Apr

26

Twenty-Two Hours, One Presentation: A Tale Of R And Regret

Written by

Betsy’s two new best friends

Yesterday morning, around 11 am, our fearless EIC sat down in Butler to begin work on a presentation which was supposed to be the culmination of several weeks of data collection and analysis, as well as a semester’s worth of self-led computer science tutorials. Naturally, she was set to give the presentation at about 10:30 am today. The following ensued.

11:15 am: Even though I’ve been up for a few hours already (thanks, Wind Ensemble obligations), I just sat down in Butler. Since I don’t study in this library much, when I do go here, I tend to guide my actions with the adage What Would Finn Klauber Do – which usually leads me to either the eighth floor or the sixth floor reading rooms. Right now, it’s the latter. The room isn’t too crowded, the natural light from the windows is nice, and I am… already procrastinating. I have 22 hours and 45 minutes until my 10 am class tomorrow, when this presentation is due. Let’s get down to business.

11:25 am: Actually, scratch that, I need to go to the bathroom again.

11:28 am: I was going to write something making fun of the girl sitting next to me who has three (3) “Friends” stickers on her laptop, but then I remembered that I spent a half hour of my morning reading an article on “the top 100 pairings on AO3, ranked” earlier, so I really have no leg to stand on here.

12:01 pm: Have installed approximately 15 R studio packages. Not entirely sure what all of them do or if anyone will be useful for my project, but uh… I have them?

1:20 pm: Figured out how to do one (1) successful thing. Still feeling very proud of myself. Going to take a lunch break.

2:50 pm: Lunch break turned into an impromptu covering a protest break. I love Columbia.

3:21 pm: The guy sitting across from me ate half a bag of baby carrots and the majority of a large tub of hummus.

4:59 pm: I’ve been in this library for six hours. I have, so far, managed to generate one map. Help.

5:05 pm: According to recent email from my professor, I am now presenting FIRST tomorrow. I DID NOT VOLUNTEER FOR THIS. HELP.

6:00 pm: Naturally, I responded to that news by procrastinating on Twitter and by reading old senior wisdom nominations. Today’s mood is now: ‘“fuck hell damn ass no” – amara’

6:05 pm: A girl walking out of the reading room just walked right into the glass door. Yeah, me too.

7:18 pm: Have gotten no work done since previous note. Have gotten a lot of stressing about internal Bwog matters instead. However! Just received a message from my girlfriend reading, “if you need a late-night pizza delivery to the library, know that i am on STANDBY.” So, overall, things are looking up.

7:50 pm: Another half hour, and still no work done. I did reserve my housing for part of this summer, though. Time to make like a tree and leaf this study room. At least for dinner.

7:53 pm: Almost left Butler, and then had to return because I forgot my umbrella in the reading room. I’m sorry, umbrella!! I love you!!!

10:04 pm: ONCE MORE UNTO THE BREACH, DEAR FRIENDS, ONCE MORE; OR CLOSE UP THE WALL WITH OUR ENGLISH DEAD. IN PEACE THERE’S NOTHING SO BECOMES A MAN AS MODEST STILLNESS AND HUMILITY: BUT WHEN THE BLAST OF WAR BLOWS IN OUR EARS, THEN IMITATE THE ACTION OF THE TIGER; STIFFEN THE SINEWS, SUMMON UP THE BLOOD, DISGUISE FAIR NATURE WITH HARD-FAVOUR’D RAGE; THEN LEND THE EYE A TERRIBLE ASPECT; LET PRY THROUGH THE PORTAGE OF THE HEAD LIKE THE BRASS CANNON; LET THE BROW O’ER WHELM IT AS FEARFULLY AS DOTH A GALLED ROCK O’ERHANG AND JUTTY HIS CONFOUNDED BASE, SWILL’D WITH THE WILD AND WASTEFUL OCEAN…

10:10 pm: By this, of course, I mean I’m back in Butler (the eighth floor this time) after a Bwog board meeting, I have two cans of Starbucks doubleshot espresso, and I’m ready to party.

10:47 pm: Kinda frustrating how much of R coding is just waiting for things to happen? You put in the little code, you run it to see if it works, you wait. You find out that it doesn’t work, you Google something, you wait. You bang your head against your desk, you wait. I DON’T HAVE TIME FOR THIS! I AM GIVING THIS PRESENTATION IN UNDER TWELVE HOURS!

11:48 pm: I now have an outline for my presentation, at the bottom of the very document upon which I am taking these notes. Feeling good, feeling solid.

12:25 am: Finished my first Starbucks doubleshot espresso. Also, watched Janelle Monae’s new music video, which had a similar effect.

1:05 am: Assuming the Jim Kirk, Star Trek (2009), Kobayashi Maru scene position (i.e. legs up on desk, eating a green apple, assuming nonchalance while actually stressed) as I wait for a program to run.

1:09 am: Isabel arrived! Engaged in some quiet commiserating. Got quietly berated to stop talking. Program is still running.

1:11 am: Took a brief Twitter break. Read a very good tweet about Les Mis. Program is still running.

1:13 am: Maybe it’s one of those “a watched pot will never boil” things? A watched R program will never finish running?

1:21 am: The goddamn thing is still running.

1:43 am: Why are simple tasks… so hard… in this goddamn program……………

1:47 am: What if I just can’t finish this? What if I go into class tomorrow, I go in, and I say, “Look, professor, I just could not get this program to work. I know I should’ve been working on this all semester, but I’m a busy person, I have so much other shit going on, and I just kept putting it off and kept putting it off and for god’s sake I’m a bio and English major; I don’t know any CS. I don’t know anything about programming. I don’t know how to troubleshoot these confusing errors. I don’t know…”

2:01 am: Opening my second can of doubleshot espresso.

2:11 am: Heard Isabel whisper, “shit” from across the cubicle. She then opened her laptop and started to frantically type up Bwoglines. This is, as the kids say, a Big Mood.

2:55 am: In a fate of desperation, I Googled “I JUST WANT TO MAKE A PHYLOGENETIC TREE.” A couple of the results actually look promising?

3:00 am: Went to the bathroom, then did a quick sprint up and down the aisle of the eighth floor to keep myself awake. By my count, there are six other people on this floor, besides me and Isabel. None of them are doing anything productive.

3:01 am: Isabel: Do you want me to move your post to Friday?
Me: Nah, I’m good. I already have 1000 words.
Isabel: How many more words do you need?
Me: … Until I hit 9 am?
Isabel: YIKES.

3:08 am: LET’S TRY THIS GODDAMN PHYLOGENETIC TREE FUNCTION ONE MORE TIME.

3:53 am: I finally figured out how to make the phylogenetic map that I want to make, but it’s going to take two external programs and me finding representative species for all 130 families in my list. Ain’t that just the way.

4:08 am: Isabel went home. She wished me luck and confidence. I am not feeling worthy.

4:09 am: Sleigh Ride just came on my Spotify playlist!!!! This is way better.

4:13 am: Got up, went to the bathroom, and then put on Sleigh Ride again. Honestly, what a fucking banger. The genre of music peaked with the auxiliary percussion in this piece. Fight me.

4:20 am: Nice.

4:22 am: Took a moment, in honor of 4:20 am, to find and re-appreciate one of my favorite Twitter exchanges of all time:

4:50 am: And I have my map!! It’s honestly amazing how simple this was when I stopped actively trying to use R.

5:04 am: Discovered that my artist friend who goes to school in Virginia is up. This isn’t particularly surprising, because they often need to pull all-nighters for their final projects, but it’s still nice to have that solidarity.

5:09 am: You’re gonna get a personal stylist, right, let me walk you through it, you’re gonna get a personal stylist, you’re gonna call them WHAT’S THEIR NAME der…bum TAKE IT AGAIN TAKE IT AGAIN crom…slum TAKE A THIRD frenchalore!! TAKE A FOURTH WHAT’S WRONG WITH YOU pinski!!!! ((okay)) THAT’S THE BEST ONE YET … dan. pinskidan. so you’re gonna get a call from a stylist, and you’ll HELLO THIS IS PINSKIDAN WHAT KIND OF PANTS DO YOU LIKE hehehahahahee CROMSLOR DO WE HAVE SLACKS hehehehehaaaa you’re gonna get a call from a stylist and they’re gonna ask you what size everything is… down there… AND AND THE DICK whole thing! EXCELLENT EXCELLENT… CROMSLOR YOU’RE NEVER GONNA BELIEVE WHAT HE SAID ABOUT THE DICK.

5:10 am: Anyway, time to start actually putting this PowerPoint presentation together.

5:37 am: I read through the obituary of Emily Gregory (first professor at Barnard, botany expert, put together the herbarium that my project is cataloguing, etc.), and I’m now pretty convinced that she was gay. She devoted her life to plants… never married… and just look at that aesthetic… I don’t know, I feel it.

6:19 am: Realized that I am literally listening to John Mackey’s Aurora Awakens as the sun rises outside my window. I’d say something more poetic about this if I didn’t still have so much presentation to pull together.

6:48 am: As we near the final hours, the home stretch, I am putting on a true winner: the How To Train Your Dragon soundtrack. I need this to help me push through unexpected Excel difficulties.

8:09 am: I just did a quick lap around the floor to refill my water bottle, and as far as I can tell, there are three other people here. I know at least one of them also spent the night; he walked past me to get to the bathroom a few times. I wonder what they’re working on.

8:29 am: We’re officially now at about the time when I’d be waking up for my Tuesday/Thursday 10:10 (yes, the very class for which I am slaving over this presentation!)

9:07 am: The presentation is DONE! Thank GOD! I’m supposed to get to Barnard Hall for my class to depart for the New York Botanical Garden at 10, so this gives me just enough time to go home and change clothes. And grab more coffee.

Good morning, Columbia!

What conclusions can be drawn from this experience?

  • First: I cannot teach myself R in 24 hours. Maybe a smarter, more compsci-savvy person could, but not I.
  • I can, however, pull a pretty decent presentation out of my ass in 24 hours. My plan is to distract them with photos, so that nobody will notice that I’ve done very little actual data work.
  • If the graph isn’t working, just give up and find another way to do it. Time is too precious to be wasted staring at this screen.
  • Starbucks doubleshot espresso only gives you energy if you believe in it.
  • All those seniors who put “watch the sun rise from low steps” as their “one thing to do before graduating” in their senior wisdoms might be on to something.
  • Butler 8 is without a doubt a liminal space.
  • Sleigh Ride always has and always will fucking slap.

Photos via the woman herself

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