Deadlines and Caffeine

January 12, 2014

2013 was the year that I finally came to terms with being a Coffee Person. After a couple of decades of caffeine-independence, the last four years of grad school in Seattle slowly, irretrievably adjusted my thinking.

Good coffee is one of life’s great pleasures. But last quarter, I found myself relying on it like never before to survive a pair of deadline crunches (why must PLDI and ISCA overlap so closely?). So I started recording and timestamping every cup I drank with the goal of understanding whether deadlines really did affect my intake as much as I sensed they did.

Here’s a plot of the number of cups per day from August, when I started recording, through now. It’s annotated with the conference deadlines and some travel dates to explain the peaks:

coffee frequency plot

While it’s not as extreme as I thought it might be, you can clearly a dropoff in (non-travel) coffee intake if you compare the green on the left of PLDI and ISCA with that in the right-hand, post-submission trough.

I’m also a little shocked to see the rarity of zero-coffee days.

I was also curious about the time of day that I usually drink coffee. On this plot, each translucent circle represents one cup of coffee. Where the circles overlap and the color gets darker, I’m more caffeinated:

time-of-day plot

The plot seems to be bimodal: I drink a lot around 10 AM, after getting to school, and often feel the need for a lift somewhere between 1:30 and 3:30.

I don’t know what on earth I was thinking drinking coffee after 5:00 PM. That’s a terrible idea.

For fun, I also categorized each cup by its source, including breaking out the places in Seattle that I apparently hit up most often: Trabant, Neptune, and Herkimer. Here’s a comparison:

coffee source plot

Predictably, the vast majority of my coffee comes from the Clever I keep in my office (and incessantly subject my officemates to). I also apparently hit it hard to prop myself up while traveling.

I’m now totally horrified at the amount of caffeine I ingested last quarter. I won’t stop, but I at least now have grounds for the claim that deadlines can be dangerous.