Odds, sods, and a contest (with prizes*)

I regret that today’s blog entry has no real theme, other than they are reasonably recent events. Consider this a commonplace collection for the internets. Most of these are at least relevant to the general purpose of the blog. They have some historical element, they relate to research or the tasks of the academic, or the inform the ongoing experiment that is the LD student in higher-education.

1- If this week indicates a trend, I should expect 2-3 fire drills / legitimate alarms, every 5 days. If that’s true, and it isn’t just some statistical jump in frequency, I will completely lose my sh*t. I would go on and give some details but it only angers me further and I already have a proximity fuse set on my temper. I don’t need any encouragement.

2- While the staff at the University student disabilities offices are all very good, professional, and earnest, the system in which they work is your usual tangle of slowly moving bureaucratic parts. They can’t seem to decide if I do or do not need to be interviewed or assessed for X or Y and now apparently I do. I have an appointment on the 30th for another interview. At first (5 Oct) I was told that I didn’t need any more interviews. Then (18 Oct) I was told that I did, but after a short exchange, they changed their mind, then changed it back. After this interview, it will take another 10 days to write the report requesting specific support and then it goes off for approval higher up. By then (say, 10 Nov) I will have about 2 weeks left in this term.

3- And what sort of help am I talking about anyway? Well, a printer/scanner/copier of my very own. Some sort of agreement with the library to copy in excess of the fair-use rules (they will do this form me, upon request) and a book allowance. How much of an allowance? The usual is 150 per year. While that is more than nothing, it is not much more, considering the cost of academic monographs. Why do I need my own books when I am at one of the 4 legal deposit libraries in the UK? I need my own books because most of the library’s collection is non-circulating, the circulating books are on fairly short loan, and since it’s only 1/4 of the legal deposit system they don’t get all the books, just a lot of them. That, and they don’t get more obscure non-UK publications. Also, several books in my current reading are foundational and I really need to have my own copies so I can read them cover to cover with great care.

Also, I need these books in hand because it’s how I learn best. The closer reading is to actual experience or the more physically and visually involved it is, the more I retain. Hearing text (say from a podcast) is just about useless. Reading off a screen is slightly better but I retain very little. Reading from a text in the library and making separate notes is an inaccurate and often self-defeating activity. There are too many other stimuli and too much stress to keep focused and, once I’m done, I will either forget that I made the notes, or I will have no trust in them (and, often, the notes don’t make any sense afterwards because they are stripped of context). Photocopies are good because I get to mark them up with my little reading notes which makes the reading process less passive and more tactile and visual. The closer to the physical object I get, the better I learn. That was why I seriously considered archaeology as a career.

And, that book allowance is less than half of what a Junior Research Fellow gets from most Colleges. Now, I don’t have a stipend, or anything close to the income of a JRF. I will argue, as best I can, for something at least as much, and significantly more, than that as a bare minimum. That, or the Bod’ is going to get really sick of copying book after book, cover-to-cover, for that bloody cripple they imagine is behind their suffering.

4- If ever you have the chance, read Kelly DeVries “Medieval Warfare and the Value of Human Life,” in Noble Ideals and Bloody Realities: Warfare in the Middle Ages, N. Christie and M. Yazigi, eds. (Lieden: Brill, 2005): 27-55. It’s a rare thing to find a paper about the distant past that is so compassionate, animated, and hotly critical about its theme and other scholarly work. It’s a hell of a thing.

5- For all the academic charisma possessed by the University of Oxford, and its Faculty of History, they are complete crap at capitalizing on it. Apparently, this year is the first time they have held a showcase of DPhil research and only very recently have they made any attempt to assist their students with collaboration and publicity. They have launched a website with profiles of students.

6- I can’t recall now if I made mention of it, but I was not short-listed following The Test. While I know that the chances were slim, and that my competition was a collection of some genuinely smart and articulate people, I am more than a little disappointed. However, it would be weird if I wasn’t. I didn’t get here by coasting or avoiding risk and while I am painfully allergic to failure (despite long familiarity with its sting) I can’t win at everything. Actually it’s funny that the wiki page for the test includes a list of unsuccessful candidates. That, by itself, is an indication of its status with some people. Ah well, it will eventually turn into a nice story to tell people. Eventually.

As a little test of PBS and its readership, I challenge those who do not already know who I am to try and identify the present author amongst the keen young students of Oxford. There will be prizes (of the wholly intangible and abstract variety, but there will be a selection of them at least).

And I think that’s about time to stop. Join us again next time at PBS when the author decides to write something more coherent and interesting. Don’t expect him to abandon the 3rd person.

*Note that ‘prizes’ is meant in a euphemistic way, not an actual guarantee of real-world, physical prizes. 


2 thoughts on “Odds, sods, and a contest (with prizes*)

  1. Being exempt from the Prize, I will only utter vague and non-helpful noises of empathy regarding the Test.

    Oh, on the fire alarm front: all it takes is a heap of newspaper, a match, and psychologist willing to testify on your behalf to internalize the locus of control; the noise made by you is always less annoying, after all.

    • Thanks for the empathy. I think I’m mostly over it, although the future looks remarkably free of other funding opportunities. At least they have a post-doc fellowship. I have until May 2014 to make myself irresistible to them (nougat could be involved).

      As far as the fires go, my working plan is this: real fires bring beatings. False alarms (not tests) bring scalding. I will make notices to put in the kitchens.

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