Monthly Archives: February 2009

Spring (photo tag)

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I was tagged by Cecilia! The rule is: go to the fifth photo folder in your computer and post the fifth photo in that folder. This is what came up.

It was taken in April 2006, at Edinburgh Botanic Garden I think. It made me smile to see it, because at this time of year, I can’t wait to see bright sunlight and pretty flowers. It really isn’t far away now. This morning I walked to my workshop throught the meadow and there were colourful crocuses amongst the muddy green. The daffodils are a healthy bright green, gearing up to produce glorious yellow flowers soon. The weather is much milder lately, the days are longer, and the sun is reaching higher in the sky. There is hope in the world again.

Boots, clothes, earrings

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Incase it wasn’t obvious from my blog so far, I do not do things by halves. This weekend’s obsession of the moment was new clothes/footwear/jewellery.

I guess it started when I went for a wander and saw a pair of boots in a shop window that I instantly fell in love with. They turned out to be discontinued; I tried on a pair that were a size too big, which were borderline OK, but I decided to think about it. I couldn’t find an online shop that had my size in stock either. Then I found a pair on ebay in my size, brown rather than the red that I tried on (which is fine, makes them more practical). I won the bidding this afternoon! Cheaper than the brand-new ones, and in the right size (hopefully). Can’t wait to get them.


Then onto clothes. Yesterday I ordered a few items online from the Afifah range. I can’t see a way to link to the individual items but they have so much nice stuff, at great prices at the moment. I can’t wait for them to be delivered either. I’ve received 3 emails today so they certainly keep you informed! The emails are peppered with Muslim niceties in Arabic – quite an unusual experience for me!

I really like this dress from a Cairo-based online company that tailors all items to order. I’ve bookmarked it to consider. Whether I’d have the courage to wear something so culturally “foreign” I don’t know. It certainly wouldn’t go with the boots. 😉

Then there are the earrings… I’ve been inspired to start wearing earrings again, probably because of noticing that in Algeria all females wear earrings at all times, including 1-year-old niece Sara! This pair are the sort of thing I fancy. I’ve looked around but not decided on a purchase yet.

Finally, I quite fancy some mid-calf-length skirts to go with the boots. But I haven’t gone looking for those yet.

Apprentice in the driving seat

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This morning I heard a talk by an interesting visiting speaker, about learning to do science. He is of the opinion that the usual model for PhD training is something like an apprenticeship, where we gradually pick up the skills of our supervisors; that this involves a lot of mistakes and wasted effort (don’t I know it!); and that, crucially, this could be avoided if we were taught more efficiently. Up until hearing this, I’d never come across the idea that there was any shortcut. I think what he recommends is straightening all the ideas out beforehand, going through the creative process of generating research questions, which then form the basis of a plan. He emphasised that the student should be in the driving seat.

My objection is that for me, deciding on what to do has involved a long iterative process of going in-between the literature and my own thoughts, each refining the scope of the other in successive cycles. I couldn’t have designed my project from day one because I didn’t have enough background knowledge, and I hadn’t seen any examples of research output to know what research really was.

So my project goes more like this. (The blog I’ve linked to has other quite interesting posts about academia.) One of the secondary characters in my boring PhD story has, in fact, starred in a spin-off – a short paper which is currently in review at a journal. The depressing thing is, if I’d set out to do that paper, it would have taken me about a week to do the work.

The question is, can I turn it around now? Can I design the rest of it in a way that will allow me to forge ahead with the confidence and motivation I am so lacking at the moment? I feel that I should really try to, but I don’t feel terribly hopeful. I can’t really say that my research “driving skills” are getting any better. It is possible that I just won’t become someone who can come up with good research questions.

The speaker also spoke of passions, and that we should always have the courage to aim to do what we are passionate about. This just compounded my feeling of crapness because I don’t have any real passions.