Friday, November 20, 2015

Interesting Times... An Eventful Day/Couple of Days

What an eventful day it's been today, capping off one hell of a week.  A whole range of events right across the spectrum....

Kicking off this week in dramatic fashion, there was of course the news of the tragic events in Paris last weekend, and the continuing fallout from that - including the tense atmosphere in Europe as people were left on edge when the terrorists would strike again, the manhunt and raids resulting in the death of the mastermind of the attacks, the news that IS had again executed some people they'd captured, and finally a sense of the world's leaders pulling together to try to find a resolution to the IS problem.

On a level closer to home, there were also two major events this week in the world of rugby (and particularly for NZ rugby): the sudden death of Jonah Lomu, and the retirement of Richie McCaw. Both giants and superstars of the game, as well as being notable New Zealanders.  Johan Lomu was well known as a "gentle giant" who's most well known as being able to launch a blistering attack on the opposition, basically steamrollering anyone and everything in his way. His playing career was unfortunately cut down in his prime by a kidney disorder, and he has spent the last few years with on/off health issues related to this.  Richie McCaw is another legend - he holds the current world record for playing the most test matches (148 - in what can best be described as quite a "physical" contact sport) and lead the All Blacks to 2 consecutive Rugby World Cup victories, breaking a 24 year drought, and doing so on a broken foot!

Research-wise, it's also been an eventful week.
  * On Wednesday, I finally got ethics approval to run some studies for my PhD research. Yay!
Something that most non-uni people are unaware of is that, in a university environment, anytime you want to do any research which will involve getting people to help perform any experiments, answer surveys/questions/test your software/etc. you'll need to send in a lengthy application form to a "Human Ethics Committee" for approval before you can (legally) go about collecting that data. As part of this process, you'll need to create some "Consent Forms" and "Information Sheets" - it can be said that the content of these can be quite extensive and can (in various contexts) look a bit excessive/self-obvious in many places  (IMO, sometimes the forms that participants will have to read and fill out will probably end up taking longer to handle than what you're actually getting them to do! Besides, they look quite scary/onerous as a result...).  Once you submit the application, it's at least 2-3 weeks before they'll get back to you (hey, they're academics too, so will have a lot on their plates too - besides, the review process understandably takes a while when dealing with paperwork like this), and you'll probably need to make some revisions... All in all, I now understand why certain types of research doesn't happen very much in the literature! It's because doing it in an academic/university setting involves a lot of this sort of overhead!

  * Yesterday, I was trying to get my experiment software set up on the eye tracker, to gather a few test sets of data (for developing the necessary data processing scripts). But, lo and behold, there were quite a few stumbling blocks this time to get through...  First, since it'd been a while since I'd used it, I couldn't remember the bloody password (and had left my notes about this at home). Gah!  Fortunately, just as I was about to go the "call a friend" route, inspiration struck XD    Now, I've got the password plastered in a few places on all the equipment I'm likely to carry around when doing eye tracking work ;)   Talk about defeating security!  Bahooey! :P

   A second more notable hurdle though was yet to come. No matter what I tried, I couldn't get the computer to detect the eye tracker! Oh noes! Turn it off and on again? Check. Check all the cables? Check. Check the sofrware configuration tools/etc? Check.... Oh, what was that again? Turn it off and on again?  Ah... bingo!  It turns out that the eye tracker has it's own power button, separate from the one used for the monitor it is attached to, and located at the back, in between two of the many plugs sticking out the back!  Well, we certainly learn something new everytime ;)

Finally, we get to today's events.
  1) My dentist called me back for another checkup today. As you'll probably know, I'm not exactly a fan of visiting dentists and having several pieces of equipment poking and prodding your mouth! So, that there is quite an event in itself ;)  (Also, it looks like I'll need to head back for another visit to get a filling put in... ugh!  Depending on the details of the procedure, from the sounds of things, it looks like this new technique can't come quickly enough.... Too late for this one though).   

  2) On my way to the dentist, I ran into an old classmate from high school. We first met on the first day of class in Year 9 - Math with Mr Guerrin, where she'd sit in front of me. We haven't seen each other for at least 7 years (well, since the end of HS, since she went south to Otago and I went to Canterbury), so it was great catching up briefly, and hearing about an upcoming reunion that is being organised (hopefully for next year).

  3) Finally, after many many years, a great wrong has finally been righted: Dad finally got a promotion at work! Congrats Dad, we're proud of you!   (Late this afternoon, a bunch of VIP's filed into his office to deliver the news :)

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