December 1, 2010
Today our project proposal and outline of the paper were due. My project has been progressing well, though not quite as efficiently as I would have liked. Data collection is still being finished, but is near completion; it has been in favor of my thesis for the most part.
This year's algorithm is of course much simpler than last years' in which I included 16 variables to test instead of just the hidden need triplet. After the actual algorithm though, the methodology behind analyzing data is still the same. I measure the success of the formula based on my calculations of sensitivity, specificity, and accuracy.
Aside from my regular project, my leadership project has been taking much of my interest. I have continued to expand the Interns of America Foundation. So far, I have drafted and refined my HTML file that I hope to post as the website by winter break at latest. The problem I now face is figuring out a way to make the site into a profile generator...similar to facebook or linkedin. The point of the site is to encourage networking, but I still haven't decided on the best approach in terms of what questions to ask and what kinds of visibility are ideal. In any case, I still have to meet with Ms. Blum, our county-wide coordinator on legal and idealogical issues.
I've had so many different things to do lately. I've thought briefly about getting back to finishing my novel, but frankly haven't had much time lately between college applications, regular classes, and everything else. To be honest I can't help but feel it's a childish concept now. It's not really childish in that it's simple, because the plot and story world are complex, but just the passions that created the ideas seem simple now, and I can't get into them again. I loved creating the world, because I could look into mythology again for a research background, but the characters seem flat. I feel like the work is a style imitation of Atlas Shrugged in terms of creating characters - one dimensional idealized pillars. They seem like only caracatures. The way to add depth is to add more things that they do/happen to them, because emotional depth is only created in response to the physical world. It's just difficult to come up with all of it - thus why there are so many books about writing. It's just hard. There's no way to get around it.
In past year's I focused on the thesis and project aspects of mentorship, and I feel like this year I've been really zooming in (out rather) to the experience. What I'm doing this year is not looking at story structure or learning about writing - it's managing a business. I'm learning to be a CEO through practice of trying to shape this program. I'm learning how to network and organize people. On the one hand it's fun, because I like making decisions and being responsible for something. On the other hand, it still makes me a little nervous, because really, even though I've been around for a year or two and have managed to throw together a few research projects, I still can't do everything. I'm trying to do a good job, but sometimes I just don't know how. My goal this year was to reform the program - objectify the research process. I wanted mentorship to get away from working like artists and get back to the basics of the scientific method, because I believe that that's the precursor in discovering/articulating anything of importance....even art topics.
The thesis defense assignment characterized what I wanted. Last year's projects were alright of course, but at the same time I kept thinking that certain problems kept going on with the same types of projects: particularly physical therapy. I based my reformation plan mostly on how I thought the physical therapy projects could have been improved; it was applicable to all projects. I was a junior last year taking my first year of mentorship, so I didn't know what was expected really or what was going on, though I'd taken IR two years beforehand. I let the rest of my team do the thinking, planning, doing, while I observed and tried to learn why they did what they did. By the middle of the year though, I became disillusioned. I learned a lot from my team from what they did, but I learned more from what they didn't do. By the middle of the year, I started reviewing papers on writing committee and realized that the majority of them didn't have a plan or a point! I couldn't believe it. How was it possible that people going to spend hundreds of hours at a location would not have done any creative thinking themselves enough to at least come up with a thesis! I assumed coming up with a hypothesis was a basic concept, and that people just did it. I found that that wasn't true. I had people come up to me, handing me a paragraph of facts as a "thesis" and asking me if it was ok.
Well I learned more about what they'd been doing all year, and found that in many cases, they hadn't had a plan at all - thus had collected no data and therefore had no meat to put in a paper, because all they'd managed to do was collect random bits of facts about the subject. I was horrified. Doing research is like building a house. Just as a pile of stones is not a house, neither are random facts a body of research. My proposed cure was a dose of objectivism. I'm trying to change things so people see the research their doing in a logical and scientific light. Science is so much better than art. Science is practical! I've said this a million times, but artists just don't make sense. I love art; I love the humanities. I love studying story structure infinitely more than I like building robots. However, research does not get done if the goal is to produce art through chance inspiration. Science is the only way to study anything; I don't care what field you're doing.
Leadership this year has been wonderful. Our team has doubled since last year, and I thought it would be a bad idea to have so many cooks in the kitchen, but it's turned out surprisingly well. There are 12 members planned for next year. I'm nervous again about having such a big number, but then again, it's their program. Last year's leadership group was adequate. I didn't feel comfortable enough to do anything really until the middle of the year last year, about what was expected of me. I admired everyone there, because they were older. In fact, I was nervous about having authority as a junior at all in a group of all seniors. Now that I am a senior, the age gap between me, the juniors and anyone else in the school really seems foolishly irrelavent. In the middle of last year in reading the submitted research papers, I realized that my team hadn't in fact known what it was doing. They were as lost as I was!
I thought that because they were older and had done mentorship before, they'd be much more competent in holding the world together. I realized only when products were finished and it was a bit too late to do anything, that I shouldn't have taken their opinions so seriously, and in some cases, I could have done better. That's what I'm trying to do this year. Last year, I didn't want to come off as arrogant. I didn't want to be the bossy kid who's technically in charge, but doesn't really have any resonance. I kept my head down as often as I could, tried to do what people told me, and made sure that I always did more than I told other people to do. I wanted to delegate tasks as infrequently as possible. I wanted to make standards doable and help people meet them.
I have a different role this year. This year, I am responsible for things going wrong. I should have been responsible last year too, but still had to figure things out first. I can't tell if I'm arrogant, and that's what scares me. They say that the less you feel guilty about things, the more likely it is that you have a lot to feel guilty about. I honestly like my position, but is that bad? I keep wondering if I'm too used to feeling like I'm in charge that I've been getting careless. I don't want to boss people around. But at the same time, I'm trying to build something, and I need to make people do things they don't want to do in order to build. I don't want to be critical, but at the same time, I want higher standards. I don't want to be arrogant, but at the same time, if I do not take charge - someone else may - but in all likliehood, things would turn out the way they did last year. I don't want things to be mediocre. I want them to be good. Who else right now is crazy enough to do what I am trying to do? Maybe I'm too crazy. Well I'd rather be insane than average I guess.
I want to build something important. Of course mentorship is important on it's own, but I only have a few more months left of high school, and then it'll be over. Mentorship was perfect for me, because it was an open battlefield. I had the creative freedom I love, the recognition opportunities to justify doing the less glorious work, and just enough chaos for me to be needed to lead. I like leading, but often I do wonder if I'm beginning to like it too much. Dictators are hypocrites, and I don't want to be either. I don't even have that much influence anyway! People listen to me of course, but not really. I'm kind of happy they don't. Half of what I say is nonsense. If half of what I say is nonsense, does that mean other people that people listen to speak nonsense too?
I found out a few days ago that I managed to share the "most likely to succeed" superlative with the SGA president of our class and one of our class's top math geniuses. Of course, flattering as it is, it doesn't mean anything - but at the same time it's interesting why I might have gotten it instead of one of my friends who has much better grades and is much better at math than I am. I don't want to be a superficial politician. I'm learning to network and strategize. I want to be able to use politics to my advantage, but don't want to neglect sharpening competence in the field either. I feel like when I stop being concerned about that, then it will already have happened. I keep thinking of Lord of the Rings.
I don't know if I should be leading the way I'm trying to. All I know was, when I didn't lead, no one else did the way I wanted to. If there's no one else, then I might as well right? Oh I don't know what the right thing is.
It's funny how reading and studying lots of stories can influence your mindset. I don't think this project has changed how I think, but accentuated it a bit. Stories are like creatures in and of themselves. I keep feeling in this project like I'm dissecting them to compare them to each other like I would dissect a cat to compare to a dog's anatomy. Using that parallel, I guess I could say that I've proved that the majority of stories are mammals. Cadaver. Ew that is gross and gruesome, but it's often how I think of The Story Template.
Freytag's Pyramid, Hero's Journey, Monomyth, etc. are the old Medieval system of witchcraft, spirits, and humors. Doing exhaustive character sketches is the equivalent of bleeding the patient!!! This is the Renaissance. I am dissecting story piece by piece, muscle by muscle. All the components are hard to distinguish in the subject when you don't know what you're looking for. All the pieces of the story are red and feel the same. But once some doctor does many dissections, seen many subjects, he can identify the similar components between them, and call them the same between organisms as essential to qualify as one of the same species. Those same components when explained in contrasting colors are easy and logical to explain/memorize, and only slightly more difficult to then identify on a living story. The first part of original identification is the hardest. This project is letting me figure out the difference between the lung and the pancreas so to speak.