Posted by: llordllama | 20 February, 2015

Writing is Rewriting Writing that’s been Rewritten

No prizes for guessing what I’ve been spending the bulk of this week working on.

  • Conference proposals
    • Spent Monday writing the two conference proposals that are deadlined for submission at the end of this month.  One’s an extended abstract of ~2,000 words based on my research, or as I prefer to think of it – a bloody paper already – so that took the bulk of the time.  The other one is a brief 500 word communications workshop proposal, which took slightly less time to write – but more time than I expected to polish in terms of the phraseology. As you might expect, if I’m writing about communication…I really ought to be able to communicate that better.  Biggest problem was running out of synonymous terms for communication.  Twitter was a minor help…but still ended up rephrasing a paragraph just to work around the problem.  As always, writing is re writing.  Also Mrs Llama has been lovely here giving a bit of feedback in bright-red pen (we disagree on nuances of phraseology and style a lot, but she’s hotter on grammatical structure than I am).
  • Thesis chapter writing
    • Into the home run now – working on the brief specific applications of theory for Marx, Foucault and the autonomists.  Just the methods to briefly rewrite (they’re largely okay as they are) and I can share it with my supervisors.  I’d be lying though if I wasn’t lying awake every night worrying about ever finishing whole thing though.  Or how much of a re-write this 3rd version will need after the supervisors are through with it.  Stressed?  Yes.
  • Book chapter proposal
    • Did a minor edit on this, shared it with Andreas and got told to send it off to the publishers for consideration.  And now we play the waiting game.
  • Teaching
    • Media Communications
      • Into the first of two weeks looking at Freud, psychoanalytics and their application in PR, marketing and business.  Bit of a laugh in the lecture when the academic did a double take when i walked into the room saying “What are you doing here?”.  Always nice to be warmly welcomed, but then Neil has taught me philosophy in the past – and sat through one of my conference papers.  Having explained I was lurking cos I teach on the module I sat back and enjoyed an exploration of the psychoanalytic properties of objects.  Hence the seminar that followed later in the day tried to draw out the shared cultural myths behind everyday objects – with the idea that the students could then see how we can use unconscious desires to drive advertising in subtle ways.  And given they’ve an assessed presentation on the subject coming up, I do hope they were listening.  Also took the chance to reference my good chum and Creative Overlord of Moxie Creative (free plug, they’re great) Nora, who I know reads this blog every now and again.  And by referenced I of course mean “spoke highly of”.
    • Face to Face to Facebook
      • Probably the dullest seminar session this week on digital literacy.  When I look at the approach taken to teach this, versus the effort I used to go through back in the day at York Uni for my teaching sessions…well it’s a lot less labour intensive.  Not sure the students quite get it, and frankly I think I’d overhaul the whole session given half a chance.  As it was I took the original handout the lecturer this week had written and rewrote.  And after running the session on Thursday for the first time, rewrote it again in time for Friday’s sessions.  It’s still not the greatest bit of training literature…but now at least there’s more of a logical path through it for the students to take during the session (and in their own time) that should reap them some rewards.
      • Nevertheless I took advantage of the time with the students to talk about their assignments and the course in general, turning it into a general problem solving and reassurance session(s) instead.  Fair amount of exploration of and social media, not a lot into the social bookmarking etc.  But at least they’re aware these tools exist and some of them might well take advantage of them.  Funniest thing was one of the students deciding to give one of my supervisor’s papers on repeated hits…taking it from a handful to over 1,000.  Not sure it was the most productive use of his time, but I used it to illustrate the falsehood of relying only on quantitative metrics for assessing research quality!
      • On the other hand the discussions around their forthcoming essays (which I’ll be mostly marking over the Easter break…joy) were productive.  A few have it well in hand, and hopefully I gave those that were less sure a few pointers.  Huzzah.
  • Marking
    • As I’ve taken over two more groups, just at the point they got to hand in a practice essay for formative assessment, this means I’ve taken on a load more marking.  I’ve been knocking off at least 3 every night this week in terms of indicative grading and feedback, rather than face the horror of a whole day (or more) lost to marking them.  Not getting paid for all this marking is a bloody cheek, when it’s supposed to be part of the hourly rate.  But I’d not taught these students when they submitted these – so it’s easy to see how the university is exploiting my immaterial labour here.  Anyway the essays are for the most part not bad, although one or two of them as always are a bit sub-optimal.  Hopefully those students’ll take my suggestions for improvements on-board for their assessed essays due in a few months.  It’s far more pleasant to be struggling to work out which high-grade to give a paper, than to sit there agonising over whether to fail or just give a very low grade to a poor one.
    • And yes, part of me does wonder if this is a bit of hand-holding for them to massage their experiences of the course, rather than offering say 1-2-1 tutorials instead.  But then my poor students would have to do this in a lobby somewhere with me.  Not having an office space…yeah, that’s going to be the biggest issue I’ve had with the NTU experience as a student, and as a member of staff – even more so.
    • Still it’s been heartening to read some polished essays that are frankly better than anything I can turn out today, and to spot other’s making common errors that I still make too.  Marking these things really helps remind me of my own failings as a writer, and spurs me to try…really try…to avoid making them again.  But I suspect I will, all the same.
  • Reading
    • I’ve not been doing a lot of deep reading this week – but these two articles certainly struck a chord:
  • Opportunity
    • As they do, an interesting opportunity for later this year has floated into sight this week, via Mrs Llama – which is somewhat surprising.  Not sure if it’ll be suitable or workout, but I’ll be investigating this weekend…
Posted by: llordllama | 16 February, 2015

Never Mind the Quality, Feel the Spin

So it’s been a few weeks since my last post – kinda keep meaning to get around to blogging and then having life (funerals, house renovations, mouse hunting etc) getting in the way. So here’s a speed through some of things I’ve been up to.

  • Thesis Theory Chapter
    • Still writing it.  Beginning to think I might be done with it this week with a good tail wind.  Of course this is the moment my supervisor is “super busy” of course so this’ll doubtless mean some delays once I submit it for review.  It is a lot better than previously and I can now talk about Foucault, Marx, Gramsci and the autonomists with a lot more ease.   So my education is benefiting.
  • QAA Review
    • Was approached (volunteered) to be a student mouth-piece for NTU’s QAA Higher Education Review panel for post-graduate researchers.  An interesting experience all round, and despite Mrs Llama’s skepticism over it as a good use of my time I’ve enjoyed being able to get my oar in.  As with all these sort of things at NTU it seemed some elements were happening a bit under a just in time approach to management – in that the first I heard about being involved was the Wednesday prior to the Tuesday evaluation via email.  That I’d been volunteered by my supervisor(s) or the university was interesting, I suspect it’s my role as former student rep that saw my name popping out of the hat a likely willing voice…but I never did find out just who it was whom put me forward.  Ah well, I can’t do research about activism and higher education without showing a willingness to be involved in shaping the sector when the opportunity arises now can I?  Interesting experience, although the one thing I took away is that the provision of support, facilities and resources for PGRs at NTU varies massively- I think AAH folks on on the poorer side of the dividing line too.  However, I seemed to be doing more academic work in terms of teaching and assessment than most, so there you go.  At least I got a chance to voice how awful the research training module had been…
  • Teaching
    • As of last week I’ve taken on two more classes for my digital/human communications module seminars – both of which seem fuller of students than my regular one.  Just keeping the one class for the media communications sessions though.  Nice to run the seminars more than once, as what doesn’t work with some groups of students works really well with others.  of course this does mean I’ve just taken on more marking commitments…sigh…wish the uni paid me for that time!  Speaking of which spent two days marking the student’s profile essays, which were a good read on the whole – they’d all pretty much grasped the ideas behind the assessment which was great.  Wonder how they’ll do in the oral presentation they’ve got coming up next?
  • Book chapter
    • Working on a propopals for a book chapter with my supervisory around issues of IPR and (c) in a post-physical/digital age.  Not sure we’ll get it accepted by the editors but worth a try.  Could always reuse it elsewhere.
  • Conference proposals
    • In the middle of writing two of these for conferences this summer.  Not 100% sure either will get in, but it’s worth a try I think.  One’s about general communications effectiveness and the other’s more about my research; which is the harder one to write – as in just picking one area to write about it a challenge!
  • Leicester Media Seminar
    • Went over to the University of Leicester to attend one of their research seminars about authentic ethnography and the Occupy Wall Street protests.  Very interesting session, although the Q&A did rather drag on.  Why do some people insist in asking questions that are in effect 5 minute statements about “How brilliant my research is”?  Doesn’t make for a lively back and forth frankly.  But worth my time, and hopefully I might see if any of their future sessions are worth attending.
  • Careers and employment
    • Yeah, I’ve been thinking about this a bit and trying to set a timetable of when I need to start really job hunting.  Pretty sure I can’t rely on something falling into my lap, but also pretty sure that I need to make sure I only take on something that allows me enough time to finish writing the thesis.  Balancing the need for income with the need to work, fun fun fun.  However, will continue my whispering campaign to get NTU to keep paying me to lecture at least!  Mrs Llama sent me the following “helpful” cartoon.  Thanks dear…
Post Doc Descent cartoon

Post Doc Descent

Posted by: llordllama | 28 January, 2015

From Exhilaration to Despair – Riding the Thesis Sine Wave

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way…” Dickens., 1859. A Tale of Two Cities

If ever a literary quote summed up my feelings about a week working on this thesis – it’s this one.  And given my work with trying to understand/explain another child of the Victorian age (Marxism) in my thesis theory chapter, it seems a likely companion and critique of my feelings.  There are rare moments when the sun shines through in my PhD addled brain and i suddenly grasp how all the elements of my theory fit together.  Then there are others when I’m staring at pages of text I’ve written that make NO SENSE AT ALL.  Or at least they don’t seem to any more.  Up the sine wave I go…it all works!  Then down, down I hurtle and into the trough of despair once more.

Yeah, that's about right

Yeah, that’s about right

Rewriting this theory chapter is harder than i thought, and there have honestly been days when I’m ready just to throw it all in the bin, pour lighter fluid over it and spark a match***.  or just take out my hunting knife and stab the pile of notes into submission.

I am reliably sure this is an effective research method.

Burn!  Damn you!

Burn! Damn you!

…and then there are thankfully the many moments of sanity that snap me back and remind I CAN DO THIS.  Honestly, I knew this bit was going to be hard.  But this is very very hard.  Far more than I anticipated.  A large part comes down to cranking out explanation on paper.  Despite appearances I’m not the world’s greatest or most able wordsmith (no shit, eh!) and far better at explaining things orally.  Things like the viva or my end of year review meetings don’t give me anything like the fear and distress i get with trying to contain my scholarly thoughts within the realm of a few sides of A4.   I really miss writing things collaboratively I confess, I’ve always been able to do my best work bouncing ideas back and forth between one or two other people.  I guess I’ve a strong tenancy for collaboration* rather than solo work.  Shame being solo is pretty much the life of a humanities PhD student.

Right, right.  Enough wallowing in self pity and back to writing.  I can’t put it off any more by writing a blog post to stretch my writing muscles (naturally, in no way is this a displacement activity).  Back to the grindstone I go.  Come on Marx, you must have some words to inspire me?

Capitalism squanders human lives, or living labour, and not only flesh and blood but also nerve and brain

Gee thanks you’re no help, I’m a cog ground down in a neoliberal capitalist influenced edu-factory.  I think I might have to go with the slightly more inspirational.

The philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways. The point, however, is to change it.

Yeah that’s much better – the quote so good they slapped it on his tomb.  Nice to remind myself once in a while that theory is all well and good, but making a difference is what counts.  That’s what got me started on this whole PhD lark, wanting to make a difference to the world.  Wanting to leave it a little bit better than I found it.  Not 100% sure I’m ever going to achieve that, and there are moments when I think I’m just adding hot air to a well inflated academic balloon…but anyway, one has to try and be optimistic.  Can one man really make a difference?  Well as other one great philosopher and philanthropist (Devon Knight) once thought as much:

Although failing a 80s haircut, nifty black car and weirdly popular in Germany pop career, I think I might turn back to Dickens for something more uplifting:

It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to than I have ever known.ibid

Yeah, right.  If only I knew this to be true, or indeed could have some solid, stress free rest for a bit – life would be just peachy!

*and a big thanks to Mrs Llama this week for actually bravely reading some of my written output to give me a friendly critique.  So far it appears I use the phrase “it is interesting“** about 5 times a paragraph she’s commented…

**But my PhD is interesting!  Thankfully, otherwise i might just have come to a full stop a long time ago!

***Second use of burning paper metaphor in two posts.  Hmn, I shall have to be careful around matches.

Posted by: llordllama | 23 January, 2015

Bonfire of the Humanities

This is...painful

This is…painful

My main hope for this couple of weeks is that I won’t be ending up visiting hospitals.  Although given the weather forecast for high winds and then sub-zero temperatures over the period I wasn’t making any promises.  As it was I did make it to the end of a struggling (for energy/motivation) couple of weeks without any major incidents.  Then again there’s always the weekend!

Big discovery for me is the joy of running Spotify radio playlists of movie, tv and computer game soundtracks (largely Murray Gold, Fallout and Assassins Creed) as aids to concentrating.  Nice as I move around the uni or the house and keep them running off the wifi.  It’s a small thing, but it’s bringing a tiny drop of much needed sunshine into my working days.

Anyway, what did I get up to.

  • Reading
    • Finished off reading the Digital Scholar, and even had a brief exchange of tweets with its author.  Providing to me one again the power of twitter, he’s told me about his new book – and it’s almost certainly one I want to read.  And it’s available in open access – which delights me no end!  Think I might have to leave it until I finish this theory chapter though.  I’ve also been reading my through a book entitled Cyber Marx (Dyer-Witheford, 2009); as recommended by my supervisor.  I was rather delightfully surprised to discover what I thought might be a slightly dated book (it uses the term information superhighway in places – a term I’ve not heard since the 90s) on Marxism and technology, is actually a rather accessible (if dense) book on autonomism.  It is also going to be the last book I read before I crack on with the rewrite of the theory chapter.  I think I’ve gathered enough information to do this now, and I’m feeling a lot more confident about some of the constructs and theory I’ll be using.
    • Oh okay I crumbled and read a paper and the recently published HEFCE Monographs and open access report, to update me a little on the current discourse around these.  I also checked out a copy of Hart & Negri’s Empire (read Commonwealth a couple of years back, will get around to Multitude in due course) for light background reading in my spare time.  Or at the very least as an alternative to reading the Fallout: New Vegas wiki in the middle of the night to help me sleep.
  • Writing
    • Finally sat myself down in the second week to go back over my reading notes, and start pulling together the revised version of my theory chapter.  This week’s blog title refers to the feeling I’ve got when it comes to throwing out all the additional theories I’ve covered in the first draft and focussing down to the two or three methodological areas I’m going to use.  There’s part of me that really struggles with the idea of casting aside really interesting areas of thought because they’re just too far out of scope.  For example I just removed 2,000 words of discussion around methodologies I won’t be using, and replaced it with just 132.  I’m fairly sure there’s at least two days work deleted there which more slightly pains me.  However, it makes room for the rest of the theory discussion and cuts the chapter length I reckon by about 1/3 once it’s all done.
    • It’s not been a waste of time, as my knowledge of social theory is simply orders of magnitude higher than it was even 6 months ago (and yet, there is so, so much more to learn) but there’s always part of me that winces when I have to cut thousands upon thousands of words I’ve written and just throw them onto the intellectual bonfire.  However, that at least means the aspect of Marxism, Foucault and Autonomism that I am embracing can be developed further and hopefully make my intellectual framework for the thesis so much stronger.  Although right now I’m still a little trepidacious of making another misstep – I desperately want to be solid in this area and move on to my next field work, as I’m aware time continues to march onwards.  Year 3 is certainly the year the ticking clock is ever at the back of my mind.
  • The Joy of Glossaries
    • One of the things I’ve been keeping going since day one of the PhD has been a glossary of terms.  Writing it helps force my beleaguered brain to try and understand what some of the weird and wonderful terms like alienation, the national popular and retroductability all mean (there are far more weird and wonderful phrases in there too).  It was also useful recently in that while I was doing some research to try and nail a description on a term, that it turned up a very useful site online going into autonomous marxism is a fairly clear and concise way.  Something some of the stuff I’ve been reading has not been that helpful on the topic – or at least about as clear as a muddy puddle that someone has helpfully filled with ink and then stirred with an egg whisk!
  • The Blog
    • Updated both the about me and research pages.  They’ve been long overdue an update, especially the one about my research – it’s changed enough that the old one now made less and less sense; certainly in terms of theory being applied.  I expect my sites hits to literally do nothing in response, but I’m happier with the update.
  • External Examiner
    • Got my contract through for this, so signed it, provided the documentation they needed and sent that off.  Still not quite sure what it’s all going to entail – but I am looking forward to a few trips over to Cymru over the next few years as part of it.  I love Wales, so that bit will be no hardship at all!
  • A Fist full of Seminars
    • Face to Face to Facebook
      • Two seminars here, and the trend for poor attendance certainly continued, although I heard on the grapevine it’s not just my seminars.  The module leader asked all us lecturers to contact the worst offenders and remind them of the importance and expectation of attending as part of their degree course!  We’ll see if this improves the situation.  It is certainly more of a teaching struggle to run the seminar material as set, as there seems to be an implicit assumption on the part of some lecturers that we’ll have full classes to work on it – trying to hold an engaging debate with only 5 or 6 first year students is more than a little challenging when most of them don’t want to speak, feeling more exposed than they would do in a more full class.  But I shall soldier on.
      • For the record we were dealing with public service broadcasting one week and considering the tension that exists between the state and the broadcasters when there are elements they want suppressed or downplayed in the news; vs the remit of people like the Beeb who are entrusted to produce programmes “without fear or favour”.  In the light of the Charlie Hebdo attacks this was as relevant as ever; although we examined the historical elements around the IRA and the overdubbing of speakers from some parties on the news.  Actually had a reasonably interesting debate with the few students who turned up, so a tip of my cap to these brave souls!
      • The more recent session was developing this theme and looking at the subversion or subsumption of broadcast news by the state elite; particularly in times of crisis.  This was (whisper it) a roleplaying exercise; or rather as I sold it to the students a simulation.  And despite my fears that I wouldn’t have enough students attend, clearly my emails this week worked – as numbers were up by 25% from last week (I know, half the course is still missing but what more can I do!).  The session itself went really, really well – the students’ solution to the crisis in their fictional country was…eye opening.  One group really seized the day, and caught one of the other groups on the hop.  I came away feeling very energised, and also with a burning desire to rework the seminar into a conference workshop.  I think there’s a lot to be said about achieving spin control and public representation vs our private agendas and I think it’d be a fab session to run.  Probably need to find somewhere that would give me more than an hour though as we were slightly pushed for time!
    • Media Communications
      • One seminar and one tutorial.  The tutorial slot once again was a chance for the students to come and seek my advice over their course work.  This time I had a few bookings, some of whom were relatively easy to handle as they’d pretty much got it; although another was a little more challenging and time consuming  with a 10 minute consultation lasting 70 minutes!  Just as well the previous week had been student free so I didn’t mind devoting the time.  Going to be interesting seeing what they’ve all come up with for their profile articles; although not relishing the time it’ll take to read and mark them that much.  Ah well, crack on and get it done in the next few weeks as a break from theory writing.
      • The seminar dealt with the tabloidisation of news and obsession of the media with pop and low culture; rather than hard and investigative news.  Had a fair debate with the students in attendance as we considered issues around the artificiality of the high/low culture divide and asked questions about the role of the press as holding a mirror to society and representing genuine interests.  Although when we watched a few minutes of the documentary Outfoxed: Rupert Murdoch’s War on Journalism there were a few shocked faces when it brought home just how much of a hegemony that man has over the people of the planet.  And this film is from around 2004…he’s had a decade since to expand his influence.  As we were also discussing aspects of infantilisation of news (and indeed entertainment media; bread and circuses anyone?) I also played a short clip from the much beloved (by me and one of the class at least) Nathan Barley – entitled Rise of the Idiots.  Chris Morris and Charlie Brooker at their sardonic and satirical best; and worryingly still an accurate deconstruction of the direction of news media and its cultural influences today as it was when first broadcast.  Well weapon!

  • Publishing and Conferences
    • Sorting out my booking for late March’s UKSG conference, and having a minor panic when I’ve not thought much about what to say yet.  Think I’ll wait until early March and then just really panic and get the session written.  It is only 20 minutes long to be honest so not as major as my Bangor session.  Also some discussion with my supervisor about submitting a book chapter together in a volume on the politics of publishing; which does seem to nicely align with my research interests.  I’ve not managed to get many publications out of the PhD yet as I’m a little unsure of where to place them or indeed where the interest for my work lies; so this is a very interesting opportunity to try and get something in print.  Or disseminated electronically, but in august company.  Be nice to collaborate on something again, as working solo in the PhD I have really missed collaboration with other scholars and workers on things; particularly publishing.  I think it’s the one thing I miss most of all about my old jobs.
    • Also started to ferment some ideas for a effective communications session for the FIL Conference.  They asked me last year, but I was double booked so I did say I’d try and submit a proposal for them again.  It would be nice to bring some of the teaching and theory I’ve been developing over the last couple of years into practice with the inter-lending community; for whom I’ve still got a deep fondness.
    • There’s also a conference in (aaaah) Vienna in the summer that I need to submit a proposal to.  Need to start writing that next week otherwise it’s going to hand over me (deadline is a month away but it needs careful thought).  Might dust off one my rejected summer school proposal and see if I can’t rework that into something that fits better to the conference themes.
Posted by: llordllama | 12 January, 2015

Into 2015

Well I managed to work another couple of days before the Christmas break but nothing too eventful occurred.  Then a nice break, only slight marred by coming down with a fluey cold that lasted pretty much the entire time (still got the remains of it).  Smashing, not quite the relaxing break I’d hoped for.  Still new year here we are and on with some more work.

  • A Long Expected Reading
    • A variety of reading this week, somewhat interrupted by my unexpected Tuesday outing.  All the same read a book on hegemony (Bocock, R., 1986. Hegemony) and another rather splendid one on the impact of digital disruption (Weller, M. 2011. The Digital Scholar) on academia.  Both were quite useful, with the latter being a lot more readable and digestible; which after all the Marxism and Foucault of late was a blessed relief!  Weller’s book also had one of my favourite phrases I’ve read of late – the creepy tree house syndrome – a phrase the author uses to describe the unwanted/undesirable invasion of academia into students’ social media spaces.  Conjurers up a beautifully disturbing (and accurate) image in my mind, and I’m in total agreement with it.
    • I also dipped my toe into the waters of a book entitled Structure and Agency in the Neoliberal University (Canaan & Shumar, 2008))- but as this isn’t 100% important to my theory chapter, I’ve pushed it to one side until I finish this chapter off.
  • The Two Seminars
    • Media Communications: Tutorial
      • Bit of a damp squib this week as it’s a 1-2-1 tutorial slot to help the students on their first bit of coursework, and despite advertising this fairly heavily no one showed up.  Spent the time reading a book and looking up hopefully for customers every few minutes.  Answered a few online queries for my students on their profile article but that was about it.  I do hope that means they’re all going great guns on it…but I could be mistaken.  Next week’s seminar is given over to tutorial time too, so here’s hoping a few of them need help!
    • Face to Face to Facebook: Public sphere
      • Pretty poor turnout post Christmas still (6/24) which is a bit depressing.  We’re on the history of the press/contribution of the free press to liberal democracy.  In a week when the events in France around Charlie Hebdo have highlighted the importance and value of free speech in an democratic world, I’d have hoped more students would have come along to discuss it.  Did get a bit of discussion going around the issues of the public sphere, Habermas and censorship…but could I get the students to work as a group?  Hopefully as we move into broadcast media for the next few weeks there’ll be a resurgence in attendance.  Honestly, I remain shocked by the poor level of attendance at seminars; as a UG myself we missed them at our peril, as they usually made far more sense than the lectures (and that’s always been my aim – to contextualise and demystify the lectures each week).  Either I have some brilliant students who will ace their coursework without me…or old faily will be coming out again when the time comes to grade their work.
  • The Breaking of the Data
    • After my tutorial slot I met up with Sharon, one of the research librarians at NTU, to talk about research data management.  This was fun, and I confess we did have a bit of gossip about other professional matters too.  However, I was mostly there to be a tame academic to talk about what kind of data I collect, how I curate/protect it, ethical issues around depositing it in any way (of which there are quite a few) and mechanical issues.  Was a mite longer than I expected to be chatting, but all the same one of the most positive experiences of the week.
  • The Road to Glyndwr
    • I can now exclusively reveal I’ve been appointed as an external examiner on a couple of degree courses.  Many months since I was first approached, but all the paperwork’s finally gone through!  I am deeply honoured and chuffed at the same time (while lightly apprehensive of what I’ve let myself in for!).  Looking forward to being involved though all the same.
  • An Unexpected Journey
    • Sadly not to Hobbiton, but rather the Leicester Royal Infirmary (LRI) with Mrs Llama.  She’d managed to bang her head (twice) on our chicken run over Christmas, and despite visiting our local surgery for advice was still feeling rather concussed and worried that she’d damaged herself more than first realised (as is often the case with cranial injuries).  So after another visit to the doctors she was sent to A&E in Leicester during what can only be described as the day of near collapse of the whole accident & emergency system across the UK.  The care she got from the doctors and nurses was first rate, sadly the waiting times and conditions were pretty awful.  While she waited, I made myself scarce and plonked myself in the Percy Gee (Leicester University’s student union) to work for the day; discovering along the way that their signage is awful and their toilets hidden away from any casual visitor*.  A long, cold but relatively productive day was had while I killed the 5hrs the Wife was in hospital.  Didn’t see anyone I knew, despite mentioning I was there a few times on social media.  Mrs Llama for the record is okay it seems, but still only recovering slowly.  We’ve bought her a new hard hat for the garden to avoid any recurrence of her injury.
  • An Unexpected Cancellation
    • I was rather looking forward to hearing my Director of Studies speak at a research seminar on Wednesday about the Crisis of Labour in Capitalism and the Commons (right up my street!), but it was cancelled on the day.  Boo, my dept doesn’t do enough of these sort of things, as I’d love to hear from all the staff about their research on a regular basis, so this was a real shame.  Hopefully they’ll reschedule it soon!

*Honestly…I never found them despite searching across 4 floors!  Ended up visiting a neighbouring building instead to relieve myself.

Posted by: llordllama | 19 December, 2014

Closing Time (2014)

This will probably be the last regular post for 2014, and cover my last full working weeks of the year.  Well I say full…

  • Reading:
  • EBooks
    • Yeah, this old chestnut.  I’ve gone on before about the delights using eBooks, and these couple of weeks I happened to access two books from the same publisher. Thanks to the way libraries buy books/publishers sell them are actually offered through two separate user-interfaces.  The first, Dawsons books, was a pleasure to use.  I could download the whole book as a PDF, with 24hr DRM attached.  And when it took an extra day to read, I just had to download a copy again.  Perfectly sensible, allowed me to as close as possible replicate the physical book reading experience and without any lag when turning the page.  Well done them!
    • The other book (same range) for some reason unknown to Llama or librarian, was offered via Ingram MyILibrary; a user interface that was designed and coded (I am guessing from its lack of modern functionality) sometime in the late 1990s.  When a UI looks like I could have coded it…well I worry.  Here you’re unable to download more than 10% of the book, and for the rest of the book you are locked to reading a single page at a time, flicking back and forth takes a second or two to occur which really breaks the reading flow and best of all – you can’t get the readable page on the screen at the same time as the page tools for turning the page.  I did discover a (slow) workaround using both my NTU accounts to download a bit more of the book in PDF (the download restriction seems to re-set overnight).  Nevertheless it would have been far, far more effective if Ingram followed the 24hr DRM/whole book solution for me as a end-user of their product and the NTU library services.
    • And I’m running this on a 27″ screen running at a highish resolution (1920×1080).  Wow Ingram, you are the suck.  Also, shame the NTU library didn’t consider buying a single print copy of this puppy for people like me who, unlike undergrads, want to read the whole book.
    • And yes, I’ve bitched about this on twitter – without any come back so far by the library or indeed the publisher side of things. Guess they don’t give two figs!
    • I also accessed a third book, this time from a different publisher and yes, yet ANOTHER different way of accessing.  This involved downloading Adobe Digital editions and then logging in via another ID (after downloading the book under my uni ID) before I could read it.  Less painful than Ingram, but still wouldn’t give me the freedom to read like Dawsons PDF – the lack of being able to display two pages at a time was a particular hobble.  Slight plus allowed me to download for 14 days before the DRM ran out.
  • Glossary:
    • One of the fallouts from reading stuff that is (not to put too fine a point on it) rather alien to my way of thinking, means I spend half the time reading the book scribbling down words, TLAs and Latin phrases to look up later which will help me make more sense of the next book I read.  Hence from day one I’ve been keeping a glossary document that started out as a GDoc, and is now a healthy near-10k Word document.  Certainly helps my learning, especially as trying tor track down a coherent explanation of what certain terms mean in less than a few hundred words (that generally then reference half a dozen other alien concepts) is a bit of a challenge.  There are times when I fear the humanities cloak themselves in this kind of semantic obfuscation for the sole purpose of frustrating those of us seeking entry to their scholarly club house!
  • Secret Professional thing:
    • Finished off the application for this, got it off and had a confirmation of recipt.  Let’s see where this goes next.  Struggled a bit to write the supporting statement, but in the end just knuckled down and wrote the damned thing.  Not the most stunning statement I’ve ever written, but hopefully bigged myself up enough.
  • Student Rep:
    • Officially stopped being this as the new person got elected without an election.  A little bitter on how perfunctory the end of this was, but having concluded that I was achieving very little and getting precious little interaction with my fellow students as a result I confess I’m not that overly sorry to see the back of it.  New rep seems quite chipper and I’ve been filling her in on how things works (as opposed to when I took over and the previous rep was already dust on the wind).  Unsurprisingly they’ve not really told her what it works, nor what she has to do.  Glad to see such devotion to the cause of the PGRs at NTU continues from the central bureaucracy.  Do I sound bitter?  Yeah, you know what, I think I am.
  • Open Source Academia
  • Conferences:
    • Supervisor’s pointed me towards a conference in Vienna next year I should apply to attend.  Thankfully the deadline is Feb, but I’ll get to work on writing a proposal right after Christmas I think.  Suspect it might be a bit pricey as I’m not spotting any sponsorship or studentships for impoverished PhD students.  Man it sucks that NTU doesn’t give PhD students any support at all towards attending conferences.  Even £50 would be a start, but it’s like they want us to not have a chance to find our feet with our potential academic peers.  I think if there was one major flaw in the whole PhD experience for me (after the lamentable RPC training in the first year) that’s the one!
  • RPC Certification:
    • Got a formal notification asking if I wanted my PG.Cert for completing the first year of the RPC (some 18 months ago now) or if I wanted to stay on the training register.  Last time they asked I foolishly said no.  Now I know how weaksauce the remaining training is, I’m not wasting my time with it.  So said send me the certificate.  Huzzah – more letters after my name!
  • Graduate School
    • Heard towards the end of the second week that the head of the Grad School is off to be a history professor.  While I’m wishing him well as he’s a splendid fellow who genuinely gave a damn about PGRs and our experiences, I can’t help but wonder who they’ll get to replace him.  I’ve been witness to a taste of his struggles by being a student rep, so perhaps it’s no surprise when the chance came to move back to mainstream academia that he took it. It seems the Grad School is only just up and running after three years, and as the university won’t be replacing him right away…well this could make things problematic I suspect for us PGRs as things change under the new order.  We shall see!
  • REF2014
    • Yes the REF results were out this week and while I see NTU has fallen overall in the rankings (and who cares about NeoTaylorist positivistic measures eh…oh right, funders) I was pleased to see Communication, Culture and Media Studies getting mentioned in the VC’s dispatches for being among the better units of assessment for the university.  I shall claim that’s all down to my positive influence.  Interestingly while other humanities and sciences were flagged up as positives; no mention of the social sciences; so I guess they’ve dragged us all down the rankings eh!
    • For the record NTU CC&M were 31st(overall): 24th (output) and 39th (impact); out of 67.  Seemingly Mrs Doctor Llama’s dept didn’t do quite so well, despite being at a more research intensive institution.
  • Birthday:
    • My birthday falls in early December, and thankfully with term ended I was able to take a day or so off around it to…well not a lot.  We’d debated a long weekend away in Wales, but scrubbed that due to the weather.  And as Mrs Llama was at work on my birthday itself there wasn’t a lot to do.  Went for a walk, watched some Netflix (started on Breaking Bad finally), played some Shadow of Mordor and generally regretted the lack of friends to go out for a drink with.  Humanities PhDs are horrifically isolating things, it’ll be a wonder if i have any social skills left by the end of it.  Speaking of that…
  • Christmas Party:
    • My Fb and twitter feeds are alight with people going to Christmas parties, lunches and the like.  The Wife is clocking in about 6 separate events it seems over the dying days of 2014, but then it seems her fellow geographers are a very social bunch.  As has been the tradition for the past 3 years I’ve got nada to attend.  I’ve concluded my School (Arts and Humanities) just aren’t a social bunch…possibly normalised as the result of doing their PhDs in utter isolation.  I confess I was never the greatest fan of work-Christmas dos – but not I find myself without one to attend, I confess I do find myself missing the end of year camaraderie.  Or indeed any camaraderie at all.  Did I mention the isolation…?
Posted by: llordllama | 3 December, 2014

Dark Days

My, it is so dark in the mornings (and so early later in the day) that I’ve resorted to using my SAD eliminating blue light again to try and wake up my poor old pineal gland a bit.  Let’s have a look at the week just past.

  • Inaugural lecture: Thanks to Mrs Llama I wangled an invitation to a professorial inaugural lecture at University of Leicester.  While the topic was spatial and geographic data and hence rife with positivism, I was fascinated to spot the influence of several major schools of philosophy implicit in the presentation – including psychodynamics and Marxism.  I think there was also a touch of Heideggerian dasein in one of the three lessons that Prof Lex was drawing on in his time as a geographer.  Of course he did have to kick the evening off with a big fat picture of Freud (and a number of his noted descendants)…I guess there’s no getting away from the man, he’s everywhere(!). All in all a splendidly interesting hour (if not least, because it told me more about what Mrs Llama does in her day job).  The evening was top and tailed with splendid local Indian snacks and a bit of chat with folks in the dept.  Wish my dept did social things like this; their PhDs seem well and truly embedded in the social-structure; rather than living somewhere on the outside edge.
  • Theory brainstorming: Wrote a theory chapter brainstorm document at the start of the week to support  ongoing discussions with my supervisors.  Was quite a useful way of trying to reassess in my own head quite what I’m using theory for and trying to spell it out in simpler terms.  Well sorta simple, I’m sure orthodoxy, epistemology and hegemonic were still in there!  As of this post waiting to hear anything back of course…
  • Reading:  Ordered a few books, and eyed up some in the library.  Started reading some Gramsci, or at least a book about his thought.  Surprised myself that it seems to slot in very nicely to my intellectual framework so perhaps writing the revised chapter won’t be quite as much of a struggle as I anticipated.  Ha.  No, it probably will won’t it.
  • Chapter: Kept away from it for this week, beyond finishing my comments and notes version and printing out another draft for paper editing.
  • Teaching
    • Intro to Media Coms: Carrying on developing their first assignment practice, we worked on interview technique.  Although I was slightly baffled why one student just left after 10 minutes once we started into the group work. *shrugs*  From my class register he’s not even in my seminar group, but he’s been a few times before.  Ah well.  Did find myself playing the role of interview subject for one of the groups as we were unevenly numbered for the exercises by that point.  I had fun, though I might have played the role of an itinerant 93yo a bit too well.  Had a chat with a few students afterwards who shared with me their planned interview subjects, which was interesting.  Certainly feel it’ll make for an interesting set of coursework to read; although grading it is going to be challenging I suspect.
    • Face to Facebook: last day of term-itus kicked in big style as I had 3 whole students at the start of the hour – one arrived shortly after the start and another halfway, taking the total to a massive 5/26.  Looking at comparative newspaper analysis as cultural objects (e.g. what do the representations and communication of the news in printed forms tell us about the society within which they’re produced).  Can’t say it was the chattiest seminar I’ve done, and I did end up turning it into more of a lecture.  Hell, since the students had bothered to come in, even if they haven’t got a lot to say, felt I wanted them to get something out of it.  Think they did, but you can never tell when groups are quiet if they’re just mentally counting down the minutes to the end of the hour or actually learning something.  Ah well, hopefully numbers and interest will re-surge post Christmas.
  • Conferences: Had a confirmation about next year’s UKSG conference in Glasgow, although I’ve got to write an outline by the middle of next weeks.  Normally not too tricky but trying to coordinate with a colleague across email as we’re joint presenting the same session.  Hopefully post weekend my brain will be in gear after a trip to Wales to write this.  Currently the only event I’m speaking at in 2015 (unless there’s a raft of offers from elsewhere).  Glanced at OR2015, but even if I had a paper in and got a scholarship I’d have to fund the travel myself, which is rather beyond my means right now.  Shame.  As always all offers and suggestions of where I could turn up and speak, always welcomed!
  • Exciting professional development: Got an application form to complete which hopefully is the last formal step before I get to take on something a little bit exciting and grown up.  Or it could all just explode.  Having to write a brief personal statement for the role…is proving harder than I thought.  Normally I can write these without a problem, but struggling slightly to find the right tone and content…as not 100% sure what they want to know.  Hopefully be able to talk about this one in due course…

And finally…produced my Christmas card video for all my friends to whom I’ve stopped sending cards too!  Enjoy…

Posted by: llordllama | 1 December, 2014

Demotivational Exercises

Here we go…again

  • Motivation: Really struggling at the moment with getting motivated.  As I’ve been working on the same damned thing for months on end, without any end in sight, it’s getting harder and harder each day to motivate myself to keep working.  I am still cracking the whip, but it’s not a great deal of fun doing the PhD right now.  I know I get these cycles from time to time, and it’d be nice if and when I move onto the next bit of fieldwork; but right now it feels I’m inching forward painfully slowly.  And time is just ticking away.  Glad I don’t have to finish this in three years, because there’s no way I can see that I can (unless, you know, I give up sleeping and weekends).  Really, really missing seeing other human PhD students at any point…but as that’s not going to change any time soon, guess I just have to suck it in and knuckle down to more work.  Speaking of which…
  • Supervisory meeting: Main event of the week really. Had this on Thursday – which in itself is a bit of a shock as the previous one was only a week ago.  Normally months go by between these as part of the “long lonely process of being a humanities PhD”.  Perhaps slightly less traumatic than the previous week as I already knew by this point that my long developing (I’d like to say festering) theory chapter had already largely been pulled to bits previously, and this was just the finessing.  Or further deconstruction.  Hence I came out of the meeting not feeling quite so beaten down by the experience.  Mildly terrified by the amount of rewriting I’ve got ahead of me, and annoyed that everything else is going on the back burner. Again. But on the other hand my supervisors had a useful suggestion to write a very brief statement of “theory wot I is using and why” over the next few days so we can see if we have plugged all the holes.  At least there was acknowledgement from the pair of them that this is a tough area for me (as a non-humanities UG), which was nice.  Doesn’t cut down the whale of a workload I’ve got between me and Christmas.  So back to the books and rewriting I go.  After all, writing is re-writing.
  • Media communications: Let’s lighten the mood and talk about this week’s media seminar.  The topic was the feature article, which by a coincidence is also the subject of one of the students two pieces of assessed work.  Also I am sure totally coincidentally I came closest to having a full class of students – almost too full as some of them were…a bit too chatty for their own good, which made the session more of a struggle to get the class to engage with.  As usual I think we really had about 2hrs worth of material to work through in an hour – very difficult to know if I should cut material that the lectuerer of the week has set in order to get a better class experience or not?  I do normally trim a few bits, as its rare to run under time, but this week I can easily see we could have worked through half the material in more detail and it might have been more use.  It’ll be interesting to see the pieces the students develop (they have to write a profile piece on someone – not a friend or relative – which includes an interview with them), especially the scope.  Was also amused in our brainstorming exercise that one group suggested writing a profile on me – sadly had to tell them I’m terribly dull (not to mention it probably wouldn’t be ethical since I’m marking the work).  Next session…the interview practice!
  • Face to Face: The other teaching session was…if anything…even harder to get through.  Second week of Freud, which as I remember last year was slightly akin to pulling teeth.  Students were expected to have read two brief papers beforehand…most hadn’t, but at least some of them had brought hard copies.  So the attempts at fermenting discussion mostly turned into an hour’s directed reading and brief interaction.  Not the most powerful of teaching sessions, and I’ve a sneaking memory that the following seminar might also be a paper reading exercise.  Could be wrong as some of the lecturers have altered the seminar contents this year, but it’s going to be a struggle to get the students engaged with something like that on the last teaching day of term.  Of course that makes the assumption that any students turn up!  Followed the session with the best part of an hour giving some 1-2-1 tuition to one student who feels they’re struggling a bit.  Hopefully I may have helped with some suggestions for actions to take, and perhaps calmed their fears…but who knows.  Fun fact – I’ve expected to be available to give any students some 1-2-1 time in my classes, but I don’t get paid for it.  Exploitation much?  *sigh*  Still, I’d rather help them out and not get paid, than not help them at all.
  • Reading: Most of the rest of the week was spent a little prepping for seminars but mostly reading various papers that I’ve had pending for a while.  Just general OA things, which its difficult to keep abreast of in between trying to learn more about humanities theory stuff.  But needs to be done.
  • Summer School: Heard I’d been rejected from this mid-week.  Bugger, really pissed off about it to be truthful; much as I rather suspected I wouldn’t get in.  Ah well, no summer trip to Germany for me.  Guess it’ll give me more time to work on my research, but it’s a shame I won’t be able to present the paper I wrote for it.  Wish I knew of some more things like this in the humanities that were worth attending or presenting at; as I feel I’ve a real gap in my knowledge as to how other scholars are working.  Considering this is about the second thing in over 2 years my supervisors have pointed me towards, I’m not going to hold my breath for them to spot another one!  Interested to hear one of my fellow PhDs got in; though interesting that my supervisor helped write the application (He did have the good grace to apologise for not thinking to offer to help me, hmn).
  • Interim Monitoring: Wrote my interim monitoring form, planned out the next 6 months and almost got everything signed off by my supervisors (who are largely horrified by the bureaucracy I have to wade through – though to my mind it could be a lot more heavy handed!).  Fingers crossed I can get the last form signed off next week and hand it in.
Posted by: llordllama | 24 November, 2014

Ups and Downs and Side to Side

Another week of events and eventfulness

  • Interview preparation: This will probably warrant a longer post all of its own, but for now it’s suffice to say I’m working on preparing to do the next round of interviews. [Although after my supervisory meeting…this has all gone very much on the back burner]
  • Background reading: Read a book on Monday I bought about 4 years ago (Weinberger’s Everything Is Miscellaneous: The Power of the New Digital Disorder).  May be the award holder for the longest period of time I’ve owned an academic text and not read it!  Good read, and useful background for both my media studies lecturing and the thesis too.  Now I just need to read the other 4 books that are out from the library before Christmas…
  • Graduate School: Notification from the grad school that we ought to be working on our interim report.  I cannot begin to describe how arcane and labyrinthine some of the administration processes associated with being a PGR are.  Honestly if supervisors were held to the same level of accountability I suspect the university would explode into a riot.  Trying to work out how to download the forms alone requires a doctorate (or at least stubbornness) in that the link shared by the grad school takes you to the blank form page; not the pre-populated forms with all the key information in them (that would be too easy!).  Have to download the latest version of the PGR handbook, which tells you to log onto the MyNTU site and access them from there.  Except of course every time I do that…I get an error.  Had this issue at the start of the year when I was re-registering for the year, but gave up worrying as I’d got a confirmation in person I was registered.  But no, still broken in whatever browser I use (and on campus too).  Emailed the IT people to see if they can sort it.  But honestly what an effort just to write a 500 word progress report and plan.
    • Yeah – got it sorted the next day, as it seems my having a staff account has somehow buggered up (my words) my access to these forms.  I have to log on as a staff member to see them, not as a student.  Madness – really not sure why this has happened, but at least I can see the forms.  Which is just as well as I have to write the interim report by 23rd Dec and get my supervisor’s to sign it off.  Suspect that means I need to write in the next two weeks before my lead supervisor goes off on Xmas holidays…
  • Supervisory meeting:  Wasn’t quite the total shellacking I feared it might be, but all the same there was a WHOLE heap of feedback to wade through.  So much so that we had to arrange a second meeting for a week’s time to cover it.  On the whole my last three months have been useful, but I’m not as far through sorting out the theory aspects as I had hoped.  Some serious chapter re-writing needed and I think that’s going to take up the next few weeks.  Sigh.  Also more reading into the autonomous Marxists (especially Gramsci) is needed to flesh this out more.  Beginning to wonder if I’ll ever see the back of this chapter – deeply frustrating.  Guess this means I’m holding off on the interviews again now. :(
  • Teaching: Held a mock press conference for the Media communication students; which included me wearing a mocked up cop hat (I had a peaked cap in my LARP gear so didn’t take much invention).  It was a good lively session, and some of the students got really into the exercise (huzzah).  Mind you, one team wrote a piece of tabloid journalism that made me giggle – great bit of writing, but boy did I have to remind them of the laws of defamation that we’d covered in the previous week.  The F2F2Facebook class got Freud and Rorschach blots to handle.  My day (week!) was made when one student asked for my slides as she had only really gotten a handle on the topic when I talked about it.  Felt very happy for a few minutes afterwards.  Shame I forgot to take in my hourly pay form to hand in, which means I won’t get paid this month.  I’ll get a big pay cheque in late December instead.  ah well, that’ll pay for Xmas I guess.
    • Also spending a fair amount of time this week dealing with student enquiries from non-attendance.  Notable that this week was the lowest attendance yet at both seminars (~10-12 student in each, so less than 50%).  At least for one of them there was a clash with an international seminar programme briefing, but honestly I do wonder how poor some of the students are going to do in the coursework if this is their attitude this early in the course – week 7 of 24!  Ah well, I guess they could all just be brilliant at the subject already; but going on last year’s coursework marks…I strongly suspect not.
  • Thursdays: never could get the hang of them, and my Thursday (20th) wasn’t great.  Felt exhausted, nudged someone’s car in the car park (no damage but they got shouty), and may have got caught by a speed camera.  Oh yeah…and my supervisory meeting too.  One of those days where I wanted to come home and just hit the reset button on life and go and do something less intellectual taxing with my life.
  • Student Rep: Got notified of the election for student rep on Friday.  Just as well I’d spoken to the graduate tutor last month otherwise this would have been out of the blue.  Given my work loads right now, I mailed the grad office to let them know I’m not going to stand for re-election.  Not that they’ll care one way or another I suspect.  Have to say being a student rep has been a colossal waste of my time, feels like it wasn’t possible to effect any real change and most of the other reps never bothered participating in the discussions (which could have helped unify the reps into an effective force for change).  Drawing a line under the whole sorry mess and moving on I think is the best thing I can do!
  • Library meeting: Was supposed to meet with the library rep on Friday but they couldn’t make it (did warn me ahead of time, which was good).  Wonder if they’ll be ready to meet before I’m no longer rep…
Posted by: llordllama | 14 November, 2014

A Lovely Time the Day We Went to Bangor

What a two weeks it’s been, a real roller-coaster of work, more work, travel, sickness and finally a little something that almost felt like down time.  Almost.  One of the givens of working on a PhD is any time you stop you start feeling guilty about working (you know, forgetting about all the extra hours and hours you’ve put in elsewhere).  A process of take not give it seems.  Anyway, here are the recent highlights of the past couple of weeks.

  • SPARC Europe Roadshow: Went across to Coventry University on the 4th Nov to a roadshow organsised by SPARC Europe.  I was mostly going as one of my supervisors suggested it, but it was also a chance to catch up on developments in the field.  Some very good talks from the likes of Prof Rupert Gatti (who I heard speak in June too), Prof Gary Hall and Dr Jonathan Hall, mostly focusing on open book publishing.  Very interesting to hear about the economic and practical models, as much for my own benefit as I would be talking about OA in Wales the following week.  Buttonholed Prof Hall at the end for a few questions, and to ask if it was okay if I followed up with him at some point as an interview subject.  Think that would be a very interesting discussion indeed.  I will add that Coventry remains a nightmare to drive and park in, which reminds me why I never normally go there.  Still, driving there and back cut the travel time from somewhere over 3hrs to about 90 minutes there and back!
  • Bangor University, Nov 2014Bangor University: Spent 9-11th November in Bangor, where I was speaking at two events on copyright.  I was talking about creative commons, open licences, free culture and (yes, no shock) open access.  One event was for Welsh librarians, the other for local academics.  Seemed to go down well, although I struggled to get my slides in under time (as you’ll see below I’ve had an awful fluey cold that seriously knocked me sideways – was still fighting it even in Wales).   Next time (if there is one!), one slide I think in total and I’ll just talk!  Folks who hosted me at Bangor University were lovely, and I can’t thank them enough for the invite.  Although next time I’m booking my own hotel (first night in my choice of Premier Inn was lovely, second night in their more expensive choice…yeah, let’s just say i’d never stay at that venue ever again!).  Both talks are available online:
  • Sickness: Came down with a cold a week last Wednesday, managed to teach Thursday and Friday (just) and work on my talks for Wales; but lost many hours to just needing to sleep in the day (and failing to sleep at night with nasal drip and crippling sinus headaches).  Not sure I was 100% okay to travel on Sunday, but I didn’t want to let people down.  As it was I had to bail on some of the more social elements of the Wales trip as a result of sheer post-cold exhaustion.  And as of writing 10 days after coming down with it I’ve still got the traces of it lingering.  Mrs Llama’s had it at exactly the same time, so at least we can understand what the other’s been suffering from!
  • Day off: Having worked right through the weekend to get my talks for Bangor ready, and travelling across England and Wales I took a whole day off when I got back.  And spent it struggling to get Fallout 3 to work on Windows 7.  Gave up in the end, damn it, I loved that game!
  • Teaching: Thanks to RED Week this week I’ve not had any teaching (boo for no pay, but hooray for some time back).  That said I’ve still been having a fair few email exchanges advising my students.  Not that i get paid for this part of the job, it’s all just extra exploitation of the PhD student resource by the university – and thankfully I’m not the only one who gets just a mite concerned about this.  Previous week I led sessions on leadership (101) and media law (102).  The leadership session fell a little flat I felt with the students, none of whom really stepped forward into a leadership role in the class exercises.  Was this due to me fighting a cold, the material or a lack of leadership potential in the class?  Dunno to be honest, but I felt rather deflated by the end of the session.  Media law on the other-hand despite the class not looking forward to it went fairly well.  Had some very active discussions around what you can/can’t do (or indeed get away with) in media legally with some splendid examples.  Most amused by at least one group who seemed to be channeling the News of the World in terms of legal ethics…do hope they were paying attention to what could be the result!  Next time looks like there’s a spot of role-playing for me to do too, so that should be great fun!
  • Planning and preparation: So what’s next…planning, background reading, preparing for my hopeful round of interviews with academics.  Need to start setting these up to run over the next few months, but can’t really press ahead until I’ve had discussions with my supervisors next week.  So just trying to do as much constructive work as I can for now.
  • Summer School: Oh yes among all this work, illness, teaching and travel I also wrote a 2000 word paper proposal and application to attend a summer school in Germany next year.  No idea at all if I stand much of a chance (suspect it’s slim) but I did have a very useful discussion with Kornelia about it (she’s applying as well) over Skype.  I miss our weekly discussions when we were both teaching module 101!  Don’t actually see any other PhDs or academics now on a regular basis at all.  Damn the lack of office space in the dept…maybe I should just find an empty corner and set myself up in it! ;)

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