Of Computers and Quals
My backup computer (which I used for my last post) lasted exactly a week before its six-year-old hard drive decided that it had had just about enough of all that spinning in its old age and packed it in. That left me with no computer except at my office, and I have this strange feeling that I should be... y'know, working or something when I'm there. I'll be replacing the computer later this month, finally (money gets in really short supply when you return to graduate school in your thirties with children).
The other thing that's putting a crimp in my blogging style is my upcoming Qualifying Exam. For those who haven't taken a shot at a Ph.D. before, most schools have two great chances to toss you out on your ear: a Preliminary Exam (typically a written exam) in your first year and a Qualifying Exam (typically an oral exam in front of a committee of professors) by the end of your second year. I'm just finishing my second year, so the Qual is looming.
In a math Qual at my university, faculty members grill you for 2-3 hours on topics that you select ahead of time. Just to be clear, there's no notes or reference to books---you just stand there with a bit of chalk and try to handle what's thrown at you. If you do so to the satisfaction of your committee, you get to stay in university for another three years or so and write a thesis. If not, you get a second chance; if you fail that one you're handed a nice, shiny MS and told to go find a job.
The really depressing thing is that I already passed one of these wretched things back when I was a Physics student in the late '90s; starting in math has rewound the clock.
Basically, I have to memorize the greatest hits of six textbooks. My posting here will be a bit thin until I pass the sucker.