10 May 2008

Catching My Breath

For those who figured I dropped off the face of the earth: you're right. But I'm back. Posting has been slow the last week or two because everything else turned outrageously busy. Had a couple of projects to deliver for work, and needed to go to Washington DC on Wednesday-Thursday. Yesterday was spent tying up loose ends.

On top of it, some of you may remember a post from January in which I mentioned going "back to school." I was taking a graduate statistics course in data mining, offered online through a university in Connecticut. Although much of that course ended up being review of other statistics methods with which I was already familiar, the review in itself reminded me of some fundamentals that I'd let get rusty. Then, on Wednesday of this past week, we had our major final project due. I was immersed in that for quite some time, occasionally well into the night, as I tried improving upon my models. That's what I love most about data mining: the adventure of the hunt for the optimal model. In the end, I don't think I got a perfect solution --- but the key was that I learned a ton about the process, and also about the Clementine software.

In a sense, it was liberating not having to worry about a GPA. I still wanted to do as well as possible on the project, and I need to pass the course so I can take future courses in the sequence. But for once in my life, I didn't really care whether I got an ego-boosting "A" or a humiliating "D." I know that I stretched myself immensely, and learned what I needed to learn. I would like a good grade to show for it, but I'm discovering that grades have little meaning in themselves...particularly in this context. And after a lifetime of anxiety over grades and GPAs, I guess that's why the word "liberating" is what comes to mind.

But of course I had three other projects all come in right as this school project was due...and there was the forced deadline of catching a 3pm flight to DC on Wednesday afternoon. All the while dealing with sheep who were begging for freshly cut grass and weeds (those lawn mower breaks were actually very refreshing, and helped clear my head).

It's great to have the desk cleared off for a few days now, and it was wonderful spending yesterday evening just hanging out with the kids and watching their favorite movie with them. The weather is looking nice for today, so hopefully we'll get the tandem out of the barn and roll up some miles.

When we're not cutting some grass for the sheep.

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