The Art Of Writing
A Literature Review

The first step in the acquisition of wisdom is silence, the second listening, the third memory, the fourth practice, the fifth teaching others.
~Solomon Ibn Gabriol~

Literature review is an essential part in writing a thesis. So how to extract the necessary information from the article you reviewed?

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In this post, I’m going to share on how to write a good literature review, a legacy passed down to me from my great supervisor ^-^

Here are the steps and examples – exactly in his own words (maybe with one or two additional words, where appropriate :D)

  1. Simple statement of what the researchers did that is similar to your work.
  2. eg: M. Chen et al. [1] built a 3D controller combining the Wii and several cameras. The aim was to develop a universal motion controller from current and cheap hardware that can perform general tasks in both 2D and 3D by simply changing its mode of operation.

  3. What were the authors aiming to do?
  4. eg: The authors stated that “the WIMP GUI may still be irreplaceable but 3D UIs will be superior when the interaction is taking place in a 3D spatial context”. Because of this, they suggested that the universal user interface should be something that can combine both 2D and 3D interaction.

    They implemented this interface and demonstrated how it looked for a couple of tasks including 3D manipulation of virtual Lego Bricks.

  5. Give a bit more detail which are needed for the next step.
  6. eg: In their demo application for 3D manipulation and 3D navigation, a lot of cues were used to tell the users what interaction they were performing. A red overlay is used if an object is graspable or objects are engaged but not correctly aligned. If the objects are correctly aligned, a green overlay will be shown and the user can press a button that will trigger the ‘assemble’ command. For 6DoF browsing in the application, the user needs to point the controller upward until a semi-transparent green appears which indicates the desired operation has been triggered.

  7. How is your work different?
  8. eg: This interface is very different from ours because of these additional and artificial cues. Also there is no report of user testing so it is not possible to see whether the universal interface is in any sense better.

  9. A gentle criticism. Not really needed, but it shows you have thought about what they are doing. For this case, it makes the point that these authors were not aiming at a natural interface in the sense that it is close to something already familiar.
  10. eg: A universal motion controller is an interesting idea but it cannot be said to be natural. It is a bit like having a common steering system for cars, bicycles and boats. It might be a good idea but we would need to see some evidence.

Simple much? These steps had helped me to focus on what to write especially when I had to rewrite my background chapter just a few weeks before my submission date!

Reference:
Chen, M., AlRegib, G., and Juang, B.-H. (2011). An integrated framework for universal motion control. In Proceedings of the 10th International Conference on Virtual Reality Continuum and Its Applications in Industry, VRCAI ’11, New York, NY, USA, 513–518. ACM.

Dunedin: A Down To Earth City

Happiness resides not in possessions and not in gold; the feeling of happiness dwells in the soul.

~Democritus~


Dunedin was named after Edinburgh in Scottish Gaelic language. That is why its name sometimes hard to pronounce. It is actually Duh-ni-den, and not Du-ne-din, as many people would say it.

What do I like about Dunedin the most? Everything is within a walking distance. I can walk to the university or to the supermarket or to my friends’ house.

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The biggest attraction of this city is definitely the University Of Otago – the first University in New Zealand! It is also the home of the Otago Polytechnic.

And how do these two colleges affect the city?
Well, they attract many people from around the world to pursue their study here.

Throughout the year, the city is full of students. BUT when summer comes, the students desert Dunedin and the town is peacefully quiet. Sometimes I feel like I have the entire city to myself.

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Since Dunedin is situated on the coast, it is surrounded by many beautiful beaches. You can choose to go to St. Clair Beach, Tunnel Beach, Brighton, Aramoana, Long Beach, Otago Peninsular (which is the only mainland breeding colony of Royal Albatross), Waitati or even Taeri Beach.

There are not just beaches – Dunedin is also surrounded by lovely hills including Mt. Cargill, Signal Hill and Flag Staff, to name a few.

Compared to some other places around New Zealand, Dunedin can be quite chilly during the year, so it’s certainly worth bringing a warm jacket even in summer. But the cool weather is part of Dunedin’s charm, and helps make the city so unique ;).

Hmm, what else can you find in Dunedin? What about the steepest street in the world, called Baldwin St? Or how about the one and only castle in New Zealand, Larnach Castle?

See, I told you. There is more to Dunedin than meets the eye.

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There are few more attractions that worth seeing in Dunedin. For example, you can go on a tour around the Cadbury chocolate factory. But don’t expect to have the Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’s experience or you will be disappointed :P.

To learn more about the history of Dunedin, Otago Settlers Museum will provide you with the answer. For some relaxation, you might just want to go to the Botanic Gardens (which even has its own aviary), or to the beautiful and serene Chinese Gardens.

Bottom line, do not underestimate Dunedin. If you think spending a day here would be enough, you might want to think again. Even I, who have lived here for more than six years now, haven’t had enough time to uncover the whole mystery of Dunedin!

My final words on Dunedin – Dunedin is… My Precious!

p/s:Soon I might have to say goodbye to Dunedin (if I could not get a permanent job down here) :(

Character Development:
One Piece vs Attack on Titan – A Case Study

A fair reputation is a plant, delicate in its nature, and by no means rapid in its growth. It will not shoot up in a night like the gourd of the prophet; but, like that gourd, it may perish in a night.
~Jeremy Taylor~

The following content contains ***SPOILERS*** ^-^.

How far do we need to develop a character in a story? This is the sort of question I’ve been asking myself lately. Without great characters, a story might just be nondescript. Plain and boring.

Developing a character is not that simple. A writer must be able to write a believable character from the readers’ point of view. A writer must be able to create a connection between the characters and the readers – to hate, to love, to sympathize and so on.

I’ve been reading a lot, not just manga but also novels. I tried to understand what makes me engaged to a story. Apart from a good plot, I found that characters do influence me as well.

For the purpose of understanding the importance of character development, I compared two of the currently most popular manga: One Piece by Eiichiro Oda and Attack on Titan by Hajime Isayama.

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One Piece has been dominating the manga sales for years now, holding the record for the highest total volume sales and making it the best-selling manga in history. Attack on Titan, based on its volumes sales in 2013, was doing extremely well too.

However, I discovered an interesting fact that distinguishes these two mangakas – how they develop their characters and who would become the center of the story later on.

Attack on Titan started really strong. The story focuses on Eren, Mikasa and Armin’s journey after Shiganshina was attacked by titans. Along the way, a lot of supporting characters were introduced. Some of the characters got more development, especially Captain Levi (who was actually rated the most popular character in this series).

As the story reaches its climax, Isayama decided to make a complete turn in the plot. From an intense battle since the very beginning to a mostly-talk-less-action political plot to dethrone the king.

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And not just that. He also decided to bring one of the most least developed characters in the very beginning, Krista aka Historia to play a major role in this current plot. Out of sudden she becomes the highlight of the story, pushing aside Mikasa and Armin to the sideline.

As a reader, I found it hard to connect with Krista at this point. I even questioned, why her? In my opinion it’s too late to give her this important role when she was barely noticed (yeap, I couldn’t care less about her character back then) in the very beginning. I guess Isayama was trying to make a major twist, to surprise his readers but he picked the wrong character to carry out his plan. I’m not sure about others but it does make me feel disconnected from the story by much!

This is where Oda excels. Since the start of One Piece in 1997, he has introduced character after character and make his readers drawn into these characters. If a character will play a major role in the future arc, he either makes a strong introduction about that character and leaves the readers to wonder, or he just introduces that character at that particular arc and builds the character from there.

I think that is one of the reasons why One Piece continues to soar high – the connection that he managed to develop between his readers and his characters. (The Fishman Island arc was not really up to the readers’ expectation but Oda managed to cover that with a great revelation at the end of the arc).

And since I’m already on this subject, I just wanted to touch slightly on a novel by Sidney Sheldon (one of my favorite authors).

I love all his novels. He was indeed a master storyteller. The only time I felt a bit let down was when I read the Best Laid Plan. The story was about Leslie Stewart, who was betrayed by her fiancee, Oliver Russell, and started to plan a revenge towards him.

What I expected was to ride the journey with Leslie until the end of the story, but somehow after the third quarter, I lost her. A new character emerged in between which was completely fine and nicely built but that should not put Leslie away from the focus.

The plot was good. I was just not satisfied with the character development. He introduced Leslie as one of the main characters, built her so much and then took her away from the limelight.

I kept on asking myself – where was Leslie? what had happened to her? – while reading the novel. By the end of the story when it was revealed that Leslie planned had failed and she was humiliated by her own plan, I could not feel anything. I had been disconnected from her the moment Sheldon pushed her character away.

What do I learn from all these?

A good plot without a good character development will not make a great story. A story is not only to entertain, but to make the readers immerse in it. It will be a great challenge for me to develop characters that can connect to my readers. Hopefully I can do justice to each of the characters written in my story.

Living Together In Harmony

Learn to regard the souls around you as parts of some grand instrument. It is for each of us to know the keys and stops, that we may draw forth the harmonies that lie sleeping in the silent octaves.
~Anonymous~


Different backgrounds. Different cultures. Different beliefs. Living under one roof. Is it possible?

Everything is possible if you are willing to put an effort into it.

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When I first came to Dunedin, I stayed at Toroa International House, one of University of Otago residence halls. My flatmates were Yi Tian, a Chinese Malaysian, Alexa, a Fijian, Rianne, a Dutch and Kayla, an American. We got along very well because we had developed respect towards each other.

The next year, when I decided to flat instead of stay at a residence hall, I moved in with complete strangers.

Niamh, Saskia, Aleisha, Tessa, Amy and Chetan.

I’m not gonna lie. I was scared at first. As an international and a Muslim, all I wanted was to be accepted as who I am. I knew very well the misconception that the world has towards us, due to some groups of twisted mind – the extremists – and the make-believe stories by medias.

But these people, my flatmates, proved that there are actually a lot of people in this world who are smart enough not to succumb to the make-believe stories. They proved that it is possible to live peacefully with each other regardless of our beliefs.

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Respect. Understanding. Tolerance.

If we want someone to respect us, we have to respect them back.

What we don’t know, will make us afraid. We managed to put aside our differences. We abandoned our ignorance and learned to understand each other. We tried to tolerate as much as we could without jeopardizing our beliefs.

To make this world a peaceful place to live is not the responsibility of one nation only. Or one religion. We all have to work together.

And that my friends, is the recipe for a healthy, peaceful world. There is no need for an unnecessary ingredient because it might just destroy the good taste.

What Color Is it?

Ask yourself this question:
“Will this matter a year from now?”
~Richard Carlson, writing in Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff~

“So, have you chosen the color of your thesis?” asked Steve, a senior lecturer at the Department of Computer Science, University of Otago.

I had just finished uploading my e-thesis into the university’s Library website when he asked me that question.

“Well, I haven’t decided yet,” I replied.

Steve laughed.

Believe it or not, the color of the PhD hardbound thesis is one of the most frequently asked questions for those whose thesis had just been accepted, well, at least in my department. Unlike some universities, University of Otago does not fix the color for the hardbound copy. Students can choose from the range of colors available at the Library Bindery.

When I brought my copies to the Bindery, I still had not yet decided on the color. I love red and black. But these two colors have always been a popular choice, as well as blue and maroon.

So what’s the problem?

No problem at all. I just want my thesis to be in a different color from the others 😛

Even at the Bindery, I wasn’t still able to make up my mind. The guy who entertained me had to show the actual cover, to help me to decide.

At first, I wanted to go for what I thought to be a light purple color. But when he said it was “pink”, I quickly changed my mind. Sorry, no offense, but I don’t really like pink. So I chose another color.

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An orange color.

Umair (my labmate) thought I was joking when I told him I chose orange to be my hardbound thesis color. Who could blame him? Even I wasn’t convinced with my own choice.

But when I got the final hardbound copy, I was happy.

It doesn’t look bad at all, does it? ^-^

Social Media: Love It or Hate It?

There is only one thing that remains to us, that cannot be taken away: to act with courage and dignity and to stick to the ideals that have given meaning to life.
~Jawaharlal Nehru~


In the midst of calamity, a social media can be used to update news, to give hope. Unfortunately, for some people, they have found a better use of it: to spread more lies and make sick jokes.

For what reason?

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People are sick. Truly sick. It makes me sad. How can someone with a brain to think could be so insensitive and heartless?

There are a lot of families out there worrying, waiting and hoping, and yet these people found it amusing to make fun of the fate of 239 lives. Does not life mean anything but a joke?

Some people purposely misled the information. Why is hope given just to take it away?

And some just found it easier to point fingers and blame others. I wish there would be a remedy to cure humans’ stupidity and wickedness.

This current event is a tragedy. It is not the time to find fault or to play Sherlock; but it is the time to put our differences – including political differences – aside, and unite.

Let the authorities do their job and give them our full support. It is a sad moment, not just for Malaysians, but for people from all around the world too.

If you don’t have anything nice to say, then just keep quiet, and pray for the best. It is not that hard to do, is it?

Online Shopping:
Shop Till You Drop

“Anyone who has never made a mistake
has never tried anything new.”

~Albert Einstein~


Online shopping – a habit that I had picked up after about a year in New Zealand. Easy, less hassle. Just browse the internet, and the stuff I want to buy is just a finger tip away.

The danger of online shopping?

Based on my experience being addicted to this type of shopping, what concern me the most is not the amount spent to purchase the items (because I can control my expenses so far) but whether I can trust the seller or not.

Before buying from any website, I would normally find a review on that particular website. You know, better safe than sorry. But if I couldn’t find any review on that site, I would just take a risk. And the risk doesn’t always end up well.

Some sellers are too slow to reply but very quick at processing your order and draining your money. Personally I don’t really mind if I still get the item in the end.

There are also whom I called ‘selective’ sellers. They responded quickly when you are about to purchase something or while your order are being processed. But when it comes to refunding your purchase, it might take forever to get a reply – a problem that I experienced recently.

I purchased an item from quite a well-known company. My order had been processed, my credit card had been charged, a notification email about the item delivery had been sent to me but after a week, I still did not get the item. When asked, I was told that the item was lost in transit with the postal service and a new order was created. I waited for another two weeks, still I did not get anything. Nada. Zilch. To make matter worse, they claimed I was never charged for the item!

To cut a long story short, I consulted PayPal, filed a dispute and got refunded.

I value good services above all.

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The best website I’ve used so far for online shopping, the one website that never disappoints me, is the Mighty Ape. They provide good products and a superb customer service. Highly recommended if you want to shop without fear.

Amazon should be a safe place to shop online as well. I hardly purchase from the website because I prefer to buy from within New Zealand, to avoid an expensive shipping cost.

After a lot of bad online shopping experiences, I would definitely shop from Amazon if the item I’m looking for cannot be found on the Mighty Ape site.