Sunday, June 18, 2006

I need a muse...

I think it's supposed to rain tomorrow. I'm actually hoping on it a little bit. I think I'm going to go into the office (WHAT?!) tomorrow. It's usually so depressing working at the office. I work in a small office with two other desks in it. I have no windows. My office is a bit like a prison cell. If you turn the lights off, it's much like solitary confinement. I abandoned it nearly all of last quarter because most of the time it would be filled with undergraduate engineers taking one of the non-EE classes that one of my officemates TA'ed. I felt sorry for my officemate. This was the class where the students take the V=iR they learned about in physics and turn it into the V=iZ that people use in the real world. It doesn't sound difficult, but if you give a non-EE enough time to think about it, they'll find all sorts of ways to get screwed up. Anyway, I'd vacate the area, and the students could use my desk. I came in this summer and found it COVERED in eraser gunk. <sigh>

Anyway, it's hard to work in the office when it's so nice outside. However, in theory it should be much easier to get productive in the office.

I've been working on this manuscript for the next paper for far longer than I should be. I get a message from my adviser, who is currently out of state on sabbatical... As usual, the message has no subject and is very short and to the point.
Ted: How is that work coming along? Kevin

I'm too embarrassed to tell him the truth. I'm getting stuck at the dumbest parts, like the ABSTRACT and the introduction... I'm actually getting stuck at a much more fundamental level. I'm getting stuck at coming up with the structure of this very strange paper. I know he'll just want me to get something down -- that will let us just work from there. However, in this particular case, I have a lot of mixed feelings. There are a number of different audiences for this paper, and I feel bad every time I start settling on one of them...

(aside: Notice how he signs his name, "Kevin?" I still have trouble calling him by anything other than his "Professor" name. I have the same problem with "Tom," the EEOB professor who works with us; however, "Tom" is even less formal than my adviser. I should just bite the bullet and start whipping out the "Kevin")

So far here's what I've got for the abstract. I write so crappy when I lack motivation. I'm so unhappy about this...
Optimal foraging theory (OFT) suggests that natural selection should favor animal behaviors that maximize long-term net rate of energy gain with an infinite time horizon. Such behaviors will bring the anima sufficient energy for survival while also providing enough time for other tasks, such as reproduction or predator avoidance. The standard model for long-term net rate of energy gain is derived from fitting a parameterized curve to empirical data. Here, we develop a foraging model from basic probability theory and show that its long-term net rate of point gain is equivalent to the one used by classical OFT. We then show how a different cost function with greater analytical tractability can be derived from this model that puts similar pressures on increased energy gain and decreased foraging time but does so in a way that allows the forager a finite lifetime. This function may provide alterate explanations for observational deviations from classical OFT. Finally, we explore a function describing a foraging efficiency in this model, which may be useful in some engineering applications. In both of these cases, we derive algorithms for solving the classic prey preference and patch residence-time problems that are analogous to the ones used in classic OFT.


So tomorrow I'm going to hunker down at the desk... and work. I'll probably bring my laptop since I've gotten so used to working at it, but working at the PC might be less cramped. <sigh>

Additionally, I'm worried about the lesson plans I need to put together for GK-12. Recently a piece of rubber on my JumpDrive broke and I lost it (probably in a Meijer parking lot, actually). There was nothing really important on this except for the first lesson plan I put together. It should be easy to put together again, but it just makes me want to do it less. I also want to experiment with building different types of barometers for this particular lesson... I want to do well with this GK-12 thing; I just worry about having the energy to put a lot of effort into it.

So I really need a muse. I need some positive motivation. Right now all the motivation is that negative kind that just makes me want to take a nap.

It's really frustrating because I have done all of the "hard" work. I have all of the analytical stuff done. I have some really good work that could whip the pants off some poor EEOB researcher who dares criticize OFT. I just have a hard time framing what I want to say.

It's so strange to be a writer. I've always told students about the importance of writing in engineering jobs, and I believe that, but doing engineering in academia takes things to a completely different level. All of your work, regardless of how strong the actual research is, is only as good as how you present it and what journals you release it in. It's all about the message. It's all about the writing.

I never imagined myself as going into a career of writing. In some ways, it's a little exciting... However, I've gone my whole life thinking that writing was just a tool in the toolbox. I never knew engineering would be the tool and writing the one thing that was constant.

And thus, again, I need a muse... and fast... my adviser's waiting.

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