Overview of sylvester

Recent Posts

Where to Start...

I think your best place to start is with your original stated aims and objectives. The early part of your PhD should about getting to grips with existing knowledge in your area, idnetifying the strengths and weaknesses, being able to provide a critique and, most crucially, spotting the gaps in knowledge. So, as you say, start with the literature and work out from there. At first you'll think everything is relevant, it's only later when you are able to be more specific on which parts of the literature are directly relevant. I find reading very inspirational for generating ideas.

However, all this said, an early meeting with your supervisor(s) is very important so you don't go off course. They'll probably offer guidance on what papers you should be reading. You have the opportunity to show that you've done some reading already to show your keen and can work independently. So I'd ask for a meeting early in the semester to get things off and running.

Sylvester's 2000th post thread

Looking at my stats, it appears that this is my 2000th post on the great PGF, and in true Sylvester form, how better to celebrate this milestone than for me to post yet another off topic thread. In amongst the inane drivel I have posted on here over the last 40 months, I have occasionally dispensed some useful advice although you'll have to look hard to find it.

Firstly, I'd like to thank the PGF team for putting up with my posts but also to acknowledge some of the other posters with whom I embarked on this long journey - H, Tricky, 404, TheCoastman, DanB, DJWickid, MistaG, Pea, Lamb, Olivia, Ann, Golfpro, Juno, ChrisRolinski, Piglet, SixKitten to name but a few and most of whom seem to have moved in life. And then to some of the others I have encountered. Hopefully StanfordMan is still wowing the academic community by being annoyingly good at everything, that the 10 angry African ladies have moved out of the caravan in Holland by now, and that JRadetzsky has been able to move on in life. You'll also be pleased to know that my stalker still hasn't caught up with me.

To all more recent posters, I wish you well in your endeavours. Enjoy the process as much as you can so you can look back on it favourably in future years.

As for me, I'm approaching the end of my 3rd year and I've realistically got 6 months of work left to do. Onwards and upwards. But before I burst into tears Kate Winslet-style, I hope you'll join me for a glass of cyber champagne for my 2000th post!

Tips anyone?

You can actually work this to your advantage insofar as you make it clear from the outset that you are early in your investigations. Then during the course of the presentation you make some sort of tentative interpretation/conclusion but go onto say that you'd really welcome other people's thoughts on this, perhaps as a discussion after the presentation - a chance to network!

Occasionally you get someone who will go out of their way to come up with a stinker of a question. Invariably they are probably known to the rest of the community for being like that (wait for the groans). A friend of mine who had it done to them replied "Hmmm. Good question. Next?"

Mortgages take 2

It's all about risk to the lender. You say you're putting down 200K. That being the case, the lender's £30k is safe, if you default they can reimburse themselves from your capital so I'd have thought this was a no brainer for the lender. Have you tried any lenders yet?

Last on to post on this thread wins

404's been winning this for far too long, now it's my turn! 8-)

Should I upload my PhD Thesis?

To be honest, I'm with the others in NOT making your PhD available online. Legally, your PhD does not count as a publication and whilst that frees your from copyright isues in using other people's diagram in your thesis, it also means that you have no copyright over the content of your thesis, so I wouldn't bother until after you've juiced your PhD with proper publications.

Extension year

======= Date Modified 12 Aug 2009 13:04:50 =======
I'm always amazed how things differ between departments, let alone between different universities. You'd think they'd recognise that you need desk space more than ever now. Things here are not too bad. I have my own office, which obviously means I can shut my door and get on with things, and it looks like I can keep it into my 4th year, so I'm pretty happy on the whole.

May be have a chat with your PG director about what can be done?

Changing Work Habits

I went through something similar (and have occasional relapses). Up until very recently I persuaded myself that I was a nocturnal worker and whilst there is some merit in this (peace and quiet and away from office distractions), it did nothing for my stress levels. I've found when my stress levels soar too high I get into a paralysis where I can't get anything done. So, like you, I really started to beat myself up about it. So I ended up sitting down with a piece of paper and writing "what do I need to do get this thing done, stop procrastinating, and get my stress levels down." For me, I found the answer was to get up early every morning, get to the office an hour or two before everyone and basically try to break the back of my working day before lunchtime. I'd then be left with 2-3 hours work after lunch. I'd write on a piece of paper my target time to leave the office today and that spurred me on to crack on with my work. A second rule I forced on myself was no internet browisng (unless defined as work) until I've completed my working day. Of course, you always think of things you'd like to browse on the internet as the day progresses, so i'd write them down when the thought occurred and return to them later.

I think I've learned the hard way that how you start the day will define the day. So if i start the day on the internet then I'll be on and off it all day (hence the outright ban). Likewise, if I lie in bed in the morning, i'll be lethargic all day. Anyway, with all these light early mornings its pretty easy to get up in the morning (I prepare all my things and clothes the night before, i even shave the night before - so all i have to do to get up is throw myself in the shower, get dressed, bowl of ceareal and out in 20 minutes). Sounds a bit silly, but i'm giving myself no excuses to rollover in the mornings. I should say that the transition from owl to lark is a painful one and takes weeks to fully calibrate your body clock. The key to resetting your clock is getting up at the same time every morning and your sleep patterns will fall into place.

The upshot of this rambling spiel is that if I can, say, complete a full working day by 4 pm, then I can go home in a de-stressed, contented frame of mind that i've done my work for the day and then embark on guilt-free leisure pursuits in the evening.

Anyway, it's sleep time for me. I'm a 6 hour sleeper and I'm up at 6.30 am. My tuppence-worth. Good luck!

Hydrology or Arcaheology?

Have you considered fluvial geomorphology by chance? In particular the use of archaeological evidence to reconstruct the chronology of Holocene landscapes. The 2 disciplines you mention do not have to be mutually exclusive and there is a lot of research going on this area right now.


Funny you should mention that as I was grappling with the same problem over the weekend. Fortunately, I've solved it. Excel cannot export as a TIF. Indeed, Powerpoint can export as a TIF but only at 150 dpi. So what you need is a bit of add-on software which acts as a virtual printer (i.e. appears as a printer in your list but doesn't actually print, it instead saves it as an image. There are various paid-for versions out there, but after considerable faff on Sunday I managed to find a free add-on. It's called PDFCreator and yes, it's primary purpose is to create PDFs from whatever you choose to "print". However, it has options to save as other things - one being TIFF. When you send your document to "print", you select the PDFCreator printer, it opens the PDFCreator software and if you choose the Options button and click the "Formats" tab, you'll be able to choose TIFF as you're output and select the resolution you want.

One piece of advice when you use it. For some reason, if you choose the resolution in the TIFF screen it doesn't save it but instead reverts back to 150 dpi before it processes the image. Instead, if you choose the "Raw" format at the bottom of the list of Format options, set that to 300 dpi, when you click back to the TiFF format that too will have changed to 300 dpi. As long as you choose Save, these settings will be saved.

You'll have to play with it a few times so you get the hang of how it works, but it works an absolute treat for creating hi-res TIFFs and has thus far worked on lots of different software. In case you're wondering where I found out, I was trawling various forums on how to solve this problem and this was suggested by one of the Microsoft developers as a solution. The link is:


You know you have lost the plot when....

... having made a cup of tea, you put the kettle in the fridge and leave the milk bottle on the worktop (I've also put the sugar bowl in the fridge instead of the milk on another occasion!)

The nocturnal workers' thread

Welcome to the board. Not doing much tonight as I've been hard at it all day, so a well-earned rest. The rest of the night shift will no doubt be arriving at the coal face soon!

'The Zone' and how to get into it...

======= Date Modified 20 Oct 2008 22:06:16 =======
A few weeks ago I reached a bit of a crisis point where I pretty much shouted at myself:

"What do I have to do to stop myself from procrastinating?"

... and decided I needed to make serious changes which I've implemented and have made a big difference. As a result, I can get into the zone for long spells of most days. I've now found that if I get up early and cycle in (the incentive to get up is driven by the prospect of cycling in rush hour traffic, so I'm away before it), then I get to desk very fresh and very lively and this sets me up for a solid morning. It's noticeable how much more lethargic I feel if I drove the car in or walked.

Another vote for Leechblock here too, I'm only allowed on my procrastination sites at lunchtimes, evenings and weekends. I can't get at them in work hours and this has made a big difference to my productivity. As others have said, planning your activities for the day, set within your targets for the week, set in your targets for month and year. When I see the size of my task list and how long I reckon it will take to do them, it scares me into action. Lastly, I now keep a little diary inside MindManager which I'll write something in each morning to get myself going for the day.

All things considered, I've worked really well for the last few weeks. It'll need to continue if i'm to get this thing done!

Sync or else Sink!

I have FolderMatch, which I got for something like £9. It compares drives (or folders within drives) then asks you what you want to do (e.g. make folder 1 same as folder 2, just copy new and updated files only, copy new files only). Basically any combination you can think of. The main benefit is that you can tell it to only copy what's new or changed rather than everything, saving a lot of time. You can get it on free trial for a time then decide whether you want to purchase it

Failing that. there are some free ones out there too (but I know nothing about them):


Freemind vs CMAP - Any opinions/tips ... and good gig

Apparently this is free to download for a short while. I don't anything about it because I use Mindjet MindManager, but looks very similar to it...