All entries for Friday 03 August 2007

August 03, 2007

Finishing Phase 1

I am glad to be able to say that I have overcome my writers block. A combination of further research and free writing was helped me most, no matte how good my own excuses were not to do exactly this. The more I wrote, the easier writing became, moreover, the whole subject matter started to make some sense. This shows me again that I should have done it much earlier, but than again I ask myself, what exactly I could have done differently in my preparation.
The Way I am working now is to write an annotated Bibliography, in which I summarise what I found interesting about a particular text. These summaries are not referenced, but completely emotive, as I found it simply takes too much time to note down any detail. In a sense, this works very well to get an overview over a topic, however, it consistently lets me down if I want to write more than a couple of bullet points on a subject. Because, this method also implies that I have to go back to each essay individually in order to find the particular passages that I need. Due to the time intensity of this, I do not make use out of all my material, because it is just simpler to stick to a confined number of sources. A vicious circle really.
I have written before on how great my enthusiasm for MindMaping software is and maybe it could offer me some guidance with this problem. Additionally to my annotated Bibliography, I could note down the passages that I believe to be relevant in my mindmap. Than, it should be relatively easy to access these parts, whilst I am writing my text. What I will note down and what will be left remains of course a question which no software will, hopefully, ever answer.
Content wise, I am consolidating my knowledge on higher education reform in Germany and start to look at the broader philosophical context. During my, gap filling, research I stumbled across some quite interesting articles that go beyond the report which I am just finishing of, but that may also be of some interest. One specifically targets the question of how European universities came on the path of marketisation at the end of the 1980s, so that should defiantly be of some interest.
Dan was also writing on his report for most of the day. We saw numerous parallels between German and British developments, especially regarding the expansion in the 1970s and the lack of funding in the 1980s. I guess, after that Britain took the more radical approach with electing Margaret Thatcher. Anyway, it is a real pleasure to discuss these things on the kitchen table, inspiring each other and spending new motivation. Hopefully this will stay the same when we start researching on the same topic tomorrow. But, I am sure it will because we are now both bringing in our own little field of expertise, which should equip us with some very individual way to analyse the same policy process


Raptors

And where would we be without our dinosaur friends…

( http://xkcd.com/ )


0vßß Event Generator – Week 5

Week five in the physics cave (literally – our office has no windows!) and we’ve made significant progress. For those of you reading this who forgot what it is we’re doing, the task is to create a program which simulates double-beta (ßß) decay events and produces a list of energies and angular distributions of the resultant particles.

The last few weeks involved implementing lots of helper functions and classes; numeric integration, a four-vector, various classes to represent different kinds of particles, and other associated trickery. This week, we started the biggest single part of the program; the event generation functionality itself.

At the start of this week we hoped to have this finished by today; unfortunately that did not happen! We’re getting close, though. Understanding what we have to do is half the task!

We’ve also named our project PEBBLE – momentum(p)-Energy ßß (double-Beta) Leptonic Event!


Why is it so difficult to write

Why is it so difficult to write? At least for me this was not only the most challenging part of my first year, but also proofs to be a major burden of my URSS project. Today, I targeted to simply finish of my research on the historic background of higher education reform and to write a scholarly essay on the matter. Well, I did not; despite three folders of extensive notes, advanced MindMaping software and a lot of good ideas. Instead, I found plenty of excuses to reopen my research, work on my annotated Bibliography and I even found myself downloading commentaries on the book Exodus from J-Store. But where does this apparent incapability to summarise the work I have done originate from.
I guess, one element of it is a fear of bullet points. Having read a lot of essays on my topic, believing to have understood them makes me very self conscious. Indeed, I am very much inclined to judge the my own work by the same standards as the published work that I have been using as resources for my information. Not surprisingly, I always loose in this comparison, feeling inferior, or even like someone who is simply using other peoples ideas. Since I know where I have drawn my ideas from it feels like cheating not simply to refer others to these works.
The second problem is structure. My notes follow the structure of the works which I consulted, but of course these differ and opposed to first year classes there are no lecture notes which provide a general just of how things are. Yesterdays entry briefly considered this problem, even though it did not go into sufficient depth. It is not a clear cut decision whether to take a chronological or a thematic structure in the first place; moreover, arranging ones thoughts around the structure chosen seems even more challenging. Especially after the first 200 words written it is incredibly tempting simply to dismiss everything and to construct a whole new plan. This leads to nothing but frustration.
For my last report I used the constructive option of simply forcing myself to write. I do not claim that the outcome was the most pleasant experience for my supervisor, not did it satisfy PAIS referencing standards, but it left myself with a sense of accomplishment. What I will try tomorrow is to use this experience, free writing a semi structured report. However, I will be a little bit more disciplined compared to my last report, aiming for a fully referenced work. This is very much possible because I have a full day to do this. And once it is done Dan and I will finally able to focus on our main topic of enquiry: The Bologna Process.


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