Closing Time (2014)

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

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