zomg, I’m a graduate student

Life has a way of creeping up and surprising you at the strangest
moments. Today I had my “Oh my goodness, I’m actually a graduate
student” moment. W. and I were talking about the development of
expertise. We were planning how to spend our leisure time. I mentioned
this little tidbit I picked up from somewhere: expertise takes around
10,000 hours to develop. This is around ten years of practicing three
hours a day, and you can start now.

W. found this bit of trivia interesting. I told him how I remembered
reading the abstract but hadn’t tracked down the paper. Naturally,
this made me want to look it up. While I was taking a break from
writing my thesis, I looked up the webpage from which I got the
tidbit. It cited two books. The Toronto Public Library didn’t carry
the books, so I searched for other citations and full-text copies of
papers.

The University of Toronto has an awesome research library. Granted,
there were a few papers I couldn’t easily access, but I could get
copies of all the seminal works. Not only that, but the academic
search services even let me filter through the papers that cited these
works to see follow-up papers in computer science and engineering.
Wow.

Which brings me back to my zomg-I’m-a-graduate-student moment: an
off-hand comment during a casual conversation prompted me to look up
not only the original paper but also the papers that cite it. I have
access to such a vast array of knowledge through my university
library. *And* I know how to read the research papers now, and maybe I
can even translate them into ordinary-speak…

Two years of my life in exchange for access to centuries of knowledge.
Not a bad deal, not a bad deal at all.

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