To Bot or Not to Bot

Fin-botA random thing popped into my head this evening, after listening to some videos on learning Finnish and an automated voicemail from the Finnish Consulate General.  The language tends to sound robotic, and I think it’s because of the emphasis always going on the first syllable of the word.  It’s hard to tell, even with inflection, where sentences begin and end, and it doesn’t help that both statements and questions are spoken with a falling intonation.  The speaker on the automated voicemail did pronounce numbers quite clearly though, so I was able to make out the telephone number and their business hours.

I’m starting to get more anxious about the move. I think I’ve been back in the states too long and have gotten comfortable in what I’m doing here at the moment.  After taking almost a year off, I’m worried it’s going to be hard to get back into the swing of things. I’m trying to take some free online classes via Coursera–things like neuroanatomy and computational neuroscience, trying to keep up the information I learned last year and to fill in the gaps.  The gaps are mostly in computation, and it’s mostly the gaps that give me a bad case of Imposter Syndrome.  I only started learning Matlab for analysis of my M.Sc. and I don’t think I did a very good job of it.  I also didn’t have any help, so I feel like my gaps have gaps.  It takes so long to make enough mistakes in order to figure it out on my own and it really is embarrassing to not be able to just go in and do what I need to do.  I’m a fast learner but I’m a very algorithmic thinker.  I like to go through and check of every step before going to the next.  I’ll copy-paste and run several similar lines of code over and over again by hand instead of using loops, just because I don’t trust myself to write them properly.  I wasted a LOT of time on my M.Sc. with this sort of doing things by hand, and I ended up doing it all several times over because of mistakes or adjustments that needed to be made in early processing stages.  Part of me acknowledges that I should have had more help–those things should have been caught earlier.  But I also blame myself; I should have asked for help earlier–I should have confessed that I didn’t know what to do instead of trying everything on my own. And I feel like I should have known these things already.

I have a very bad habit of comparing myself to everyone else, and in my mind I will always fall short.  The thing is, I set myself up for failure because I compare myself to colleagues who are not supposed to be my peers.  I was doing college level work in high school, so I compared myself to college students.  In college, I worked with grad students so I compared my work to theirs. In my Master’s program, I compared myself to Ph.D students and postdocs.  I know it doesn’t make any sense, but it keeps happening. I think I’m so afraid of being average or less that I feel like I have to stay one step ahead of the game. The problem is, the game doesn’t work like that. It’s hard to figure out what you need to be doing when there isn’t a standard that makes sense.

Anyway, I should be getting my immigration decision soon, and I’ve started the countdown.  5 weeks.



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  1. So are you writing my biography, or what? That last paragraph described me perfectly. I can say that it does get better with age. And at some point, you sort of quit caring about being better than everyone else; as long as you don’t suck, it’s OK.


  2. I don’t know if you still expect to use Matlab, but this ( has always been a great resource for me while programming (though I’ve never used Matlab). Chances are, if you have a specific question, someone else has already asked it there.

    Furthermore, Sublime Text 2 ( is my favorite text editor. It has a lot of features that can make some of those copy and paste things clearer if loops still give you issues.


    • Thanks for the suggestions! I do plan on using Matlab more, mostly because the other presentation programs I’ve used (Superlab, E-Prime) are awful and crash all the time. And the universities have a bad habit of not keeping them updated. For my Master’s thesis I was using E-Prime and just wanted to embed some short videos, but the version we were using could only handle jpegs and wav files. I ended up using jpegs for each frame, flashed very quickly to make them look continuous. I also used Matlab instead of SPSS to make some graphs for my data; I had too many dimensions and was finally able to create a scatterplot with three parameters. Matlab definitely allows you to do much more in the way of out-of-the-box stuff.


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