Through Struggle and Indifference – now available!

Yes, I’m delighted to announce that (with insufficient fanfare given how much blood, sweat and tea went into its creation) my thesis Through Struggle and Indifference: the UK academy’s engagement with the open intellectual commons. is now available online and open access.

Regular readers will note I’ve managed to hide no fewer than 2 jokes in its pages – albeit minor ones.  And that’s not including the doubtless myriad of typos that are still in there too.

Guess this means I need to revise the other pages of this blog now to bring them up to date too.  Now, I just need to either re-write the whole damned thing into a book – or start writing some papers from it…the labour never ceases!

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The Great Star Trek: Voyager Rewatch: Season 3 (part 2)

And now we reach the dog-days of Season 3, and incidentally Kes’ time aboard the ship (yes, yes, I know she’s in it for a couple of episodes of S4).  Will I find an episode worse than Sacred Ground?  Will Harry Kim die again?  Will anyone let Tacotray be the episode lead again?  Sadly, I suspect the answer to all three is: probably yes.


Alter Ego

Harry Kim falls in love on the holodeck, and decides to become an emotionless emo-Harry, with the help of Mr Tuvok.  Or at least that’s the show’s opening.  Honestly Harry, are you some moody 15 year old who’s been dumped for the first time by a girl who you thought was special, but turned out just to be dating you because it made her friends laugh…or something.  Yeah, something like that.  Anyway, while Emo-Harry spends his time ‘retreating, suppressing his emotions and deconstructing the emotional context’, or as Tom rather succinctly puts it ‘being in denial’, Tuvok spends his time getting to know the fascinatingly witty, charming and sexy Marayna.  She seems too good to be true, given how much trouble the Doctor’s far more complex holo programme has at simulating genuine organic responses.  Hang on a minuet, has anyone checked if there are any Bynars aboard?

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Another of Tom Paris’ crimes against sentients & good taste everywhere

Actually, it turns out the crew end up literally referencing Elementary, Dear Data, with Marayna at first appears to be a super-intelligent programme, and then a puppet of this lizard lady who lives in the nearby spectacular nebula.  Turns out in a spectacular reversal, after cuckolding Harry, this alien has fallen in love with Mr Tuvok and can’t live without him.  After playing a spot of kal-toh, threatening the ship, Tuvok gives her the old ‘It’s you, not me’ speech and dumps her.  Still, in the process he does at least make friends with Harry – the other loneliest loser on the crew.

Also Neelix claims to have ‘done a lot of ethnographic research into the Polynesian culture’. Fuck off gerbil-lips, you mean you read it on Starfleetapedia(*).

Coda

Janeway does Groundhog Day (wait, I thought that was a later episode) that then turns into Cause and Effect and she and Tacotray keep dying and resetting.  Wait, it’s Edge of Tomorrow isn’t it, only with a fraction of the budget and much less of the interest.  Turns out Janeway might be dying and the devil (or an alien, or her father) tries to stick her in their matrix.  The whole episode is like the Voyager writing staff’s manatee tank just exploded and scattered random plot balls all over the place – it’s a shocking, badly underwritten crap-hole of an episode.  Skip over it with ease if I were you.

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And I-ayyyyyyyye, will always love yooooou!

Blood Fever

Mr The Only Other Vulcan In Starfleet (Ens Vorik who having turned up just a few episodes was clearly waiting to be a plot hook) goes through space puberty, and accidentally (possibly) infects B’Elanna with the space horn.  So we get an episode where Vorik needs a cold shower, a crafty visit from Lady Palm and her five lovely daughters or hot pon-farrgasm, the latter of which Torres isn’t keen to give him.  On the other hand, she’s all for working out her own neurochemical imbalance (aka klingon-on-heat) with Tom Paris…who for once acts like a total gentleman.  Well mostly, he’s about to make the beast with two wrinkled foreheads when a seemingly calmed-down Vorik smacks him about the head, demanding to remake Amok Time.  In the end Torres and Vorik beat the raging sex hormones out of each other, and lie in a sated sweaty heap as Tom Looks on, trying to keep his legs crossed.

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Literally Voyager at its sexiest!

There’s also a plot about some McGuffin mineral Voyager needs, and some aliens who are hiding under the surface of a planet who don’t want to be found.  Turns out they’re hiding from…the Borg!  Wow, things are beginning to look up already, and we don’t get Seven for at least another ten episodes yet.  I wonder if we’ll have to wait long for their introduction in Voyager?

Unity

No.  We had to wait a single episode, although tragically the arrival of TNG-era’s greatest bad guys is heralded with a Tacotray-centric episode.  While exploring the Nekrit Expanse (oh, thought we’d forgotten about that) Tacotray and Ens Soon-to-be-Dead crash land after getting lost and then detecting a Federation signal.  Turns out it wasn’t Voyager, but a load of Alpha Quadrant folks who have a community.  As suspiciously harmonious community, with lots of hair loss and the odd cybernetic implant.  Yep, they’re Borg who’ve been severed from the Collective and turned hippy.  Well, most of them, some remain all grouchy and they’re the ones responsible for shooting down Tacotray’s shuttle and killing off Ens Soon-to-be-Dead (off camera).

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I. Have sat on a thumb-tack

Meanwhile, as Tacotray gets a temporary Borg implant (not like that sounds like a terrible idea, right), Voyager comes across the former drone’s cube a-drifting through space, and Borgish-Tacotray trying to turn its systems back on.  For some, poorly explained reasons, this will help the ex-Borgs.  Although unsurprisingly what it does do is switch the remaining Borg back on who…for no good reason…blow themselves up.  Eh?  Oh right, the former Borg have become a new Collective, or rather a Cooperative.  Bah, bloody filthy hippy Borg, I hope Species 8472 wipe them out!  Still, the Borg are now a part of Voyager, surely things are going to get better now!  Although, as Janeway points out, for all their dippy-hippyness, the new Cooperative were pretty quick to use Tacotray as a tool, so they might not be that great.

Darkling

You know, I’m sure by now the writer’s room know they can write an episode with lots for the lead character to do, and just throw it at Bob Picardo, who’ll effortlessly run with it.  This is one of those episodes, wherein the Doctor decides to tinker with his own basecode and give himself upgrades.  Not at all a callback to Khan and the augments, this is more about personality.  Unfortunately, he’s a doctor not a holo-programmer, and he ends up with a classic split personality, after some small, lecherous overtures.  Well, that’s what happens when you merge Gandhi, Lord Byron and T’Pau…a murderous, phantom of the Sick Bay.  Tragically, the Darkling Doctor forgets to grow the customary evil-twin Spock-beard, which is a massive oversight in Star Trek!

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No Doctor, not the ‘bad’ touch!

Meanwhile, Kes starts making eyes at this incredibly dull alien she’s just met, and begins to make plans for a life away from Voyager.  She looks set to leave behind her gerbil-cheeked ex and the rest of the crew when…Darkling Doctor chucks her paramour down a deep, dark hole.  Now Kes, Doctor, now Kes!  It all comes right in the end, as a paper thin idea is given more life than it deserves through Picardo’s performance – honestly the local aliens are as flat and 2D as it’s possible to be.  Oh, and Kes, for no clearly explained reason she dumps her new love and chance for new adventures to stay on the ship.  Well, I’m glad we avoided any character growth there then!

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The Doctor was pissed off with the alien’s acting too

Meanwhile…has anyone seen Samatha and Naomi Wildman since the start of the season?  Given the role they play later, they’re conspicuous in their absence.  Has Janeway confined them to quarters until Naomi can actually do something more interesting than drool over Harry Kim’s op’s console?

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Rise

On paper ‘Tuvok and Neelix crash in a shuttle’ seems terribly familiar, after all you can hardly go an episode or two without running into the ‘Federation shuttle crash’ trope as an episode opener.  Yet, this soon opens up into a closed-room mystery as Tuvok and the gerbil-faced have to get an orbital elevator working, with the help of a few suspects…sorry willing helpers.  Naturally, once they’re many miles above the surface one of the supporting cast gets bumped off, just as he mutters “Rosebud!“.  Sorry again, “It’s on the roof”, a clue so Machiavellian in its complexity that it take Neelix seconds to crack “We need to look on the roof!” he declares.  Of course, it’s so simple even a child or a Talaxian could crack the code!

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For Tuvok, any time, is disco time!

Actually, the whole episode is really a buddy comedy, with Tuvok’s emotionless logic playing off against Neelix’s gut instinct and hopelessly enthusiasm.  You’d think, having been merged into one entity a year ago, that these two would understand each other on a level like no one else.  But that would require Voyager to maintain some internal consistency and character development between episodes, so the traumatically life changing merging is now all long forgotten, except by continuity nerds like me. *ahem*

There’s a backstory involving the world’s lamest alien invasion, by piloting a dozen asteroids at a planet to scare off the locals, that reads pretty much out of the Scooby Doo ‘Old Man Withers’ Playbook’.  And one of the locals who, for no visibly explainable reason is a traitor to his race…but we don’t really explore that.  Anyway, all comes good in the end and Neelix even gets the girl!  Not that she sticks around…wow, sucks to be you Neelix!

Favourite Son

Oh. It’s a Harry Kim episode.  That’s good, he’s not had one since The Chute way back at the start of the season.  What am I saying?  It’s a Harry Kim episode…how long before he’s dead/replaced/married off to another species.  About 12 minutes is the answer, as Harry’s amazing new deja vu powers, combined with Trill-like spots, reveal him to be the cuckoo offspring of a race in the Delta Quadrant. “Yes, we impregnated your mother on Earth” they explain, without mentioning why a planet 70k light years away was (a) a sensible choice b) how they got there and back and (c) Apologising for the creepy-rape vibe that gives off.  Of course, being Harry, nothing’s as good as it seems, as sexy lady after sexy lady offers to “Be your wife, Dave”. No, wait, that’s Papa Lazaroo.  But indeed, we end up with Harry in bed with two lovely ladies, who helpfully offer to help him find a third.

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Hello, big boy

Personally, I spent most of the episode shouting “They’re preying mantises, Harry!  They’ll sex you up and bite off your head!” – since the male:female ration on Taresia is 1:9, there’s clearly something funny going on.  And after he finds one of the other males sucked dry, we all realise this is a classic Freudian male castration fear tale e.g. women want you for one thing, and then they’re done with you.  Thankfully Harry uses his advanced BDSM knowledge to tie up one of his lusting mantis-women, and beat the other one unconscious with a jar of lube.  And then he, and the Voyager hightail it outta there before any more of the crew get their vital essences drained.  But not before Harry get’s beaten up by dozens of woman carrying symbolic penises, as he defends himself with only a tiny techno-phallus.

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Don’t worry Harry, it’s personality that counts

No,I’m not kidding, and I wish I was. This is EXACTLY how this episode plays out!  If they’d gone for laughs this episode, perhaps ending on Harry’s upset little sex-deprived face, and a sad trombone noise, I’d have loved it.  As it was, this felt like a storyline that 1960s TOS would have discarded as being too misogynistic!

Before and After

Shock me.  It’s an interesting Kes tale.  In this one she lives her life backwards from (practically) her death to her conception (and then forward a bit for good measure).  Each time she leaps back to earlier in her life, she gets to explore a bit of future Voyager; the most important bits being Tom and Torres romance (written explicitly for the first time) and the Year of Hell.  As Year of Hell is (probably) my single favourite Voyager episode, this probably helped me stomach the Kes plot.  Most of the story is made up of Kes’ life, and it’s only latterly that we reach the point of trying to work out the why of the mystery (chronoton particles, it’s always chronoton particles if it’s time travel – even I know that!).

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Come on Tom! Warm your hands up before playing with a woman’s elogium sac!

Oh, score another death for Janeway (and Torres) in the Year of Hell future, though neither of these demises comes to pass.  In fact, the only real outcome of this story on the overall narrative is that Kes gets a new, grown up 3 year old Oompa Loompa haircut.  That and a resolve to live in the now, which is probably a good thing, since she’s only got a half dozen episodes left as a show regular at this point.  Despite all that, I rather enjoyed the story – okay, it’s by no means as cunning as Babylon 5’s time-travel arc as we’re not really seeing much of the future that will happen, but it’s an enjoyable romp into the ‘what might be’ future of the ship.  Depressingly I noticed, that by age 9 (so Voyager season 8) the ship still isn’t home…

Real Life

Huzzah, it’s another Doctor centric episode, albeit one I have seen before.  It starts out with the Doctor having created the perfect (rather 1950s stylee) family on the holodeck so he can ‘improve himself’, because that worked out so well in the Darkling. Sadly, Kes and Torres call him on the cloyingly saccharine nature of the perfect life he’s created, and rewrite the programme to be more true to real life.  Cue a spouse with her own professional career rather than Suzy-homemaker (quelle horreur!), an adventurous tom-boy daughter rather than Princess Perfect, and a moody teenage son who’s into Klingon knives, rock and probably drugs(2*).  Naturally, for the Doctor who’s not really able to deal with all these complex emotions, it finally hits the fan when his daughter is mortally injured playing dangerous sports, so he turns the programme off and goes off into denial about the whole thing.  Until he’s persuaded by Tom that he’ll only grow as a person if he confronts the trauma, and experiences the family bond that comes through facing adversity together.  Honestly, as his daughter slips away my eyes got pretty moist.  Top flight acting performances here, and a great episode.  There’s a reason the Doctor’s the best character in the show, and this just reaffirms that.

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Damn, they’re annoying and hateful here…which makes the denouement all the more painful

Meanwhile, Tom Paris falls down a subspace hole and the Voyager spends the episode trying to get him back.  Thankfully, other than his encounter with the Doctor you’re safe to fast-forward over this bit, as it adds nothing vital to the narrative!

Distant Origin

What if dinosaurs were the first intelligent species to arise on Earth, only to leave for the Delta Quadrant (for no good reason) and mythologise their distant origins?  It’s a slightly daft idea, that makes for a rather good episode – and I’m saying that even though it’s technically a Tacotray centric one.  A lot of the first half of the show is shown from the perspective of Forra Gegen, a Voth archeologist who stumbles upon the bones of Mr Hogan (botched to death by Mr Neelix in Basics Pt II) and discovers genetic markers aplenty linking this mammalian species with his own.  Unfortunately, his research is hobbled by ancient religious doctrine that declares his research as heretical, so he has to sneak off and pursue the crew.  Cue a montage of him popping by a few locations from earlier episodes, in the nearest thing to a season long story arc Voyager’s ever attempted!  As the Voth are a bit more advanced than Starfleet, he’s able to wander around cloaked on the ship…for a bit, until he’s discovered and quickly kidnaps Tacotray, to hopefully dissect him.

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Swipe left.  SWIPE LEFT!

The fun half of the story ends here, as the rest of it involves humans and Gegen being put on trial by the Voth High Council for their heretical existence and research respectively.  Cue lots of impassioned speeches from Tacotray, before the whole human/Voth link is swept under the religious hegemonic carpet.  There’s also a deeply,deeply  implausible bit where the computer extrapolates, accurately, 65 million years of evolution to arrive at a single answer for how hadrosaurs became the Voth.  All the same, it’s a nice downbeat ending to the exploration of a nice idea, and one that surely would revolutionise human archeology – knowing that traces of the Voth must exist somewhere deep, deep on Earth.  But of course…it’s never, ever mentioned again.  Nor does Voyager remember to ask the Voth “So, any chance of explaining about this transwarp you’ve got so we can get home?” – honestly, there’s episodes where you beginning to think Janeway doesn’t WANT to get home quicker.

Displaced

One by one the Voyager crew are replaced by some befuddled, robed aliens who claim to have no idea why they’re there.  And then, before you know it, they turn out to be bad guys who steal the ship, leaving the crew behind on a planet with only their wits to survive on.  If this sounds sorta familiar, that’s because way back at the start of S3 the Kazon nicked the Voyager, and dumped the crew on a planet to survive on their wits.  Not really sure why another episode in the same season with the same basic premise made it through, although to be honest, the stealth invasion and space prison were actually a slightly more interesting hook than the Kazon desert world.  Anyway, after a few holographic shenanigans, and the discovery that there are 93 other races who’ve been Shanghaied into the space Gulag, Janeway and co get their ship back.  And that’s about it…oh, aside from yet more gentle developments in the Tom and B’Elanna love story, and the discovery that the Doctor’s mobile emitter has a mute function.  Not like he’s a living sentient being though, meaning the crew can now just shut him up when he gets too annoying.  There’s that grand Federation mutual respect for all sentient life again…not.

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That bat’leth looks blunt as anything

Worst Case Scenario

Finally, Tacotray gets the stones to organise a mutiny with the help of the Maquis cremen and a few Federation turncoats.  I’d have been more shocked, and more drawn in to thinking this was actually happening, had it taken place during S1 or S2.  By now the Voyager’s just one big happy family, that I can’t even remember the last time anyone even mentioned there are two disparate crews aboard (plus gerbil features and dull-lass).  I had seen this one before, so I knew where it was going – an anonymously authored holonovel, that the bored Voyager crew soon get playing.  Turns out Tuvok wrote it years ago just in case the Maquis got all uppity, and then forgot about.  A lot of the episode is played, if not for laughs, but for light relief, as different crew members try out the programme – notably Tom Paris trying to find the Win conditions, only to be frustrated by the truncated ending.

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Arrhhh, it be Pirate Cap’t Tacotray, me hearties!

Of course, once he gets Tuvok to open up the authoring tools (guess Tuvok’s not fond of Creative Commons licences then) we discover that the late and mildly lamented Seska had left some booby traps in the programming behind.  Yes, once again we’re into ‘Holodecks are certain death with access to the entire ship’s computer systems’ territory.  If I were Starfleet Command, I’d rip those puppies out fleet-wide and get everyone to just read books or something.  They’re way too much trouble.  An enjoyable, if disposable romp without any lasting repercussions.  Oh, and in case you’re wondering what the real worst case scenario was – it was Captain Tacotray. Shudders.  Let’s hope that never comes to pass!

Scorpion, Pt I

The end of S3 of any Star Trek series is a momentous moment.  We’ve moved on beyond the getting to know you stories, we’ve done plenty of world building and with any luck we know the crew well enough to really feel the emotional sting when they hit the major jeopardy.  It’s no coincidence that ST:TNG The Best of Both Worlds PtI is one of the finest episodes of any series, let alone Trek, as it came at the end of S3.  The same with DS9 The Adversary – the pronouncement by the Founders that “You’re too late. We’re everywhere” in the Federation sent a chill down the spine.  Even the red-haired step-child of Trek, Enterprise, gave us ZEONs(3*) for the only time I’ve ever screamed “WHAT THE FUCK?!” at a TV screen.  Hence, as we reach Voyager’s S3 climax the hopes are high – after all drop your linen, and start your grinning – the Borg are finally here big time, and Voyager is about to get about 7 times(4*) as sexy.

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“Oh dear, looks like we need yet another Harry Kim. Ah well”

Okay, 7 doesn’t turn up until next season, and much of Scorpion PtI is about setting up Species 8472 as the Bigger Bad than the Borg.  That slightly annoys me on three levels.  One, it defangs the Borg as the Great Foe for TNG era Trek.  Two, they look a bit crap.  Three, there’s a bit too much lifted from Babylon 5 for my liking.  8472’s bio-ships look almost exactly like Vorlon cruisers(5*), and the whole Kes telepathic battles are right out of Lita Alexander’s playbook.  There’s also a whole lot of story beats here that are right out of BoBW too, with the casual invasion of the Borg cube, the Borg’s Wolf 359 moment (on the losing side this time) and even a captain teleported off her ship.  And yet, despite all this, I still quite enjoyed the episode – even if essentially it’s all prologue to PtII.  It’s just a shame Janeway couldn’t have signed off the season with a better line.  Her parting shot of “What’s happening?” is hardly going to go down in the history books quite like “Mr Worf…fire.“, is it! (6*)

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Mighty familiar looking….

Oh yes, I’m not going to touch the excretable Leonardo da Vinci bits with Janeway.  Yawn.


And…wow, I survived another whole season and have found myself increasingly enjoying more of the the episodes than I expected.  Even Neelix and Kes ones, though I still find both their characters fecking annoying.  What have I learned?  Harry and Tacotray have been short handed on episodes this season (shame), while the Doctor has continued to shine.  Also, once Ens Vorik served his purpose in Blood Fever, we never, ever see him again.  Odd really, on a ship with only 148 crew…you’d think some of the background faces would get more familiar.  Oh yes, and I really like Janeway’s S3 pony-tail hair do, even if the bouffant bit is still way too OTT.  Roll on S4…even if I have to sit through Concerning Flight – blurgh!

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Farewell S3 hair-do, you’ll be missed

* Look, if you read the research bits of my blog…you’ll know that I kinda know what ethnographic research actually consists of!
2* The last one’s implied, but I’m pretty sure the Doctor’s son is mainlining crystal Ghakk or something
3* Zero Hour Alien Nazis
4* See what I did there?
5* Even down to Fluidic space looking like red-hyperspace in the B5 universe
6* Oh just wow.  I had to go back and watch Riker give that command again.  Still gets me, 25 years on.  There’s a whole essay about the sub themes, tropes and motifs of BoBW that I’m not going into.

Sausages Galore

Monday

My current library borrowing...As planned headed into campus mid-morning and grabbed a pile of books on philosophy. Spent a couple of hours flicking through them for inspiration for my book review essay, with a little bit of success in that I began to see a bit more of the essay taking shape in my head.  Decided early afternoon to take them home to work…only to discover I’ve maxed out my library ticket.  This is somewhat of a trauma as I can’t remember ever borrowing up to the maximum on my library ticket since I was a tiny llama who could only borrow three books from the local library’s children’s section!  I get 24 loans – as does every postgrad and staff member.  Think that’s a bit mean really, I could do with it being closer to 40-50!

Debated either photocopying chunks of them (since I get free photocopy credits) or PDFing them with my phone, but in the end just made notes of the ones I couldn’t take and left.  Once back home, and post a late lunch I did some searching for articles related to my reviewed book’s themes and key philosophers.  After about an hour or so of this gave up, as virtually all the articles I found were far too detailed (and difficult to read) for purposes.  Guess I’ll stick to working with the books then.  Ended the afternoon writing up the revisions I’d made to the essay draft and adding in the references I already have found that are relevant.  Not the longest hours I’ve worked, nor do I feel I’ve broken the back of the essay yet.  But, I am happy to be making slow progress on it – and this time editing down content as I go, rather than trying to cram a 2,000+ word monster into 1,000 words.  Hopefully the first polished draft mid-week should be around the 1,000 mark naturally, which will make for an easier editing process.

Meanwhile, still not heard back from my supervisors on my research proposal.  Know they’re busy but it’s been ten days since my last submission, and I’m getting a bit anxious that time is ticking away – and I really ought to be organising my review meeting with my internal assessor.  But I can’t do that if my proposal is still not up to snuff.  I think it’s time tomorrow to do some supervisor management…a subtle, gentle prod required via email!

Tuesday

Chickened out of mailing my supervisors (though I’m going to make myself mail them once I finish writing up today’s blog entry – no more procrastination Mr Llama!).

Current essay structureSpent the day mostly slowly slogging through trying to make the philosophical book review work.  It still doesn’t really, and the philosophy part of it needs so much beefing up right now, it’s more horse than bovine.  Highlight of what was a dull day (metaphorically, metrologically and mentally) was speaking to an old colleague and friend and hearing that changes were afoot at UKOLN*.

Have to say I was more than a little shocked, though I think we spent more time gossiping about more mundane matters.  Rather nice to have a professional conversation again though, I miss the cut and thrust of the various folks whose paths I crossed semi-regularly in the past 6 or so years.  I hope that in time I’ll get a few more professional contacts to chat with in my new field!

*See the article Looking Ahead.

Wednesday

There's just so many of them!Started the day having a little browse through a How to write your thesis online guide (thank you Elearningcolin).  I confess my face is so hard up against the early hurdles that I really haven’t had the time/will/energy to think about this really at all.  So for now, I’m bookmarking it to come back and look at once I finally clear the  research proposal and research practice course (RPC) coursework obstacles!

Today’s RPC-A session looked at ethnography (or ethnomethodology if you prefer), with a tutor from my own dept.  Splendid session and reaffirmed that using ethnographic methods is exactly what I need to do my research.  Useful tips, good reading list, and fine lecture.  More like this please!  RPC-B was about Utopianism, and linked back to last week’s post-colonialism session.  Again a thought provoking and interesting examination, though it was a shame we went straight to the examination of the African scene and didn’t spend more time looking at the SciFi aspects.  Key questions were asked at the start of the session:

  • What is a utopia?
  • Is it a positive or negative influence?
  • Is it achievable?

For the record my group’s answers were 1) An idealised state or society 2) Negative (this being my input) – as achieving it takes away the necessary drivers for human accomplishment and 3) Unlikely, which probably means it’s not that negative.  I’m not suggesting they’re the right answers, but it sparked of an excellent discussion before we delved once again into some more African cinema, this time from Guinea-Bissau director Flora Gomes (Mortu Nega – those whom death has rejected/sent back).  Didn’t speak to me as much as the films we saw the previous week, but on analysis it had a fair amount to say in common with utopianism.

Thursday

Thursday started with a near hospitalisation and minor disaster.  As you can see over on my Blipfoto account I managed to almost knock myself out with a falling paint tin.  While injury was avoided splash damage wasn’t – I basically killed one of our rugs and turned the dining table into a Jackson-Pollock (underneath).  Thankfully I did manage to clean most of the mess up, but the rug is pretty much a right off.  Managed to explain it to Mrs Llama without her yelling at me (victory!), but this is one of the occupational hazards when you have to work at home most of the time, and home is upside down for months of renovations and decorations.

After this calamitous start and I’d calmed down I spent the day working on the essay and trying to assemble some sort of philosophical element within it.  Not quite sure I managed it, but it did look closer to something I could hand in.  I also got my official notification of the deadline for my research proposal (last day of March) and a request for my 6 month progress report.  Wrote the latter of these quickly as my progress is mostly about trying to make progress (and reading…lots of reading).  Sent it off to my supervisors so they can do their bit (and to remind them that my deadline is a bit close at hand).  Not panicking. Yet.

No paint for Mr HarryKnocked off just before 5 as I had to get ready to go and see Harry Hill: Sausage Time.  Third tour of Harry’s I’ve seen, and once again he knocked it out of the park.  If you get the chance, go see the show…just don’t sit too close to the front (we were in the third row…).  Just what I needed to round off a day that didn’t start off that well.

Friday

My weekend...again.

Up at the crack of dawn as we had a delivery coming.  Thankfully it came around 8am so I won’t be waiting around all day.  This let me crack back into the essay, which is nearing readiness   To be honest its now at the word limit, has two pages of references and has all the sections finely balanced at about the right kind of lenth.

Of course I’ve still not had any feedback on the first philosophy essay, so that nagging doubt that I’m writing a load of rubbish remains.  Ah well, time to park it for the weekend, and go and do some more DIY.  And perhaps a sneaky read of this book on Heidegger I found that looks very interesting…

Riding that Roller-coaster Again

Monday

Mostly a day off after my birthday (realised I’ve not actually had a day off since late September!) – driving back from Warwick, although I popped into campus to pick up 5 books on critical management and organizational theory.  Or organisation theory if you prefer, UK folks.  No emails.

Tuesday

A rollicking good read in places, a bit daft in others
Cracking the ethnography and organisational theory books big time.  Read the last two thirds of my second ethnography book (interesting clear examples of research in practice, not 100% sure it’s quite what I needed).  Post lunch into a thick (500 odd page) organisational research and theory book – which was heavy, heavy going.  Didn’t like the page layout (honestly WHO uses two column pages?!?!  Is this the 19th Century )  And for a multi-author book I kept hoping against hope that each subsequent chapter would be written by someone who actually wanted to convey knowledge   Sadly hopes dashed, so that when Mrs Llama reappeared just before 6pm, my head was slumped over the book.  Not looking forward to going back to it tomorrow.

Guess what my brother bought me?Highlight of the day was the arrival of a massive parcel from my brother containing my birthday present…which you can see me wearing over on the right. Squark!

And late evening an interesting proposal from my supervisor…which I can’t talk about just yet.  We shall see where this one goes!

Wednesday

My battle with the organisational studies book continued.  Thankfully there were some better chapters, written in a more accessible style.   All the same I was glad when the end of the day came.  Only 125 pages to go (which at the speed I’ve been reading it will take about three hours of concentration to get through).  Got feedback from my first mini-assignment which was positive; although considering the word limit was 150 words and the feedback around 300 I did think the tutor was slightly taking the piss.  Next time I’ll write him a tweet length reflection instead!

So warm and inviting isn't it?The plasterer was supposed to be in today, so I’d planned to work up stairs, but he cancelled so I had the run of the living room all day.

The bleak, bleak, cold living room.

Thursday

Thick and satisfying in parts
Finally climbed over mount organisational studies book, although it took me all morning and a bit of time after lunch.  I have managed to make at least four or so pages of notes and key quotes from it, so the time has been usefully spent; certainly I’ve some much better phraseology for writing the theory and method parts of my research proposal.  I can even understand the flaws in my thinking in the previous version, that my supervisors point out last week.  Making of sense of what I’m going to do, why and how is still the thing that keeps me awake at nights though.

I say post-lunch, but actually I had a medical appointment so had to head out for a couple of hours up to Nottingham so they could jab me with needles and the like.  Good news, I have blood still which is always a relief.  I even dragged my copy of Beginning Theory to the waiting room (on the grounds that the tedium of its contents would act as a mild anaesthesia.  As it was I was barely waiting any time at all, so sadly didn’t have any chance to read more than a page about post-modernism.  At this rate I’ll be reading this as my bed-side book, and since I finished Changes: The Dresden Files just before midnight, I’m now in need of something to read late night.  Not sure I’m allowed to order a book for pleasure this close to Christmas, but I doubt anyone will buy me Ghost Story so maybe I should just get it bought…

Lunch, if you’re interested, turned into two slices of toast and paté around 3pm.

Friday

Now replastered and emptyAnd after a week of hard frost and ice that just wouldn’t melt, today it’s grim outside and raining.  Not to mention a tropical 7degsC outside.  Almost shorts weather!  And the plasterer is here, so today is going to be mostly spent typing up my notes on all the books I’ve read in the past week or so, along with going back over my notes and highlighting key things in them.  I’m also going to start work on a timeline of events related to open access, A2K and the intellectual commons.  Various dates have popped up in my reading, but I thought putting them all together in a time-bound way might give me some sort of useful insight.  If all else fails it’ll make a useful coda to the literature review chapter in the thesis; and my supervisor agreed with me.

I also need to update my personal glossary.  It’s been handy having this to hand when I hit some unusual terms that have yet to become familiar (although I used positivism yesterday in a casual conversation with Mrs Llama so there’s hope).  Might be a while before hermeneutics just rolls off the tongue though.  Phrase of the week: fissiparous (runner up synecdoche)  – 10 bonus llama points if you can get either of them into scrabble over the weekend!  Mid-morning, and my best friend (librarian and all round good egg) highlighted this (working) 1960s version of Google. Nice!

Evening: Well the plasterer’s gone and left me with a very nice and smooth (if damp and cold) dining area, which will get decorated over Christmas.  It has been rather hard to concentrate on work today so I’ve made rather slower progress than I might have hoped.  Note to self, Mrs Llama can work at home when we have the other end of the room plastered in the new year.  You’ll be pleased to know he didn’t ask me what I did for a living this time – other than remembering that it was “Something to do with Art“, although he did ask me about football – oh dear.  The following pretty much sums up myself and the world of footing the ball…

Right, only one week of full on work to go this year, though I think I’ll probably endeavour to re-read some of my texts over the Christmas period to make sure it doesn’t all go stale on me come the 2nd of Jan.  But I think I’ll sign off this week right about here.  And think about clearing up the mess downstairs.

Slog On to Victory (maybe)

Monday

Just one more report to print off to read...Wow, it’s December which means everything will just slow down in this last week of term. *Hollow laughter* Actually if anything this looks like being my busiest work week yet, as I’ve a crunch meeting with my supervisors this Thursday (I think, still waiting on a confirmation) to go through my project approval document.  Which means today and tomorrow are set aside to little else except work on this and read up more on research methodology and theory. Beyond the meeting I expect to probably have to rewrite a fair bit of the proposal (not sure if that’s self doubt or just a realistic expectation , which will take me through the next week.  Beyond that I want to catch up on my reading as I’ve a stack of papers I’ve just not had time to read yet.

So if you’ll excuse me, I’d best get on.

(Later) Hit a bit of a low point this evening, nothing a good night’s sleep won’t cure.  Feeling a bit creatively burned out, so hope no one’s expecting any Christmas cheer from me any time soon!

Tuesday

Will it get any easier any time soon?As per yesterday, editing, writing, rewriting – with a plan to send off the draft to my supervisors by the end of the day.  As I’m in classes all day tomorrow there’s not really going to be much of a chance to do any more work on it in advance of Thursday; and I want to make sure they get a chance to at least read through it a bit beforehand.

Horrid, wet and cold outside.  Which is fine by me as I’m not going anywhere except between the dining table and the computer room today.  Finished off the day by sending off my draft proposal to my supervisors, and submitting my first (all be it unassessed, uncredit bearing) bit of coursework.  All 150 words of it – a reflection on philosophy.

Wednesday

Another full on campus day, and a very icy start which saw me skid on the drive in (low speed, all is fine) and pass another car that had gone into a ditch only a few minutes beforehand.  Didn’t relish the drive home after that!  Attended a plagiarism and third party copyright training session in the morning.  While I’m fairly clear on both (since I used to teach the latter at Leicester), it was useful to bone up on Turnitin from the student’s perspective.  I think it’s interesting as a tool, not so much for spotting plagiarism for me but for spotting where I’ve forgotten to attribute something in my work.  However, since I only get three goes at it each year I won’t be playing about with it too soon I suspect.  Was fun to talk about copyright issues in theses though, and nice to be reminded I know something.  Some days it feels like there’s so much to learn and so little I know – so a tiny boost to the ego every now and again is always appreciated.

After lunch (hah! I spent it in the library printing things rather than eating) it was RPC time, the last session of the year.  First up, despite what myself and some of the other students were expecting we didn’t have a session to review our aims.  Instead we had a very useful session going through the paperwork and procedures around the project approval and transfer to PhD points in our studies.  Considering I’d been working on the former for the past few days this couldn’t have been better timed.  The head of the Graduate School gave it, and I was once more in awe watching a master of the spoken and pedagogical arts in flow.  It takes a lot for a speaker to impress me, but consider me impressed.  Although I think on some levels it put the fear of Grud into me again about some of the aspects.  I’m sure it’ll all be fine and doable, but at times it felt more stick than carrot. This was followed by a session on Derrida and deconstruction given by the delightful Patrick.  I think I took away something, but I’m going to have to think about it some more!

High spot of the day was the good conversations I had with my various PhD fellows about our research proposals  and interesting hearing from those who are further along the track with theirs (given their longer lead time in some cases) as I know I can learn from their experiences.  Just hope in return I’ve been able to help them a little too.

Thursday

Outside my house - todayOn campus again and an even colder (-4 overnight) start.  Today I went to see my two supervisors to get their feedback on my research proposal.  Ever since I’ve sent it in I’ve started to feel the fear – thinking they’d tell me it was total rubbish and I was wasting their time.  Well okay, maybe not that bad but there’s always that feeling that at some point someone’s going to call you out as a total fraud and say “How DARE such as you even consider they’re worthy to do a PhD!!!“.  I know, I know, paranoid much.  However, it’s that little niggling doubt that won’t go away.

As it was we had a very productive idea, and while as I expected we pretty much dismantled it they had some splendid suggestions for polishing it.  Yes I’ll need to rewrite and restructure it a fair bit (writing is rewriting as it is said), but I’ve come away with a really good idea how I can just flesh out the bits I know were weak; and enhance other bits as well.  Fair bit of reading to do over the next week or so before I want to put pen to paper again, but hopefully early in January I’ll be closing in on a good penultimate version.

Went home via my second home (the library, honestly spending more time there than I did when I worked in one it feels like!) for more books and articles printed off, and then home via the shops.  Just sat here typing up the meeting notes so I’ve got a good record of what we discussed while it’s still fresh in my mind.  For light relief this evening, while Mrs Llama is out at her metal detector’s beard and rusty nail social (don’t ask) I’ll be writing a long overdue book review for a journal I write for!  Yes, that pretty much sums up my social life right now!

Oh okay, I might squeeze in some Star Wars: The Old Republic gaming – so if anyone else is playing that and reading this come say hi…

Friday

Not THAT quick to read
Reading. Lots of reading on theory and method; which is going to be a bit of a theme over the next couple of weeks I suspect.  That and waiting for a man to deliver and install a washing machine (who didn’t appear until after 7pm).  Just as well I wasn’t going anywhere.  Had a few moments of the collywobbles mid afternoon after a few more suggestions came in an email from my supervisors, good ones but all the same I had 10 minutes of anxiety as in my head the research proposal started to morph into an uncontrollable gelatinous entity which I’ll never lick into shapes.  Calmed myself down shortly afterwards, reminding myself it’s a long process and I’ve plenty of time.  I just need to keep at it, do the research reading, rewrite it a few more times, pass it on for feedback as I gradually home in on the final version.  All the same I will be glad when it’s done, even I totally understand the importance of having a firm foundation for my research work proper.

It’s my birthday over the weekend so I’m taking half a day on Monday to relax.  But other than that it’s going to be a long couple of weeks working right up to Christmas.  Only question I have now is “How much time will I spend working over the Christmas break?” – don’t want to walk away from the proposal until the new year, but suspect Mrs Llama is going to be… difficult to work around once she finishes work for her couple of weeks off.  Hmn, will have to play this one by ear I suspect.