Saturday, December 31, 2011

A Very Happy New Year! Hear's to a great 2012!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Happy Holidays!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

The Joys of Academic Writing

Two posts in a week? The world just tilted.

I have not been looking forward to this paper. I've made no pretense about it. I knew it was coming from the first week of October (and in some ways, before that) and I haven't wanted to write it since day one. Researching it for the last month was a lesson in self determination (or preservation), but I managed it.

The problem is that this paper has nothing to do with museums. It's 10,000 words about educational systems and the problems ICTs have caused in the traditional system. It's not interesting. I'm quite certain it is for some people, but educational theories, complaints of ICT destroying modern schools, and fifty other similarly veined arguments, have never held much interest for me. But I know I have to write this paper as the basis of everything that comes. This paper has to prove, basically, that learning outside of school is just as important, if not more important that learning within. And that using ICTs increases that learning potential. It has to prove this, because that is the basis of my bid for museums in my thesis.

But it's not going well. I'm at 3000 words right now, and it's neither flowing, writing or making sense. It's bogged down in five different learning theories which all sort of overlap each other, complicated by three that are for ICT in different uses, complicated by the fact that kids have a sixth opinion. It deals with too much and yet doesn't really come to any conclusions yet (it will). I'm bored writing it. When I'm bored writing something I find it almost impossible to write. I'll do 200 words in an hour. When I am interested and enjoying what I'm writing, I can do 2000 words in an hour (academic work; non-academic is about 4000 in an hour).

Short of having someone read it over right now, I'm not sure what else to do. And I hate letting people read unfinished work. I may have to just slog through the next 1000 words really slowly to get over this learning theory hump and onto the factual part of this paper. Hopefully that will be easier to write and flesh out. This part is like pulling teeth. And the headache isn't helping. I slept horribly last night, and lost two hours the night before. Tomorrow is presentation day and I really need to be awake and well.

Oh, the joys of being a PhD student. At least I am currently listening to the lunch seminar I missed (an account of writing) and hoping that perhaps that inspires me.

Friday, December 2, 2011

New Adventures

This post may ramble around a bit; my apologies.

A week ago I attended the Museums on the Web 2011 day at the IWM in London. It was rather a last minute addition to my schedule, all told, because my supervisor was chairing the day. I find conference attendence awkward. I am not very good at networking (though I realise that is sort of the bread and butter of being a PhD student!) and find approaching groups of people to be a lesson in nerve-wracking terror. Blessedly, there were a few good friends attending! The downside of this was that I don't believe any of us really did much networking. At least I have put names to the faces of Twitterers I've followed for ages and I will feel less terrified about emailing them for assistance in the new year.

There were a variety of very good topics raised and some truely surprising presentations. The most startling for many was a presentation on the advanced level that photographic imaging has reached. I had no idea that a single picture could be 22GB worth of data in detail! It seems to be mostly art galleries that are going in for this level of image detailing, in order to make available works of art on their websites, which technology that allows for pin-point zooming on the works of the great masters. If I was still an art history student, I am certain I'd be bouncing in my seat in happiness. It is still amazing to me to realise how far technology is coming on a day-to-day basis.

The conference was also an opportunity to meet with a former MA collegue, who is assisting with the DREAM conference next May in Denmark. I desperately want to go (despite the high cost), and would welcome the opportunity that the pre-phd conference events would allow me. As my supervisor is once again chairing, I am hopeful something can be arranged. The conference, plus travel, plus accomodation would be a very large fee indeed and I'm certain it's not in my budget. A travel bursary will certainly be applied for!

I have began paper compilation. By which I mean, I am now trying to organise the pages and pages of notes I've taken over the last month into some semplance of useful order. It's not always easy, but I have a workable outline that will likely change on a continuous basis until I write the conclusion. It is due in four weeks, however, so next week I must definitely begin the writing process.

Work has been heavily interrupted due to lack of sleep. Finally, the residential services committee contacted those of use affected by the outside noise yesterday to explain the situation (after 4 weeks) and promise that it will be resolved by next weekend (which will make it 5 weeks since I've had a good night's rest). Of course, the matter of compensation was thrown around at the meeting last night, but it is a valid point. I hope I won't end up being the one to run a campaign again estate services, though. I don't have the time! Though I will happily flag wave my heart out. After this many weeks, after a week now of lost work, I would like something as an apology (besides a verbal 'yeah, we screwed up...sorry', which is what we got last night). I'm not hopeful, however.

Lastly, through much trial and error, the trip to Munich in the new year has been booked! I will be gone a week, able to see one of my cousin's home games and also tour museums to my heart's content. And there will be beer and food at the best tavern in the city. I am most excited and dearly wish I didn't have to wait until the end of January. But it will give me a light at the end of the tunnel for this paper and the research for the next one (easier, I hope!). I'm certain there will be a post about it all in February.

That's me for December. Look for an update in the new year with much Christmas holiday cheer attached!

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Remember, Remember

This will be a short post. In case you were wondering.

November 5th has to be one of my favourite dates. Obviously, it has rather a lot of significance for England, especially where fireworks are concerned. I have been listening to them for nearly two weeks, what with the Diwali celebrations. They never really stopped, but last night they were definitely louder. Tonight I have my headphones blaring in order to drown them out. I don't much go in for fireworks, but there is a certain historical symmetry there, if you consider it. Though Guy Fawkes hardly used Roman candles to try to blow up Parliament.

Mostly, I love this date because it's my Aunt's birthday. Therefore, it has always been impossible to forget. And tomorrow is my mother's and then the next day is my father's. And the next day after that is one of my other aunt's. November is just one of those months in my family!

Moving onwards; in short. This week has been something of an accomplishment, since I only began this degree a month ago and I have already delivered into my supervisor's hands a 5000 word paper which received some very nice comments. I feel I am officially a student again, which would be worth much celebrating, except I don't really have the time. Seeing as I'm a student again. It's a funny old circle. Now my walls are decorated with Gantt charts, monthly planners, training plans and my bookshelf is full of books (as it should be).

I am absolutely loving this.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Jolly Ol' England

I had a brilliant post planned out in my head last night. About something or other. If I can ever remember what it was, you will have the chance to read it. Until then, we shall all make do with the overused 'updates' post.

As some of you may have gathered, I moved countries twenty days ago. I am quite certain that is shocking and very adventurous sounding to some, but I will hereby shrug my shoulders and utter the dreaded 'meh'. Twenty days ago I did not move countries. Twenty days ago I moved home.

I have this utterly strange sense in my head that believes the last two years were some horrid dream that is finally, blessedly over. The other part of me knows it wasn't a dream and that it wasn't all bad. I am trying very hard not to give either part much room for further consideration. Thankfully, I have a whole bucketload of work to occupy about 25% of my brain power, which is more brain power than I'm even capable of using.

The last two weeks have been an endless series of meetings, seminars, the occasional lecture, remembering how to read an academic book vs. a fictional book, and remembering what a 9-5 research job actually means. I think I have finally wrapped my brain around returning to studenthood and have now settled into a routine (of sorts).

I had a solid weekend of very useful research and subsequent brainstorming. As such, I have at least worked out my research aims for the next 3 months, a workable APG plan, part of my methodology, and perhaps even a few chapters of my thesis, though that last part sounds particularly hopeful rather than realistic.

Today I have had a stark flashback to my senior years in undergrad and the dreaded marking of essays. I say dreaded, but it is usually something I enjoy. When the essays are interesting, coherent and on topics of particular interest or use. I'm afraid the day has been full of highs and lows. And another day of the same tomorrow. Still, I feel more a proper member of the department now, with honest work to do.

Autumn has arrived in central England, and it is cold and blustery outside. We have, however, had a lovely few weeks of almost summery weather, so I will not complain. The weather is not particularly wonderful in the homeland either, as this time of year is prone to be. This feels, however, properly English. The very warm weather was throwing my brain for a loop. Now I have an excuse to drink copious amounts of tea and laze around in my university hoody. One does not need to be dressed to be productive.

I am looking forward to next week, when my To Do list will narrow down to research and writing and not the other dozen and a few things I have this week. A few quiet weeks would be most welcome.

Friday, September 23, 2011

The Golden State

California is known for a lot of things. Last week, I got to see quite a few I didn't know much about.

California is beautiful. I could have told you that after my first visit there in 2004. It's a stunning piece of countryside, and I didn't see much of it then.

This time, we rectified that mistake! Between Thursday and Monday I drove over a 1000 miles. I saw the valley, LA, Disneyland, the east side of the Sierra's and the edge of Death Valley, the mountains and Yosemite. (The last two twice). I got to drive some of it too, in a really crappy rental car. Never buy a Hyundai Elantra. It's a horrible car.

The whole point of the trip, though, was to spend time with my sissy, and we got 3 full days together of just the two of us. So, check that box off. It was fantastic to go on a road trip, now that we are proper adults with the ability to rent cars and stay in hotels and such. Of course, we went to Disneyland.

Disneyland California is small. Actually, it's tiny compared to Orlando. But it feels pretty damn big after 8 hours of walking around! We did most things, except the stuff for real kiddies and a couple of rides I refused to go on. Unfortunately, the Pirates ride was closed, so I consoled myself by buying a pirate themed dress at the giftshop. We went back in the evening for fireworks and the Fantasmic show on the Rivers of the Americas. Both were really very good. We didn't get back to the hotel until after midnight!

We had every intention of driving back to Turlock Saturday morning. Well, until we hit the construction mess coming in to LA on Thursday. So, instead of the 5 hour drive up I5, we took the scenic route home. I am laughing as I type this, because I have never taken a more scenic route! It took us 11 hours (with stops)! We went out of the city on the north-east side and up passed Edwards AFB to the 395. This highway runs between the Sierras and Death Valley and finally up into Nevada. It was pretty amazing countryside at the start. There are the mountains on the left and then...desert everywhere else. Just low scrubland and mile after mile of straight roads. And the occasional house. After a couple hundred miles the trees come back and the mountains get bigger (on both sides) and you hit civilization again. Rachel wanted to stop at the Devil's Postpile. Which is sort of like the Giant's Causeway in Ireland, except not. It was an awesome detour into a mountain resort area and then down a very long windy road with towering trees!

After we got back on the highway we turned off at Lee Vining (almost to Nevada!) to head up the 120 through Yosemite. The entrance on the east side is at 9945ft. So, I've been to 10,000 and not just on an airplane! We managed to get across the park before sunset - just. I was so interested to see how the geography changes from one side to the other. And then we took the really fun way down the western side on Old Priest Grade. Top Gear has destroyed me. But damn was that a fun road!

On Monday we set off to Yosemite again, this time to the valley (south of Tioga Pass/120). Just getting there involves some pretty impressive driving (and a lot of construction, apparently). We were a bit late. ;) We stopped at the most amazing look out ever, which Rach and Lizzy said not many people know about. No wonder; you have to park before the long tunnel and walk halfway down to an opening in the wall. At the end, is a hole with a gate across it. Crawl under it and the floor drops away to the valley below. You can look left or right up and down Yosemite Valley and feel like you are standing on the edge of the world.

Once we got to the valley, we did the predictable tourist stuff by visiting the gift shops and visitor's centre. Sent a postcard from the post office and toured the museum. Then we walked up to Lower Yosemite Falls. The waterfalls in the valley are very June. By now, they are almost dried up. Still, it makes for a pretty picture. Then we had lunch in the parking lot and drove down to Bridalveil Falls, which was still flowing. We climbed up to the base of the falls (which was a lot of rock climbing, shuffling, sliding, slipping, and scrambling up boulders). At the top is a small pool where the falls empty into before they flow down to the valley floor. In the spring, it's under a torrent of water, but by this time of year was the perfect place to go swimming. The water, being mountain run-off, is only about 45*F, but it was hot out and the climb was tiring, so we went swimming. I did actually swim, without my feet touching the rocks! Once it got too cold we climbed back down to where everyone else was and went to dry off in the car.

We went and toured the Ahwahnee Hotel, which is stunning and then on to The Lodge where we had dinner insight of the Yosemite Falls. And then we drove home.

A fantastic trip. And now it is off to England in a few days!

Monday, September 12, 2011

This Is Not an Update

Off to sunny (and hot) California, in some blatant attempt to extend summer by another week. And to take one last relaxing ::cough::fun::cough:: holiday before the real work begins.

There will be a proper post for September in a week or two.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Last Days of Summer

Quite literally, I think. I always feel a bit strange at this time of the year. This last week of summer for children across Canada. In a few days it will be the Labour Day weekend and then there will be school. For me, this was always the week that seemed to fly by the fastest of all. The week you tried to hold on to like sand slipping through your fingers. Eventually, September always arrived.

This year, this week is both a blessing and a curse. I suppose I could have let it pass by unremarked; simply continued on my usual routine, but I didn't. Instead, I jumped in the car yesterday to head up to the lake house for a few last days of peace and quiet and summer sun. But it has made this whole thing rather bittersweet. It is hard to look at the trees and lake and rocks and every little thing and wonder 'is this the very last time I'll see it?' It's very hard to say goodbye, not knowing if you're coming back. But I needed this.

Tonight the lake is quiet. Almost everyone is up, but the lights are dim and the noise is non-existant. The occasional car passing by on the highway and the crickets chirping are the only sounds. No boats, no animals, no people. Just silence. The novetly of sleeping with the window open never gets old. The sheer peace of gazing up at a sky strewn with ten thousand stars seen by the naked eye alone. The quiet of good company and good food and no need to say anything.

In two weeks I leave for California. Two weeks after that I leave for England. There is so much to do next month and so many things that will change. But for tonight, I can gaze out at my own bit of heaven on these last days of summer and smile.

ETA: There will be more about museums and such in the coming months, I promise.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Travel Plans

Flights are now booked, at least to San Francisco. September 13-21st. It should be a fantastic trip; even if all I do is sit around the house waiting for the sister to get home from work everyday! It will just be nice to see her for a few hours.

It is August 10th. The mandatory check in for Big Bang is in 5 days. I find this rather hilarious, as my Big Bang is not only done, but mostly beta read too and the second one is now finished at 35,000 words! Now I do wish I'd signed that one up too, but at the time I figured that was insanity. Of course, at the time, I had no idea I was suddenly going to be buried by plot bunnies. I dearly hope that is the last of them. I need a break and I have research to do.

I must get to booking flights to England. Hopefully the idiots will stop rioting in Leicester before then, but if not they're keeping well away from the university. And I never go to the city centre after dark anyways. I'm sure it won't last that long, since the rioting in London has already died down. Shite disturbing (excuse the Scottish) never lasts long, even when the disturbers are unemployed.

I have decided to ignore the news for the foreseeable future. I don't consider this burying my head in the ground. I just can't take the large amount of negative/tragic news coming from basically every country. I just want a good news story; is that too much to ask?

Onwards and upwards and the days are getting shorter.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

And We're Off

My, well, it has been a while, hasn't it? So many things.

Firstly, the 37,000 word story is now the 43,000 word story. And story number two is 11,000 and climbing. I hate to admit it, but I'm probably using them as a crutch for not doing research instead. Hope to finish by the end of this month and then I will have no excuses in August. [Except that 1000 page novel I'm buying today.]

Things have been coming together, slowly. I now have a student loan, a small scholarship and a visa. Now I get the lucky goal of trying to find flights/trains. The part I really hate about traveling is the planning to travel part. I'd love to just get on the same flight to Heathrow I usually take, but it doesn't make much sense, and I do have to worry about price/baggage/train prices/etc. which I didn't really care about the last few times I did it.

I have an invitation to Germany this year. How lovely! Maybe I'll spend Christmas with family, after all. I'm doing a short holiday in Canada for Easter and then Paris for my birthday next spring. I just need those little trips to look forward to. I don't want too many, though, as that would detract from actually doing work.

July is almost over, and I can't quite believe it. I have so many things to do in August it will just fly by! And I'm probably off to California the week before I leave for England (because I'm just that stupid). Will be a GREAT trip if I do get to go.

Speaking of things to do. The house is quiet. I should take that opportunity to write a few more thousand words!

Saturday, June 11, 2011


My Number 1 Reason for not updating is very simple. I have spent the last three weeks hand writing 37,000 words of a story I am embarassed to admit to. Basically, I've been busy hiding my head in shame. And will be for a least another week.

Oh, and there was golfing too.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Passing Days

I've been rather quiet, I realise. However, since nothing much has happened on the PhD front (beyond getting closer and closer to moving back to England); and the writing front has been completely non-existent (okay, lie, but I'm not admitting to the two stories I wrote and posted last month), I haven't had much to post about.

I'm ignoring my blogs as much as the four stories I have on the go. I'm was half contemplating Nano again this year, until I got into my PhD program, which will be exactly one month in in November. I'm good, but I'm not that good. To make matters worse the fact that I'm Not Writing is sort of becoming terrifying. I've gone longer than this before, but not because I couldn't write, rather because I just didn't have time. I've got all the time in the world now, and no ability to write. Nothing is inspiring me, despite the fact that there are three shows I watch that just started again with new episodes. I can barely even edit Nano10 for more than an hour at a time before I just can't handle it.

But tomorrow is Mother's Day, and in honour of the fact that tonight is going to be one of those horrific nights that unfortunately happen (private life, don't ask), I am going to sit down after brunch tomorrow and stare at the computer until, either, I write something or my brain implodes.

So, that's the plan.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Counting Down

In five months I will be back in England! I have already reached the stage of 'can I just go already? With the weather, work, lack of actual jobs, parents, and everything else I would really like to get started on the rest of my life.

This weekend has been mostly exhausting. Friday the fam was around for Easter dinner. Four children hunting Easter eggs and a house full of adults. Was nice to see everyone, though and eat too much food! Yesterday Spring finally arrived in the form of sun and warm temperatures. I spent the day dying eggs with hundreds of children at the museum. Stupidly I went for a walk when I got home and then proceeded to actually fall asleep before dinner. I haven't been that tired in a very long time. Still lingering today, so good thing all I had to manage was a big brunch that someone else made and a movie. Water for Elephants, in case anyone is interested.

I've promised myself that next month I will get back into research again. I haven't done much for the last two months and I already have a meeting planned the end of September with my supervisor. Five months until this really starts! I'm really going to do this. I want to be well prepared for that meeting, however, because after I start out on the right foot, it will only go downhill from there. Better than the other way, probably.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011


So, I have something to admit. Not many people know about it thus far, because it's taken me a bit come to terms with in my head. My own acceptance.

I didn't get full funding for the PhD. Now, that is not to say that partial funding won't come through yet, but any chance of a fully funded degree is out the window. I have a few options left for first year, but I will have to reapply to everything for second and third year. Which is a pain. I haven't told many people, because it brings up all sorts of questions.

The important thing is, is that I am STILL GOING TO ENGLAND. I have planned and calculated and concluded that it *is* possible, even without funding, to do this and not land myself in so much debt that I will still be paying it off when I retire (meaning I won't ever get to retire).

Also, my supervisor is Ross Parry. I can't *not* do this degree. And I certainly can't bugger it up!

In other news, in the next few months I will become published in an ACTUAL JOURNAL. The academic kind that they print and put in libraries!

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Half of Something

Tuesday morning I woke up to find a long looked for, but still unexpected email in my inbox.

Leicester has, beyond all belief and rationality, accepted my PhD proposal for October this year. I expected to hear from them weeks ago, and when I didn't, I suppose I'd given up in my head. So the email came as a surprise, on many levels. But a happy one.

My first thought was along the lines of 'OMG!'. The second, more extended thought was, 'but what about funding?' My third thought was 'I AM GOING BACK TO ENGLAND.' After that, there wasn't much coherency and a lot of laughter for the next few hours. Of course, day one of Cloud 9 was followed by day two of reality and planning, but since that is what I am best at, I feel it's working well. Planning is something I can focus on; something concrete and doable. And it means I worry less about the what-ifs.

[The largest of which is, of course, whether my funding comes through and how I will possibly do this without it.] But I find I am focusing less on that and much more on the practical aspects of moving once more and research that I have now let lapse for two months. The second of these is the most important. I've six months to worry about moving, and last time I did it all in two.

Everyone is very excited, especially my aunt (of all people). My parents are about as excited as last time, because after nearly two years they were nearly convinced they had me in Canada for the rest of eternity. What a silly notion.

Since it is almost the end of February, I feel like I can declare this month a big win on more than the PhD level. It means this year has started so much better than any in recent memory and I can only hope that means that I'm due for it to continue. Optimism coming along just fine...

Friday, January 14, 2011

Beginnings of the Year

Not too many years ago, 2011 sounded like a date far into the future. The next decade began last year, in 2010 technically, but 2011 seems to take it that one step further. We can't pretend it's still hovering around the 2000s; we're firmly on the way to the 2050s now and that's just terrifying.

I suppose I had some small hope that, but 2011, I would be in a much different place than I was in 2001. That seemed to be a defining year for most of the world and for myself as well. I had hoped that in 10 years things around the world and closer to home would change, but they have not. The world is much the same, though perhaps a little worse off lately, and my life is not so different. The intervening years have certainly been full of different adventures and such, but at this particular moment in January 2011, my life is not so different than January 2001 (except there is less homework to be done).

This should, it can be said, be incentive enough for me to get on with my life and I am trying. I've widdened my job search to include anything that might earn me enough money so that I can move out on my own. I've been more open to relationships and the idea of maybe finding someone to settle down with before I'm 30. [A concept that seemed like a fantastic idea at age 21, but has mostly gone by the wayside since.] I am investigating other career options, at least in the short term. I am still hopeful about a potential PhD and have not given up that route, at least yet. I am pursuing travelling options for the year, if not for my actual birthday. Hopefully by September I will have travelled Somewhere I Have Never Been Before. I am trying to keep in touch with more friends, something that has also fallen by the wayside since I moved to England. I am also trying to keep busy and be more optimistic. I'm not certain how the last of these is going, especially after an exhausting day at work, but since I have only myself as company there is no one to complain that I am breaking a resolution already. I am determined that by January 2012 I will have figured my life out.

That, in itself, is the largest resolution of all and also the hardest to keep.