Dark Days

My, it is so dark in the mornings (and so early later in the day) that I’ve resorted to using my SAD eliminating blue light again to try and wake up my poor old pineal gland a bit.  Let’s have a look at the week just past.

  • Inaugural lecture: Thanks to Mrs Llama I wangled an invitation to a professorial inaugural lecture at University of Leicester.  While the topic was spatial and geographic data and hence rife with positivism, I was fascinated to spot the influence of several major schools of philosophy implicit in the presentation – including psychodynamics and Marxism.  I think there was also a touch of Heideggerian dasein in one of the three lessons that Prof Lex was drawing on in his time as a geographer.  Of course he did have to kick the evening off with a big fat picture of Freud (and a number of his noted descendants)…I guess there’s no getting away from the man, he’s everywhere(!). All in all a splendidly interesting hour (if not least, because it told me more about what Mrs Llama does in her day job).  The evening was top and tailed with splendid local Indian snacks and a bit of chat with folks in the dept.  Wish my dept did social things like this; their PhDs seem well and truly embedded in the social-structure; rather than living somewhere on the outside edge.
  • Theory brainstorming: Wrote a theory chapter brainstorm document at the start of the week to support  ongoing discussions with my supervisors.  Was quite a useful way of trying to reassess in my own head quite what I’m using theory for and trying to spell it out in simpler terms.  Well sorta simple, I’m sure orthodoxy, epistemology and hegemonic were still in there!  As of this post waiting to hear anything back of course…
  • Reading:  Ordered a few books, and eyed up some in the library.  Started reading some Gramsci, or at least a book about his thought.  Surprised myself that it seems to slot in very nicely to my intellectual framework so perhaps writing the revised chapter won’t be quite as much of a struggle as I anticipated.  Ha.  No, it probably will won’t it.
  • Chapter: Kept away from it for this week, beyond finishing my comments and notes version and printing out another draft for paper editing.
  • Teaching
    • Intro to Media Coms: Carrying on developing their first assignment practice, we worked on interview technique.  Although I was slightly baffled why one student just left after 10 minutes once we started into the group work. *shrugs*  From my class register he’s not even in my seminar group, but he’s been a few times before.  Ah well.  Did find myself playing the role of interview subject for one of the groups as we were unevenly numbered for the exercises by that point.  I had fun, though I might have played the role of an itinerant 93yo a bit too well.  Had a chat with a few students afterwards who shared with me their planned interview subjects, which was interesting.  Certainly feel it’ll make for an interesting set of coursework to read; although grading it is going to be challenging I suspect.
    • Face to Facebook: last day of term-itus kicked in big style as I had 3 whole students at the start of the hour – one arrived shortly after the start and another halfway, taking the total to a massive 5/26.  Looking at comparative newspaper analysis as cultural objects (e.g. what do the representations and communication of the news in printed forms tell us about the society within which they’re produced).  Can’t say it was the chattiest seminar I’ve done, and I did end up turning it into more of a lecture.  Hell, since the students had bothered to come in, even if they haven’t got a lot to say, felt I wanted them to get something out of it.  Think they did, but you can never tell when groups are quiet if they’re just mentally counting down the minutes to the end of the hour or actually learning something.  Ah well, hopefully numbers and interest will re-surge post Christmas.
  • Conferences: Had a confirmation about next year’s UKSG conference in Glasgow, although I’ve got to write an outline by the middle of next weeks.  Normally not too tricky but trying to coordinate with a colleague across email as we’re joint presenting the same session.  Hopefully post weekend my brain will be in gear after a trip to Wales to write this.  Currently the only event I’m speaking at in 2015 (unless there’s a raft of offers from elsewhere).  Glanced at OR2015, but even if I had a paper in and got a scholarship I’d have to fund the travel myself, which is rather beyond my means right now.  Shame.  As always all offers and suggestions of where I could turn up and speak, always welcomed!
  • Exciting professional development: Got an application form to complete which hopefully is the last formal step before I get to take on something a little bit exciting and grown up.  Or it could all just explode.  Having to write a brief personal statement for the role…is proving harder than I thought.  Normally I can write these without a problem, but struggling slightly to find the right tone and content…as not 100% sure what they want to know.  Hopefully be able to talk about this one in due course…

And finally…produced my Christmas card video for all my friends to whom I’ve stopped sending cards too!  Enjoy…

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A Week In October

So what did I get up to this week?

  • Theory chapter: It’s all done bar the shouting.  Or rather bar the discussion at the end where I tie everything together.  Fingers crossed that I can finish writing that bit on Monday and share it with my supervisors for discussion – as I’ve a couple of other things I need to sort out (application for a summer school and a conference talk) that are getting a bit time sensitive.
  • Teaching: Classes this week on creative industries and conversation analysis.  The former of which involved the students reading an article by Russell Brand and considering what it told us about the media representation of celeb culture and the political undercurrents (think bread and circuses and you’re not too far off the beam). Good discussions in that one, including one student who said he wished we had 2hrs to talk about it.  And another who suggested I might just make it as a Z-list celeb.  I have doubts about that 🙂  CA session wasn’t quite so energised (but then I teach that one first thing on Fridays).  Involved returning to watch an EastEnders clip which they’d seen before, but this time with the sound on.  Spent a while after class going through a few bits of the session in more detail with a few students, which was a nice follow on – shame I don’t get paid for those bits!  Also had someone come and (very politely) moan about the sound from the video bleeding through into their classroom.  Whoops!  University needs thicker classroom walls.
  • Weather: Aside from the near-hurricane on Tuesday, and the down pour on Friday…erm, not much to talk about.  Except to say autumn is most certainly here now!
  • Open Access Week: It was open access week this week…which sadly meant very little to me.  Noticed NTU did put on a couple of events, which was good – but I couldn’t get to these easily, and didn’t want to take too much time out of my schedule.  Boo.
  • Supervisors: Saw both my supervisors in passing – one of whom suggested it’s time for a meeting.  Managed to fob him off with promises of a chapter early next week (so deadline time!)  Always marginly terrified of these meetings – they’re great guys, but I’m never sure if they’re going to tell me I’m talking complete and utter BS in my thesis or just give me more work to do.  Or probably both.  Hell, who needs to sleep!  At least these days thanks to the right blend of vitamin supplements I seem to have gotten a hold of my poor energy levels in the working day.  No more crushing exhaustion headaches for me.  Just very, very sore paws from walking 18miles at high speed last Sunday…

A Whole Lot of Editing Going On

Monday

Having caught up on my sleep over the weekend…there’s no avoiding it, I need to crack on with the marking again today.  And as before, let’s track how the marking goes.

  • 9.00 am: Check both email accounts and discover that my last student with an extension has submitted.  Good, that means I’ve all the essays I need to mark now.  Decide to find breakfast, tea and check on Prisoner Zero (one of our chickens is on special measures at the moment).  Exchange email with supervisor over a news article we’ve both read, and then pull up all my marking info and the essay directory onto the desktop.
  • 9.25 am: Eat breakfast, post blipfoto for the day.  Steel myself to pick up marking where I left off on Friday.
  • 9.30 am: Ear plugs in (it helps me focus and block out the traffic noise), and one we go.  Half way through marking an essay on Friday, so have to read it all over again now.
  • 10.15 am: always tickles me when students write the number of words at the bottom of an essay, and notes like “excluding references”.  I do just the same for official submissions; despite knowing that any academic worth their salt will not include references within a word count.  Oh wait, there was just this sort of discussion at the CRDC the other week over the project proposal submissions.  Paranoia rules and serves you well in academia.
  • 10.33 am: This essay is written in a river of toffee I think, and I’m trying to swim up stream against the grammatical flow.
  • 10:57 am: Hmn, marking one with a heavy use of quotes…and not much analysis.   Have been guilty of this in days of yore myself, so trying to give pointers rather than just writing “NO NO NO NO!” in the margins.
  • 11.19 am: Time for more tea and a swift check on the chickens.  Working on essays about new media now without ear plugs in as I’m expecting a delivery between “11.28-12.28”.
  • 11.37 am: Delivery man cometh – break off to collect my new tarpaulin (wooo!).  Restore ear plus.
  • 12.23 pm: Marking an essay from a student who rarely appeared in seminars.  Fine-toothed-comb deployed.
  • 12:48 pm: Gah, most of the last 30 minutes dealing with some moderation questions and second marking between a couple of the other academics (one of whom is my supervisor).  Some hard decisions been made.
  • 1.00 pm: No, need lunch.
  • 1.45 pm: And back at it.  Half way through the new media now.  Hmn, think I’ll mark this next one and then the other one I’ve been asked to second mark.
  • 2.12 pm: Eeek!  Thunder and lighting right overhead 😦
  • 2.55 pm: Flagrant apostrophe abuse detected. Punishable by de’ath!
  • 3.12 pm: Still in new media. Urg. Some of these definitions of new media seem to have switched off in the opening minutes of the lecture on the subject, given there were a fair few given there.  Only 3 more of essays on this topic to go and then I can switch to Freud.  Yes, that will be a bless’d relief…especially considering the students’ attitude to Freud in the seminars was “We don’t think he tells us anything”.
  • 3.46 pm: If I could offer one bit of advice to all the students, it’s “think critically”.  Lots and lots of descriptive prose, very little in many cases analytical thinking.  Keep writing notes in the margins like “Yes, that is very interesting – but why is this important? What does this mean? Is there a case against it?”
  • 3.58 pm: NOOOOOOO!  *ahem* Slight blinkered view from current essay causing me to scream at the screen.  Now to write a more constructive comment.
  • 4.11 pm: 13 still to mark.  Beginning to think I might not finish all these today, which is frustrating.  Onto Freud now, which means it’s time for a mid-afternoon pit stop.
  • 5.03 pm: Marking Freud is hard work.  Sneaking suspicion some of the students understand his work better than I do.
  • 5.40 pm: Mrs Llama has arrived home from work, hot, cross and fed up with traffic.  Wondering if she’s going to be projecting onto me shortly as still marking Freud.  Current essay has also given me a WTF moment requiring some background research to mark.  Sheesh.
  • 5.56 pm: Beyond Freud and onto the final set of essays on power and non-verbal communication.  Think I shall go and prep dinner, pop it in the oven and then have a last hour working on these before calling it a day.
  • 6.30 pm: These essays are more enjoyable than the Freud one.  Marking one now from a student I had to double check was in my groups; since they never came to a seminar I taught!  No, they are one of mine. Damn, have to mark it – but extra carefully!
  • 7.05 pm: Okay, 7 more to go – they’ll have to wait for the morning.  But at least these last batch are fairly readable and engaging again!

Tuesday

Okay, not many to go, but suspect this’ll be my entire morning.

  • 9.15 am: Exchange emails about moderation, discover two invites in my mail (one to a conference, one to participate in some research). Will have to come back to those later.
  • 9.25 am: Open up all the files and programs…and on with the marking.
  • 10.06 am: These are certainly easier to read and mark, generally good and just had one excellent one.  Not sure if the topic is more engaging for the students, or the question’s easier – they just seem to get it more.
  • 10.14 am: Oh dear, another essay sans references.  How obvious could we have made this bit?  It’s actually on the marking sheet as one of the 5 criteria the students are marked on.  Sigh.
  • 11:16 am: Let joy be unrestrained…I’ve opened the last essay to mark.
  • 11.40 am: Done.  Now just to moderate my high/low scores, and pass them to Colin the course leader for his opinions.
  • 12.15 pm: Moderating Colin’s marking…there are some terrible essays here, which really make me pleased how many of my students produced excellent pieces of work!
  • 12.22 pm: Done.  Just have to wait on the moderators comments, and then the admin to sort out and no more marking for me this year.  Huzzah!

Rather lost the will after lunch, as I had to go out to an appointment.  And then paid a visit to campus to drop off the all important annual report form for marking.  The Wife came along for the ride, and so met my 2nd supervisor, which was nice.  Did discover my actual Director of Studies had buggered off to Germany which makes getting a signature out of him somewhat academic now – hope the Grad School will accept an email from him!

Then I got stuck on campus for 30 minutes as the power to the site went down, locking all the car exit gates! Sheesh.

Wednesday

More moderation today for Kornelia, as i appear to have turned into Mr Moderator for the whole course.  Don’t mind, as she and I have been mutually supporting each other throughout the past year on this course.  Today though was also the day I drew out my chapter on the history of open access in the UK, and started to hack at it.  Been away from it with other pressing concerns too long so it’s going to be a long hard struggle I suspect, and first impressions are that it needs a lot more work than I thought.  Beginning to think the end of the month might be a tricky target to get this one ready by.

Thursday

More editing – although not helped by the fact that I had a dreadful night’s sleep and spent the entire day feeling like I had needles sticking in my eyes.  Mrs Llama worked at home in the afternoon and made me go and sit in the garden for a while over lunch and enjoy the outside world.  That helped a bit, and I made some progress – even if it felt like I kept re-editing the same two pages over and over again.  Stressing about this chapter a lot, which is slowing the writing down.  Most of the day spent trying to write short pieces about who the key players and organisations in the development of OA in the UK is.  Bound to have missed some people I suspect, whom I hope won’t hunt me down and punish me!

And no, didn’t include myself in the list!  Sheesh, self-aggrandising much?

Friday

Having been asleep for nearly 12hrs last night (went to bed before 8pm) I felt a whole lot more human.  A lot more editing today, mostly about funders’ OA policies which required a bit of background research.  Chapter looking a whole lot better as a result – but I’ve still a page of suggested additions I need to look at next week.  Which could be tricky as I need to write a conference paper, and also make a day trip to Cambridge on Tuesday, which cuts down the hours I can devote to it.  Have to pop into the Uni as well to finally hand in my annual review.  Which may end in a punch up between me and the staff if they don’t bloody accept it.

Also, just to round out the week, moderated Tao’s essays as well.  Which means by my calculations I’ve moderated pretty much all bar one person’s papers this time.  Boy oh boy do I wish they paid me for this bit.  But it does mean it’s the end of the marking lark.  And time to collapse into a warm gin now.

A Blur of Activity

It’s been a couple of weeks since I last did a post, as I’ve been a bit run down of late so I’ve let this slide.  However, that’s not to say exciting things haven’t been happening – so here they are in brief.

  • Work: Coding. Coding. More coding.  Teaching prep. Teaching. Marking oversight.
  • Meeting: Had a meeting with my second supervisor (first time in about 5 months as he’s been on research leave). Very useful and positive discussions.
  • Teaching: Carrying on with my seminar teaching, which continue to be the true highlights of my week.  Both classes have managed to make me genuinely smile (and even laugh) with their insights – they’re definitely all getting a whole lot better at their studies.
  • Mrs Llama: Mrs Llama finally got a proper job again, which starts in April.  Which means we can stop eating gruel for every meal (slight, but not that slight, joke).
  • UKSG: I won a conference award to attend the UKSG conference next month.  I’m overjoyed, as it is far, far too expensive to attend.  And not a little smug that I’ll be using money from academic publishers.  Going to be a great conference, where I’ll be a man on a mission to make some cross-sector contacts.
  • Excitement: I’ve also been approached about something very exciting professionally, but it’s not set in stone yet so I can’t talk about it in public yet (he said mysteriously).  Even if it doesn’t come to pass, it’s deeply flattering to have been approached about it.
  • FAIL: I tried to attend a webinar and an afternoon event, but thanks to technical issues with the first and feeling dog-rough for the other I didn’t. Damn. Although I did get to see my BFF as part of my attempts to attend, so it wasn’t a totally loss.
  • Finalé: And most importantly today I finally finished coding all my interviews.  It has been a long, and painful, slog but this phase is at least done.  Of course now I have to make sense of the results, but I’ll worry about that next week.

Next week…I have to start serious thinking again. And, oh yes, catch up on a pile of reading!

Out and About

Monday


Looks like this week I’ll be out of the house on no fewer than 3 days.  It’s the usual lecture and seminar, plus at the last minute I’ve bagged a place on a conference tomorrow entitled Working with Paradata, Marginalia and Fieldnotes.  As it’s at the University of Leicester I’ll be able to pop in to this quite easily.  Should be interesting, especially as I’m all about the fieldwork analysis at the moment.  Well I will be once I finish reading this ILL book I have which is a bit tough to get into, but does have some interesting bits in it.  Reading it mostly just to stretch my mind further, so fingers cross it works.

Tuesday

Leicester conference centre
Leicester conference centre

Day out at the aforementioned conference. Very productive!  Also ran into some old library colleagues, which was lovely as I hardly ever see anyone from there any more.

Wednesday

Spent some time writing up the notes from yesterday’s conference.  Attended the weekly media lecture, this week on the rise of the modern press.  Somewhat annoyed by how loudly and constantly the undergraduates were talking throughout this session.  If you want to chat, kindly vacate the room folks and let those of us who want to listen, listen!  The rest of the day spent reading and preparing for tomorrow’s seminar.

Thursday

A spot of reading, and a spot of seminaring. This week the topic was the impact of the press (media) on enabling the flowering of liberal democracies in the western world.  I confess it wasn’t the most exciting of group work for the students (read two papers…and discuss) but I did my best to try and make it a bit more engaging for them.  Clearly either I failed them or the content baffled them, as they were quieter than ever.  I even found myself employing the painful silence technique in order to get them to speak – but it didn’t bring much joy.  Even those who did say a bit more at the start of the year, are now getting a whole lot quieter.  *sigh*

I think in particular it’s a shame this topic didn’t grab them, as it ties directly into stuff later in the term on the Internet, Web 2.0, social media and citizen journalism; and asks the question: are these are enabling the reflowering of Habermas’ social sphere?  I think the answer is largely yes.  Perhaps though they’ll shock me next week and be more engaged with the topic of public service broadcasting.

Friday

For one, back home all day – and finally time and inclination to finish the book.  Really knuckled down and forced myself to struggle through it, and after a while I realised I was really enjoying it.  Good book to read, and even better quite a few of the references and authors are things I’ve already read, rather than completely new.

Whole lot of new extra words for my glossary though.

Exciting news during the day, as I’ve been asked to take over another seminar group for a member of staff on study leave. This is good news as I could a) do with the cash and b) do with more experience.  Looks like it’ll be on a Thursday as well as my current session, so I won’t really lose much additional time – and I can obviously reuse the same seminar material, so there’s no additional preparation time.   Despite some seminars not being a lot of laughs, I do really enjoy the teaching side of things – and even more so, teaching things that aren’t tedious “library skills”.

Monday (2)

My desk today
My desk today

Well, as I forgot to post this last week – let’s make this a double value post!  Today I spent over 6hrs sitting in the Clifton library reading through all my interview transcripts.  Fun.  At least it was sunny outside.  Or it was when I started, but the end of my time there it was pitch black outside.  Printed off all the transcripts in one big fat file – all 212 pages of them before I went home.  Think the undergrads would have been grateful I didn’t dominate the printer earlier in the day!

Tuesday (2)

Today…I re-read the transcripts.  A bit slower this time as I was making more scribbled notes on the side and even assigning a few proto tags on the master print off.  Of course not helped by discovering that somehow I’d missed off 35 odd interviews from the master file print yesterday – but no matter, I have hard copy back ups and I’ll just run them off tomorrow when I’m on campus again.

Depressingly familiar sight
Depressingly familiar sight

For the record there are 204,072 words on 347 pages in the merged master transcript file.  Just give you an idea of how much data I’m dealing with (and yes, every bit of it hand typed by yours truly).  Ouch.  On the other hand though I am beginning to have some deeper thoughts about things I’m seeing in the data.  Mostly questions, but I’m hoping these will develop once I get to the third read through at the end of the week – once the lecture and seminar are over for the week.

Keep wondering if I should be exploring if campus has any analysis software (like NVivo) to use for this content analysis work.  On one hand doing it all by hand means I really am in the data, on the other I do get slightly uneasy about lack of backups.  Found myself photographing my scribbling thoughts again today – just in case there’s an incident and I lose them!  So they’re now squirreled away on Dropbox as a sort of backup.  Not sure what to do if my head crashes (and considering the whack I managed to give it going up into the attic earlier to find a ring-binder, it currently feels like that might be a thing!)

Wednesday (2)

Campus day, and early as I wanted to print off the remaining 140 pages of my interview transcripts.  That done I made the pleasant surprise that they’ve upgraded the PCs in the Graduate room in the library (all 8 of them, it’s not that many – but at least the filthy undergrads don’t come in here). Always baffles me a bit that this room is only ever half occupied at best, and this morning only me here – there’s no lock on the door, so always surprised the lower orders don’t take it over.  Kinda glad they don’t.

No sign of NVivo on the campus network, so just as well I wasn’t relying on it being here!  Maybe I should ask IT if they have it?

This is the BBC Home service...
This is the BBC Home service…

Lecture today on public service broadcasting and then off to a CRDC meeting.  I was supposed to get out of this one, and let me deputy rep attend for the experience but she’s not able to make it.  Not a problem, as I’d pretty much assumed I’d have to be there as I’d not heard from her (until first thing today).  Thankfully the meeting was very short and fairly uneventful, aside from hearing that there is now definitely no PRP block teaching for the second module; which would have been the last bit of interest I would have had in it.  And since that’s gone I think I can wave goodbye to the programme for good and just pick up workshops locally and externally that are directly relevant to me (like last week’s session at Leicester).

Came home and did the background reading for the seminar, and then wrote my version of the session.

Thursday (2)

A morning at home to do more reading through the transcripts, and then in to run the public service broadcasting seminar.  This week I had the students reading an eight page article on the BBC and governmental interference and writing summaries.  Sounds easy?  Well it wasn’t that readable an extract, and while rich in information quite a few of them were clearly struggling to do it in the allotted time.  Can’t say I blame them, as it wouldn’t have been my first choice for a thriller of a session. Hopefully in between the writing my bouncing around kept them entertained and maybe even slightly informed and educated.  Just like public service broadcasting should!

Many, many papery bastards...
Many, many papery bastards…

Came home and…yes, read transcripts.  Finished the second read through when a thought struck me.  One swift Google search later I discovered the average novel is 80k words long.  So essentially each read through of my interviews is like reading three novels.  No wonder it’s a bit tough on my grey cells.  I have noticed as a result I appear to have the voices of the repository managers, research office staff and librarians I spoke to floating around in my head 24hrs a day now.  Is this a good thing?  Does this mean the data is starting to form new and exciting shapes in my brain?  I wish I knew…

Interestingly Kornelia says NVivo is on the campus network and we can download it for home use if we ask.  Skeptical, but will mail and ask our ICT people tomorrow as they were very helpful with the MS Office suite.

Friday (2)

Not so much reading the transcripts today, as trying to see if I can bring some nascent order to my tags and classification.  Harder work than I thought it would be and haven’t made anything like the level of progress I expected today.  Guess there are always going to be days like this when it all feels like an uphill struggle.  Hopefully a weekend of distractions will take this all forward.  I can see I’ll be on campus all day Monday in order to refocus my mind a little, since I worked so well there last week.

Booked for an event down at the University of Sussex in early March, which is good – if a bit of a long drive.  As cheap to drive as it is to attend, and it gives me the excuse (not that I need one) to go visit my bff  on the way down.  Also finally booked for OER14.  As I’ve said before this isn’t cheap and £300 is a lot of money when you’re paying it out of your own pocket.  It had better be damn fine conference when all is said and done.  Better get on and book the train tickets next, to try and keep costs down further.

Do hope Mrs Llama find paid employment soon, as currently finances are somewhere between precarious and knife-edge 😦

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)

Monday

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.

Tuesday

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.

Wednesday

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.

Thursday

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.

Friday

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!