Reading, Writing and Plotting

A second week free of teaching, and it’s a rather refreshing change to have the time back to really dig into my studies.  Normally by Wednesday I’m panicking that the week is over almost bar the teaching, but now it’s a mid point with plenty of time to work on other areas.

Reading

Finally sat down and spent two days poring over Martin Eve’s recent book Open Access and the Humanities.  As I expected it was a cracking read, and it only took me so long to read as I kept stopping to write notes and thoughts to myself about it.  Have already gone back and re-read a couple of bits as well for other bits and bobs I was writing.  Hopefully next week, I can get through a few more papers and another book.  I can see I might be taking at least one academic text over to Vienna with me.

Writing

I planned to write my presentation for Vienna.  I failed.  Which means first thing (well almost first thing) next week I need to do that.  Then again, reading Martin’s book has fired off one or two ideas that I need to slightly rework in the presentation.

Plotting

Two whole days spent plotting sounds fun, but what I was actually doing was planning out my last round of interviews, and writing an thesis chapter abstract about copyright and publication.  There are moments I feel I know a lot about copyright, and moments when I feel I know nothing – and I’ve been through both of these modes in writing this document.  In particular I’ve been trying to identify publishers, academics and activists in the world of open access that I should interview.  Sounds easy, but when I’ve got to keep the number of interviews down to a manageable level suddenly it gets a whole lot more intensive.  I was hoping to send this document off to my supervisors for comment by the end of the week; but annoyingly I’m about 30 minutes of clear-headed thinking time away from having the chapter abstract clear enough.

Teaching

Yes, I know, I’ve stopped this and am no longer being paid.  And yet I’m still answering lots of emails from my students who are panicking a little about their forthcoming exams.  Poor things.  Trying to give them as much advice as I can, although a lot of it boils down to “You really should have come to the seminars…they WERE the exam preparation”.  Interestingly some of my better students are worried, even though on paper they’re already 80% of the way there with a passing grade.

Job Hunting

Well no news on this front, so keeping my eyes open for any opportunities for employment.  Suspect the job I put in for the other week will either come to nothing, or I won’t hear anything until September; which is very, very frustrating.

Vienna ISIS Conference

Spent a good chunk of one morning this week working out my itinerary in finer detail.  Looks like the longest leg of the trip will be on the British Rail system to get to Heathrow.  No surprise there.  Hopefully I can figure out the Wein underground system to make it to and from my hotel okay.  Starting to have the normal pre-travel jitters I get before a conference trip, and the added flight (did I mention I hate flying) leg isn’t something I’m looking forward to much.  But I really hope it’ll be a great opportunity and that I learn lots.  And make more than a few professional contacts.  Trying to not let the anxiety overshadow my other work though, and more or less putting it out of my mind as much as I can.

Glad to see Scott Mills and Mel Giedroyc touring Vienna the other day on the Eurovision semi-finals, as it gave me a taste for the city.  I may have time this weekend to flick through my guidebook on the city, or maybe just read Wikipedia in the middle of the night (my normal insomnia cure).

Other Conferences

June is now looking very conference heavy! 14 days of conferences/travel to conferences in my diary.  Only leaves about 9 other working days to do anything (one of the conferences means I lose a weekend so I’ll be effectively working a 12 day week at the start of June – since I fly back on a Monday, and have to write a conference talk for the end of that week as soon as I get back.  No rest for the PhD student.  At this rate July won’t come a moment too soon!  At least though I’ll get to reveal in the architectural and cultural glories of Vienna, Leicester, Nottingham and Manchester.  3 of those I might be being sarcastic about.

Right, time now to continue thinking about the Eurovision Song Contest I think!

Eurovision 2015

As is traditional, here’s this year’s scores from the House of Llama for the Eurovision Semi-Finals and Final. I’m also tweeting away like fury during the contests, which means I normally end up in twitter-jail at some point for over-tweeting.  Never knew this was a thing until Eurovision and twitter collided for me!  Scores are out of 30, with 10 points each for Song, Performance & Staging making up the mark.  Asterisks (*) indicate those semi finalists who went through to the final.

Semi Final One (Tue 19 May)

  1. Estonia*: (So:8 Pf:8 St:9) 25
    • The clear winner for me on the night, and another country who I’ve loved entries from many times in the past, so perhaps that counted towards the score.  For me Goodbye to Yesterday could so easily be the opening track to a Bond movie, which is high praise indeed (I’l spare you my encyclopedic Bond-theme knowledge here).  Glad to see it go through, and high hopes for the final.
  2. Russia*: (So:7 Pf:8 St:7) 24
    • Obi-Wan said something about A Million Voices once, and I guess that helped score some votes.  A little bit retro but the lead singer could certainly sing, had a fabulous dress and was fairly easy on the eyes.  All things that clearly helped punt them through to the final.
  3. Denmark: (So:6 Pf:6 St:7) 19
    • For me the biggest travesty of the night is that this didn’t go through, I really liked the retro feel of the song and the band too.  The very nicely dressed backing singers helped too, but why didn’t this genuinely fun pop song fail?  Without a doubt one I’ll be adding to my Spotify playlist.  Easily should have gone through while less creative stuff (paging Romania…) slipped past the gates.  Be interesting to see where this ranks when the detailed results are released next week.
  4. Hungary*: (So: 6 Pf:7 St:6) 19
    • Described by Mrs Llama as “More hippy shit” and me as “Oh look, Arya Stark’s singing” this was a upper-mid range performance.  No idea if it’ll do well in the final or not, especially against stronger competition.  The Doctor Strangelove meets DEFCON stage aesthetic was a nice touch though.
  5. Georgia*: (So:5 Pf:4 :St:7) 16
    • My twitter had been jail-locked by the time this slinky raven of a singer took the stage.  Probably just as well as I’d have likely tweeted something about the Dark Sansa singer that would have gotten me a vicious slapping from Mrs Llama.  Stage set was pretty cool, all those lightning bolts and her costuming was splendid.  Nice powerful performance, and while I didn’t love the song, I liked the overall impression enough to make it a top 5 pick on the night.  Might do well in the final, might not – can’t tell yet.
  6. Albania*: (So:6 Pf:4 St4 ) 14
    • Surprisingly high in my ranking, especially as I didn’t particularly like the entry that much.  Overall low standard of this semi’s songs means the lower half of my top 10 is largely stuff I wasn’t that keen on.  Opened the show, but not on a high note.
  7. Serbia*: (So:2 Pf:2 St:8) 12
    • Rated above Greece purely because I thought it contained the best theatricality and stage performance of the night by far.  All those masks, and then the costume changes made for a brilliant distraction from a song and performance that largely left me cold.  Felt a bit too much like another Eurovision by-the-numbers entry.  Probably do well on the night, but I didn’t really love 2/3 of its components.  Maybe it’ll grow on me…
  8. Greece*: (So:4 Pf:4 St:4) 12
    • For me this was a real meh of a song from Greece, the perennial churners out of high-energy party-styled anthems with a lot of hunky men leaping around the stage.  Much as I appreciated the dress slit all the way to an almost eye-popping level singing in front of a Stargate…I didn’t love it.  In my top 10 only because the rest of the pack were worse.  Totally forgettable Eurovision paint-by-numbers song, even if it had one of the few (only?) key-changes of the night.
  9. Belarus: (So:3 Pf:4 St:3) 10
    • Marginally higher than Armenia, if only for the line about “Time is beating like thunder, ha-hah!” which had me roaring with laughter.  Worse stuff than this went through (Belgium, I’m looking at you), but there you go.  Heated questions in the Belarus’ parliament again I guess…
  10. Armenia*: (So: 3 Pf:4 St:3) 10
    • With a title like Face the Shadow I wanted a whole lot more, although the lead singer turning up dressed like Captain Scarlet was a bonus.  A whole lot of wailing, a whole lot of ren-fayre costumes and pretty forgettable.  Mid-table fodder I’d say for the final.  So it’ll probably win.
  11. Romania*: (So:3 Pf:3 St3) 9
    • This song totally passed over me like a warm-gust of wind from a take-away extractor fan.  Wafts of something interesting, but beset by an awful lot of forgettable hot air.  Somewhat surprised it went through as my notes just read “Meh”.
  12. Finland: (So:3 Pf:3 St:2) 8
    • I wanted to like this more, as it was a break of fresh air after all the naff X-Factorish ballads.  But let’s be honest…it wasn’t great, and the mercy of it being the shortest entry ever in the contest was perhaps a mercy.
  13. FYR Macedonia: (So: 3 Pf:1 St:4) 8
    • The falling leaves of the song title kept going up, which was somewhat confusing.  The English was painful (wish people would sing in native language more)
  14. Moldova: (So:1 Pf:1 St:6) 8
    • Moldova usually manage to send something memorable, and most years (when I can) they get a vote from me.  The Hot Cops meets YMCA costumes boded well but the song and performance were diabolical.  Singer sounded like finger-nails on broken glass..
  15. Belgium*: (So:1 Pf:1 St:2) 4
    • Still unsure if I liked this less or more than Netherlands, but it wasn’t great.  And it went through too, moon faced singer and all.
  16. Netherlands: (So:1 Pf:2 St:1) 4
    • As I said at Castle Llama on the night “If this and Belgium go through I’ll eat Paddie Ashdown’s hat.”  Looks like I only need to eat half a hat though.  Liked the wing-suit costume though

Semi Final Two (Thu 21 May)

Final (Sat 23 May)

Masque of the Red Death

Title seems appropriate in the light of the recent UK election results.  Wow, so much of that was unexpected (thanks pollsters, you useless lot), and rather moderately depressing.  Not to mention the number of people voting UKIP.  Ah well, onwards, upwards etc.  So, what have I been up to in the past few of weeks.

Teaching – Face to Face to Facebook

The last two seminars of the year are always very sparsely attended, although for Seminar 23 I had one session with only 1 student (out of 28) showing up.  Didn’t exactly make for the most dynamic of sessions as they weren’t that interested in the topic.  Anyway the focus has been on migrants media consumption and transnational media as a whole, which is a pretty meaty topic – but one that I still think sits a bit ill at ease with the rest of the course.  Not to mention the students made their traditional comments about not really following the lecture – hopefully I made a bit more sense of it for those who did turn up.  But that’s pretty much it for this module… Oh no, wait, I suspect I’ve got to mark exam papers in a months time.  For no extra cash.  Joy. There was actually more of a turnout for the last seminars of the year, although there were only 2 in one of my groups – the others managed around 6 a-piece.  Looking at media usage by migrants, which while far from being my favoruite topic (nor one I’m well versed in) felt it had some really good resonances with other aspects of media and culture.  Always good to discuss how we perceive ourselves, and then to flip that around to consider how others might perceive us – and how the media represents/misrepresents this.  Less of a seminar and more of a lecture as I could see in the student’s eyes they were pretty world weary by this stage in the career. Since then I’ve been fending off daily emails for advice on revision and exams.  Honestly feel I could have happily run a seminar this week as a special potted version of the course and gotten a pretty high attendance rate.  But obviously the uni’s not going to pay me to do that, and frankly given how busy I am with my own work now in the wake of my supervisor meetings…probably couldn’t have fitted it in!  Have had some really nice feedback from various students (including some from last year) on my lecturing and seminar support.  Won’t repeat it here (blogs are rather too self-aggrandising as it is), but makes me wish I could sit them all in front of future employers and say “Look, here are the real references on my academic teaching ability!”.

Teaching – Intro to Media Comms

The remaining four* groups of students performed their PR presentations for me (or in one case didn’t), and they were a mix of good ideas, interesting concepts and at times slightly oddly presented stats.  But I’m not kidding when I say I will really, really miss teaching this module; and this group in particular.  It’s been a wonderful journey and some great interactions have come out of it.  Students for the most part certainly seemed to have got a lot out of it, as more than a few of them have thanked me for my teaching on the course.  If only NTU had thought to retain me for next year’s module, eh. I also worked with one of my fellow tutors on moderating the marks.  She sat in on my sessions (we seemed pretty much of a mind on the marking, which was good), and I returned the favour for some of her groups.  Although I managed to turn up at the wrong room initially.  Really liked this collaborative marking for this aspect of the module, as it took away the self-doubt I had about where I was placing my grades.  Now all I have to do is wait for the grades to be normalised by the module leader, to see if we’re all being consist ant, and then return them to the students and I’m really done with this module. I’ll miss it; even while I won’t miss the 6.30am starts I have to make for the lectures.  Actually the last three lectures on the course have been a really interesting examination of the advertising industry, along with it’s broader impact on society.  Simon Cross, the lecturer has been doing sterling work; which considering fully less than 6 students have been in attendance for the last couple of sessions is a testament to his professionalism.  The final lecture had three UGs, me and a random visiting lecturer sitting at the back.  Boy that makes for a difficult audience.  Not sure where the remaining 157 students were; one can only assume none of them are planning a career in advertising…  But pretty piss poor engagement from the students, I’ve never seen this degree of apathy before…and this is after paying £9k a year for these services. *Yeah, I said four groups…but one of them…no one showed up.  I was only half surprised by this, and it certainly made it very very easy to mark.  But I was surprised by the lack of engagement by some of the students all year with the seminars, you kinda wonder if they think they can get decent careers where they never turn up too!

Supervisor meetings

Finally met with both my supervisors, although across two different days as my 2nd supervisor was snowed under.  Bless him though he insisted on still meeting this week as he didn’t want to short change me.  Dedication there, and his input was valuable.  My meeting with my Director of Studies was also very informative the week before.  We were focussing on the 3rd version of my theory chapter, which I’ve been working on for the past 5-6 months.  To say going into the meeting I was nervous would be an understatement.  And then he opened the meeting with the following dialogue.

I’m going to do my X-Factor review of your work. Has this revised version of your theory chapter improved on the prior version…yes.

Is it good enough…no.

(long pause as I feel the blood run out of my feet)

Why not? Because it is excellent, really exceptionally good.

Okay, two things.  1) The bastard, teasing me like that. 2) Thank the stars, I’m not sure I could have coped with having to totally rework it.  We did then spend an hour considering improvements that could be made to it, but more along the lines of tightening it up, polishing it and preparing it to be ready for monograph publication (!)  This means I’m now onto planning the next (final) bit of empirical research and my next chapter (IP related).  Drafting a document for review by my team’s comments before I can push forward on this bit in the next week or so.  More news about that (and probably a call for participation) once I’m sure in my head what I’m planning to do. Meeting with the second supervisor was a week later, and only a brief one as he was still pushed for time.  Similar laudatory comments, along with a range of suggestions for polishing it.  So full steam ahead with the next bit of research it is then.  After I finish the planning document.

Leicester – Media Conference

Heard back on the 1st of May that my paper had been accepted for the Leicester PhD media & comms conference.  Huzzah.  Only downside is I need to draft a paper by the 15th…that’ll be a big focus early next week then I think.  Should be able to adapt material from my thesis, along with some original stuff in a day or so.  Should be fun to talk about neoliberalism and HE, and to see if sparks any useful conversations/collaborations beyond the day.  Not to mention being able to write about “in the wake of the Conservative 2015 victory it seems that neoliberal driven policy will not be diminishing in the UK“, although you know, I’d prefer to have something more optimistic to say. Might also get a publication out of it too, which won’t do me any harm at all. Spent the best part of this week drafting and rewriting this.  Started looking easy, and like all these things once I dig into the topic I find I’ve got a lot to write – but adding any coherence to it is a challenge.  I know, I know.  Trying to write a coherent academic paper when so many aren’t as clear.  But one tries!  Finally submitted it on Friday right at the deadline.  Hopefully I can forget about that now until early June when I’ll need to write the talk that goes with it.  Hope it doesn’t need too much revision as I’ve slaved over it.  Can’t claim it’ll set the academic world on fire, but it was a good exercise in revising and updating my knowledge in a few areas.

Vienna – ISIS/ICT&S Conference

Try not to giggle everytime I write ISIS in my notes…no, not that lot.  Information Society for Information Studies.  Booked my hotel, booked my flights, and discovered that I’m presenting towards the end of the conference on the Saturday.  Great, this means I’ll have three people and a cow in the audience I suspect (and the cow may have plans).  I get a massive 15 minutes to speak,a and joy of joys my supervisor is the panel chair.  Ah well, at least he’s a known quantity – although he might try and take my talk apart…argh!  Think I prefer lecturing to strangers or bored looking undergraduates!  Decided to commit to attending the whole conference, after all I am sponsored so I really ought to.  This means I get to enjoy a “boat summit and conference dinner”.  Well that at least sounds different, and may I’ll get somewhere on finding a post-PhD employment position. Still need to sort out travel insurance as the Graduate Office were…what’s a polite way to say “utterly useless”…on the matter.  Not that it’ll cost me a fortune, but it might be nice if I can just use the university one.  Need to also find my E111 card…which is around somewhere!

Reference Reviews

Cranked off…sorry, skillfully wrote, my outstanding reference review of this book.  It’s not a bad media studies book, but think it fails rather at being a reference text.  Certainly be holding onto my own copy, rather than off to the charity bazaar with it!

Career Progress

So, with my job at NTU all but done it’s time to start job hunting for something p/t to keep me going for the next year.  Spent a good chunk of one day re-writing my academic CV, as the prevuious effort was somewhere between “not very good” and “a bit crap”.  Looks better now, although the difficulty is I’ve got a lot to put on it.  Must be easier for people who’ve stayed with one employer for decades!  Sent it off to another uni that I saw was looking for p/t media & comms lecturers in the hope they might give me a go.  Literally no idea if I’ll be what they’re looking for, but at least it’s the start of doing something positive.  In the meantime I remain open to any and all offers of employment!

Surprise Fuching

One of the days I was in to see my supervisors, I discovered to my delght that Prof Christian Fuchs was visiting to give a seminar.  Not quite sure how I missed this as I normally check out the visiting seminars in my area online every week.  I’ve used some of Fuchs’ work in my thesis, and a chance to hear him speak live was not to be missed.  He’s certainly a high energy lectuerer and we had an excellent debate afterwards (managed to pretty much have 20 minutes of back and forth with him in the time after the lecturer – which was an especial treat.)  I realised to a small degree I’m a bit of a fan of his work, and really need to read his latest book too.  Probably one for Amazon or ILL I think.  Good stuff even if he’s not quite coming from the same autonomous Marxism direction that I am, there’s a whole lot of resonance between what he’s done and my interests.  Also think an interview with him would be a useful artifact for the thesis, and oh yeah, he’s the chair of the Vienna conference too – so very handy to have touched base with him.

Election

Yeah.  I stayed up half the night watching it (night before my last seminars – I was there…but where were the students eh?) but Mrs Llama made me stop around 2.30am and come to bed.  It had gotten a bit depressing then already.  Still, at least the Greens in my area more or less tripled their vote this time.  Still last placed in a increased Tory majority ward.  Sigh.

Library Brain Picking

Had a brief meeting with the lovely Sharon Potter fro the NTU Library to talk about the Graduate Research Room, and the fact so few PhDs are using it.  Had to confess I think it’s largely down to a lack of awareness.  I only started going there when Kornelia told me about it!

[Edit] No idea why this claims to have been posted 8th May…my PC says it’s the 15th.  Never knew there was a TARDIS in my home office…

2015 – An Election Literature Odyssey

Mrs Llama and I thought it would be interesting to keep track of all the election leafleting that came through our door from the 1st of January.  We live in a bit of a marginal seat, currently occupied by one Nicky “Education Minister” Morgan (Tory) which changed hands (Lab->Con) in the 2010 election (the boundary re-definition may have had an impact).  This also means I’ve ended up reading all the leaflets in one go, which means after a while some of the recurrent themes in each of them become very clear.  As of today [6th May 2015] here are the results…

Capture

Or in table form – total items: #42.

Party Communications Percentage
Labour 23 57%
Tory 15 36%
Greens 1 2%
Lib Dems 1 2%
UKIP 1 2%

Number of actual visits by canvassers by the way is ONE, the Tories – whom the Wife wasn’t too keen to talk to anyway (or in her words “They said they wanted to engage with me about the issues of the election, I said I didn’t want to engage with them in any way”).  Perhaps it shouldn’t come as a surprise that Labour would be giving this district their all, if only to try and unseat a sitting minister – although surprised we didn’t have more callers.  Because this ward includes Loughborough, the canvassers tend to focus on the town and ignore the villages for the most part, which seems a bit of an odd tactic to me.

By Mrs Llama’s calculations there are roughly 3,000 homes in this village – which means total pieces of literature ~126,000 pieces of literature for Sileby alone.  Just a back of the envelope calculation, but across the country that’s a whole lot of trees (as well as hot air) that’s been expended in trying to get folks elected.

Anyway, here in the order we revived them from January 1st onward are the efforts of the parties who are standing in this region to try and sway us with their arguments, fear mongering and rhetoric.  Sarcastic and rough/ready analysis added for some as we’re going along; and pictures of some of the highlights too.

2015-05-06 18.28.32Labour: Labour Today – Newspaper
The first shot of 2015, a newspaper with the leading story about the role of NHS under a prospective Labour government.

2015-05-06 18.28.43Labour: Labour NHS leaflet
Labour again, this time with a big glassy A4 leaflet through the door, once again focusing on what Labour could do for the NHS including shorter GP waiting time and quick results on cancer tests; but also giving some information about “Labour’s tough new approach to immigration

Labour: Letter from Ed Miliband (Mrs Llama)
The first of a number of letters from the Labour leadership targeted at Mrs Llama (who actually is Dr Mrs Llama, but the party machine doesn’t appear to know that fact – suspect it might have changed some of the mailshot stuff we got).  Again, NHS, NHS, NHS.

2015-05-06 18.29.01Tory: Direct mailshot, Nicky Morgan Questionnaire (Mr Llama)
Tory: Direct mailshot, Nicky Morgan Questionnaire (Mrs Llama)
In the post – in the same envelope, but I’m counting these as separate items as they’re addressed to both me and Mrs Llama separately.  Not the first time we’ve had these sort of things from Tory HQ, but frankly any student who handed in a questionnaire designed this badly would not be getting a good grade from me.  I especially like question 5 “Putting party politics aside and thinking about them as individuals, which of the two main leaders would you prefer as Prime Minister: A) David Cameron, B) Ed Miliband, C) Unsure/No Opinion”.  No space for D) Neither of them and actually I’m actually very sure about it.  Given that whatever you’d reply to these I suspect would be bent to serve the arcane dark purposes of the Tory campaign as “all powerful” statistics, these did not get filled in and returned.

2015-05-06 18.29.15Tory: Sileby Matters local news sheet
Ah, the first appearance of the local party – although I suspect the [Fill in the Blank] Matters format appeared around the country.  Topics of import here are a local Councillor standing down (hang on, are there local elections as well this year?) and a slightly interesting balance of issues incorporating adult fitness(?), road safety, and the village road network.  Nothing about the massive estate building projects going on across the village that the local council approved against residents repeated complaints and appeals.  Hmn, swing and a miss.

Labour: Labour Today – Newspaper
Labour strikes back with a newspaper focusing on…can I believe my eyes?  Why yes, it’s the NHS again, and the results of a survey (that I must blinked and missed as it wasn’t in any of the mailshots and leaflets we’ve had in the last year) that shockingly supports Labour’s focus on saving the NHS.  Well colour me…not in the least surprised; and also my cynicism over the use of surveys by political bodies.

2015-05-06 18.29.37Labour: Direct Mailshot, Matthew O’Callaghan – card (Mr Llama)
Slightly confused here as there’s a mail shot to me, of a mother and her three kids.  Am I cast in a paternal role here, defending these hard working offspring and future wage slaves against the voracious Tory economic engine?  Or should this have actually gone to Mrs Llama in her role as house mother?  NHS gets a mention (shocking!) but so does the cost of living, wages, immigration controls and jobs/apprenticeships for young people.

Tory: Direct Mailshot – letter from David Cameron (Mr Llama)
A letter to me from the PM himself…but without his picture.  Ed Miliband’s letters always have his picture, has the PM suddenly lost all his photogenic prowess?  Economy, immigration (going for those UKIP splitters), Europe and the Scottish question.   All on a lovely Union Flag bordered paper.  Irritates me when the Tory’s try and appropriate the national flag for their own party iconography.

Tory: Coalition of Chaos leaflet
Glossy little card number here with the EVIL Coalition of Chaos (guess Axis of Evil had already been claimed) of Miliband, Salmon, Clegg and Farage flagged up against the suddenly photographic David Cameron.  Thank god the Conservatives are here to save me from all these nasty men.  Guess Nicola Sturgeon, Leanne Wood & Natalie Bennett aren’t a danger then.  Rather patriarchal shot of fear mongering here all in all.

2015-05-06 18.31Tory: Direct Mailshot – letter from Nicky Morgan (Mrs Llama)
Not afraid to have her mugshot on her letter heading is old Nicky.  It’s the appeal to the faithful to hold the line as “we only need to win 23 more [seats] to form a majority” – hence trying to demonstrate what she’s done for the Loughborough area over the last 5 years.  Along with the old can’t trust those Labour people, cos they’d bring in Alex Salmond as Deputy PM for reals etc.  Also on the back ANOTHER questionnaire.  Sheesh.

2015-05-06 18.31.37Labour: Card, Matthew O’Callaghan direct Mailshot (Mrs Llama)
Aha, and finally the local Labour candidate shows his face.  Not 100% sure that’s a good call on the picture he’s gone with.  Also this is very light on any information, especially compared to that letter Mrs Llama just had from Nicky.  5 bullet pointed key areas that tells us nothing new, and certainly nothing specific about the local candidate.  Must try harder Labour if you want to snatch this seat back!

2015-05-06 18.32.05Tory: Card, Nicky Morgan’s priorities
Dinky little leaflet now from your friend and mine (feels like it, amount of personal appearances she’s made in the literature through the door) Nicky Morgan.  Folds out into a newspaper centric montage of reasons to vote for Tory “Competence and a clear plan” against “Coalition of chaos” (now in orange rather than black and red).  Still no sign of the lady leaders.  Lots of little vignettes too of Nicky and her chums like Norman Osborne…sorry, George Osborne doing things around the Loughborough area.  And by doing things, I mean standing among the ordinary plebs in a variety of workplace and community settings.

2015-05-06 18.32.14Labour: Labour Today Newspaper
“Election Special” cries the sub-headline, but then they all are, aren’t they? Working families, bashing UKIP and immigration all make an appearance before the page 3 stunna – Ed Miliband (aiee) and an old dear (aieeeeeee) talking about…the NHS.  I’ll give Labour this, they’re nothing if not consistent on their core theme.  Apprenticeships and jobs for youngsters on the back page.  Nothing about tertiary education; but then there seldom is from any of the parties.  You know, aside from the 2010 Lib Dem classic…

Tory: Direct Mailshot Nicky Morgan (Mr Llama)
A letter?  For me?  From Nicky?  Outling how to vote by post.  That’s actually…quite helpful – and to be honest beyond the Tory trade dress there’s actually no electioneering really here.  Am I to think that cos that nice young Nicky’s told me about this postal voting, then I really ought to vote for her?

2015-05-06 18.32.50Labour: Labour Today Newspaper
Oh god, I’ve barely finished the last one!  Ah, and this one opens with an attack on the government and their record on the economy.  Inside though we have the (fairly mature) Matthew O’Callaghan on page two…and juxtaposed with a “Labour: Helping families and young people: Grandparents will benefit too”.  What about 40 something mature PhD/academics eh?  Where’s the appeal to my specific demographic?  Clearly this is the national sandwich issue with the local issues on the inside.  Also the first real details on our local Labour candidate – who has appeared in the Great British Bake Off (and with that he lost my vote) and makes his own cheese (OK, but so do I, it’s not that hard!).  Not quite sure that’s going to sway anyone though, but I guess he’s still seems more human and less party-machine animal than Morgan.

2015-05-06 18.33.07Labour: Direct Mailshot card, Matthew O’Callaghan (Mr Llama)
And now the glossy version.  Lots in this one drawing on the national Labour messages, along with plenty of pictures of the local candidate.  Including one that has been resized so badly it’s pixelated beyond belief.  Whoever was responsible for a) photoshopping it b) approving it in the leaflet, should be shot.  Very poor.  Leaflet includes some local vox pops of people who are “backing Matthew”.  Sadly none of them resonate with me, but it’s a nice idea.  Of course do I really believe they are local people or did everyone get the same people with addresses and names changed?  Yes, I’ve become that cynical!

Labour: Direct Mailshot -Ed Miliband letter, NHS (Mrs Llama)
NHS, with a hint of NHS.  And did you hear what UKIP want to do to the NHS?  Boo Farage!  Boo UKIP. Labour FTW.

2015-05-06 18.34.47Tory: Leaflet – Nicky Morgan
Same old Nicky Morgan headshot I’ve now seen 10,000 times this year.  But what’s this on the back…why it’s those local Conservative candidates!  My heavens, do the other parties even HAVE any local council candidates?  Am I going to have to spoil that ballot paper?

Tory: Leaflet – local councillors (Paul Murphy & Andy Paling)
And again, local council duo take centre stage with their aims…for better roads for the village.  Eh?  Still not convinced this should be your key plank…but oh look, one has “30 years” working in the building trade.  No wonder all those massive housing estates go through on the nod.

Labour: Direct mailshot, Ed Miliband, welfare & families (Mrs Llama)
Living standards, lowering university tuition fees aaaaaaand the NHS.  Not sure how you’ll be funding the university system though, that seems pretty much utterly obfuscated.

2015-05-06 18.36.43Greens: leaflet, Matt Sisson (16/4/2015)
My heavens!  There’s another party than the reds and the blues?  Colour me shocked, and that colour is green.  Nice moody picture of Matt pounding the mean streets of Loughborough with a determinedly pensive look on his face.  Then it’s all about the NHS and electoral form.  A refreshing change of pace as I think I could now quote both Tory and Labour key goals…sorry, promises.  Mind, it doesn’t say this is on recycled paper…

2015-05-06 18.36.48UKIP: Leaflet, Bill Piper
Honey to the B!  Oh wait, that’s Billy Piper.  Candidate appears to have modeled himself on the Major offa Fawlty Towers.  Polices (not that shockingly) borders/immigration, NHS, tax and no more overseas aid.  So only ever so slightly isolationist in a globalised era.  Huge “I’m Voting UKIP” poster in the middle – only one of the parties to have included this in their literature, although suspect it might as well read “Please throw a brick through my window”.

2015-05-06 18.37.33

Labour: Leaflet, National Party pledges
“Read our pledges to you inside” screams the cover of this leaflet…although they’re actually on the front of this leaflet already.  More good proofreading/layout from Labour HQ I suspect.  Folds out to give a bit more information in VERY LARGE WRITING.  Assume this one is for those of you who like to read election leaflets from across the room.  Or the elderly I guess.

Labour: Leaflet, Matthew O’Callaghan
A fold out leaflet with a couple of vox pops, and some photos we’ve already seen in his earlier leaflets.  Also a teeny tiny mention of the council elections…but no information on any of the Labour candidates for this.  Can’t help but feel, given the importance of Councils to resist/implement austerity cuts that this is a real omission in the literature for Labour.

Labour: Direct Mailshot card (Mrs Llama)
Ah the blues are bad because and reds are ace because boxed out claims on the back, and those five pledges on the front.  Labour continue to be nothing if not consistent/reductionist.

Labour: Direct mailshot, letter from Ed Balls (Mrs Llama)
#EdBalls?  Deficit!  #EdBalls.  Minimum wage. #EdBalls. Better jobs! #EdBalls Tax the rich. #EdBalls.  That is all.

2015-05-06 18.39.36Labour:  Card (Labour’s contract)
Labour: Letter from Ed Miliband (Mrs Llama) 
Again these are clearly two separate items, even if Labour were thrifty enough to save a stamp.  And yet again to Mrs Llama – clearly true to their pink bus promise, Labour are really going out and out for the lady vote in Sileby.  Sadly the bus has not been to call for a conversation over our kitchen table (full disclosure: our kitchen is too small to have a table in it).  Labour’s contract contains 6 pledges…hang on, that’s one more than normal – stamp duty suddenly gets a late look in, and the freeze on migrants claiming benefits seems to be a new twist on the immigration pledge.  The letter from Ed, which alludes to the pledge, says we can use it to “hold me to account”.  It’s a bit big to fit in my wallet, but I guess perfect for Mrs Llama’s lady-bag.

2015-05-06 18.40.05Labour: Direct mailshot,card, NHS life support (Mr Llama)
The first of three NHS themed cards, this one directly to me – just to make sure that I don’t think that the Eds have forgotten about the man of the house.  A tasteful heart monitor going dead motif is a charming, if powerful message.

Tory: Direct mailshot, leaflet Nicky Morgan, pledges (Mrs Llama)
Clearly having heard about Ed writing to my Wife so much, Nicky comes in with her three pledges (fully half of Labour’s if we were counting…and we are).  Inside it’s a reworking of the Coalition of Chaos pictures and text, along with the folksy local people interacting with Nicky.  Odd juxtapositioning of terror with social capital here.

2015-05-06 18.41.21Tory: Large leaflet, local people, Nicky Morgan
Big fold out A3 sized leaflet with a GIANT picture of Nicky this time (perhaps this is supposed to go in my window).  Lots of new photos of Nicky out smiling and doing stuff (including dressing as a running Santa) with the Loughborough locals.  I confess this is quite attractively put together and there’s a good balance of text and images, so this one would have me giving my students high marks had they produced it as promotional literature!  Only appearance of a library in the whole of the campaign, and oddly the quote talks about the Shepshed show…so nothing about local libraries being closed down/forced to run with volunteers then?  *sigh*

Labour: Card, direct mailshot, people backing Labour (Mrs Llama)
3 pictured vox pops, and some extra quotes – all tying into those pledges as per usual.  Sub-A5 sized Booklet format for a change (well 8 page booklet).  And those now 6 pledges at the end.

2015-05-06 18.42.19Labour: Card, direct mailshot, Matthew O’Callaghan, local party focus
Big picture of the candidate down the Loughborough market (his trade mark standard shot in all literature except the very first one) on the front, and a message riven with local goals on the back.  5 pledges, some of which tie into the main party (NHS, young people jobs) and some that don’t (communities, local businesses).  Can’t say I’d be convinced by it on it’s own, and again I’m wondering how customised this is to the local area.

2015-05-06 18.42.59Labour: Card leaflet (Doctor’s bag) – 48hrs to save NHS
2nd of the 3 themed card adverts for Labour’s NHS central plank – this time it’s a doctor’s bag.  “48hrs to save our NHS” sounds like the tag line for a dreary bit of UK cinema that I’d probably pass on.  Again on the back it’s the old them and us/reds vs blues comparisons.  Gosh, Tories are bad it seems.

2015-05-06 18.43.34Tory: Nicky Morgan card folded leaflet – local issues
Printed on light card stock and folding out to A3 size, this once again showcases a lot more new photos of Nicky and the community.  Including one great shot of her out of focus and three seats away from the PM at a Cabinet meeting.  Cameron appears to be checking Osborne’s not nicked his wallet in it.  Beginning to think that the Tory’s, by the cunning trick of hiring a photographer have outdistanced Labour in the photographic stakes; there are just so many MORE shots of the current MP doing things, than her main challenger who…well, obviously is seen campaigning but that’s about it I guess.

Tory: Direct mailshot, Nicky Morgan (Mr Llama)
So once again the Tories write to me.  I really feel like Labour don’t care about me as a person you know, where’s my letter from #EdBalls eh?  This one is 50% encouraging people to vote, and 50% reinforcing what the candidate has done for the region during her term in office (and before this during the years leading up to her challenging then MP Andy Reed in 2010).  “This is the most important general election of our generation.” she writes.  Yeah…but then aren’t they all really.  Badly photoshoped genuine signature at the bottom now allows everyone to go off and try and pass a few dodgy cheques.

2015-05-06 18.44.30Lib Dems: Leaflet, Steve Coltman and national agenda
Good Lord above – there’s a Lib Dem candidate standing in this ward?  After the 2010 debacle (the then candidate made a dreadful video that I’ll try and find and link to) I did wonder if they’d just given up.  Not the best of leaflets – looks like it was knocked up in 20 minutes in MS Office (and by someone who’s never used it before too), and THAT’S the best picture of Steve you could find?  Sheesh, messy layout.  Inside there’s a lot of text to read…not that digestible, especially compared to many of the other leaflets I’ve read.  Choice of green text on white (with grey clipart leaf as watermark) is not a great choice.  Back page a defense/celebration of what they’ve achieved in government, and is actually a bit better laid out.  But this is clearly a scrappy composite of national template with local information slapped on the front.  Does not look professional at all sadly.

2015-05-06 18.45.28Tory: Leaflet, Re-elect Nicky Morgan
Does what it says on the tin, reuse of a few community photos on one side – great big picture of Nicky and Cameron in front of John Taylor’s Bell Foundry (Loughborough’s only remaining manufacturer?) on the other.  Quote from Cameron sounds like it was written for a school report “Nicky is a brilliant Member of Parliament and key member of the team.  People know she has work hard locally and nationally.  She takes nothing for granted”…which is just as well as I’ll be shuffling one of my mates into her job if we get reelected.  Okay, doesn’t say that bit.  Encouraged to “put this in your window”, making it only the second (after the UKIP one) of the old fashioned display your support flyers.

2015-05-06 18.49.42Labour: Card leaflet, ambulance, 24hrs to save NHS
And on the final day of the campaign it’s Labour with the 3rd (and I assume final) NHS special card flyer – this time in the shape of an ambulance.  Just as well this election’s not going on longer, as I suspect the next one would be in the shape of an organ or something.  Blues vs reds rhetoric we’ve come to expect, and a subtle “Stay home or vote for ANY other party will let the Tories win”.  Terror tactics at the last for Labour it seems – keep the old 2 party system going…in a time when I suspect we’ll be seeing some interesting upsets all round in the next 48hrs.  I will say though, this is my single favourite bit of election literature – straight and to the point, plus I had immense fun going “Whee-wah” around the house with it, until Mrs Llama stopped me.

2015-05-06 18.46.21Labour: Card, direct mailshot, child benefit (Mrs Llama)
Also on the last day of campaigning Mrs Llama (as the woman of the house, and recpieitnt it seems of 80% of direct Labour marketing) receives a dire warning to cuts for child benefits from a future Tory government.  Cos you know, it’s what women as ALL all about – kids.  Nice bit of segmentation there.  Again the fear mongering approach of only a binary choice – vote for Labour or  ELSE!  Flip side of the card – reds vs blues on social welfare issues…tax credits, child benefits and minimum wage.  Can’t help feeling that as DINKYs Labour’s misread our household demographic’s needs a bit.

2015-05-06 23.19.38Labour: Don’t Forget to Vote (for us)!
This one came AFTER I started writing this blog this evening (so circa 8pm) and it’s a reminder from the Labour party that there’s an election tomorrow.  There is?  I never would have guessed after these 42 pieces of literature have come through my door, the media’s obsession with the subject etc.  Still, at least among the party rhetoric there is a strong encouragement to vote (and vote for the right party, naturally).  Bit confused by one of their 5 reasons to vote Labour though “University tuition fees reduced to £6,000 and smaller class sizes for 5, 6 and 7 year olds”.  Not quite sure how this is one point – unless somehow we’re paying for university now by shrinking the size of school buildings #joke.  Does mention the Labour MP candidate by name…and alludes to the nameless Labour Council Candidates.  Poor buggers, they really have not had any named publicity – do they even exist?

2015-05-06 23.21.19And that’s your lot; although I suspect there might be one or two extra pieces through the door tomorrow – which I’ll add and update this entry when they do.  So how does all this compare to where you are dear reader?  Has it all been very similar?  Have all the ladies been written to by Labour, while the gents mostly ignored?  Do the Tories have the best cameramen in the business?  have the Lib Dems given up campaigning much in unwinnable seats?  Have the Greens surged for real, and are any of them pictured as moodily as Matt is? (See picture on the right)  And do all UKIP candidates look like they’re cut from the same, somewhat chunky cloth?  I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

My impression certainly is that the Tories have done a very good job at presenting Nicky Morgan as both a human being and effective politician.  I’m far less convinced that the other parties have done the same, although Labour have clearly gone all guns blazing to present the national party as important.  If anything it seems as a potential Tory voter I’m being wooed by the local MP/candidate as well as her party; whereas for Labour and the rest it’s more on the basis of what the party as a whole can do for me.  Interesting tactics and we’ll see how they play out (currently predicted BTW that Tory’s will hold this seat).

Has all this changed my voting intentions?  No, they changed over the past 5 years as I’ve witnessed what the various parties have been doing.  All this has done, has pretty much underscored my perceptions of the whole democratic process as it functions in the UK.  Will they have convinced others?  Hmn…there’s a long tale about my mother and the hustings she attended this year…only to decide that despite everything, she’d just vote as she always did!  All those dead trees for naught.

Oh and if anyone wants me to write this all up more formally for publication…let me know, I’m sure there’s a whole lot of funky discourse and content analysis that could be run on this wodge of data.  Happy voting!

The Pit and the Pendulum

My it’s been a week, and what a week it’s been.  I barely feel like my feet have touched the ground and yet I look at how much I’ve done…and it seems pitiful.  Let’s review.

Supervisory meeting

Let joy be unconstrained for I have managed (as of Friday) to get a meeting sorted with my supervisors for next week.  About 1 months after I requested it.  I know Easter got in the way, but boy oh boy that was harder work that it needed to be.

Teaching: Media & Communications

First week of the PR presentations – and they were both jolly enjoyable ideas with good and bad points as you might expect, but decent efforts all the same.  Really wish we could do more of this sort of exercise as I love seeing the students really let their imagination and intellects be unleashed.  A fair bit of behind the scenes work as well giving support, advice and occasionally wielding a big stick to keep some of the groups in order.  All the same, gonna miss this lot with just two more weeks to go with them.  Especially as one student told me something very flattering about my teaching and support – I’m not going to brag it, but it was one of those moments that you live for as any kind of teacher.  Kinda rather humbling too, you sometimes forget the effect you have on these bright young things’ lives.

Teaching: Facebook and Communications

Essay hand back week, which means I ran an essay writing and exam revision potted master-class; which I think went down well.  Almost wish we’d run it sooner – but then I guess in the wake of the essay marks at least the students were at their most receptive.  A bit of support, hand holding and advice needed for some students in the wake of their grades.  I know they can all do better, so I just need to try and encourage them to revise well and get themselves geared up for tip-top exam performance.

Teaching: Digital Identities

This rather filled up the first two days of the week writing/finishing and delivering my lecture on open access to the 2nd year students.  Not a stellar experience – 8 students out of ~60 showed up (it was, in their defense, a lovely sunny day outside); and 2 of these left after 30 minutes of a two hour slot.  Audience were either bored to tears or captivated by my every word.  Sadly I think it was the former, and I’ll confess I did rather try and cram too much in.  Another time I’d a) reduce the amount I used b) insist on a fee.  Was a useful exercise all the same revisiting my knowledge on the subject, and drawing on stuff I’ve written for the thesis too.  Sadly I don’t think I sent them out energised on the topic.  Indeed the only question at the end was “Doesn’t OA mean that you let knowledge out that shouldn’t be out there?“.  Wasn’t geared up for a discussion on academic self-censorship and the ethics of publication (shame, it’d be a good topic to delve into) and it certainly knocked me sideways a little.  Still at least there was a question after all the long, long silence.  I was glad to re-emerge into the sunshine afterwards.

Surprise Conference

Found out on Friday that there’s a local media conference in July…and that the deadline for submissions was the same day.  Hence Friday suddenly became all about writing a conference proposal.  Have decided to bite the bullet and talk about neoliberalism in higher education relating to OA, rather than just giving it the odd throwaway slide.  No idea if it’ll get in – I don’t have a great record of acceptance at local events.  International and national events, yep I can get accepted for them – but PhD level events…nope!

Reading

This week I’ve collected a stack of papers and some more books to read.  Started reading the book I need to read for a book review as well.  Next week, serious reading can begin.  I feel the energy slipping away from me, having probably worked a 45+hour week already as I write this.  Did pick up a few papers on twitter due to discussions I saw going on which were handy to run off for a proper read.

Marking

Yeah…just when you thought you were ought, they pull you back in.  Marking discussions all over the start of the week as material I’d marked was moderated and as I moderated other people’s work.  Bit of a disagreement on a few of the papers too, which set off a long email chained discussion.  This is, apparently, not a bad thing but part of the robust marking system.  Did feel a bit backed into a corner at times (hard when you’re disagreeing with the marking of the module leader and you’re just a poorly hourly paid PGR tutor) but stood my ground on some.  Gave way on others.  All part of the cut and thrust of thrilling academia.

UKSG

Yeah…I really need to write up a reflection on this conference over the weekend or something…

A Fist Full of Essays

Great UKSG conference last week, despite coming back with a horrible fluey cold that left me pretty much wiped out for the entire Easter weekend (and still recovering).  I’ll write that up this weekend.  So instead here’s my part-week which will be all about marking the Face to Face to Facebook essays.

Wednesday 8th April

  • 9.00: On the dot fire up the work account, checking emails from the module leader.  Couple of students have withdrawn and a few high Turnitin scores to take particular note of.
  • 9.10: Access NOW backend (the VLE) and start slowly going through the list of student submissions for the ones in my groups.  Yes it would be easier if I could just display those in my groups, but no that useful facility is missing.  Slow clap for the designers.
  • 9.20: Done, but there’s quite a few students missing in the list – so have to search for them.  Ah, the names they’re listed by here aren’t the same as the names they have listed in the register.  Nice little bit of consistency, so correct my marking spreadsheet so it’s sync with the Dropbox list.  Should be 84 essays for me to mark in total…11 are missing.  Well that’s 13% completion for me without really any heady lifting.
  • 9.30: Download essays as zipfile, try to extract but native zipping can’t handle the daft long files names that some students give their files; not to mention the prefix extensions that NOW slips on them too.  Thankfully I’ve got 7Zip which makes short work of the extraction.  As there are 14 different essay topics, next job is to sort all the essays into those tackling the same topic, which I found last year makes it easier to grade like for like.  Hoping there’s not too many tackling Freud this year!
  • 9.35: Need for 2nd cup of the tea for the day rising…also I really ought to put some socks on.  [Current marking music: Total Eclipse of the Heart].
  • 9.55: Drinking tea and taking a moment to catch up on my student email. And discover I won the travel scholarship I applied for.  So that’s 1 grand towards my Vienna conference – I am to say the least, delighted.  Phone Mrs Llama to share the news.  It was, out of ~150 emails, the only one of any value I received over Easter.
  • 10.05: Okay, enough excitement – need to knuckle back down to marking.  Or at least the preparation which seems to take longer than the actual grading.
  • 10.25: Coughing fit.  Blurgh.  So not over this cold yet.  [Current marking music: Eg a Lif]
  • 10.55: Right, essays all grouped.  Popular topics look like piracy, public service broadcasting and leadership.  That’s good, topics I love discussing.  No love though for the questions around globalisation (not surprising, not got to that on the module yet) or conversation analysis (darn, that’s a fascinating topic!).  Right, time to head on in to the marking finally! [Current marking music: Love as a Construct]
  • 12.22: Gah. Struggled through a difficult one there and agonised over the mark.  Not a great piece of work, but trying to work out if the student had put effort into it or if it really was as slapdash a piece as it appeared in part.  [Current marking music: Theme from Thunderbirds].  [17% completed.]
  • 12:53: Okay, I need a lunch break.
  • 15:20: I have a sinus headache (legacy of the cold and staring at the screen).  This is making marking less than fun right now.
  • 16:30: Finished marking the first topic, moving on to the second which means I need to open my various lecture notes as well.  First essay on a topic is always the hardest to mark.
  • 17.20: Agonising over another essay – well written…but doesn’t answer the question. Which means I have to give it a much lower grade than it deserves.  Think I’ll ask for this one to be 2nd marked, as that seems a fairer solution.
  • 17.36: Oh sweet Jovis.  Just read (and then re-read three times) a sentence that frankly has broken my ability to think.  Think I might just write “NOOOOOO!” in the feedback.
  • 17:57: Grrr.  Had to break off to explain to Mrs Llama that just because I’m working at home, doesn’t mean I can be roped in to do things she needs doing!  Desperately trying to get through my last essay of the day and the distraction is not appreciated.  Wish bloody NTU gave me an office to work in (for about the 1,000 time).  It’ll now take me 5 minutes to recover my train of thought.
  • 18:15: Okay long note written on that one to try and encourage the student to overcome the issues they had with that essay.  Think I’m calling it a day and am off into the garden to let my brain decompress!

Thursday 9th

  • 9.05: Okay, today I’m going to mark all those essays that only one or two students attempted to see where that gets me too.  [25% completion of marking.]
  • 9.14: Oh dear, the references. Oh, the references.  Seems once again this year I’m going to be marking a lot of essays down for poorly formatted references then.
  • 10.24: Right, that’s transnational media, migrants and the 4th estate topics dealt with.  Onto nation branding, persuasion and suicide prevention (yes, some of these topics are less cheerful than others!)
  • 10.53: PC crash!  Gah!  Oh phew, thankfully autobackup and paranoid saving regime means I lose about 3 minutes of work while the machine reboots – but that’s it!
  • 11.34: Making tea and taking pain killers.  Lovely sinus headache today too (it only hurts really badly when I cough).  Then back to reading essays about suicide.
  • 13.10: Okay, time for lunch. Gah, only 35% through now.
  • 14.05: Back to it, investigative journalism and Wikileaks is a go!  You’ll note I’ve given up listening to music today to better focus on these essays.
  • 15:10: Arg! Painfully bad essay marking am I. Follow struggling language and phrase taking, in sentence.  Usual self-enlargement now to decide if it is bad enough to fail or scrape a pass.  Takes so much longer to mark the lower graded papers than the good ones, as aside from the amount of feedback I write – I really have to think hard about where to put them on the grade curve.
  • 15:33: Genuinely good essay, has just reaffirmed my belief in humanity.
  • 17:40: Okay, Mrs Llama needs me to run errands for her.  Going to have to stop here.  Only 45% of the way through – gah, will be working this weekend on these I can tell!

Friday 10th

  • WikiLeaks...you bad rat!
    WikiLeaks…you bad rat!

    9.05: Here goes nothing and…oh damn, thought I’d marked all the essays on Wikileaks, but looks like I missed one.  That’ll teach me to watch South Park  episode Bass to Mouth (the Wikileaks one) to celebrate getting through them.

  • 9.45: Read work email, some student questions to answer later it seems (not so straight forward answers – will save them for my elevenses I think.
  • 9.55: Okay, today I move onto Freud, communication, broadcasting and democracy essays.  What fun, given some of these are going to be quite hard work to mark (if last year was anything to go on).
  • 10.22: A rash of essays where no in text citations.  Dear students, please meet plagiarism risk…
  • 10.45: Half way through Freud, time for my mother.  I mean a break!  Oh dear, what a slip.  Luckily Mrs Llama is making me some tea (since she’s working from home).  Slightly annoying as I like being able to walk away from the PC for a bit to make the tea, but it would be churlish of me to refuse the offer.
  • 11:30: Broken off for a few minutes twitter debate over the local election candidates for MP.  Red, blue, green, yellow and vile purple standing here it seems.  No Monster Loonies – a shame…but I wouldn’t be voting for them anyway.
  • 12:03: And that’s Freud done for this year.  Phew, those are always the brain strainers.  Onto leadership I think now.
  • 13.05: Lunch, and a spot of all new Daredevil I think.
  • 14:00: Right, let’s see how far through the rest of them i can get before close of play today!
  • 16:00: Eye blurring as I work through essays on leadership.
  • 16:45: Heart break. Had to very harshly mark one essay, where the student has really had a good go, but has really not to grips with the subject.
  • 17:16: No, no, no!  Another essay that is making me cross!
  • 17:43: Okay, since Mrs Llama is off on a business trip tomorrow, stopping now to spend some more time with her.  I shall keep on marking over the weekend though with the hope that I’ll not need to spend all of Monday marking as well.  Biggest problem with these essays are all the different topics – if there was just one topic by now I’d be flying through them!

Saturday 11th

  • 17.15: Urg. Working on a Saturday.  Wouldn’t normally do this, but I still have 32% of the essays to mark.  also Mrs Llama is now out of the country for 10 days, so I’m trying to keep myself occupied and distracted from how isolated I’ll be over that time (bar teaching, I suspect I won’t actually have much face-2-face interaction).  Right let’s open the first one and crack on.
  • 17:40: Open essay, insert page break, reformat opening page to landscape, insert object from file, marking grid, enter student details.  You know I wish NTU would reformat this bloody grid to portrait (since that’s what 99.9% of students write in) or we made it a punishable-by-failure* task for the students to do this step for themselves.  (*I jest…slightly, but doing this 80 odd times does slow me down!)
  • 18:48: Right, did one more essay than I planned to do in this stint.  But I’ve made some more progress towards my goal.  Another couple of hours tomorrow and I think I’ll be down to just one topic to mark – the most popular one by far – media piracy!

Sunday 12th

Didn’t feel like doing any marking today – so spent most of an hour adding the marking grid to the front of all the remaining essays.  So it’ll save me some time tomorrow.  Yes, I am having a fun Sunday, thanks.

Monday 13th

  • 7.50: Yeah, you read that time right – I’m kicking off early today, getting everything opened up and ready for marking.  Planning to work straight through until I get these finished…might well be a 12hr day I suspect.  Might be less if all the remaining essays are brilliantly original, well written and cited, not to mention not in the teeny tiniest bit plagerised.  That’d make it a slam dunk to give them all 2:1s or 1sts.  I suspect though I may be very, very disappointed with this optimistic view.
  • 8.00: Here we go again, open and start with the references to check them to begin with
  • 8.10: Trying to eat cereal with one hand and mark with the other isn’t working.  Need to eat then mark it seems.
  • 9.10: Struggling a bit with an essay which through the fog of words I can see is trying to make some good points.  But not sure it’s really hitting the mark.
  • 9.26: Reading work emails, and trying to sort out some issues with the forthcoming group assignment.  Just like last year some groups I think are working out better than others.  No shock there, but feel for the students going through the process – I’ve suffered enough group fragmentation and problems in the real world, let alone university!
  • 9.55: Well that was a real curates egg of an essay.
  • 10:35: Interruption- it’s the Wife calling from Chile.  I guess I better break off and chat to her then.
  • 10:55: Well that was fun if a bit like talking to an autotuned robot at times (frame rate wasn’t brilliant).  Think it’s time for a mid-morning cup of tea.
  • 12:15: Have reached the point where I wish I could teach my students a hour long seminar on how to bloody reference and cite correctly.  I know it’s my inner librarian but so many poor examples across the essays, not to mention people using dodgy sources, insufficient references and struggling to understand the difference between citation, paraphrasing and direct quoting.  Feels like it is so much worse than last year’s essays – doubtless a result of the Government’s national curriculum agenda which teaches school students to pass exams, but doesn’t teach them the scholarly skills they actually need to succeed in academia!  Maybe NTU should employ me to teach this… (or you know, just employ me full stop!)
  • 12:25: One reference only?  Sheesh.
  • 12.58: Okay, time for a lunch break!
  • 14:10: Begrudgingly…back to work.
  • 15.47: Finding it very hard to concentrate.  Man, I hate marking.
  • 16:30: Time for more tea.  Lots and lots of tea.
  • 17:35: Break to check email and discover I’m giving a lecture at NTU next week.  okay, that’ll be the next thing I have to write once I finish these essays then.  Slowly dawning on me that I will not be getting through all of these today – and beginning to debate how many more I will get through before I lose the will to live.  Or at least mark.  89% done…but that still means 9 more essays.  Let’s see where I am in an hour!
  • 17.43: Oh dear, just wrote a note saying “References should be in Z-A order”.  May be losing it earlier than expected.  Caught it though, so perhaps still okay.
  • 18:43: right that’s it, I’m done.  93% completed now – but as I’ve been at this almost 11hrs (bar lunch okay), I’m calling it quits to go and paint a radiator.  Yes, the thrills keep on coming.

Tue 14th

Well despite a groggy start to the morning I finished them all of before lunch.  Phew.  Just in time before I have to start doing the next batch of marking for my other module next week.  Arg!