepared to stay up all night, if that's what it took to get my homework assignment done. Luckily, I was in bed by like three.

So Friday, I got up at eight, and running on five hours of sleep, I went to my ten o'clock class. I'm still not sure what the professor was talking about, not because it was incredibly hard to understand, but because I was so tired.

After this class, I immediately went to the Flight Hardware Lab to test our Star Tracker. It's ok if that's jibberish. The important point here is that I was supposed to be testing a $25,000 piece of equipment, and it didn't work. IT DIDN'T WORK. If this thing fails, my professor is literally going to kill me. Or destroy my academic career. Pretty much the same thing.

For an hour, I unplugged and replugged. I cajoled and begged. I turned on and off. I did everything I could think of to make my star tracker work, and it just wouldn’t do it.

To top it all off, right at the end of it, my Project Manager came in and said, “Hey, you’re staying to help organize the lab, right?”

I stared at my broken star tracker, turned to look at him, and said “WHAT? You can’t just tell me last minute something’s going to happen and expect it to happen! I have plans this afternoon. I have to do my PROX-1 write-up, and I have to grade the orbital homework, and I have to finish Rocket Propulsion. I do not have time for a last minute ‘help me clean up’ thing.”

Project Manager’s response was “Uh, I sent out the email two days ago.”

Me: “Not to me. No. No. No. It’s not happening.” I then cleaned up the star tracker and left the room. Now, my response to Project Manager was a little snappier than my usual attitude. In my defense, I was running on very little sleep and very frustrated with my star tracker. And he did not send me the email, which we definitely clarified later that day. And he was all like “My bad”.
But at this point in the day, I was very upset. I went back to my desk, trying to figure out if I had time to get lunch, and just wanted to call my bestest friend. However, my bestest friend has a real life now, a real job, and I couldn’t just call in her the middle of the day.**

Suddenly I wanted to burst into tears. I have no friends, I realized. All my friends had graduated and had real jobs, and here I was at school, busting my back to make almost no money, and pretty much living the most miserable existence possible. I wanted to curl up under my desk, and just cry.***

But I told myself I would not cry in the AE building (again) and told myself to go get lunch.

So I left my office with the intention of going to a nearby Tech grill called Juniors. I knew the line would be short and it would be an easy in and out. However, when I was almost there, my walking slowed down and I thought "Huh, I really don't feel like getting Juniors. I feel like Chick-fil-A instead." There was no logical reason for me wanting Chick-fil-A. I knew the lines would be ten times longer and I would probably just get hungry and frustrated--on top of my tears. However, I changed my trajectory and went to the Student Center for some chicken nuggets.

So there I was, standing in the line of the student center, thinking about how much I hated my life and how I had know friends and how I wanted to drop out of grad school right now because it sucks****, when suddenly I heard someone say "MANDY!"

I turned and there stood one of my guy friends, who had been my friend all through undergrad, who no longer went to Tech, and who I hadn't seen in months.

I have never been so happy to see one of my friends before, and I spent the next hour eating lunch with him and realizing, I do have friends.

Then an hour after lunch, one of my local graduated friends called me and said "What are you doing tomorrow night?" To which my response was of course "Whatever you're doing!"

Friday morning was miserable. At noon I wanted to give up and wallow in a friendless world of self pity. But God heard this pitiful cry of my heart. He heard even though I didn't pray about it and saw that I just wanted to roll over and give up. And He answered. Oh boy, did He answer and I heard.

You have friends, He shouted (not whispered). Don't give up. Don't you dare give up. I love you, and this is my plan for you right now.

And that's why I love my God. Because He hears the cry of my heart. He hears my unspoken, unuttered desired, and He gives me what I need to go on.

He loves me, and He won't let me give up.

So don't you give up either. When you're at your most desperate, God will be there. When you want to just lock yourself in your office's bathroom and cry, He is there. When you're life sucks, He's there. He loves you. Don't give up.

*You may think this is only a habit of females but it's not. Especially around quals, midterms, finals, proposals, deadlines, defenses, that's like almost every day in grad school. But I've seen males break down into tears too.

**Yes, Alisha, I realized I could have because it was a Friday and you work half days, but remember, I was running on very little sleep. I didn’t realize that at the time.

***Honestly, the only thing stopping me was that such a display of emotion might freak out my French fellows who I share an office with. Probably more because they're guys than French. Guys rarely know how to react when a girl cries.

****This wasn't really a serious thought. Nothing short of divine intervention could make me drop out of grad school. I want my Masters degree really really really bad.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

No Post Today

Everyone, I will post tomorrow. Sorry about that. Due to strange and chaotic events today, my schedule descended into chaos.

I will post tomorrow.