As I mentioned last time, this is going to be a week of getting stuff ready for deadlines; so mostly the short-form research proposal and the full version too. That said I’ve also got book review 1 for the philosophy module to submit, which is already written but I’m holding back on submission until I’ve had one last chance to read it – just in case it really is total shash. I have however submitted my RPC-A first (of two) PDP items. Non-assessed, non-credit bearing but mandatory. So they’ve got a collection of all my reviewed research readings. Actually, putting this together on the Uni VLE area (I keep the notes on RefWorks primarily) was useful as I’ve updated some of the reviews with additional thoughts and reflections, so it’s not a total waste of my time.
But before that I’ve kicked off my day adding some notes to my timeline of events in the worlds of open access, access to knowledge free culture and the like. It’s only sketchy at the moment, and I’ll be adding to it over time – but please do make suggestions in the comments or drop me a line if you have any suggestions for what should be on it.
I’d love to say “And then spent the rest of the day working on my research proposal” but the truth is I got distracted watching the press conference from Leicester Uni about Richard III, and thank you twitter for the back channel chatter! Was most entertained when the BBC feed cut off as soon as the Channel 4 man started talking, no cross advertising on this news network it seems. After that though I did work on my proposal. About the only other interesting thing that happened today was that I was approached to be a participant in a research project on repositories. So I’ll be having one of those telephone interview things next week where they pick my brains and I waffle on. Think I’ve finally got Skype up and running right now on my PC so this will be the big test, as I’ve never actually used it at home in anger before. Sure it’ll work fine and dandy…
Rotten, awful, terrible night’s sleep – where i spent most of the night reading Wikipedia about Thunderbirds and related subjects in an effort to turn my brain off. Didn’t work, so today was like pulling teeth: hard, slow and painful* but I did get a fair amount of editing done. I had anticipated getting to the end of the rewrite today, but by 4.30pm my neurons were shutting themselves off for the night; or at least that’s what it felt like. Also managed to confuse some people with thinking that it was next week already. With my ability to read a simple calendar impaired, I should have just gone back to bed – but sadly not an option as there’s lots to do. Anyone who tells you being a PhD is as relaxing as being an undergraduate doesn’t know what they’re talking about frankly!
There are times when trying to do all this cerebral work really does sap your ability to relax and rest, and I think I’m almost certainly right in the middle of one of those periods. Not helped, I may add, by some events going on in my personal life (mostly exciting, new and wow; but all the same Mrs Llama and I are looking at some big decisions at the moment which are preying on both our minds).
*Individual dentists’ speeds may vary
An almost solid night’s sleep, which is near unheard of for me. And the net result…I feel twice as dozy as yesterday. GAH! I cannot seem to win at the moment. Back on the editing, which I will finish today in time to give Mrs Llama a chance to read through it for clarity, and a couple of days to re-edit my coursework version before the submission deadline 4pm on Friday. I’ve also got to pop to campus to pick up a book (that I’ve not got time to read) and attend the lecture on case study methods which was postponed from last week. Thankfully that’ll only be four hours out of my day to get there, attend and return so I should be able to grab some late afternoon final editing time. Certainly finding that post 3pm I can actually edit better than I can first thing in the morning, so glad I get this time back this week.
[Later] And the session on case studies this afternoon was really good, a real high point in the research training lectures; I do hope the rest of the methodology series are as good as this course has been a bit hit and miss at times. Came home and managed to get another hour or so editing done, though I was still feverishly typing away when Mrs Llama returned home (and for a while afterwards). Didn’t quite get the rationale finished, but I’ve still passed her a copy to glance over tonight as I could do with another opinion on it. However, I know the next couple of days will be spent finishing the course work short form version and submitting – as that deadline is creeping up fast.
And following on from yesterday’s dental comment, one of my fellow PhDs asked me today if students get free dental treatment in the UK. Do you know I’ve no idea (I’ve been seeing my private dentist so long I didn’t even think about it!). I suspect though the answer is probably no! Right now though I could do with a back specialist as I’ve been getting a lot of lower backpain the last couple of days. Suspect the lack of sleep is either a causative factor or a consequence, so will experiment tonight with the emergency back up spare bed. Sure Mrs Llama will appreciate the extra space!
99 words. Doesn’t seem much does it. But that’s where the end of today finds me, agonising over losing 99 words to just squeak this short-form research proposal under the upper word limit (1,000 words +/-10%). Considering it started the day over 2,000 words I guess I’m going to have to take a small pleasure in reducing it that much. As it is words are swimming before my eyes right now as I’ve either been staring at a piece of paper or a computer screen all day. And the more I edit, the more the fear in my head grows that I’m editing out the stuff that will get me marks and leaving in the fluff. The advice we’ve had on writing this has been (to say the least) conflicting at times, almost to the point of confusion. I wish part of my psyche would let me turn in a hash of a piece and just take a middling grade (which is probably all I’ll get anyway, not being teacher’s pet) , but I’ve been agonising over it.
Wasn’t helped by Mrs Llama tearing into my full version of the research proposal last night and pretty much questioning everything I’ve written. I sense I won’t be sharing any more work with her, I don’t think her research outlook and mine really overlap much. She was trying to be helpful did make some useful general points, but frankly she’ came across as a bit of a harsh critic! Sometimes we could do with critics to put us straight when we’re off track, but frankly that’s all I seem to have at the moment, criticism from my supervisors**, criticism from course tutors and now criticism from the Wife.
Might be nice if once in a while someone told me I was doing, you know, an okay job of things. When I was a manager I always made sure that I started off any meetings with my team with praise, before the time came to explore something that wasn’t working the way it should have been. Could really do with a touch of that right now.
And I need to find tomorrow to have a last read of my book review as well before it gets submitted late afternoon. *sigh* Think it’s going to be another long day tomorrow. At least I can cheer myself up by knowing I’ve already handed in the work for next week’s deadline and after that…oh look, it’s a whole month before I have to hand another piece of coursework in. Naturally, I’ll be just stressing about getting my research proposal proper done and sorting all the slightly oddly organised administrative trivia*** that goes with that!
**Helpful criticism to be sure, I just hope one day I reach the point where they say “Yes, that’s fine” – as right now feels like I’ll never reach that state of affairs!
***That’s a tale for another day I think
I thought today would be an easy day. I thought that a quick polish on both my book review and short form research proposal would be needed and I’d be done by noon at the latest.
How little did I know that today fate would decide to have fun with me. First off I got to work on the research proposal, with 99 words to edit out to get it on target I was really pleased that shortly after 10am that I had a nicely reworked piece. That had grown by 24 words. I know, because I checked this about three times to be sure. And so I had to dive back in with a little more serious edit. That said by about 11.45am the editing was done, the proof read was finished and I opened up my browser to submit it online. All the submissions (yes up to the thesis itself) are all online, mostly using the University’s VLE (called NOW). Being a paranoid person after I’d clicked on upload and before I clicked submit I downloaded a copy to double-check that the uploading process hadn’t done anything…odd.
You see I work in Open Office (because it’s free, and doesn’t have that horrible ribbon interface that only Microsoft seem to love), but OO doesn’t work in .docx; it works in .odt or will save to an older .doc version for files. And yes, there was a slight oddity – but thankfully not caused by OO/Word – it was a typo I’d missed. So uploaded and submitted by noon, and with only a light polish of my book review to go I stopped for lunch.
And about 10 minutes later the village suffered a power cut.
Crap. I can see me getting a UPS at this rate to avoid this happening again. At least then I could sweep the files to a USB stick and nip to campus to carry on working!
Luckily while the deadline on the research proposal was 4pm, the book review wasn’t due until 11.30pm tonight. But it was a sticky hour or so before the power finally came back on. I spent the time reading Calvin and Hobbes and doing the editing of the book review on paper. Then all I had to do was turn my PC back on, wait for about 20 minutes for it to recover from the catastrophic power-outtage…and discover that the crash had corrupted my copy of open office.
Perhaps just as well I go down the FOSS route for editing software, if I’d lost Word reinstalling it might have been a bit tricky As it was I couldn’t repair OO, so had to de-install and then reinstall it before it would work. Which took me to 3pm. The editing of the book review took about the 10 minutes I expected, but unlike the research proposal I have to put a cover sheet on the report. A cover sheet in a .docx format. A format OO has…issues with at times. Sure it opens it, but when I originally downloaded the coversheet a couple of weeks ago the formatting was just garbage. I had to download it on a uni PC in word, and save as .doc. Even then it still seemed to have some strange invisible formatting characters as it kept breaking my paragraphs where there was no break and adding a blank page for no good raisin (sic).
Honestly, given that the issues I’ve had with both the VLE and Word formatting are both due to proprietary formats, and the book review was about free culture, open source and the digital commons…well I think the fickle finger of fate was continuing to point at me.
But it’s all done, they’re submitted after a lot of hard graft, sleepless nights and misery. And they’re just the first assessed pieces of work I’ve done for the PhD. Next up is the full research proposal, another book review, an encyclopedia entry and a poster. All by mid-April at the very latest. If I’m lucky I might even have a chance to read some more as well. But for now, after this titanic* struggle, I’m calling it a day and taking an early bath!
*Give me this one hyperbole okay, it’s been a long exhausting week!