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catch-22


The novel catch-22 by Joseph Heller is a masterpiece of literature, funny, and simply a great piece of writing.

It's also about a concept that, sooner or later, we all encounter in our daily lives.

The concept of catch-22 is, in a sense, another expression of the chicken and egg problem. The book makes references to this constantly. Example: During war, you've got, sometimes, pilots flying missions that no sane person would agree to. Therefore, the pilots must be, in some sense, "insane". On the other hand, no one would give control of an airplane to an insane person...

Or: there's an officer in the book that only agrees to meet with you in his office, but only if he's not in his office. If he's in the office, you can't meet him. If he isn't there, then you can.

And so on, and so forth. :)

Today, I had my own tiny catch-22. It's like this: at Trinity, you cannot do a PhD thesis by research in less than two years. It's the minimum time: a year in the Masters program, then another year in the PhD program.

The deadline for submitting the thesis is September 30, right before the new academic year begins in October. If you are doing it in two years, you cannot submit the thesis before September 30, because the minimum required period wouldn't have passed. On the other hand, you cannot submit it after September 30 either, because then you'd be into the new academic year which means you'd have to pay fees for the whole year.

There's usually the possibility of getting a short extension to the deadline (generally a month).

Now here's the thing: you can only get an extension after you've completed the minimum period for a PhD. That is, two years. Getting an extension in, say, your 3rd year is a simple process. Getting it when you're doing it in two years (when one would argue that a small extension would make the most difference) is simply not possible. All the deadlines come together.

Catch-22.

In fact, submitting a thesis after only two years is only possible during the day of September 30 of the second year. Not before, not after. Well, not after, that is, if you don't want to pay for another year's worth of fees.

My thesis supervisor had suggested I request the extension so that we could iterate a couple of times more over the text. No can do. Everything will have to happen this week. By next Tuesday, it will all be over.

Should be fun! :-)

Categories: personal
Posted by diego on September 23 2003 at 4:12 PM

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