Wednesday, June 14, 2006

 

Edgy and moody

Shit. Everything seems to be coming to an end. Time, quite problematically, although typically. My wit, which is fast disappearing, along with my patience. And, most troublingly perhaps, I’m looking down the barrel at my final funding instalment that should arrive at the end of the month. What – the big question looms – happens next?

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

 

World Cup

Yes, the greatest show on earth is finally here. After what seems like months of build up, the world cup starts today with the mighty Costa Rica taking on some team called Germany. I’m so excited, I’ll be watching every single match (apart, rather annoyingly, from England’s opening match tomorrow, when I have to teach. But I’ll be watching when Wayne Rooney returns to have his foot stamped on and career ruined against Sweden or Trinidad & Tobago). England can win, they really have a chance. If they don’t I’d like to see a new team win for the first time, either Holland or Spain, but the likelihood is it’ll be one of the old guard. Also, keep your eye on the USA for some upsets. (Isn’t it funny when you hear England fans interviewed on the radio, they all sound like Cockneys – why is that?).

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

Just gotta love this...


Tuesday, May 23, 2006

 

Vampiric

For years I've been saying that to live in a society where it was possible to own a second home without any substantial penalty was an outrageous injustice. Finally someone else agrees with me and it's probably not too suprising that it's George Monbiot. What should also be taxed prohibitively is the practice of buy-to-let, as the people who do that are even more vampiric than the multi-homeowners who clog up the airwaves on the dreadful Location, Location, Location.

Monday, May 22, 2006

 

Are you?



Sunday, May 21, 2006

 

The age of steel

My previous worries about the Cybermen were allayed last night. The second part of their returning story, The Age of Steel, proved to be very good indeed. In this episode we see them with more autonomy than before, as they force Lumic into his upgrade to Cybercontroller. This story had everything that was good about the Cybermen, especially stylistically. Two points stood out for me: the smashing through the windows in Rise of the Cybermen, and the line of Cyber-units in the tunnel in The Age of Steel. As a long-term fan who knows far more about the series than he cares to admit (at least in public) it’s wonderful to see the new series being made by people who really care about what they’re making. If only more television was made with this kind of zeal there wouldn’t be so much crap stinking up the airwaves. I’m looking at you Big Brother producers! (Although there is an awful lot of evil zeal going into that show). Having said that, I’m watching this series of BB with interest. Let’s see what happens in the first week and then bring judgement crashing down upon it.

 

Eurovision


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

 

Tosca


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

 

Arsenal

Even though I'm a Chelsea fan I have to wish Arsenal good luck against Barcelona tonight. I hope it's a good match. I'll miss it as we have tickets for a performance of Tosca. Great planning eh?

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

 

AUT

Having just listened to a debate on Radio 5 about the current strike action by my union the AUT I'm experiencing a strange mixture of emotions. On the one hand, I'm feeling great sympathy for the students who are caught up in all this, while on the other my blood is boiling with rage at the pathetic arguments of the employers and the way they are deliberately misleading people about this action and its root causes.

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.

 

Gypsy scholar

While I do work in academia, I have to admit that very often I have a limited understanding of certain aspects of it. It's not that universities are clandestine institutions (like Dan Brown's version of Opus Dei), rather than no one ever really explains anything to you unless you ask, beg or pay (for books on careers for example). And this often results in a form of cryptic response that leaves you no more informed and worried that if you enquire again you'll be on the receiving end of an astonished and annoyed look from your senior colleague, who will gaze down at you with a gurning expression of disgust akin to that displayed by someone sporting a turd moustache.

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

 

Heartwarming

It's really heartwarming to know that my 'virtual' friends are glad I'm blogging again! Thanks so much for leaving lovely messages for me.

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

 

Theo

I’m a bit concerned for the state of men in the UK. With the sprightly 17 year old Theo Walcott selected for the provisional England World Cup team, what kind of affect can this have on the moral of all the blokes in their 20’s, let alone 30’s? Are we to conclude that they are over-the-hill already? When we saw Oasis play at the Millennium Stadium last December I was entertained by the large number of 20something and 30something men who relished the opportunity to play at taking make-believe corners and head pretend goals past their friends as we all congregated on the covered pitch. How will they cope with knowing that that really is as close as they’ll come to glory? We could very well have a psychological crisis on our hands. I suppose, like most of us, they’ll have to spend their time arguing over a few beers as to what the starting line of the World Cup team should be.

 

Deep throat

Ruth Kelly – a.k.a. deep throat – has never been a favourite politician of mine. Until recently of course, she was Education Secretary, which meant she was in the firing line of most of the people I know (those that work in schools, FE and HE anyway) as she spouted crap about unwanted and quite possibly socially damaging educational reform. Now she’s taken over the work from what was the ODPM and it has come to my attention that not only is she a) a member of Opus Dei, she is also, unsurprisingly, b) apparently homophobic. Not only has she abstained from all recent votes on homosexual rights, she also refuses to say whether or not she considers homosexuality a sin. If she’s a devout Catholic she must believe this is the case, so why can’t she admit it? I don’t think that holding religious faith should exclude anyone from holding political office, even if I do dream of a secular republic. But I do think she should come clean about her beliefs. All she needs to say is something like: “yes, my personal belief is that…. But as someone who holds public office I will defend the rights of all citizens, regardless of ethnicity, social class, gender, sexuality, religion, region etc...” If she can’t hold her hand up and say this then she’s not fit for office and worse than even I suspected.

 

Animal testing

Yeah, yeah, I know. Big can opened, worms all over the place. (Probably being injected with some kind of toxin). I’m no expert on this issue (although on the whole I would prefer that there was no testing of any kind that used animals) so I’m not going to embark on some kind of argument here, but I was really pissed off to see that Blair has signed some petition in support of animal testing. Now, I know that he’s some kind of ‘only God can judge me’ nut-job who probably thinks that the Almighty put animals on Earth so we can slaughter them, but what offends me more is his ‘only the markets can judge ethics’ nut-job Neo-Liberalism. Clearly he’s signed this petition because he doesn’t want to scare away a very lucrative form of business from the UK. I myself would never, ever, support the animal rights extremists rightly sent to prison this week for a number of horrible offences. But I can’t help but find this a particularly slimy move by an increasingly creepy PM.

 

Cybermen

I was so happy to see the Cybermen return to Dr Who yesterday. I think the new ‘art deco’ design is brilliant. The only thing that concerned me slightly was the way they seemed to be a little too much like slaves under the control of the evil tycoon John Lumic (aka Trigger from Only Fools and Horses – I REALLY hate that programme!). In the past the Cybermen had minds of their own, albeit minds stripped of emotion. I don’t like the idea that they’ve become unthinking, programmed zombies. I understand that they’ve changed them from the body horror of the 1960’s and the techno-horror of the 70’s and 80’s, and made them into emblems for the info-corporate horror of the 00’s, but I can’t help feeling a little cheated. Hopefully in the next episode we’ll see them overthrow Lumic and get some kind of autonomy, and this will become a ‘genesis’ type story. They always scared me a lot more than the Daleks, so they’ve always been my favourites.

Friday, May 12, 2006

 

Birmingham

I went to a meeting in Birmingham today and it turns out I was quite wrong about the place. I thought it would be really horrible, but actually the city centre was lovely. It did help that it was a bright, sunny, warm day, but I do admit that I was very wrong about the place. Not sure what it's like at night or outside of the city centre though.

The meeting was too dull to commment on, so I won't waste time talking about it.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

 

Pardus



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!

 

The past

So, a few notes about what’s been going on in the world of Thesisville for the past, oh, couple of months.

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

You don't get rid of me that easily!

Saturday, April 01, 2006

 

Inner peace

I'm passing this on to everyone because it definitely worked for me, and we could all do with a little calm - particularly those of us who are balancing too many jobs while trying to finish a PhD. By following the simple advice I read in an article, I have finally found inner peace. The article read:

"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

Our boiler has broken, so half my day has been spent freezing my arse off. The other half the day has been spent with my sanity being melted by some really poor undergrad essays that I’ve been marking – honestly, some of them can’t even bloody spell (where’s the pride?).

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

 

Go Jenson

A few years ago I discovered the wonders of Formula One (F1). Previously I’d just regarded it as a bunch of cars driving round in circles for 90 minutes (I was wrong – this is what the Americans do), and while the first few seasons of my F1 fandom were the Schumacher dominated ones, I still enjoyed learning all about the sport – and then relearning every year as they changed all the regulations once again.

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

 

Undead

It’s Friday so, despite the huge workload that I can’t cope with, here’s some fun. Get along to Urbandead.com and join the ranks of the survivors or swell the ranks of the undead. Great old-school text based fun.

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

What’s the point? I mean, really: what’s the point? Research; is that really how I want progress in my career?

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.

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