27 June 2008

It's all change

So I have quite a few things to update you on;

First year viva
I passed! This doesn't mean it was a severly uncomfortable experience which I actually thought had gone awfully bad. I was considering quitting my PhD, preparing a "I am quitting" speech for my parents and Super. I was thinking about how I could still live in Manchester with a run-of-the-mill job as my rent touches £400 and I'd have to pay council tax, or whether I should just go home and help with the slightly struggling family business. I simply thought anything had to be better than this, no I had to better at anything than this.

Super came to see me two days later, asking how it went. I replied, horrendous (exclusive of that word), to which he expressed his shock as he thought I would breeze through it. He said once he'd received feedback from at least one of the examiners (Dr. B., whose office is next door to Super's), he would get back to me and fill me in. I was quite nervous about Super discovering the 'truth' but the worst that could happen is they could kick me off, which I had told myself was what I deserved and what I wanted anyway.

Within the hour, Dr. B. had come down to my office. He starts talking to his 3rd year student who sits opposite me, the conversation going a little something like;

Dr. B.: err.... Hi 3rd year student, er... what are you doing? How are you getting on? Have you finished yet? I can come and have a look.
3rd year student: erm, yeh OK, do you want to come and have a look now?
Dr. B.: well, I just wanted to have a word with Jennifer first, can I have a word Jennifer?

*my ears prick up and there is a momentary flush of panic and blood to my cheeks; Oh dear God! It's worse than I thought.*

Me: yeh, sure. :$

So I sheepishly follow Dr. B. outside the postgrad office, with my heart pounding and me telling myself "Don't be embarrased! Don't be embarassed!" as I could feel my cheeks starting their inevitable burn. He finally breaks the silence; "Jennifer, I just wanted to put your mind at rest really that we [both examiners] thought you were fine and had no problem recommending you to continue into second year. We understand you have only completed one year of a PhD, that the future at this point is a little uncertain and that the equipment may be being used by someone else. I explained that I wasn't really sure what was going to happen as I thought it had gone really badly and I felt I should've known all the questions they asked me. He said those questions are to give me an idea of the sorts of things I should know, and into how much detail, for my real viva. They didn't mean for me to come away with the wrong impression and that I really should not worry any longer.

Phewwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww! That made me feel a helluva lot better and like I wasn't such a failure. Just as he asked me to have a word, I had been googling 'should I quit my PhD?' Needless to say, my mind has somewhat shifted again but I am not sure by how much. I might now just be back to square one before my viva where I wasn't sure if I was enjoying it. The jury is still out on that one.

Super came down to my office to visit me again this morning *I quickly minimise facebook and all other procrastinatory webpages as my screen doesn't face the door* and he just says "So?" in reference to Dr. B.'s little chat with me. I tell him yes it made me feel better and he tells me that he was told Dr. W. (the other examiner) just kept asking me questions until I could no longer answer them (which didn't take long to be honest) and so for that, they are going to call him Crusher W. [although he referred to him by his first name].

Dr. W. -- who keeps calling me Jenny; that's not my name! -- came to the viva with a list of questions on a side of A4. I finally plucked up the courage to go to his office and ask him for them today. I hadn't been able to face the shame of seeing him after what I thought was an embarrassingly bad viva. He went through a few of the points with me and reiterated that I really should be on top of all this stuff for my real viva. Thank you Dr. W. He recommended a paper which I had read but did not find all that relevant so hadn't included it in my transfer report. There were other researchers he mentioned; Schmidt and Howard whose research I have come across but they were not first or second author so I could not say if they were the same. Just before I left his office he again offered his help to me (which I really appreciate, genuinely) and if I wanted to discuss any of the microrheological stuff, then I am welcome to come with a list of questions and he can help. Thinking about it, that softened me a little bit towards him (he's also been one of my undergrad. lab demonstrators but had hardly ever turned up and when he did, didn't seem to know anything) and I sweetly asked if he'd like me to close his office door as I leave.

I called my mom to update her on the siuation and she started crying which she explained was because she had heard how down I had been and was so worried about me. Aww bless!

Europe
So the tickets are all booked apart from the odd journey between train stations or airports that we can buy on the day. Our itinerary looks a little something like this;

July 14th 08
1. Manchester, UK - Liverpool, UK (train) ~ 1hr
2. Liverpool, UK - Barcelona (Reus), Spain (flight) ~ 2hrs
3. Salou, Spain - Benicassim, Spain (train) ~ 1 hrs 15mins
9 nights camping in Benicassim & festival

July 23rd
1. Benicassim, Spain - Valencia, Spain (bus or train) ~ 1 hr
2 nights in Valencia

July 25th
1. Valencia, Spain - Barcelona, Spain (bus or train) ~ 3hrs 30 mins
2 nights in Barcelona

July 27th
1. Barcelona, Spain - Nice, France (flight) ~ 1hr
6 nights in Nice

August 2nd
1. Nice, France - Monaco, France (bus or train) ~ 30 mins2. Monaco, France - Geno(v)a, Italy (train) ~ 2hrs
3. Geno(v)a, Italy - Pisa, Italy (train) ~ 2hrs4. Pisa, Italy - Rome, Italy (train) ~ 4hrs
3 nights in Rome

August 5th
1. Rome, Italy - Liverpool, UK (flight) ~ 3hrs2. Liverpool, UK - Manchester, UK (train) ~ 1hr
So quite a bit of travelling (it covers over 3,000 miles), the majority of which are via trains. I am beginning to get quite excited now!

Blog design
In accordance with the few changes (and feeling like I want to turn over a new leaf) I decided to have an overhaul of my blog and I think I prefer this one a lot more. Any design I choose, I spend ages faffing around with the widths and dimensions so that I can get more lines on the page i.e. less lines per post, as I think it reads better that way. Oh and I've jazzed up my profile on the right there. I thought I should really make the profile more multi-dimensional i.e. not just about my PhD, as the posts aren't just about my PhD. So what do you think?

Well, that's it and it's already 5.30 pm on Friday so I am going to shoot home. I am going home (Walsall) tomorrow for the weekend (back on Monday lunchtime) so I can get my haircut in time for the wedding next Saturday; it's so close! Oops I forgot to check on helium gas canister prices for V for the balloons, I will do it now. Tonight, R's house are having a meal, all you can Chinese buffet so I'm gonna cycle home then go to town, take back the read shoes I bought for the hen night but didn't want and get some toileteries.

This coming week and weekend, j'doit (I must);
  • find R's tie to match my green bridesmaid dress
  • write my wedding speech
  • get onto V about the music
  • buy a tent
  • buy sleeping bags, rucksacks and mats
  • do some work!
Oops! Why is work at the bottom? *mischevious giggle*.

Adieu tout le monde.

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