Monday, 26 January 2015

Here there and everywhere!

The view from my office window this week, aka the train

On the 2nd November 1949 Winston Churchill said:    
“Writing a book is an adventure. To begin with, it is a toy and an amusement; then it becomes a mistress, and then it becomes a master, and then a tyrant. The last phase is that just as you are about to be reconciled to your servitude, you kill the monster, and fling him out to the public.”

I am finding that writing an academic paper amounts to the same thing. I am not sure if I have slain the beast yet, but I did trim about 1000 words or 10% from the word count on Saturday whilst travelling on the train on the way home and at home after I had eaten. I was shattered by the time I had finished and felt like I never want to see the piece again. Unfortunately it doesn't finish there, I have to answer some questions that reviewers asked regarding the content.
Ian is beginning to find eggs all over the place now.
Ian was wondering where the chicken house birds
were laying their's and found a stash of 7 behind the boy's
alpaca shed in the feeders and sometimes even
in the nesting boxes.

Wading through the snow again. It has not been heavy, but
consistent snowfalls this week and so Ian has spent some of
his time clearing snow again
I suppose I should back up a bit for folks not aware of the process of getting those blessed papers into academic journals. Researchers do some research and then write about it - that's the easy bit. They then send it off to a journal where an editor decides if it is going to be sent off for review, hence the name peer review journals. Other researchers then take precious time to look over the paper for free - not forgetting it is a privilege to be asked to do this and looks good on your CV. They can then accept it, reject it or ask for modifications. It is rare to get accepted first time around and mine has come back to me three times now, once from the editor and twice from the reviewers. The difficulty is that it is a paper that crosses academic disciplines, part natural science and part sociology - not easy bedfellows at the best of times, so pitching the writing correctly for this particular journal is hard. At least they were kind enough to give me an extension to get it finished, my co-author has been away a lot and now I am travelling a bit with field work, meetings and a funeral to go to.
The feeder is a popular gathering place

Snow apparently is infinitely more preferable than water
So this week I have been mainly travelling! I have been getting so good at working while I am travelling though that I forget to take time out just to stare out of the window. Twice now I have been so deep in work, I hadn't noticed that I was approaching my station - good job mine is the last stop. At least it feels productive. On the Tuesday I travelled back from Tartu, I spent Wednesday at home and then set back off  on the 6:40 bus to Tartu on Thursday via a meeting in Riga. The meeting was the first one when my students got to meet each other and I think it went fine and everyone seemed happy. One of my supervisors had come down for another meeting and joined us to meet the Latvian student and see how we are getting on with our research. We had a really good chat on the way back and is the most time we have had to talk in the two years I have been studying. Certainly worth the trip for that!
See what I mean?

Herk in the shelter this week, instead of hogging the shed
The next morning though, I was under the impression that we should be having a doctoral seminar. Hmmph! It would appear that everyone else knew except me. This is a problem of not being on-site. I should have guessed when reminder emails were not sent out, but I couldn't remember when the last one was sent, if it was for the week before or the week I was up in Tartu. I had been concentrating so much on my evaluation and getting work in for that I hadn't really taken much notice. So at 10am on Friday morning I found out for definite that there was no meeting and I was stuck in Tartu for a day with nothing planned. If I had found out an hour earlier I could have set off back home. Oh well! Only thing to do was get stuck into finishing off the beast and download papers that I needed.

Veronica, our old lady now
Surprise, surprise, I didn't move much on Sunday. I chilled. I didn't do any work, I did undemanding things like washing and sewed buttons more firmly onto a coat. I entered packets of seeds that have arrived into my seed list for the year and made a haggis - well pseudo haggis, it had the pluck of a chicken or rather a few chickens rather than the pluck of a lamb.

Agnese our cute little one
Monday was back to working on my studies this time for an abstract that has to be submitted by the end of the week. This abstract is the basics of what I or a colleague will be speaking about in a conference later on in the year. After this, I do believe I haven't any deadlines for a wee while, that will be nice. My colleague passed me on a paper to read that fitted in nicely with this abstract, but to my horror it also opens up yet another Pandora's box of reading. One of the problems with the type of research I do is that there are little bits of information in different disciplines, so sometimes I am looking in geography papers, sometimes it is conservation, sometimes planning, sometimes sociology and so on. Each subject maybe researching something similar but they all use different terms and it makes finding out what each discipline has to say tricky. Google scholar is not a lot of help if you don't use the correct terminology. Still, you can't say it is boring.

Looking even cuter
Fleeces are getting thick 
And finally to round off a week of studies I will finish with a MOOC I have just completed. Heard of a MOOC before? No? It stands for Massive Open Online Course and they are free courses on the internet, there are quite a few of them these days and good opportunities to learn something new. I had been recommended to find out about the Stockholm Resilience Centre and the work they are doing and so when I heard they were doing a course I thought it might be useful to see where they are going with their research. There were points I had wished I had a little more time to devote to it, but it was interesting. A lot I had heard before, but it was good to hear it put across all together and hear of people who despite their research were optimistic that mankind can make a difference to the planet - well if they make some drastic changes in our rather resource hungry, consumerist Western lifestyle.


  1. Just reading about your research leaves me feeling tired! It must be very satisfying though. Ian (son in Blyth) has finished his PhD but is still waiting for viva. Long delays probably means he has to study his research again! Hope the weather doesn't get too unmanageable for you both. Take care!

    1. It is leaving me tired at the moment and I really need to find the balance in it. I would hope your son doesn't have to do the research again, that would be demoralising and I heartily sympathise.

  2. Churchill's quote speaks to me this morning. I am at the tyrant stage with mine right now. After a couple of years of working on it all I can see are its flaws.

    Your last paragraph speaks to me as well. Even as I see the urgent need to change the way our society lives, I remain optimistic. It bothers me that so many people believe we've already crossed the tipping point, that the best we can do is serve a hospice role for the world, or (worst of all) that there is some sort of divine intent to destroy the world, now being played out. I choose to believe that humanity's best days are before it as we settle into a sustainable gentle way of living in harmony with the rest of the natural world.

    On another note, your alpacas are about the cutest animals I've ever seen. :)

    1. It's nice to know I am not the only one thinking this way about the way the world is going.

      I do think our alpacas are cute too :)

  3. I've got a headache just reading about your paper.....give the fluffiness a chance!!!

    1. Oh yes! The fluffiness of cakes, flowers and family outings - something I will be doing in the UK very soon. Noooo work!


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