Behind the scenes of Doctor WHeasel: The Audio Adventures

It might have escaped most people’s notice, but for the past five months I’ve been cranking out weekly adventures of everyone’s favourite time-travelling weasel.  For 9 (!) years I’ve been cranking out puppet videos, a lot of which have been reviews of one of my all time most beloved shows (Doctor Who).  But of late I’d been finding it hard to balance the time it takes to write, record and produce them, with real life.  Not to mention where once I could freely film in our under-renovation house, now we’ve finished most renovations I can’t really go sticking stuff all over the walls any more.  One day I may go back and film again, one day.

But over Christmas a new/old friend of mine (Elliot) and long time weasel fan kept on nagging me to do more stuff.  To perhaps branch out into new adventures of the Time-Weasel, and if filming was too much work – why not audio adventures.  Oh and hey, I could play them on my weekly radio show.  I wasn’t convinced at first, as I’d rather lost the creative spark thanks to ploughing on with the PhD.  Yet, as I sat over the holiday period suffering my annual Christmas flu (every. bloody. year) the idea continued to tickle my creative gland (cf. Pratchett) and I produced what I thought was a rough cut episode with an unspecified incarnation of the good Doctor, and a new companion Advick Goose.

And stab me vitals, if Elliot didn’t run with it.  The audio is somewhat shonky to say the least as I thought I was using a stereo mic, but hand’t realised Audacity had defaulted to using my webcam’s mic.  It’s not a bad mic for conversations over the net but it leaves a lot to be desired.

Anyway, the weeks went on and I kept cranking out the episodes.  Finding the time can be a challenge some weeks, but having the weekly deadline hanging over my head does rather motivate me.  Clearly my creative muse needs deadlines to function I’ve discovered.  I also invested in a new condensing mic, which has significantly improved the audio quality.  It can’t do anything about the acting quality but just compare later episodes and you’ll find everything’s a lot crisper these days!

From the second story onward I’ve been working on developing the soundscape.  Telling a story in audio only narrative is interesting as you need to cram a lot more exposition into the character’s dialogue, and I can’t just rely on a funny visual gag to move the plot along.  Sound effects and background sounds though can fill in that gap, to keep the story moving and explain what’s going on in the characters’ world(s) without everyone stopping every few minutes for lines like “Look at that line of robots coming slowly down that gravel hill, shooting at people!”

Well, maybe not every time – but it does help.  Stylistically I’ve made a few changes as well as the series has progressed (we’re hitting episode 15 this week – 1 more than Doctor Who cranks out in a good year, or 14 more than they can manage in 2016).  A lot of the earlier episodes have my best ‘Radio 4’ voice introducing them, as though they were part of a more mainline radio station than Radio Wandsworth.  I began to run out of witty things for him to say, so in the most recent couple of stories I dropped the idea.  It was also for reasons of timing – I aim for around a 5-6 minute adventure, but recently that’s expanded a bit to around 8-9 minutes for some episodes.  So, losing the extra introduction gave me back 30 seconds to use on storylines.

I am keeping the narrator though, as sometimes I need scene setting that character voices alone can’t do, but also it allows me to add a slight meta-narrative to the whole thing by commenting on my own (weak) plotting and (half-baked) dialogue.  In this week’s episode though (The Empty Hive pt 1) I’ve dropped him at one point where he’d normally appear, as it made enough sense tonically through sound effects and dialogue not to use him.  Seems to work on listening to it myself, and doubtless my millions** of listeners  will be able to work it out.

Doctor WHeasel’s most recently completed adventure introduced another new concept – guest actors.  I’ve tried using guest voices in the past on my videos, but it’s never really worked that well.  Certainly Mrs Llama has made her feelings on the subject clear “I CAN’T act!” she’s cried on many occasions, batting away the proffered script and microphone with uncharacteristically vehement aggression.  I don’t claim to be able to act myself either (I make daft voices), but thankfully I did manage to find not one, but three willing volunteers among my friends to record lines.  It was fantastic to hear my scripts being brought to life by other people – as they took a very different approach to the characters than I’d anticipated.  In fact one character totally changed inside my head, and ended up being written rather differently in later episodes as a consequence of the actor’s interpretation.  Hopefully, future adventures will have more guest cast too – although the practicalities of getting them to re-record a line that didn’t quite work when I’m editing an adventure on a Saturday morning can be…challenging.

Last week I took one final step into the media tart world, by appearing live on Elliot’s weekly show.  I had fun (although the 8hrs of travelling to get there an back…was a bit knackering).  Hopefully I can do more appearances later this year, although don’t ask me to do the weasel live – there are bits where I have coughing fits doing the voice that are – tastefully – edited out of the finished shows.  I may write a bit more about the creative process in a future post.

For now though, don’t forget you can listen weekly just after 3pm on Wandsworth Radio (via the Interwebs) to the further adventures of Doctor WHeasel and Advick Goose.  And of course via SoundCloud soon after the show.  I hope you enjoy them as much as I do putting them together.  And if you don’t…why have you read this far down this blog?

*Don’t ask. I’m working on it, and stressed as hell.

**Elliot said his show got around 4,000 listeners.  I’ve no idea if that’s still true!

The Final Year

Well December just flew by with a whole heap of analysis and coding, along with a very useful meeting with my supervisory team.  I even found time to catch up a little bit on my reading, although my to-read pile seems to get higher by the day.  I suspect I’ll barely have dented it by the time I get to the end of the PhD.  And that end, is nigh.  2016 is the final year of my PhD and the end of September my absolute deadline.  When I started the date on my university card seemed impossibly far into the future, and yet now it feels ominously close.  It’s already giving me sleepless nights worrying about getting everything done in time.  During the day, well that doesn’t seem quite so impossible but it’s still giving me the collywobbles.

Continuing to enjoy my new job as it moves into its third month, perhaps not moving forward as fast as I’d hoped on some aspects, but I think that’s down to my enthusiasm to crack on with work.  After 4 years of largely only having to motivate myself, it’s taking a bit of getting used to, to once again rely on other people to do things.  But, I’d be lying if I didn’t say how much I look forward each week to my day of non-PhD work – as it feels more than ever like I’m doing something more concrete a lot of the time.

Was quite excited when my two worlds of work and research collided and I heard about the launch of the White Rose University Press this week.  With my research hat on, I’m very interested in the role of university presses as a counter to industrial scale publishing hegemony.  With my job hat on, I’ve an interest in how these sort of presses function on a practical and operational level.  Now if I could just afford the time and money to go to the University Presses’ conference in Liverpool this year, I could find out more – but that’s not going to happen.  Not unless I want a lot more sleepless nights worrying about lost time!

Anyway, next week I’ve a Critical University Studies discussion group session to look forward to on Wednesday (scored an invite thanks to a chance meeting in a corridor) where we’re looking at a very interesting paper Lynch & Ivancheva, 2015. Academic freedom and the commercialisation of universities: a critical ethical analysis.  Not sure quite how much scholarly insight I’ll have to add, but I really enjoyed reading the paper, which rather resonated in part with my marketisation of HE thesis chapter.

Oh and finally, Project Pizza continues in the background…which means big living arrangement changes are nigh in the coming months.

 

In Media Res

It struck me today I wanted to talk more about the TV shows I’m currently regularly watching, and a hint of those I’m looking forward to in the near future.  And if we’re living in a golden age of television, in the middle of the autumn season, it seems a perfect time to do so.  In alphabetical order…

Archer (Netflix)

ArcherSorry, I swear I had something for this.

Officially the only show in our house that Mrs Llama makes me close the doors and windows to watch to avoid traumatizing the neighbours & their children.  I say they’ve got to learn about booze filled sweartastic spy-fi fiction at some point.  We’ve agreed to differ.  Potentially after I muttered “Holy shit-snacks” under my breath.  Possible high point in this show remains (possibly) the Bob’s Burgers crossover…

Arrow (Sky)

Or as it’s referred to by me Arra’ (in my best mockney accent).  Green Arrow’s never been a comic book favourite of mine (despite his years of association with my favourite Green Lantern), but this show really grabbed me when I started watching it early in its second season (the Wife was away from home for long periods of time and I wanted something I could watch that she wouldn’t care about).  At times it’s a bit shlocky, but most of the time it delivers on the money comic book action and snappy dialogue.  Not to mention fabulous fan-boy squee moments for the long time DC fan that I am.  Also getting Constantine on it in S4 may have made my year (bring him back!).  Oh, one tip – don;t mention the words “Thea Queen” in Mrs Llama’s hearing…she may explode.  Also, my love for John Barrowman grows each time he appears in this show (which so far this year has been not enough!).

The Big Bang Theory (More4)

BigBangI came to this before it got really popular, and as a geek I rather like the multiple nods to my life style, experiences and people.  Honestly, I could identify people I’ve known/know just like Leonard, Sheldon, Howard and Raj.  And the girls, even Penny.  I can certainly remember a number of ‘hot’ non-geek girlfriends standing around at LARP/gaming events over the years, looking equal parts baffled, pitying and annoyed.  At it’s best this show was tightly scripted and delivered, but now it seems to be rather circling the drain and I hate to admit it, but this season I’ve been reading my tablet more than watching the episodes.  Mrs Llama seems to enjoy it still, so I’ll be sitting through it for now, but it’s a pale shadow of its hey day, especially now Ross and Rachel…sorry Penny and Leonard have gotten married.

 

The Blacklist (Sky)

blacklistI’m a James Spader fan from Boston Legal days, so this show easily had me hooked in with it’s Alias/24/Chuck/Burn Notice kinda vibe.  And it’s certainly delivered in terms of a thrill ride with reversals of fortune and unexpected twists.  For me, while Spader is most certainly the stand out star, it’s Ryan ‘Tom’ Eggold who keeps impressing me – from his early phoenix-like transformation, to his current undercover exploits.  Solid, enjoyable, exciting – and generally over all too soon each week.  And if you’re very, very lucky, Spader will deliver one of those monologues that only he (and Frank Underwood) can.

Bob’s Burgers (Comedy Central)

ojjWet5As a long time King of the Hill fan it’s frustrated me no end that this family centric, realistic (well compared to say Simpsons, Family Guy and American Dad) animated comedy hasn’t been shown over here.  Thankfully it is now (all be it from S3…what about S1&2 eh?), and even more shocking, Mrs Llama loves it too.  Currently I can’t wait for my weekly double bill of the Belchers, and it might just be the show I’d binge watch if it was on a streaming service.  But as it isn’t I have to accept a double helping each week.

Constantine (Sky)

TV_Gallery_Constantine01_53712d01f179e9.81662124Half way through watching this, months after everyone else.  Difficult to watch as Mrs Llama finds it all too scary so I have to wait for her to be out.  A damned (see what I did there) shame it got canned, as Matt Ryan is totally convincing in the role.  And given it’s adapting the Damnation Crusade storylines from the early Hellblazers I know so well, I’m really pleased by how they taken the plotlines and run with them.  If Preacher can be half this good an adaptation, I’ll be happy.  Still, at least they let him finally smoke on Arrow.

Doctor Who (BBC)

downloadYes. Obviously.  I think I’ve said more than enough about this over the years, and my life long love for the show.  I’ll just say here that I love Peter Capaldi in the role, S9 has been stunning and just as I came to love Clara… she went and faced that sodding bird.  Probably the major argument for me in favour of the TV licence.

The Flash (Sky)

download (1)Okay, if I had to cut this list of current shows down a bit.  Flash would stay on it.  If I had to cut it down to less than 5 shows.  Flash would still be on it.  If I had to choose between it and Doctor Who…arg…don’t make me, I’m not sure I could honestly choose.  And given the latter recently made a nod towards Cisco in The Flash’s naming of villains…well there’s hardly any separation between the two (even less with spin off Legends of Tomorrow starting Rory ‘Rip Hunter’ Williams as a time-traveler).  This show manages to outdo its parent show Arrow by being fast paced (naturally), action packed (of course), tightly plotted (indeed) and with scripts that just zing.  Helped along by a great cast, and an awful lot of fan-boy content, that they manage to carry off with aplomb.  I love this show, and it’s a real high spot of my week watching it.  Just so long as Prof Ivo stays dead and ‘Vibe’ keeps far, far away from Detroit, I’m sure it’ll run and run.  And I’ve not even mentioned Tom Cavanagh’s scene stealing Harrison Wells (both of him).

Have I Got a Bit More News For You (BBC)

have-i-got-news-2014Now in its 50th season it might be a format that’s creaking, wheezing and groaning more than the TARDIS in a heavy fog, but there are still quite a few weeks when this show still manages to be the cutting edge of satirical comment in the UK.  That we don’t have more intelligent but funny shows like this and dross like Strictly…don’t get me started on the bread & circuses argument again.  It might never quite hit the heights of the Angus era again, but 80% of the time well worth the watch.  And then there are the weeks Paul/Ian just coast on autopilot.  Wish they’d just show the longer version as it hangs together better when it’s a little rawer and less packaged.

Jessica Jones (Netflix)

download (2)I may be wrong but I think David Tennant is playing an evil version of the Doctor in this show.  I’m only 5 episodes in, but that’s my conclusion.  While not quite as sublime as Daredevil this show is still one of the strongest parts of the MCU by a long way.  I just can’t shake the feeling that Jessica reminds me of Mrs Llama in some ways – the determination, stubbornness and the jeans addiction more than the PTSD after being mind-controlled though.  Another definite candidate for the ‘just one more episode before I go to bed’ catagory.

Justice League (Unlimited)

JLU_Justice-LeagueAka what I watch at lunchtimes at home.  Possibly the finest iteration of the DCAU, or maybe the DCU fullstop.  If only Guy Gardner had played more (or indeed any) role in it!

Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (Sky)

Last weekIf only Panorama or Question Time could be this coherent.  This show is very much something I wish we had an analogue of in the UK.  Since the end of Jon Stewart on the Daily Show, and Colbert’s defection to chat show hosting, this remains my primary USA centric satirical show…all be it with a surprisingly excellent crusading journalistic bent.  It generally manages to make me laugh and explode with rage in equal measure at the inequities of the world.  And obviously it’s never better as when fellow Brit John turns his lens back on Queen & Country.  I remain eternally fascinated by how other cultures view us here on our tiny, parochial island.  Also the theme tune was my ringtone for the best part of a year.  If you’re not watching this – you should be.

Orange is the New Black (Netflix)

download (3)Mrs Llama started watching this a while ago, but decided after a half dozen episodes that it was “too samey”.  I’ve just started watching it, and frankly I’m loving it.  Funny, dramatic and touching – and as a long time veteran of Prisoner Cell Block H fills that hitherto unremarked on ‘Women’s Prison’ hole in my life.

Er, maybe I should rephrase that!  Anyway the cast is great, but my stars is Captain “Red” Janeway the best thing in this in a country mile.  I can almost forgive Kate Mulgrew for STV:Threshold.  Almost.  I’m only halfway through the 1st season at the moment, so this one should keep me occupied for a few months to come yet, which is great, as I’m really enjoying the characters and plotlines, and I remain surprisingly unspoiled about most of the plot.  Not all mind you, but enough!

Peep Show (Channel 4)

PeepI was a latecomer to Mark and Jez.  In fact I’d more or less avoided watching it over the years, pegging it as one of those comedy for trendy people.  Then I saw a show or two…and realised how wrong I was.  Hence in the gap between S8 and S9, I’ve watched all of the available episodes.  At least twice.  And also brought Mrs Llama around to appreciate it (she’s less than keen on embarrassment based comedy normally).  Worryingly she’s started to identify traits of Mark that she shares, which may case me (and I’m not sure about this) as Jez.  Lord I hope I’m not Jez, but I do own a military-camo jacket that wear an awful lot…

Les Revenants (aka The Returned) (More4)

7779579407_lena-et-camilleThis show is usually watched in my house in a double bill with the Walking Dead.  One set of zom…walkers will devour you, and the others will stand around looking morose and making deeply existential statements while hanging around the Lake Pub or the top of the (broken) dam.  It is very, very French, deeply mysterious, utterly unactionpacked (yes, even more talking than TWD S2) and moody as hell, and I love it.  Victor remains the creepiest child on this or any other planet, even if he has gotten a little taller in S2.  And Lena…oh Lena…  I do hope they manage to wrap up the storylines without giving everything away this season!  Anyway, best watched late night or before dawn for the correct ambiance of despair coupled with flashes of hope.  I just wish they’d kept the French title.

Parks and Recreation (Amazon)

parks and recAnother show I’ve come to late (indeed after it’s finished), which is currently filling in the ‘Easy, watchable, comedy’ choice when myself or Mrs Llama can’t agree what to watch or fancy something lighter of an evening.  Yes, Lesley Knope is annoying…but that’s the point, right?  The rest of the ensemble cast is great, and as a big fan of the (US) Office it’s great to have something rather in the same vein.  Usually has me hooting with laughter more than once an episode (and not always at Chris Pratt leaping over a fence/into a pit etc).

Robot Chicken (Comedy Central)

download (4)How can I not love a show where people use toys to mock SciFi shows and culture.  A bit like Python – some sketches are brilliant.  Some are terrible and go on for weeks.  Thankfully the whole show is so brief that’s rarely a problem.  Fingers crossed they show the DC Heroes special shortly over here, as previous ones have been excellent.  A good show to stick on when I can’t think what I want to watch before I head to bed!  Also there’s no truth I’ve been keeping my own pet chickens away from watching this!

South Park

Forgot this one first time around!  South Park’s been one of those shows that when it first came on, I watched a bit but was never really in to.  Although I still consider the film one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen at the cinema (especially THAT opening song).  But in the last decade I’ve found myself watching it more and more, and realising just how sharply satirical the show has come – far outstripping its more bawdy infancy.  The last couple of seasons in particular have offered one of the most powerful examples of popular critiques of the neoliberal consumerist, media-obsessed culture we in the west exist within.  And it’s still incredibly funny (and possibly more so).   CtPa Town & pretty much anything Randy Marsh gets involved in especially. Long may it continue to tweek the nose of authority and celeb obsessed culture!

Supergirl (Sky)

supergirl0513151280jpg-dca2b2_1280wI love Supergirl.

Let me rephrase that, before Mrs Llama arrives to slap me.  I love Supergirl in the comics ever since she died in COIE (my first exposure to her), but mainly thanks to Peter David’s immortal run on her title in the 90s.  Hence I was hoping this show would rock.  And then I saw the trailer…and my grin became a little more strained.  Okay it’s far from terrible, and it may yet surprise and dleight me, but right now it’s one of those shows I watch when I’m doing something else.  I’ll probably give it the whole season…maybe…but not sure if it’s renewed if I’ll watch on to another season.  Which is a shame as Melissa Benoist is utterly nailing Supergirl’s characterization…she just needs some better scripts/plotting.  And also don’t get me started on super-handsome-stud Jimmy Olsen!

Toast of London (Channel 4)

ToastI thought I was the only person watching this on the planet for the first season.  Far too rude for Mrs Llama, but I thought it was hilarious, weird and refreshing – not to mention being somewhat of a terrible thespian myself, there’s a kinship twix me and Toast that drew me in.  Then it won an award, and I realised other people could see how great this show was.  Sure dark, possibly deranged and even disturbing.  But never staid nor formulaic.  Well done Matt and Arthur.  But not you Clem Fandango!

The Walking Dead (Fox)

download (5)There have been times when I’ve asked myself do I want to keep on watching a show that at times can be bleak and unremittingly depressing as TWD.  And then Carol goes on another of her knife-centred rampages and I remember why.  I’d be hard pressed to say whom is my favourite character at times, as they’re all pretty flawed portraits of humanity…but then, that’s hardly a surprise when we’ve seen what they’ve gone through.  Despite the odd dip, and Carl centric plotline, this show seems to be currently going from strength at the moment.  If I could just shake this tune out of my head…  Sorry Bryony!

You, Me and the Apocalypse (Sky)

you meWith a cast to die for (Rob Lowe and Mathew Baynton especially, but not exclusively), this is a black comedy that is definitely getting more into the darker regions of funny as time passes.  End of the world comedies aren’t new, but this show is weaving a fabulously tangled and yet interlinked story around a group of (seemingly at first) unlinked strangers in the face of Armageddon.  There’s only a couple of weeks to go, and I’m looking forward to finding out just how everyone ended up in that bunker (no spoiler, they tease more each week).  This is the sort of stuff BBC or Channel 4 should be producing…but have missed the boat.  Highly recommended and surely in line for an award nod somewhere sometime?

Coming Soon (or what I’m looking forward to in 2016): Legends of Tomorrow, Better Call Saul (S2), Luke Cage, Preacher, House of Cards (S4), Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt (S2), The Man in the High Castle, Outlander (S2) and probably rewatching all of Breaking Bad over the Christmas break.

Is it too soon to start frothing about the new Star Trek show too?

It Was The Blurst of Times

And here we are once more at the two week catch up – and what an eventful couple of weeks it’s been.

Mercian Collaboration

Sorta-Kinda My Office (for now)
Sorta-Kinda My Office (for now)

Started my p/t job this week with the Mercian Libraries Collaboration.  I was excited before I started…which was unusual for a new job, normally I’m quite nervous and full of apprehension the first day, but I was just champing at the bit to get stuck into this one.  Lovely first day, meeting with various people at Leicester who I used to work with (and most of whom didn’t realise it’d been 3.25 years since they’d seen me).  Lots of very familiar faces, and a handful of new ones.  Felt very welcomed, and that’s not even going to be my office home for the long term*.  Lots to get into, read about and bring myself up to date on, and even have the use of the Project Room as my office – well, when no one else’s booked it!  But I rather like the nomadic existence, which is just as well as a lot of this job is going to be about being on the road certainly for the early days.  Now I just need to find out where my tech and work mobile are coming from and I’ll be totally good to go.  All in all, a very positive commencement – I almost regret I’ve only the 1 working day a week to give to this!

Now if I can just stop myself saying Meridian or Mercenary when people ask me whom I’m working for, I’ll be happy.  Mrs Llama just keeps shouting “MERCIAN!” at me, as though she’s just escaped off the set of The Last Kingdom.

Campus

Went into campus at the crack of dawn one morning, to pick up the new software key for Nvivo.  During the 30 minutes I was on site I met an academic friend, printed off dozens of pages and admired the new central building (The Pavillion).  Not bad.  And then was home before 9am!

Coding

The big job of the past couple of weeks has been finishing off the second of the two coding frameworks I’ve been building.  So the code books are all written, and the definitions are all in place.  Now in the process of creating then in NVivo (and reteaching myself NVivo as I’ve forgotten bits of it).  Which means next week – all is go for the full coding phase!!!  Much excitement and celebration at this point.

Linked.In

Linked.In Skills
Linked.In Skills

Following a discussion on FriendFace and Chitter this week about where Linked.In harvests the rather random suggested contact names from (seems it’s largely from the app which sneakily scans your GMail unless you remember to block it), went on to explore the wonders of endorsements.  Which thanks to a number of chums means I now have some VERY interesting skills on my profile.  There’s a lot of interesting debate too around the dissonance between what your connections perceive as your skill base vs what you know are your actual skills.  I’ve done some rearrangement on my skills, to try and highlight a bit more the things I’m rather better at professionally…still not 100% sure what the Hades the skill Library is anyway!

Mrs Llama tells me she likes to randomly endorse people for skills in the hope they might return the favour, so I’ve been doing that as well.  Feels rather akin to FriendFace’s poking of old mind you me.  Anyway, feel free to endorse me for something…or should I say something that’s not Activated Sludge (you know who you are!).

Miscellany

Other odds and sods

  • Filled in an AHRC survey about changes to PhD funding.  Delighted to see they want to move to a 4 year standard…wish they’d done that with me.
  • Tried filling in another survey about gaming/gambling research from some local scholars.  Gave up on about question 746.  Not the best example of questionnaire design I’ve come across, and a strong argument for using a different methodology IMHO.
  • Been following the argument over Elsevier and the journal Lingua with some interest this week.  Storm in a tea cup or the pebbles before the avalanche?
  • Project Pizza took a dramatic step forward

*Probably, still up for discussion – but that’s all part of the fun of this job🙂

Code 358

It’s been another couple of weeks, and frankly I’ve spent most of the time engaged in creating, consolidating and refining my qualitative concept coding framework for my field work data.  From those of you who know what it’s like, you’ll understand why I’m starting to see patterns forming in everyday life.  Woke up in the middle of the night yesterday having suddenly analysed the plot of You, Me and the Apocalypse and worked out the ending*.  Just about avoided waking the Wife up to tell her my revelations!

Hopefully next week once I’ve finished this process, and writing my concept code book, I’ll be able to start running through my final test coding phases, make the final modifications and then break out NVivo all over again.  Just about at the point where my yearly licence runs out and I’ll need to pop to campus to get the new software key!  Gah.

Employment

Had a very useful conversation with my new line manager (at least for the first 6 months) mid-week, and it looks like all being well I’ll be starting off in the new role at the beginning of November.  That is of course assuming HR can get their respective ducks in a row by then, and I’ve never known HR to roll at any realistic speed, so I’m currently taking that all with a pinch of salt.  Not had written contracts through yet either, which means I don’t really want to start talking too much about what I’m doing publicly until I’ve signed on the dotted line!  Suffice to say I’m really actually very excited about starting in the job, and I think there’s a great deal to do in/with it!  So roll on November.

Meanwhile, finally heard back from the last of the other 4 jobs I’d applied for around the same time as this one.  Not too bad all in all, a 40% application:interview ratio.  A little surprised one of them (a media librarian post) I didn’t ever get an interview for, as I was a damned good match and wrote a storming application.  Ah well, guess it wasn’t to be…and anyway, I’d already accepted this (exciting) job!

Meetings

Met with my supervisor last week to discuss a joint conference paper proposal for next year.  Really animated (and long) meeting where we discussed my research findings to date, looked a bit into the analysis and dealt with some of my concerns over word limits.  I think I’m going to have to do some pruning as I’m close to the university’s limits, but I’ve yet to really establish how absolute they are.  Graduate Office tells me one thing, supervisor another.  So for now, I’ll keep on writing, but it does look like I get to chop one of my proposed chapters – just wouldn’t fit!

Also looks like I’m going to have too many results for the thesis (!), so potentially already thinking how/where to publish these in the new year.  Once the thesis is closer to its final shape of course.

Interviews

Oh yes, I also carried out one bonus research interview – one of my actors who I thought had dropped out of contact, got back in touch.  And a very useful set of insights it was too, glad I went ahead with it.  But that’s it, final line really drawn under it all.  Short of someone from my UK government approaches reappearing, I can’t foresee doing any more.  Kinda going to miss this element of talking to people, finding out what they’re doing…but then it looks like that’s going to be part of the new job.  So one door closes…

And that’s it…other than dealing with an unreliable tradesman in between all this, and a still fairly sickly Mrs Llama.  And now…back to the coding framework.

*In case I’m very wrong (we’re only on ep4 of 10), and to avoid spoiling it for anyone else…I’m keeping quiet on this!

Bankers Unite!

A Many Splendored Week

Well there goes another week, and what a week it was.  Well, actually it’s been about 7 working days since the last post, but you know what I mean.  Or at least I hope you do.  Actually, the idea that anyone will ever understand anything I write is weighing heavily on me at the moment, as I’ve been working on writing the introduction to the second field work chapter in my thesis.  I can’t believe it’s taken me the best part of 3 days to get 3,000 words into some vague semblance of coherency.  And then of course Mrs Llama looked over my shoulder and told me it was gibberish in a lot of place.  Just what I need, more stress!

Aside from the writing I’ve been working on developing the coding frame for my qualitative analysis of my phase 2 field work.  Having gone through this process once before, this time I’m hopeful that I can speed it along a little bit.  And from the progress I’ve made in a couple of days, I am fairly confident that it will be sorted by next week, and I’ll be able to kick off the full-scale coding of the data.  I’m aware though I’ve actually two sets of data to work on, and this is only the coding for the first chunk, hence the need for a little more speed.  But truth be told, the data in total is not quite as massive as my first field work – thankfully!

Unexpectedly one of the potential interviewees I thought had just stopped replying to my emails a couple of months ago suddenly re-appeared in my inbox yesterday.  Since they belong to a group that I’d like to hear a little more from, I’ve made arrangements to speak to them next week.  Thankfully it’s before I’ve done any coding work on the actor interviews, so it’s not something that’s going to derail me.

I did have a little outing on Tuesday to the city campus.  I’d been invited along to meet with the sponsors who bank rolled (pun intended) my trip to Vienna.  Having slogged my guts out over the poster for that in recent weeks, I was rather looking forward for a chance to say ‘thanks’, to have some discussions with some non-academics about the value of my research etc, and perhaps to meet a few other PhDs and seeing their posters.  As it was I think I was the only PhD recipient of the scheme to turn up; all the rest seemed to be undergrads who’d gone off on some form of sponsored internship as part of a related scheme.  Not to mention no posters were visible – which leads me to the conclusion that they’re in the bank’s vault somewhere to be dragged out whenever they want to show ‘Hey look, we do community stuff’.  Really wish I’d not spent a fraction of the time I did agonising over its production now!

Bankers Unite!
Bankers Unite!

As the VC and the banking chief signed another 3 year concordant, I realised I was just meat in the room – there to make up the numbers and make the bankers present feel important.  And there were a LOT of bankers.  It was also very interesting to hear the VC and the chief banker talk about all the lovely synergies between HE and the finance sector…which I did my best not to mutter about into my beard.  Actually, I’d tried my best to put on my best PR face having gone in my lovely velvet jacket, but as the room turned out to be rather warm was slightly regretting it.  I did have a brief discussion with one of the senior banking chaps about my work, but he was mostly determined to find out if the investment of my time (and their money) had been worthwhile, before making a swift exit to talk to someone more interesting.  It wasn’t a total waste of a four hour round trip for me, I did get lunch and Mrs Llama got some biscuits I bought on the way back to the station.  But it wasn’t really the most profitable use of my time, that’s for sure.

Aside from that the only noteworthy news this week is that I was offered the job I was interviewed for. After a bit of thought, and mild salary negotiations, it looks like I’ve going to take it.  And naturally I’ll talk a bit more about it, once the ink’s dried on the contract (currently, I’m at the verbal acceptance stage and haven’t signed anything).  As for the other jobs I’d applied for, 2 of them I’ve heard nothing a couple weeks after the closing date.  But of the other 2, one at Sheffield Hallam turned me down (but were decent enough to tell me), and another one – a very interesting RA job for 3 months invited me to interview.  I turned them down with some considerable regret – the job was a little bit further away than I would have liked (~90 miles) and 2 days a week – so it could well have eaten into my research time a bit too much.  All the same, it was very flattering to get that far, and hopefully bodes well for when I’m applying for full-time jobs…you know, once I get this PhD done and dusted.

Wasn't that near the front
Wasn’t that near the front

And not even time to mention my epic 12hr roundtrip to London on Sunday evening to see Weird Al in concert.  Utterly, totally worth the trip – but boy was I wasted on Monday.  At least I’m still a student for now, and can do these occasionally mad things without worrying too much about being up at the crack of dawn on a Monday!