Monday, March 12, 2007

The tyranny of the word count

I don't know if anyone else reading this blog is doing a thesis, but if you are you will be familiar with the opressive nature of the word count. I have customised my Word toolbar so I can access this function with ease. On days leading up to deadlines, it is not unusual for me to check my wordcount in an obsessive manner, hoping that a few hundred more words have magically appeared. Of course, usually staring at me accusingly is a miserly figure, hardly reflective of the blood, sweat and tears it took to produce the draft at hand. So my obsession continues.

Oh, and in case anyone is interested, my thesis is currently at 26,100. Only 73,900 to go. No sweat.

I'll just go and curl up in a foetal position right now.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Another surreal film moment

I thought I should add to the previous post by retelling a very odd experience with a film set in Sarajevo. I am not certain whether it was to do with the Richard Gere film "Spring Break in Bosnia". In any case, walking through Bascarscija one evening I discovered that the whole central area was blocked by film crews, actors, lights, cameras and so forth. Those passing by had to squeeze around the edges of the scene and push through past the crew and actors, as did I in an attempt to keep going on my route that night. As I followed behind some EU peacekeepers in uniform, one of the crew members asked the men in front of me whether they were the "real ones" (presumably otherwise they would be "fake ones", also known as "the actors").

Definitely an "Underground" moment.
Nuff said.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Roll on October....

First of all my apologies to people occasionally reading this blog, I haven't been very good at posting. I will try to write more.

I have recently returned from a two week trip to Bosnia-Herzegovina (we all tend to leave off Herzegovina from the name of the country and that really pisses off the Herzegovinians, so doing my bit to soothe some ruffled feathers).

My stay in Sarajevo started with a surreal landing at the airport where Richard Gere was filming his new film. There was barbed wire, sandbags, UN felt like a scene in Kusturica's "Underground" - the one where Blacky comes our from the shelter after 20 years underground (where he thinks that the war has continued all this time) and lands on a film set where a WWII movie is being filmed.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

The grinding nature of university bureaucracy

As a research postgraduate student, my interactions with my university are thankfully generally confined to my periodic meetings with my supervisor which are always very helpful.

Occasionally, however, university bureaucracy intrudes to generally ruin my day/week/month and remind me that postgraduate students fit somewhere below vermin in the hierarchy as far as the authorities are concerned.

In the past couple of weeks the university has been threatening to unenroll me for not filling in some paperwork I never knew had to be filled in, and that I never received. Four months later they send me a letter to tell me that I have not filed the said paper work. My response: "Huh?". I answer via email (as requested in the letter) promply explaining, ask a question whether I should really submitting a report this year as I am a part-time student, and submitted one last year. I point to info provided for postgrads on admin website. No response.

Three weeks later more correspondence arrives, via email, stating I will be unenrolled if I do not submit said report within two weeks. This time I call. I leave my phone number. I contact my department. I copy my supervisor in, who tells me that this is not unusual.

I finally get a response to my query, as outlined below:

Q: "The website states....I was expecting to be due to submit that report next year."
A: "Well, the website is wrong. The regulation actually is...."

Okay, so we are mind readers now. Oh yeah, and no apology for providing wrong information and no stated intent to fix the website to reflect said policy.

It is not the fault of the person I was dealing with, this is the general attitude of my whole university, which considers itself so prestigious that we should consider ourselves lucky that they let us in the door at all.

I would also like to note the serious consequences such errors can have. Recently an international postgraduate student from another university in my city was placed in a detention centre because the delay in processing her extension meant that her (momentary) lapsed enrolment resulted in a lapsed student visa and immigration moved in quickly to lock her up. I sincerely hope she received an apology, both from the university and from immigration authorities.

An email from Bosnia...

I got an email from a friend and a colleague in Bosnia a couple of days ago. We both try to keep up optimism for a better future in the region, but her recent email is full of hopelessness:

"every day a bomb is thrown at a house of a returnee, every day new grave sites are uncovered, every day tears...that's how we live here..."

I hope she won't mind me sharing her words of despair. I know she is right. But I, and we, have to have hope. What is the alternative?

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Well, the OTHER thesis in the house has finally made it in. I threatened to submit it myself in the week before Easter because there was entirely to much fiddling going on in the final weeks. I almost chaparoned the submission just in case my significant other decided at the last minute to take it back and change a footnote on page 152. Thankfully neither occured.

After a couple of weeks of general post-submission collapse, it is back on the thesis band-wagon for me. I have been told that Bruce Lee is no longer in existence in Mostar. Completely destroyed apparently. Will check to see what happened exactly.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Wow, two weeks is certainly taking a lot longer than it used to, either that or deadlines are just not what they used to be. What I am trying to say is that my partner has still not submitted. Another week, apparently.
Pass the sljivovica!

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Long time no see...

Well, I have not been very active with my postings. Another thing to feel guilty about. Writing a PhD, you get used to that feeling. I will try to do better. On both counts!

Currently juggling work (part-time) and PhD (part-time), and hoping to get the balance right. Not much time for life outside those two activities. Apologising to my friends for at least another year or two of this status quo - although I have been told it doesn't get any better even after the PhD. Articles, conference papers, books to write...Still, I have to feel like there is some sort of light at the end of the tunnel!

Academia certainly is for the masochists.

Anyway, my partner is finishing up his PhD currently. Two weeks to go, so his thesis has taken precedence in the household. I've been proof-reading, formatting, Endnoting...basically, accumulating some serious brownie points I intend to cash in on when I get to the same stage! I look forward to there being one thesis less in the house.

Have got a cafepress shop going to make t-shirts with academic humour/frustrations. It seems to be a fairly niche market (and there is pretty much nothing out there for us to buy to express our inner angst) so we decided to make our own. It's at, if anyone is curious.