The Infinite Zenith

Where insights on anime, games, academia and life dare to converge

Category Archives: General Discussion

A Reflection on the Faraway Receiver and the Not-So-Distant 2018 Summer Solstice

“Smell the sea, and feel the sky. Let your soul and spirit fly.” —Van Morrison

Gone are the times when the summer solstice meany two months of unparalleled tranquility, of a period when the campus hallways and lecture halls laid empty amidst the seemingly-endless blue skies of the hottest time of year; these days, without the ever-present challenge of exams, the calm of summer seems to extent well beyond the period when the days are at their longest and the weather conducive of exploration. Save winter, much of the year feels like one long summer now that I’m no longer a student, but while these times might be past, the magic of summer certainly has not left me. The weather is already summer-like, with today’s high being 26ºC. However, tomorrow is the longest day of the year, the summer solstice. With the beginning of this year’s summer, we enter a season where beautiful days make adventures possible. From hiking in the trails of the mountains, to for resting in the cool of the shade with a cold drink in hand, summer invites these activities. It is also the time of year that blogging tends to slow down a little around these parts. Last year, I averaged 11.75 posts per month, totalling 141 posts. Of these, a 30 of them were written in July, August and September, for an average of 10 posts per month. In the year before, I totalled 115 posts (9.5833 posts per month), of which 21 were written during the summer months (7 posts per month). The combination of fantastic weather and adventure means that one would be forgiven if they saw a decline in motivation to write. In my previous years, I’ve spent the summers travelling abroad and locally: 2016 saw me attend the LIFE XV Conference in Cancún, and last year, with my nation celebrating its 150th Anniversary of Confederation, the complementary parks passes saw me visit the national parks with an increased frequency. This year, things have settled down a little: travelling will be much lighter, and with the summer ahead, it is a blank slate for me. Relaxing with a good book while the evening air cools, or a stroll in the vast hills nearby are but two of the numerous possibilities of this summer; I might be busy on weekdays, but in the time since I’ve graduated, I’ve learned the art of playing as hard as I work.

  • In my mind’s eye, a romantic summer would entail running into a soft-spoken girl on a train hurtling across the vast expanse of countryside under an endless blue sky. The countryside, especially that of rural Japan, has long captivated me, and my belief is that it is chosen as the setting for many a romance anime precisely because the open space, greenery and reduced population creates a sense of longing, acting as a visual metaphor for love and relationships. Of course, thoughts of romance blossoming while travelling into or through the countryside is a pipe dream where I’m from – while we have prairies and open spaces in abundance, the distances separating cities of the prairie provinces and West Coast are connected by highways and automobiles, rather than trains and rail lines.

  • Summer is a time of adventure, but it can also be a time of loneliness, as well: with everyone capitalising on the weather to travel, it can occasionally be challenging to get people together to hang out. It is in our inclination to be with people, but for folks who are introverts by nature, such as myself, being alone and embracing solitude is how we tend to revitalise ourselves. I would consider a summer afternoon, spent at a café with a chilled lemon tea and browsing through shelves of books to be one well-spent. As important as it is to build connections with others, it is equally as important to look after oneself, especially if one is not involved in any romantic relationships: taking yourself on a date is very cathartic and relaxing.

While it is tantalising to entertain a summer where I take a break from my writing and spend all of my time taking it easy, such a course of action would likely spell doom for this blog; fellow bloggers have noted that leaving for a while can make it difficult to resume, and as there are things I would like to continue sharing with you, the readers, I believe that it is a fair balance to slow my blogging down slightly for the summer months without fully stopping. I’ve mentioned previously that if I were to take any hiatus of any sort, there would be a dedicate post for such an announcement, and this is not it. However, this raises the question of what I could write about. In previous years, widely publicised movies featured during the summer, as did whatever my latest endeavours in gaming were. This year, the summer looks quiet on both fronts; Mirai no Mirai, Non Non Biyori: Vacation, Shikioriori and Penguin Highway will première, but if the trend from Your Voice continues, it will be quite some time before we see these films. For gaming, I admit that I’ve hit a saturation point: Metro: Exodus, DOOM Eternal and Battlefield V are a ways away yet, and there are not recent titles that catch my interest, so this summer, I may simply revisit some of my older titles again while I wait for these new titles to become available. We’re covered off on games, but what about anime? This is, after all, the meat-and-potatoes of this blog, and site metric show my readers as being quite uninterested in some of my whacky exploits in Battlefield 1 and The Division. The logical answer then, is that there must be something in the summer season that catches my eye, and there are: Violet Evergarden and Yuru Camp△ are both getting OVAs. I will also be writing about the Manga Time Kirara adaptation, Harukana Receive, in an episodic fashion.

  • Okinawa is considered the Hawaii of Japan, the site of vacations for many anime (including the upcoming Non Non Biyori movie), was the site of one of the Pacific Theatre’s fiercest battles that saw an Allied victory, and is also the birthplace of my martial arts. In Harukana Receive, Okinawa is going to be none of these things. Instead, I foresee featuring many landscape shots of Okinawa, which will be simply home in Harukana Receive. Because of the nature of this anime, I think that readers will have to grit their teeth and simply accept that I’m going to be showing off a lot of 455 and 7175 in the screenshots. However, readers familiar with this blog also know how I deal with figure captions for 455-and-7175-intensive posts: I tend to meander off and talk about other stuff, so there should be no danger of this blog veering into family-unfriendly turf while Harukana Receive is running.

  • Here’s a bit of trivia as to why this post is titled “A Faraway Receiver”. Harukana is はるかな, which directly translates to “far away”, which is appropriate as an title for a series set in the distant beaches of Okinawa by summer, when the skies do seem further away. I remark that I was tempted to make a DragonForce joke, since half of their songs contain the phrase “so far away” or some variation of. The last time I did episodic reviews as a series aired, was for Brave Witches. This was a fun series to write for because of the combination of girls and guns, and while Harukana Receive may not have any guns, it does have many other elements that I am interested in taking a look at. I’m not sure how many of my readers are big on sports anime, and I’m similarly certain that many will be surprise that I will be writing about beach volleyball when my strengths lie elsewhere.

Readers would be forgiven in wondering what there is to write about in Harukana Receive, whose manga is centred around Haruka Ōzora, a tall girl who moves to Okinawa from Tokyo during her second year of high school. In Okinawa, she encounters her cousin, Kanata Higa, who is quite skilled in beach volleyball but also short in stature, making it difficult for her to continue playing. However, between Haruka’s height and Kanata’s skill, the two find partners in one another. A heartwarming and fun sports story thus awaits, but as I am a complete novice in volleyball, one could imagine that I would struggle with finding things to say on a weekly basis. Further to this, it’s been quite some time since I’ve done episodic reviews. With this being said, Harukana Receive looks to be a fine opportunity to write about an anime that is set during the summer; most of the slice-of-life show I’ve written about previously during the summer span a handful of seasons, but Harukana Receive is predominantly on the warm beaches of Okinawa, home of Gōjū-ryū, the branch of karate that I practise. As such, with the warm weather, endless beaches and stunning characters, Harukana Receive exudes the sense of summer. I greatly look forwards to seeing Haruka’s growth as a beach volleyball player as the series progresses, as well as seeing what other strengths that this anime has to offer. Because the manga is in a standard format, rather than the four-panel format, I am expecting that the series will resemble Yuru Camp△ in some areas, being friendly towards newcomers, like myself, who are unfamiliar with volleyball, but also tell a meaningful story about teamwork and talent in the process. Yuru Camp△ capitalised on the anime medium to really bring camping to life through the use of visuals and audio, so I also imagine that Harukana Receive will do the same. With the first episode airing on July 6, I will aim to finish the finale posts for each of Amanchu! Advance, Comic Girls and Sword Art Online Alternative: Gun Gale Online before then.

A Reflection on Winter Solstice 2017

“While I relish our warm months, winter forms our character and brings out our best.” –Tom Allen

Today is the shortest day of the year for folks in the Northern Hemisphere, marking the beginning of winter, the one season that Canada is best known for. A fresh snowfall has blanketed the area in a quiet covering of white, obscuring the landscape and giving the world a semblance to that of a blank canvas, ripe for exploration. Even though I’m not particularly fond of winter for its long hours of darkness and bitter cold, there is nonetheless a beauty to this season that makes it one that has its own merits. It’s a sign of my age that I’ve begun regarding winter in a new manner: I still vividly recall remarking that I had a deep-seated dislike of winter, but as I’ve collected the years, I’ve come to accept the positives there is in this season. For one, there is no other time of year better suited for making a hot chocolate and reading a good book while snow is falling outside. On Sunday, I celebrated the Dōngzhì Festival (冬至, jyutping dung1 zi3) with family: each of the chicken, crispy roast pork, shrimps and 東菇 have a symbolic meaning corresponding with good luck, so a traditional meal will feature these dishes. With winter now upon us, the days begin lengthening once again, although in Canada, the heart of winter only really begins in January, after the Christmas decorations are stowed away and folks begin returning to routine.

  • To give an idea of how long I’ve been around for, this is my nine hundredth post. This year, autumn’s been remarkably mild, and it’s actually felt like spring for much of the year. It’s only been in the past few days where the weather’s been more seasonal, and with the recent snowfall, it’s finally beginning to feel like Christmas outside. Christmas is fast approaching: work, however busy it has been, is winding down for the year, and I’m looking forwards to unwinding a little during the break upcoming. If the weather permits, I might close the year off with a trip into the mountains and soak in our equivalent of the onsen in Banff, but for now, on my horizons are a hockey game, Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi and a variety of other activities.

I’ve typically done blogging awards during the Winter Solstice, but this year, I’m mixing things up a little. For one, I’ve been relatively inactive in the anime blogging community. The reason for this is simple enough: after work, I’m now less inclined to write and prefer relaxing, so my blogging output this year has not been of the same quality as the content I’ve previously written. Site readership has correspondingly seen a decline, and unlike other bloggers out there, who’ve either superior dedication to their craft or multiple authors (or both), I’m finding it more difficult to keep up: after a day of implementing software, designing things, writing unit tests or sitting through meetings, it’s a challenge to summon the motivation to write when one would rather sit down and close one’s eyes, so I admit that the posts I’ve written this year certainly aren’t my best. There are days where I feel as though I’m reaching the upper limits for hard work can do. I am curious to hear what you, the reader, make of all this. How would you handle stress and motivate yourself when things get tough? Finally, I’d like to thank all of you, the readers, for sticking around and contributing to the discussions: it is quite certain that I would not be finding the motivation to write were it not for insightful remarks that you’ve provided. I am not quite ready to call it quits yet for the present, and folks who were doubtlessly hoping I pack it up will need to be a bit more patient – I am going to continue running this blog until Girls und Panzer: Das Finale comes to a close.

Five years since the MCAT: A Personal Reflection

“You’ll do really good you know, I’ll pray for your success! But you got it. Tell me how it goes after, and go buy something sweet afterwards! You should reward yourself with something yummyy~” —Ab imo pectore

As the title states, five years have now elapsed since I took the MCAT, and in the time that has passed, quite a bit has changed. For one, the AAMC has revised their exam such that there are now five sections, taking a total of seven-and-a-half hours to complete, compared to the 1994-2014 version of the exam: the computerised variant in 2007 could be finished in around five hours. In this time, my old MCAT expired, meaning that if I were to still retain any aspirations for a Medical Doctor degree, I would need to face down the new MCAT. This is something I’m unlikely to do, but at this five-year mark, the impact of taking an MCAT and the associated preparation for the exam remains a very profound one for me. There are bits and pieces of these recollections in the blog, especially in the Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare posts, and the short of it is that I spent three months of my summer in 2012 preparing for the exam, spending many a summer day poring over textbooks and review material, occasionally stopping by the medical campus to review with friends who had previously taken the exam and were gracious enough to offer assistance, or else whiled away short breaks in the library, watching anime on an iPad during mornings before my MCAT preparation courses. Through the combination of sheer willpower, unending support from my friends and a bit of luck, I left my exam feeling as though a large weight were lifted from me: under the golden light of an evening sun, I stepped out for dinner at a Chinese-style bistro and greatly enjoyed this despite it not being something sweet as one of my friends recommended. I then proceeded to sleep the best sleep I’d slept all summer. Now, the summer lay ahead, and I spent the remainder on it working on my first-ever publication, as well as shoring up my old renal model in preparation for my final year in the Bachelor of Health Sciences programme.

  • Besides long days spent studying for exams, one of the most vivid memories I have of 2012 was the fact that, owing to a frayed cable coming into the house, my broadband internet connection intermittently disconnected that summer, making doing full-length practise exams at home impossible. I recall a memorable July morning that I spent doing a practise exam and finished, scoring a 30T on it, right before the internet cut out. After lunch, I watched Survivorman and took the day easy. The connection eventually became so problemmatic that I did my final full-length exam on campus, using my lab’s Mac Pro, during one afternoon, before heading out to dinner at Bobby Chao’s with family. Here, I scored the 33T, and entering the exam, I was feeling much more confident.

  • This is a screenshot of my exam results. With encouragement from a friend, I walked into the exam a little nervous, but striving to do my best. Said friend’s constant, upbeat encouragement and support gave me a huge sense of comfort, and when my exam results came out, I was pleasantly surprised. However, as my undergraduate thesis wore on, I wondered if medicine would really be the best career path for me, and so, I took another year to figure that out while my friend took an exchange program in Japan. Our paths diverged here – they were broadening their horizons and chasing their dreams in Japan while I busied myself with learning more about software and learning to appreciate my home town more.

  • While we have gone our separate ways, it is appropriate to thank this individual once more: looking back, these experiences have also been integral in shaping who I am. Perhaps in the future, there’ll be a chance to do things over again properly. For now, this brings my reminiscences very nearly to a close: I do not think I will mention the MCAT again as it fades into memories past. I assure readers that future posts will return to the realm of the subjects I am wont to dealing with; this unusual segue is the consequence of the five-year mark passing on my MCAT, the point where scores usually expire.

A month later, my results arrived; I have previously not mentioned my scores at this blog, but with my scores expired, there is no harm in revealing them now. On my MCAT, I scored a 35T (the true score is likely between 33 and 37, inclusive), having managed to squeak by in verbal reasoning with a 10. The AAMC conversion estimates that of the people taking the exam, only four percent scored above me, and in today’s standards, a 35T approximates to a 517. Five years after the MCAT, my score has largely become a number now, with limited applicability except perhaps acting as a conversation topic for dinner parties. While the exam score itself may not hold a particularly great deal of importance, the experiences leading up to the MCAT and the attendant learnings would forever change the way I approach challenges. The summer also led to a first for me: I liken it to a variant of Tsuki ga Kirei where things don’t work quite so nicely, but as that story’s already been recounted in full previously, I won’t detail it too much further. While undoubtedly painful, I do not regret that things happened; it was reassuring to have someone provide support and encouragement during the MCAT, and although our paths have separated, I’ve not forgotten what they’ve done to help me. While the MCAT may initially appear to have been quite unnecessary, considering my eventual directions and the costs associated with preparing for the exam, in retrospect, this was an exam where the experiences conferred were those that proved to be quite helpful, whether it be learning how to read and problem-solve efficiently or how to handle stress. These learnings would subsequently allow me to wrap up my undergraduate and graduate programmes on a high note, contributing to how I approach problem-solving even today.

One Year Since The Graduate Thesis Defense: A Short Reflection

‪”I went through withdrawal when I got out of graduate school. It’s what you learn, what you think. That’s all that counts.” —Maya Lin‬

One of the perks about the University of Calgary is that graduate students, following a successful defense examination, can lay claim to a complimentary bottle of champagne (or non-alcoholic equivalent) at the Last Defense Lounge on campus, sharing in the moment with my supervisor and some of lab’s current students. I realised that the one-year anniversary of my defense would be a fine of a time as any to cash in on this, lest I waited too long and the offer expires. In the year that has passed, I have acclimatised fully to my new schedule, heading to work every morning to do work things rather than to campus for campus things, and consequently, even the events of earlier this year feel as though they were distant memories. The dramatic change in time scales exemplifies the merciless march of the clocks, and following today’s visit, I look back on my time as a graduate student and wonder whether or not there is anything particularly noteworthy about my experiences that might merit sharing. These experiences have been intermittently mentioned throughout the blog’s history and act as an interesting sort of strata for recalling what I did when: in retrospect, there was a surprising number of accumulated memories and lessons I picked up during my time as a graduate student. How do my own experiences compare with those who have walked a similar path? I now look back on two years’ worth of accumulated events and pick twenty-five of the most noteworthy lessons or experiences to discuss. The screenshots in this post were taken from Girls und Panzer: Der Film, and the reasoning for that is a simple one — ChouCho’s “Piece of Youth” was the first song that iTunes returned to me after I had arrived home, after my defense ended and I’d spent lunch with my supervisor. My friends wondered whether or not I would do anything to celebrate passing my examination, and I remarked that I would sleep it off first, then celebrate later. The imagery seen in Girls und Panzer: Der Film‘s ending, coupled with the emotional tenour of “Piece of Youth”, feel particularly fitting for such a turn of events, so for each of the twenty-five points, given in order, there will be a screenshot.

  • It makes sense to begin at the beginning: the first thing I would say to a prospective graduate student is to begin the application early and to find their supervisor ahead of time. Graduate schools see an applicant as having initiative to carry out their research if they have demonstrated that they are willing to figure out which professors carry out research that interests them, and preparing the application early also allows one to make the deadlines.

  • Second is the importance of scholarships, both with respect to being aware of which ones one is eligible for, as well as when their deadlines are. Major scholarships, coupled with a teaching assistant stipend and department funding, can allow one sufficient finances to pay for their tuition in some cases, and also make it easier to acquire equipment. I’ve applied for and accepted QEIIs in my graduate programme, as well as smaller ones, such as the Lockhart Memorial Scholarship for raising awareness for brain health using computer science in the Giant Walkthrough Brain.

  • My entry into the Master of Computer Science was actually motivated by an interest in using computers in health applications, but because my undergraduate background left me short on computer science knowledge, I saw the programme as also an opportunity to learn more about programming in general. I ended up with some skills, such as Unreal Engine and Autodesk Maya, that I’m not sure I’ll be using, but other skills, such as the capacity to learn new languages and APIs, will definitely be useful.

  • The Giant Walkthrough Brain was actually the Master’s Thesis for one of my colleagues, but my involvement in it resulted in my becoming familiar with the Unity game engine. Leading the development of core elements, I learnt the ins and outs of Unity in a week, proceeding a prototype that convinced both the lab and Jay Ingram that this tool could be used to bring another dimension to his presentation.

  • Once the summer of 2014 ended, I decided that I would do a 3D visualisation of an animal cell, using the Unity engine as the platform for visualisation. I proposed a cell model for educational purposes, built on modular components that could be organised in any number of ways to illustrate some of the cell’s internal processes in a visual, expressive manner and also allow for easier modification than some existing cell models. A graduate thesis should be reasonably well-thought out, but one should also keep their minds open to new ideas that they encounter: my original proposal when I wrote the application in 2013 was to build an interactive model of the renal system.

  • As a TA to an introductory computer science course, I conducted tutorial sections and provided supplementary exercises for students, as well as participated in the grading of assignments. Being a TA can be very time-consuming, especially if one is taking courses. I found it easier to break things down into a well-organised pattern: I would study for data mining and social network analysis on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, graded assignments on Fridays, and worked on my thesis on weekends, plus Monday. On Sundays, I would also prepare lesson plans for the tutorials.

  • Having been in the student’s shoes, the importance of having a good TA cannot be understated. For me, a good TA is someone who is willing to walk through the material with students in a manner they find comfortable, is fair about assignment grading and the students’ situations, and finally, is accessible via email. So, I strove to be the sort of TA that I would like to be taught by, and although it was hard work (on the night an assignment was due, I got emails from students outside of my section in addition to those inside), it was definitely worth it.

  • Graduate courses are often project, rather than exam driven. While I had a midterm exam in my data mining course, the final project was a term paper (I focused on motifs in the structures of nuclear proteins); every other course was driven by projects. To excel in a graduate course is to both understand and apply the material via exploration rather than memorisation: this is my favourite way to learn, but not everyone will see it in this manner. As an aside, getting a perfect GPA in graduate school is much less challenging than in undergraduate programs, but it also has much less meaning.

  • Between research, teaching, courses and applications for scholarships, plus writing journal and conference papers, graduate school is incredibly busy. I’m actually not too sure how I managed to keep this blog running, but I do know that time management, plus allocating deliberate openings on the week to relax, is immensely useful. I usually game on Friday evenings unless another event occurs, such as hanging out at a local pub or watching movies with friends, and since this is planned for, it does not impact my other schedules.

  • Apparently, blogging constitutes as a form of self-care for migitating the stresses of being a graduate student. So does lifting weights (or running). My routines most weeks was to pump iron three times a week in the mornings and then run, over the course of 90 minutes. I wake up early to do so, and a good lift leaves me awake and ready to seize the day. This routine persists well into the real world, and lifting weights continues to be a source of stress relief for me.

  • In the first year of graduate school, most students will focus on their courses and make some progress with their research. The combination of courses and TA work can make it tricky to find time for research, but picking courses related to one’s thesis project can ensure that one makes some progress even if they’re not directly working on their project. This is why I ended up taking Data Mining and Social Network Analysis (allowing me to mine for protein motifs), Multi-Agent Systems and Their Properties (formally define the entities in my models and express the rules governing their interactions more clearly) and Biological Computations (I built a microtubule visualisation using rule-based interactions in Unity). All of these courses were quite time consuming, but helped my project in some way.

  • Once courses are done, graduate students have around sixteen months to wholly work on their projects. While this seems to be a lot of time, but even in the absence of courses, sixteen months can go by in a flash. Starting the thesis paper early, such as during some days where work on the project is slower, can mitigate this: it is easiest to work on background, motivation and bibliographical aspects, since these aren’t dependent on one’s results. I started my thesis paper in July ten months before I was scheduled to defend.

  • In order to stay organised, it is immensely useful to know one’s supervisor’s schedule: besides meetings vetting ideas and providing inspiration or guidance, knowing the supervisor’s schedule and typical schedule means being able to plan around their presence efficiently and meet deadlines, especially where signatures or documentation requiring the supervisor’s input are necessary. This ultimately falls on the student to manage their time well: there is a limit to what supervisors can do in a given timeframe, and getting ahead of things means preventing undue stress.

  • While not every supervisor might be willing to do so, my supervisor also judiciously proof-read my papers and applications. I say it with pride that I count myself a capable writer, but even then, there are mistakes that I can (and will) miss: having an additional pair of eyes to look over things helped substantially. I admit that I was always nervous getting feedback, but they contributed substantially to my writing style and eliminated grammatical issues in my wording. Perhaps I should find a proofreader for this blog, too.

  • At a sufficiently advanced stage, graduate students might consider submitting their work to a conference or journal. While some venues have a page limit (sometimes, the upper limit is four pages), writing even short papers can be a highly time-consuming process. My first-ever publication for Laval took two months to complete, and it had a four page limit. The advantage about working on publications, even if they are rejected, is that one is able to gain additional material for their thesis, so working on publications at the Master’s level is not a total waste of time.

  • One of the most memorable things I experienced during my graduate program were the pair of conferences I was able to attend. It was my first time travelling overseas without family, and it was a thrilling experience, to be able to present outside of North America. Preparing for these presentations were an enjoyable and instructive process, and my old project drew interesting questions from attendees: unlike most folks, I tend to have next to no text on my slides, forcing the audience to follow me as I deliver my talk. I never read off my slides and memorise my lines ahead of the talk well enough so I can give a reasonably consistent presentation. Like Rick and Morty, I usually improv  my lines using my notes as guidance, so my rehearsal and actual presentations vary.

  • One of the challenges about presenting overseas is ensuring one has all of their audio-visual equipment in check: while the conference venue will have a projector and either an HDMI or VGA adaptor, individuals running their presentations of older MacBook Pros and iPads to bring their own adaptors to ensure that they can utilise their slides. I brought an assortment of Thunderbolt cables to Laval, and Lightning adapters for Cancún. In Cancún, folks were surprised that I walked up to the stage with an iPad and iPhone, but after hooking the adapters up, I gave my talk with the iPad as the main device, and my iPhone as the remote control (I have the Keynote app, so I used Bluetooth to remote in and control the presentation).

  • In Laval, I learned that even the relatively light weight of the 13-inch MacBook Pro 2015 model proved to be a hindered that reduced my mobility. I was travelling with a colleague, so we could look after our possessions without difficulty at train stations and airports. So, for Cancún, I decided to bring my presentation on an iPad and backed it up to my iPhone: my iPad is small enough to fit into a shoulder-carried bag, so I could take my stuff with me wherever I went.

  • For conferences, the biggest take-away message I would have is to book accommodations early: for Laval, hotels near the venue filled up quickly, leaving my colleague and I to lodge in a small hotel at the edge of town. Taking these lessons into Cancún, I was able to book a room right beside the venue. All in all, both of my conferences turned out to be incredible experiences. Being able to travel abroad in graduate school is easily one of the most memorable: after spending months preparing the paper and arranging for flights and accommodations, and a few weeks getting the presentation itself ready, there was an unparalleled sense of excitement in going somewhere else with a very clearly-defined goal in mind. My trip to Japan and Hong Kong this year felt quite different, as my aim in travelling was to unwind, rather than present on behalf of my lab and university.

  • The final suggestions I have pertain to the thesis defense itself: I can offer no tips or guidelines for what defines a good project, since that varies depending on the individual and their faculty. Here, I stress that time management is critical: my original intentions were to defend in April, but I underestimated the time-frames and required another month to finish working on my thesis, which at my university is submitted a month before the defense date. Working on just the thesis paper alone full-time is a surprisingly draining experience, and it gets especially tiring near the end, so having another project or goal to work on (e.g. job applications) becomes a very effective means of taking a break.

  • For the defense itself, the examiners will have read one’s thesis. The exam opens with a short, fifteen minute talk on one’s project. This time is to be used for hitting the highlights, results and implications; it is the easiest part of the exam, since it can be scripted. The examiners’ questions follow: while easily the trickiest part of the exam, one of my former colleagues suggested approaching it as a scientific discussion rather than an exam (it’s more relaxing this way), and I add that it’s okay to not know, but then offer an educated bit of speculation based on existing knowledge.

  • As with any other exam, arriving early, prepared is the way to go. Because the defense questions period can last for two hours, it is a good idea to bring plenty of water. Some questions invariably will surprise or immobilise examinees: in my exam, I forgot the definition of a role-based agent, for instance. Missing one or two questions is not sufficient to cause failure — I simply rolled with it, thanking the examiner for their insights, recovered and went on to pass my defence.

  • Despite having passed my defence, I was not out of the woods yet. Before one can truly finish and prepare for graduation, the final draft of the thesis paper must be submitted to the university pending revisions. This process took me a month to finish; after returning from Cancún, I spent the remainder of July finalising the paper. It took a few tries to get my submission accepted, since there remained persistent formatting issues, but once I had finished, the journey had finally come to an end. Ensuring that ones thesis has all of the proper formatting, bibliography and permissions is essential.

  • The penultimate suggestion I have for prospective graduate students is to enjoy their program; while furiously busy, it is nonetheless a highly enjoyable stage in life, offering numerous opportunities to begin exploring the limits of knowledge without the urgency that accompanies working in industry. Effective use of time means one can stay on top of their research and still have far more time than they ever did as undergraduates.

  • My final remark is that after graduate school at the Master’s level, the biggest takeaway experience is not the technical knowhow, but rather, the sum of all the skills to manage time and communicate effectively on both paper and verbally. Far more than knowing how to use Unity, Unreal and Maya, knowing how to be clear, precise and effective with time are skills that transfer into virtually all disciplines.

Beyond being an extensive reflection of my graduate studies program, the presence of Girls undo Panzer screenshots here also prompt a short discussion on Girls und Panzer: Final Chapter. This discussion is short quite simply because there has been no new information on what Final Chapter entails, beyond the fact that Ōarai Girls’ Academy closing will not be a concern, the first installment will be screened in theatres on December 9, and that there will be a total of six installments. The tagline for Final Chapter promises that this is the last of Girls und Panzer, which hopefully means that Final Chapter will provide satisfactory closure to any remaining loose ends surrounding what was unexpectedly an immensely enjoyable series. Beyond this, we venture into the realm of fan speculation, which is much less reliable. Similar to Tamayura: Graduation Photo, each chapter in this series is expected to run for around an hour each. While a remarkably entertaining series, Girls undo Panzer is also known for its protracted release schedule — Girls und Panzer: Der Film has been known since the series ended back in 2013, but my review of the film only came out thirteen months ago. In short, I started grad school and was very nearly finished by the time the movie released; if Final Chapter is intended to follow similar timelines as Graduation Photo, which released semi-annually, I will have likely bought a house before Miho and Ōarai Girls’ Academy’s ultimate fate is known.

Reflections on the 2017 Summer Solstice

“I am a summer person.” —Elin Hilderbrand

The longest day of the year visits the world today: it’s the first day of summer, and while the light is welcomed, today is forecast to be a little cooler, with a projected high of 18°C. We thus enter the most favourable time of year, when the skies are pleasant and the air comfortable, conducive for hiking along the river in the mountains or unwinding with a novel and cold beverage in hand. A year ago today, I was gearing up for my graduate thesis defense, and while I was feeling quite confident that things would go well, there was also a healthy bit of nervousness. When the defense ended, I was most relieved, having passed, and with that, a new chapter on life began for me. I was set to begin work, but before that, I attended the ALIFE XV Conference in Cancún. Since then, I’ve been working: time has passed in the blink of an eye, and we’re stepping into another summer. While the days of summer research have long passed, and I’m busy all weekdays, this has done little to diminish my plans for the summer. I’ve yet to capitalise on the complementary parks pass that I received as a part of the celebrations for Canada’s 150th Anniversary; on my list of places in the nearby National Parks to explore include Takakkaw Falls and Peyto Lake of the Canadian Rockies. Closer to home, walking around parks in the neighbourhood and ending with shaved ice is also a simple but pleasant way to enjoy the summer. Finally, the long days of summer also afford me time to return to my old hobbies of sketching and reading. It’s a far cry from last year, when I spent all of my walking moments preparing for the thesis: without this occupying my every thought, free time is finally, for the lack of a better word, free. Of course, today is a Wednesday, so I will be heading off for work once this post is done: the weather may be warm, but iOS apps won’t implement or test themselves.

  • The vast blue skies and long, warm days of summer are a blessing, a far fry from winter days where it is forty below. It is a time of adventure, both large and small, and for appreciating the small things. While it’s my favourite time of year, summer melancholy is very much a real thing — it is caused by a longing for something (or someone) and a regret that opportunity gives way to routine. It’s an unpleasant experience, but one that can be surmounted by a willingness to appreciate the small things, whether it be a particularly beautiful sunset or a chance to enjoy a cold drink under sunny skies following a walk. Of course, there’s also the Steam Summer Sale to look forwards to: I’m eyeing Ori and the Blind Forest, Poker Night at the Inventory 2 and the legendary Stay! Stay! Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

  • Because I travelled in May, a time where temperatures remain comfortable in both Japan and Hong Kong, I have the whole summer free to enjoy the pleasant air in and around my city, as opposed to burning alive in the heat of a Tokyo or Hong Kong summer. I used to wonder what it would be like to live in the inaka, but ever since my travels, I’ve realised that the quiet suburban parks of Canada are about as peaceful as the rural parts of Japan. A day well spent is one that need not necessarily involve my overly-large Steam library — one spent out in the sunshine of a nearby park is surprisingly similar to walking in the inaka and is remarkably cathartic.

In my summer solstice post for last year, I mentioned that Your Name was something on my radar. Originally, I had been anticipating a release pattern similar to that of The Garden of Words, but this was plainly not the case. As such, my review and discussion for it will come out in late July. With Your Name in mind, the future of this blog finally enters the discussion: because this blog has proved surprisingly resilient against matters of scheduling, the only thing I can say with any confidence is that blog posts will be written as I find the time to do so. Sometimes, there will be more time, and other times, there will not be any time. However, I am not packing it in any time soon: besides Your Name, Koe no Katachi, Kono Sekai no Ktasumi ni, Kantai Collection: The Movie, Gundam Origin and Girls und Panzer: Final Chapter remain on my stack of anime to write about. In addition, Battlefield 1 has proven to be one incredible adventure, and I will be looking to continue telling my stories as walk the path to rank 110 (hitting the level cap has been something I’d never done before), and finally, with several new games on the horizon, there will be material to write about, as well. This blog’s continued existence is also largely thanks to you, the readers: knowing that folks are enjoying the discussion and content here is more than sufficient a motivation to write. Having said this, two more posts will be coming out later today: I will be looking at Metro: Exodus and revisit The Garden of Words with a renewed perspective.