This is exactly what it's like:

"And the challenge is to get from point A to point B. So, you throw model after model at the problem, method after method, alternating between quick-and-dirty methods that get me nowhere, and elaborate models that give uninterpretable, nonsensical results. Until finally you get close. Actually, what happens is that you suddenly solve the problem! Unexpectedly, you're done! And boy is the result exciting. And you do some checking, fit to a different dataset maybe, or make some graphs showing raw data and model estimates together, or look carefully at some of the numbers, and you realize you have a problem. And you stare at your code for a long long time and finally bite the bullet, suck it up and do some active debugging, fake-data simulation, and all the rest. You code your quick graphs as diagnostic plots and build them into your procedure. And you go back and do some more modeling, and you get closer, and you never quite return to the triumphant feeling you had earlier—because you know that, at some point, the revolution will come again and with new data or new insights you'll have to start over on this problem..."

"But, not so deep inside you, that not-so-still and not-so-small voice reminds you of the compromises you've made, the data you've ignored, the things you just don't know if you believe. You want to do more, but that will require more computing, more modeling, more theory. Yes, more theory...."

And the post continues with more 'what its like' ...

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