Thursday, March 12, 2009

this is the hardest thing I've done

hardest thing

and this is the second time I've done it. Sorry this is another rant about PhDs!

I've spent a lot of this week working on the problem of 'horizontal bisectors in the straight skeleton'. The solution (i'll publish it here when I'm sure it works) was stupidly simple, but it's just one of a thousand snarls while implementing what I thought was a fairly simple routine. It means that this term has been effectively been a crash course in implementing computational geometry algorithms. The thing I feel guilty about is the small amount of output -the total code is less than a day's output when I was employed as a code monkey last year.

I've built this algorithm, for Sity, but a lot of the theory was lost on me. It's a bit of a legendary quest that I want to finish. I should understand this implementation well enough to really fix (rather than patch) any problems that occur, and extend it in bizzare and interesting ways. But the best thing is - I haven't been bored since I started.

I chose my own subject, it's up to me to get my supervisors interested in the subject rather than vice-versa. There's little related work going on at Glasgow (or anywhere in the UK really). The thing is, this is what I secretly always wanted (being a bit of a loner at heart), but keeping motivated is going to be a challenge.

I guess you build up tools that keep you going - conferences, daily/weekly routines and presentations. But I think there is very much another skill in keeping yourself interested. I've noticed this in a lot of the older generation of people who studied for PhD's years ago,will motivate themselves to thoughily research an area in (what looks like) zero effort. I guess it's an aquired skill. It means paying great attention to your state of mind, when you're energised you're ready to takle hard work, or break into pastures new. If you're tired it's important to have a juicy area to work on that's very involving and provides effortless motivation (for me this is programming).

It's much like tending a flame...add just wood to keep it going when there's a good bed of ashes, and pour on the petrol when it's about to go out. Perhaps silly metaphores are best not dwelt on, and attributed to the bleak Glaswegan winter.

1 comment:

  1. Sounds like machinima! Developing the tools to maintain motivation, neat way to describe the process. Seems to be on my mind also. Loving your videos on Vimeo -Kate

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