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Exams, Portal 2

19. April, 2011

Today, three forces that had been building for weeks culminated in a massive implosion of procrastic energy. The first element: Exams. A necessary component, as they create the environment in which procrastination begs to be undertaken. The second: the completion (or near completion) of this website. The third: the release of Valve's Portal 2.

And so it is that, for the past three weeks or so, rather than revising solidly each day I have been working for approximately 5-minute snatches, interspersed with hacking away to python code and CSS. In retrospect it was perhaps not the best of ideas to install Django (the framework this site is built with) mere weeks before the final examinations of my undergraduate career. In retro-retrospect, it was almost certainly a bad idea to buy a VPS to host the website on a few weeks before that, but we live with the follies of the past.

It's true, though, that website production is an excellent distraction for the bored student since it provides a perfect juxtaposition with what you're supposed to be doing. That is to say, it is interesting, intellectually stimulating and gives you a sense of satisfaction when you complete some of it. I can't help but assume that my "revision technique" as some people call it is pretty abysmal — write out key points of course on a sheet or two of A4, do all the exercise sheets (usually finishing most questions with "etc" or "... blabla" after getting bored) and finally do the past exam papers. The last point is a key one since it lets you know just how much detail is expected of you, as well as the flavours of question likely to be asked. Apart from that though, and maybe a little bit of staring blankly at the course notes as a PDF (or my handwritten ones if the former are bad or non-existent) not much happens apart from procrastination.

This has so far not been a hindrance but I'm still left wondering, with one exam left to go (in my entire undergraduate life, perhaps forever) if it's about to come and bite me. Certainly others seem to have more proactive or focused methods, involving flash-cards and... doing things more than once. And libraries. With a solid day left for the final one though, these thoughts are only ever going to be just that. I seemed to recall promising myself a few weeks ago that I would work harder and more solidly than I had the previous year, but obviously that wasn't going to happen.

Portal 2 has been less of a practical consideration in terms of procrastination, since it was released in the wee hours this morning and, although there was a small voice trying to convince me of the opposite, I was never really going to stay up until 5:30 in the morning (let alone get up at 5:30 in the morning) to play it, so I satisfied myself with trying out the first 10 minutes after I woke up, before getting down to the hard slog of avoiding last-minute revision for the exam this afternoon.

If you're not hanging off Valve's every release, Portal 2 was the subject of an Alternate Reality Game that consumed the time of geeks the world over (although even I recognised that obsessing over obscure puzzles and challenges for hours on end would likely be unhealthy, physically and academically.) The culmination of this hype, that started months ago with the trailers, was that if you played (or, it turned out, had running) various indie games you could accelerate the release of the game. This was all a little tired, in a very real sense, in the UK, when it transpired that the efforts going towards getting the game released early only made the difference of a few hours, and put it at a time when we're all in bed anyway. (If you're not a filthy student or something then you probably still have to wait until getting back from work, too.) Nonetheless it was fun to see a new kind of hype surrounding a launch.

Anyway, it's time to sleep to engage in a final day of exam-related non-work tomorrow. On Friday, I can commence engaging in coursework-related non-work.