• Meeting with Supervisor

    I had a short meeting with Thufir today to check on how much progress I have made at reintegrating myself back into the flow of university life. The number of things I managed to check-off from my last to-do list was woefully short, but still progress of a sort. For example, retroactive intermission was granted. I now have until September 30th, 2006 to finish my DPhil. That required very little work on my part or my supervisor’s to put through. It was the fastest resolved intermission request ever. I also wrote up my 30 words and scrounged up a picture for the next HCT brochure. The only other completed task off my list was sending an e-mail to the Bulletin mentioning my Open University teaching award, about which I have yet to hear anything. As I only submitted that late last week, he figured it was still early days.

    Despite my pitiful progress on the items on my list, I hadn’t been completely idle. I was able to report that I had been investing time in helping coordinate and set-up the new FirstClass intranet to be used by the IDEAs Lab. I have also been providing some advice to Julie Coultas on creating a web-site specification for her EduServ project. These activities do not directly further my Ph.D. work, but Thufir pointed out that they serve to help relieve the intrinsic isolation of my position in the group, as I am not working on a project with others and my work is not very directly related to most of the Lab’s projects. I must be careful, however, not to spend the majority of my time on Lab-related work.
    On my list of things still to do is to sort out my MATLAB problems. Prior to leaving for Canada last October, I was in correspondence with Dr. Tom Browne, who is responsible for academic license management here at the University of Sussex. While the software can be run directly on campus from various UNIX boxes, copying and pasting data/diagrams between the UNIX machine and the Mac isn’t particular convenient. Sussex maintains a pool of MATLAB licenses. Purchasing individual licenses and toolkits is very expensive, so I have been trying to acquire the use of a license for use on my Macintosh. I need to follow up and see what the status of this last was.
    One of the things Thufir is concerned about is that I have been basically stuck at the same point of my Ph.D. for several years now. Of course, that has not been helped by my lengthy absences due to work and my poor health over the past few years. It also has not been helped by the fact that the analysis I need to do is quite tricky and not understood by many people. Thufir admitted that the statistics was beyond him. Imagine a supervisor not knowing everything, but he was happy to admit he’s not the end-all, be-all for everything. He tried forwarding me to various people and I spent ages asking people for advice and help all over the Internet and locally before I chanced across something on my own. The other factor that has been impeding the analysis is that statistics is not my strong point. I do not enjoy doing this analysis, yet it is hanging over my head like the sword of Damocles. He worries the analysis tarpit is making my Ph.D. a chore and leading to anxiety and a constant circling without any substantial progress. He is looking for ways to help me break the “logjam.” He suggested two things. One thing was to look for something “fun” that I could start work on now, which might help rekindle my enthusiasm for my project. Another related idea is to see if there is something I can do which does not hinge upon the results of the analysis, perhaps, for example, some of the writing. I promised to look at that as I continue my work on updating my timeline.
    Finally, we discussed my general health and wellbeing. I confessed to being tired, after a hard week the last time he saw me of preparing for a big client demo and then following it up the week after with energy-intensive marking. He wondered if I could afford to not do the work at the Open University. The financials do not allow that at the present time. Almost half of what my company paid me (pre-tax!) went out as rent here in England. Without the OU income, I would have been in the hole. Nevertheless, I did discuss with him my idea of working more at the OU, maybe up to three days a week and none for my own company. I would probably make more money, be less stressed, and have more time to spend on my Ph.D. Doing so, particularly without planning and warning, would place my own company in a precarious position, so I will need to muddle along as best as possible for the moment.
    Next meeting is April 2nd at 16:30.
    Task list:
    - Resurrect and review Ph.D. plan.
    - Sort out MATLAB issues
    - Work on CSR version of my paper so that I can submit it for publication and send it off to my external advisor