Tuesday, June 30, 2009

day13 -- ominous, it has been!!

no work was done over the weekend i.e day11 and day12 keeping in with the low expectations.

started relating the work by reading through the chapter2 of the mini-thesis written 15 months ago and modifying it where required, which wasn't much. ofcourse, a few references have to be added and discussed, but these were present in the recently written papers, so it isn't particularly hard. precisely, the reason why this has to be the easiest chapter to write now.. ofcourse at the time of writing the minithesis, this was one of the hardest chapters to write.

stopped towards the end of the chapter, where most of the additions have to be made .. yes, once again, i leave the toughest part of the work for the next day!

oh yeah, Nr came back to me with his comments on the "Introduction" or chapter1 and they were many... very very many .. and given that it was just a merger and composition of already written/published/approved introductions, it is amazing that he could still manage to come up with so many questions. the "unending deathly spiral of reviewing" as has been proclaimed by skp. it seemed like a deliberate action on Nr's part to further dampen my already dipping enthusiasm .. yet i persisted and shall persist! so say we all ;)

Saturday, June 27, 2009

day10 - next chapter when?

yeah, "chapter1 - introduction" has been all written, read and sent over to the N's.

now i feel a bit silly to have procrastinated 3 working days and 1 weekend for a job that eventually got done in 2 days :P.

today, in the little time that i did spare for the thesis, proof-read, refined and sent over the chapter1 and then accumulated the relevant files for chapter2 - "literature review" or "related work" or any other suggestions for the name?

Friday, June 26, 2009

day9 - chapter one is fine?

let's make this short. yeah, so the chapter one is all written now. will have a read through it tomorrow sometime and send it off to Nr and Nj.

the sections remaining from yesterday, took much more time than expected. what do you know, it is not so easy after all to succinctly put down your claims towards "advancing the state of the art" and demanding a PhD :P. another tricky part was where i ought to list my papers, produced during the phd, and point out which one details which particular contributions. it so happens that one of my papers is completely unrelated to my research topic, yet i didn't want to exclude it from this listing (especially given that i do not have many publications anyway ;) and this one is an award-nominated one! ). so, with some trickery of words, i managed to add it at the end of the list.

remember how i was a bit worried that the general length of the introduction of the theses i looked at was more than 12 pages while what i had from my minithesis was just 4? well, now that i look at the size, it comes to 11 pages! no, i did not make any effort towards the size. formulating the chapter properly and putting in the requirements, contributions etc itself made it so long!

next focus will be chapter2 = "literature review" or "related work". i doubt that i will start it tomorrow :-s.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

day8 - chapter one .. almost done

since the structure of the introduction was made somewhat clearer by yesterday's hurried activity, it was much easier to start work today... and i did!

began at the beginning and started playing around with the sentences and paragraphs that have been sourced from various earlier written material. had all of those files open as well. every sentence that i had to place, i would end up reading its original file to understand the context and then move it accordingly. so, it was more like a game, a sentence arrangement game. i don't think i wrote any sentence afresh!

also, created a few sections to make the progress of the motivation part of the chapter much more streamlined and effective. but i do wonder whether this kind of division into sections will pass the "Nr test" (Nr = primary supervisor). so the introduction basically contains a lot of paragraphs initially which give a motivation to the work of the thesis. next part is the 'requirements' section which precisely states what all we seek or what the objectives of the work are. that is followed by the 'contributions' section which lists what you have achieved, also including the papers published and making a case for why you deserve a PhD. and then the last part desribes the thesis structure, which i had already written yesterday.

so yeah, i was midway through the requirements section when i had to leave today. the initial motivation part is all done and that is also the toughest and is more than 3/4ths of the chapter anyway. and even if none of you believe me, i was actually so involved in the writing that i had to drag myself out and forcefully save/close the file.

once it sputters to a start .. the rest is a strong smooth flow ;) .. lets hope that starting the next chapter won't be as tough.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

day7 - finally get going

- okay, i only had a couple of hours to spare for thesis writing today. unlike yesterday, when i had the whole day at my disposal and did nothing, i did make use of these 2 hours today!

- starting trouble is always the toughest to overcome in my case. once i start, the work proceeds at a much smoother pace until that part ends and another part (like the next chapter) has to be begun. and the process repeats. desperately need ignition sparks which are generally provided by impending deadlines.

- to overcome this menace of "non-startery", i decided to focus on the easiest section in the introductory chapter-- "Thesis Structure" describing what the rest of chapters of the thesis contain :D.

- with the little momentum that was gained and the little time that was remaining, i decided on the structure and flow for the introduction chapter, and copy pasted the relevant parts from the papers/minithesis in the required order. so, they should all be edited, connected and made sensible and coherent now.

that's all for today. oh, the rest of the day was spent in the hallowed city of Oxford!

Monday, June 22, 2009

day6 - _________________

day4 and day5 were weekend, so no progress was expected.

day6 = today = no work what so ever. don't ask!

Saturday, June 20, 2009

day3- Introduction.tex

I was advised to begin from the beginning. Not the very beginning i.e contents, abstract or acknowledgments :P, but from the first chapter, which is the introduction. but how do you introduce something that is yet to be created? so, you look at how others have done it. got the chapter from the guy mentioned in the previous post, lets call him Ar. But his phd is a bit diverse, that is, he has worked on several problems and is tying them together. i do not have such issues. my thesis has a single focus only. so, had to look at a thesis which is as empirical as mine, along with having a single primary topic. and so i did. both of these "chapter 1"s scared me. the smaller one was 12 pages long. i had a look at the introduction from my minithesis (or 18month transfer report) and it was just 4 pages. and i have no idea how to 'introduce' the thesis any differently. how my 4 page introduction from the minithesis is to be extended. a lot more motivation, with an example perhaps and a description of the method, which was lacking then (since it wasn't created then!). anyway, it was too overwhelming for me to continue anymore for the day! so that's it.

don't expect me to do any work over the weekend, so don't expect any posts either.

Friday, June 19, 2009

day2 - directory

almost forgot that i have to post today. one of the reasons for that might be because of the amount of work i accomplished today ..... as it is tending towards zero :P.

the closest i came to work on the thesis was to consider creating a directory. typed in mkdir 3-4 times but cntrl-c'ed on all occasions since i couldn't come up with a name for the new directory. 'thesis' seemed to bland and ordinary.

oh yeah, the other thing i did manage to do is request a friend (colleague!), who is about to submit his thesis (he had started his phd 3 months before i did), to send his first chapter. yeah, the 'introduction'. it is of course the most difficult chapter to write and the most important as well (dont expect many, if any, readers apart from the supervisors and examiners to read beyond this chapter :P). looking at his introduction will also give me an idea of the protocols to be followed, especially the way Nr would prefer it. these will include how to list the publications, how to list the claims of the thesis and so on...

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

day1 - deadlines before we start

it is just past lunch, but i am already logging my efforts towards the thesis for today? well, that is because i know for sure that i won't be doing any more thesis work for the rest of the day.
what did we accomplish:

£ had the meeting with the primary supervisor (lets refer to him as Nr from now on), the secondary supervisor (henceforth referred to as Nj) was away to some conference and hence wasn't present.
£ discussed prospective completion dates = sept?
£ the chapter division of the thesis = 7 chapters, as expected
£ prospective internal examiner = the same one who examined the minithesis and the 9month reports
£ prospective external examiner = Nr suggested one guy (whom he knows to be a reasonable person in this regard) and asked me to learn about him and state if I have any "violent objections" regarding him.

special announcement - blog bday - phd thesis bday

first of all, let us all wish 'happy birthday' to mythalez's blog. it is 5 years old now!

i started this blog 5 years ago, on 16th june 2004, on a bored afternoon during the summer vacation at IIIT, as a silly undergrad :P. that summer vacation was also when i took my first tentative steps towards research in computer science, by working in AI via doing a NLP project and starting a multi-agent systems project.

today, 5 years later, quite coincidentally infact (trust me, it wasn't planned at all!), i submitted my 'intention to submit thesis' form. this form is ought to be submitted some 2-3 months before you intend to submit your PhD thesis. well yeah, i am yet to start writing it, but we, that is me and my two supervisors, hope that it will be done in 2-3 months. so, given this coincidence of today being the blog's birthday, i have decided to relate the two in some way.

i think writing a PhD thesis is once-in-a-lifetime occurrence generally (ofcourse there are a few crazy people who do more than one PhD) , and therefore it might be worth logging the process. hence, from today, i will be blogging on a daily basis and narrating all that i have done on that day towards my PhD thesis. and this painstaking blogging chore will be maintained until the thesis is submitted!

so, here we go-- today, i submitted the 'intention to submit thesis' form. [the end]

not a ps: mythalez of twitter fame had announced a competition for the 1000th tweet and the winner was to be commended in this birthday post. so, stand up and applaud vandz for her winning contribution-- "everything in the universe is just blah" which is in fact mythalez's own quote that she reused to participate. so, she won mainly due to the cleverness of her answer and not because no one else participated seriously :P.

Friday, June 12, 2009

thoughts ...

after more than a year, i started reading a book, any book. it is a very well-known novel "immortality" by milan kundera. regardless of that, i realised how much i missed reading. due to the perennial paucity of time, i managed only 40 pages, nevertheless i was so utterly engrossed and filled with thoughts as if the inner being just woke up again from deep slumber.

of course, the author is amazing and his insights are mostly of the 'wow' kind, but its not just about that. i realised i had forgotten to think. caught up in the grinds of the quickly passing days filled with something to do or postpone all the time, i haven't been giving enough time to the so called inner self.

as i have heard before, one's thoughts are one's most private and quintessential belongings. most inseparable and absolutely unobtainable by others. at least for now, until technology finds a way i guess :).

Sunday, June 07, 2009

buda pest wien wachau along danube

Okay, finally we shall talk about my 10 day trip to central Europe. The purpose is archiving and not entertainment :P. First stop was Budapest where the conference was held. And yeah, the conference was awesome. Well, it is the most important conference in my field and this time I had some proper papers to present :D. And one of my papers got nominated for the best student paper award. Of course that paper has nothing to do with my PhD. Of course, we didn't win. The results were announced during the banquet (which was on a boat cruising along the Danube river ;) ) รก la the Oscars or something. Also, my work got noticed by most of the bigwigs of the field. Yeah, they all know me, and my research pretty well now :P. And it was funny when I looked back and realised that I had applied for a phd under some of these profs back then. And now, they discuss my paper with their students in their group meetings and all :P. So yeah, pretty good conference. My room in the hotel was not just a regular room. I was staying at the conference hotel itself and had booked a single room just like the others. But some of us (including me) got a single apartment instead. So, it had a huge living room, a big bedroom and a well equipped kitchen as well!

Buda + Pest:

A city with quite a character. Almost all buildings in the centre are grand and majestic in some sense. And they are interspaced with grey, dull, communist era towering blocks. The Danube river divides the city into Buda and Pest and hence, quite a few bridges around. The sights across the river are the best. Definitely a city to visit. The hilly part i.e. Buda has the castle and really tall green hills while Pest is crowded like a any big city is. Pest is where most of the action is.

If you go out to dinner in Budapest, it will end up taking you 3 hours. Food wouldn't arrive for at least an hour after you order. True, this is valid in any restaurant there, guess it is an Hungarian policy or something! And when the food does come, it is huge. Really really huge portions. And very very heavy as well. The size of the starters there will easily beat the main course sizes in UK or rest of western Europe :P. Apart from the local language, German and Russian seem to be as or even more popular than English, going by the language in the menus. The nightlife there doesn’t end until late morning :P. Everyone seems to drink and smoke a lot. The most known hangout place is this placed called Godor which is an open area that was to have been the foundation for a big building. But the building plan was scrapped and it ended up being the centre of the nightlife there. There are some islands on the river as well which are also mostly abuzz all 24 hours of any day! By the way, the city also seemed to contain the most good looking girls in comparison to the other places in Europe that I have been to! Eastern European exoticism I guess?

Of course, English is not common there and Hungarian is bewildering to comprehend :P. Tickets for buses, trams or underground can only be bought from some ticket centres around and it is not easy to buy them. Ended up travelling ticketless for most of the bus and tram journeys ;). Also, the currency exchange is ridiculously confusing with 1£ > 300 Ft, so we were carrying notes each worth 20,000Ft and so on! The escalators of the underground system must be the fastest ever. The underground is pretty deep under the ground as well :P. In addition to general sightseeing, went to one of the famous 'baths' there. The really hot 80-90 C saunas are a very interesting experience. Especially when you jump into cold 16 C water immediately after that. It is supposed to be good for the skin, though it felt more like a shock+awe venture :P. Budapest also contains the second largest synagogue in the world in addition to other attractions.


From Budapest, two friends (call them S and K) and me went to Vienna (or Wein as it is called by the natives :P)! Why you ask? Because, it was the closest must-see city. Skipped Bratistlava in favour of spending more time in Vienna. And it is worth it. Awesome city in many senses. Cultural centre, it does seem to be, with lots and lots of events happening and museums and theatres etc. around. Every building in the centre of that city deserves to be photographed. Amazingly grand architecture with rich carvings everywhere. Even the roof in a Burger-King place is artistic! Transport is easy with the really simple and modern underground system along with the trams. Too many tourists (like me) everywhere though. Some of the area around the Danube has been converted into a tropical island atmosphere with even an artificial beach! Also visited what might be one of the most famous apartment buildings in the world. It is quite unique looking, designed by a well-known artist claiming harmonious living with the nature and so on.

Austria is famous for its cakes and desserts and deservedly so. Did the standard touristy thing by having this cake at the hotel of the person who invented it 170 years ago! Ice cream shops are abound. Maybe, they have a rule that every person should be able to be within 5 mins walking distance to an ice cream, you know, something like a fundamental right! Dinner here is served much quicker :P. Managed to have the dish called cheese fondue which is basically bread that is to be dipped into melting cheese and consumed :P. Actually, next to the place where we had this, there was a 'Cafe Coffee Day' !! One of the few franchises outside India. However, it called itself 'Coffee Day' by ignoring the 'Cafe' part of the name.

Went to the opera in Vienna! I guess, there can't be a more fitting place to see an opera than the grand opera house of Vienna. It is after all the centre of all such artistic things! We paid just 4€ for our tickets while the highest priced tickets range around 300€ ! Of course, with these cheapest tickets, which are sold only 80 minutes before the show which you need to queue up for, we get no seats. So, we actually stand and watch. We went in mainly with the idea of seeing the opera house from inside, see what an opera is all about, and leave in half an hour instead of staying for the whole 3 hours of the opera. But we stayed till the end! The one we watched is called Don Giovanni, one of the most famous ones and it was awesome. Hilarious, entertaining and lots of fun. Thankfully, we had English subtitles to read as there were small, personal screens displaying the subtitles in front of every person. Now, I know what opera is all about :D. A tick mark against one of the things to do in life, I guess.

Wachau valley:

Went on a day trip to nearby area which is popular for its vineyards and fantastic views of hills along the Danube. First, visited a vineyard + wine making facility where they gave us a tour explaining the whole process and some wines to taste. After that we had a plan to take the ferry from that place along the river to a town farther away, but we missed the ferry due to this vineyard experience. We were then recommended to hire some bicycles and ride all the way to that town along the river, cross the river and ride back from the other side. Sounded great and so we set off at 5pm. We had to return the bicycles at 8pm. We went leisurely, stopping too often to take pictures of the beautiful scenery and visiting souvenir shops on the way etc. And thus, by the time we arrived at the other town and crossed the river, it was 7pm! So, we had to cover the return journey in half the time. And so, it was disciplined cycling with just one break in between. The cycle path was very convenient and extremely well marked.

We returned exactly at 8, just in time to hand back the bicycles before the place closed and before the driver's license of S was lost forever (he had to give it as a security deposit for the cycles). The cycle trip was 35 kms in total. I guess that is equivalent or more than all the cycling I might have done since coming to Hyderabad 13 years ago!

Dead exhausted, we were walking back slowly to the station to catch the train back to Vienna. On the way, we stopped at the tourist information centre which was closed, but with a free phone outside to call hotels/hostels for booking accommodation. S mistakenly dialed a place while playing with it and was not able to cancel the call. So, the people at the hotel picked it up and S just innocently asked them what time the last train back to Vienna was (It helped a lot that S is German). And they actually searched online and replied! The last train was in 10 mins and we were quite far from the station! So, we ran and ran and caught it, again just in time. And given that we were already exhausted, it wasn't an easy task at all. Just the fear of missing the train kept us going I guess.

The adventures of the day didn't end there. We reached Vienna at 10:30pm and were famished. But what places serve food at that time? Almost none! We had to scour the city centre for an open place and found one at 11:25pm. It was supposed to stop taking orders at 11:30 and close at 12. So we had one of the quickest dinners ever. Yeah, we could have gone to some McD kind of place but we wanted some nice proper food after all the hard work we had put in for that day! And after the hurried dinner, we had to somewhat rush to catch the last underground train back to the place where we were staying. Actually, we weren't in a hotel, we rented a furnished apartment for those 3 days as it was coming to be cheaper and better than a hotel.

Danube is an impressive river, quite blue and fast flowing. I enjoyed the trip a lot but it did come with a price— contrary to expectations, Budapest is not cheap at all and Vienna is expected to be expensive anyway.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

regular stuff that i never bought!

as i was tweeting about my new mp3/fm player being the first ever music player that i have bought, i realised that i haven't bought many regular accessories/instruments that are found with most people, even including me. so, as a means of procrastinating work and making the imminent deadline tougher to meet, i shall now rant about the stuff i never bought :P

£ laptop: never bought one. the one i have been using since the past 2 and 1/2 years is a tiny cute 11 inch, 1.3 kg weighing sony vaio that had been abandoned by my supervisor almost 4 yrs ago and went out of production around that time as well! ofcourse i also have a desktop at home which, again, has been brought from the lab! :P

£ fuel-powered vehicle: never owned one. infact the only vehicle, of any kind, i ever owned or bought was a bicycle 2 years ago. and that has been lying unused since 1yr 8 months :D.

£ camera: never owned one either. all the photos of my various trips have come about from others cameras or, rarely, from my mobile phone.

£ mobile phone: coming to mobile phones, i never bought one either! not that i don't have one. i have been using mobiles since almost 5 years. the first two mobiles were handed down from my brother (advantages of having a electronics-wise-spendthrift big bro ;) ) whenever he bought a new one for himself. the third and current one, which i have been using since 2.5 years was obtained for free with a service contract :P. the contract has ended a long time ago, but i never bothered to upgrade to a new phone either :-s.

£ video-games player: never had any of any kind! so, no PS or wii or xbox or gameboy or whatever for me. ever.

£ wrist watch: in fact, not just a wrist-watch, i surprisingly never bought any kind of time piece for myself. i have used quite a few wrist-watches, at least until mobiles made them almost redundant. the first one that i had as a kid was, again, handed down from my brother when he graduated to more fancier ones :P. the second one was won by me through some newspaper slogan writing contest. ironically, that had nokia branded on it! and that was more than 10 years ago! perhaps they entered the indian market by sponsoring my prize :P. the third one was won by me at an inter-school quiz contest. the fourth one, which i still use on flights (since mobiles need to be switched off) was given at RoboCup2005 in japan. no, this wasn't the prize, this was given to all participants. but i guess, direct utility wise, it has been more useful than the glassbox prize that i won :P. finally, the other wrist-watch i currently possess has been gifted by my brother (not handed down this time! :D)

£ music player: yeah, never owned or bought any kind of music player. never bought a tape recorder or a cd player or a walkman or an ipod and other appley stuff or a mp3 player or even a simple radio! until now. finally, have a tiny mp3/fm player. the ageing mobile phone, with a dying battery, will not be used for music-on-the-move anymore!!

oh yeah, next post has to be about my recent awesome trip ... has to be ... but will it?