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jOSiAh's ^_~ Haven

End of First Semester

It's finally the end of my first semester here. I have spent almost my entire Christmas term break just getting all my courseworks done. I can finally get my well-deserved break after the exams, at least just for the weekend, before the new semester starts next week.

In case you are already confused, "term" and "semester" are two different concepts in the UK. There are 3 terms and 2 semesters in an acedemic year. Terms are dictated by holidays (Christmas and Easter); Semester is the teaching and assessment period, which could extend to different terms. If you're interested, here's an illustration of the academic calendar for this year at my University.



So, as you can see, most kiddies (undergraduates) in the UK have 5 months' worth of breaks in total! Unlike MMU which offers only 11 weeks worth, while squeezing in an additional 2-month TRImester to milk more money out of her poor students. Interestingly, a google search for the word "trimester" results in pregnancy related pages, even after the top 30 results. Hmmm...

However, I still prefer MMU's "break after exam" system. Here, I have spent my entire Christmas break finishing up 3 courseworks: a 4-page paper, a 4000 word essay and a journal paper (also about 3000-4000 words). In addition, I had to prepare for a presentation, a practical exam and a written (open-notes) exam. So much for a "break"! (ToT) I am a firm believer of having a "break" during "breaks", and I strongly oppose the concept of a "holiday homework". Come on, it's not called a "break" for nothing! So let me have a "break" and not think about academic life for a while, ok? (>_<) It irks me a lot when I hear people complaining that they are "totally bored silly": I want to be "totally bored silly"!! I have so much (personal) things I want to do (like playing games, updating this current layout which I only whipped up in a hurry etc.) I can understand if someone is bored without a computer and an Internet connection. But with an Internet connection? Come on, just go out surfing on the Internet and you can easily find lots of stuff to do!! But then again, these people might not appreciate "breaks" as much as I do: I hate school enough to look forward to year-end holidays ever since young.

Okay, sorry for my rant. Now, I should try reflecting a little on what I have learnt throughout this first semester. I registered for four modules this trimester:

Introduction to Systems Thinking (IST): Discussion based lecture. Spent the first 6 weeks discussing about concepts of Systems Thinking, and the last 4 weeks listening to student presentations on the application of Systems Thinking to our respective specialisation (Cognitive Systems for me...). Well, appear to listen is a better word: for me, presentations mean to sit and stare, and allow information either to just pass through one ear and go out of the other, or just pass by. Anyway, had to write a 4000-word essay on the application of Systems Thinking to a chosen domain (100% of the module!).

Computational Modelling (CMD): Lectures: Overview, Google, Google, Google, Data Mining, Knowledge Discovery, Parallel Computational Modelling (Guest Lecture), modelling brains (Guest Lecture) and hypothesis testing. 3 Courseworks for this one: an essay debating whether "every software is a computational model"; a report on a data-mining task to compare corpora gather from the Web with American and British English; and to extend this report as a journal paper to suit a inter-disciplinary audience (a.k.a. English). No kidding, we are really attempting to publish it (after including our lecturer as a joint author of course (^^;)). Ermmm...so... what is Computational Modelling again?

Envisioning Information (ENV): A visualisation course. The title of the module comes from the book "Envisioning Information" by Edward Tufte. Lots of lectures on visualisations: graphs, charts, navigation, interaction, time and space, scientific visualisations (1D, 2D, 3D) etc. Practical sessions on xmdvtool and Iris Explorer. Coursework include a mini visualisation conference by our group (which includes writing a conference paper and presenting the paper), as well as a practical exam on xmdvtool and Iris Explorer. Quite an interesting module.

Learning and Reasoning (LAR): Lectures. The first part is about knowledge representation (First Order Logic, Description Logic, Sorted Logics etc.); Second part covers machine learning (Version space, Decision Trees, Bayesian Networks). Courseworks include 2 projects. The first is related to Web Ontology Language (OWL): familiarise ourselves with it by doing a tutorial and extending it a little, and then create an ontology for a domain of my choice. I hate boring typical real-life stuff, so I ended up writing an ontology on Harry Potter instead. That indirectly resulted in me getting my hands on a few Harry Potter books (^^;). The second coursework was on Machine Learning: to use machine learning to classify natural scenes given some training data. My favourite module out of the four.

And next semester, I will be involved in another 4 modules:
Vision: Could be intersting.
(Natural) Language (Processing): One of my interest.
Bio-inspired Computing: Was looking forward to it, until I learnt about the lecturer (T_T)
And still deciding between Computer Security and Architectures for Complex IT Systems. Most probably the latter.

And of course, I need to start my MSc project (ToT)


So, as you can see, I am here to study, not just to cook (^^;).

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