05 March 2009

Weird Wednesday

Yesterday was a very weird day. It involved an interrupted meeting and a copy-paste sequence done 2000 times.

So I was coding this HTML page. This is for an experiment that I am doing, not for my research, but for the professor who I am the research assistant to. We are doing an experiment, which involves people judging how good or bad a certain sentence is, with several factors that we manipulated. In order to be paperless, we decided that the participants could do this experiment by sitting down in front of a computer, and then they would simply be filling up the form using an HTML sheet. This HTML page will then have a Send button at the very bottom, and that would then send a text file to me via e-mail, which then I could process using spreadsheet and statistical software. In that way, we don't have to produce paper copies of the experiment and hand-code the responses.

That is a neat thing to do, except that the experiment is a ten-list experiment (we have 2 factors, one has 5 levels and the other has 2, resulting in a 5x2 design, which explains the ten-list study), which means that there are ten HTML pages all in all that I have to make. And the fact that it is presented at random, means that I cannot just copy and paste sentences in blocks. Item Number 1 in one list is not the same Item Number 1 in another list. So in the end, I ended up handcoding all these, doing 2000 repetitions of a copy-paste sequence.

But, by late afternoon, I had my nice collection of HTML pages. And when I tried to do the experiment myself, it worked! It produced the output that I wanted, and so I am happy.

Ah, there also was the interrupted meeting. I had a meeting with my adviser yesterday, scheduled for 5:00 PM. It turned out to be 5:30, and yet there were interruptions. One was due to one professor, and the other was due to the department chair, who apologized, and the third one was due to another professor who was coerced by the first interruptor to interrupt, just for the sake of completion. Interesting.

Anyway, that meeting was still fruitful. I am happy that my adviser doesn't think that my ideas are bogus and not worthy of a dissertation. Now I am moving to the next step, and that is, thinking what exactly is the hypothesis that I would be working with, and what are the experiments that I will need to design in order to address the hypotheses. I have one experiment lined up already, all I need to do is to get permission from the lab director to run it in her lab, and to get IRB approval for that, since my last IRB protocol expired a year ago.

I cannot wait for next week. Spring Break is coming up, that means I get to breathe some fresh air and not worry for academics in the meantime. I have things to do, but I suppose I am forcing myself not to do it for the moment, by getting out of town.

(Ambassade du Cameroun, from my Embassy Row Series)


  1. Very weird incidents indeed, and dude, 2000 times? couldn't you write a macro or ask someone in India to do the work cheaply? :P (kidding)

  2. I would have gone crazy, coding HTML all day! No wonder it was a weird day ;-)

  3. Final Transit,

    Macros? Well, I am primarily a psycholinguist, not a computational linguist. The closest thing I know to macros is my sparse knowledge of Perl, when I took a Corpus Linguistics class and had to write programs and scripts that do neat little tricks. If it were all about running statistical tests, then I'd be able to do it, but this is something I am not good at. So I have no choice but do it the long way. And unfortunately, the USA is in a recession right now, so money is at a premium. No extra money to pay even a cheap Indian programmer. :-P


    Oh yes, I almost went crazy as well! Good thing it was over.