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Monthly Archives: June 2007

behold: Candidate Brochu

It took me two years to find an area of research, two months to turn it into a research topic, two weeks to write a proposal, two days to write a proposal talk, two hours to defend it, and two minutes to pass it. But now, I’m a PhD student no more: I’m officially a PhD candidate. With all the rights and privileges thereof. Which is to say: none, other than calling myself a PhD candidate. Which I plan to, often and repeatedly. Oh, and I can teach a course now if I want.

The proposal defence is one of several milestones on the road to doctoriality. It consists of presenting an outline of what you intend to do for your thesis and what you’ve done to date, and then a fairly gruelling defence session where you stand in front of a committee of professors who take turns interrogating you. Possibly for hours (mine went for about 90 minutes). It’s not exactly adversarial, but it’s not what you’d call “friendly”, either. Though for me it was ultimately just exhausting.

proposal preparation

proposal_snip.jpgTomorrow, I will present and defend my PhD thesis proposal to a committee of professors, and whoever else shows up. While I’m not particularly worried about it (according to local legend, only one person in the history of the department has failed outright), I really hate giving talks. Actually, that’s untrue: the talk isn’t so bad. It’s the writing of the talk, thinking about what I will have to say, and trying to preempt the questions and criticisms that sets me on edge. Will this be the time I’m exposed for the fraud I am?

the mystery of the daytime idle

sweet black nectar of lifeOne of the perks of being a PhD student in my field is being one of the daytime idle. While I usually work either in my room or in my lab, when the weather’s nice and no deadlines loom, I’ll toss my PowerBook and some papers into my messenger bag and spend the afternoon working in some hipster coffee shop on Main Street. Thanks to the magic of screen, I can even run experiments on the department machines.

The thing I always wonder, though, is who are all these other people here on a Wednesday afternoon? Turns out I’m not the only one who wonders that. A San Francisco journalist dealt with the question the old-fashioned way: by asking them.

we’re back

Everything should be more-or-less functional now. Which is to say, if anything looks obviously broken, please let me know (by emailing me, or leaving a comment).

Also, how do you all like the new site design? Here are a few of the review highlights I’ve received already!

It’s good. You don’t want it to look like you spent too much time working on it.


The categories at the top. When you try to scroll down to get to something lower than the banner it’s broken.


Is it supposed to look like that?


creative destruction

I’ve managed to get the basic functionality back after last-night’s hosing of this here blog. I used this opportunity to make a few changes, such as updating to WordPress 2.2. I’m probably going to make a few changes to how I maintain this blog, too, such as posting my movie reviews as articles, instead of burying them half-way down the sidebar. I’m thinking about also periodically posting lists of links that I don’t have the time or inclination to properly write about. In the “immediately apparent” category, I’ve switched to a new look, using the Water 1.1 theme. It’s a much cleaner theme, though I’m not sure it suits my writing style, which tends to be a bit more chaotic, even though, swear to Bob, I’m trying to be concise (I hate long, rambling blog posts just as much as you do). It also has those cool drop-down menus above the banner, which I will turn to my own purposes.

The new banner is from a picture I took on my trip to Southeast Asia. The phones are actually underground, in a massive indoor shopping center in Bangkok. A bomb had gone off on the block a few days before, so it was nearly deserted. I’m not sure setting the rest of my colour theme to match the phones is going to work out, though. Orange and green still look too much like Christmas.

Anyway, site’s still a mess, so don’t bother telling me things are broken until I tell you I don’t think anything’s broken. Because things surely are broken.