Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Ski and (Another) Graduation Trip

Now that it's already March, the academic semester of for general Japanese student is gonna end. It is quite common I guess for every lab to plan and go for a graduation trip. Both as a celebration and farewell event for members who is going to graduate, and also as a breather in the middle of stressful research activities. So my lab is going to go to another (I didn't write our previous trip to Izu, but oh well..) graduation trip, and this time we're going to go ski!
I'm quite anxious and excited for this trip cause this will be my first time skiing, albeit I already stay for more than 2 years in this four-season country. Well, there's no way I'm going to go ski alone of course, and so far our lab members don't seem to be interested about ski trip (or more possibly, it never crossed their mind). I didn't really have a strong urge to go either, so yeah... Anyway, this time there's a new first year master's student that likes ski so much, so he suggested that we go to ski for graduation trip this time. So the plan is, we're going to go and spend the night at ryokan, and then spend the rest of the time on the ski resort.

The thing is, the trip to Nagano prefecture took around 4-5 hours if I remember it correctly. So we departed from lab at around 11 AM and arrived at ryokan at around 4 PM. So we're a bit in a pinch here. Whether we should buy a half day pass (around 4200 yen) , which is valid for 4 hours, and go to ski before dinner, or rest a bit and take a dinner first then buy a nighter pass (around 2100 yen) and go to ski for 2 hours. We decided to go with the 2nd plan, considering the time and cost, also we have to rent some ski equipment so yeah.. Dinner, as usual, is superb. One of the most anticipated thing, and I guess one aspect which makes is so expensive, in ryokan is its kaiseki ryori or traditional multi-course Japanese dinner. I ate this kind of dinner a couple of times in ryokan before and it's always amazing. We got a room for ourselves, and served exclusively by a host for the whole dinner course. Needless to say, it's always an exceptional experience, even for my Japanese friends.

Anyway the ski resort that we went to is Shiga Kogen, located in Yamanouchi town, Shimotakai District, Nagano Prefecture. It is said to be the largest combined ski area in Japan, and yup, it really is huge!

Shiga Kogen Map.
With the nighter ticket on our 1st day however, we could only ski for about 2 hours (from 7 - 9 PM). Add the time needed for dinner which can only start from 6 PM, getting ready, and the time travel from ryokan to the ski resort itself, maybe we arrived around 7.30 PM or later I'm not so sure. So there it is, my first time ski is nighter, with only around 1 hour time, and the last is I start at the advanced course! All of my friends obviously already had some experience with ski. Though not all of them are good (haha), but at least they already got the basics. So I can just follow where they're going cause I don't have any idea either how to ski or more importantly how the ski resort system works. Back to the advanced course, it's so high and the slope is so steep I can barely see what beneath me. I actually watched some tutorial video about ski before (it's really helpful!) but I guess the real thing is much more difficult haha.. Fortunately my friends teach me a lot of things so I can manage little by little. Sadly when I finally get the gist of it, the time is over. So short!!

The next day we planned to ski all day, we got up early, had a good breakfast, and bought a full day ticket. The weather is clear, there's a lot of snow, and because it's already March, it's not that cold. Very comfortable. For ski itself, I managed to ski get the hang of it (maybe because of the countless numbers of falls the night before), and can ski comfortably by myself. This time I actually try to start from the beginner course, before moving on to middle course. The views are out of this world, a lot of mountains with a stream of snow on it looks like rivers of milk hahaha.. We managed to move around a lot, to other course and other mountain. Riding lifts, and even gondola to the highest peak. And finally, together with my friends, I can manage to ski on the advanced (black diamond) course, albeit slowly and carefully hahaha. One of the most beautiful view that I can remember is from one of the highest place, and we can see a lot of other mountains beneath us covered with clouds(?) or fog I'm not sure, but it's simply breathtaking. We spent all day exploring the resort before the fog starting to go down even to the lowest place, making the whole ski resort literally disappear. Even when we're going back by car, the whole town and road are covered by fog so thick that it looks like an abandoned town from post-apocalyptic movie/game. Feels like entering other world through some sort of portal or anything like that.

That one view that I'm talking about.
Finally though it's a little expensive, well not a little actually, but it's a very good experience and enjoyable trip. I can't wait to have another ski trip like this, maybe someday....

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Today...

Is not so good.

While the number of people that come to lab is one less than yesterday, meaning there's only one other person beside me, I can't seem to proceed. My intention to study flexible body dynamics took a detour and got stuck in a wall of numerical methods. In the end, I spend the last half of this day dealing with that without any results...

Anyway, today I wanna write a little bit about my life as a graduate student here. In short, it's not going smooth and incredibly difficult so far. But I guess every graduate students (with some extreme exceptions of course!) will undoubtedly said along the same lines. To be honest, until this day, I haven't feel that I'm really behaving like a good or at least a normal graduate student. It's getting better right now but back then, I felt like running in a treadmill, if I have to give it in an expression. The good news is at least, I feel like walking right now. And since then, I always trying to find many ways, help, or guidance to walk down this long road.

There's this one MOOC class from edX which literally called "How to Survive Your PhD". First time I saw that class title, I felt like this might help me. And as it turns out, though I registered and faithfully followed that class, plowing through each course diligently with excitement and high motivation, it didn't last until the very end. Yep, unfortunately a lot of things happened around the time I took that class and my own laziness eventually beat me I guess, which made me didn't finished that class. However, I learned quite a lot of thing from it and one of the most important is I think that there are a whole lot of useful information out there that might help me to overcome my problems and anxiety. Not that the class itself didn't provide any meaningful information, but it opened my eyes to a whole new stream of information (and a new categories in my feeds) about PhD, graduate studies, or research in general. The lecturer for this class is actually one that manages such site. And since then, my collection of grow a lot more. Maybe I will list them here someday.

One more little thing that I want to talk about, related to my previous topics of graduate studies, is the recently published series of articles in DoctoralWritingSIG about literature review. While it's often said in many articles that literature review is not merely a collections or list of what we've been reading or learning so far in our study and research, it is very difficult to get out of that box. Especially for me, who never actively write academic-quality articles and learn the proper method to write. While in that series of articles it's also emphasized by the statement, in bold, that a literature review is "a series of connected arguments in support of the research question", what really catches my attention is the way the articles actually explain the process of creating a literature review which really makes sense to me. They divided into step-by-step approach while keeping the top priority, which is the research question itself, the main theme and center of the literature review. Even though for some people it may looks obvious, reading those articles made me quite happy for reasons I don't know of. Hahaha...

Okay, I think already spend quite a time writing this now, I'm starting to feel hungry. Oh, and I recently developed a new hobby (I guess?) thanks to my friend who successfully "poisoned" me with her hobby. I'll talk about it later, hopefully!

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Oh Well...

Finally I open the blogger dashboard and starting to create a new post again, even though in my last post, which is from last year by the way, I kinda shamelessly making a pledge to create the habit of writing but oh well... At least I'm not abandoning this blog. Cause to be honest, the backlash of breaking my own promise is quite strong, and in this case, it makes me avoid writing in here because I think I have "stained" that promise. Might be hard to understand but again, oh well...

Anyway, today I have a very quiet day in my lab. It's a bit unusual to see only a few people come. Although it's also rare to see all of the members come on the same day, today there are only two people aside from me. I don't know if it's because of that, or that I really want to be as productive as I can, I feel that today I can concentrate better. I'm not doing anything big or making huge progress though, it's just that I can do a lot of things that I plan to do today (in other words, daily unimportant things to-do). The downside of this is, it feels as if I'm alone in my apartment. The members who came today is actually the one that I'm not too close with so I try not to bother them a lot. Ah, maybe that's also one of the reason I don't get as many distractions (or distracts other people) as usual. I'm not quite sure which one I'd prefer, this kind of day, or the usually more lively day. This kind of day is not so bad though once in a while.

I also wanna write some kind of review(?) from my last post about creating, or at least trying to create, a good habit. Looking back so far, it's definitely far from perfect. I still have too many downs instead of ups, huge loads of planning and breaking it, unreachable goals, missed and failed deadlines, disappointments both from myself and others, and many other bad things. Oh well... The good thing is I can confidently say that I'm better than before I made that blog post. At least right now there are 7 habits (pun not intended) that I'm trying to develop, although all of them are not related to my academic life at all. But it's definitely a start.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Breaking the Habit

One of the most difficult thing for me is to maintain a good habit of doing something. Most of the time I get excited and determined at to commit into doing something, but in the end it's usually only last for a couple of days/weeks before I either don't care anymore or too lazy to that thing again. This applies to many things, including but not limited to studying, learning languages, practicing my music, exercising, or even this habit or writing/blogging. Eventually my inability of building or keeping a good habit turn into some sorta habit itself, and that is bad. Really bad.

The lack of good habit in my life leads to very very inconsistent and unbalanced lifestyle, and it is really hazardous both to my physical and mental health. One of many examples is my sleeping time. There's a period when I had some sort of insomnia, where I feel cannot sleep at night and can only sleep in the morning. So my days were like inverted, and it's like I became a nocturnal being. Well I guess this sounds fine and all, but it actually caused many frustrations. Particularly because other normal people live in days, thus some problems arise whether it's related to my university administration or interaction with my lab members and professor.

This problem propagates into other aspects in my daily life, sorta like domino effect. It leads to the point where it's difficult to pinpoint which is the root cause of all these. The biggest impact that I'm worried about? Of course it's my performance as a graduate student. Let alone a good result, my performance as a graduate student so far has been below average. I have disappointed many people, and the biggest of all, myself. The problem is, though it has taken a huge toll in my life, this obnoxious behavior is still taking a huge deep root in myself. I guess there's no use in ranting and being bitter about it, unless I tried to change it myself.

Anyway, I'm sure there are a lot of good methods, techniques, and tips out there to solve this kind of problems, and I even have read some of them. The classic problem is of course, whether I'm motivated or determined enough to really apply and assimilate those methods into my daily life. Lifehacker is one site that contains numerous tips/techniques to overcome this kind of problem, hence the name. One thing that catches my interest cause it seems simple and at least manageable enough for me to do it is this so-called Seinfeld's method. This is one of many methods written in that site that falls into what do you call productivity tips, so it is also helpful to combat procrastination and other similar issues I guess. Basically it's just doing something consistently and let it develops into a habit, it sort of suited my original intention, but it adds the sense of accomplishment by physically mark your achievement. Like any other productivity tips, there are even some apps available to complement this method.

One of the keys to successfully implement this method is, I think, to be reasonable in setting the boundary and goals. Like many other quotes and tips related to productivity always says, start with something small. Let's hope (always hoping lol) that don't go around breaking my habit again. Lastly, an obligatory appropriate song to accompany this post from one of my favorite band :).

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Comic Market, The Battlefield

As I mentioned in the post before, there's actually a draft post about Comiket that I wrote about a year ago. Initially I wanted to continue that post, but I decided to scrap that idea and start anew. Now why do I suddenly bring about this? Well the time to write about Comiket actually can't be any proper than now cause Comiket 88, or in other term, Summer Comic Market 2015 is being hold in these three days. If, by any chance, this is your first time hearing that C word, it's basically huge huge doujinshi fair where a lot of people sell their own creation related to Japanese popular subculture like anime, manga, video game, etc and a whole lot more of people queue to buy them. Though most of the parties involved here are public, companies also take part in this event to sell their goods. Finally other than those dark transactions, another huge part in Comiket also exists in the form of cosplay. This is what I mostly come to Comiket for, and I feel that I need to reserve another post for this topic in particular.

Tokyo Big Sight, the holy place.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Again

It's been a while since I faced this editor and start writing a new post for this blog. Well, not a while actually, considering the last post I made was January last year. I don't know what made me stop writing that time. Saying I'm too busy with life of course is just a pathetic excuse, knowing that I can surely come up with a new post at least once a month given my spare time. At this point, although I can always try to pretend that it's not, it's my habit of not being able to maintain a consistent (good) behavior that ends up as a hindrance for me.

It's dangerous, of course. And this can utterly destroy my life more than it has already been. Now what can I do to prevent this spiral of destruction? I don't know, I will just try and implement everything I've learned and hope that it doesn't end up as a futile effort.

Now what. Let's see... I have a draft in my unpublished post from March last year about Comiket. Figure I'll published that one since I've write a lot (it's not finished yet though). Then.... I'll think about other things later.. For now I'm glad that I have the urge to open my blog and to actually write something again.

Anyway, switch to a more light-hearted topic, right now Japan is in the middle of scorching heat of summer. With the average temperature of around 33 degree Celcius, it can be unbearable to stay outside for a long time or even inside a room with no air conditioner. Though I came from Indonesia so that kind of temperature is not unusual for me, the high humidity that makes it really uncomfortable sometimes for me to do any activities.  And just the other day I learned about the term apparent temperature, which basically the perceived temperature by us as a results of many factors. Not only air temperature, but also relative humidity, wind speed, or even electromagnetic radiation. Apparently, high relative humidity reduces evaporation rate of our body sweat resulting in a lower rate of heat removal. Thus creating the feel of higher temperature.

Okay, enough random talk. And enough of this post. I end up thinking too much and try to fit in so many contents that it makes me think that writing here is so difficult, while in fact it's better to write a short consistent post. Just like every habit of life. That's another problem I guess. Well, let's see if I can come back and write again at least next week.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Strolling to Enoshima

Continuing from the last post about my first winter holiday in here, apparently I have another friend who would like to spend a little bit of his time with me. This time it's a friend from the same university where I attended my undergraduate degree. He entered an exchange program with Chiba University and will be here in Japan for about 6 months I think. Both of us loves Japanese culture, and seeing that there are some events related to anime in this winter, we decided to go together. There are actually 2 big events that are going to be my target in December. First is Jump Festa and second is Comic Market (Comiket). Last year's Jump Festa was held on December 21 to 22 in Makuhari Messe, Chiba. It's actually very near from my friend's place, but it's very far from my place. I asked him though if I could stay the night at his place so I could attend those 2 days event without having to take train back and forth again, because it can be costly though the entrance fee is free. Too bad he stays in university dormitory so he couldn't afford to let other people stay in his room. After some discussions, we decided that it wouldn't be worth it and we should just aim for the Comiket instead, which is much bigger, grander event in our opinion.

The 2013 Winter Comiket (Comiket 85) was held for 3 days, from December 29 to 31 in Tokyo Big Sight, Odaiba. It is another one of the famous places usually used for big conferences, exhibitions, and events such as this. Frankly, it's not that near either compared to Makuhari Messe, both from my place or from my friend's place. That makes it even more difficult to choose which day will we come to that event, because if we come on all 3 days, the transportation cost could be huge even though this event also free to attend. We haven't decided yet right until 1 day before the event started, but what is certain is that he want to stay the night in my room, part of visiting me I guess. Hahaha... So he came on Saturday night, went straight to my room, and we talked until both our eyes gave up and told us to get some rest. Oh by the way, cause I only have 1 set of futon, I slept under the kotatsu and he slept on the futon. It's nice and warm~

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Yokohama: There and Back Again

The winter break is one of the long holiday cherished in Japan, as also one of the special moments where people can take a breath after the exhausting day-to-day work. This holiday usually lasts over the Christmas and after the New Year period, which is from December 23 to January 6 this year. Some of my friend in the lab went back to their hometown to celebrate New Year with their family and relatives, while some others (mostly the 2nd year master student) stay in the lab and doing their research like usual (or even harder) because the deadline for thesis submission is drawing near. As for me, there is practically no difference between this long holiday and weekend, because I didn't really go somewhere far away like some of my friends who went to a ski trip or traveling around Kansai area, nor do I went back to my country. Fortunately, there is a one big event that I was looking forward to in this winter holiday, so my holiday might be not that boring. But before that, there was another thing coming. My cousin who lives in Australia, said that he would come to Japan with his friend, and it's on this winter holiday.

They arrived at around 2 weeks before the end of December at Kansai International Airport, and decided to stay at hotel in Osaka. At first, I thought that they will stay in Osaka while traveling and sightseeing around Kansai area, then move to stay in Tokyo while looking around Kanto area. But maybe that is a bit difficult for them, so they stay in the same hotel for their entire holiday which is around 1 month, and travel around from there. Oh and I have to mention that they have already obtained their JR Pass which makes it easier and cheaper for them to travel around. I think it's best to use JR Pass in this kind of situation so you don't to worry about transportation cost and can travel rather conveniently in here, thought it's not that cheap of course.

Seeing that he came with his friend, and he is old enough to travel overseas by himself, I don't really see the need to always tell them or guide them around the areas. First, I live in Kanto while they stay in Kansai. This distance makes it difficult for us to meet frequently, and as a result I only communicate with them using online messenger. Second, as I'm also new to this country, I don't really have that much experiences and knowledge to suddenly become a tour guide to other people. Not to mention that I haven't travel around that often too since I came here. And third, I know that they must have created some kind of rough plan or itinerary about their holiday here, cause they will stay for around 1 month and they stay in Japan, which is among one of the most expensive countries to live in. That makes a very well, budget-tight plan is a mandatory. And I'm sure that they will enjoy it more to design their own vacation plan rather than following some other people suggestions. The reason I write this is cause some people seem to still treat them like a children who cannot think of their own. Those people think we should quickly meet, and even implied that my cousin and his friend couldn't go anywhere without meeting me first or without my guidance. Not that I'm angry or what, but it's a little bit annoyed me...

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Hatsushima Island, The First Laboratory Trip

Before moving on to other topics, I want to write about one of my first quite-far-travel experience in here. Actually I always have the urge to write it as soon as possible, because I'm afraid I will forget it. Honestly, I don't really have a good memory. Most of my friends can prove that I'm sure.
So! Right after I got the news of my acceptance in here. I also told the my fellow lab mates (because I already know most of them from my previous internship in this lab) about that. Other than congratulating me, they also told me about their plan to go on a laboratory trip. I forgot the occasion, or if there's any occasion at all, but that is of course makes me quite excited because I will have the chance to go on a trip right after I got into Japan. Hahaha.. What a coincidence.... They said the trip will probably take place around early October, and I plan to come on the end of September, so.. Luckyy....

But... Objection!

Yes, that's right.. I ask and confirm with the graduate section of my institute that the earliest payment of scholarship money will be at the end of October. So for a month, I have to live with my own money first, including all the expenses needed for this trip.. Okay... That's alright...

Fast forward to my arrival in Japan, the trip we're going to take is to a place called Hatsushima. It's an island in Sagami Bay. Woohoo.. My first time going to another island... And we're going to spend a night at Hatsushima Island Resort, which for me, judging only by the website, is a very beautiful place. First, from ISAS/JAXA we plan to go by car to Atami, and then we will go by ferry from there to the island. I forgot (see!) how many people exactly, but there are around 10 members joined this trip. Everyone go except Nakamura-san, which might be very busy at that time, Semotaren (this is just his nickname, I don't even remember what his real name is), and Satou-san, which is the only female member of this lab (but I don't know the exact reason she didn't join). Ah, and there's another laboratory's member who join this trip too. Luckily, one of our laboratory members has a car so we only need to rent another car, and ready we go!

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Brief Introduction to Sokendai

Well, a year has passed since my last time writing in this blog, what an achievement!! After contemplating for a long time, finally my mood to write comes again, started by doing a bit overhaul with my blog design and layout. After using the so-called Dynamic Views for quite a time, though I indeed love the simplicity and flow, I realized that there are some functions missing from this views which should have been not! Reading the blogger help here and there I found the sentence that said "... unless you're using Dynamic Views", means that there are some features not working (yet, maybe) in this new layout. So I decided to choose functionality over design and turn into the most basic and simple layout, which is beautiful enough, for me at least.

Okay, enough with the blogger matters. In this post, I want to talk about my school, called The Graduate University for Advanced Studies (総合研究大学院大学, Sōgō kenkyū daigakuin daigaku), or Sokendai in short. The name itself is enough to make one confused, combined that with the strange education system it has adopted make this university is really unique in Japan. If you ask most Japanese, 99.99% of them must know about University of Tokyo, Kyoto, or big private university like Waseda. But for Sokendai, I'm sure most Japanese never even heard the name. Aside from the unique system which I will explain later, the university itself only took in graduate students, meaning there are no undergraduate degree offered in here. They also only accepted 3-years doctoral course or 5-years doctoral course program, so either way if you enter Sokendai and have a smooth journey here (hopefully that's the case with me), you will end up with a doctoral degree.

The most distinguished features, I think, is the concept of IURI or Inter-University Research Institute. Every department in Sokendai, has its own respective research insitute affiliated with it, and usually it's a big or national institute in the frontier of research and development in Japan. For example, Department of Informatics with National Institute of Informatics, or Department of Genetics with National Institute of Genetics. As for me, I entered Department of Space and Astronautical Science which is affiliated with ISAS/JAXA. So even though the headquarter of the university is in Hayama, I only go there for opening ceremony. After that, each of us go to our respective research institute and the whole processes of learning and coursework is going in that institute. That's why right now I live in Sagamihara, near Fuchinobe Station to be more accurate, because it is the home of ISAS/JAXA.

I don't know how to read that until now...