The Great Star Trek: Voyager Rewatch: Season 4 (part 2)

Okay, from here on – it should be downhill as I’m halfway through the seasons.  Although, since Voyager has very variable season lengths I’m not sure if I’ve passed the halfway episode mark.  But it must come soon, mustn’t it?  Read about the previous report over here.

Message in a Bottle

Okay, after the previous few episodes, here we have a stone-cold classic.  Thanks to the handy-dandy super-massive communications network tapped into by 7 of 9 (and a big hello to all you Hirogin out there), Voyager finally reaches communications range with Starfleet.  Albeit, one ship on the outer fringes of the Alpha Quadrant.  As its not responding, for some reason it’s easier to beam the Doctor’s complex programme all the way there than, say, a video message or something.  Not that I’m complaining as what follows is a mix of comedy and drama, that perhaps should be called Doctor Hard – as the Doctor, along with an EMH Mk2, have to rescue the USS Prometheus from its Romulan captors.

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EMH Mk 2: Now with 50% more holo-hair follicles

There is some other stuff going on, but the vast majority of the episode is left to Andy Dick and Bob Picardo to strut their stuff.  A real reminder that when Trek mixes comedy with the drama, it can turn out some of its best episodes.  I had, truth be told, seen this one a few times before, but it held up very well for another viewing.  Even Mrs Llama enjoyed watching it with me – high praise indeed!  And importantly, from this point forward – Voyager might still be 60,000ly from Earth (still?!?! Have they been not moving since Kes threw them forward in The Gift?) but there’s an increasing chance that Starfleet will be able to contact them again.

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Khaaaaaaan!  Well, one of his sidekicks

Just a shame 7 pissed off the Hirogin in the process of establishing the communication link.  That’s never going to come back to bite them, is it…

Hunters

I’ve been increasingly noticing that this season of Voyager has been extremely referential.  Okay, maybe this is the culture and media scholar part of me spotting that all cultural outpourings are palimpsest, reworkings of things that have come before.  Mostly Voyager has been drawing on TNG homages, but for the next couple of episodes it’s demonstrable the cinematic world of scifi.  So, first up is Voyager’s tribute to the movie Predator.

Ostensibly this episode’s main story is about the aftermath of last episode’s communicative contact with receipt and decoding of a battery of personal messages from Starfleet, via the Hirogin array(1*).  Cue my single favourite moment of the whole episode as Janeway reads her ‘Dear Kathy’ letter in abject silence while the camera slowly creeps towards her.  A nice piece of nuanced emotions play across Kate Mulgrew’s face in this scene.  It’s often been noted that TV acting is all about the facial close up, and here that maxim is expressed in spades.  Elsewhere, the funniest moment has to be Neelix being told he gets to be the ‘postman’ for the messages, since Starfleet lives in the 24th Century where apparently the ability to email documents direct to people’s personal computers has ceased to exist, while interstellar communication is commonplace. Yeah, I recognise the writers going “How can we ram it home that Neelix is utterly valueless?  Let’s give him a job that no one needs to do!

The action part of the plot is the full introductions of the predatory (HAH!) Hirogen hunters, who capture Tuvok and 7, and go into a long torture-porn homage of how they’re going to pull out their intestines and bones and display them.  Throughout this sequence no one asks the question I had burning in my mind: the Hirogin aren’t that advanced…how did they build the inter-quadrant communication array?  Was it in fact, built by some other super-advanced progenitor race who might have the kind of super technology based around harnessing black-holes that could take the Voyager home?  The fact no one asks this blinding obvious question, is a serious omission, and one that I’ll hold out minor hope for being addressed in later shows(2*).

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Like all fanbois, this Hirogen wants unrestricted access to 7 of 9’s internal organs

Harry Kim, by the way, is once again poorly served by a tertiary subplot about wanting a letter from his mummy and daddy.  The writers just reminding us that despite obvious appearances, Naomi Wildman is not the baby of the crew.  With her accelerated aging, doubtless she’ll make Ensign before Kim too.  I like Harry, but clearly the showrunners hate him, as I can’t remember the last time he had something to do that wasn’t moaning about something,  mooning over 7 or being patronised by Janeway.

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Inappropriate touching!!!

Prey

Monster-movie-mashup continues with…Alien.  It also continues the Hirogen arc, as two Hunters take on the most dangerous prey…man…borg…Kazon (HAH!)…oh okay, dodgy CGI species 8472.  Despite blasting the escaping fluidic alien with enough energy to kill even Neelix’s insufferable joie-de-vivre, it still manages to kick their armoured asses.  Cue Voyager picking up the injured Hirogen, played by the always wonderfully deep-voiced Tony Todd, and learning more about the hunter’s species and their ways.  Tony Todd for me immediately elevates anything he’s in regardless of the show’s quality, be it as the voice of Zoom in the Flash, CIA Director Graham in Chuck or importantly, Jake Sisko in DS9.  His addition to Voyager in this episode is no exception to the rule.

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I forget…what’s the ship’s name?

But wait, I said this was Alien, not ‘let’s all learn more about each other and have enemies become friends’.  The aforementioned still-kicking 8472 (let’s call him Frank) manages to get slice his way into Voyager, causing Janeway to almost have a bout of apoplexy as she puts everything on alert and turns all the power up to 11. While the Voyager crew go on their bug-hunt, Frank keeps trying to open up singularity so he can pop back home into fluidic space.  I suspect opening a black-hole down on B deck’d do untold wonders for Voyager’s structural integrity and Harry Kim’s collection of dolls.  Notably, despite Frank’s hitherto celebrated powerfulness – no member of Voyager’s crew gets exed nor even grows the same facial mold as Harry Kim.  Odd that.

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“Sarge, is this gonna be a standup fight, sir, or another bug hunt?”

Eventually, more Hirogen chums turn up, and the Alpha Hirogen escapes from sick-bay, engages in a spot of Greco-Roman wrestling with Frank, only for the pair of them to be beamed onto the Hirogen vessels by 7.  This flagrant breach of protocol and direct violation of the Captain’s orders by the ex-borg crewman, sees 7 severely slapped down by being sent to bed without supper for a week and no space pr0n.  Honestly, the writers really are doubling down on the ‘Voyager as a family, and Kathy as the mom’ meme this season.  Okay, 7 is actually restricted to the cargo bay (until such a time as the plot needs her not to be – I give it a week) with no computer access.  Not that I want to second judge Janeway’s increasingly erratic and Starfleet protocol-violating command decisions, but doesn’t Voyager have a perfectly functional brig for just such an occasion?

Retrospect

Okay, who had 3.34 secs before 7 was released? Yep, we couldn’t even keep her in the hold for a whole episode, as Retrospect focuses on her, which is rather poor planning on the showrunners’ part.  Then again, by now I’ve pretty much come to the conclusion that the showrunners are idiots, so I accept this narrative decision with a shrug.  This episode is best described as ‘Raaaaaape innnnn Spaaaaaace’, as following an encounter with an alien arms merchant (Kovin)  7 of 9 gets a bit ‘hands on’ and punches his lights out.  Why, we all cry, as do the crew of the Voyager.  Thankfully we’ve got (untrained and unlicensed) psychotherapist simulation the Doctor on hand to take us back through 7’s repressed memories of an earlier encounter with Kovin where he…violated her.  Okay, this PG-12 TV, so no rape (or even mental rape, as we had with Troi back in TNG: Violations) is depicted, but he does “penetrate” her to remove her frequent McGuffin, Borg nanoprobes.  Hence, 7’s anger it seems stems from a genuine personal violation, at the hands of a suddenly very (understandably) defensive Kovin.

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Lie still my pretty, while I suck out your natural…fluids!

As things turn out, the accusation, despite all the initial evidence is a false one, and Kovin didn’t diddle 7’s assimilation-tubules (ooh-er) after all.  But since, pretty much everyone’s been after him, he flees in a tiny, crappy but heavily armed ship – which promptly blows up after he tries to fire all weapons on Voyager.  If only he’d opened the antimatter injectors to 120%, none of this tragedy would have happened.  When WILL people learn…  Cue the 7 discovering the ‘joy’ of remorse, and the Doctor asking Janeway to Ctrl+Alt+Del his operational subroutines so he can forget (no, you can’t, it’s all part of the human journey, Doc).  Shame he can’t drink or go on a vision quest, that’d soon sort him out.  Of course, we must remember that none of this tragedy would have happened if the crew had relied on their standard protocol for psychological trauma, a vision quest with Tacotray!  Although, for once, I’m glad we dispensed with this mystical bollox in a SciFi show, since as things goes it delivered a none too bad ‘did he do it’ mystery.

The Killing Game: PtI

Janeway’s a Klingon!  No, wait, she’s white suited Liza Minnelli running a bar during WWII for alien nazis(3*)!  Okay, despite the confusing cold open, it turns out that between episodes the Hirogen have gotten annoyed at being ignored for a whole story and have captured the Voyager.  Now they appear to be using the holodecks with a brain-washed crew to act out complex combat storylines on Kronos and WWII.  The crew’s memories of who they are have been wiped, although what is not explained is how they all now have detailed knowledge of the characters they are playing. Hirogen technology is nothing if not unexplained and variable in advancement.  Although, they clearly don’t have holodecks and must rely on the Doctor to patch up the crew when they’re injured during the simulations.

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The most exciting moment all episode

Meanwhile in the ‘real’ world, only Harry Kim, the Doctor and an unspeaking NPC crew member who is likely to be red-shirted at any moment, are kept awake to keep the simulations and the ship running.  Poor old Harry, as I said earlier, he’s ‘enjoying’ one of the ‘Harry suffers misery’ plotlines, which will as per normal have no long term ramifications.  Meanwhile, in between Mademoiselle de Nerf serenading(4*) us like Lt Gruber from Allo Allo, and Neelix riding a bike around awkwardly (honestly he nearly falls off repeatedly) Janeway leads the French resistance in preparations for the arrival of the US Army.  Naturally, even this is all part of the Hirogen’s programme, although since they’ve taken the holodeck safety protocols offline there’s little surprise that something unexpected is going to go wrong.  Which it promptly does when ‘Capt’ Tacotray’s US Army division blows a hole in the side of the holodeck into the ship itself.  It makes for a dramatic closing shot, although I’m still not clear how they’ve expanded a single room to cover several decks without utterly compromising the ship’s structural integrity.  Also…how did Harry Kim and one NPC ensign do all this structural work?!  Guess we might find out in part two!

The Killing Game: PtII

Once again we run into Trek ‘difficult second episode’ syndrome.  It’s affected even the best stories over the years, even TNG: BoBW, the second part is seldom the match of the first.  Here in The Killing Game’s second episode, the interesting diversion we’ve taken starts falling apart at the scenes, rather like Voyager itself.  Honestly, the ship’s a total wreak, how will they ever fix it up enough by next week, I’ll never know (4*).  Essentially this one runs out its time with lots of back and forth, as Janeway and 7, with the help of Harry unmindwipe the crew, and then with the aid of a holographic army retake the ship.  Meanwhile, in the B-plot the Hirogen Commander and his second in command tussle over the ideological impasse they’ve reached – with the former wanting his species to hunt holographic prey, while the other feels this is a bad idea and they should stick to their good fundamentals. Like stalking, killing, skinning and boiling down for soup anyone they take their fancy too.

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“And just what is it which makes you think we’re the bad guys in all this?”

Interestingly, like many Star Trek races before them, the Hirogen undergo narrative diminution in this story.  With the exception of the Kazon, who were always crap.  Anyway, in the Hirogen’s first appearances they were GIANTS, 7 foot tall and more.  There are a couple of big ones, but now they all appear to be of average height.  Guess there were a limited number of tall actors on call.  Additionally, they and their armour are no longer impressive.  A couple of rounds from a replicated replica of a WWII army rifle are enough to kill their Commander.  I’m sure in earlier episodes the Doctor went on about how biologically touch they were.  Next time they appear, I assume, they’ll be vulnerable to papercuts.  At the end of the day, Janeway brokers a truce, provides the holographic tech the Commander wanted (shame he didn’t live to see it in use) and remarks on “Casualties on both sides“.  Really?  No Starfleet crew appeared to die on screen, so am I to assume we’ve lost some redshirt NPCs who will be unmourned and unmissed?  My god, you don’t think they’ve killed off Samathana or Naomi Wildman do you?  I mean, they’ve not been on screen for ages – and that’d be terrible!

Okay, not terrible, risible.  That’s the word I’m looking for.

Vis à Vis

I almost choked on my tea when this episode opened, with Tom Paris remarking how “Nothing’s happened for weeks” and how he’s bored.  I guess we’ve had a major time skip to passover all the funerals and extensive space-dock time the Voyager must have had to end up looking all shiny and new.  Either that, or the writers weren’t talking to each other by this point in the show, and continuity had gone down the nearest Jeffrey’s tube!  Anyway, an alien flying an experimental super-warp (coaxial) drive ship turns up with a few problems, and poor old bored Paris who once again is slacking his duties gets assigned over there to help him sort through his problems.  Alarm bells were ringing doubly for me here.  When Tom was sloppy before, it was all actually part of an undercover mission, with it being later established that he’s reliably very good at his job – so chalk one to lazy retroactive characterisation.  Additionally, last time Tom started fucking around with advanced-warp drive technology…he become a lizard’s father.  So this all bodes really, really well for this story!

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“I never liked your hair style!”

Turns out, we’re back in film homage territory, with Voyager’s take on Invasion of the Body Snatchers.  The visiting alien, by the name of Steth, claims to be a test pilot and offers to take Tom on a ‘romp across the cosmos‘ (or words to that effect).  Tom’s having enough trouble at work and his relationship with B’Elanna, so he declines.  Shockingly the dodgy acting alien steals Tom’s likeness and dumps the transformed Starfleet officer aboard his discarded ship for ‘Mr Tom’s Wild Coaxial Warp Ride‘.  Cue not-Tom acting up on Voyager, swinging between romantic and then hyper-aggressive with his lady love, not to mention attempting to mack on to 7 too.  His odd behaviour doesn’t go unnoticed, and culminates during an interview with Janeway with him full on trying to strangle her!  Come off it not-Tom, why not Neelix?  Of course it’s all a ruse as he’s now stolen Janeway’s body, but thankfully transformed-Tom and other previous hosts turn up to put the record straight and jump everyone back into their own bodies.  Actually, I rather enjoyed this episode, partially because Tom is a great character and well acted, and additionally because we didn’t insist on partnering with Harry all episode.  And secondly because it was a solid slice of Trek soap-opera, which even (slightly) moves Tom and B’Elanna’s romance forward.  Although, one is left feeling that they only advance their relationship in the face of terrible traumas!

The Omega Directive

Sadly this is not the crossover with Galaxy Quest that the title hints at, for shame.  When every PADD and screen on Voyager suddenly gets the OSOD (that’s the Omega Screen of Death) Janeway and 7 must collude to save warp travel as we know it from the hyper-explody Omega particle.  So terrifying is this creation of science, that ONE particle alone wiped out warp travel in a space sector by kablooying subspace forever.  Oh noes!  Leaving aside how stupid it is for something that is (a) supposedly top secret and known to captains only and (b) is announced across the ENTIRE ship(6*)…there are a smattering of some good bits in this episode, but they’re as rarefied as the particles themselves.  Okay, yes it’s yet another ‘7 and the Captain’ two hander as one learns the limits of individuality, and the captain grows…older?  I dunno, Janeway hardly seems changed by these encounters.  Despite this, it’s a classic Star Trek romp against the dangers of the unknown/things man was not meant to know!

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Janeway’s curiously Omega symbol shaped conference table’s been a dead give-away for years!

Of course, dull alien species of the week has created millions of these particles which means the Voyager team get to totally ignore things like the Prime Directive or Starfleet ethics and rob them of it.  Remind me again why Janeway gets made an admiral at the end of all this, and Picard doesn’t?  While 7 wants to keep the particles as a pet (since they are the Borg’s idea of perfection), Janeway makes her flush them down the space toilet…but not before for a few seconds, the particles form into something..beautiful.  And that’s that, aside from even MORE 7 and the Captain in Master Di Vinci’s room (no John Rhys Davies, as he costs too much for a cameo)for a discussion on spirituality.  Don’t say that too loud girls, Tacotray will butt in, like he does whenever there’s a whiff of anything mystical!

Unforgettable

Oh sweet zombie jeebus, it’s another Tacotray story.  Is it really that time again already?  Can’t we have another one about Neelix suffering instead?  No, what we have is the Voyager coming across (ooh err) a mysterious bounty hunter lady (aka a tracer) from a race called the Ramuran, who’s had a torid love affair with everyone’s least favourite Native American Starfleet officer.  EW!  Anyway, Kellin explains that her race, the Ramuran, live such a closeted life that they have (somehow) evolved pheromones that make anyone they meet forget about them after a while. Hence, poor old Tacotray can’t remember anything about this apparent love of his life, but she knows all about him, right up to his food preferences, side he dresses on and his deep love of flamenco dancing.  That last one might be a fabrication, but I forget…

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Tacotray is visibly soooo into her – not!

Tragically, just as Tacotray rekindles his forgotten romance, the aforementioned tracer-lady turns out to be on the run from her society herself.  And wouldn’t you know it, another tracer sneaks onboard and ker-zaps her with a memory wiping ray.  Oh the sweet, delicious and downright hilarious irony as now she forgets all about Tacotray, and he’s the one remembering for them both.  Or at least until she buggers off with the tracer, but not before they load a virus into Voyager’s computer core to wipe all electronic traces of them too.  But not all is lost, thanks to Neelix’s hot java, and Tacotray’s pencil and paper teen-diary, where in he writes down all the hot sexy times he had with Kellin, before he forgets her once more.  Aw, that’ll keep him warm on those long lonely nights before his inevitable, and repulsive, romance with 7 of 9 two or so seasons hence.

Can’t help that Kellin got the best deal.  Unforgettable?  Sheesh, I’d love to forget I ever watched this episode.

Living Witness

Whisper it.  This is one of the truly great episodes of Voyager, and perhaps unsurprisingly, centres on the Doctor (don’t they all?).  Or at least…a copy of him, and the crew.  It tells the gloriously distorted tale, 700 years after Voyager’s visit, of their impact on the planets of Kyria and Vaska.  I say distorted, because Janeway’s got action hair and evil black gloves, Tacotray’s had a collision with a henna party and the Doctor appears to have fused with Data.  It’s all a beautiful framing tale, where through a combination of deliberate propaganda, revisionist historical research and error, that the noble Starfleet crew have been painted as marauding warmongers in a historic simulation.  Kate Mulgrew in particular chews the scenery with delightful relish, but you can see pretty much the whole cast having fun playing their evil twins.  Mirror Universe, without the Mirror Universe if you will.  Best line of episode without a doubt simulated-Tom Paris’ retort to simulated-Neelix.

Watch your mouth, hedgehog!

Actually, I suspect that line wasn’t an historical artifact.  Due to shenanigans at the time of the ship’s encounter with the planets, a copy of the Doctor was stolen from the Voyager, and it is this which is reactivated to become the titular living witness.  Naturally, the Doctor slowly puts the museum’s curator and the record straight, but sadly this uncovers underlying simmering ethnic tensions between the two local sentient races.  Civil war breaks out, and just as we’re about to see how the Doctor can act to stop it…the episode jumps forward many generations to tell us in a brief coda how things all worked out.  It’s a nice but rather truncated ending to a fascinating examination of how history and your actions get distorted over time, especially when viewed through the prism of modern sensibilities.  Much as I enjoyed this one, I do wish they’d made it a two parter – more evil crew action, and a proper resolution to the Doctor’s story.  All the same, well worth your time spent watching it.

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Evil-Janeway considers who to execute first.

Demon

Harry Kim gets some time in the limelight, although as normal, his ol’pal Tom Paris is along for the ride.  Voyager comes across a Y (AKA Demon) Class planet…a planet so deadly, even orbited it would eat the hull plates!  A type of planet so hostile to life, even 7 of 9 can’t strut about unharmed!  A type of planet that Starfleet have long wished to explore but lack the technology.  Hence, it takes all of 10 minutes before Janeway and crew have rubbed some Savlon on the hull plates of a shuttle, and vaselined up a couple of space suits so Tom and Harry can wander around on the surface unharmed and mine liquid deuterium.  And if that’s not enough fun, Voyager goes to Blue Alert (which does mean changing the bulb) and lands as well.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qa_gZ_7sdZg]

Hello?  Internal consistency called, and asked you to try and at least stay true to your own (wacked out) crazy physics logic!  Honestly, the episode spends so long telling us how deadly these types of planets are, and in minutes it’s all hand-waved away so we can go romping around the surface without a care in the world.  Unsurprisingly, once down there we end up with ANOTHER Harry Kim duplicate story, as a silver mimetic-space fluid (Tom, did you get more excited than I thought?) replicates the two crewmen.  Eventually, we find the originals, and it turns out the silver fluid just wants to be loved.  Or experience consciouness. One of them.  At which point Janeway says “Hey, let’s duplicate the entire crew, that’ll be a spiffing idea and won’t in anyway utterly breach the prime directive and violate every single person aboard’s essential self-identity“.

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Sunny with a slight chance of acid rain, and body duplication

Okay, okay, there’s a line about “Checking everyone’s cool with it”, but then seconds later the Voyager lifts off, leaving behind 130 odd duplicates.  Either Janeway’s the most persuasive speaker ever (hah, no evidence of that!) or the whole crew just goes “Okay, Captain.  I didn’t need to be unique anyway”.  Guess they’re all a real bunch of individuals.

One

I liked this better when it was called ENT: Doctor’s Orders.  No, honestly – I’ve seen this all before, ship has to pass through deadly-through-shields region of space, crew all go into stasis save for One (ho ho) immune character, said character starts going batshit crazy and hallucinates, day is saved by burst of speed out of death zone, it was all (mostly) a dream.

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Once again – Harry Kim’s main/only role is to be the face of suffering

Okay.  One was broadcast in 1998,  fully 7 years earlier than Doctor’s Orders, so for once it’s not Voyager that’s ripping off someone else’s plot.  However, given I saw the Enterprise episode not so long ago, this one felt really flat.  Speaking of flat, unlike Phlox, we are not treated to a naked Jeri Ryan wandering around the ship with the Captain’s pet dog (or Harry Kim, who I assume plays the role of Porthos).  Shame.  Anyway, it’s not a terrible episode, but since I’m already fed up with 7 of 9 centric episodes this season, I could have lived with any other member of the crew staying awake in her place.  Even Neelix, since his best episodes of his are those where he has to face his own inner fears without the ability to switch to cheerful denial through slavish servitude to the rest of the crew.  A missed opportunity.

Hope and Fear

Colour me shocked on a number of levels, as this was a pretty decent episode to round the season out!  Okay, it’s bookended by yet more scenes of Janeway and 7 of 9 in their sometime pseudo-maternal relationship working out together.  And yes, while 7 wears a slinky catsuit, Kathy wears a smock.  But the rest of the episode, not bad at all, and kudos for not giving us a cliffhanger but a done-in-one storyline.  This week the crew stumbles across an advanced federation ship, the USS Dauntless (NX-01A…er…isn’t that Enterprise?) after a superfriendly linguistic alien called Arturis (Ray Wise, another RoboCop alum) finally reconstructs the message from Starfleet received earlier this season via the Hirogen’s network.  Cue the discovery of a slipstream drive that could get the crew home.  For once, Janeway manages to look this gift horse in the mouth and gets ultra-suspicious of everything coming up Millhouse suddenly all at once.

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Impractical AND Tasteless. Well done.

She’s right, because it turns out the Dauntless is actually Arturis’ ship, disguised by holograms.  Turns out his race got nommed  by the Borg, as a direct result of Janeway and co helping the assimilation-happy cyborgs overcome Species 8472.  Whoops!  Hence, while he’s not keen on 7 as a former drone, he positively hates Janeway and crew and had planned to drop them all in the lap of the Borg to see how much they like getting assimilated!  When his ruse is discovered, he manages to whoosh off, with Janeway and 7 aboard, but the Voyager rescues them just in time…and he’s the only one left to get assimilated.  Sadly, Voyager’s slipstream tuneup only gives them an extra 300ly (so, still 59,700ly to go then) before it essentially would have wreaked the ship.  Bet they’re wishing they’d not gotten rid of all those Borg add-ons from the start of the season now!

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Starfleet’s all about the pointy now.  Disks are SO last generation.

There are, as this is Voyager, some clunky bits.  Torres and her engineering team have been giving the Dauntless a thorough going over, but somehow miss the GIANT SWITCH on the bridge that brings down the hologram disguise. Arturis also gives this soliloquy that frankly screams “For your consideration…“.  And yes, it is 7 and the Captain at the centre of the action.  That aside though, the story does manage to dovetail two of the major themes of the season: 7’s integration into the crew and the message  from Starfleet.  A long way to go, but this story gives me hope Voyager might not suck all the rest of the way home!


What have we learned this season?  Well, like S2 where every other episode had the sodding Kazon and/or Tacotray, this season has firmly been 7 of 9’s.  While, yes she IS more interesting a character than Kes…so too was Porthos.  She’s also rapidly in danger of becoming Voyager’s Wesley Crusher.  Unstoppable alien race? 7 of 9’s nanoprobes to the rescue!  Got an environment no one else can take? 7 of 9 rides to the rescue!  Need to explore the human condition, why it’s a 7 of 9 episode.  On and on and on.  I get that she’s shacked up with the showrunner, but for the love of Q, next season can we have some of the other crew get more of a time in the spotlight?  Harry Kim especially, but Torres and Tuvok, and to a lesser degree Neelix, have been especially poorly served and squeezed out of any narrative development in season 4.  Honestly, I’m struggling to remember anything Torres did of value, other than shag Tom, and she’s a great character – worthy of so much more.  Gah.   Well, maybe the lessons will be learned as we shift into S5.  But, unlike dupli-Harry on that Class-Y world, I’m not holding my breath.

1*: The first message is for Tacotray, and is surprisingly not a warrant for his arrest but a note to say “Hey there, DS9 plot’s wiped out all the Marqui. Soz, okay, byeee
2*: One thing I won’t hold out hope for, is an explanation as to how antimatter injectors can possibly be “opened to 120%“.  Science be praised! Perhaps, the answer is simply that Janeway is a big fan of Nigel Tufnel?
3*: Hang on! Is Voyager swiping plotlines from the future of Enterprise now?  Zero Hour Alien Nazi’s ahoy!
4*: Were the show runners trying to showcase Jeri Ryan’s singing talents to get her a record deal?  Because the singing is…very prominent in the episode, more so than the narrative required.
5*: Spoiler alert, by the next episode the Voyager is immaculate…almost as if this storyline never happened!
6*: Of course, were the captain aboard a starship incapacitated or dead when the Omega alarm goes off – does that mean the entire ship becomes locked in space and unable to go anywhere?  The more I think about this alert, the dumber it seems!

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.

 

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!

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!

Halfway up the Stair

Monday

This week represents a pretty momentous moment in my PhD life.  I’m officially halfway through my funding at the end of this week, and while I do have a year beyond that to submit I’ll be needing to find paid employment to support myself through it.  Hard to believe it, but it’s been 18 months I’ve been working on this whole thing…and come to think of it, 18 months since I had an actual holiday too.  *sigh* Going to be a lot longer before I get a proper break; staycations don’t really count since I live and work from home in front of a PC most days…and in my spare time I live and work at home and play games on my PC (Witcher 2 at the moment, to be followed by Max Payne 3 after that – thank you Steam sale!).

No Robin, I said halfway up!

Anyway today I cracked out my notes to start work on a chapter of my thesis looking at the development of open access in the UK.  I started on the background reading to this way before Xmas, but it’s been sidelined since then with the more pressing concerns of interview analysis.  Halfway through the morning I realised that I need to update the small time-line of events I started more than a year ago.  Thinking this shouldn’t take too long I set out to update it…and around 5hrs later finished.  I think that’s a recurring theme of a PhD, all these small tasks that seem like they’ll take next to no time to complete, turn out to take far longer than you expect.  I know the same’s true in a job, but in a PhD you’re essentially working for yourself, so the motivation to avoid being slapdash or doing a half-arsed job is much more prevalent.

Not of course that I was ever slapdash in my former professional life, and my no 🙂

Ended up stopping around downstairs ranting about some of my thoughts on OA and my insights to poor old Mrs Llama who had only stopped to ask me if I wanted a cup of tea.  I suspect she won’t be too sorry to go back to work in the near future, if only to give her ears a rest.

Tuesday

This week I’m trying to alternate what I do each day, rather than blitzing a single task.  Hopefully this will make for a more engaging week for my brain!  Today I’m working on my data analysis, a spot of cleaning up and a bit of category merging.  As it emerged (ho ho) I also had to reclassify a few bits as well.  And then I got to generate some very nice graphical images which will guide my thesis chapter writing on this bit.  And will also shape the next round of interviews once I’ve got this written up (hopefully by Easter).  Finished off the day writing half the slides for this week’s seminar on globalisation.  Not that sure of this topic, and confess that the phraseology used by the lecturer this week in his notes aren’t quite as clear as normal.  I can see I’ll be doing a chunk of background reading tomorrow in my “spare” time to bring myself up to date sufficiently to answer the student’s questions on the topic.

In some ways, not too sorry that it’s the spring break after this for a couple of weeks (not that I’ll be stopping work, but at least no seminars!).

Oh and in other news Mrs Llama and I won our first competition (we’ve gone in for…erm, quite a few lately) so a victory lap of Llama Towers was held.

Wednesday

In for the lecture on globalisation, and for printing off some of my tree maps of my data – in glorious A3 colour.  Lecture was very interesting, and thankfully I think I can engage the students’ interest in the subject tomorrow.  That said going on their faces in the lecture, a lot of them are still wondering quite how it relates to media.  Had a meeting after this of the College Research Degrees Committee.  Not a lot of laughs, and as I was the only rep there kinda felt a bit abandoned by my fellows.  Still, raised the issues of concerns about the library and training courses that people wanted flagged up.  By the time I’d done this, the will to do much more had faded away, but I forced myself to go through the seminar preparation notes and draw up my plan for the next day.

Thursday

Spent the morning doing a bit of data tweaking in NVivo, after thinking that I ought to subdivide my data more by university grouping.  This meant that I had to go find the information on that and plug it into the software.  Not thrilling but I think it’ll make the data set more relevant.

Seminars went okay, though I had an errant student from another seminar group who was (to put it mildly) a whole different kettle of fish to my regular students.  Still, I guess I’ve said before I’d rather the students spoke up more; so i guess it was a case of be careful what you wish for.

Friday

As Mother Llama was coming for the weekend I had a bit of a truncated day of work, fiddling with data.  Continuing the theme of this week felt like I made very little concrete progress, but at least some progress was made.  I’ll polish this bit off next week though, and get cracking on the writing and data reviewing.  Since my students are away for the next couple of weeks it’ll give me a bit of uninterrupted time.

Ah well, only 18 funded months left now…all downhill from here (eep!)

Two Steps Forward…

Monday

Final tweaks to code, and finalising all the definitions in my codebook.  At this rate I should be working at Bletchly Park soon.

Tuesday

Crack open the champagne and call me mother, for I have worked out how to create multi-level classifications in NVivo.  Only took me about 15 minutes of scanning through various websites to find out how, and it’s surprisingly simple.  As I suspected it might be, but it’s not that obvious.  So spent the day happily building my classification scheme in it, and after a few minor tweaks its good to go, and I can start coding.  Feels like a big step forward after three weeks of head scratching.

Useful pages today – this handy intro to NVivo from Durham University (NTU, where’s your version eh? Poor show) and the right page in the NVivo help pages.

To be honest I’ve even felt like reading some more social theory rather than crack on with this analysis at times – so you can tell how desperate that’s been making me!  Only downside is in backing up my files today, I’m now using nearly 70% of my online uni file store.  Time to lobby the IT people for more space on NOW I think.

And in other news they’ve announced NTU’s got a new Chancellor from this summer.  Which is a shame as Sir Michael Parkinson is the current one, so I won’t see him when I graduate.

Wednesday

A morning fiddling with code, and then in for a foreshortened lecture as the students had their second class test.  Which I’ll have to mark for both my seminar groups.  Gah.  Hope it’s easier than marking the first round!  Lecture was on the social/semantic web (2.0) and was another interesting one.  I least I feel more confident around this topic, which should make for an engaging seminar tomorrow.  Not enough time (or will from the students) for the video on the dark side of the social web that the tutor had suggested they watch.  So here it is for interest.

Back home for a spot of coding, and sorting out the seminar materials for tomorrow.

Thursday

A morning coding (and trying to figure out how classifications work in NVivo), and then a drive to Uni to run my two back to back seminars.  This week we were looking at social media, and I had a couple of videos for the students to watch.  The first I have to say I found myself, and thought it was actually a pretty good bit of political social media use, well done Labour, really grabbed the zeitgeist (these things have been clogging my Fb channel the past couple of weeks).

The second, which I made them watch and discuss is the counterpoint to the previous video – a more “Gee whizz, the future is social”.  Featuring a speaker who speaks faster than I do…which is pretty shocking!

New group were fun, a bit more talkative than the others, perhaps a bit too much…not 100% sure how much serious work was being done during the session at times, but eh, they get out of it as much as they’re prepared to put in.  And there were some fine points made by a lot of the class, so some of them were engaging.  My original group were quite good with the topic too, suspect this speaks to them a bit more than the earlier parts of the course.

Did end up explaining to one student how Fb makes money using an analogy involving a lot of hand waving and contrasts with traditional entrepreneurialism.

Came home after this, did some admin, then ran out of energy (lousy night’s sleep) – hopefully tomorrow will be more productive.

Friday

Baby steps coding for real today, having decided that my scheme is close enough to pilot for real with a few interviews.  I also glanced at the exam scripts I’ve got to mark, and decided I’ll leave them until next week or perhaps the week after.  I at least want to get the coding well underway before I sidestep to another task.

Monday & Tuesday (2)

Yes it’s another two-for blog entry – mainly cos there’s not that much exciting happening at the moment.  These two days – spent coding interviews with NVivo. 20 down, 61 to go.  Unexpected highlight on Tuesday, a visit from my favourite uncle who was passing through on the way to a job (he’s in building control, a role that takes him all around the world – and today, Loughborough!).

Oh, and I saw The Lego Movie on Monday night…which means:

Wednesday (2)

Mrs Llama spotted a conference bursary last night with a tight deadline, so I’ve been writing the application for that today.  Not sure I’ll get it, but it would be fab if I did as I’d dearly like to get out to a few conferences this year, and right now I can’t afford it!  Also had to get my supervisor on board to write a reference for it, trickier than it sounds but he came through magnificently despite being horribly busy.

The other event of the day was the weekly lecture, this week on digital media literacy.  Well I didn’t anticipate learning a lot, having taught this subject myself for well over a decade in some of the top universities in the country with my academic librarian hat on.  So I spent a lot of the time tweeting about it and having some engaging discussions with my fellow twitterati on the topic.  Most illuminating.  At the end of the session mind you the lecturer (my supervisor) said he thought I should teach the session next year.  And more to the point run a training session for the department/school on the subject.  Eeep.  Wonder if I can get them to pay me for that?

And then to cap it all passed the Dean on the way off campus who greeted me by name.  Guess I’ll chalk today up in the success column!

Thursday (2)

Double seminar day, and for a laugh today I’ll try and run hour long sessions teaching as many websites as I’d have taught over about a 4hrs session as a librarian, so I hope the students will get something out of it.  If I am still teaching this next year, this seminar is getting seriously rewritten by me!  But first coding…

[Later] Well it wasn’t a total flop, although being stuck in a strange computer room through a locked outer door didn’t make for the most accessible of locations.  Certainly it seemed to put off about half the class – can’t say that I blame them.  Did have a good chat with a number of students about various resources and the like, so I guess it was okay.  One of them even told me how much they enjoyed the debate a few weeks ago, which was great – as that was my personal favourite session too.  Wish we had more debating sessions and less “read the paper and think” ones which just kill any attempt to teach I think.

Friday (2)

Today I intend to mark as many of the student’s class test (2) papers as possible.  Come with me on the adventure…

  • 9.20am: Sitting down at the dining table.  Wait!  I need a cup of tea.
  • 9.40am: Right, 46 students in my class and 9 of them haven’t bothered to sit the test.  Fair enough, no marks for them,  Only 37 to go!
  • 10:10am: This seems easier than the first time, as I’ve more of an idea of what I expect from the students – certainly in terms of a good and not so good set of answers.  It’s telling the differences between those in the middle range of the marks that’s more of a challenge.
  • 11.30am: Have marked about 5 papers.  Had a bit of a panic when I couldn’t find one of them that I knew I’d glanced at when I first picked them up.  After ten minutes tidying realise it’s because he’s used a variant of his name and I missed it.  Phew.
  • 1.03pm: Better stop and make some lunch, think I’m half way through…*counts* Gah, no not quite halfway.  I thought marking my old seminar group would be easier as I’m used to their handwriting and style more. Ha.
  • 2.30pm: Force myself to start up again, and vow not to leave this spot til it’s all done.  I mean, how hard can this be?
  • 4.15pm: How did it get to be this late?  I’m well into the second group of marking now, but it’s still taking at least 15 minutes a paper.  And longer where the writing (hand or style) is harder to understand.  Still writing constructive feedback but think some of my margin notes have acquired a more sardonic colour now.
  • 5.05pm: Feeling dedicated now, as normally I have an early night on a Friday and stop working at 5pm, but there are still 10 papers to mark.  Really don’t want this to eat into my research time on Monday so carrying on, although I’m aware I need to do the weekly shop after this.
  • 6.05pm: Start laughing manically at a blooper by a student.  Or is that maniacally? Oh my stars and fishes.  Takes me nearly 5 minutes to stop laughing and write something sensible back on their paper.  Oh dear, I’m beginning to think I won’t do them all today.
  • 6.20pm: Glancing up I see it’s gone dark outside.  Where did the day go?
  • 6.55pm: Two more.  Just two more to go, but I’ve managed to leave a couple with a lot of text to read through. Gah!
  • 7.20pm: Have I finished?  Re-reading the last paper to make sure I’ve been fair on the marking, not too generous, not too mean.  Quick flick back over some of the earlier papers to make sure I’ve been marking consistently.
  • 7.35pm: Finished!  Finally.  That has been one hell of a long day.  Wish I got paid for this bit of the job, but no – marking is a freebie the university gets out of me.  Thankfully I’m only doing it three times this year though.  Really pleased to see the improvement from the students as well, they’re really growing as scholars.  Wish I could claim that was down to me and my teaching!
  • 8.10pm: Walking round Asda and finding my brain is still considering some of the student answers.  Gah, turn off brain I need to work out what’s the cheapest deal on these tomatoes.  Not to mention Mrs Llama is getting pretty sick of me talking about marking…

Self-Arguement and Self-Doubt

Monday

On campus all day to work through my coding frame and write the outline description for the categories   Sounds a light and fluffy task, but in fact I’ve spent the day agonizing over decisions and thinking through the logic of the framework at every twist and turn.  The result at the end of the day is a tool that is a whole lot more sophisticated that the original draft of last Monday, and bears only evolutionary traces of the rough notes I made two weeks ago after the first read through.

Of course I’ve also spent the day trying to second guess myself, and running into great big walls of self-doubt over the structure as well.  Probably good for me to be this skeptical about my approach, but it would be nice, just once in a while, to run into some great oceans of positivity and self-confidence!

Anyway, it’s way past 6pm now and I ought to think about finding my car and driving the 30 minutes or so home.  If the traffic has calmed down enough for me to escape, and if I can stay awake long enough!

Tuesday

A bit more positive today as I worked through some more interviews with my coding frame.  Pleased that increasingly I’m making smaller structural changes, and more subtle refinements; along with merging some categories that are clearly coding for the same thing.  Need to remind myself that in a way I’m in the pilot phase with this, and that it’s always going to be a grind – but it will make the final coding much easier.  Did have a chat with Mrs Llama over one aspect and she made a very insightful comment about something I’d overlooked.  It’s all too easy to get too close to this I suspect, so I shall; have to pick her brains again later in the week!

Wednesday

No prizes for guessing, but yet another coding development day.  A tweak here, a test there, and then a couple of hours writing up more detailed descriptions of the thumbnail; notes I’ve got for each category.  As it was this was useful as I refined a couple of my main nodes quite nicely.  Beginning to think that my target of having a semi-final coding structure by Friday is now realistically achievable.  Which then means I only have to learn how to us NVivo and I can be away coding.  I also want to get back to thesis writing as well, so I plan to alternate that with the coding so I can get both things developed at once.

Busy? Hah!  Lord yes.

Thursday

Coding. Revising framework. Writing code descriptions.

Also baked a cake.

Friday

Just like yesterday. Except no cake.  Think I am just about ready to really pilot this framework from Monday…but I need a morning going through the descriptions with a fine toothed comb first.  Think I might be seeing the light at the end of this particular tunnel.  Or I could be utterly wrong (hope not).

Hope I don’t get blown away over the weekend…

Noodling about Nodes

Monday

My private office
My private office

Today I went to work on campus again in what turned out to be my own private office for a large chunk of the day.  Thank you NTU library.  Sadly around 2pm another (quiet) student came in, and then another (very noisy one), so the office went downhill from that point onward.  All the same though, it is nice to have a space I don’t have to fight undergrads off for and I’m very surprised more people don’t use it.

Maybe I’d better not advertise it too much!

Spent half the day sorting through my draft tags for the transcripts and trying to get them into some sort of cognitive order.  Wrote half the seminar for Thursday as well, just need to do the introductory slides on Weds after the lecture.  Suspect my students won’t have a lot of laughs with this one (it’s a discussion) but they will learn something!  I also discovered while I was on campus, and thanks to the helpful ITS people, that not only do we students have access to NVivo software, but that I can install it on my home PC.  Which I duly did when I got home late afternoon.  And then stared at it for a while.

Okay, I think I’m going to have to seek out a few tutorials on this to really get to grips with it.  I did glance at how much the training workshops were – but sadly I don’t have £400 just lying around, and as far as I can tell the university doesn’t offer anything in the way of training either.  Oh if only the RTP last year had included a 2hr session on this, rather than wasting time getting us to draw posters and colour in pictures of “the ideal researcher”.  In the meantime, at least I’ve found the first video to watch on the subject – I just need to go track down a few more now.

Tuesday

More coding, more notelets, more thinking.  Not to mention keeping myself awake in the middle of the night worrying about coding and how I’m ever going to get it done to a level I’ll be satisfied with (let alone my supervisors).  Gah, yesterday I was looking forward to getting into this – today I’m finding the stress is getting in the way way of the thinking.  Not fun.  Going to be glad to be out of the house tomorrow for a change of pace.

Wednesday

Went in first thing to campus to do some work and print some things off, and then went to this week’s media studies lecture – on The Internet.  I’ve heard of that, and I think it’s going to be really big someday!  An especial treat as it was my supervisor who was giving the lecture, so it was nice to see him in action.  I’ve seen him doing seminars, and I really like his laid back lecturing style.  Wish I could be like that rather than a llama on a hot tin roof.

Went home after this and did  some more coding work, even if my concentration levels were less than stellar I’ll confess.  I don’t like the winter months as I feel wiped out all the time.  Roll on spring and some sunlight!

Cake!
Cake!

In other news I baked a cake in the evening. Tasty!

Thursday

A morning spent working on coding (not much progress made), a few hours seminaring and then trying to write a book review in the late afternoon.  All while it snows/rains and is basically horrible outside.

Without a doubt the seminar was this week’s highlight, which is a real turn up for the books.  Started with only 6 students in the class due to traffic and it being cold and scary with wolves on the road (I assume) so most of the rest didn’t show.  We had a debate about technological and social determinism and British society in the wake of the Internet.  And my students, bless them, contributed nicely.  They even made me laugh and smile with some of their insights, which was great – nice to feel I’m getting some insight into their views and thoughts as I’m sure they’re sick to death with my anecdotes at times.

That said I did manage to work in the image of Mrs Llama and I in bed reading our tablets as an example of (arguable) technologically determined behavior.  Came out with a real glow after that session because it felt like they’d really engaged with the topic!  Now, if they can just get through the class test in two weeks with good marks I’m gonna be really happy.

Friday

Me, nose frozen
Me, nose frozen

Building coding frame.

Frame code building.

Coding frame building.

However you rearrange it – this was pretty much my entire day.  Plus the house was cold, but actually I made some good progress – even if I did rip my frame apart yet again and rebuilt it largely.  Also heard a confirmation that my teaching is increasingly to a solid 2hrs a week after the reading (RED) week next week.  Excellent, will enjoy the extra practice and even more the tiny additional weekly boost of funds.

But with the rain and wind lashing against the house, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to go and sit in my oven and try and warm up.  Think I’ll be heading into campus on Monday again to thaw out!

Flooding into 2014

Monday

And back to the grindstone with a bit of a shock, as I had to drive Mrs Llama to a job interview first thing.  This would have been easy enough as it was relatively local, but thanks to the heavy rain and subsequent flooding we’ve experienced in the last few days most of the roads out of our village are underwater, shut or log-jammed with traffic.  Turned a 15 minute drive into close to an hour – but she made it there okay.  Thence back here to pick over what I need to get on with.  I sense today will be all about rediscovering what I was doing, along with finding all the papers and so on that I was working with before Christmas.  They’ve got slightly buried during the festive season, so I need to get everything back into order so I can start work properly.  Tidying my two desks might be a good first thing.

Likely to be a fairly busy week as my Wednesday is pretty much blocked out with lectures and meetings, and then teaching prep and teaching for Thursday; but I’m hopeful by the end of the week that I’ll be at a point of full steam ahead for the new year.  Which is just as well as I’ve got a lot of work to do over the next 12 months.

Tuesday


Spent the day chugging through another book on social theory as I continue to try and develop my appreciation for the philosophy and thought in this area.  It’s not a thrilling topic to blog about, and like all these kinds of books goes from the very accessible to the head-scratchingly baffling in a matter of pages, but I can feel some of it going in.

Wednesday

In to campus early today to run off some print outs, and then attend the first lecture in the communications module of the term, which this week was looking at the print revolution from 8th Century wooden block printing to Gutenberg in the 15th Century; and thence the subsequent societal and cultural impact.  Found this lecture a little less information dense than some of the others in the series, and I confess the topic didn’t quite grab me as much as some of the others.  Did enjoy watching some of Stephen Fry’s The Machine that Made Us though as part of this session.

After this I had to drive to City campus to attend the University Research Degrees Committee (URDC)  in my position as Arts and Humanities research student rep.  Interesting to hear plans to bring about small conference funding for all students (looking at being £300-400 out of pocket for the two day OER 2014 conference in Newcastle in April as I have no dept funding to cover attendance.  That’s close to half of my month’s income, and probably the only conference I’ll be able to afford to attend this year.  Wish they offered student discount!  Might have to see if there’s someone’s sofa I can crash on rather than forking out for a hotel to try and rein costs in.

The other very interesting bit came at the end when I presented my hastily prepared proposal for a graduate careers exchange day.  Was delighted to see it warmly received by the meeting, and especially the Dean of the Graduate School who was taking the following day to his meeting with the Senior University Management.  Quite chuffed that effectively I’ve brought something across the VC’s desk now, and hopefully it’ll be something of benefit to a wide range of the PGR students at NTU.  Think I’ve earned my rep status!

Thursday

Experiencing the joy today that comes with having MS Office on the home PC finally, thanks to a new deal from NTU that makes it available for free for students.  Saves me time sitting in a PC classroom with hundreds of hackingly infectious undergrads surrounding me.  Also, I get to drink tea while working which makes it much nicer.  Today’s seminar I prepared was about comparing old and modern newspapers as cultural artifacts from the times and societies they come from, drawing a little on the work of Innes and McLuhan.  It was a fun topic, and the students as usual managed to dig a little way into the idea though perhaps not quite as far as I might have liked. All the same, I’m hoping that I managed to provide them with enough to go away and chew over in their own time on the topic.

Followed this up with a meeting with my supervisor, where in between discussing the Wire and Christmas we looked at the analysis I want to do on my interviews.  Much clearer idea of the approach now, which is a little lighter in method than I was developing which means it might take a little less than a month to do.  Although I could be wrong.  Either way, I’ll jump into this full speed on Monday.  Met up with Kornelia for our usual post-seminar discussion after this and then came home to sort out a few minor and not especially exciting admin things.

Friday

Back to a bit more background reading today, before cracking into analysis mode on Monday.  Yes, it is another thrill a minute day!

Three for One Triweekly Wrap Up

As I mentioned in an earlier post my energy’s been flagging a bit of late – so I’ve pulled back from spending too much on the blog for a while.  Which is just as well as was away LARPing for a few days during this period as well (yes, officially the nearest thing I get to a holiday this year) but thought all the same I’d write a post to just briefly cover what I’ve been up to.

  • Supervisor meeting: Having arranged a meeting with my (currently) holidaying supervisors for the first working day in September I’m feeling a bit more under the hammer to produce the results.  I’m hoping to pick their brains on analysis and the next phase of my field work.  It’ll just be good to slightly reconnect with university life, as this working away from campus 95% of the time sometimes feels like being trapped in your own house!
  • Phase 1: Having finally fished the transcripts of the interviews recently, I’ve also finished a light touch analysis pass on them all as well.  This, like most things, took longer than I expected.  Holding off doing any detailed analysis until I can talk this over my supervisors and get their steer on it.  33hrs26mins of audio recorded and stored for the record!  That said had another offer of an interview this week so perhaps that figure will grow slightly, but still think I’ll draw a line under this phase then, in terms of data collection.
  • Marketization and HE: Doing  a lot of reading and a little writing on this.  Okay, more than a little writing but right now to call it an assemblage of words in no particular order would be about right.  It’s going to take a LOT of focus to bring this one together coherently.  I’ve no worries I can do it, but suspect there’s going to be a whole heap of blood, sweat and tears before I get there.
  • Political Economics: I’ve also been trying to read around more on this subject.  Mrs Llama says my every other word is now “neoliberal” or some variant therein of.  And my mother thinks I’m now studying a political degree, which to some degrees (no pun intended) I am right now.
  • FUD: Getting a lot of this right now (and my thanks to Chris Keene for introducing me to the phrase) and a fair amount of Impostor Syndrome too.  Think the summer of disconnect with the University and academic life is beginning to gnaw at me a bit.  Hoping September is a better month confidence wise.
  • Life in general: Not great, I’ve been under the weather, Mrs Llama’s been under the weather, and my father’s been given 2-4 months to live.  And we still don’t know where we’ll be living over the next year, given Mrs Llama’s on going lack of delight with her new employer.  However, in the last few days I appear to have found a shred of optimism and enthusiasm for a few things that’s been lacking of late.  That’s good, I could stand to use some.
  • Acronym of the week: Has to be TINA.  Wish I’d used this in my management days to face down some of my staff when they were vacillating over potential decisions.  Although, I don’t think it’s really me.