No Memory

There are three (principle) reasons why I’m not a good grad student. Today, kids, I’ll talk about one of them.

We’ve been meeting twice a week to study for the PL prelim in the fall — a brutal oral exam that pits you against two profs. The reading list is massive, so we’re set up a study schedule that lasts through the summer. We read six papers a week and meet to discuss them.

Anyway, the bad thing is that I forget nearly everything I’ve read. I’m talking about papers that I’ve read slowly and deliberately, making sure I understand them as I go. After like two days, I can’t remember a thing about them. The other guys I’m studying with are amazing: they recall the papers with ease, and even reference papers they read as undergrads! (Of course, this highlights another problem: I never took any PL courses as an undergrad, so I’m already woefully behind).

So I’m pretty concerned about that. How am I going to learn anything? Noooooooo….

It’s possible that later I’ll write about the other two reasons, my lack of motivation and my short attention span, but most likely I won’t be able to concentrate long enough to do so, and even if I could, I wouldn’t want to ;).

I do promise, though, a tribute to the one and only Beth…

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One Response to No Memory

  1. awu says:

    I’m still bitter that the “PL” course I took as an undergrad was really a compilers class taught by a compilers prof. I am so intellectually jealous when my classmates talk about all the fun they had programming in ML.

    Anyway, perhaps as you read more papers, it will be easier to remember things? For example, I’ve read that chessmasters don’t necessarily have better spatial memories, even if they can memorize board positions or play blindfolded. When the board is not in a valid position, they fare no better than regular folk.

    Are there good ways to remember things? Writing summaries perhaps or trying to teach the ideas to someone?

    Maybe you can think about it as having a “beginner’s mind” as in Zen teaching.

    PL eh? Good ol’ Chet got to your head? :)

    I’m not sure what can be done about the motivation part. I suppose if I were motivated I’d know what can be done, but oh well.

    Some people like to recommend that you visualize a concrete image of your success state with as much detail as you can muster. I find that useful sometimes. Some other people say that you should “Cultivate burning desire”, but I don’t know, I don’t like playing with real life fire, and the last time I was toasting marshmellows by Puget sound, I discovered the next day that my sneakers were all marshmellow-y. Boo.

    (That article recommends you put “desire boosters” about. Maybe I need to print out pictures of badass professors and put them on my research lab cube.)

    Speaking of reading groups, I should really be reading a paper for tomorrow’s geometry group…