Monday, 8 December 2008

Knitting

I recently rediscovered knitting and am probably driving people* crazy with clicky-clacky needle noises all the time. [*The hamster is also being driven crazy as she cannot stand the noise of the knitting needles clicking together]

It was due to the fact that a friend of mine mentioned some yarn made from Bamboo which made me curious. And me being me, I decided to go and have a look at it. Amazingly it is incredibly soft and I decided to get some and knit up a new scarf for myself.... and one for J...

I got mine finished quite quickly and started J's straight after... He wanted his to be much wider and chunkier - which caused some complications.

- First cast on... kept dropping stitches

- Second cast on... more dropped

- Third time... got it started properly this time, but pattern wasn't working

- Fourth & Fifth... more dropped again

- The Sixth attempt actually worked... but then I realised I need more wool because of the width, which I managed to get. Now all I need to deal with is the regular cries of 'Is it ready yet?'

While all this was going on, my Mum came up for graduation and oh, look more wool as she wants a scarf too.

The upshot of this is that I've found something to keep me occupied when I'm not working and which is also productive. So I figured I'd see if I could get a book of patterns to use.


After some searching (you have no idea how many naff patterns there are out there) I found a book which had a range of projects, not all of them are nice (applique flowers anyone?) but there are a number which have potential. Whilst looking for patterns, I came across a book which had knitting patterns for pets. Curiousity got the better of me, I looked in the contents just to see if there was anything for hamsters. I imagined the book would have a lot of dog coats in, that sort of thing. Even the pattern book I ended up buying had a dog coat in, charmingly called 'Doggy Doodle'... which was immediately rechristened by my Mum as 'Doggy DooDoo'..

Alarmingly there was a hamster-related knitting pattern. You too can knit a hamster house... the only question is why?

Big News


I graduated...

Better late than never...

We now have blue sheep... these were dyed for St Andrews Day.

Sunday, 23 November 2008

Gotta love RYS

This job ad just appealed.

I never was good at remembering...

Especially when it comes to updating this thing.

There are a few things happening. Semester is nearly over, and while I don't have any work lined up in the department for next semester. Hopefully though my courses at the adult education centre will be running.

I've completed one batch of first year essays - usual mix of lack of spell-checking and proofreading, plus a large number who failed to actually answer what the question was asking, and a very small number who didn't answer the question at all. What really irritated me was the fact that in the first group who I returned the essays to, had divided themselves (no idea how) so all the people who had reasonable grades were together and those who did not were all together. They were not happy. They actually said I had graded too hard out loud in front of everyone else. All of our grading is checked before being returned by the course convenor so there was not question over being overly harsh. Then I heard the comment as they talked to one another - 'oh I didn't think we needed all of that sort of thing, I assumed you would know it'. The number of times I've heard Undergrads use that excuse is ridiculous - it actually seems like they do not realise the purpose of setting essays - to test their knowledge, not ours. The rest of the classes went fine, the other groups just seem to be a little bit better at taking things on board.

So thats 40-odd essays done, now I have another dozen or so for the second year class, plus another 40-odd second first year essays in a week or so, and some other coursework for the second level. Oh joy.

I've started reading a new column in the Independent, 'Diary of a Fresher'. This has been quite entertaining... especially the transition to what University expects and how you fit in. I'll post the links at the bottom of this post as they're worth a read.

Even better... I graduate next week.

-------------
Diary of a Fresher
9 Oct, 'I get one chance to be an undergrad, so I don't want to mess up'
23 Oct, 'We eat together and discuss the evils of investment banking'
30 Oct, 'The handout reads like a mistranslated computer manual'
20 Nov, 'I've an eclectic bunch of friends – and all my lecturers are dotty'

Monday, 20 October 2008

Sheep

I thought I was seeing things a while ago on the M8.


There is a Pyramids Business Park, with (you've guessed) a row of pyramids parallel with the road. I wasn't driving and suddenly saw a load of red sheep. I wondered if I had imagined them, but no, on the way back, the existence of red sheep was confirmed.




Funky, aren't they?

Apparently it was all done for a bit of a laugh. You can find the full story here.

Now the same business park has 'set free' a giant red stag in the same location... but apparently that statue has a history of changing location, or as quote in the BBC story puts it, "He's a bit of a wanderer so I'm not sure how long he'll stay at the Pyramids for and I wouldn't be surprised if he popped up somewhere else in the near future."

Sunday, 19 October 2008

A 'How to...' Guide

I've been keeping an eye on the series 'How to be a Student' on the Guardian's Education pages, partly because some of the columns are useful but mostly because of the humour contained within them (and of course, its partly due to the disbelief that some people will indeed need a 'how to..' guide in order to cope). I was re-reading them this evening and was struck at how obvious some of the advice is, yet after seeing many of the first years around the university they do seem to need it, as they fail to understand how to use pavements (those are not areas to stop and chat, especially when they're only a metre wide to start with) or queue in the library to get access to the manned help-desk (there is a sign saying 'queue here' for a reason you know).

Many tend to deal with more superficial elements (how to get money out of your parents, how to make friends, how to get rid of friends) but others, especially those about dealing with lecturers and tutors, essay writing, note taking, what to do in lectures, etc. are actually quite useful. Part of me wonders if these columns are actually worth hanging on to and giving to new students in order to give them an idea on what is expected.

The best one that appeared recently discussed the transition from school to university, which is a jump not many students actually realise exists. This was drummed into me in many of my first year tutorials, when they were asking questions about their first essay - which is due tomorrow (oh joy). The questions they wanted to know the answers to often depended heavily on the premise that I would tell them what to do. Alarmingly this also involved one asking since one of the essays was on one ancient text, could their bibliography consist of that and nothing else. They did seem surprised at the idea that they would have to research ideas presented in other publications. Perhaps I was lucky during my school education to have opportunities for independent research, working with materials other than the designated course books - but I would have expected that first year students should be aware of the fact that 1-book bibliographies are not acceptable.

On the other hand, the difficulty that appears to stress most of the students over the first essay, which relates to gender is whether immortal gods can be used as examples of male/female, e.g. Hermes is male, therefore he can be used as an example of a male character and what does he do for the content or plot? This seems to be panicking them a lot, given the number of alarmed messages being put on the course discussion site - surely they should have a idea of who is male or female? Shouldn't they?

Work

I'm finally getting back into the swing of things. Although I still need to finish the revisions to my article (which I really need just to get done).

On the plus side, my internal examiner has signed off my PhD which means I can sign up for Winter Graduation (I hope) this coming week. It was actually really touching to see that email, I think that little things like that help make the reality set in.

In other news I've started on a new project on ancient religion which is going to involve a large literary search. So I've spent the last couple of weeks putting together a complete bibliography of all ancient authors and texts, preferably those which are extant. It has been a real eyeopener. I realised that there were rather a lot, but there are so many which I've never heard of, and some of the texts sound fascinating. I'm expecting that I'm going to get distracted by some interesting little texts that no-one has ever heard of. I like these little side paths which pop up unexpectedly.

On the other hand, I have not been able to locate any 'complete ancient text' lists already in existence. So I'm using a combination of online sites, series of translated texts (like Loeb, Oxford World's Classics, etc.), OCD and some of the big catalogue volumes of ancient writers. I realise that I might not have looked properly for a complete list already published, but the compilation via my normal lets-chase-all-those-footnotes approach is actually making me think and pay attention more to the actual names and titles that are turning up. If I'm just copying, it easy to just switch off.

I found some good online sites of the Latin corpus, namely the Corpus Scriptorum Latinorum but I've yet to find an equivalent for the Greek and those that do exist have some major omissions, forgetting Artemidoros seems to be a speciality and I know that there is a translation of his Oneirocritica in existence.

The problem is that now all I want to do is work on that, rather than do other stuff that I actually need to do.

Tuesday, 7 October 2008

How to keep yourself entertained...

I'm going to have to try this with my other first year classes this week.

I arrived at my first of my weekly tutorial sessions for the new intake, and the room was in use. I was pleased to see so many people waiting, and sat listening in to the conversations around me... mostly along the lines of 'are these every week?', 'do you have seminars in your other courses?' and 'ooh, pretty hat!' No one gave me a second glance.

Classroom became free and everyone ambled in, I dumped my bags by the desk I like to sit on and heap papers on and started rummaging around in all the bags trying to find the text we were reading in that class. Again not very different to the rest of the room.

At this point, the dept secretary arrived to turn off the equipment from the previous class (bless but the academics aren't allowed to touch things anymore, especially expensive shiny technology... too many breakages)*** As she was doing this, we started chatting. Job done, she wandered off.

It was at this point I realised that the room had gone quite quiet, and then the mature student suddenly asked 'are you the tutor?' with a stunned expression on his face, rest of the group were also expressing surprise (or maybe hangovers... its difficult to tell sometimes). 'Yup' I answered, at which point the surprise levels seemed to rise..., 'not what you expected?' 'Um no...' came the answer.

I like startling people, it makes for entertaining tutorials.

*** The academics vs. technology seems to be quite common to the depts I've been in, my undergraduate dept got through several coffee machines before the secretary realised the problem... no one ever put water in it.

Monday, 6 October 2008

Are people really this dumb?

J pointed out today that that the live basil plant I'd brought home from the supermarket had a label informing purchasers not to refrigerate, and asked the question why does it even need that? The only answer I could come up with was that some people just aren't plant people.. or they really are that dumb.

Friday, 3 October 2008

Snowflakes in October

The undergrads are back, ah the joys of the new semester...


To all those who don't understand pavements...Why is it that so many undergrads (and people generally) fail to understand that people are trying to walk along these things? Not wait patiently while you mill around or chat with all your closest 50 friends. And when I eventually get sick of asking 'excuse me' and push my way through, don't huff and act like I'm being that rude.

To the random guy wandering around the photocopying room...The instructions are on the wall. Given that you looked at the instructions, the change machine, the photocopying card dispenser and every photocopying machine in the room (including those that were being used by people) you would think you get the concept. But no, you just kept wandering (with your books)... until you wandered out of the room.

And finally, to the precious, precious snowflake in the bookshop yesterday...So your 'basic' history introduction course is full of stuff you didn't know? Shame, I thought all university lecturers realised that they needed to keep their courses limited to exactly what you have been taught at high school. What I don't understand is why you're bitching about this to the poor guy in the book shop. He didn't set the course and he sure as hell doesn't want to hear about it. And bless him, he was trying to help, going through your reading list... only for you to whine that you were never going to be able to read all that in a week. My only hope is that he was purposefully putting the most expensive books he could find into your arms...

Friday, 26 September 2008

Now there is a book title I never thought I'd see...

So today I was searching for a out of print volume from 1955 on Kykeon, the beverage of choice in the Eleusinian mysteries. Unfortunately, this book is a little tricky to find. I did eventually track one copy down in a city that I can at least get to easily.


The volume in question, Armand Delatte's Le Cyceon, breuvage rituel des mystes d'Eleusis offers Google and other book-search sites the opportunity for word chaos.

Rather than just admitting the the word kykeon or cyceon cannot be found during their searches, they offer nearest equivalents... which is how cyceon turned into cushion. And that available to buy right now is the the fabulously titled My life as a walrus whoopee cushion. Yep, that book exists.


Wednesday, 17 September 2008

Introducing Houdini, the ever-escaping hamster

Well we worked out how she is getting out of the ball, the wee thing has chewed the lid so much that if she pushes in the right way it just pops out.

Now normally when she fell out the ball before, she just sat there looking stunned. But now? Oh no, now she starts scampering away in the direction of whatever seems interesting.
All I can say is thank god for electrical tape... it keeps her in there. We don't have to put in on both ends yet (the ball has two access hatchs), but I can only imagine its a matter of time.

Ok, when I say normal service.... ah you know what I mean

So the normal service thing was a bit of a grand claim, but I am back (although I can never tell for how long).

The conference last week was really good. Kind of daunting at times as it was the first 'big' conference I've been too. By which I mean it wasn't a postgrad gig, nope, this one had lots of big-wigs. I got introduced as a token postgrad, a couple of the others speakers did too, which did nothing to help my nerves. As it happened, I'm glad I decided to draft an article-like presentation and read that, rather than just ad-lib as I usually do. No one ad-libbed, making that idea a sensible one.

But the paper seems to go down well, and the feedback was positive so I think there is hope for this one getting published once its revised into a proper article.

PhD News
This is the other big thing, the corrections have all been approved - just need to sort out the grammar and then that is done and can be printed and submitted.

It is going to be strange not having it around any more.

Tuesday, 2 September 2008

Cute, seriously

If slighly hellbent on getting out of the cage.

Normal Service is Resumed

Ok, so the blog has been silent for quite some time. But what do you do when you reach the end of something that you have been working towards since you started your education.

I had a meeting with my internal examiner today to check over the last of the minor corrections brought up at the Viva. One of the topics that was touched on briefly was the slump that follows the acquisition of the PhD. After being assured that 'yes, that is completely normal... and expected', its still difficult to get back into the proper way of working. My got up and go has basically got up and gone.

However, with the start of the new term, I realise that this is not an individual problem. Looking at many of the academic blogs I read, I'm now convinced that everyone slumps at this time of year.

Another part of me is wondering if writing again on the blog will help me get things sorted again in my head, or even if it does not solve stuff, it will at least get me actively working again.

At the same time, it makes sense to recap what it has happened since the last post...

Shoes!
I not only like the first pair... I loved them - so much so that I now have another pair.

Work!
Going better than perhaps I give credit for. I have conference papers to give, articles to develop from them, teaching and tutoring lined up for the next academic year, and proposals in waiting for feedback or approval.

Small furry things!
We got a pet, a small, very fluffy hamster who appears willing to do almost anything for food. And as alarmingly demonstrated last night, is rather intelligent. The little minx managed to open her exercise ball from the inside... we have no idea how she did it but we're not planning on encouraging her to demonstrate the technique in future. Although we are now worried about cage security, so as a preventative we have paper-clipped her cage doors shut.

Saturday, 3 May 2008

Splurge...

... I succumbed, I now own MBT shoes... the ones I muttered about before but in brown. I adore them, they seem so strange to walk in... like walking on a pair of rocking chair rockers.

The rocking is the wierd thing, everytime I stand still and allow myself to roll onto my heels, I have to waggle my arms to stay upright. On the plus side, if I stand still and hold onto the other half's arm, he can rock me back and forth.

Thursday, 1 May 2008

Masai and Musings

After suffering pain in both knees, one as the result of a temporarily dislocated (it popped back in straight away) kneecap and an unfortunate slide down a wee hill, I'm wondering whether to invest in a pair of these.


They are ruinously expensive, especially on my low income (read practically non-existent)... but they are meant to help.

There is a shop nearby which fits and sells them, and I'm wondering whether to just bite the bullet and go and try them. Even better, they have a cuter style which I rather like (though you can guarantee they won't have my size)...



Now I just have to decide... (and I haven't bought shoes for ages...)

Sunday, 27 April 2008

Normal Service will be Resumed Shortly...


Whilst I'm not a computer science grad... I can sympathise with the cartoon...

It is strange being in the scenario where I'm in a position to to apply for stuff, knowing that I can fulfill the criteria. The next thing to work out is how to get them to reply to me. But these things take time.

To be honest, I had expected life post-PhD (Viva, whenever it may be, excepted) to be a little calmer. I didn't think I would be that busy. The sheer amount of marking (which is larger given events happening with the other TAs on the course), so that is eating up a lot of time. And I haven't even started on the worksheets from the last stage of the course... urgh. But it pays and money is always welcome.

The better news is that the April conference went well. They want the paper for an article in the proceedings (to be published next year), and the proceedings from last year are nearly published.. the cover looks really slick and I'm looking forward to seeing it in print. The article from that one went down really well with the editors, so that cheered me up.

Once I get that darn marking and the article out of the way, things will calm down. Plus I get to be in Athens for a while which will be great, plus the other half will be there with me for the first time - which I will really enjoy. After that the next commitment is a dig in June, I was there last year and had fun, so it will be good to be back.

Friday, 18 April 2008

Silence... part 2

I'm not sure why but I just don't have the urge to blog at the moment... it seems strange but I'm in a strange state of mind and have been since I submitted... I'm sure it will pass but until then... ssh!

Saturday, 5 April 2008

Silence...

So I haven't been posting much lately, I don't know why, I think its all part of finishing up. My brain has shut down on so many levels, which is not necessarily a good thing, it just needs a rest. The trick now is getting it started up again...

Anyway, I saw this recent cartoon from PhD Comics and realised that my University fits in very well with one of the categories, as did my Undergraduate institution:

My Undergraduate University was a red brick, the current one is more along the lines of Gothic (for the main building at least)... unfortunately the section of the University I'm in is more Neo-Penal... on the plus side they removed the asbestos a couple of years ago...

Tuesday, 1 April 2008

What do you do?

What is it that you do when you've submitted? I handed in last tuesday and have spent a week in what can only be described as a daze... meandering around not really doing anything. I have been out and about, down to the seaside to a proper old-fashioned sweet shop and a trip to a nearby castle. And I've been somewhat more domestic, the freezer is restocked (all home-made) and the bathroom scrubbed from top-to-bottom. But the wierd thing is not actively working on academic stuff.

Thankfully, (or maybe not) I have marking to do and a conference paper/article to prepare which I'm actually looking forward too... who'd have thought it... I want to keep working...

Tuesday, 25 March 2008

Done!

Its done, my PhD thesis is in, just got the viva to go and I'm one graduation away from getting my doctorate...

Saturday, 22 March 2008

Busy Busy Busy Part 2

And it really has been, hence the blog silence this last week. There are a few things to catch up on... so here goes:

Conference
The conference last weekend went really well, I got quizzed after my paper by some high profile people in the field, who had taken notes throughout my session, and continued to do so while I was trying to eat lunch and explain some of my points in greater detail.

I also got a good look around Cambridge. I saw pretty much the ugliest church I've ever seen. I also got look in the Fitzwilliam Museum, some cool stuff but it has this really strange mix of up-to-date and more antiquarian displays. The Near Eastern (all Babylonian, Assyrian etc) but very little Achaemenid or later material. The Greek pottery was very good, displayed well (you seen both sides of most vases) but was very old fashioned. I guess I was a little surprised but it was good see. Disappointingly I couldn't find any books in the museum shop (or any second book shops while I was there). I did go to the CUP bookshop but everything is so expensive!

The weird thing I saw, of all things, were the hand dryers in the washrooms at John Lewis. Apparently Dyson do hand dryers now. They were very odd, efficient, but odd. Kind of like sticking your hand into a food disposal unit.

Persia
I had my last class on wednesday and while I'm glad that its all done (I have enough other stuff to get on with) it has been an interesting (and steep) learning curve.

The class, as a group, have been good - they ask questions, they want to share opinions, pictures, thoughts - we rounded off the last class with a half hour discussion on points that they found interesting throughout the course which seemed to go down a lot better than I had been expecting.

More interestingly, after the first couple of classes they seemed to accept that I did know what I was talking about. Teaching groups of totally mature students when you are only in your mid-twenties is difficult. Especially as they can (and have, in my previous experience) be very dismissive of younger lecturers.

In terms of benefits to me, I learnt how to deal with on the spot questions better (in other words, when they reach the end of the question - I can still remember it), as well as learning how to prep 2 hour lectures in a short as time as possible.

Essays
My second year classics group unfortunately, although thankfully they aren't due for another couple of weeks. I feel better about not doing anything with them as the notes for marking only came through a few days ago... despite the fact that these were handed in about 2 weeks ago.

Zoom Zoom!
Hurrah, the F1 season is back on. The race last weekend at Melbourne was dramatic, and the qualifying today was cool, some interesting events (notably the blocking of Heidfeld by the Maclarens whilst he was on his hot lap & the subsequent punishment of the Maclarens)... so I'm looking forward to a good race tomorrow morning... not sure if I'll be up at 6am to watch up - but that is what video recorders are for!

Thankfully I'm on easter break now, so I have plenty of time to get on with things... speaking of which I should probably get back to work... (aka watching CSI New York)....

Sunday, 16 March 2008

hmm...

... continuing the concept of 'ques' but on a verbal level, I was listening to a conversation on a train trip this friday on my way to a conference:


After a prolonged chat between the three regarding American tourist's reason for being in the UK, they passed very swiftly through politics ('Do black people have the vote in America?')... and moved on to religion...

Northern bloke #1: Are you religious?
American tourist: Yeah, I'm a baptist
Northern bloke #1: Oh yeah, that is like catholic isn't it?
Northern bloke #2: Nah mate, you're getting confused, he's Jewish... [to American tourist] You're Jewish right?
Northern bloke #1: Ahh... I always get those ones confused
American tourist: Urm... no I'm protestant...
Northern blokes #1 & 2: Eh?

Wednesday, 12 March 2008

Sometimes you wonder...

... if there is any hope. I'm referring to a sign I saw in chocolate shop window:

Order your easter eggs, and collect them later!... Beat the ques!

Monday, 10 March 2008

Feeling sinful...?

I have to giggle about the new seven deadly sins just announced by the Vatican today. The old ones were so very catchy...

I mean pride, sloth, gluttony, lust, envy, anger and greed are so much better than:

  • Environmental pollution
  • Genetic manipulation
  • Accumulating excessive wealth
  • Inflicting poverty
  • Drug trafficking and consumption
  • Morally debatable experiments
  • Violation of fundamental rights of human nature

Plus you could never imagine these making as successful as film as Se7en.

On the hand, it set me off thinking, although admittedly more along the lines of the ten commandments... after suffering some slightly peculiar lectures and tutorials...I have created my very own seven commandments of undergraduates...

  • Thou shalt spell check
  • Thou shalt not use wikipedia as valid academic resource
  • Thou shalt not stare at the ceiling/wall/window/notes (delete as appropriate) when asked a question
  • Thou shalt understand that the premise of a tutorial is very different to that of a lecture (i.e. tutorial = thou talk)
  • Thou shalt not leave essays until the last minute and then whine that there are no books in the library
  • Thou shalt not address the lecturer/tutor at the first class with an expression of disbelief and the words "You're the tutor?" in a sceptical voice
  • Thou shalt appreciate that we do have better things to with our time, and that thou is more of an annoying disturbance

The list could go on I fear...

Monday, 3 March 2008

Snow!

I like snow... even if it does start to melt immediately...



Now its blue skies and sunny... go figure.



Who would play Tiberius?

I came across this blog entry by Mary Beard comparing the problems of Prince Harry fighting in Afghanistan with Imperial Sons in the Roman Empire... and I have to say, while I'm not big on news, I rather liked this.

Sunday, 2 March 2008

The Cows are Chasing Me... (Part 2)


Our replacement fridge freezer (our third in this apartment) just made a mooing noise.


For some reason fridge freezers don't seem to like us, our previous two both decided to give up and defrost everything.


But mooing fridges are new... maybe we should take it out to graze.

Trash TV - You Gotta Love It

So Saturday night and I'm watching the telly, on E4 tonight is the 100 greatest sex symbols of the last century. Apparently these were voted for by members of the viewing public, critics and miscellaneous other persons. After watching a whole 12 and half minutes I'm feeling slightly traumatised and need to share the pain. So in the interest of making you suffer, here are my views on a selection of the top 100.

100. Alan Titchmarch - Apparently people like gardeners.

97. Richard Madeley - Urm? Apparently he talks like a woman, which and I quote "women like". Note, by the time we reach No. 95 I have already run across a number of people I've never even heard of...

94. Justin Trousersnake, Timberlake... whatever - descriptions include "sexual resonance" and "12 year old boy".

93 or was it 92 or 91? Kirsty and Phil from Location, Location, Location - as voted for in a secret crush poll... secrecy may have been advised (especially after the hot tub clip they showed).

89. Farah Fawcett - Then: flicky hair ahoy! Now: bloody hell!

88. Julio Iglesias - Fun facts include "Julio has claimed to have slept with 3000 women."

87. Jessica Rabbit - Cartoons count...class!

84. Diana Dors - In an Adam and the Ants music video... no, really.

82. Joanna Lumley - The 'avenging' posh totty because she could lift her leg to a 90 degree angle.

80. Woody Allan - Hmm...apparently a man who resembles the character from the Mr Muscle cleaning product adverts is a sex symbol.

78. David Walliams - As my partner burst out at this point 'Are you taking the piss?!'

77. Rachel Stevens - She who warbles about an airport... though why anyone would sing about Los Angeles International (LAX) puzzles me.

76. Wonder Woman - A drag queens' costume inspiration.

73. Jeremy Paxman - One of the interviewees' stated that she "would like to be on the end of a Paxo-probe"... now that is scary.

70 or 69...ish? (I lost count). Abi Titmuss - Another interviewee quote "you can imagine her at home, walking around naked", unfortunately after this he smirked and we can tell exactly what he is thinking.

65. Vivien Leigh - What is memorable about this entry is the author of 'Sex lives of the Hollywood goddesses' and his seedy moustache.

59. Patrick Stewart - Sexiest in the 'Star Trek: New Generation' series by default (on the basis that he isn't an odd colour or has webbing on his head).

Somewhere in the 50s. Helen Mirren - A girl with 'balls bigger than beach balls'.

42. Jordan - Apparently inbuilt airbags are sexy.

39. Jenna Jameson - There had to be a porn star in there somewhere.

38. John Travolta - Actor, dancer, Quantas airline pilot.

35. Bree from Desperate Housewives - The sex symbol of the series.

33. Antonio Baderas - Yes, Puss from Shrek is sexy. Although the M&S Christmas ad from 2007 is rather fun.

I got distracted between about 30 to 19, but nevertheless we saw Colin Firth, Colin Farrell and Debbie Harry, and rejoined with a joint entry on Vigo Mortensen and Orland Bloom (19-18).

14. Alan Rickman - Voice, tone and language - enough said.

13. Madonna - Sex symbol but the edge was lost a few years ago.

And the top ten, and these are some of the snippets describing the stars:

10. Scarlett Johansson - Sophisticated with old school glamour and new school sexuality.

9. Johnny Depp - Sex appeal while referencing Keith Richards.

8. Kylie Minogue - Isn't it a shame Danni was left behind?

7. George Clooney - Supposedly the new Cary Grant (no offense but I just can't see it).

6. Lara Croft - The virtual vixen...the nemesis of female archaeologists (especially those who deal with tombs or other funerary rituals) with boobs everywhere.

5. Brad Pitt - One of those people that "people want to sleep with" according to this programme.

4. Beyonce - Best description "Beyonce is like watching a bag of cobras wriggle around", in the sense that you can't take your eyes of it.

3. Marilyn Monroe - Sexual but perhaps in a photographic rather than a film sense, though still one of the best sex symbols. Interestingly the emphasis they place is on her being a triumph, a sensation, and they show a clip of her last, unfinished, movie.

2. Elvis Presley - Again another sex symbol I just don't get. Others would suggest him "King of male totty".

And finally...
1. Angeline Jolie... Messed up but that is all part of the charm, despite her role as Lara Croft (I wonder if that was how the LC got into this chart at No.6?).

Thursday, 28 February 2008

More Ponderings...

I realised today that when I started my PhD that many of the PhD students further down the road told me that by the end of it all that I would detest my subject and would struggle to complete. The whole concept of writing up was demonstrated by apathy to the topic and writers' block.

Ironically I adore what I do, I'm planning what to do next, (bit of time off I think, though I plan on maybe taking Greek classes [modern not ancient] and working on articles and conference papers). As for my subject, the iconography I deal specifically with is entertaining in its own right, it's been described randomly as comic, caricature, pornographic, weird... (imagine grotesque pygmies doing things they really shouldn't)... the list could go on but I'd get bored typing. Its an unusual subject where the images make you giggle.

Soon the whole process will be over, though exactly when that will be is difficult to specify. How do you stop tweaking things, editing text, refining important phrases, formatting pictures? I guess in the end, a statement that was taught to me when I was studying Art comes to mind. Things can go too far, get ruined or will never end, you'll just keep working on things, never satisfied, always something more to do...

...the trick, in the end, is to learn when to stop.

Wednesday, 27 February 2008

I like this...


... and I find it funny because (like so many archaeologists) we wonder what people in the future will make of our current lifestyle.


I realise that I haven't posted in a while, so I'll have to remedy that... soon.

Thursday, 21 February 2008

Busy Busy Busy

Well the migraine finally went away and things have been pretty good since. I got the conference abstracts that needed doing in and actually have been accepted for both. One of them has the opportunity to publish the paper as an article in the conference proceedings. So I'm pleased about that.

Plus the Persia course is going well, the class seem to be enjoying it and are starting to open up and ask more questions which is nice. Hard to believe that I'm over halfway through with the course.

I'm also managing to make progress on my PhD too, I spent the morning in the library sorting out all those little annoying references and page numbers and suchlike which you tend to miss as you potter along. And I've managed to get more stuff uploaded onto the CD-Rom which, if I do say so myself, is looking very slick and professional.

So, all-in-all, I'm feeling rather pleased with myself.

Sunday, 17 February 2008

Meme

Ten things you don't know about me... as tagged by theraaa.

Now where to begin:

1. I'm a technology junkie, I crave shiny things - even scarier is that I can actually work them.

2. I have done a lot of things that I wouldn't do now, but even so I do not regret them.

3. The only time in my life I would ever wear a burkha is if it would allow me to visit Mount Athos.

4. When I was younger all I ever wanted to do was horse ride, but when I was 17 the riding stables sold my favourite horse to a knacker's yard and I lost the passion for it at that point.

5. I have a phobia about dying, the whole thought of not existing freaks me out.

6. I occasionally dream in German or other languages, not that it makes any sense, just random words keep popping into my head.

7. I've managed to stay friends (and good friends at that) with pretty much everyone I've had a relationship or fling with (I can think of only exception, and he stalked me after the break-up).

8. I have at least forty pairs of shoes, and over 20 handbags... I'm addicted.

9. I never wanted to go to University, now I'm finishing up a PhD... go figure.

And last but not least 10. I tend not to talk about music because my taste in it is bad by the standards of other people.

Now this I'm looking forward to...



And a bit of archaeologist humour which always makes me laugh:

BACK FROM YET ANOTHER GLOBETROTTING ADVENTURE, INDIANA JONES CHECKS HIS MAIL AND DISCOVERS THAT HIS BID FOR TENURE HAS BEEN DENIED.
BY
ANDY F. BRYAN
- - - -
January 22, 1939
Assistant Professor Henry "Indiana" Jones Jr.

Department of Anthropology
Chapman Hall 227B
Marshall College

Dr. Jones:
As chairman of the Committee on Promotion and Tenure, I regret to inform you that your recent application for tenure has been denied by a vote of 6 to 1. Following past policies and procedures, proceedings from the committee's deliberations that were pertinent to our decision have been summarized below according to the assessment criteria.


Demonstrates suitable experience and expertise in chosen field:
The committee concurred that Dr. Jones does seem to possess a nearly superhuman breadth of linguistic knowledge and an uncanny familiarity with the history and material culture of the occult. However, his understanding and practice of archaeology gave the committee the greatest cause for alarm. Criticisms of Dr. Jones ranged from "possessing a perceptible methodological deficiency" to "practicing archaeology with a complete lack of, disregard for, and colossal ignorance of current methodology, theory, and ethics" to "unabashed grave-robbing." Given such appraisals, perhaps it isn't surprising to learn that several Central and South American countries recently assembled to enact legislation aimed at permanently prohibiting his entry.
Moreover, no one on the committee can identify who or what instilled Dr. Jones with the belief that an archaeologist's tool kit should consist solely of a bullwhip and a revolver.


Nationally recognized for an effectual program of scholarship or research supported by publications of high quality:
Though Dr. Jones conducts "field research" far more often than anyone else in the department, he has consistently failed to report the results of his excavations, provide any credible evidence of attending the archaeological conferences he claims to attend, or produce a single published article in any peer-reviewed journal. Someone might tell Dr. Jones that in academia "publish or perish" is the rule. Shockingly, there is little evidence to date that Dr. Jones has successfully excavated even one object since he arrived at Marshall College. Marcus Brody, curator of our natural-history museum, assured me this was not so and graciously pointed out several pieces in the collection that he claimed were procured through Dr. Jones's efforts, but, quite frankly, we have not one shred of documentation that can demonstrate the provenance or legal ownership of these objects.


Meets professional standards of conduct in research and professional activities of the discipline:
The committee was particularly generous (and vociferous) in offering their opinions regarding this criterion. Permit me to list just a few of the more troubling accounts I was privy to during the committee's meeting. Far more times than I would care to mention, the name "Indiana Jones" (the adopted title Dr. Jones insists on being called) has appeared in governmental reports linking him to the Nazi Party, black-market antiquities dealers, underground cults, human sacrifice, Indian child slave labor, and the Chinese mafia. There are a plethora of international criminal charges against Dr. Jones, which include but are not limited to: bringing unregistered weapons into and out of the country; property damage; desecration of national and historical landmarks; impersonating officials; arson; grand theft (automobiles, motorcycles, aircraft, and watercraft in just a one week span last year); excavating without a permit; countless antiquities violations; public endangerment; voluntary and involuntary manslaughter; and, allegedly, murder.


Dr. Jones's interpersonal skills and relationships are no better. By Dr. Jones's own admission, he has repeatedly employed an underage Asian boy as a driver and "personal assistant" during his Far East travels. I will refrain from making any insinuations as to the nature of this relationship, but my intuition insists that it is not a healthy one, nor one to be encouraged. Though the committee may have overstepped the boundaries of its evaluation, I find it pertinent to note that Dr. Jones has been romantically linked to countless women of questionable character, an attribute very unbecoming of a Marshall College professor. One of these women was identified as a notorious nightclub singer whose heart he attempted to extract with his hands, and whom he then tried, and failed, to lower into a lake of magma. Another was a Nazi scholar he was seen courting just last year who, I'm told, plummeted into a fathomless abyss at Dr. Jones's hand. And, of course, no one can forget the slow decline and eventual death of Professor Abner Ravenwood after Dr. Jones's affair with Abner's underage daughter was made public, forcing her to emigrate to Nepal to escape the debacle.

Demonstrates successful record in undergraduate and graduate teaching:
In his nine years with the department, Dr. Jones has failed to complete even one uninterrupted semester of instruction. In fact, he hasn't been in attendance for more than four consecutive weeks since he was hired. Departmental records indicate Dr. Jones has taken more sabbaticals, sick time, personal days, conference allotments, and temporary leaves than all the other members of the department combined.


The lone student representative on the committee wished to convey that, besides being an exceptional instructor, a compassionate mentor, and an unparalleled gentleman, Dr. Jones was extraordinarily receptive to the female student body during and after the transition to a coeducational system at the college. However, his timeliness in grading and returning assignments was a concern.

Establishment of an appropriate record of departmental and campus service:
Dr. Jones's behavior on campus has led not only to disciplinary action but also to concerns as to the state of his mental health. In addition to multiple instances of public drunkenness, Dr. Jones, on three separate occasions, has attempted to set fire to the herpetology wing of the biology department. Perhaps most disturbing, however, are the statements that come directly from Dr. Jones's mouth. Several faculty members maintain that Dr. Jones informed them on multiple occasions of having discovered the Ark of the Covenant, magic diamond rocks, and the Holy Grail! When asked to provide evidence for such claims, he purportedly replied that he was "kind of immortal" and/or muttered derogatory statements about the "bureaucratic fools" running the U.S. government. Given his history with the Nazi Party, I fear where his loyalty lies.
- - - -
To summarize, the committee fails to recognize any indication that Dr. Jones is even remotely proficient when it comes to archaeological scholarship and practice. His aptitude as an instructor is questionable at best, his conduct while abroad is positively deplorable, and his behavior on campus is minimally better. Marshall College has a reputation to uphold. I need not say more.


My apologies,
Prof. G.L. Stevens

Chairman

Saturday, 16 February 2008

Positive and Negative

The negative side is that I've had a migraine since wednesday, which sucks. At least I haven't I had the sensitivity to light and sound that I usually get. On the other hand I had a meeting with my supervisors on thursday and was so spaced out on migraine medication that I'm having problems remembering what was said. I think I took notes but can't remember if I did and where I put them. The only thing I can remember is that I'm getting the internal/external examiners that I wanted and that they think the thesis as it stands is Research with a capital "R" - which can only be a good thing. Thankfully they email all the necessary information afterwards. The other negative thing was that the tv cablebox was playing up again, but that seems to have sorted itself (with a little judicious prodding of cables).

Annoyingly with the migraine I haven't been able to get as much as I would like done. I had conference abstracts that need to be finalised tomorrow, but hopefully that is in hand. I really need to get on with the editing/finalising of the supporting material... but all I can cope with at the moment is watching re-runs of Cold Case, CSI (varying types), America's Next Top Model and Project Runway - yes when I'm feeling like rubbish all I want to do is watch trashy American TV and eat chocolate. And I know that chocolate is not exactly the best thing to eat when you have a migraine, but I've had to give up drinking and coffee (coffee - my precious coffee) since wednesday and I have to draw the line at some point.

Wednesday, 13 February 2008

Questions over Education

This news story caught my eye a long time ago. Basically it states that Cambridge University does not want applications from students who take a minimum of 2 'soft' subjects at A-Level and that students ideally should aim to have at least 2 traditional or 'hard' subjects. Although the news article is quite old now, the University website (checked today) still emphasises that potential applicants should opt for subjects like Chemistry, English Literature, History, Mathematics, Languages or Physics.

Then this January this story appeared, continuing the idea of unsuitability of certain courses, the list included in the article comprised of the following:

  • Accounting
  • Art and design
  • Business studies
  • Communication studies
  • Dance
  • Design and technology
  • Drama and theatre studies
  • Film studies
  • Health and social care
  • Home economics
  • Information and Communication Technology
  • Leisure studies
  • Media studies
  • Music technology
  • Performance studies
  • Performing arts
  • Photography
  • Physical education
  • Sports studies
  • Travel and tourism

Thats quite a lot. The appearance of this third article just started me wondering. I dislike instensely the idea that some A-levels should be worth more than others - why should someone who has worked as hard or harder in a 'soft' subject be told that it is only worth a certain percentage of something that is deemed to be 'hard'. I took 2 of the so-called 'soft' subjects (Art and Media Studies) as A-levels. And I've had more senior academics ask me directly 'why I did that?' with a tone of voice which clearly said 'that was stupid' and 'why did you waste your time?'

One aspect that I fail to understand in regard to Media Studies; if the study of modern culture is so silly and unsuitable, how does that compare to a course which focuses on literature? The tools and techniques used are very similar, only the media is different. Dissecting a film in many ways is not dissimilar to dissecting a book. The creation of images, scene setting, and so on are all portrayed in a manner where the same methods can be applied. I do not see why the tools I learnt in one course are 'unsuitable' for application to another. I think many of the issues stem from the fact that as a subject, the course is perhaps relatively new... but that is a situation that all subjects would have found themselves in at some point.

Art on the other hand is perhaps more a matter of perception. People often assumed that an art course was sitting around waving a paintbrush at a canvas. I'm not sure what the circumstances are for other people, but the course I participated in involved discussion of artists and styles, of architecture and comics, of computer generated images, photography and pencil; a dissertation was necessary, as were presentations - all of which adds up to a lot more than paintbrush+canvas=art. The skills I learnt there I have found useful, especially since I focus on ancient iconography.

At the end of the day, people should be encouraged to take courses that they are interested in. Not just pointed in the direction of a set (and relatively small) list from which to choose because they are deemed to be suitable. Education relies on interest, I know very few people who have flourished with a subject that they dislike. I see it in the first and second year undergraduates at the University who simply choose courses that they believe to be easy just to fill up the spare slots in their timetable. Many end up in archaeology, and quickly realise that it is not an 'easy' course. What worries me more is that they freely admit that they don't want to be studying 'X', they want to do 'Y' and they do not care what grades (so long as they are passing) they acquire.

If this is the situation, that soft subjects are to be avoided, I was extremely lucky that I chose History as my final A-level option, otherwise the Universities may have thought, I was, like, stupid or something...

Friday, 8 February 2008

This just appealed...


... especially as I read it with glass of wine in hand.


Conference

The CFP for the conference that I'm helping to organise was finalised today and will be sent out tonight or tomorrow. It sort of hit me that I've managed to get myself involved in a complex situation in regards to organisation, right at the point when I really should be focused elsewhere... Ah well, I never was very good at doing nothing...

And that reminds me, I need to get abstracts for other conferences sorted.

The Joys of Editing

I've spent the last couple of days stuck in front of a computer editing chapter drafts. Its daft that I spend I significant part of my time fretting that the PhD is just not going to be good enough. I mean what would I do if they (by they, I mean the evil examiners that dwell in my mind) decided that I wasn't allowed to get my doctorate. Paranoia is so annoying. Then at other times I have moments when I'm re-reading something and wonder 'did I actually write that?'

Its very annoying when you go through that sort of see-saw emotional ride over what you have written but at the same time, I really hope its good enough.

Sunday, 3 February 2008

Hallelujah!!!

Yay, I'm going back. In May I will be back in Athens after over a year of being away. And I have to say it will be wonderful to be going back. I've missed that city so much.

It is one of those places that I can never wait to get back to, so a few months to go and then I'll be back...

Sunday, 27 January 2008

Since my life isn't exactly scintillating (get up, type chapter, plan lecture, eat, sleep), this meme as seen on Dr. Four Eyes is much more fun...


Just follow these simple rules....
The first article title on the page is the name of your band.
The last four words of the very last quote is the title of your album.
The third picture, no matter what it is, will be your album cover.
4. Use your graphics program of choice to throw them together, and post the result.


I have to say I rather like mine...




Friday, 25 January 2008

I'd like a cup of gobble-de-gook

A wonderful comment in reaction to an article on Coffee on the BBC website...

I enjoy my friendly, confusing trip to Starbucks in the morning:
"Hi sir, what would you like?"
"I'll have a bucket of milk with a tiny drop of coffee in the bottom please."
"What silly name would you like for your coffee, sir?"
"Let's see, how about a skinny-venti-mocha-frappuchino."
"Certainly, one silly-named coffee drowning in a bucket of milk coming up."

Monday, 21 January 2008

Pinched Ideas - A Year in Pictures...

Pinched from A Long-Ayelander because it was such a funky idea even if its a little late in the New Year. So here it is, a year in pictures...

January
Back home in the north east, from a day out in Dunstanburgh, look at the sky...
------------------------------------------
February
Being silly while ill... lets leave that there...
------------------------------------------
March
Enjoying the views (and the weather), easter break in Greece, where I ended up at Acrocorinth
------------------------------------------
April
Orchid fair... pretty!
------------------------------------------
May
A perfect spring day, Sweetheart Abbey.
------------------------------------------
June

Jousting at Linlithgow... scary stuff, one of the jousters dislocated his shoulder in the first session...

------------------------------------------

July

Back in the trenches... Pollok excavations. Always fun being an archaeologist on public digs, conversation usually runs along the lines of "You're a PhD Student, that is great, what do you study?", me: "Greek pottery", and then either silence or "why are you digging in Scotland?"

------------------------------------------

August

Edradour distillery... I had to include this one, didn't I?

------------------------------------------

September

Edinburgh Zoo and hyperactive honey badger... of course...

------------------------------------------

October

Undergraduate field trip to Dunnadd, we didn't loose any students... well at least not this time. It has been known...

------------------------------------------

November

Castle Campbell, looking all autumny and ever so slightly depressing...

------------------------------------------

December

New Year in Ireland, at Glendalough

So Et VoilĂ ! A year in pictures...

Hello!

I was wondering what to post and then the blog told me - no seriously it did. I have a funky piece of software that tells me who is looking at the site, to be honest I've noticed them on most blogs. Anyhoo... a couple of sites that directed people were here were Google searches.

So hello to those people who decided to check out how to tattoo fruit and Edradour 10 year old. While I wouldn't recommend the former, I would the latter - its well worth it.

Thursday, 17 January 2008

From the People at the BBC

I was flicking through the BBC News website this morning and saw an odd little reference to the Greek Myths so had a look, as it turned out it was kind of funny and thought I'd share it here.

Paper Monitor
Posted on Wednesday at 10:51 UK time
A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.


The poet laureate Andrew Motion (no wait, bear with us) notes in the latest booklet of the Guardian's series on Greek myths (really, it'll be worth the effort) that "myths become memorable because they tell us fundamental truths about human behaviour".
Fitting, then, that the Times quotes the judge who likened Andy Kershaw's fall from grace as a "Greek tragedy" as he jailed the former Radio 1 DJ for breaking a restraining order.

Greek myths. A judge might be thought to be on sure ground with such a topic, more so than, say, who "Gazza" might be or how to shizzle a nizzle. But the paper's resident brainiac, Philip Howard, pours cold water on High Bailiff Michael Moyle's allusion as "hyperbole".

Whereas Oedipus killed his dad and bedded his mum, "visiting one's ex-partner is a petty offence," says Mr Howard. And when the ancient tragic heroes got drunk and acted up, "they committed monstrous sins, such as killing their children".

Then, in Greek tragedy proper, Nemesis strikes. "Three months in jug are no fun, but they hardly compare with self-blinding or being burnt to death with a poisoned robe (Hercules)... Kershaw's punishment cannot be classified as a Greek tragedy in the extreme acceptance of the words without some risk of terminological inexactitude."

Paper Monitor cannot help but think that for a judge, to be accused of terminological inexactitude by the Times - the Times of London, the paper of record - must feel like angering the gods.

Wednesday, 16 January 2008

Ponderings...

Edit: I reread this entry this morning and realise that I sound like an arrogant little bitch, I guess at the end of the day a PhD is what you make of it. I'm sure that there are people in the UK who are better qualified and have more additional activities on their CV and vice versa. I just find it annoying that even after working hard for 3 1/2 years on a PhD which puts me ahead of the job market in one country, I'm still barely on the bottom rung in the eyes of another. I find it very odd. On the other hand, I'm pleased I don't have to take classes or exams any more!

I've been wondering about this for a while, namely the differences between UK and North American PhDs... I realise that on the other side of the Atlantic PhD students continue to take classes and exams for a significant period of their PhD. This discussion came up on another blog (link at the bottom of this post) and I was surprised by a couple of the replies

I've mostly been told that it's swings and roundabouts: we aren't necessarily as far advanced as a post-doctoral candidate in the US, who may well be in their mid-thirties and have six years of very-close-to-professional experience under their belt, including several publications (depending on field) and ten years' teaching experience. But we're quite likely to be several years younger, our dissertations are perhaps longer (I was told by an American lecturer at my university that US doctoral dissertations in my discipline might be as little as 40,000 words, but I've heard other friends who did their doctorates in the US say theirs were more like 70,000) and therefore closer to being finished books. We haven't had the same kind of incredibly intense and broad tutoring that North American doctoral candidates get in their first couple of years, and that's the thing I find hardest to reconcile, but presumably we've specialised more in our undergraduate degrees than North Americans, or something. I've no idea how that works

And further on in the response...

I had a friend who did her PhD at St. Andrews (in what is considered a very very good program for our field) and had a very difficult time getting a job in the US. At interviews with SLACs she would be asked how she could relate to US undergrads and how she thought she would be able to teach certain classes since she had no teaching experience.

Maybe its just the University I've been at, I've taught courses, tutored classes, marked work (often appalling work but that is another story), published, worked on research and contract excavations, various archaeological jobs, private sector jobs, museum display work, conferences, articles - both published and in press, and yet I find it difficult to believe that this makes me unqualified for a very large section of what, for me, is a ridiculously small job market. There was another post, which I can't find now (typically), that said UK PhDs aren't suited to North American jobs because we do not have the range of experience necessary to teach. My undergraduate was specialised, but in the sense that it gave me a thorough grounding in the literature, languages, archaeology and history of the ancient Mediterranean and Near East, my Masters did the same, except specialise more on the archaeology. I've been teaching for nearly 5 years and have yet to teach more than 2 hours per year of my specialist subject. I've taught geophysics, aerial photography, archaeological introduction classes, computer classes, how to dig, how to draw, how to write (not that anyone listens to that one), classical literature, environmental archaeology (I get to wave leg bones at people and watch them cringe), organised postgraduate activity days, designed websites, organised conferences... So does that make me inexperienced or unsuitable?

http://community.livejournal.com/academics_anon/1452328.html

First Post from Persia

So my class started today, I did my usual trick about completely confusing how long it would take me to talk about each thing but I managed to fill out the two hours, just perhaps not as I originally expected. The class seem good, they're enthusiastic and ask questions, but...

I'm teaching this course at an adult education centre, and I'm not that old for a PhD student. Hence I spent a few embarassing moments at the start when people were making sure they were in the right room and then looking at me strangely when I said it was, and then they asked that wonderful question, "You're the tutor?" You could feel the question marks hanging in the air.

Plus I have to say I think I'm going to be entertained by the couple with synchronised stares that could cut through glass. Its very disorientating. I have a feeling the female half could have been a school teacher for a number of years, you just have this urge to shut up and sit and listen quietly when she looks directly at you...

Tuesday, 15 January 2008

So Who Are You?

I was reading through some old articles from last year that for some reason I had saved on my computer and I came across this from a column in the Guardian which was done by one of their writers who had gone back to university for a PhD. Re-reading it now I can see why I saved it, lets face it, we all know people who would fit one or other of the descriptions and I always wonder which one people think I am (unfortunately I think its probably something along the lines of No.3, maybe not the Marxism or an actual need to shave in the first place but a pet mouse would be nice).

--------------------------------------------
The eight types of graduate student
Why are we postgrads here? Well, for lots of reasons, says Patrick Tomlin
Tuesday May 15, 2007
The Guardian

When I started this column, I promised myself I wouldn't let it become a monthly whinge about how poor I am. Partly because that would be as boring as if I stood in your garden and recited excerpts from my thesis, and partly because, as graduate students go, I'm not too badly off.

But I have had to make financial sacrifices to pursue my studies. Given that everyone else has presumably had to do so too, I initially figured that we must all be there because of a pure thirst for knowledge. I've since realised, however, that the impulses that draw someone to academic study beyond graduation are a lot more varied than that.

While I've only been at it a short while, I am sufficiently aware of the unwritten columnists' code to know one is expected to make wild generalisations, shun nuance, and present categories in a list format. So, without further ado, I present the eight types of graduate student:

1. The Wannabe Undergraduate
They had such fun as undergraduates that they cannot bear it to end. They prop up the bar, talking to undergrads about their thesis, rather than actually writing it. They judge success by notches on the bedpost and hangovers accrued instead of marks, grades and the intellectual respect of their peers.

2. The Student Who Tried Employment
Some postgraduates have been out into the real world and had a real job, with a desk and a computer and a pay cheque and a lunch break and a pension and appraisals and meetings and everything. And, for whatever reason, they have found it wanting.

3. The Couldn't-Survive-Anywhere-but-at-University
The group most likely to be cultivating eccentricities - keeping a mouse in their pocket or wearing socks with Marxist slogans sewn into them - while still too young to shave.

4. The CV-Filler
Their primary focus is not what they study, but what it will look like on their CV. They believe this qualification will give them "that extra edge". Most likely to end up as accountants or lawyers, never employing the knowledge gained.

5. The Prestigious Scholarship Recipient
Rather than worrying about what the subject they study will look like on their CV, their primary focus is who is paying for it. In a reversal of the usual relationship between funding and studying, in which the former is a means to the latter, the funding is regarded as an end in itself and the studying something that has to be endured to be able to call themselves a [insert name of dead white man] scholar for the rest of their lives.

6. The One Who Just Needs Answers
They really are motivated purely by the desire to find answers about their specific area of interest.

7. The Eternal Student
They are not bothered whether their academic career shows linear progress, they're just collecting qualifications and trying to get every letter of the alphabet after their name.

8. The Polymath
These geniuses could have studied anything, anywhere. They will probably go on to great things across several disciplines, and already understand your thesis better than you do. An unfortunate subset are also charming, witty and good-looking, and therefore hated by everyone.
And which am I? I'd like to think No 6, but I suspect there's more than a touch of No 2 about me, too.
--------------------------------------------

Monday, 14 January 2008

Thesis Ponderings

How do you write a conclusion to three and half years of work, where do you begin? I started work on my concluding chapter today (although this isn't the last one that needs writing - still the introduction to do) and sat for some time debating where to start, what I should include, and how to set it out. I decided at the time is was easier just to start writing and worry about the exact details later, as it turned out I think that was the better way of doing it. You can often get so caught up in the little details that the big picture goes out of the window.

Maltspot: Edradour - Various

Since my other half wasn't big on whisky I never really had the chance to drink it very often, it is a drink better shared, until we went to Edradour distillery up near Pitlochry and it all changed, its now one of my (and his) favourites.

Edradour 10 Year Old: A lovely light, honey and peat flavour. Extremely drinkable and the one that got the whisky obsession restarted.

Ballechin, Burgundy Finish: A new whisky from the distillery, good for anyone that likes peaty whiskies. Really rich and flavourful with a wonderful smoky aroma.

Edradour Straight from the Cask Burgundy Finish: Instead of being finished off in the normal sherry cask, this one has been finished off in the cask from a French Burgundy cask. Joint favourite with the Ballechin, this is a really special one with a fruity finish.

From the same distillery I've also tried Straight from the Cask Madeira and Rum finishes which I found somewhat acidic although drinkable. They are a pair which deserve to be tried before acquiring a bottle. Likewise with one of older vintages, a 21 year old that I sampled also proved slightly disappointing when compared with the three described in more detail above.

Next Time: Tobermory and Ledaig

Sunday, 13 January 2008

Presenting: Maltspot!

A new fun section of my blog where I talk about whisky I have drunk and what I think of it. This seems like a good idea to me, I get to remember what I've tried and I have an excuse to try more (all in the name of research)!

Maltspot: Iverarity 10 yr Old Speyside & 8 yr Old Islay





One of the wonderful things about where I live is that there are two very good pubs nearby which offer a good selection of whisky.


One of the other benefits is that they always have one on offer as 'Malt of the Month', so I thought I would start recording what I've been trying.


The current two on offer are both Inverarity, a sort of independent bottling company that provides a variety of whiskys from different areas.


The first is a 10 year old Speyside, the other an 8 year old Islay and both lovely if a bit different.


The Speyside is very floral, with a honeyish quality and slight tang of peat/seaweed. If you like Mead then this may be a good whisky to try, in some ways it also resembles a Glenkinchie but is a tad more flavourful.


The Islay is unlike any other Islay I know, very smooth yet still smoky and peaty. I've heard it described as a sort of Islay-Light which seems apt to me. I adore the raw peatiness of the Islay so was surprised to find that I liked this awfully refined version of it.


Panic and procrastination

I've been working on my first lecture today and kept finding myself going around in circle... where do you start designing a course where you have no idea how to even begin... Plus on top of that I'm having nightmarish day dreams where my class hates me. Not good.

Besides that, it is actually fun to go through material I haven't looked at in a while, its interesting what bits you do remember. And it is nice to do something other than PhD work - then again, any form of procrastination is fun...

Which brings me on to my other problem, how do I stop messing about? I'm finding that I'm spending more and more time on the net these days, looking at web-comics, tv reviews, other blogs, news websites, online games... and even off the net I'm time wasting - seriously, I'm up to £10,000/points on the Las Vegas version of solitaire (one of the options on the Microsoft Windows version)... very sad but better than trying to re-read chapter three of the thesis for the umpteenth time.

Friday, 11 January 2008

Well Here's To Persia

So my course that I had designed a long time ago (or so it seems) is actually running, in some ways it is a surprise that it is going ahead. A late entrant (with more potentially) tipped the course from a not-gonna-happen option to one which is now active. Unfortunately this means that I have to actually prepare stuff now... annoying but in some ways it is good that it is happening. Its good for me from a career-development perspective. Its just that finishing the PhD along with this course is going to be complex and interesting. I have a feeling that I am going to be stressed, neurotic and tired before very long.




Anyway in the meantime here's a pretty picture of Persia for us to enjoy...


Monday, 7 January 2008

Spices and Red Hot Shoes of Iron



I got a book just before Christmas on the history of spices in the western world, and I have to admit it was really interesting. A large part of the book dealt with spices in ancient Greece and Rome which may explain some of my interest. However, it is interesting to consider that much of the motivation behind exploration was simply due to a desire for something tasty to stick in your dinner.


Only problem reading it was that you end up with a insatiable urge to start cooking and eating...


The other volume I was reading was the Grimm Fairy Tales. Again, I found this interesting as it is amazing how much the stories have been edited. Most people would never consider that the original ending for Snow White was that the evil Queen was forced to wear iron shoes that were heated and that she danced until she died. Not the sort of the story you would expect for children... Then again with some kids you never know.