21 September 2012

PhD comics...

There is an online procrastination tool used by many postgraduate students like myself and today, because this entire week I have been feeling particularly tired and procrastinating a lot, I would like to share it. The PhD comics truly reflect my life and thoughts on a regular basis and make me feel better about this whole PhD thing sometimes. Perhaps they would not be understood fully by people that have not been through the postgraduate process, but hopefully they are still a little bit funny. Today's comic is very apt for me, it is exactly how I have been thinking for the entire duration of my PhD.

Now I have to just get a small amount of work done today to make myself feel better for getting so little done all week (not intentionally, things just haven't been working out this week is all). Then I am leaving early and going away for a weekend of birthday-party planning, cake-baking celebrations. And I'm going to do my best to forget all about work and I'm going to read books and knit myself a hat because it's getting cold here and I'm tired of giving away all the stuff I make - I want something for a change. Then hopefully next week will be much more productive (because September is ending and then I just have October and November to get work done because I plan to hand in my thesis in December!).

17 September 2012


On Saturday I was having a nice, lazy weekend day, on which I did a very small amount of work and then did my shopping, and was just looking forward to getting home and having something nice to eat when I realised that I couldn't get home at all because I didn't have my keys with me. I left my keys in my apartment and then left the apartment, for the first time in all the time that I have lived here, and my flatmate is away in Italy. And it has become winter here all of a sudden so at 6 pm the daylight is beginning to disappear. Not to mention it kept raining and the people in the bars were starting to come out into the smoking area - a.k.a. the lane that I live on. I didn't have the landlord's number either. Luckily my friends were at a nearby pub having an early dinner so I stopped in to join them and use somebody's smartphone (perhaps I should get one of those after all?) to check my email and hunt down my landlord's number. After trying to call and not getting through I finally got a message from him, in which he said he was away and couldn't help. So I ask if there is a caretaker or some other person from his company that can get the keys and let me in. No, it seems, there is nobody. Apparently this landlord takes the keys to all of his establishments with him when he goes on holiday. He said I should call a locksmith if I was stuck. Well duh, what did he think I was going to do, hang around in the street for three weeks until my flatmate gets back?

So I walked back into work (with my groceries) so that I could use the internet and the phone and find a locksmith that didn't charge an arm and a leg. I actually have a friend who is a locksmith, but of course he is also away on holiday at the moment. The first locksmith I called was going to charge 75 euro. The next one beat that and told me 70 euro. Then another told me 95! I was about to face up to handing 70 euro over to somebody who would take at least an hour to get to me when I called one last place. Luckily, despite the hour, the guy was there and he told me he would only charge 50! So I took that one and went back to wait outside my apartment again, because he said he'd just be 15 minutes. However, for some reason all of the roads were blocked off and there was a random parade of very noisy race cars going down the main street. So there I was, in the lane, with lots of noisy cars going past on the main street and half-drunk people hang around smoking outside the bar next door and it was starting to get dark. Finally the guy manages to arrive and he takes all of 5 minutes to get me in both the main door and my apartment door, using a bendy piece of plastic. I should probably get one of those just in case (and learn how to use it). Then, after already being the best deal in town, he gave me the poor-student discount because his own children are at university and being ripped-off left, right and centre. So how great is that, it only cost me 40 euro. Of course, it would have cost me nothing if I had not forgotten my keys. But I was all worried that I would have to fork out 100 euro or something like that so it was by far the best outcome.

By the time I got home it was nearly 8 pm and I was so exhausted. I finally got to have nice food (I made pasta carbonara with sauteed courgette and peas) and then I was so tired I just put on a movie. I watched both of the new Snow-White movies and it turns out that the more adult one, with that actress from Twilight, was awful. It was so terrible, the storyline was all over the place and the ending was absolutely crappy. The other one, Mirror Mirror, was far better, though still not very good, and it also had an awful ending. After an entire kids movie with absolutely no song and dance there was a completely random bollywood-like number at the end, which did not go with the movie at all and was just cringeworthy. So to top it off, I recently read a book also called Mirror Mirror, also about Snow-White, by the author that wrote Wicked. It was not good. It was worse than Wicked - it was just a rather lame story that was confusing and hard to get into. By far the best book by that author that I have read is his version of Cinderella.

So the next morning I had to get up at a decent hour because I was going on a dog-walk with my friend and her dog, and about 20 other dogs, because it was a charity fundraiser dog walk, raising money for the association that rescues and re-homes unwanted dogs. And there were so many adorable dogs there! Can't wait to get one for myself. Of course, halfway through it rained on us. And not just a little rain. The shower lasted for no more than 5 minutes but we were soaked to the skin in seconds. After that the walk wasn't so much fun.

Now it is Monday - the weekend has passed very quickly and my schedule at work is so busy that I barely have time to think, let alone sit down and have a bite to eat. So after work I decided to go for a run, seeing as the tag-rugby season is finally all over. First I had to hunt out my running shoes - it's always amazing what you can find under your bed. Finally I found them and what would you know, but I found a pair of socks inside them. Have no idea when the last time that I wore them was, but I assume they were dirty socks. Anyway, I was finally ready and off I went, trying to take it easy because I don't want to get shin-splints again. I ran on grass as much as I could, but the grass was sort of long and wet, so next thing I know my legs are all stinging and itchy - I think I ran through stinging nettle. Not fun. Plus for all that stinging and itching there aren't even marks to show that I was in pain. I hope that the next time I go for a run I remember to watch out for what turned out to be a big, rather obvious patch of stinging nettle.

13 September 2012

Good things and bad things

Good thing: today I save a little bird. It was inside the foyer of the building, fluttering against the glass door. I managed to catch it and put it out the door and it flew off of my hands. But while inside it wasn't actually flying, just fluttering, so I hope that doesn't mean it was hurt or just a baby or something, because I would like for it to have flown away and kept on living. It was really cute too, it had blue and brown feathers.

Bad thing: last night I burnt my mouth on soup so badly that it blistered, on the inside of my mouth and my lip too. Now the blister has broken and I have a gross oozy patch, so it looks like I have a coldsore, which I don't because I never get them, I was just stupid enough to take a spoonful of soup right from the pot. And it hurts and is all tingly. The soup wasn't even that good either, just average.

Good thing: I'm still the flavour of the month at work on account of getting my name in Nature and all, so even though there is so much to do still that I can barely think, everybody is all happy, especially my supervisor. She even suggested that I start giving her chapter drafts for my thesis, which is so positive because it means she's actually supporting my attempt to finish so early.

Bad thing: outside the weather is awful, it is grey and seems dark already and it's so windy, and at 7.30 pm tonight we have our final rugby match, which we have to win so that we get a cup, but it will be cold and half dark. Plus the team we are playing are good, I think we just barely beat them last time, and so many of our best players are away, we will be short on subs and we will all be absolutely exhausted.

Good thing: I have a big lunch-box of chocolate chip cookies to share with the team after the match, and they are the best chocolate chip cookies ever. I feel like I am betraying Cadbury to say it, but these cookies are actually better than the ones I always used to make for everybody, that came out of an old Cadbury cookbook. It was so hard to not eat lots of mixture last night, and then lots of freshly baked cookies (but I managed, because the rugby team would be so sad if I didn't bring cookies).

Bad thing: I have live samples of barnacles here at work again, which is good for some aspects of my work but means I have to look after them, and change the water, and feed them, and on Monday I had to spend the day sorting dead, rotting barnacles from live ones. Plus I am keeping them in the new temperature controlled room, which smells like some sort of plastic or adhesive or some other really chemically smelling thing. So soon I have to go out into this cold, grey day because the barnacles in their new temperature controlled room are in the storage building behind the main building. It's just such a hassle! Stupid barnacles.

Good thing: I got my new Kindle this week! It's so cool, it's small and light and can fit a whole library of books on it. I had to order a case to keep it safe so I'm still waiting for that to arrive, and it is purple and leather and has a light attached so that you can read everywhere and anywhere. All these books at my fingertips is going to be dangerous, I could so easily just read all the time and not work. In fact, I'm off now to have a late lunch and I'll be taking my Kindle with me and reading a chapter before coming back to read boring work stuff.

Bad thing: we lost our rugby match :(

02 September 2012

Work work work

My first paper was published just a couple of weeks ago and the most amazing thing happened last week. I got an email from an editor guy at Nature. He has written a short (very short) summary of my work to be published as a "research highlight" in Nature. As in, the actual science magazine. My name will be in it. With a link to my paper. Now, only scientists get this straight away, so let me explain. You know that song, "the cover of the Rolling Stone"? Well, Nature is the science version of the Rolling Stone. If you publish a paper in Nature you've pretty much got it made. So I have not published in Nature, and I probably never will, but they like my work enough to highlight it and point it out, and my name is there. It will be out this week. It will do great things for my paper and for my CV. Plus my supervisor is pretty stoked, so I should be in her good books for a fair while now.

So with all of that going so well, I just have to make it through the next three months. I need some work to start going right, I need to procrastinate less and be more productive in my writing (sometimes I find myself just staring at my computer screen or a research article for half an hour or more, with nothing new being done). If I can hand my thesis in by Christmas I could have the examination and corrections done by February next year. But in order to hand in my thesis I need to write an introduction, a methods chapter (that's more than half done at least), three more research chapters and a discussion. That's a lot. Though if it's always raining then at least it's easier to stay in the office and not wag work.

Plus to add a little update, it's a whole new week now, it's a Monday (yuck) but good things are happening today, other than eating cupcakes. Because today I won a Kindle! I entered a small writing competition, nothing major, just one put on by a company that makes peptides. Which is good, because the smaller the competition the less entries, which means more chance for me to win. I came third and won a Kindle, and I only wanted to get second or third because first prize was dinner for a group of my colleagues and that's sort of boring. I would rather have a kindle, and spend even more time reading instead of working. So yay! Both of these good, published things will be showing up online this week so the links will be coming shortly: