A couple nights ago I achieved a significant milestone with regards to dissertation writing: 100 pages.
Admittedly this is a cheesy metric, akin to software engineering's LOC. It's easy to measure, which is part of its allure, but it doesn't tell you diddly about the associated quality. I measure the page count by loading the damned thing into a PDF viewer, and then dutifully update my spreadsheet of dissertation progress with the result of "N pages loaded" --- pages which include such fluff as front matter and the bibliography. I'm also keenly aware that the document is heavy with figures and tables, which further pad the page count. (To be fair, a lot of effort goes into rendering those figures, so I don't feel so bad about having those count.)
But, ya know what? I'll take it. Even as cheesy a metric as "total pages," it's a visceral sign of progress. I also know that it's a transient high water mark, that future edits may condense the total below 100. This nonetheless doesn't detract from the emotional significance of hitting that important number. (And perhaps gives an excuse for some modest celebration. Well, OK. I've already sorta celebrated, but quaffing a token beer in the privacy of one's abode alone seems to fall short of "celebrating.")
In other positive news, the last meeting I had with my advisor was brief and to the point, as they tend to be, but also yielded some profound good.
I explained to him that the current chapter was pushing 60 pages; this, in and of itself is not so bad as a chapter is as long as it needs to be. However, there was a potential "threat to validity" with the chapter, even as large as it was. At the risk of going into too much technical detail, I only address a single fitness landscape in the chapter. Admittedly this is a first cut, but I had explained to my labmate when he pointed out this problem that I intended to address the effects of other fitness landscapes in subsequent chapters. However, these other fitness landscapes could also have a significant contribution to the current chapter, contributions which would not be covered in future chapters. The problem was that the chapter was, again, already huge; adding more text to accommodate other fitness landscapes would cause an already large chapter to inflate into gargantuan proportions.
My advisor agreed that having a single fitness landscape in the current chapter was a serious weakness, and that other fitness landscapes would have to be added to shore it up. So on that point we were in agreement. I then posed to him that idea of splitting the current chapter into three separate chapters -- essentially promoting the sections that currently exist within the chapter. I was surprised when he agreed to this, too, because this meant a notable narrowing of the scope of my dissertation. This agreement also meant something quite profound: it means that I've suddenly in one fell swoop made significant progress on three core chapters all at once. I was elated to suddenly, within moments, to be once again on schedule.
One other consequence of this decision is that there were to be two follow on chapters that now will be pushed into that magical chapter called "Future Work." And that's fine by me.