AI Software Release, PhD Vivae of the World

I'm not sure anyone who reads this blog will really care, but Friday morning I finally released a new version of the python version of my software on the web. I should say "my" loosely -- I am not the main developer anymore. One of the reasons I gave to Bath for letting me go on sabbatical was that I needed to get back on top of my code base & really be using it myself. It is nice to be getting back into programming.

This week I am in England -- I'm doing a number of things including giving a talk, but the most time-consuming is examining a PhD in London on Thursday. In the UK, pretty much one person determines whether you get a PhD -- your external examiner. There is also an internal one (who cannot be your supervisor) who is supposed to act like an intercessor, but often that role is reversed as the internal probably won't know the field of research very well. Unlike vivas in many countries, you can often get major corrections (which might take a year to complete) and occasionally people even fail outright. It is therefore not just a formality.

I'm also examining another PhD in The Netherlands in December. There it is very weird. In the US, (almost) no one fails their viva, which is often public, but they can still get corrections after it. But the Dutch force you to send all your corrections before the viva, and then the candidate has to get his dissertation published as a book before the viva as well. (Normally they self-publish which is quite expensive.) So at the viva they do get asked questions, but it is really very much a ritual, everyone is in ceremonial garb. So it's kind of a viva and graduation at the same time. I like that they make so much fuss about the viva, but I don't like that I had to give corrections without being able to question the candidate and have him defend himself. Normally text can never be that clear, and dialog is the only real way to communicate.

Because my gown came one day late for my PhD student Emmanuel Tanguy's graduation, December will actually be the first time I wear my proper MIT colours. Had I known they were going to rent us black ones for our own graduation, I would have bought it back in 2001 instead of renting it.

Anyway, from next Friday I will be working on programming / modelling fairly intensely for a week, although as usual a lot of other stuff will be going on too. But Hagen and I really need to get good abstracts in for the International Primatalogical Society Congress in 2008, which will be held in Edinburgh during the festival (hurrah!!) They have a spectacularly cool website, take a look. The abstracts are due on St. Andrew's Day, appropriately.