Perfectionism + Laziness = Procrastination

If you want to learn a lot about your personality type without taking some sort of written test, take up knitting, seriously. It’s like the hobby feeds upon your weaknesses (and strengths), concentrates them, and projects them back to you with terrifying clarity.

I can be kind of a perfectionist. My parents will gladly tell anyone about how when I was a young kid coloring in coloring books, straying even the slightest bit outside the lines was enough for me to abandon that picture forever. (On a similar note, it should surprise no one that I’m also a fairly rigid rule-follower.) Unfortunately, I’m also lazy, so I’m not always willing to put in the amount of work needed to accomplish tasks to my satisfaction. The end result is, I’m a huge procrastinator sometimes.

How about that Tom Servo sweater I posted about a month ago? Well, I made it through the corrugated ribbing and the i-cord cast off, picked up my provisional cast-on, and was cruising along on miles and miles of stockinette stitch, when the first ball eventually ran out and I attached the second ball. I noticed that the new stitches seemed a bit lighter, but continued on anyway.

Once I got about two inches along with the new ball, I moved the sweater onto waste yarn so I could try it on. I was really happy with the fit, but once I got a good look at it in the mirror…the difference in color between the first ball and the second ball was super obvious. I told myself I didn’t care, I’d be starting the Servo chart in a few more inches anyway and it would barely be noticeable.

I put the sweater back on the needles, and about a week later…I had only knit a row or two more. I kept stopping, staring at that line between the old ball of yarn and the new one. I looked at the third ball of yarn I had, and it definitely looked darker to me than the second one. I tried to convince myself the color difference wasn’t bad enough for me to rip back the two inches I had knitΒ  and try the other ball instead, but instead the sweater just sat in time out for a few days.

Eventually I came to the realization that if I just bit the bullet, ripped out the 16 rows or so I had knit with the lighter ball, and did it over again with the darker ball, I’d probably finish the sweater faster than if I just left it sitting in time-out indefinitely. So yesterday, that’s what I did, and suddenly I’m happy with the project again, and making good progress. There’s still a bit of a color difference between the balls, but not NEARLY as obvious as it was.

servosweaterprogress

Of course, since I only have the three balls, I’m going to need to use that lighter one at some point no matter what. I think I’ll switch to that one when I start the Servo charts; I’m sure that when the blue is broken up by Tom Servos, it won’t be quite as noticeable that it’s lighter than the rest of the blue on the sweater. Then, if I run out of the darker ball while knitting the sleeves, I’ll just finish up with the lighter ball. I can live with a slight color change near my wrists a lot more than I can live with it RIGHT ACROSS THE BOOBS. (Did I mention that’s exactly where the change was?) ;-P

The lesson is, either learn to live with things being less than perfect, or get off your lazy butt and work to make things fit your vision. (Ideally, try a little of both.)

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Getting Schooled

Have any of you taken a class at Coursera? It’s one of several websites aimed at offering free online college courses (Udacity and edX are a couple others, though I haven’t tried those yet) from various universities. You don’t get university credit, but a lot of the courses do offer a statement of completion.

For many years I’ve had an interest in artificial intelligence and robotics; I took Introduction to AI my senior year of college, which was hands-down my favorite class during my college career, and my senior design project was a six-legged walking robot. After graduation, though, I never really pursued those areas any further, and certainly none of the jobs I had pertained to those areas. Recently I was reading an issue of Marquette Engineer that profiled some of the new faculty, and discovered there’s a new professor in the Electrical and Computer Engineering department that’s going to have a humanoid robotics lab. My immediate reaction was “WHERE WAS THIS GUY WHEN I WAS IN SCHOOL?!?!”

I suddenly felt a strong desire to go back to school for an advanced degree, but with a toddler running around the house, and probable plans to add another kid to our family in the next year or so, it doesn’t seem very feasible for me right now. I’m sure if I had to, I could make it work, but I’d rather not attempt grad school with an infant. So, if I do go back to school, it will probably have to wait till kid #2 is at least 2 or 3. I can’t just let my math, programming, and general academic skills deteriorate in the meantime (any more than they already have, of course), so I decided to take a few Coursera classes.

So, for the past month I’ve been taking AI Planning and Control of Mobile Robots. AI Planning offers three levels of completion: Awareness (which involves just watching a selection of the lecture videos, and then taking an exam), Foundation (which requires watching all the lecture videos, taking the Awareness level exam, and taking a Foundation level exam with more involved questions), and Performance (which involves all of the above, plus a couple of programming assignments.) Being the nerd that I am, I went for the Performance level. I’m glad I did, because the programming assignments were no joke, and it really helped refresh my skills a lot.

I’m enjoying Control of Mobile Robots a lot too; it’s definitely a challenge considering the fact that Control Theory uses a lot of differential equations and it’s been about a decade since I took differential equations. I’m finding myself really tempted to buy a little robot kit so I can test out some of the stuff I’m learning.

I managed to finish AI Planning a week early this past weekend, which is good because this week I’m starting another course: Natural Language Processing. There are going to be a few programming assignments for this course, and while I could probably do them in C++ (the language I know best), I’ve decided to learn Python and use that instead. For one thing, it was one of the programming languages recommended by the instructor, and for another, I’ve read that it’s well-suited for NLP, and for another, I want to learn it! (In case anyone cares, I’m using the tutorials at Learn Python The Hard Way.

I’m really enjoying this format for taking classes; I can fit in my classwork during Drake’s naps or after he goes to bed, or whenever Kevin takes him off my hands. Even if I don’t ever end up going back to school formally, I’m really glad I’m doing this. πŸ™‚

P.S. Some of my hobbies (knitting, video games) have fallen by the wayside a bit, but I am trying to make time for them once in awhile. I’ll save some of that for another post, seeing’s how I’m doing an abysmal job at my blogging New Year’s resolution!


Resolute

So much for posting more regularly! That’s ok though, because tomorrow is a new year, and amongst other things, I’m resolving to write more often!

I’m not always (ok, I’m almost never) successful with New Year’s resolutions, because I always make too many and they’re always too vague. (“Get in better shape”? What exactly does that mean?) Actually, I think my only resolution for 2012 was to lose weight, which I did (despite forgetting about my New Year’s resolution entirely until just this very moment when I checked my Google Talk records to see if I’d even made one), thanks to running and breastfeeding. I have a few definite goals for 2013, and I’m feeling fairly optimistic.

1. Run a half-marathon

I plan to join the next 10k training at Fleet Feet, which starts in two weeks. However, that’s just a stepping stone on my way to doing the half-marathon training, probably for the Brewers Mini-Marathon in September.

2. Write 52 blog posts

Originally my goal was going to be “Write one blog post a week,” but I like phrasing it this way better, because it allows for me to slip up once in awhile but catch up later.

3. Plant a vegetable garden

Even if it’s just a tomato plant and some green onions or something, I’m determined to grow some sort of food in my yard this summer!

4. Get all the achievements in the Dragonborn expansion of Skyrim

Well come on, it’s me, so there has to be something video game-related on here. I’ll probably have this one done by the end of the month, anyway; I’ve already got 2 down, 8 to go!

5. Do something out of the house with Drake every week

I really need to entertain the little guy more, especially now that he’s a toddler. He needs more playdates and outings, plus I’m still unreasonably timid sometimes about even taking him shopping with me (although Christmas shopping this year went a long way towards curing me of that. I even tried on clothes at Kohl’s with him!) So, here’s to a fun 2013 of mommy-toddler time!

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I think I’ll stop there, even though it’s tempting to come up with more. I’ll feel a lot better about making five resolutions and succeeding at all of them than making ten resolutions and failing half of them! πŸ™‚

 


Running (Wo)Man

I know, I’ve been beyond pathetic about posting! But, since my knitting friend Leah has started posting regularly again, I’m feeling inspired to get back into it as well! There’s a lot I could talk about in one long post, but I think I’m going to break it up over a few days so I don’t immediately run out of material. πŸ˜›

For the past eight weeks, I’ve been training to run a 5k. If you didn’t know I was a runner, that’s ok; I wasn’t! In order to understand how I became a runner, we have to go back three years. (Don’t worry, this won’t be THAT long of a story!)

In September of 2009, Kevin and I took a trip to San Diego and stayed at my aunt and uncle’s house. My Aunt Trina gets up ridiculously early and goes for a run every day before work. During the course of our time in San Diego, I saw tons of runners all over the place and thought, “Man, I wish I were more in shape!” I mentioned to my aunt that I was potentially interested in running and she lent me a book about getting started running.

When I got home, I read through the book and even bought some good shoes at a local running store. I started doing one of the training programs in the book, which had me doing intervals of running/walking, with the eventual goal of running for 20 minutes straight. Unfortunately I sort of fizzled out on the running, and my nice running shoes became my favorite walking shoes.

I had given the running store my e-mail address, and for the past three years I’ve been getting their newsletter, which I never unsubscribed from for some reason. Periodically the newsletter would mention an upcoming 5k training program, and I always thought, “Maybe someday.” Well, maybe it’s the fact that I want to be in better shape at the start of my (eventual) next pregnancy than I was with the first, or maybe I just felt like I needed to add another hobby to the pile, or maybe I’m trying to mitigate the fact that someday Drake will no longer be nursing and I’ll no longer be burning those extra calories, but when I saw a newsletter in August about the upcoming 5k training, I decided to finally attend the info meeting.

Eight weeks later, I can run (albeit slowly, but still) 2.75 miles without stopping. This Saturday I’ll be doing a mock 5k with the group, and then in two weeks I’ll be running the Jingle Bell Run at the Milwaukee County Zoo. I think I may also have been bitten by the running bug; I’m already considering signing up for the next training session which starts in late November, possibly as a mentor. After I get a couple 5k races under my belt, I’d like to try a 10k, and then eventually maybe even a half-marathon!

I think the big difference from my previous running attempts has been the group setting. There were probably times during our group runs that I would have been walking, if there hadn’t been other people around me running and helping set an achievable pace for me. (I definitely have a tendency to push myself harder than I should when I’m running alone, which causes me to burn out.) I actually find myself looking FORWARD to running, which I’m not sure has ever been the case before!

On deck for tomorrow: I think I’ll slide over to the very opposite end of the athleticism spectrum and talk about my video gaming activity of the past six months! πŸ˜‰


Sunshine and green onions

It’s unseasonably warm for March in Wisconsin. Today it was a little over 60 degrees and sunny, and it’s supposed to be in the 70s for the rest of the week. Kevin, Drake and I took a walk this afternoon, but we had to cut it shorter than we wanted to because Drake was overtired and whiny and didn’t seem to want to fall asleep in the stroller. He’s napping now, thank goodness! (I probably should be too, since I got maybe two hours of sleep total last night, yet here I am blogging instead.)

Ever since I came across a Pinterest link to this post, I’ve been wanting to put some green onions in water and regrow them. Thanks to the salsa chicken I made yesterday, I had some green onion stumps and an empty salsa jar. I cut the onions short, put some water in the jar, and stuck the onions in there. Already the center layers of the onions have visibly grown. I only wish I’d had more than four onions!

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I really have no green thumb whatsoever, yet this year I’m entertaining aspirations to make some sort of small vegetable garden in my yard. So I guess I’ll consider this my first tiny step into the world of growing food!