Just call me “Bill Sticker Nick”

If you’re wondering about the title this week…

And read on and it’ll all become clear.  Although, somehow I’ve managed to spot an allegory for open access and the publishing industry in the dialogue between Captain Flack and Nick Fisher (00:09:17).

Nick Fisher “You can’t put a poster there.  The people who own that hoarding have to be paid when you stick a poster on it.  Then they pay me, and I put it up”

Capt Flack “Very well, the law’s the law. We’ll just have to go home”

Of course in an open access world (academic) Flack could just bypass the middle man of bill poster (publisher) Nick…

Monday

Bank Holiday, post marathon recovery (big blisters on both little toes, but I was 8 minutes faster than last year, so I’m happy). No work was attempted.

Tuesday

Research poster planning today.  Having done a thumbnail sketch last month today I had to try to pull some text together for it.  On one hand it’s a total embuggerance* that I can only really build it in a Microsoft product – and I don’t have access to MS Office at home.  I could build it in Open Office, but Writer is just not versatile enough.  Given more time I might have considered using some FOSS type package, and 3rd party PDF converter – but then I don’t have an A3 colour printer to run drafts off either.  I’ve used publisher so many times over the years in various jobs, I find it very easy and adaptable to use too.  So tomorrow I’ll need to be on campus to do the handle turning part of the exercise.  Increasingly getting to the point where I’ll need to get a laptop or upgrade my PC and stick a copy of Office on it, as I don’t want to be forced to waste the best part of two hours* of the working day driving to and from campus.

Here is my poster - it says I am lacking in ideas!
Wanted: Ideas for poster designs

On the other hand though, it was good to force me to sit down and think through what the poster was trying to say. Yes it’s about my research proposal, which let’s face it is only the most embryonic form of my studies still, but at least that focusses it all down.  I was able to draw not only on my RD1PA *shudders* but also my recent philosophy essay for certain turns of phrase I’ve used, and points made.  That helped, but of course I’ve had to simplify things so they’ll make sense a bit more to a non-specialist.  Bit worried that it’s all too wordy though, even in tiny 8pt font.  Also spent some time photoshopping a couple of simple images to use in the background to give it a bit more eye-appeal.  Suspect though it’s not going to win any prizes, but so long as it’s servicable, I’ll be happy (probably).

*(TM) Mr T.Pratchett Esq

**or 5 hours, if the potential relocation of Mrs Llama and I goes forward as planned

Wednesday

On campus to work on the poster for a couple of hours.  The delights of trying to figure out how to colour print wasn’t easy (though obvious once I realised), but really useful to be able to have a 25% scale copy to work from.  As I feared far, far too wordy and will need editing in a number of places for near-gibberish phraseology   The method and theory bit really is damned weak too, but as my theory is supposed to be something I’m working on throughout the PhD it’s a bit difficult to slam something in there now (even though there are marks for this – sigh).  As I’ve mentioned before, unlike some of the other’s on the RPC I don’t have a handy-dandy out of the box theory to use.  Still, I guess I like a challenge…

I have though stuck in a link to the “best video on open access ever made” (not my words), a little something I made waaaaay back in 2007.  One day I will go back and make a new/updated version – but today is not that day!

So just me here then...
So just me here then…

There was supposed to be a meeting of the PhDs in my dept, so I had to abandon my computer at 11am.  As a lot of PC class rooms are increasingly booked solid from here on out for 24/7 for exams – this resulted in people pouncing on the slot as soon as I got up, great another obstacle to producing this bloody poster (see how much I am enjoying this).  And would you believe it, no one else showed up for the meeting.  Can’t say I was surprised as my good chum and fellow PhD Lidia and I had agreed over an online chat that we thought it was only going to be us two and she was likely to be busy.  *sigh*  Lidia and I had a long wash-up chat later in the day where we discussed the inability of all these baby-academics to have a sense of community and shared culture enough to get them out of their study pods and into a meeting for an hour or two every month.  Hell, given that it’s voluntary we’re on a hiding to nothing – given the numbers in the compulsory RPC have been dropping through the floor this year – if people won’t show for credit bearing sessions how can we ever get them to show up off their own backs.

And as I’m not their line manager,  it’s not my job to kick-’em in the ass and remind them.  We’re all adults you know…

Came back home after a bit more editing to work more on the text of the poster in the comfort of my house, with hot and cold (mostly hot) running tea, nice toilets and no chance anyone will filtch my spot if I pop away from the desk for a few moments!  This poster is taking far too long IMHO, and I’ll be glad to see the back of it.

Queen’s speech today – and I see the government want’s to look at IP law again.  Combined with next year’s DEA snooping laws, this doesn’t bode well I suspect for the average non-corporate creator.  Flipping vectorist capitalists running this country…

Thursday

On campus not long after 9am to re-edit the poster and play with the layout.  It still have about 200% too much text and I will try and cut it down – but unlike a real research poster I’ve not got any results to present, nor interesting charts to display.  Not to mention there are marking criteria for this thing, which means I’ve got to include (I feel) more to score marks, and less to generate an discussion with anyone who reads it.  I think if I ever have to do one of these again, it’s going to be one image with a title and a giant question mark!  And that’s it.

After a couple of hours of this I had a long meeting with my supervisors to discuss what I need to be doing for the next few months.  I think they might just have left me some time to sleep and eat, but not much!  It’s nice to be challenged but I’m still feeling more in need of a holiday than I have for a long time.  Just as well I love what I’m doing, or I might throw a wobbly I think!  Guess that IS the joy of the PhD process, you are looking at something that engages you, rather than just performing the 9-5 grind.

I came home after the meeting to lunch and then work on trying to edit the word count down on the poster, and spot other little tweaks and the like.  Somehow this took most of the afternoon, but I think I’ve got the final version sorted.  Spot more crafty photoshopping too, as I decided the images I did on Tuesday weren’t good enough.  All those hours I spent at York and Sheffield teaching myself Publisher and Photoshop, continues to pay dividends it seems – more than a lot of the other things I learned there.  Yes Soft Systems Methodology, I am thinking about you!

Alan Davis art - magical!
Alan Davis’ art – magical!

Tomorrow it’ll be  another 30 miles round trip to campus to finish the poster off, and get it printed by the printing unit; but at least it’ll be done.  Just as well, I’ve got to be on city campus for three training sessions next week Mon/Wed/Fri so that’ll be any remaining time used up!

The afternoon ended with a notification that I’ve had a paper accepted for a conference at Nottingham.  Ooo-Eeep!*** I’m speaking on the same panel as my supervisor. Great, no pressure to perform there then!

***I actually made this noise.  Sounding a bit like Crazy Chrissie from Dr and Quinch.

Friday

Looks like my brain has failed.  Checked my online diary for next week and turns out I’ve only got two training things next week, and two the week after. So one more than I thought, but thankfully a little more spread.  This is good as it gives me Mon and Tuesday to dive back into my fieldwork and crucially my background reading again.  This has really been neglected since Easter, and following yesterday’s supervisory meeting I know I’ve got a whole heap more to do.  Ideally my supervisors want me to split myself 50/50 on field work and background work, which seems a good goal and will certainly help me structure my day.  Might try to do a bit more theory than practice for a few weeks at least in order to balance out the scales a bit.

Anyway, today I left home before 9am (or the crack of dawn for we students, how I ever used to leave for work at 6.20am in one of my old jobs I’ll never know) and went into the library for the final slog on the poster.  Was glad I’d done the bulk of the editing of text in an offline file yesterday, as this left me more time for proofing the layout, colours and images.  I’d love to say it’s the finest poster ever made, but it’s far from it.  I’m no designer and there is still too much text for my personal taste – but it is done.

Not me waiting
Not me waiting

Have to say the Printing Unit at Clifton Campus and the Graduate Office both excelled themselves today in terms of service, friendliness and all-round efficiency   Was a real pleasure using them both, and that left me on an extra big high to come home and try to write-up the notes from yesterday’s meeting.  Given the free-ranging nature of the discussions we had, trying to put them into some semblance of order is a bit of a challenge.  Lucky I’ve got all those years of writing minutes then!

And just as I was about to log out of email I got a message from the philosophy tutor that my latest piece of work is marked and ready.  I hate opening these documents, and I get a real fear of getting a lousy mark.  I know I didn’t spend anything like as much time and effort on writing this last piece of work as I did the two previous assignments, and while the feedback each time has been positive and valuable – well I don’t like getting the score.

But on this occasion  turns out I’ve actually got a higher mark than the previous pieces.  What a nice way to end the week – I’ll just go through and read the comments, run off a copy for my files and then call it a week.

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