Wednesday, June 14, 2006
Edgy and moody
Unlike some of my more mobile peers, I have to stay put for at least the next year. I arrived in my current location clinging to the coattails of my supervisor, while clinging to mine was B. Now it’s time for me to cling to B’s coattails, as she has secured gainful employment as an English teacher at a school not too far away. It’s great news for us, but it means the next year has to be liminal to say the least. I’m most probably going to have to weave together a patchwork of employment and sustain my gypsy scholar status.
This doesn’t suit my personality. I like to know where things are going, but academia is absolutely useless in that respect. I can feel myself getting edgy and moody in all the bad ways I try to ignore (and pretend it’s not me but other people who have the problem). So I’m in the middle of writing up and in the middle of an existential crisis. Business as usual then.
Friday, June 09, 2006
Quite a lot has happened over the last couple of weeks. Summer has finally arrived, which is very up lifting! My old pc laptop containing all my PhD interview data, including the original recordings, died. It just didn’t work. So I had to dash back to Kent to get the HD ripped out and all the data saved. That’s to T for saving the PhD!
Now I’m making a hermit of myself, anchored to the computer, writing manically. So that’s going to be the next month. Frantic writing in the morning, then football all afternoon and evening. Perfect.
Tuesday, June 06, 2006
Lower than average driving ability
Tuesday, May 23, 2006
Monday, May 22, 2006
Sunday, May 21, 2006
The age of steel
Wasn’t Eurovision great last night? It has to be the weirdest and greatest contest for many years. My particular favourites ‘No No Never’ by the German entry Texas Lightning (I didn’t know they had cowboys in Germany, but there you go), ‘We Are The Winners’ by LT United from Lithuania (what incredible balls to do a song like that), and the winners Lordi (from Finland) with the magisterial ‘Hard Rock Hallelujah’. It’s brilliant that this song won for several reasons, but principally because it’ll mean there should be far fewer ‘budget divas to vaguely eastern sounding rubbish’ in the future. And in their place there will be plenty more freaks – or at least let’s hope so. Not that the songs are supposed to be good of course: they're meant to stink. But hey, that's why we love it isn't it? The UK entry finished much lover than I thought it would. It was certainly the right way to go and our 'best' entry for some time, but you have to do produce something special to break through the political block voting. Overall though, this year I give the whole event.... 12 points!
Friday, May 19, 2006
We saw a reasonably good performance of Tosca on Wednesday evening. Last year we saw a concert performance as part of the Welsh Proms, featuring the excellent Bryn Terfel, which was really great and very well paced due to the lack of scene changes. I found that with two 20-minute intervals this full stage production suffered, even though the cast were strong and the vocals extremely powerful. Of course, we missed Arsenal lose – bad luck to all the gooners.
Wednesday, May 17, 2006
Tuesday, May 16, 2006
The fact is the academics are poorly paid in relation to all other professional groups. After at least 7 years of education and training (all undertaken with student loans and minimal research funding - i.e. skint) we start off at roughly the same level as teachers and junior doctors, and then we progress far, far slower up our pay scale. With the large amounts of new money coming into the HE sector from fees and top-up fees it is time employers ended this ridiculous situation.
None of us wants to take action, but clearly the time has come to make a stand. So much is expected of modern academics and very little is given in return. We do this job because we love it - we're not motivated by money and we're certainly not greedy. Hard work deserves a just reward.
So I was interested to see that, when checking out the wiki definition of 'professor', there is some easily digestible information at hand. I've decided to borrow a phrase from wiki which is used in the States and refer to myself as a 'Gypsy scholar' as it seems quite fitting in my current situation.
"Gypsy scholar: is an informal term given to some academics who either move several times between institutions and/or work at two or more institutions at a time. There are several possible reasons explaining the existence of gypsy scholars, among these are the fact that many teaching jobs are now either part-time or terminal (1-3 years)..."
There was no information, however, as to whether I need to get myself a caravan.
Monday, May 15, 2006
Today has been really productive and, as I sit here post-bean chilli and beer, I feel pretty satisfied with myself I must say. I managed to work part of an old conference paper into what should be a short (2000 words) submittable article in a few hours this afternoon. It's filled me with confidence. What's good about it as well is that, not only do I know the editors of the journal I'm sending it to, there is only a five month wait for publication. That is just amazingly quick for an academic journal. It's also very important as it allows me to (hopefully) get another publication in press/published by the time I finish, which is essential if I'm going to stand any chance of getting gainful and meaningful employment when the current funding runs out in September. That's not too long away - I'm beginning to worry, but only a fraction of the future is in my hands. Who knows what jobs will become available in the next few months? More on this tomorrow, it's time for another well earned beer. Cheers!
Sunday, May 14, 2006
Friday, May 12, 2006
The meeting was too dull to commment on, so I won't waste time talking about it.
Wednesday, May 10, 2006
In an attempt to draw more people into the excellent Pardus, I thought I pop a few graphics from the game on here.
It really is very good and FREE! It gets the Thesisville 5* rating (which I've just invented).
Get involved and join the Union!
Most importantly, I’ve finished working for the government. This, as any regular readers will already have guessed, is a great relief. It was certainly an interesting and educational experience, but not a very fulfilling one. In the end I completed several chapters for a consultation document, working up to the arranged completion date (‘Easter’) only to find the whole thing was (as one civil servant put it) ‘end-loaded.’ But luckily I bailed and didn’t pick up any of the extra work offered. Frankly, I’ve got more important things to do, and for once have to think about myself and the ‘big picture.’ That’ll be the thesis then!
Mostly teaching has finished for the academic year, which means much less travelling and free Tuesdays. Hooray! There’s the distance learning students to look after, but they’re always fun to work with and hey, they actually read the books on the course. Gotta love ‘em for that.
There’s been some good (and bad) rugby. Well done to the Cardiff Blues for a late surge towards the top of the Celtic League. A season ticket may well be in order for next year. Congrats of course also go to Chelsea for another premiership title. Blue is indeed the colour.
The Spring break (a.k.a. Easter) was very busy. A trip back to Kent to see family and friends was fun but exhausting. This was closely followed by the second visit of the year to Harrogate, this time for the British Sociological Association conference (I know, it hardly sounds rock ‘n’ roll does it?). It was a good few days though, with sunshine and, somewhat surprisingly for Harrogate, the discovery of a good club. I also met some really interesting and charismatic people, and that’s what conferences are really about. The few papers I saw were of a reasonable but hardly inspiring standard.
And hazzah! Dr Who is back on our screens. For that we can all surely be thankful. Well done to David Tennant for keeping up the high standard set by the first series. Coupled with nightly episodes of the Sopranos on DVD the Thesisville media interface has been of the highest quality of late.
Urban Dead has become a little tiresome (although I’m still hacking away) and has been superseded by Pardus, which I very highly recommend. Given time, this is a very rewarding and completely free online game.
Right now I’m coming back to the world after a week or so of complete R&R. My mind is slowly clicking back into thesis mode and I really, really feel like writing again. Thoughts are falling into place for the first time in months. But more of that later…
Right now I have to prepare a presentation for tomorrow. Nothing spectacular, just an overview of my research to present to the department. Surely nothing can go wrong….?
Sunday, May 07, 2006
I'm still here
Saturday, April 01, 2006
"The way to achieve inner peace is to finish off all the things you have started".
So I looked round the house to see all the things I had started and hadn't finished. And before starting work this morning (on a report for an independent review body - thanks for asking) I finished off a bottle of red wine, a bottle of white wine, the Baileys, the Jack Daniels, the Prozac, some Valium, some cheesecake and a box of chocolates. You have no idea how bloody good I feel.
You must pass this on to those you feel are in need of inner peace.
Tuesday, March 14, 2006
Grip on reality
In between times I’ve been working hard with Sgt Partridge in Malton (the city in Urban Dead – link in post below). We’ve got a good strategy going and seem to be working up our Experience Points. Any other survivors who want to join our ragtag group should head for the north west of the city, where we’re scouting out police and fire stations.
Grip on reality seems to be finally giving way…
Sunday, March 12, 2006
This season got off to a belter today, with a win for Alonso, just ahead of a resurgent Schumacher. I’m inclined to think that we’ll have one hell of a years racing in store.
Everyone has their favourite drivers of course – I’m always cheering Montoya on, and I think Alonso is so cool-headed – but as always I’ll be right behind Button, waving the flag and being mildly patriotic (against all my better judgement). As long as he gets a win this year, I’ll be happy. And several podiums. And finishes in the top 3, or maybe even… who can say?
Today, Thesisville officially says: GO JENSON!
Friday, March 10, 2006
I’m holed up in a hotel somewhere, popping out to hack a few limbs off every now and then…
Thursday, March 09, 2006
The turning point
Academia is hierarchical, as I’m sure most people would be aware. Research, by virtue of the Research Assessment Exercise (RAE) is on the top of the pile, and teaching is pretty much at the bottom. This is something I’ve never really understood, as I always thought that research and teaching should, in the best possible circumstances, be joined. I myself have internalised the notion that research is the pinnacle of the academic mountain, and I’ve worked hard to position myself in such as a way as to have a blistering research career. No I’m beginning to think this was my biggest mistake.
What I love about academia – or rather HE – is teaching. It’s teaching that gives me the biggest buzz. Over the last 3 years, nothing has given more pleasure, excitement and happiness than teaching. This is what I want to dedicate myself to.
I’ve known for sometime - but didn’t really want to recognise it – that research is an economic activity. It’s all about funding and building the reputation of institutions, which are invariably already rich (and powerful/influential). Balls to that. Teaching in my eyes is about activism, engagement and communal intellectual growth. Although it’s been spoiled by the introduction of ridiculous fees and the overall marketisation of HE, it still has massive potential.
So it seems as is this might be the turning point, when I finally realise what it is that I want to do with my life.
I know. It scares me too.