What can I say except it was not my intention to leave the blog for so long. And that’s the last time I feel guilty for not publishing a blog post again. Guilt is a dangerous emotion and more so if one is severely critical of himself in the first place. A recent guilt trip, back in June was related to skipping chunks of a conference presentation because I was likely to run over. (That wasn’t the guilty part. The guilty part was the likelihood of presenting past my slot.) Again that is another last time, I feel guilty about running over.
It’s been four months after all, I’ve not been on holiday or anything! We’ll pick off almost immediately where we left off. Essentially I bombarded myself further research into software aging and rejuvenation, petrinets, artificial neural networks, load balancing, sundry and a paper to write for my first foray into academic publishing. As I was (and still am), into my analysis stage I was making notes and brief ideas on my observations and so wanted to make a new point in the upcoming paper. Eventually I realised this was a gargantuan idea given the amount of background literature I would have to communicate. I went about doing what I should’ve done in the first place. Which was to turn my proposal into a review-cum-foundation paper for my further research and not design an entire framework. That was essentially my April and early May. Being a ditz, it felt like that.
At some point in May the dual-blind-peer-reviews came back for the paper I had submitted. There were no more than eight sentences of criticism between them, indicating it was good enough to publish. Which is awesome but I had to meddle. I authored another paper, boosting the technical side of the original and making it less of a ‘review paper’. I also edited the already accepted one with small improvements. Sensibility, as ever shone through and and I simply submitted the latter. “Why? Why?” I ask myself repeatedly now as I am sure you did as you read. Why did I waste time writing a paper, which bar the introduction and a few sections was completely different to the paper that had been accepted? Despite the waste of time I’ve got a few thousand words and a handful of references I’ve never published which are read narrower and closer to crux of my yet-to-be-titled doctorate certificate. No doubt they have a reuse value for future papers.
It took till the end of June before the conference happened. In my view, out of all the presentations I’ve ever given this was my all time worst. I got stuck on the opening introduction, fumbled with the laser pointer and raced to the finish whilst forgetting the contents. Undoubtedly so, the worst. My subconscious was idle, my conscious mind was tired whilst my physical self was nervous and largely ignored until I stood in front of the projected Windows desktop at the foot of the room. The past six weeks have been mostly focusing on redefining my confidences. Silent but violent farts of wisdom about how to survive a Ph.D are found everywhere http://www.theory.org.uk/david/phdtips.htm.
I went to my director of studies back in June when I first started feeling a little less certain and I told him of my change of attitude, that I am less confident than when I started and he said. “Good.” Not maliciously, we’re weird us academics, he didn’t take what I said the wrong way and I didn’t take his reply the wrong way either. Lack of confidence shouldn’t impart a lack of motivation or an absence of belief in ones research. There is no drop in motivation to witness here! More so I came into this without a proposal so beginning with personal goals such as first publication out in sixth months, Ph.D finished in 2.5 years max are somewhat lofty. I’ve had to adjust my attitude and although I was doing my best to ignore it, my confidence took a blow and that’s was coming across in my work.
It’s not all doom and gloom, the presentation kept the attention of the audience in the track it was in it’s just that the next session (The one immediately after my presentation) was the old conference favourite, lunch. Plus there was no recording so you don’t get to witness my shabby display of a computer scientist! Since that lunch I guess the best word I can use to explain my academic activities is that I have been cogitating over my problem, assumptions, solution, novelty and future work: My transfer (From MPhil to Ph.D) is due in eight or nine weeks and to be honest I have a very narrow idea about what it should look like, other than I am presently writing up a methodology for it and a few handfuls of other things.
I found out today that along with the transfer report to Ph.D there is also an oral exam / viva / presentation. I didn’t know about this, it’s a revelation so based on my ‘knife’s edge registration submission’ experience I am attempting to develop an ‘escape / holiday’ plan for immediately after transfer!