November 30, 2009

Let there be light in the darkness of thesis writing

If I could map out my enthusiasm for my research in a line graph it would probably look like this:

Figure X: Enthusiasm Count for  Thesis Writing

As shown in Figure X above, there was a drastic plunge in May, June, July and at the moment of speaking, in November. This lack of enthusiasm was entirely my fault, being mood-driven and all. I was  uninspired, my work got sloppy and as days went by, I became more and more demotivated.

Suddenly, the unexpected happened; I saw a flashlight in the middle of the tunnel! How did this happen?

You see, a very inspiring session during the recent NZ Postgraduate Conference somehow knocked some sense into me. It gave me a mild concussion but I really needed the wakeup call. I'm still in the tunnel, where everything's dark and unknown but at least now I have a flashlight to guide me through my journey.

The session was facilitated by two presenters who developed a programme to help PhD students succeed in their studies. From this project, they pooled together some valuable tips on how to be a sucessful thesis student. I don't think I can or am legally allowed to relay everything that was presented in the session, so I will just highlight the crucial ones. My version is of course simpler and less refined compared to the authors'.

Here goes...

Most thesis students suffer from two types of diseases:

- the belief that reading one more article will solve your research problems (Social Science student)

- The belief that doing one more experiment will solve all your research problems (Science student)

The moral of the story: You'll never get things done if you have these beliefs.

Myth 1
"I'll get it all clear in my head first and then write it down"
According to the presenters, this is so WRONG because
  • writing is not recording
  • writing is a creative process
  • writing clarifies your thinking
Myth 2
"I'll write when I feel ready and I'm not ready yet" (This is so me)
  • You may never feel ready
  • You have to write before you feel ready
  • That means now!
Just Do It
  • Write early and often
  • Bingeing vs. Snacking (Writing once in a blue moon vs. writing regularly - a research done has shown that academic staff who wrote 30 minutes everyday produced more journals than those who wrote occasionally)
  • Practice the golden hour - write for 2 hours everyday preferably in the morning (our brain is more alert in the morning, it is less used and not distracted by mental chores. Once we read emails, take calls and do stuff, we'll have more difficulty concentrating)
  • Assume position (Sit down in front of your pc)
  • Stay in position and nail your feet to the floor (Don't go anywhere for 2 hours - be disciplined)
  • Call supervisors and not wait to be called
  • Regular feedback will speed things up
  • Ask for specific feedback
  • Don't take comments personally
Last but not least, be REALISTIC - It's just a thesis, not a Nobel Prize

Notes taken during Hugh Kearns & Maria Gardiner's presentation entitled Some Secrets from Highly Sucessful Thesis Students at the 2009 NZPGC.

There you have it. The Dos and Don'ts. By applying these tips, struggling students like me can (hopefully) steer off from becoming another statistics in the failure category. Hope this helps :)


A Weekend in Windy Wellington

The yuckiest thing about coming home from a holiday is facing the inevitable, post-holiday mood. Don’t you just hate going back to work after a blissful week of fun? Yeah, I thought so. Well, as the world accelerates back into real time, I have to slowly bring myself back to reality and start working on my thesis.

But before I drift into the dreariness of academic writing, I thought I’d share with you a glimpse of my holiday in Wellington.

It was my first time to Wellington and I was there for the NZ Postgraduate conference held at Victoria University (will talk about the conference in another post). Since hubby and I had never been to any parts of the North Island before, we decided to turn this conference trip into a weekend-holiday escapade. A very brief one but satisfying nonetheless.

A bit about Wellington. It is the capital city of New Zealand and the second largest city in the country with a population of 423,765. Located between a beautiful harbour and rolling green hills, the city has a scenic view of the waterfront and the famous Mt. Victoria.

I was blown away when we first arrived in Wellington. It is nothing like Christchurch. Christchurch is beautiful but it is just that. Beautiful and boring and completely flat. Wellington is vibrant and exciting and hilly. The complete opposite of Christchurch.

We didn’t get to do much on the first day because I was more focused on my presentation. So all we did was stroll along Lambton Quay, where our hotel was located and take in the beautiful architecture of the cosmopolitan city. The fabulous boutiques, the busy streets and the lovely fashionistas sipping Lattes at baristas gave a Sex and the City vibe to Wellington. Hehe. I loved it. I’ve never been to New York but it sure felt good to imagine I was there.

The next day was presentation day. Two words. Nerve-wrecking.

Moving on…

With a 3 year old and a baby in tow, we didn’t want to be ambitious in this trip so we decided to do unadventurous activities instead. The next day we paid a visit to the Wellington Zoo. I wasn’t entirely excited about the visit because let’s face it, it’s a zoo, not a shopping mall.

Anyway, I was hoping the wild animals like Giraffes, Chimpanzees and Kangaroos would create a sparkle in Alden’s eye you know. I had this picture of Alden getting excited as he sees a real lion roar, shouting “mama, mama! Lion! Lion!”. But none of that happened. He was happy, yes, but there was no adrenaline rush. At certain times during our visit, I could see that hubby was more excited than the little one. Not surprising at all.

When it was time to go home, Alden didn’t want to get out of the rented stroller so I said

“We are going for a BUS ride”

His eyes sparkled as he got out from the pusher in less than a second. We took a Go-Wellington Bus back to the  hotel and it only cost $6.00. The bus trip was indeed the climax of Alden's day.

That night, we had dinner at Istana Malaysia, a Malaysian restaurant located at Courtenay Place somewhere along Allen Street. The restaurant has a really nice Malaysian atmosphere so you can’t help but feel relaxed. I ordered nasi lemak with rendang, hubby ordered Rice with lamb curry and soto ayam for alden. The verdict? Simply marvelous. It’s been awhile since we had authentic Malaysian cuisine and that night we really had a scrumptious meal.

On the last day, we visited the innovative and interactive Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa. If you are interested in arts and culture then you can spend a few hours or the whole day exploring Te Papa. The museum is unlike most museums I’ve seen. It is modern and interactive, with an array of national art collections and world class exhibitions. Personally, I feel it’s too unconventional for my taste because it looks more like a planetarium to me. Having said that, I must say they do a very good job attracting the public to the museum as it is reported that an average of 1.3 million people visit the museum every year.

If we had more time, we would've expanded our journey to the outskirts of Wellington and perhaps visit a nice vineyard in the countryside. *SIGH* Well I'm sure we'll get to do more stuff the next time we visit. So that was it, our wonderful weekend in windy Wellington.

November 16, 2009

Spring fever is over, summer's here

Spring fever is over, summer’s here,
Can’t believe it has been a year,
What have I done for two semesters?
Nothing much, Oh dear! Oh dear!

Spring fever is over, summer’s here,
Deadlines draw near, but I don’t bother,
Tis’ a syndrome faced by many writers,
PROCRASTINATE – does that sound familiar?

Spring fever is over, summer’s here,
It’s time to switch gears, no time to ponder,
Do it now, instead of later,
It sounds clich├ęd but I need a closer;

Goodbye spring, welcome summer,
Everything should be better and brighter,
Create in your mind a print of the future,
What’s foggy will be clear, your doubts disappear.

November 9, 2009

A Day at the Park

With summer fast approaching, people are starting to gear up for outdoor activities like swimming, BBQ, gardening and hiking. Spring is still here but the temperatures are getting warmer now and once in awhile, it gets unbearably  hot, it almost feels like I'm in Kota Kinabalu Sabah. Hehe. In the spirit of celebrating the end of spring, we decided to take advantage of the lovely weather and go for an outing at the Ferrymead Heritage Park.

Ferrymead park is an ideal place for a family outing especially if you have  a Thomas & Friends enthusiast  like Alden in your brood. The park’s biggest attractions are the unique tram and train rides offered to visitors. I personally think it is a must to visit on a Steam Sunday because that's when all the steam engines make a rare appearance and visitors can have as many rides as they want . Steam Sundays are held on the first Sunday of March to November and every Sunday in December, January and February.

The park presents an early 1900 Moorhouse township that goes way back to the Colonial times. Everything is so well-preserved and the town really has cowboy-feel to it  you know. Older visitors will definitely enjoy viewing the major heritage collections of transport and technology in the museum area. Apart from exciting train rides, the park also offers lots of exciting activities such as horse rides, riding the 2Ft Railway and sightseeing.

Alden got a bit hysterical when he first saw the steam train. He shouted  James! James! James!” (as in James no 5 in Thomas and Friends) and cheered in glee as a red steam engine passed us by. I had never seen him that happy. Like a monkey possessed, he was jumping up and down, shouting “TUT-TUT! TUT-TUT!” excitedly. Can you picture that?

We had a considerable number of train rides at the park and after an hour Alden got really tired. Towards the end of our tour, all his enthusiasm had dwindled down and he could barely keep his eyes open. There was even a drunken swagger to his walk, making him fall every now and then. We wanted to call it a day, but Alden still hadn’t had enough. ENERGIZER kan. So okay, we put up with him and continued our tour to the Fire Museum.

I didn't expect we'd end up spending a good three hours at the park. By the time we left, it was already 3.00 pm and we were all famished. Alden was cranky, Alva was restless and  I suddenly had this awful headache. But none of that mattered. We had a fantastic time that day :)

November 3, 2009

My green-eyed toddler

If I had done some research on How to prepare your toddler for a new baby, I would've discovered some useful tips on preventing Alden from being jealous of Alva. I did everything wrong the moment Alva was born, not knowing  these tips:
  • Do not leave changes to your son's routine until the baby comes.  Do them asap so he doesn't think it's all the new baby's fault and harbour resentment. (Oops. 2 weeks before I delivered, we added Alden's Preschool sessions to accomodate my demanding pregnancy) 
  • Do borrow a baby for an hour or so close to delivery date (several times if possible) and send its mother/father away so you can sit with it just you, your son and talk about it to him. What it does, how it eats, that it's okay that it cries, that you're going to have one of these come live in your house soon, etc. (Are you kidding me? Borrow a baby from where? Video-EZY?)
  • Do not hold the baby the first time that the older child meets him/her so he doesn't feel deposed. (Guilty as charged. I was holding Alva when Alden came to visit me at the hospital)  
  • Do get a special present for the older baby - it's as if the newborn is bringing a special present for the older baby. (We got him a toy 4 days after he met the baby, so this doesn't count)
More tips can be retrieved from

Until today, Alden is still sore about having a little sister.  He used to be the center of attention  but with Alva in the picture, he feels that mummy's affection is now lavished on her instead. I know he is jealous of the time that Alva spends with me because whenever I hold her, he starts throwing tantrums. There is a lot of kicking, screaming, crying and whining and if I don't watch him he will throw stuff at her. It's so hard not to freak out when he does this and the sheer effort of controlling my anger is adding years to my face. When Alden starts making money, he better pay for my botox treatment. He owes me that much.

Last week his jealousy got the better of him and he started misbehaving at home; annoying me by covering Alva's face with diapers and putting his toys all over her body. This morning while I was washing my hair, the same thing happened. I had only spent 5 minutes in the shower when I heard Alva's desperate cry for help. I ran to the living room only to find her covered with T-shirts, dirty sneakers and a pillow. Tears were trailing down her cheeks, kesian kan? And Alden? He was hiding in the bedroom.

Behind all that mischievous exterior, I see a loving little boy, yearning for mommy's undivided attention. So the question is, how do I tell Alden that my preoccupation with her baby sister doesn’t mean he’s not every bit as important to me as he always was? Will he understand? Nah, I guess he won't. I think all I need to do is show him how much he matters to me, which means we are back to square one.

This story doesn't have a happy ending yet, but once it does, I'll keep you posted.


November 1, 2009

Overdued entry

Before this post-birthday entry becomes stale, I thought it's a good idea to publish it as promised.

What I did...
I had dinner with hubby and kids at this Vietnamese restaurant along Riccarton road. Since both hubby and I were hungry at that time, the food was rated "supremely delicious". We went out quite early so by the time we finished, we still had time to go for a stroll at a shopping mall down town. We spent about an hour at South City mall before heading home.

What made me happy...
This year, hubby gave me an 8 in 1 hair styler that comes with a matching case. I really love it! Something practical and useful you know. I had wanted a microdermabrasion kit I saw on TV  but that takes about 4 weeks to arrive so I had to settle for the styler instead. A microdermabrasion kit for my Christmas present maybe? :)

My new toy

My colleagues surprised me with these Irises
Being superstitious...
Last but not least, my birthday wish. Call me silly, but I have this ab-surd superstition about having a birthday wish and I view it as a very crucial part of the birthday ritual. I always believe that my wishes will more or less come true once I've blown the candles on my birthday cake. It's like believing in Santa. No such thing right? Well, that's my own superstition. How about you? Do you believe in this myth?

As always, I got a bit greedy and made more than 1 wish when I blew the candles.

I had a wonderful birthday. Thanks to all of you who showed you care :-)