Jobs You've Held meme

Posted by September Blue Friday, 20 June 2008 0 comments

(via Dance)

Jobs I've had:

1 - Babysitter, for the world's quietest, sweetest baby. She slept, I watched TV. All paid employment should be this way.

2 - General helper/skivvy/extra pair of hands at a vet's. Maker of coffee, cleaner of cages, holder of newborn puppies and arranger of appointments. This job taught me about the meanness of herons (evil!), the most common names for dogs (Sam/Sammy, followed by Holly and Lucky), the theory of performing caesarians on Staffordshire bull terriers (messy), and how to get your insurance company to count your Land Rover as a work vehicle (drive the rep around with a dead calf in the back).

3 - Care assistant, at three different nursing homes. This paid the lowest of any job I ever did, and it was definitely the most physically demanding, but I'd still count it as one of the best jobs I've ever done. (Except for the uniforms, because apparently it's very important that nursing home staff should look like 1950s nurses, and the practicalities of moving fast enough to dodge unpredictable dementia-influenced punches in a heavy knee-length dress be damned.) The last place I worked at, a grand old building that served as various things over a few centuries, was once a GP's surgery where my grandfather worked in his first job after coming to England; I never knew him, but I was always "Dr C's granddaughter" to some of the residents there.

4 - Waitress at a golf club. I can still carry a plate on my wrist, as well. The strangest part of this job was having to chase down very wealthy people who were trying to sneak off without paying, and/or steal their steak knives (I KNOW!), but to do it in such a way that we could all pretend they'd just, you know, forgotten. The second strangest part was dealing with people who believed that if they Made Their Grievances Known in a Very Loud Way, the world would fold to accommodate them, no matter what those grievances were or who they were talking to. (Like the man who was very angry indeed about the size of the car park, and what was I going to do about it? Hmm? And he actually folded his arms and glared down at me in a not-prepared-to-take-'nothing'-for-an-answer way. I challenge you to come up with a response to that that doesn't end up at "...I'm a waitress.")

5 - Till-monkey ('customer assistant', whatever) at A Place I Will Not Name Lest Its Legal Teams Descend On Me, because I really want to mention that time someone brought back their fresh salad with a dead frog inside it (cute little thing, blue, covered in salad dressing) and Management were rather keen on us not mentioning that on the shop-floor at the time. Which was a shame, because we had a great line going in "This is not just a frog - this is a sapphire-blue Amazonian tree-frog, covered in luscious tangy vinaigrette dressing..." jokes. This job affirmed the rule that a friend once taught me about any customer-service job, which is that while 80% of customers will be polite, decent and reasonable human beings, the other 20% will all come along at once. Best customer line from this place: "I was told by the girl at that till I could find the poinsettias here, and I don't know if that was true or if that was just one of the ways you have of making the customer's life more difficult!" As a general rule, anybody who refers to themselves as 'the customer' is going to be a nightmare.

6 - Reformatter. Scanning and text-editing for the assistive technologies people at my university, so that visually impaired students can get the reading as well. This one's sort of fun, especially when the student's studying something interesting, but it's on a zero-hours contract and I only get work when there's work to get. Thus, it exists simultaneously with:

7 - General Library Minion, in various capacities.

8 - Various conference-related things within my department, which - despite the chaotic stress and the sixteen-hour days and the photocopiers that break down at ten to midnight* and the inability of Certain Academics to tie their own shoelaces** and the angry drunken arguments between organisers in the early hours of the morning*** - are huge amounts of fun. With dancing. And hey, you can sleep when you're dead.

9 - Language tutor for international students. Sort of. I don't know. It was an idea the university had for a while. I think they might still be having it, if I'm around next semester. Sweet students, good pay.

10 - TA. I don't need to say more about this one...

* - A slight exaggeration.
** - Another slight exaggeration.
*** - Entirely true, sad to say, but at least I didn't start it.****
**** - Other party's accounts may differ, slightly.

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Wait - he has how many degrees?

Posted by September Blue 0 comments

Two plagiarism posts in a row. It's an epidemic!

The General Medical Council has ruled that Dr Raj Persaud, psychiatrist to the nation, has brought his profession into disrepute through plagiarising other academics' work in his books and articles:

Dr Persaud admitted plagiarising four research papers for his 2003 book From The Edge of The Couch.
He also admitted copying the work of two foreign academics for five articles he wrote for publications including the British Medical Journal and the Independent.
He claimed he was in a confused mental state at the time because of the pressure of juggling his NHS and media work.

[Italics mine, because I loathe the BBC News style guidelines of non-italicised titles.] See also this piece from 2006, at the start of the situation:
The psychiatrist, who has nine degrees and has written three psychology books, has attributed the similarities in text between his own work and the work of US professor Thomas Blass to editorial errors.
An article written by Dr Persaud in the February 2005 edition of Progress in Neurology and Psychiatry was withdrawn in September last year, after Professor Blass claimed that "over 50%
of his piece was my work".
Dr Persaud apologised for the error. He told the Guardian newspaper in November 2005 that the error occurred "when I cut and pasted the original copy, the references at the end were inadvertently omitted".
And from Monday:

The former Radio 4 presenter admitted plagiarising four articles for his 2003 book From the Edge Of The Couch.
But he denied that his actions were dishonest and were liable to bring his profession into disrepute.

So, in short: a) it was just a copy/pasting error that left out formatting, references and quotation marks, and he didn't mean to hand that version in, okay?, and b) anyway it's not his fault that he did, because the computer and/or somebody else messed up, and c) he had so many other things to write for that week, and he was really busy, and you can't expect anyone to think straight under that sort of pressure, so lay off him, and d) anyway, it's not like he was being dishonest.

The GMC should consider themselves lucky, considering. At least Dr Persaud's mother hasn't yet phoned them to complain about the verdict.

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Writing, writing

Posted by September Blue Saturday, 14 June 2008 1 comments

My brother, who works for a journal now, sent me three paragraphs of an article his boss was just about to send out to reviewers. Subject line, 'Google this'. Can you see where this is going? So I'm taking some comfort from the fact that no matter what kind of poorly-argued, loosely-structured and overly-hyphened prose I send out to journals, at least I'm ahead of some people out there just by dint of writing the damn stuff myself.

Sometimes, 'done is better than perfect' is not the best philosophy.

[not known]

Posted by September Blue Saturday, 7 June 2008 1 comments

Interesting post at the (seriously compelling) sociology blog Scatterplot on the subject of academic citation:

I’m not sure any “necessary evil” part of this job feels like a more pointless waste of time than when I’m searching on the web to find where a book publisher is located so I can fill in the [city] field in the sociology citation format. I wonder when was the last time that a single human being anywhere in the world used that information for any purpose whatsoever.

Plus, the corollary frustration of explaining to students (especially students who've never had to do any kind of referencing or bibliography before, which seems to be most of mine) why we make them do such pointless-seeming things as well. Because it's the way academia works, and it's about consistency and clarity and that works better if everyone's doing it the same way, yes, okay, I know that History and Politics make you use a different system, but this is the system we use in this department because it's about - I mean, we need to know the - well - look, because I say so and I am marking your work, all right? All right.

You know who's getting all the jobs?

Posted by September Blue Thursday, 5 June 2008 2 comments

The person who's worked out a fluent and convincing way of saying 'Okay, so your job specification asks for someone who can do X, and while I don't exactly have any experience of doing X, I totally could! Hire me and see!'

Magneto could do his own MRIs, too

Posted by September Blue Wednesday, 4 June 2008 1 comments

My advice for anyone with a rare neuromuscular condition that they're interested in learning more about, what with their GP being patronisingly useless and all: DO NOT GOOGLE IT. Trust me on this. Sure, you come up with some interesting articles in medical journals, and you find out interesting stuff about what nerves do what (including the fact that the cranial nerve you've most likely got problems with is actually associated with migraines and light sensitivity), but then you will read a little more, and a little more, and before long you're paragraphs-deep into articles full of things like "cerebral cortical and basal ganglia misdevelopment," "structural abnormalities of the brain," and "developmental delays."

The rational part of me points out that not discovering anything about developmental delays until I was twenty-seven and had a PhD suggests I have most likely dodged that bullet. The less rational part of me is jumping up and down in exclamation marks, wondering what bullets I might have been attributing to other things. I'm terrible at recognising faces; maybe it's because I have structural abnormalities of the brain? I can't tie shoelaces that don't unravel themselves and snake for freedom after five minutes; is that because I have structural abnormalities of the brain? Inability to function in a coherent state before double-digit times in the morning? Inexplicable fondness for Wham's 'Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go'? Maybe it's all in my head in a very literal sense.

Or maybe not, given the odds. Sadly for my irrational fears, I am fairly normal. But you can't tell me that your mind wouldn't have gone galloping off down that path in that same situation, any more than you can tell me you wouldn't also be thinking, right now, that such things should come with an associated superpower and waiting to see what yours is. Long, sad years of experimentation suggest that I am unable to do Wolverine-claws or fly like Nathan Petrelli, but damn it, there should be something. That would be fair, right?

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