Into every PhD student's life a little failure must fall. I have been lucky in that my failures have been dispersed fairly evenly over the course of the past 2.5 years. Usually, after a day or two of trying and trying again, either things turn around or I come to terms with the impossibility of what I've been attempting and wisely change directions.
This week was different. First of all, there was Monday. On Monday I failed. My experiment wouldn't work; my conditions weren't having any effect on people's task performance. I changed a couple things and tested it again, and it still didn't work. Since I had lab meetings to go to, I piloted tested through my morning tea and lunch times and didn't get to eat till almost 3:30pm. Eight hours without food makes for an exceedingly cranky Laura. My computer also deemed it an appropriate time to take the next step towards its dream of becoming an iPad. I asked the tech guys (again) whether there was anything they could do to reattach the screen to the body of the computer, and they replied (again) that perhaps I should try not opening or closing it.
Next, there was Tuesday. On Tuesday I failed again. And again and again. My experiment still didn't work and more changes didn't help. "It might be time to have another think about what you want to achieve with this experiment," suggested my supervisor. I should point out that five months prior to your submission date is not an ideal time for another think about what you want to achieve with your experiment.
On Wednesday, the tech guys gave me one of the communal lab computers so I would have something to take home and do work on. I tried transferring everything from old Mactaquac with Migration Assistant. Everything went over alright except the license for the program I need to program and run my experiments. Oh, and my Documents folder. Because the communal computer is communal and therefore filled with so many gigabytes of God knows what that I couldn't actually fit my documents on it.
My last pilot test on Wednesday showed vaguely promising results and left me with a glimmer of hope, which was dashed to the ground and mashed up with a dirty boot after trialling it again on Thursday. I already had a headache by the time I got to kung fu that night. It was a small class and I was matched up with a girl who is really nice, but 90 kilos is a lot more than 48. I wonder sometimes if I'm just weak or if being dropped to the ground really does hurt me more than it hurts other people.
I wrapped up the week with several hours of supervisor meeting on Friday, wherein which we discussed potential thesis examiners. Since I'd already discussed this with one of my supervisors, we were mainly interested in what the other two had to say. Mostly, this seemed to consist of "Oooh, with the ego on that one?... she's a bit flaky... he's a bit soft... she'd be good if she ever got around to doing it, but it might sit on her desk for a year... too philosophical... not musicy enough... naw, not him; he's a wanker..." and on and on. I found it fairly entertaining. I was also reminded that my timetable has me finishing both the manuscript for this experiment and another chapter of my thesis by the end of the month. That I found significantly less entertaining.
I was so unbelievably ready for a weekend by Friday night. Too bad I've had to spend it preparing a talk for Monday and - oh yes - programming yet another version of the experiment that may yet have the best of me.
In the eighth grade, our Home Ec. teacher had us all take a career test. We answered pages and pages of questions on our likes, dislikes and interests, and at the end mine told me that my ideal career was in farming. Possibly because I said I liked animals, spending time outside, and having as little as possible to do with other people. Maybe farming is the right answer after all.