July 26, 2010

Buddy Reading and Real All-Nighters

Immediately after the frisbee game ended, I went back to the dorm (oh, how much lovelier life would be if I possessed a bike) to get my paper, then went to W20 to meet my peer editing group. I was with Dill and Anwar, both bio people. We started off outside, shooting glares at Vanessa and Ash's group because they had stolen our idea to experience the great outdoors. Anwar read his out loud first, and I lay down and stared at the clouds and focused on staying awake, then offered a very short list of constructive comments (his paper was phenomenal; very clear, highly technical, about using stem cells to grow retinas or something like that). It's fun to listen to him talk, because he's Singaporean but speaks English with a very good English accent; basically, the cross between Asian and british is entertaining. Then I read mine, which they both gave criticisms on while acknowledging that they didn't really understand the subject matter, since, as I mentioned, they were both doing biology.

At that point, the hammock freed up, so we ran over there and then spent about five minutes arranging ourselves so that we could all fit. Dill and I were on the ends, and Anwar was in the middle, and he's heavy enough that he was basically sitting on the ground. I'm sure that we looked rather silly. Dill took forever to read, because he had a lot (and I mean a lot) of typos and grammatical errors that he hadn't noticed until he read it out loud, so every two sentences he had to go back and change things, and then he'd go back a couple more sentences and read them all again. I was ready to scream (I have an extremely low level of pickle tolerance), and even Anwar was getting annoyed, and I was getting hungry and didn't understand the paper anyways, so Anwar loaned me his meal card and I went to get a bagel, as I was sick, and still operating on a diet where the primary foods were oranges, orange juice, and toasted bagels.

I ran into Olive and Hassan at La Verdes, and Olive advised me to "be assertive!" when ordering sandwiches. I need to work on that assertiveness thing. I got my bagel and went back outside, where we sat while Dill read until it got so dark that we couldn't see, so we moved inside and began passing the papers around for grammar markups.

That evening, I made those changes and went to bed. The next morning, I assembled a draft of slides so that I could give a practice talk for my mentor. I used Beamer. It was epic. I gave said talk. It went badly, very badly. Then I realized that the final draft of my paper was due the next day, and I was not even close to being done.

At 3 pm, I went to Simmons, showered, and assembled my supplies. At 4, I sat down to work. I got up occasionally, but I did not truly stop work until 9:30 the next morning. It was torture. It was bliss. It was so much fucking work.

I started out sitting next to Sadie, but then Bashir came over and started talking to her and moaning about how his paper was being so difficult, when the issue was really his very limited grasp of English language mechanics. I found the talking so annoying that I got up and moved next to Grace, who, despite having finished her rough draft two weeks in advance of the due date, was working quite diligently.

The next few hours are lost in a swirl of very focused work as I made edit after edit, including massive structural changes to my introduction and diffusion sections. Some time around 2 am, when I finished said changes to part four, I noticed a major hole in my analysis: I'd never definitively proven that products would not diffuse, I'd merely illustrated that they'd diffuse less than they would out of a standard reactor. I looked panicked, so one of the very wonderful nobodies, Rocky (so christened because somewhere in the annals of livejournal, there are photos of him at seventeen, all dolled up for the midnight showing), came to help me. He worked magic with mathematica while I cracked open my can of caffeinated beverage, and some forty minutes later, the image, the oh-so-perfect graphical representation of an equation that I'd hastily derived in the margin of an old draft, was done.

It was beautiful, and it is 86% of the reason that I printed my paper in color. Not that I had anything in the way of a legend to explain what color went with what element. It was just so darned pretty.

Soon after that, I was approaching my non-functioning stage, so I drank some more caffeinated beverage and went to take a twenty minute power nap, moping about my cold, solitary loneliness. I eventually woke up and stumbled back to the lab, where I started working again. I soon got a number of zephyrs from Kaylee and Hannah, who were trying to get together a late-night (well, early morning) fake Chinese food order. I zephyred (is there some other word for this?) Hyumni, and she reluctantly pulled herself from braid theory (I would love to watch her tear down anyone who saw the whole 'braid' thing and went "look, when girls do math, all they do is talk about hair") to help pick out food.

I finished the work-through on the redesigned diffusion section and left to take another nap, passing by Didge, who for some reason enjoyed working on the couch, with piles of papers surrounding him. We agreed to proof each others papers later (not that we ever actually did so), and then I went to get some sleep (well, fifteen minutes of sleep, but they were lovely minutes nonetheless).

By the time I stumbled out, Hyunmi had already obtained and paid for our veggie/tofu noodles. We ate them, and they were delicious. Something about tofu drenched in soy sauce and salty pasta is just very, very delicious.

I went back to work, after that. People gradually trickled out. By morning, the ranks were thin. Hassan was still present, as were Jasmine and Comrade Vito. I needed to wake up enough to move, and to clear out the stuffy morning feeling from between my ears.

I don't remember who suggested it, but a bathrobe-clad Vito and I ended up running laps around the lab for at least a few minutes, until I felt prepared to proof my paper. I printed it, then went about trying to find people to read it; if I remember correctly, Tramar was agreeable, and I read his as well. It was without doubt one of few that was written so clearly that it really made sense, though it's frustrating how, too frequently, clarity is confused with a lack of difficulty.

I had a donut and a coffee for breakfast, printed a copy of my paper, emailed another copy to Kaylee, then went back to the dorm and slept for four hours. When I woke up, I showered, then proofed the entire document before heading out. I made my changes at the Simmons cluster before going to W20 and having a second breakfast. Around two, I finally got Kaylee to myself, and we spent the time I should have been at my last meeting with my mentor frantically making changes to my paper. I then went to mentorship, proofed it one more time, just myself, then emailed it to my mentor's phenomenal assistant for color printing.

At five, when others were panicking, I had been done for over an hour. Which was fortunate, because W20's printers were not being cooperative. Many, many people did not have printer success, but they were fortunately (and most likely due to sheer volume) not disqualified from the competitive paper analysis.


I only later heard the story of those who did not work with the rest of us. Susan, for example, stayed holed up in her room, working to devise the optimal method for preventing high temperatures and wind-related paper organizational losses. Bing did the same, though his room was less breezy. He also later informed me that he did not move from his chair for the entirety of the night, not even to use the bathroom. I responded with a "TMI" look which he took for confusion, and began explaining that since he wasn't eating or drinking during the time period, it wasn't an issue. At the very least, he's logical.