Race to the deadline
What is it about self-imposed deadlines that feel more important than the ones you hardly have control over? Maybe it’s because I’m competitive or maybe it’s just that I hate failing at something that I set for myself, but whatever the reason tomorrow is my latest deadline and I’m so close to finishing I can taste it. So today I’m hoping to finish my coding work so I can process some more of the “big idea” dataset I collected several weeks ago.
Hospital-PI has been on vacation for several weeks now. It’s been a “slow” period for us, because he’s been out. That has given me a lot more time to focus on processing the data we collected. This whole process is something new to hospital-PI, he doesn’t usually work with the data we collected for big idea, so he doesn’t understand the level of work that needs to go into something like this and the months (or longer) of effort it takes to get the first datasets processed. While I’ve managed to get some of the “easy” bits of the data done, some of the more complex stuff, the really exciting stuff, still remains a mystery.
The problem is we don’t know what we have until we finish the analyses and “see” what we got. That could, in theory anyway, lead to months of effort with nothing to show for it. While the chances for success are very high, higher now that I’ve got the dataset almost exactly the way I want, there’s always a chance that it could be a failure. Which of course means that all this work could be for nothing, but that’s just how it goes. Personally, I’m not so worried about that, I’m more worried about just getting to the completion point.
So with hospital-PI coming back I wanted to have something big to show him and for the past several weeks, as I’ve been talking about somewhat indirectly, I’ve been working on one of many functions that will pop out whatever I want from the data without me having to do all this work over and over. It’s going to be a huge time saver when it’s up and running, the problem is that it’s still not quite ready. It’s close, or at least closer than I was when I started it, but it’s not finished and the really tricky part is that I won’t know if it works until it’s finished being written.
I can check parts of it as I go and I have, which has lead to several edits, rewrites, and scrapping whole chunks of the code I’ve written in favor of better/different ways to get the answer. Right now I’m working on what I hope will be the final lines of the code, the stuff that happens at the end is the stuff that I want to use for the things that I hope to have finished for hospital-PI. It’s at the end because it’s the hardest part to code and it’s only gotten harder when I realized I couldn’t use the “normal” way I would write it (see yesterday’s post).
Still, I’m close. At least that’s what I keep telling myself and I look forward to being finished with this somewhat unruly function that I’m writing. It’s already almost 1000 lines of code and that has made organizing it challenging, but it’s well written or at least organized and written the best way I could come up with. If I were to rush all this it would’ve been done weeks ago, but it wouldn’t have been done right and I really wanted to take this time to do it right so I would only have to do it the once.
I guess that’s the theme of getting a PhD and being a researcher in general, do it right the once and that’s all you need to do. Even if you have to go back later and change things, it’s much easier than wading through the code I’ve spewed before in a hurry. Some of which is horribly embarrassing and stuff I can barely follow, even with my haphazard comments hastily explaining the horribleness.
Anyway today I’m going to try and conquer the last bit of this function that needs to happen before I can start producing some finished figures and what not for this project. It will be interesting to see what comes out of it. For a brief moment I’ll get the chance to see something no one else has seen before and that’s going to make the last few weeks and all this struggle so worth it.