Today is (well, will be) the first day of the new semester at NMSU. And for once I'm not dreading it.

In fact, this is the first semester I can remember where I was looking forward to (rather than dreading and/or getting suicidally depressed over) the "oncoming traffic," so to speak. I think it's because I actually have a lot to look forward to.

See, last semester, I had returned to grad school having been defeated. It was a fallback, and it almost felt like a cop-out. But this semester, I have a fellowship, I have research, I have a TA position (which I'm definitely looking forward to - I'm TAing the graphics algorithms course), and I'm really stoked right now because in the past 3 weeks I've gotten a HUGE chunk of my first album done (and, in fact, I only have one song left to record in order to call it Done).

Yesterday I was in OfficeMax, gazing at the incredible selection of graph paper and legal pads trying to figure out which kind I wanted, and I heard a familiar voice ask me if I was getting ready for the semester. I turned to look and it was my advisor. We had a nice long chat about the coming semester and academia and the like, and apparently this is the first semester in a long time which he is looking forward to as well. His primary research project is gaining a huge amount of momentum (not to mention a lot of grad students who actually care about the project and are as impassioned about it as he is), and I think he's overall happy about the courses he's teaching this semester (probably because myself and two other of his grad students are in it, as all three of us were in it last semester and gave him a hard time - in a good, MST3k sorta way).

Let's see. I'm taking Operating Systems (taught by my advisor), Networking, and... um, some other class I can't recall the name of. I'm looking forward to all three, in any case, since all of them are useful and pertinent to my own research interests and, specifically, to my thesis project. That's one of the really nice things about being a grad student - you decide which courses you need, not a bunch of professors whose heads are stuck in their collective ass.

Oh, and another nice thing about this semester: for various reasons, huge amounts of the faculty left. Yeah, it's got the whole department under a lot of stress, but a large chunk of the ones who left are ones that nobody liked anyway. (One was "asked to resign" for abusing his tenure, one who is notorious for having never gotten over the Prolog hype of the early 80s suddenly left for UT Dallas...)

Unfortunately, a few who left are also well-liked and respected. The department head's wife got a dean position at U. Florida Tampa, the resident AI guru left for greener pastures (I dunno where she even went off to, and didn't even know she left until a few days ago)...

But in any case. I'm looking forward to this semester, my advisor is looking forward to it, many of my friends are looking forward to it... from this perspective, things are good.

I can hardly wait. :)