Thursday, 20 April 2017

Post 101: Why I'm Glad I Didn't Quit My Thesis!

I'm part of this excellent online thesis completion group run by Dr. Dora Farkas. It comprises both master's and PhD students from around the world: anyone who's struggling to finish their thesis, whatever the roadblock they are facing: crisis of confidence, lack of support, lack of motivation, procrastination, interpersonal conflicts with supervisors, what have you. It's a long list.

One question Dora recently asked us as a group is: Why didn't we quit our programs, especially when we constantly thought we would?

I thought that questions was a useful prompt, because for almost half my degree, I thought of quitting, and was varyingly closer and further away from making that happen.

Galiano Island monkey flower (I think!). :)
So, first I'll go through some of my main reasons for considering quitting (good to get those out there again):

1. It's hard to ask for help when you can't articulate what you're struggling with.
2. Interpersonal mismatch: I know that I likely wouldn't have done well with an over-zealous supervisor, but I also in some ways struggled more than I would have if I'd had a supervisor who checked in more often, or in the way I needed. My supervisor was very hands off, and at first the independence was powerful and I loved the trust that was placed in me, but in the middle of my degree, I struggled a lot with making decisions, uncertainty, and felt like I did a lot of my problem-solving alone (though this is linked to struggle #1). Not placing blame here: I recognize my own role in not asking for help, or getting to a productive place where I could ask for help. As usual, it was complicated.
3. Impostor syndrome: I've written several posts about this in the past, so I won't rehash it all here, but essentially, I've never felt more uncertain, and lacked more confidence, than during this degree, and I'm so glad that I've not let it stop me.

Hmm. I think those are at least the major reasons.

More Galiano Island succulents. Definitely some of my favs! 
So, reasons for why I didn't quit:

1. My outline of challenge #3 kind of got there already: I know that I'm a capable, somewhat intelligent person, who works hard. The lies that anxiety and impostor syndrome were telling me aren't true, much as I believed them for large portions of this degree. I didn't want them to get the better of me.
2. I wanted to prove to myself that I could persist and finish a multi-year project. In the end, I think this is the most difficult project I have ever undertaken, and again, in a few weeks when this wraps up, I will be more proud of myself than I already am, for sticking with it, and keeping at it, even when the going got really, really tough.
3. Finishing for finishing's sake! I like to finish projects (though I usually take on smaller ones), because I like that feeling of tying up loose ends.
4. The professional recognition: if I had quit, then I'd feel like I wasted a lot of my own time and money, as well as all the time and money that my participants, my supervisor and committee member, and my funders invested in me. I didn't want to let them down.
5. I didn't want to disappoint my parents and my family. This one is a tricky one, because I wasn't doing this degree for them, but I needed to finish it so I felt like I could continue to have their respect, as well as my own. In the end, I'm sure they would continue to love me either way, but it's better that I can face them having this finished, and being something that I am, in the end, proud of.

So, there are lots of reasons why I didn't quit, even when for so long I couldn't see the end of this degree. But you, like me, can do it, and surprise yourself, and finish up! :)

Sunday, 16 April 2017

Post 100: The Finish Line in Sight!

I have a defense date! Lovely way to start my one-hundredth thesis post!

And have had for a few weeks now. It was a SPRINT to get the paperwork in on time, and I think I was tired just from the two days of stress about that. My supervisor was waiting for my committee member to give the go-ahead, and for confirmation from an external. This Easter long weekend got in the way, because it takes up two days of the necessary 20 business days that need to be in place to give the external fair shakes at reading and reviewing my thesis, and coming up with questions for the defense. BUT -- thanks to the amazing grad admin my program has, who worked her magic, it worked out!

I defend on May 2, 2017.

Galiano Island succulents. :) 
A week ago I would have said, "I can't wait to defend." But now that the days are skipping by faster than I can keep track of, I know it'll be the kind of thing that comes waaaay too soon! It'll certainly be a challenge not to lose my nerve, because working full-time comes with the added challenge of being busy for the most productive hours of the day.
I'm also attending a conference mid-May, and going to visit my folks afterwards, so May will be quite packed, too.

More Galiano Island succulents. Love these guys!
My to-do list for the rest of April looks like this:

Thesis Prep (presentation, review, practice questions, print and re-read my thesis)
Conference Prep (presentation)
File my taxes
Keep on top of cooking and meal prep
Plan for my trip home
Stay healthy (get enough sleep; eat good food; get exercise)
Stay active (I've been biking to work lots, so that has been really good)
Go climbing 1x per week

And on the don't list:
Stay up too late
Eat chocolate
Eat out too much
Let my room get too messy

I think regularity of schedule will also become increasingly important so I don't let my anxiety get ahead of my. My nerves have already been more tense with my thesis defense getting closer.

Right near a bench, downtown Victoria. Love the colour!
But, I think what gives me courage is thinking of a celebration party later this summer, when I've had a bit of time to decompress from the stress of it all.

Longer-term plans include:
Publishing research contract articles (my own and my colleague's)
Publishing my thesis research (1 article)
Writing a few more posts on this blog, and then closing it down
Starting up a new writing project that I can work on through the rest of the year
Tackling my reading list (it's become quite long)

And, coming up with some trips for shared weekends with friends. I am so excited not to have the weight of this thesis on me anymore. The dream of that has been a big part of the motivation to finally finish. I wouldn't have been happy with myself if I had quit this program, despite feeling like it so many times.
Obligatory cherry blossoms. They are finally here! :)
2017 is already a good year.

Saturday, 11 February 2017

Post 99: The Short, Short Month of February, and Dealing with Tiredness

At work yesterday, an acquaintance of mine told me that it took her about 6 months after she finished her thesis, during a long and much-needed break, to wake up and not feel tired. 

An ah ha! moment happened for me. I'm working full time, have two part time jobs, and am trying to finish my thesis. Some days, it seems to me like I'm doing everything badly.

With the snow storms over the past week and a half, I haven't been getting much exercise beyond a bit of walking, especially since I haven't felt that it's been safe enough to cycle to work. At the beginning of February I started Adriene's 31 days of yoga, but stopped after not even a week. I've been chiding myself for not being able to stay committed and continue on with it, but honestly, I am too tired to stick with it, even if it would be beneficial.

Cute neighbourhood racoon tracks in the slush! 
I cycled to the library this afternoon to carry on with thesis edits. Every pedal after about half way to here made me feel increasingly tired, though the 6KM bike ride is mostly flat and not all that challenging. But, I told myself to be happy about making it this far. It's a good day when the sun is shining and I have a superb bicycle that I get to ride, and it's warm out (or at least, 5C feels very warm, compared to the -1C + windchill we had last week).

So, even though I'm exhausted, even though I fantasize about the day that I can go home after work and not have the weight of there's some more work you need to do on me, things are still good, and I'm getting by telling myself that it's okay to be tired. :)

I've written before that a thesis is more marathon and less sprint, and believe that now more than ever.
Snowdrops in the front garden, surfacing to bloom after the melted snow. 
Apologies I don't have any more resources to share currently. Just the comfort and perspective that if you're a grad student who's tired and burned out, you're not alone.

Do what you need to do to eat well, get enough sleep, and avoid colds. :)

Spring is coming, there's more daylight, and the temperatures are rising!

Saturday, 28 January 2017

Post 98: Self-care in the Days of Trump

I've been finding myself quite anxious throughout the week, as news of Trump's newest Executive Orders rolls out across news feeds. Trump is quite antithetical to my values and ideas about what a just, fair, equitable society should be striving for. As one of my friends recently characterized: there's been a lot of "hand-wringing going on!"

I can't begin to list all of the things that bother me about Trump, but there are a lot. Beyond those actions/hypocrisies/stances that I had expected:
There are quite a few other ways in which Trump has figured out how to give left-leaning Americans, lower and middle class Americans, and the world, the middle finger, that I hadn't anticipated.

Some of these include:
And I'm sure there's more to come.

Sunset on my walk from work!

What bothers me most, as a Canadian, is the concern of watching Trump's bullying of other countries (especially Mexico), and that that will negatively influence the actions of my own country's federal government. While I've been encouraged by some initiatives to strengthen calls for Trudeau and our Immigration Minister take in refugees stranded at US airports, I'm dismayed by news that Trudeau has welcomed Keystone XL's renewed momentum, and I am holding my breath about how complicated NAFDA re-negotiations may become.

This story also warmed my heart today, not even so much because someone with power, privilege, and money decided to use that for good, but because of how many more people and Canadians he brought together to work collaboratively on helping refugees.

A discussion I listened to on the CBC this morning had one commentator arguing that Canada should keep its head down, and that the best diplomatic solution to this quandary would be to promote Canadian interests, and that's it. We/Trudeau shouldn't upset Trump by standing up for Mexico. As we know, Trump has a fragile ego...

To me, however, such advice seems likely only to kick us in the butt later, should Trump decide that he wants certain things from Canada anyways, and won't accept no for an answer. I think standing strong together with our other major trade partner (Mexico), and saying, "Hey now, you don't get to bully us here, or we simply won't negotiate with you at all." is better. Strength together, not alone. I don't like Trump's attitude of "America First." That kind of narrow-minded self-interest only gets you so far, especially if you're supposed to cooperate/collaborate with other countries around the world.

Anyhow. This has gone on for already much longer than I had intended. I find it upsetting. Which is why I wanted to advocate for self-care: putting boundaries around when and how much negative Trump news you take in (Read: don't look at the news right before bed. Spare yourself the nightmares.).

Selkirk Trestle catching the morning sun on my walk to work. :)
Also, consider joining me in Adriene's 31 days of yoga! Having a daily self-care practice, doing something creative and fun, like yoga, is one of the best ways you can be self-compassionate. I'm going to try my best to keep up with this, even if I'm starting it a bit late into the month.

Also, don't forget, that democracy shows up in small actions. Consider writing a letter with me to our Immigration Minister, the Honourable Ahmed D. Hussen, asking him to raise the cap on Canadian refugees, and take in refugees that are detained/stranded at American airports, thanks to Trump. Consider donating to help a refugee family as they are welcomed to Canada or America.
Donate to the Cool Earth society -- one of the coolest climate change organizations around. Volunteer at a local women's shelter, or your local sexual health society. 

Even though we are grad students, we don't stop being citizens of the world. Small actions make a difference. We are stronger together.

Edited addition: I acknowledge my own simplistic skill in writing these comments; I didn't study politics or politics science. So, here's a much more articulate analysis of what went wrong with Trump's Executive Order on Immigrants and Visas. 

Wednesday, 25 January 2017

Post 97: Balance, balance, balance...

You were doing okay, managing work, exercise, and healthy foods and activities, and then BANG! You get the flu.

So much for that balance that you had going.

So, this time I lost about a week. Now I'm feeling like I'm somewhat back on top of being organized. I made three tupperware containers of grapes and four tupperwares of sliced cucumber tonight. I am ready for healthy snacks at work, and do have a very particularly feeling of being pleased, seeing the stacks of containers in the fridge. I recommend doing it: especially if you are inclined to be organized.
Love these sedums: stonecrop. 
Yesterday I was thinking that I'd better get used to anticipating losing 10-20 days a year to illness; sometimes more, sometimes less. With migraines, it's likely more than that, though the medication helps a lot. But there are always the colds, the flus, the stomach bugs, the temporary things you don't anticipate. But taking the anticipation into consideration, I might be more inclined to be more forgiving with myself. I think getting sick is a good reminder to take it easy sometimes. Give yourself a rest because you need it (and honestly, don't feel like doing much else).

And that is all okay.

But, here is my very friendly seasonally-themed PSA:

1. Wash your hands frequently, especially if you are travelling on public transit, traversing the university/a workplace that has you sharing a door handle or guard rail with more than three people.

2. Cough and sneeze into your elbows.

3. Get enough sleep.



Wednesday, 30 November 2016

Post 96: Maintaining momentum when everything else is against you.

I don't recommend to anyone to be a graduate student who needs to seek work in order to keep life trucking along. Whenever you need to be working along side school, it slows you down, even when you are an expert productive procrastinator like me. At some point, the weeks become months become a year or two, and you're tired, grumpy about the process, and you really, really want to be done.

So much work to dooooo! :D
I'm there. I'm definitely happy to see the end of these revisions and to get this project finished. I think that this research is important and worthwhile, and hope that it contributes to some understanding of contemporary science-policy relationships within a rapidly changing world that is trying to respond to climate change, even as it's changing the rules of the game of life.

Happy little lemon flower and green lemon soon to ripen at a friend's place! :)
So this is me writing again about self care and getting good sleep and being kind and compassionate with yourself -- these are things that I am known to struggle with: I am inclined to stay up late in order to get work done, or to have an internal negative talk with myself about not getting enough done in the down time I have (although getting work done during down time isn't exactly giving myself a break and taking down town -- sometimes I can see my own mistakes in reasoning).

Blueberry gyoza at The Noodle Box. Good food = happy Heike.
I've recently started to use an app called "SAM" to help me process some of my unhelpful internal habits around anxiety, in particular. So far, mixed results, but I am feeling a bit better about some things. I did yoga for 40 minutes before a work meeting on Sunday, and that felt good. I'm trying to cycle to work a few days a week to build some exercise into my work routine, and honestly, given the horrendous traffic along Craigflower, Highway 1, and the Island Highway, it is faster, some days, to cycle my 20 minutes up the roads or along the Galloping Goose to get home. So, biking for the win! (I will actually admit some glee to passing my commuters in their cars when I'm whizzing past on my bike. I don't have to compete for traffic, and even if it's raining, I've found it refreshing to ride.)

Healthy Heike also includes lovely afternoon walks. :) 
In the long run, it's best take care of your health and your happiness, and keep life only as difficult as it needs to be in grad school. Long hours of sitting, not getting exercise and not balancing out enough work and fun and down time so that you get sick, overworked, burned out, or have stress injuries, won't help you get your thesis done. There is a requisite amount of time that your bum's got to stay in a chair in order to get writing and revisions done, for sure, but do, do, do keep an eye on your health and your happiness.

Self care is immensely important, and grad school is the perfect place to put your resilience to a test. Be ready for it.

Even now, when I'm close to being done, I'm working full-time, and it's a challenge to get everything done, feel like I'm putting my best foot forward, and managing to keep on top of everything, but then I think of the race between the turtle and the hare, and the turtle does, in the end, cross the finish line. :)

Sunday, 27 November 2016

Post 95: New Job Update and Revisions!

I've made it through my first month of work!! Yippee!

Work has been quite an adjustment to my usual schedule, and the workplace environment is different. By the end of this month I feel like I'm getting my feet under me. Meeting new people, getting into a new routine, figuring out basics like "Have I packed enough food for the day?" and a slight wardrobe adjustment have been fine -- these are simply questions and thoughts that I haven't asked anew for a little while, because of the previously established schedule. So, my take on the first month: my new colleagues are awesome, I miss campus, and yet I am excited about all the happenin' things at my new job. I have a diversity of project on the go, from a presentation on a backgrounder on mining in BC that I researched, to providing help on a few different projects my coworkers are working on, to helping out with a Division strategic plan, to building an inventory of Environmental Assessment Board decisions under the Environmental Management Act, with accompanying summary-analysis documents that I'll write... and lots more. I am enjoying the dynamism, for sure!

Walking the Gorge at sunset on my way home from work. Gorgeous November evening.
Thesis-ing continues! Amazingly, my committee member prioritized my thesis for a very quick turnaround (I am eternally grateful; I know she is immensely busy), and read the whole draft and provided comments. My committee member has a keen eye and is very skilled at getting to the heart of exactly what the issue is, and her feedback on my thesis draft was no different. So, a bit more reading, new writing, and further editing needed on what's currently there. That was to be expected.

Here is my heads up about getting feedback: getting feedback is not as easy as we would like it to be. Make yourself comfortable. Have a cup of tea at the ready. Getting feedback on revisions can be a little bit emotional, as someone else has taken a fine-tooth comb through your thesis, and is giving you constructive feedback. I always feel a bit of horror when I get feedback, because I can see all the places where I made simple errors (grammar, didn't finish a sentence, etc) that slipped by because my document is

These cute little white flowers in the neighbourhood greeted me on my walk to the bus!
132 pages and I was tired...., as well as engaging with the bigger picture of, "What's your thesis doing? How are the ideas organized, explained, situated, framed?" And sometimes, too, the "What do you mean here? Clarify? Explain  more." type of comments as well.

It can be a lot. I find I often feel deflated after getting feedback, and it takes a little bit to get my realist lens back on, in terms of assessing what are they asking, what needs work, what do I need to prioritize? I think it is a learned skill not to take the feedback personally, and to recognize that the work is not an illustration of your character and person.

The coolest seagull, chilling on a post right by work. Sunshine break! 
So here's to that. My committee member's comments are really good, and very fair, and it's apparent that I have a few sections that need some more explaining. So here's to a few more hours of sitting down, reviewing articles and books and getting to a better thesis draft!

Thursday, 20 October 2016

Post 94: My thesis adventure is starting to come to an end!

I start a new job on Monday! I got hired to fill a paternity leave in the Ministry of Environment, and I am very much looking forward to learning more about how policy work happens in our provincial government. I'll try to keep some updates coming about how my understanding of what a policy analyst does, exactly, evolves in the coming months. I've never had work like this, but it seems promising on both an intellectual and interest basis!

I lined up the job interview shortly after I arrived back from my trip home (mid-September), and by the beginning of October I had a new job lined up! Even now, thinking over the past month, I'm still struck by how quickly the whole process went!

Rosa nutkana, one of our wild rose species on the West Coast! Look at those rose hips!
I really quickly had to put my thesis into an even higher gear than the pressure that I had been putting on myself prior to my trip home. BUT, so much has come together in the past few weeks! I finished a full draft of my last chapter, then I went through all the previous chapters and completed all of the edits according to feedback from my supervisor (and a few of my own revisions that I felt were necessary), put together the formatting of my thesis into the UVic Thesis Template, and sent off a full draft with a somewhat more rough introduction, missing an abstract, and an unformatted Bibliography.

What a difference it was to put the whole thing together and see it looking great!! Now I'm waiting on my committee member to have a read of the thesis and give me suggestions to strengthen and clarify the writing and the ideas. While I have some tasks in terms of cleaning up the Introduction, writing the abstract, and finishing the bibliography (I had used the write and cite function of Papers, which handles all the journal articles and the grey literature and government documents that I've used, but I have some books that I need to make sure are included in there!)

Whew! What a whirlwind the last few weeks have been! Now, I'm gearing up for my new job. I attended what may well be my last lab meeting this morning, and I was definitely feeling sentimental about it. I am going to miss Eric's wonderful stories and the regular check ins with everyone, and the camaraderie that comes with a lab group. I don't think that the camaraderie will disappear simply because I'm no longer in the office, but something special happens when you get a small-ish group of people together regularly. You build rapport, and a sense of community that's hard to come by! And now it's coming to an end much faster than I had anticipated! (I didn't expect to find meaningful work so quickly, when I emailed a few friends in the late summer!)

So here I am, feeling the feels.
The coming months will be challenging: working full-time in a dynamic workplace, and trying to balance finishing up the thesis. I will be carrying on trying to finish the research contract work, which also wraps up around Christmas. Time management and scheduling my time carefully will be my best friend, I think!

So here's to new beginnings and endings: I'm sitting in my office listening to Sia's "The Greatest," feeling happy and excited and sad. I've loved being at UVic for so many years now. It's starting to sink in that my regular time here is coming to a close. All I can think to say now about the thesis process is that perseverance pays off.

Lovely October sky, with a ghouly ghost saying hello, too!
Wishing everyone a happy and safe Halloween! I hope that I'll have a few more guest posts coming in soon! I've asked a few more people with specific topics to contribute, and we'll see if any of those can materialize.

For my next post, I'll summarize the short presentation I gave about "writing in grad school" last week at our lab meeting.

Thursday, 6 October 2016

Post 93: You Are More Than (Just) Your Thesis, and Celebrating the Small Successes

Writing a thesis is to undertake an ultra-marathon. For many students it will be the longest and most in depth account of research they have undertaken to date. It’ll take a lot of training and practice to get good at the writing. It requires perseverance, good time management skills, the ability to set long and short term goals, and a commitment to follow through. It’s for this reason that I’m very much in favour of celebrating the small successes, and undertaking shorter term projects along the way.

In my case, these small projects have taken the form of writing the occasional newspaper article, writing these relatively short blog posts, participating in my first 5K race, and making a set of personalized hand made cards and keeping up with my pen pals, among other things. In some ways, even doing chores can feel like successes, as can staying on top of doing the dishes, and doing your own cooking (which is also a good way to keep food costs down and manage your finances).

I love the geometry of these! <3 

I submitted a draft of my last chapter on Friday last week, and now I’m in revision mode, and it’s actually a lot of fun. But it was really nice of my partner to help me to celebrate and recognize what an accomplishment it was to finally finish a decent draft of that chapter, which I’ve been working on for months now.

I find that when I keep up on small projects along the way, my motivation stays higher than when I don’t. I finish a blog post, up it goes, and I feel like I’ve accomplished something. It hasn’t been that often that I have that feeling with writing another paragraph of my thesis, or straightening another set of citations. So I encourage you to do what you need to make sure that you feel good about what you’re doing, whether it’s going to the climbing gym and figuring out another boulder problem (climbing lingo for route), or hosting a successful potluck with friends that you can’t make the time to see individually, or cooking up a storm and having meals for a week. Have your hobbies!

Big leaf maple (Acer mycropyllum
I suppose what’s behind all of this is encouragement to establish a good work-life balance, which I struggle with, for sure. Undertaking a thesis can seem to be all-consuming, and I think sometimes it can be difficult to feel good about taking on other projects and non-grad school related things, but in retrospect, I'd say don’t be afraid to register for that pottery class, or join that soccer team, or develop a writing group. These are all things that can help us realize how important it is to support ourselves in different ways all along the way, and reinforce that we are not only our theses or grad work. 

View from the Gorge on a beautiful fall day!
Of course, don't be filling up your schedule to the extent that your thesis becomes a low priority, but a bit of a mix of things is definitely good.

Next I’ll write about my new job coming up, and transitioning out of grad school!

Wednesday, 28 September 2016

Post 92: Effective Altruism and Grad School

Bit a hiatus from the blog since my trip home—I was ridiculously busy when I was there—but now I'm back, and determined to finish this thesis. However, before I speak more directly to thesis things, I wanted to revisit my trip to Berkeley for the Effective Altruism Global Conference I attended at the beginning of August. I've been thinking quite a bit about the people and ideas I encountered there, since. (I've just noticed that a significant number of the talks are posted, so go check them out!)

What's effective altruism? I won't rehash's introductory essay about EA because you can read the whole thing here, but the general idea is to use evidence and reason to find the best way to make the biggest difference you can over your lifetime. If you're interested, I also recently co-wrote an introductory article to EA with Wray McOuat that you can check out here.

Gorgeous bougainvillea on a street in Berkeley.
So how is EA relevant for grad students? Well, we're pursuing training in a particular kind of skillset (research, teaching, critical thinking) that we will likely work to make a difference in whatever field we go into, so I actually think there's a lot of compatibility with pursuing careers (and an educative experience that emphasizes learning critical thinking, applying reason, and assessing different kinds of evidence for different causes).

A few words about the conference: as with attending conferences, it was an easy way to very quickly learn a whole lot, meet fascinating people, and test out my ideas—I also really love that the conference explicitly encouraged participants to seek out people with (on the face of it) opposing ideas, and to chat them out. Because of the conference I have radically changed my opinion about the effectiveness of giving money; previously I’d always held the idea that it’s better to donate time or creativity or energy in some way, but of course money is a representation of all of those things, applied in a particular way. At some point when your career is taking off, your ability to generate a decent income in a developed country can significantly outweigh the time and energy you may volunteer to a cause. And, if you're working full-time, you might not have the energy or time left over to donate. So, donating money can be a really good way to contribute to a cause that you support. 

Grand University of California, Berkley, campus architecture!
Having only once, for a brief period of time, made enough of an income to be classified above the poverty line, I have never thought of myself as being in a position where I could donate much, and so I don't think I had seriously considered it as an option, and my donating happened sporadically, to causes that I have come to believe are important (and still are), but I wasn't thinking about evaluating their effectiveness as much. The little bit that I gave, I did so because "it felt good." And I generally preferred to go volunteer my time or skills instead. Meeting a few people who were well into their careers and who didn’t have the extra time to volunteer, and who were proponents of such a method of doing good caused me to examine my beliefs about that matter. And then of course, the key is donating so to causes that are maximally effective. BUT -- I am still thinking about what this means for me, and I will revisit this in a future post. 

Dr. Max Tegmark delivering his talk via Blue Jeans, about 10 AI Safety Myths.
Further, what I think was particularly unique about this conference compared to others that I have attended, is that I found both very like-minded people, who described themselves as being altruistic and now working on the “effective” part, and also people who were very dissimilar to me: artificial intelligence researchers, philosophers, tech start-up founders, people who worked for various governments, or for charities and development organizations. People from the UK, from Australia, from the US, and all over. Such a diverse set of people!

And, Berkeley was beautiful as well. Overall, it was a phenomenal conference and I am very glad that I attended. Getting to talk to Toby Ord, an ethicist at the Future of Humanity Institute (Oxford) and really brilliant person, was spectacular. I had several discussions with Andy Fallshaw, CEO of Belroy, and am convinced he's one of the most generous people I have ever met: bright, charismatic, caring, and more than happy to make reading recommendations. On his advice, I'm currently looking at Douglas W. Hubbard's "How to Measure Anything," which I hope to discuss with my sister, soon. I definitely wish him well. 
Hike up to the Lawrence Hall of Science, which was really the coolest! 
I met several other tech start-up folks (EA is hoppin' in San Fran and has considerable overlap with the ambitious folks and business culture in the Bay Area), and the sense of ambition, vision, and possibility there was intoxicating for a little while. I didn’t get to speak with Will MacAskill in person, but hearing him talk was great, and there were free copies of his recent book Doing Good Better available. I devoured it on my return trip, and also learned a lot more about EA. If you're interested, I definitely recommend it as an introduction to effective altruism. There were a few awkward conversations, of course, because I found it difficult to maintain social grace at all times as an introvert, especially when I frequently found my energy bucket running on empty, but it was a good time overall.
From the Lawrence Hall of Science: A display of early cyclotrons: the things that smash atoms together. :D
Overall, I feel that the methodology and approach of EA is really a good one—and one to be applied more broadly than simply to EA. Using evidence and reason to figure out how to do the most good in the world appeals to me and speaks to my values. While I think there are still ideas to be worked out with how to measure and compare the effectiveness of different charitable interventions, the complexity behind undertaking such measurements is not without difficulty, and I am content that it is being worked on. Something to keep an eye on in the future. 

Happy September! Happy fall!

In my next post, I'll discuss the value of small successes along the way, to help build momentum and motivation during grad school.