Sunday, May 24, 2020

Heatwave no longer

After the 40°C+ temperatures last week, things cooled down on Saturday: the highest temperature outside was a more "modest" 30°C - but inside the air did not cool, being a few degrees hotter than outside. Today is much cooler: barely touching 20°C outside, and inside is also cooler. There were a few splatterings of rain just now!

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

More DBA news in May: it's getting even nearer the end

I last wrote on this topic 11 days ago, saying that "The only minor problem remaining is that a submission/certification form has to be inserted after the acknowledgments in the thesis. What I will do is create a PDF version of the thesis, split it after ten pages into two new documents, then merge the first split, the form and the second split into a new document. Fortunately I have a program that will do this without any bother." 

Not quite as easy as that. The file that denotes the layout of the thesis states that the order of the first few pages should be Title; Abstract; Acknowledgements; Dedication; Declaration; Table of contents; Abbreviations; List of tables; List of figures; and then the text. The appendices should come before the references. The order in my document was Title; Abstract; Table of contents; Abbreviations; List of tables; List of figures; Acknowledgements; Dedication; and of course the references came before the appendices (my supervisor told me to do this: previously the appendices came before the references). So I had to dig out three pages (A & D) and insert them in an earlier place. This shouldn't be a problem, but following the dedication was a section break, which causes the pages following this break to be numbered differently (the pre-text pages are numbered with Roman Numerals (i, iv, etc) whereas afterwards they are numbered normally). As a result, almost the entire thesis got numbered incorrectly. So I had to fix this.

Then I sent the entire document to a PDF printer which naturally creates a PDF (the F in PDF stands for 'file'); I extracted from this the first six pages (title, abstract, acknowledgments, dedication) into a new file and removed those pages from the original document. Then I merged the first six pages, the declaration form and the rest of the document into a new combined document.

After doing so, I discovered that the pagination had gone haywire: I had a blank page after the acknowledgments and tables were starting at the bottom of a page instead of the first line of the next page. So I went through the original Word document, trying to ensure that the pagination was correct. Then I repeated the entire PDF process (create, split, merge) only to discover that somehow two tables had been numbered incorrectly - instead of 13 and 14, they were now numbered 3 and 4 (I don't know how that happened). Another check to see that the lists of tables and figures is correct and then another PDF cycle. Still there were problems.

Then I remembered that Word has its own create PDF functionality: it might be better to use this than send the document to a PDF printer, as the latter can repaginate the document. Indeed this was so, as the PDF that I obtained directly from Word was paginated correctly. After checking that there were no more errors, I split the document and merged, creating the final document which also received a new name. Then it was over to Turnitin in order to upload the document to the university.

I informed the administrative director about the upload and asked about the binding process (apparently two or three copies have to be soft bound prior to the viva exam). After waiting a week with no response, I resent the letter, and yesterday afternoon received a reply. Not a word of congratulation at having got this far; instead dry words: "It is normally up to you to submit the bound examination copies of your thesis but it is obviously not possible at this time. I am waiting for confirmation from the University for the new process but I am assuming the version you submitted via Turnitin will suffice. "

I don't remember if I have mentioned the topic of the external examiner here. The viva is held with one external (to the University) examiner, one internal and my supervisor. My supervisor asked me several months ago about possible external examiners, which struck me as rather strange, as the university should know better than I. Normally I would have asked for someone who had been listed in the references, as this would imply a connection to my topic; there were no recent British authors referenced, so this idea didn't get very far. Then I searched the staff directories of a few British universities, looking for business orientated schools of information. I don't remember now how many I looked at before I found what seemed to be the perfect selection: a lecturer at Northumbria University (and thus reasonably close to Edinburgh) who worked several years for SAP before turning to academia. The administrative director wrote that this lecturer has agreed in principle to be the external examiner; now there is some form of bureaucratic process involved in signing her up.

I wonder whether this examiner gets paid by my university (i.e. from my tuition fees) or whether it is considered part of the job at her university and possibly my university has to reimburse hers. Or whether it's like peer reviewing papers for a professional journal, which is done for free. Also, the fact that her university is close to mine is now irrelevant as the viva will obviously be done via team working software ("We have successfully held four of these since the beginning of the lockdown and it has worked very well on each occasion" - I am surprised that there were so many doctoral candidates from my department at the same stage).

Yesterday's letter ends with the words "I’ll get back in touch once the examiners are approved". The tricky subject of fees will have to be discussed again: I got this wrong in my earlier blog. Fees have to be paid up until the final bound thesis is received, which can be a few months after the viva, depending on its results.

I doubt that I have mentioned this before, but there are five possible outcomes of the viva:
  1. to award the degree as is
  2. to award the degree subject to minor amendments 
  3. to require resubmission of the thesis with major amendments without a further viva 
  4. to require resubmission of the thesis with major amendments with a further viva  
  5. to fail the candidate.
Of these outcomes, the final one should never happen as the supervisor should only recommend the candidate to submit the thesis when it is complete in the supervisor's opinion. Failed theses are the supervisor's fault! The first outcome is very rare whereas the second is the most common. Of course, this outcome is the one that I expect for my thesis.

Sunday, May 17, 2020


A heatwave started yesterday which is forecast to last the entire week. The picture is of our barometer: the lowest figure (40.0) is the temperature outside - that's 40°C!!!

Inside is a mere 29.4°C. The time is not 20:16 but rather 1 pm.

At 9:30 pm yesterday the temperature was around 28°C; I didn't look to see what the temperature was at 5:30 am when I got up to take the dog for a walk but already I could feel the warm wind.

Naturally I am going out as little as possible.

I have to say that as much as I don't like cold, rainy days (I had enough of them in my childhood), they're infinitely better than 40.9°C torrid days (the temperature rose a little more after I took the picture). After all, one can wear a coat, put on boots and carry an umbrella for the rain and cold, but there is nothing that one can do about the desiccating heat.

Thursday, May 14, 2020

John Martyn vs Dave Evans

Listening to 'Stormbringer!' (the album) again, I noticed similarities between Martyn and Dave Evans: now and then they both feature two guitars playing along with female backing vocals. I have to say though that Dave Evans is much much better: the songs are more interesting and the guitar playing is from another world. It's true that Martyn's playing would improve, but he went in a different direction to the one presented in 'Stormbringer!'. I wonder what would have happened had Evans recorded for Island Records instead of the regional Village Thing. Probably he would have eschewed the bright lights, being too modest for success.

Looking for a suitable picture to display, I discover that someone has done the world a great service and uploaded to YouTube the complete cd version of 'The words inbetween' with the extra songs coming from his second (and less good) album. 

But more importantly, I found the following on the Internet :
The story goes that Ian A. Anderson and John Turner were sat in their habitual coffee shop, Splinters, trying to come up with a name for their new record label. At the time (the early 70s) Greenwich Village was naturally the mecca destination for any musician worth his 12-string, so the pair had taken to referring to their slice of Bristol as 'Clifton Village' (long before this was taken up by estate agents across the land, albeit in a very different fashion). And so The Village Thing was born; home to a great many extraordinary talents, not least of all Dave Evans, and his magnificent debut 'The Words In Between'. 
Like many albums of the era - and inclination - "Words" was recorded straight to tape in someone's home (in this instance, Ian Anderson's). Nothing unusual there – the DIY aspect of making records at this time was something of a necessity, rather than an aesthetic – but one has only to look a little further to realise that the sounds Dave Evans relayed to a shiny new Revox were unique. Not just the songs, but the guitar on which he played; every aspect of his sound was of his own design. No small feat during a time when most of his peers had to beg borrow or steal an instrument, just to fulfill their Saturday night slot at the Troubadour. 
Evans has rightfully earned cult status amongst anyone with an ear for the fingerpicking style of guitar. Even the most cursory glance at his 'Old Grey Whistle Test' session is enough to leave one spellbound – Lou Reed (in the audience at the time) was said to have been completely mesmerised by Evans' phenomenal – yet seemingly effortless – touch. As far as comparisons go, Evans could easily sit alongside the likes of Robbie Basho or John Fahey in terms of technical ability, but the rarity of his talent lies in his gift for melody, which is relayed both instrumentally, and via his sweet Welsh lilt. In a world where it seems as though every guitar LP of the 60s and 70s has been scrutinised within an inch of its life, 'The Words In Between' might just be that rare thing: a wonderfully arcane gem.

"The Words in Between' feels clear and effortless. It's a recording of just guitar and voice, and really does guide us to the spaces in-between, where we find solace, a calm warmth. Dave’s consoling voice comes through in his words, and his exquisite guitar playing guides us along on this lovely journey. I'm so happy that this album will be put back into the world -- for new ears to love, and for the old, worn out copies to be replaced.” Steve Gunn, 2018

"After Bert, John, Ralph and Wizz, where to next? Look further than this companionable compendium of small wonders. One of the last great undiscovered folk guitar albums of its era.", Pete Paphides, 2018

It's nice to know that someone else feels the same way as I do.

Today is 'Bonny black hare' day, and completely by coincidence that was one of the songs that I heard this morning when walking the dog.

The user interface in Blogger has been changed without recognition and is much less intiuitive IMHO. Inserting the above picture was an exercise in cruelty and I had to look at the HTML code of a previous post to see the necessary command to put the picture on the left with the text on the right. BTW, it's
style="clear: left; float: left; margin-bottom: 1em; margin-right: 1em;"
Edit from a few days later: I discovered that there is an almost hidden option, "Restore classic Blogger" (or similar). Choosing this restores the interface to how it used to be.

Sunday, May 10, 2020

Jamie Oliver inspires a chicken dish

I haven't blogged about food for several months, not so much because I haven't been eating but more because I haven't tried any new dishes.

Our satellite television provider has been varying its content: one 'open' channel (i.e. one that is covered in the general subscription) has been showing a variety of programmes, including one series, "Jamie Oliver in Italy". I like JO's programmes although generally I haven't particularly liked the dishes that he cooks. A programme on Italian cooking enables one to see some sights of rural Italy - something lacking in these Corona days - as well as new recipes.

Unfortunately, most of the recipes shown are not kosher: sea food, pork, meat with milk (cheese), rabbit.... One recipe which I did see which needs a little conversion is 'sweet and sour rabbit': obviously I'm not going to use rabbit, which is not kosher and not available in Israel. We have two pairs of chicken thighs and drumsticks waiting to be cooked, so here we go....

The recipe on the web site isn't the same as the recipe shown live on television, so I feel able to improvise a little. Here are my ingredients:
  • chicken portions
  • three spoonfuls of olive oil (the web site says brown the meat in the oil, but I didn't see this on television)
  • a cup of white wine in which has been dissolved a spoonful of sugar
  • a cup of balsamic vinegar (this replaces mosto)
  • a cup of non-alcoholic wine juice (the Italians use red wine, of course)
  • a cup of fig syrup (not in the original)
  • one sliced onion
  • chopped tomatoes (these were chopped into large pieces; I think it would have been better to have smaller pieces)
  • a cup of hot water
  • 50 grams chopped almonds
  • surprise ingredient: a teaspoon of marmite! This adds umami and colouring. 
Cook for one and a half hours over a low light with an uncovered pan in order to reduce the liquids and enhance the flavours.

The result was very tasty! Presumably I am going to cook this the next time that we have company - on Friday night the entire family was present for the first time in two months! The amounts of ingredients listed above were a bit too much for the small amount of chicken; I could double or treble the chicken without changing the rest of the quantities (after all, I can always add water).

In episode 6 of the series, Jamie visits the Tuscan town of Pitigliano, where he meets an elderly grandmother, apparently the only survivor of a once flourishing Jewish community, and learns how to cook stuffed artichokes (this looks like something that I am not going to attempt!). There is even a scene where Jamie and the grandmother sit in the local synagogue, looking at a picture of the pre-war community. No mention was made whatsoever about the laws of kashrut (no pancetta in this recipe!). Someone wrote about this episode here (warning: it's in Italian).

Saturday, May 09, 2020

DBA news in May: it's getting very near the end

I spent most of last weekend working again on my thesis, mainly adding summary sections to each chapter, but generally trying to improve the text and make the points as clear as can be. I uploaded the thesis to my supervisor who responded within a few days saying that the work was very good although that he had made a few minor changes. I had to scour the thesis looking for these and the only one which I could find relatively easily was the changing of a section title from 'Research failures' (i.e. topics which didn't work out as I had expected) to 'Research hindsights' - except that he wrote 'hindsights' with a grocer's apostrophe, i.e. hindsight's (when I pointed this out to him, he said that he was pleased that I found the deliberate mistake).

Afraid that I might have missed something more important, I tried to find out how I could display all the changes made in the document. Eventually I discovered that Review > Track changes > Reviewing pane would open a window with all the changes. Well, my supervisor did say that his changes were minor: capitalising a few words and hyphenating some, such as seven-stage.

He said that now was the time to get a second critique before the final submission and so on Thursday I uploaded the thesis as it currently stands. I contacted the DBA administrator to tell him of the upload and to request a reasonably quick response - last time it took five weeks to get the review - so I was surprised this morning to receive an email saying that there is only one review of the final thesis, and that "The next step, provided your supervisor is happy that you have addressed the previous feedback, is to submit your thesis for examination". So I suppose that the writing-up stage has now been completed!!!

I shall have to get used to the feeling that this is the final product. Externally I'm pleased because I will be able to submit a bound thesis during the period for which I have paid my fees (another month) - over the past few days I had been considering how to pay fees for another six months. Internally the doubt starts to creep in: impostor's syndrome.

The only minor problem remaining is that a submission/certification form has to be inserted after the acknowledgments in the thesis. What I will do is create a pdf version of the thesis, split it after ten pages into two new documents, then merge the first split, the form and the second split into a new document. Fortunately I have a program that will do this without any bother.

Sunday, May 03, 2020

A good weekend

I have just finished a very good weekend.

It started at around 7 am on Friday morning, when I read my private email. There was a message from my doctoral supervisor who wrote "I think the changes you have made have certainly helped the narrative flow of the document. I've added a few comments for you to consider, but I think this is just about 'ready for submission' ... The effort you've put into this document really shows! Well done!". From his feedback, it seemed that all he was asking was for summaries at the end of four chapters. I worked on this on and off during Friday and Saturday, adding a few more paragraphs at the end of those chapters. When I thought that I was done, I took yet another look through the thesis and realised that there was a section missing, something that we had never discussed. The final chapter restates the research questions that were presented at the beginning of the thesis; following them were stated the aims and objectives of the research. Nowhere in the thesis was anything written related to those aims and objectives, so I thought it necessary to add a section (another page) discussing whether the aims and objectives had been realised. I finished this off then uploaded to the supervisor what I hope is the final version, at around 8 pm yesterday evening.

I also did some paying work for some of my clients.

Over the past few days, I have been copy editing a book entitled "E = mc2" by David Bodanis; something went wrong when converting the epub format to mobi (which is what the Kindle wants), so I had to go through the entire book and fix the formatting. I didn't really read the book - I look forward to doing so in the next few days - but one part captured my interest, about an astronomer called Cecilia Payne, who in 1925 concluded in her doctoral thesis that the sun is about 75% hydrogen, and not iron as was previously thought. The scientific world ignored her until someone else (a man) arrived at the same conclusion. Her findings were ignored because she was a woman. While I was reading my own thesis, somewhere in the methodology chapter, I mentioned her in a footnote when I was writing about how the identity of the researcher should not make any difference in the exact sciences.

Yesterday was also my first grand-daughter's 4th birthday party. The rate of new Covid-19 infections in Israel (outside of the ultra-religious strongholds in Jerusalem and Bnei Barak) has dropped to zero in the past few days, so people are returning slowly to their previous habits. I had my mask on for most of the time and kept a distance from everyone else (no hugging), but I'm pleased that I was able to take part in the party.