Ph.D. Adventures!

Take Time to Celebrate (Ph.D. Year 2, Spring Update 9)

TL; DR

Slowly but surely getting through the revisions on my SGD paper and Project CODE Switch. Tired of writing quizzes and my TA is too. I’m also not happy that I had to fail a student this week, but it’s important to be firm because it’s fair. Been procrastinating my cardio workouts, so need to figure out how to improve motivation for that. Reading Atomic Habits by James Clear (#ThankYouForYourSupportCommissionsEarned) and I have started pairing my pomodoros with healthy rewards that can be accomplished in 5 minutes or less.

Weekly Update Breakdown

Accomplishments Since Last Update

  • Writing (SGD theory)
    • Came up with a name for my computational model which my advisor agreed to (for now. lol)
    • Drew out sFBS in terms of my new model
  • Research (Project CODE)
    • Set up coding/version control standards with Sarah (the team engineer) and came up with a plan for when to use objects vs scripts
    • Rogelio told me that I’m now Engineer Lead (that way Sarah and himself can focus on engineering, not organizing).  
  • Teaching
    • Had to fail a student which made me very sad, but Rogelio reassured me that it was good to be firm and fair.
  • Self-care dailies
    • I realized today that I have been associating my difficult cardio workouts with a negative, too difficult to complete attitude and pain in my lungs. And so every time cardio comes around I don’t workout for a few days. Need to change this mindset. New mindset about cardio: I get to improve my endurance and energy!
  • Executive
    • I have been reading Atomic Habits by James Clear, which is what made me aware of the previously mentioned association. The book is based on actual science to help you create good habits (and get rid of bad ones). I highly recommend! Even my brother is going to get it. 🙂
    • I hit a motivational wall. So I started doing pomodoros (25 min work, 5 min break). But then I started getting burnout. Realized I need to implement longer breaks after doing a couple, and I also need to respect the timer. When it goes off, I need to take a break.
  • Personal
    • Took time to celebrate my two-year anniversary with my husband. We took the Lady dog along. She liked getting to see all new doggies on our mini-vacay and we bought her a really cute Ladybug blanket. In fact, everything we bought on our vacay was for the doggo or the kiddos. lol.

Next Week’s Tasks

  • Writing (SGD theory)
    • Finish theory backdrop
    • Start sSGDT section (maybe even finish it too!)
  • Research (Project CODE)
    • Finish basic sim setup
    • Start hero pool
  • Teaching
    • Just two more quizzes to write!
  • Self-care dailies
    • Implement the new mindset. Perhaps I can reward myself with a bubble bath or shower melt after cardio!
  • Executive
    • Institute a longer 30 minute break after completing 3-4 pomodoros to keep motivation high
    • Use point and say (I forgot the exact terminology from Atomic Habits) to point out when I am procrastinating (or other bad habit) or on task (or doing a good habit).

Speed Bumps & Obstacles

  • Writing
    • The link to Dr. Rogelio’s writing log didn’t work. 😦
  • Research (Project CODE)
    • Lack motivation to program in GML.
  • Teaching
    • Lack motivation to write two more quizzes
  • Executive
    • I’m feeling burnout.
Ph.D. Adventures!

Had a Week (Ph.D. Year 2, Spring Update 7)

TL; DR

Personal life had a lot going on so it was difficult finding time to work on other tasks. Was invited to and attended a leadership conference. I am four days into a 14-day writing challenge with NCFDD. So far so good. Got the related works section. There’s a lot of work left in that section. Rogelio believes I’ll be ready to do my written qualifiers THIS fall (2021, not 2022). It’s exciting and scary. Picked out who we think will be a good fit for my committee.

Weekly Update Breakdown

Accomplishments Since My Last Update

  • Writing (SGD theory)
    • Updated introduction, added supporting citations, and began work on related works.
  • Research (Project CODE Switch)
    • Talked with Sarah about objects and persistence in GML. Have an idea of what to do now.
  • Teaching
    • Had a lot of things come up with this last week with students that urgently had to be handled.
    • My TA got behind in work last week (which is fine) and said he would catch up this week, but he has a long to do list. I am hoping he can pull through.
  • Self-care dailies
    • Realized that I don’t need to set aside time daily for teaching because it comes up when it needs to and I have all of Monday set aside for it. One less thing to worry about.
  • Executive
    • Skipped NCFDD’s core curriculum this week since I’m doing the 14-day writing challenge.

Next Week’s Tasks

  • Writing (SGD Theory)
    • Complete Related Works
  • Research (Project CODE)
    • Help finish the vertical slice
      • Basic Sim model
      • Hero Pool
  • Ph.D.
    • Look over Munzer’s dissertation proposal
    • Prep my own
    • Keep track of who to have on my committee. 
  • Teaching
    • Create quiz 10, 11

Speed Bumps & Obstacles

  • Executive
    • Hopefully things in my personal life will settle down.
Ph.D. Adventures!

Enjoying Academic Life (Ph.D. Year 2, Spring Update 5)

TL; DR

Half way through the semester and, to date, this has been my most enjoyable academic semester ever! I love being Professor Blackburn and have been getting plenty of positive feedback from my class. I am really enjoying my research (both Project CODE and my SDG theory). I finished sub-reviewing for FDG 2021 and learned a bunch. So glad I volunteered (though two weeks ago I felt a little overwhelmed!). As the adage goes: all’s well that ends well. 

Weekly Update Breakdown

Accomplishments Since My Last Update

  • Writing (SDG theory)
    • Went over notes from Dr. Rogelio last night. Have been holding off on major changes until I received the notes. 
    • We discussed yet another change to the paper, but this time it is a reframing rather than a pivot altogether.
  • Service to Profession
    • Completed my first official paper reviews as a sub-reviewer under Dr. Cardona-Rivera for FDG 2021. Added to CV.
  • Research (Project CODE Switch)
    • Have led seven meetings now, two as design lead with Rogelio present. 
      • In the game design meetings with Rogelio present, we used the SDG theory I’m writing to guide the design of our game. Out of that Rogelio pitched his first legit game pitch. (Which he was super stoked about and told me in a later meeting that it validated the work we have been doing).
        • Our game is an awareness learning game about ethics
        • It’s Boss Monster meets Dating Sim
          • Incidentally, I am really excited to play our game. It just sounds fun!
      • The others were game design/code design/team meetings without Rogelio present. 
    • Completed IRB revisions. Back in Rogelio’s court.
    • Code Design/Dev Doc:
      • Designed an MVC model for our vertical slice prototype with Sarah (team’s engineer)
      • Split up tasks with Sarah based on the MVC model we created.
      • Got GameMaker installed and git set up locally.
      • Instituted a simpler version of “GitFlow” for our branching strategy.
  • Teaching
    • Updated my CV with “Instructor of Record” for “The Psychology of Games.”
    • I learned so much about the student code. Read through it for the first time in my life and for the first time, truly appreciated it. 
    • In one week got to talk with students about infractions with student code, and, following the advice of my advisor Dr. Rogelio E. Cardona-Rivera, managed to resolve all issues informally (which the University of Utah highly encourages).
      • For the first issue, Dr. Cardona-Rivera stood up for me. It was so nice to have someone have my back like that! It was beautiful! (Big grin!). I also haven’t had a problem with the student since, though I won’t refer to me by any name now. It’s just “Hi,” or “Hello.” Aww, academic life.
      • For the other issue, I updated my syllabus to introduce a “regrets clause” and this was key to the informal resolution! At the end of the discussion with my students, they were thanking me. (Thanks again Dr. Cardona-Rivera for all the advice on resolving these issues!)
    • Managed to not only stay on top of my quiz creation but got a week ahead.
    • 45% of my students currently have an A. Now they’re glad I don’t grade on a curve. 😛
  • Self-care dailies
    • Been sticking to these and it has really helped me stay centered and enjoy my life more. Otherwise, I think I would allow the above writing, research, teaching, to just consume my life, because I enjoy them, but there are other things I enjoy too, and I would burn out if I didn’t take the time to take care of myself.
  • Executive
    • Started going through the NCFDD’s core curriculum. I went through the semester plan webinar for 2021 yesterday and I really liked the simplified flow for the strategic semester planning which they presented.
    • Sunday meetings have saved my keister! The one week I didn’t do since reintroducing it to my life was a very, very bad week!

Next Week’s Tasks

  • Writing (SDG Theory)
    • Finish updating based on Rogelio’s notes
    • Re-frame paper based on design rationale
  • Research (Project CODE)
    • Help finish the vertical slice
      • Basic Sim model
      • Hero Pool
  • Teaching
    • Create quizzes 9 & 10

Speed Bumps & Obstacles

  • Executive
    • Balancing all of my various tasks and responsibilities with some me-time and fun!
  • Research
    • Still don’t have copies of Boss Monster.
    • IRB has not been resubmitted. In Dr. Cardona-Rivera’s court (or inbox) right now.
    • Have to learn a new game engine & scripting language. Should be used to it by now. But I’m a little wary of jumping among all the different game engines all the time. I wish I could just stick to one and get really, really good at it instead of always jumping on different bandwagons. I’m not saying we made a bad choice, but I would rather stick with the one I know the best and improved my skills in it.

Personal Note

We finally (after six months) got our coach! We also got me a new desk and chair (ones I actually wanted, and love!), and dining room chairs and a bench. Our house is really starting to feel like home. And yes, that pillow is “family” backwards. My mom bought it when we were out shopping a few months before she died. She thought it was hilarious!

Lady dog likes to be in the room with me during my class and meetings, and frequently sleeps… and sometimes snores.

The weather was nice enough last weekend that we went on a five-mile bike ride as a family (including my brother who lives with us) and Lady loved the first two sprints around the block (but then we left her at home).

We also spent the majority of Sunday at my dad’s and Momma D’s to help them put up a goat fence so that Lady can’t escape and we can let her enjoy the outdoors. We played soccer, ate pizza, and watched Aladdin.

Ludology, Ph.D. Adventures!

Good News Arrives! Sometimes Slowly… (Ph.D. Year 2, Fall Wrap-Up)

After pitching a class I’ve been wanting to teach FOR YEARS it was REJECTED at near instant speeds because it was too technical (the need was for general games undergrad, not technical grad). My advisor had already kindly offered to help me co-design a class in case that one got rejected. So that’s what we did: created a brand new, never been taught before course, I pitched it to the director of EAE, and then we waited… and waited… and waited (there was also some praying involved)! I waited NINE long days post when I was told I would hear back. So maybe nine days doesn’t seem that long to you, but it is long when you are waiting (and praying) for good news! Well… it got ACCEPTED!

I am teaching Psychology of Games at the University of Utah for my favorite program: EAE! (Shhh! Don’t tell CS I said that!)

I’m like legit faculty! Just call me Professor Blackburn!

I am super stoked!

Since the class is new we get to play with the design of it quite a bit, but we already have the syllabus and readings down. Still a lot of work to do but it is going to be a killer class!

If you’re a student at the U definitely look into it! It’s going to be a fun class as we discuss the inner workings of our mind and how to use that knowledge to design stellar video games! We already have enrollments and it was just posted this morning!

More info is on the course webpage. To enroll use Class #19047 which will enroll you in EAE 4900-006 (all Special Topics courses have the same course number:4900, but different sections. Psychology of Games is section 006).

See you in class students! (That’s fun to say!)