A Journal of Daily Activities for a Week: Day 1, Monday, October 7th

I'll start with the routine stuff and finish off with some thoughts and things I've been thinking about.

7:00am wakeup. homemade cafe-con-leche (espresso and hot milk 1/2 and 1/2). Get the kids dressed for school. Make scrambled eggs and toast with the kids. They are off to school at 8:00am.

8:00-8:30am check email. surf hackernews, twitter, Google+. Plan my todo list for the day.

Todo list for today includes: Latin and linguistics study in the AM. Review some advanced linear algebra (Dual spaces). Review a few algorithms for the upcoming coding competition (afternoon). Finish linguistics assignment: IPA transcription. Phone call for work-related (software consulting) stuff this afternoon.

11:30AM: Coffee & snack @ The Black Duck:


By 4:25PM I drop Cristina off at the gym and I head to pick up my son at school 20 minutes away. Supper and the evening up until 8:30pm, when the kids are in bed, I am in full parenting mode.

9:00PM - 11:00PM: review coding algorithms for upcoming competition. Reviewed Floyd-Warshall and Dijkstra this evening. Looked over a few Catalan numbers related problems.

Upcoming Assignments

I have a linguistics assignment due Wednesday. A phonetic transcription of a comparable news report using one from Canada and one from the UK. Comparing Canadian and British pronunciations.

I have a research proposal due Thursday for Cryptography. My research will be an analysis of collision attacks on SHA-1, focusing mostly on the 2005 paper, "Finding Collisions in the Full SHA-1", by Wang, et al. I will make an attempt to introduce a new collision vector to decrease the complexity of the attack from the current \( 2^{61} /) (iirc).

Study habits

This seems to work well for me so I'm sticking to it as best I can. This is cut-and-pasted and paraphrased from an email I got from my intro psychology professor:

  1. Study in short spurts with lots of breaks. You'll retain more information from three 20-minute study sessions with 5-minute breaks between each than you will from a single 60-minute session. Why? Look up "serial position curve," "primacy," and "recency" effects.
  2. Avoid cramming if you can. At best you'll remember basic surface material. At worst, you won't feel prepared or will "blank out" when you want to recall info.
  3. Make something memorable about your study sessions. A crazy-coloured paper, a silly rhyme that you hum in between questions, a funny doodle. Why? If you feel that "blank" happening in the exam, take a few deep breaths, close your eyes, and picture the paper, the rhyme, the doodle, etc. It will help you make the links you need to recall.
  4. AVOID studying to music. Most people THINK it helps them but many, many studies show that it is a distraction to encoding the information. If you must have music, choose something non-vocal and repetitive that won't grab your attention.
  5. Stay hydrated. Really! Even mild dehydration can affect concentration. If you have a cold, this is especially important, because decongestant medications, runny noses, etc. can dehydrate us quite quickly.
  6. Sleep! Have you ever been thinking about a problem right before bed and when you wake up, you've figured it out? We don't know exactly why, but sleep seems to help us consolidate memory. Even if you are cramming, it's better to do a quick review (perhaps all the chapter summaries), then get some sleep than to pull an all-nighter. If you stay up all night and use caffeine (Red Bull, coffee, 5-hr energy, etc.) you'll be doubly worse. Overtired and dehydrated!
  7. To avoid panic & frustration, mix up your studying. Review/retest some of the material you know well, then tackle a tough session. Review another easier part, then tackle the tough session again. It will keep your attention longer and help you retain more. This can be really helpful if you are studying for two courses at the same time.
  8. The order of the material really doesn't matter. Go with what feels best to you.
  9. Seriously. Don't cram! Two hours a day for six days is MUCH better than 12 hours all at once.

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