the last two weeks have been a real trip through hellfire for my feelings of fulfillment as a grad student. I'm hoping today marks the end of it.
two mondays ago I finally figured out a crisis i've been feeling about my lesser personal project, the static analysis tool (pdf
). up until now-ish, all the actual programming I've done for research has been on this, trying to take it beyond dinky-class-project scope by giving it inference and constraint-solving, but "mysteriously" whenever I sat down to work on it I'd feel this terror of actually spending time and energy figuring out the problems that I just, well, hated having to deal with. finally I realised this means I wasn't enjoying it anymore, and should stop working on it
, and figure out a small workshop to polish up what I had and submit to for a sense of closure. the instant I ran this idea by my advisor he seemed perfectly happy with it as long as I was gonna try to publish it someday (which made me feel pretty foolish for not reading the signs months earlier, and saving a ton of stress).
the next crisis came in the form of garth suggesting I collaborate with this professor from columbia
's research group on an effort they were making for an SOSP submission (whose deadline is in five weeks). coming right of the tails of my above realisation, my initial reaction was "hell no, I'm not spending another minute giving my hands to someone else to do grunt-work evaluation-research; I need to spend quality time with my greater
research project, the one that actually inspires me right to the core." but after talking to a bunch of people, I convinced myself to sign on, so I could get experience (a) doing a concerted group effort towards a many-author top conference submission, (b) doing evaluation-research, which i'm still pretty scared of, (c) collaborating and using research tools other than my own toy one. I think a little bit of reality distortion field on garth's part may have been involved too.
so jiri estimated that, to do enough to warrant coauthor credit, I'd have to work basically half-time (with my two classes my only other obligations) until the deadline, which is, well, pretty scary. already I've been falling behind on the project email threads because everyone else is more familiar with the codebases, more experienced as researchers, and working on it fulltime instead of halftime (quartertime, really, so far). (there was already an intimidating moment where jiri offered, "you could implement this cool feature" -- "oh, I wanna do that" -- "but it'll require familiarity with my codebase, and you gotta get it done well before given the deadline so we can use it for benchmarks, and I'm sure I can do it working fulltime" -- "oh... you'd better do it then... I'll find something else ...".) so given the speed they're already moving at I'm scared I won't be able to find a task I can meaningfully claim as my own before someone else decides to do it. so, woo.
the final blow came today, when this educational workshop
sent me a week-late
rejection for the paper that de0u and I coauthored about putting 15-410 and my research together. an astute follower will note that this is my 3rd paper rejection this year (the rust pldi submission also didn't make it) -- which hurts far worse than this rejection in particular; I mean, in the last week of lateness I thought of a zillion reasons I might reject this paper myself; no, the part that hurts is how the dice have fallen the wrong way for me every single time so far. but surprisingly, the reviews mostly seemed to be "too narrow scope; this is the wrong venue for you, dood", and i just couldn't bring myself to be angry at the reviewers because the infuriating thing is they're all right
; it's just that publishing means you have to run the evaluate-write-polish-submit gauntlet arbitrarily many times
before you finally get validated. (although, I'm really not in love with my one reviewer who had precisely only this to say: "This is a good paper. However, the scope is narrow and limited to OS concepts and testing." yes thank you for the compliment I thought the paper was good too.
) anyway after moping a bit I sent it on to garth and dave, who both suggested we keep our heads up and target SIGCSE (the big boys' and girls' education conference), whose deadline is in december and whose page limit is even shorter.
the upshot of all this is I have three more conference deadlines on the near-to-far horizons, and (heh) certainly enough work to sate the black friday gods for another season. funnily enough, despite all the "this sucks; I'm quitting and going to industry where I can hack, have fun, and ship my stuff" gut reactions, my stance on being here is getting a tiny bit more resilient; I do feel like I'm settling into my job a little more comfortably.
but geez sometimes it leaves me with far too many thoughts bouncing around my head at 2am friday nights.