March 6, 2009

Thesis Complete!

My PhD thesis is printed, collected, signed, collated with CD-ROMs and paperwork, packaged up and posted. So the thesis is now complete, at my end anyway. Hopefully. I’ll be absolutely sure when I have word back from Canberra that they got it okay and I did all the admin correctly.

This means, PhD wise, there’s nothing more to do until it is examined. In a few months time I’ll get back a report, which will probably have a whole bunch of corrections to make. If it goes well, the suggested corrections will be “minor”, which means the examiners don’t want to see it again… which effectively means I pass. If “major” corrections are needed, I’ll need to resubmit… which isn’t really a fail, but it means I’ll be sweating for months doing serious PhD work. Not good. If they really hate it, then I’m in big trouble. I doubt it’ll be that bad, but fingers crossed anway.

I should now be free to worry about new, 2009 business things, rather than finishing old 2008 things now. One less thing to worry about, but replaced with several dozen more. ;)

PS. Why did I never create a PhD category on this blog? This will have to go under Real Life, as it’s too late to add one in now.

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December 20, 2008

So Very Close to Done It Doesn’t Make Much Difference

I can now change my Ph.D. thesis completion status from “Almost Done” to “So Very Close to Done It Doesn’t Make Much Difference”. All I’ve got left to do is a few minor edits, one more check from my supervisor (I hope), and it’s off to the printers. Since everyone is away on holiday until January that means there is no real rush to finish, so I can kick back and enjoy the holidays.

Except I can’t. It doesn’t feel right unless I’m sitting at my desk in front of my computer. I think I’ve been at this a bit too long. I’ve got a bad case of internet addiction too. I might have to use the holiday break period to do some forcible changes to kick some bad habits.

Regardless of how set in stone some habits may be, I can now open the folder containing “to do” lists for post-Ph.D. plans. It is a rather jumbled mess of stuff I sketched down during the last year, but it will make a good list to begin with in 2009. I can start get serious about programming and art practice again, plus i can kick start some of my business ideas. I think it will take a week or two for me to shift mental gears. But it is good to be at this point, finally finally.

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November 29, 2008

Office revamp almost complete

Long time, no post again. I’m just generally bad at the blogging mindset. I’m waiting until I have a big milestone achieved I can write about, but none of them have been reached yet.

At the moment, I’m revamping my office space. All the major tasks are done, but there’s a bunch of minor details still to go. I’ve put on a new coat of paint, got some new bookcases and a filing cabinet, moved in some old furniture for reuse and got the basics all set up. I’ve still got to put up a whiteboard and unpack all my old files, which will take a while. I’ll post up some pics when I’m done.

I’m also putting some corrections into my thesis draft, and I’m starting to get a bit concerned about whether I can get this all done by the end of the year (which is my deadline). The document is content complete, except for any extra features I or my supervisor feel is worth adding. But the writing could use some more editing, and there’s always more to add. The main drawback is that I’m so sick of it by now it’s getting hard to muster up the willpower to do corrections. At least I can get through it by realising that it’s only a short matter of time before it can be send off to the printers and it’ll be all over.

I’ve also noticed an increase of spammer comments to this blog. Not a lot, but it’s the majority of the comments I’m getting at the moment. Hello spammer spider fans! I’m combating this by locking off the comments on any old post that a spam comment is sent to. I’m still contactable through recent posts, or through email (address username “david” at this web address will certainly get through.)

I’ll start posting more once I’ve got everything finished up, although I may be starting up a new blog and website in 2009…

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November 11, 2008

Brushing off the dust, kick starting up the journal.

Wow. I’ve been neglecting this journal for ages. I’ve been feeling guilty about that for weeks, but I didn’t think I’d done anything particularly journal worthy to post about.

The last post mentioned I was going on holiday - did that, had a nice relaxing time, ate a lot of pie, generally good times all round. I’ve been back for a while doing a variety of things, but mostly it’s been a combination of finishing up old ends and generally chilling out. And procrastinating by following the U.S. election, but that’s not a concern now!

The “finishing up old ends” part revolves around my PhD thesis write-up, which is still dragging along. These things have a tendency to eat up all available time until the deadline forces your hand. In my case, I think I’m up to the point where I’ve finished all that I can without external opinion. I’ve been spending the last week or two giving drafts to other people to review to me and fixing up based on their responses. With my deadline extended to the end of the year I haven’t felt pressed to push this hard, but I’m getting sick of having it over my head.

Since this review period has a lot of dead time between handing out documents for review and getting them back, I’ve been spending a lot of my time in the last week getting acquainted with my sister’s Xbox 360 which she’s kindly let me use while she’s overseas. So far all I’ve tried out is Fable 2. The console seems okay, but it sounds like a hand-held vacuum and Fable 2 is choppy at parts (most likely a fault of the game though). The DVD drive is pants though as it doesn’t appear to have any mechanism to hold the disc in place while it is spinning. My sister (another one, I’ve got three) was playing Fable 2 and accidently tipped the console a tiny bit while inspecting why it was making more noise than usual, and ended up converting it into a circle grinder. Thankfully my local EB store kindly sold me a disc warranty in retrospective.

Oh, and I’ve also been using this downtime to cut back on coffee, which explains why I didn’t make this post a few days ago. My coffee consumption was at stupid levels - I was getting serious withdrawal symptoms even when I cut back to three cups a day. I’m now down to two cups of half-coffee-half-decaf and the headaches have gone. I’m starting to regain the capacity to actually do things.

Now I’ve got my thesis into the end stages and satiated my game cravings, I can start preparation work for 2009. I need to figure out exactly what it is that I want to do; for the first time in an age I only have the goals I set myself.

Starting this process might take a while. Most of my important gear is still in boxes, and currently I have no space to unpack them. It’s going to be a complex reshuffling manoeuvre. Stuff will need to be tossed to make room for the stuff I don’t want to toss but need to move to make space for the stuff I need to use. Since some of the stuff isn’t mine, that adds an extra layer of complication. Factor in that I’ve also got media catch-up in the form of several enticing computer games and about every major movie release in the last two years constantly tempting me, and there’s a chance this might take a while. I’m not too fussed about taking November in a relaxed manner, but if I don’t hit 2009 prepared I’ll most likely regret it.

I’ll keep the journal updated now I’ve got less thesis-y things on my mind. Admittedly the next week might be a bit dull as I shift boxes around, but things should get more focused by December.

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October 12, 2008

Very almost complete is not complete enough

So it’s now some time later since I’m back in Melbourne, and I still haven’t finished up my Ph.D. thesis. This thing has a tendency to keep going on and on and on forever. Sigh.

I’d put it down to me losing that all important “looming deadline” motivation to get things done. Now I’ve shifted cities and have a technical extension until the end of the year, it’s easy to muddle through things and spend ages thinking of improvements I can add. Plus my productivity is at a crawl because I’m plain sick of the damn thing. I’ve got the document technically complete but rough in parts, and its up to the point where I figure a day or two of hard work will get the thing finished bar minor editing, but I need to draw a line in the sand about what I have to get done and get busy.

I’m on holiday from tomorrow for a few days, and while I was hoping to have everything sorted I’ll use this as an opportunity to kick myself out of the rut I’m in and get to business next weekend when I’m back. A few days on the beach will be good for clearing my mind.

However, once I’m done it’s <i>still</i> not going to be finished, as I’ve got to do some internal reviews; let my supervisor read over it a couple of times; etc. And unfortunately my supervisor is away overseas for a few weeks, so that adds some extra delays before I can officially declare it over. Hopefully though I can get this thing to the point where I only need to do very minor edits by the end of next weekend. If I get it to that point, then I’ll feel happy about moving on to other things (like properly unpacking!) in a gradual shift from Ph.D. work to business ideas.

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September 21, 2008

…And I’m back

I’ve made the trip to Melbourne successfully, at least by current assessments. Most of my life is still in boxes, but I’ve got my desk operational now so I’m back in business. I’ll be back to PhD work in a couple of hours.

I’m missing Canberra a little bit - it’s a nice town, and I’ll miss my friends there until we bump into each other again. Most people don’t seem to stay in Canberra for very long though, especially for research students, so my friends in my research lab will most likely scatter across the globe. I’ll have to keep tabs on the area to figure out where everyone ends up. But I grew up in Melbourne, so it’s nice to be back for a while. I’ll most likely stay in Melbourne for the short term, but I’ve got no idea where I’ll head eventually.

I’ve still got a bit more setting up to do, then I can get back to work.

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September 18, 2008

Au revoir, Canberra!

It’s 658 kilometres to Melbourne, we got a full tank of gas, half a pack of chewing gum, it’s early morning, and depending on glare conditions we’re wearing sunglasses.

I’m not heading south until Saturday, but I’ll be spending all of Friday packing and thus probably won’t be on the computer. It’s time to pack up the accumulated belongings I’ve collected over since I’ve been here in Canberra and move back to my home town of Melbourne and see what’s changed over the last four years.

There’s not actually going to be much change in what I’ve been doing as I haven’t finished my thesis write-up. I’d still factor two more weeks of work, but it will be one week of heavy work and one week of sipping tea while casually making small corrections. So the stress doesn’t have long to go. Then I’ll post this baby back to Canberra and can sit back and relax for a fortnight or so before starting the next chapter of my life.

I’m looking forward to it.

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September 12, 2008

*Still* two weeks to go…

After a week of further work, it looks like I won’t be completely finished with my thesis by the time I have to move back to Melbourne. My supervisor and I agreed that while I’ll most likely have all the content included in the dissertation by next week, it might be a good idea to ensure the document is written in English rather than the crazy grammarless moon language it currently appears to be written in. Since editing will require time when I’m not quite so stressed we think it’s best to dedicate another week or two after I move cities to polish up the dissertation so it goes down well with the examiners.

This means I’ll have to delay everything by another week, but in practice it probably just means I’ll lose a bit of the watching-movies-and-eating-popcorn time I had budgeted in my thesis writeup recovery time. It’s no big loss if I don’t see some of the films I’ve missed over the last two years.

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September 4, 2008

Two weeks to go…

Only a fortnight left to go before my deadline. I’ve upgraded from “crunch mode” to “death march”. For the next week I’ll still be around on forums and the internet so I’ve got some contact with the outside world, but expect any posts from me to get madder and madder as the week progresses. I’m not sure if I’ll be on-line much in the final week as I’ll probably go completely flat out, 18 hours plus a day, but I’ll probably need a little bit of downtime here and there. Don’t expect coherence; the last time I went that level I pushed my brain so hard I forgot how to read English (this isn’t an exaggeration; I spend fifteen seconds trying to figure why I’d written a page of my paper in French, before a more sensible part of my brain chimed in that this didn’t make sense as I don’t know French. Yeah, that was a weird experience. That was the same week I must have been acting so weird that I inadvertently got attacked in the face by a duck. Good times.)

I’ll have to have at least a week to recover from this schedule, plus I’ll probably go cold turkey on the caffeine (which given my current level of consumption is going to really hurt for an entire week). But I’ll be back and posting much more frequently, as I plan on getting stuck in on a number of projects that are extremely post-worthy. I’ll post more then as I don’t want to get too distracted.

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August 20, 2008

What’s in a name?

Another post to say I aten’t dead. One month to go on the PhD write-up, and everything still feels only half done. Still, you’ve got to submit with the thesis you have, not the thesis you’d like to have. I’ll be in crunch mode from now until mid-September. I’ll still be posting now and again on the forums so I have some contact with the outside world, but don’t expect such luxuries as “coherence” in the stuff I type in the next few weeks, m’kay?

The only game related stuff I’ve done in the last month or two has been business planning related. Since I’m the only one who needs the whole plan I’m using a personal wiki on my computer for the planning. It’s great at the moment as it’s very informal, and if an idea pops in my head I can quickly jot it down so I can focus on other things, safe that the idea is recorded. These personal wikis are great for any non-linear document, and I only wish I started using them earlier.

The other business related thing I’ve been doing is more brainstorming of business names. Since I’ll be operating on-line I’ve made it a rule that whatever name I own must also have the dot-com web address available. I’d also prefer it if I didn’t have to tack an extra word like “Games” on the end, like having to register because is already taken. I don’t particular mind having something like “games” or “studios” at the end, but it does make it longer and it also limits me to using the business name in one area; if I decide to branch out to do a bit of consulting on the side I’d probably need a second name.

Unfortunately I’m bad at picking names. I spent ages trying to decide on “Trapper Zoid” for example. A good name needs to be memorable, relatively unique yet identifiable and spellable, represent something about you that you want to project to others. And on top of all that it needs to something you can live with for a while without you hating it.

My current plan is to register half a dozen or so dot-com address (already done) and then sit on them for a couple of months while I finish up my studies and set things up. During this extra time I can mull over the names in my subconscious and try them out on random people until I get a good feeling over which name I like the best. Then I’ll register that one as my business name. I’ll also have a few backups which I think are almost as good in case something goes awry when registering.

I’ve currently got three names that I think would be workable. However an issue has cropped up: while I like all three names and think any of them could be suitable, they all do project a slightly different image. Ideally I’d like to pick the name that projects the image closest to what I want the business to be, however I’m currently quite flexible about that. I don’t particular need on an artistic level to make a specific sort of game; I like nearly all genres and would love to work on any of them. So it’s not as if there’s an obvious choice based on my future vision of where I want to be.

I reckon that something as simple as the choice of name I go with could shape the future direction of the business. The choice of name will shape the logo I make, which will in turn shape the coloration and style of the webpage. And since I’ll be spending a lot of time working with that logo and style, it’s bound to have some effect on my inspiration and creativity. A certain style could suggest playful, cartoonish casual games, or it might skew me towards stylish niche indie games instead.

But then again, it could just be that deep down in my subconscious there’s a particular direction I want to go in that I don’t realise, and that my preference in name will reflect that. Which comes first, the chicken or the egg? It’s an interesting question.

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