Wednesday, June 21, 2006

More Jargon, Please...

So whenever I start feeling okay about being a doctoral student in electrical engineering, I happen to talk to a doctoral student in something else... and you know what they say? Things like...
  • protease inhibitor
  • dopamine receptor
  • psychoanalysis
  • post-modernism
  • ecocriticism
These things can come up in normal conversation. They use them because these are the right words to use. They sound very impressive. You know what words I could use?
  • robustly uniformly globally asymptotically stable
  • input-to-state stable
  • negative Jacobian
  • positive definite Hessian
  • real eigenvalues
  • contraction mapping
I think those things sound pretty impressive too. However, there's no way they can come up in normal conversation. There's no way they can be acceptable.

Richard Feynman used to talk about this. Newscasters would deliver political news unscathed--with all of the abstract topics and all of their wordlustitude... Then the same newscasters would talk about science and would say things like, "Basically, the object gets really hot until its inside start moving so quickly that magic happens and it gives off light!" It's frustrating, to say the least. How can you criticize magic?

So because no one cares to hear about the details of what I do... the wordy details... I'm stuck with saying, "I make robots behave like animals," and people think I'm a retard.

Then I tell them about the quals process in ECE, and they compare it to their quals process, and they don't even think I'm a real PhD student after that.

It's frustrating.

On the other hand, if I'm lucky, I catch them wondering about how something man-made works, and I'm able to talk about the technology with the same rigor as they talk about their "neural tubes" or "synaptic circuits"... and finally I seem useful. Unfortunately, usually the only one wondering about how something man-made works is me. :(


amulbunny said...

I was reading your posts about your biceps tenodesis surgery. I am having it done on July 18th. I was injured 3 years ago and had subacromial decompression 1 year after my initial injury. I kept telling them that the front of the shoulder was where my pain was and they didn't listen. I have significant pain right in the crease. Finally after 9 steroid injections, numerous hours of PT and lots and lots of pain the doctor has decided to do this.

How is your recovery coming along? How long were you in a sling? Did you have cryo therapy?
I hope you are healing well.

Theo said...

amulbunny --

I responded over e-mail as well.

I definitely can sympathize with you about them not listening. They put a lot of effort into working on my shoulder, when I knew the pain was lower. I think my PT knew this too, but he was following his orders.

They say that the "normal" pathology for these things (at least in my case) points to the shoulder, and that I have a very special case to require work on the biceps. I just have to take their word for it.

Surely, if I go through a third surgery, they'll be paying the bill. :-/

My recovery has been coming along pretty well. I was in a sling for four weeks; however, I could use my arm immediately after surgery. I had no problems doing things like typing... Showering was a little bit of a mess because I couldn't raise my arm that far. I only had to wear ice on the area for a few days.

I started physical therapy a couple of weeks ago. I've met with the therapist twice. During the first session, he gave me some stretches to do. My mobility suffered from being in a sling for four weeks, but very quickly I was able to stretch myself out, and now I can reach up to the ceiling without any trouble. I still have a little bit of pain reaching behind my back, but the stretching is helping there.

During my second session, my PT gave me some scapular and rotator exercises to do (i.e., my first weight-bearing exercises since the surgery). We aren't ready for biceps stuff yet, but he anticipates being able to start that by the next session (in two weeks). I'm excited that I'm doing wall push-ups, extensions, and abductions again. I still have a little bit of pain, but I think most of it just needs to get stretched out.

I'm told that it takes about eight weeks for the bone to heal to the tendon. In two weeks, I'll be right there. That's why we'll start doing the biceps work.

Even weeks after the surgery I was able to feel a bump in my arm where the sutures were, but I have a hard time locating it now, so it's possible that the bone has started to regenerate and even pare down.

So overall I really *THINK* that things are going well, and I *THINK* things are finally fixed. While I still have some pains in the same area as before, they aren't the sharp snapping pains like before, and they don't hurt nearly as much.

From my experience, I was pleasantly surprised with how well things went after this surgery. It was a drag wearing the sling for four weeks, but there was very little pain and the recovery seems to be moving along smoothly. I'm pretty happy.

I wish you the best for your surgery.