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Friday, February 14, 2014

8 Days Till Derailment

Thesis Challenge, 開始! 
Thesis Ninja is ready to strike!

Getting on track:

The goal during my challenge is to not freak out, and (honestly) to spend as little time writing my paper as I need to. I've got a life, and a job besides writing this things, and I don't think sacrificing either is worth the stress it would cause me. The reality is that in order to finish a draft of my thesis paper, I have to complete ~70 pages over the next 60+ days. This shouldn't be too hard, considering Verne wrote about a character who covered the earth in 80. Actually, while typing this post I bought 《八十天環遊地球》for my Kindle App. The key, however, is staying on track, and making sure I put in the the correct amount of time per day to keep the pages churning. To do this, I'm using a Google Doc and Beemider

Beeminder:

Beeminder helps you keep track of anything quantifiable, and tracks one's progress on a Yellow Brick Road. During my thesis writing process, I'm using it to track two things: 
  • # of pages per day
  • # of hours spent per day
To complete my 70 page goal by April 17th, I'll need to average 1.28 pages/ day to stay on my yellow brick road. On average, I can produce a page of Chinese text (12pt Biaukai) in one hour of solid writing. That is nothing... I spend more time than that per day using social media!
I need to average 1.28 pages per day to stay on track. Bring it! 
Writing my thesis means more than just putting characters on a page. I also need to check sources, read other abstracts, look-up formatting and a lot of other stuff I hate, so I figure the best way to guarantee that I can write 1.28 pages per day, is to insure that I create the necessary time per day to make it happen. For this, I'm also using Beeminder. Only, I'm tracking raw hours that are put toward "Thesis work/ Day." My goal here is 23 hours per week, or a little more than four hours per day, five days a week. Very doable. 

Google Spreadsheet:

 The other way that I'll be tracking my work is through a custom Google Spreadsheet. It's based on the one I use for work, where it tracks start and end time, week total, all time total, etc., but I've modded it to track my Chinese studies, and also track different types of focused productivity: Listening, Speaking, Reading, Writing, Hand-Writing & Other. It's not dedicated to my thesis, but will serve for now. Especially since I need to be thinking about my upcoming TOCFL test... so 「一石兩鳥」and all that jazz! 


Track my entire study routine here!
The bonus of using a system like this, is that at a glance I can see how I'm allocating the "thesis work" time. In order to produce 1.28 pages per day. I'll need to spend at least 1.5 hours doing solid writing. As I finish up my Lit. Review, I should also be spending around one hour reading similar works (more on that tomorrow). I can track that with 讀 (2).


Currently Public 

I've created a Thesis Open-Source folder for anyone interested in checking it out. It currently contains a really outdated Master List of the papers I was reading, my Study Time Tracker, some Raw Data from Skritter, and a ton of other materials and papers I've collected along the way. I'll start adding my actual thesis to this folder tomorrow or Sunday.




Wednesday, February 12, 2014

64天00小時18分鐘31秒鐘

    『膠片很快沖出來了,他開始檢視哪張值得放大洗成照片,在第一張就發現了一件離奇的事。這張拍的是一個大商場外的一小片草地,他看到底片正中有一行白色的東西,細看是一排數字:1200:00:00。
        第二張底片上也有數字:1199:49:33。
        整捲膠片,每張底片上都有小小的一排數字!』-《三體》
Seeing the "Completed Draft of M.A. Thesis" countdown clock go live on my blog, I was instantly reminded of 汪淼's first discovery of the countdown timer in the Chinese sci-fi epic 《三體》, which is where the quote from above appears from. Although, unlike 汪淼 I know exactly what my countdown timer is counting down to-- April 17th, 2014, my self-imposed deadline for for a printable 草稿 of my graduate thesis. 


Due Date: April 17th, 2014

Why the 17th of April, one might ask? Aside from being the day Pui (my 未婚妻) is flying into MKE to spend some time with me, it's also a week before I step onto a plane for Taipei, and the day my parents get home from their vacation to Florida. In the days after this due-date I plan to:
  • Find a place to live for three years 
  • Buy a Subaru Outback Sport 
  • Drive said car across the country to Fremont, CA
  • Finish all wedding planning
  • Head to Taiwan on April 28th and live there for two months while fixing all the terrible mistakes I've made in my draft and preparing for my oral defense, while trying to 寰島 on my bike and party like a rockstar!
This is all so that I can defend my thesis in June and make final revisions (while still in Taiwan) before getting married on July 12th, and (hopefully) returning to UW-Milwaukee to continue teaching in it's Chinese Department as a Lecturer of Chinese. 

While I could probably delay and finish the thesis after the wedding (which might allow me to age with slightly more grace and less gray hairs) Pui made it very clear to me in San Francisco last week that, and I quote: 
"If you don't finish the thesis before we get married, I (Pui) am going to be very mad  at you..." -Pui L. 
Considering the fact that she still hasn't let me live down ordering my own beer from Sushi Express and not asking if she wanted one too, I'm guessing I don't want to find out what "mad" means in this instance... would there even be a wedding? 

Oh... did I mention... the thesis needs to be written in Chinese!

"So... how's your thesis coming?"

Pui and my mom seem to have a knack for asking this question on all the days I never have anything to report. Which is probably because I put off the writing for just about anything else that I could be doing. I could chalk it up to being afraid of failure, or fear of the unknown or something like that, but for now... let's just say that I'm being lazy, and some days I just don't feel like writing. With that being said, it isn't like I'm starting my thesis today from scratch. Here's what I've currently accomplished:
  • A workable 6 page Introduction Section (第一章:緒論)
  • 10+ pages for the Lit. Review (第二章:文獻探討)
  • Raw Data that has been crunched and partially interpreted (pending changes)
  • 45 slide PPT presentation of my M.A. research, presented at ACTFL in 2013
  • 168 peer-reviewed papers that have been catalogued, ranked based on relevance to my own thesis, with notes included on those with relevance of 7/10 or higher
  • Other stuff that makes me sound like I have more pages written than I actually do... 
I'm writing all of this on my blog not to brag, but to get my 屁股 back in gear on finishing this thing. Months have past, and while I've made progress, I still have a long way to go. Rather than keep my writing process locked away I've decide to make the entire thing public and open to any one who's interested in following my goal to the end. 

What will be public?

Everything! Eventually. Every missed character, every bad grammar pattern, every day of agony as I punch the space bar and delete key back and forth, trying to thing of something "smart" to say on the page (I'm doing it right now). The plan is to put links to a Google Drive folder, so that people can see what I'm working on, and maybe give me their thoughts, impressions, ideas etc. I'll try and keep my blog updated as well with the project. I don't want to spend too much time re-capping a given day. What can't be said in less than 25 minutes a day will be ignored on the blog for the most part. 

Tomorrow I'll be organizing my notes and data, but hopefully I'll have time to knock out a page or two about cognition and the theory of cognitive development as it pertains to non-native Chinese vs. Chinese speakers. I also want to create a spreadsheet that tracks some of my data, and displays it like a video game, because I think it would motive me to work harder.

Stay tuned for lots more in the days and weeks to come!

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