Welcome to Level 2

And so I slide into the second (of potentially four) years working on my PhD.  It’s been a bit of a choppy week for me workwise as I’ve had some family issues to deal with, which have taken out a few days from my schedule.  As such I’m not going to belabor the epistolary formula this week and just give you the short report for once.  I’m sure there may be some of my (semi) regular readers who’ll be glad of that!

Library camp: Despite no longer being a librarian, I owe a lot of what I am and my outlook to that glorious becardiganed set. As such I’ve signed up to attend the Library Camp 2013 unconference in Birmingham in November.  And offered to run the odd session or two too.

Editing: I’m still working on the chapter. Go away.  I don’t want to talk about it right now. (Gah!)

Research Training: Despite horrid train issues I made it to the briefing for the RPC (or the Professional Research Practice Course I think it’s called now) briefing on Tuesday.  Turns out you can opt to do the whole module 2 in a three-day intensive burst or every couple of weeks.  I’ve opted for the burst mode.  I’ll miss seeing some of the old gang, but as they’ve relocated it out to City Campus it really is a pain and a half to get there for me.  That’ll all be in November.

PhD Chat: As a consequence of the briefing for the course I did catch up with some of the old gang, and had a very intensive conversation with a few of them.  Thanks folks, that really helped cheer me up (and I am NOT going to finish this PhD as quick as some of you seemed to think!).

New year, new job: Yes, I was interviewed (or rather had an informal chat to my department head and a module leader) on Thursday.  As a result I am now a university lecturer of sorts – I’ll be leading seminar groups from next week on a core media module.  More on that…once I know what it is I’ve got myself in to!  Excited as this is just what I wanted to do as part of my PhD experience, and mildly terrified as to what I’ve taken on!

My dad: Thanks for asking…he’s likely to pass in the next few days.

Next week: Looks like a busy one.  I’m deadlining myself to edit the last half of the chapter so I can wave it past my supervisors, I need to sort out this research training course and of course find out just what I’m teaching in these 23 seminars I’ve got lined up!


A Festival of Research (2013 Edition)


This was the view just outside the training
Just outside the training venue

This week all week is the post-graduate festival of research at NTU. Since I live and work off campus my only real participation will be attending a couple of workshops that are on.

Today I was at the Effective Researcher (1) session all day at the City campus.  My third and final visit to City in 6 days, and thankfully for the time being my last.  I’ve a session at Clifton on Friday, but that’ll just be a nice easy drive in rather than the crack-o-dawn train.


A day of behind the scenes family crisises* and drama didn’t make for an especially well focused day.  I managed to find time to transcribe another couple of interviews, though that had me working until just before 7pm with gritted teeth that I wouldn’t stop working until I hit at least a reasonable target for the day.

I also started to try and approach some more interview candidates, via a mailing list to start with but I’ve got about 20 names on my list to follow up with directly if that doesn’t bear fruit.  After the flood of the first round I’m being a bit more cautious, and also plan to be a lot more focused on making the interviews and swift and to the point as I can make them, but without sacrificing the qualitative richness of them.  In essence: less waffle from me, more active listening and then onwards to the next one.


Started work before 9am today, as intend to try and drag every last bit of time/work I can out of today.  I spent the morning plotting out the next few months of work in a bit more detail, since it was one of the things my supervisors wanted.  To be honest I wanted to do it as well, but the extra spur of someone else waiting on it for comment needled me into action.  I ended up using GanttProject to generate a decent timeline.  I’d looked at GanttProject last year when I was preparing my research proposal, but concluded I didn’t need anything that detailed at the time.  Compared to Visio 2000 and MS Project which I’ve used in the past for project management, it’s got a few flaws in terms of usability.  On the other hand I was rapidly able to work my way around the interface and generate the charts I wanted without too much effort.  Doubtless when I next come to use it I’ll find it even easier to use.

There was a bit of excitement around lunchtime with the arrival of the post delivering my new webcam.  Since Mrs Llama is going to be away a lot in the coming months, I thought it would come in handy.  And as she was working from home today we spent a few minutes Skyping each other in different rooms of the house.  Not really sure I’ll be using it for interviews mind you, as I might have to dress a whole lot smarter than I do when I’m here working from home normally.

My plans for the day were thrown into a bit of an emotional blender shortly after lunch when I heard that my father has to go in for an urgent brain operation next week.  I’ve been effectively estranged from my father since my parents divorced 30 years ago, so perhaps there was less of a body blow than if we’d been close.  All the same, it was distressing to hear from my step-sister how it’s impacting on his current (4th) family.  On top of Mrs Llama’s critically ill father (with whom we are close), this is a very stressful time for us both.  As a consequence I decided that rather than study, as I had planned, that I’d do some more transcription of interviews.  It was something solid I could focus on, as I suspected if I was reading I’d just start brooding or worrying about various issues.


Oh look, it's my two "favourite" people - Thatcher and Regan
Oh look, it’s my two “favourite” people – Thatcher &

Today I mostly read a paper on open access and a book on neoliberalism.  As a consequence when Mrs Llama arrived home and asked how my day had been, I replied “I’ve been even more radicalised!” and proceeded to bang on about the perils of neoliberalism and free trade based economies for nearly 5 minutes before she went and hid in the bathroom.  It was a good book, and while difficult to read for me (I’ve never read much politics and even less economic theory) it was a day well spent.  Only about anther 30 books on my current reading schedule to go…

In other news I put out another call to repository people at UK Universities to do 10 minute telephone interviews with me.  Still over a hundred institutions I’ve not heard from, so hope I get plenty of replies!

[Later] Some good news, sounds like there’s been a little marked improvement with Mrs Llama’s father – this may count as the first good news I’ve had all week.


My final (or second) day of the research festival saw me on Clifton Campus for a session on engaging the broader world with your research (media, Joe Public, other academics) entitled Finding a voice for you and your PhD:  Thinking globally acting locally; the public and private world of academic research. It was a very interesting session, despite the slightly low turn out (only two delegates for the first hour before a couple more turned up).  As a result it was a lot more intimate and hands-on; which to be honest is no bad thing at all.  Some of the stuff we covered wasn’t unfamiliar to me, but all the same there were some very handy exercises to map who we’re engaging with and who we should be.  I’m certainly going to pull all the notes I made during the session out again next week and go back over them, as I’ve had one or two ideas about things I need to be doing right now as a consequence of the work shop.   Also I need to upload my poster to Academia.edu, just in case any random personage is interested in it – which I doubt!

Did come away wondering if I should offer to run a social media masterclass for the research festival next year, given that I’ve taught these in my previous life.  Wonder how one goes about pimping oneself out to do that sort of thing?  Not quite sure how the internal mechanisms work – maybe if I just drop it in enough people’s ears it’ll find the right person!

Drove home through what can only be described as near freezing wintry conditions.  May seems to have decided that it’s back to early March as far as the weather is concerned, and at this rate it’ll be snowing shortly!  The afternoon was a less than satisfactory productive session, although I did catch up on email correspondence.  Had a great email from one developer who’s a fan of the weasel (which was great) sharing some of his work on academics and data sharing (which was even better), and another from an academic at NTU who might be interested in chatting to me about open access as a result of seeing my paper.  That’s handy, really wasn’t expecting anything to come of that ****ing poster (yes, even a week later no love is lost on that poster).  Did a bit of transcription but then ran out of steam.

In two minds as to whether or not to work on Monday.  I know it’s the bank holiday, but feel I’m staring at so much reading and work to sort out at the moment that I’m not sure I can justify having it off.  On the other hand I had an idea on the drive home to turn my poster into a short video…so maybe I’ll do that as that counts as something a bit more fun and work!