How is it Wednesday already?

Posted by September Blue Wednesday, 15 April 2009 0 comments

1. We're going to London tomorrow to see this, which is both a cool-sounding film (by the man who made Helvetica) and features a panel discussion afterwards with Jonathan Ive. Jonathan Ive, people. I plan to smuggle in my ailing CRT iMac in the hopes that being in the same room as its father will restore it to health, and possibly a processor upgrade. The train tomorrow is at the kind of time which wouldn't really count as early if I'd managed to get any sleep at all last night, but alas, no, so I plan to spend the journey alternating between sleep and work. Because I'm that pathetic.

2. Well, busy, maybe. This morning was taken up with unexpected conference-organising related crises and a computer that wouldn't start up because of a problem with deciding my documents folder was actually the administrator's documents folder on the C drive and screwing up the path to that accordingly, meaning that the computer took nearly an hour to start up and then wouldn't explain what was wrong some stupid Windows thing, none of which had really featured in my Getting Stuff Done plans. Now I'm exhausted and still behind on all the multitude of things that should be done, and updating my blog while the computer takes a very... long... time to download a work-related program I wanted to spend some time messing around with when I'm not in the office. No, on second thoughts, this is pathetic.

3. I know, the template's all messed up. I'm working on it, in a sort of passive way.

4. Any suggestions for the story behind this? Because there must be one, and it must be good.


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Posted by September Blue Friday, 10 April 2009 0 comments

I cannot swim. Really, I cannot swim. I don't mean that I don't know how, which is an unfortunate but fixable situation; I mean that I do know how, and I've had lessons up to the point of jumping into the pool in your pyjamas to pick a brick up from the bottom of the deep end (a skill which I'm sure I'll need one day), and there is no longer any excuse for my inability to manage more than a handful of lengths in one session apart from being fundamentally, irrevocably, and possibly genetically bad at swimming.

My mum and my brothers are great swimmers. Me and my dad sink. We're both fine underwater, but lacking gills, this doesn't really help much.

It's good to have a swimming pool a short distance from my office again anyway, though I miss the huge, fancy swimming pool at my very-sports-conscious last university. Swimming is good exercise, I can take a short detour to the pool on my way home, etc etc etc. Still, I wish I could actually swim like an adult.

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yes, I know about the newt babies now too

Posted by September Blue Tuesday, 7 April 2009 3 comments

Dinner the other night:

"You're my friend! How could you not tell me that Tom Paris once regressed into being a newt?"
"I'm sorry! I didn't realise! I thought you knew! ...Seriously, how did you not know that?"

Take away my geek cred now.

I'm not interested in changes quite that drastic in my own life, but doing a postdoc in a different field is making me wonder about how much my career path could - or should - diverge from the subject of my PhD. Obviously, I don't want to work on that particular specialised area forever, but my postdoc is several steps further removed than would typically be expected, to the point where people in my new department who've asked me what my background is have typically responded with "...Oh. So, how did you end up working on this?"

(That makes them sound mean, which is not right. They're not mean. They're just genuinely surprised - it really is quite a jump.)

This post doesn't last forever, and I'm keenly interested in getting some kind of scripted career trajectory together in which my PhD work and my postdoc work both play a part. There isn't a huge amount of overlap there. So, I could stick in the PhD field in spirit if not in office and use the postdoc work to vaguely back it up; I could jump ship to the postdoc field and brush off the PhD work; or I could carve out a niche for myself that includes both, at least to some degree.

The first option is the one I'm least interested in right now, because my postdoc isn't directly applicable to the sort of posts and funding I'd be applying for after it's over. And, plus, I really like this field, which makes option B seem a little brighter. Still, I don't think that even with a postdoc I have enough of a background to make a career in the new field, and trying to do so anyway would disregard the work I have done - a PhD, a pretty nifty publication, a lot of conference papers and contacts that I'm not inclined to cast off.

That leaves option C, heading in a direction which combines material from both of them. This is both possible, and appealing, in a way which is difficult to explain without getting too identifiable, but try it this way: my PhD was on, let's say, owl-spotting in the English countryside. My postdoc is in the field of putting radio collars on saltwater crocodiles in the Australian outback. And the people who've been dealing with saltwater crocodiles for a while have started to look into possible ideas they could borrow from other disciplines, like looking at how paleontologists are using a particular kind of modelling to track the maximu speed of an infurated Tyrannousaurus. Well, birds are descended from dinosaurs anyway, right? So could some of those ideas be applied to owl-spotting? Eh, possibly - and this is, without me even having to bullshit about it, legitimately A Growing Field.

It's kind of specific. But it's more about a methodology and a field of general interest than it is about a specific topic. And, well, I still know a lot about owls.

So that's something I'm thinking of, with a view to being employable in the future, hopefully - maybe - possibly - one day - in that all-hallowed Permanent Post. Partly because I want that kind of life and financial security; partly because I want my career to follow some kind of path I have some vague control over; and partly because I have moved thirteen times in the last eleven years and I have had it with moving house.

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Not At Home To Visitors

Posted by September Blue Thursday, 2 April 2009 3 comments

My flat isn't big, but it's long and narrow and spans two floors, and there's a front door into the hallway on both of them. A bit odd, this, as far as design goes. Maybe it's converted from two bedsits? I don't suppose I'll ever know, and all the information I have on Mysterious Upstairs Door is that it's listed on the inventory from my letting agents as an 'emergency door'.

It's right behind a tall bookcase, stacked as full of books as it was for the tenant before me. Using this as an exit would require a very specific emergency, I'm thinking. Maybe a really slow-rising flood.

But the other door does have a doorbell. And several times this week, that doorbell has rung. Twice, today. Twice in the last half hour. Both times I ignored it, on the grounds that the time it would take me to go down the stairs, out of my actual front door, through the hall, up another set of communal stairs, and then back over to the Mysterious Upstairs Door, is longer than it would take for the person doing the ringing to decide I wasn't in and leave. (And anyway, maybe it was Jehovah's Witnesses.) But then it rung again - and then someone knocked on the door ten minutes after that, fairly hard, which unless the JWs have got a little more determined since the last time I spoke to some, is generally not the way they go about things.

And yet! I still haven't gone out to see who it is, because each time, surely they'll have gone away by the time I get there, right? I'm sure they can hear my TV. Probably they think I'm ignoring them. And this is true, I am ignoring them, but I wonder if they have any idea that I'm ignoring them because I'm trapped by a logistical problem, that I'm wondering what they think of me, and that I'm spending far more thought on trying to work out what's behind their determination to speak to me than I ever would be if I'd really answered the door.

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