Thursday, 11 December 2008

Chicken Soup

I just about made myself a promise that I would get my sh*t together and *BAM* I get the flu. Or rather: the flu gets me. And it gets me good. Missed the entire week. In the last four days I have achieved nothing, other than select the relevant mp3s from my bird song CDs. I am not impressed. I've only got one week before leaving Norwich for Christmas and New Year's.
2009 better be good

Friday, 5 December 2008

Life's hard

And I really need to get over it. And start dealing with it.
Right, I need a schedule: something to make sure I get a good amount of work done at the office, I go birding as frequently as possible, I listen to my bird calls MP3s every day, I hit the gym at least three times a week, and I socialise a bit.
Any helpful tips on how to stretch time?

Wednesday, 3 December 2008

Pressure's on

Yesterday I had a meeting with my supervisor. I haven't decided yet whether I enjoy my meetings with him or not. I leave from them with a massive list of things I need to do and to get my head around. On the one hand, it means that for the rest of the week I won't be staring at my computer screen not knowing what to do next, but on the other, the tasks are overwhelming.

I need to keep working on my project proposal, I must brush up on some methodologies that I thought I understood but I obviously don't, I've got people to e-mail and call and beg for information, and I need to go birding at least once a day. And that's the easy stuff. I've been avoiding my statistics practicals because I find them difficult to understand, but I need to catch up now (four weeks worth). I also need to teach myself GIS and use it to analyse a load of data. Apparently, if I find something challenging then it's doing me good. But I haven't risen to the challenge particularly well and all I want to do is run away from it all.

Everyone keeps telling me to not let these things get me down. I have no idea how to keep all these problems separate from the rest of my life, when there isn't a rest of my life, or there shouldn't be because there is evidently no space for it. So far my weekends have been pretty leisurely, but that's going to have to stop. And I desperately want to go to the gym again, but I can never find the time.

Finding a positive spin to put on this is a struggle. There are just not enough hours during the day. The first term is practically over - a week and a half left - and I feel like I haven't achieved anything.

Monday, 1 December 2008


I am now the proud owner of a pair of Swarovski SLC 10x42 binoculars, or bins, as the bird-enthusiasts call them. According to reviews they should be a great pair that will do very well for my purposes. It's a mid-range model, but Swarovski is a top-quality make, so I trust them. I think for a novice I've done well.

Friday, 28 November 2008

Borrowed binoculars

On my way to uni this morning, other than the usual suspects, I saw goldfinches, greenfinches, chaffinches, what I think may have been a meadow pipit, and best of all goldcrests, which are tiny (smallest birds in Europe apparently) and incredibly cute!

Thursday, 27 November 2008

Towards the end of the week

It's Thursday evening and I came home from the office early. I haven't been getting much good quality sleep since I came back from my two-week reconnaissance expedition in Cyprus, so I've been waking up later than usual and feeling very drowsy. It's probably the anxiety. Anyway, I think tonight I'll be going to bed early to try and get some rest.

My birding activity has been disappointing. It seems that when I get into my office I just stay there, and, by the time I think to go birding, it's dark out. I should go birding in the mornings and then settle down at my desk.

I had a happy moment today. I think I may have been close to tears telling two of my office-mates how I just couldn't get my head around these things that my supervisor was trying to explain to me and how stupid I felt, when they went and did something amazing! They took from their shelves three books: How to Complete and Survive a Doctoral Dissertation, The Unwritten Rules of PhD Research, and How to Get a PhD: A Handbook for Students and their Supervisors.

They gave these to me and in a moment gave me the assurance that I'm not stupid; I'm just going through a hard time. And all other PhD students are going through it alongside me.
I'll read the books. But just the fact that my peers gave them to me makes me feel safer.

Wednesday, 26 November 2008


It is 8 o'clock in the morning and I'm preparing to begin what should be a productive day. The late start is not helping though.
Today I must go birding and I must finish a draft section for my project proposal. I also have a lunchtime meeting to go to on open-source GIS software.

My background to all of these tasks is zero, zilch, nada.
This is what it's been like for the last six or so weeks, since I began as a PhD student. The rug was pulled from under my feet and I'm still falling. I've been feeling progressively worse about the whole thing too. Those of you who know will have seen my overly dramatic displays of depression and dispair on my other blog, Gormenghast (turned out to be a very fitting title for it in the end - if you've read or tried to read the trilogy by Mervin Peak you'd know what I mean). Lets leave those sorts of sentiments over there. This blog is supposed to help me pick myself up a bit, so I'm going to force myself to give everything here a positive spin. If you pretend long enough...

First things first: birds. I used to say I didn't really like birds. I was a mammals fan. Now I'm doing a PhD on them, which means that I need tobe able to identify bird species when I see them and when I hear them. I don't even have a pair of binoculars yet (so expensive!). But, you know, it could be worse: I could be doing a PhD on fish.

When I finish my "birding" expedition today (a half hour walk around the campus with my supervisor's £700 bins *gulp*) I'll let you know what species I've managed to identify. So far on my walks to and from uni I can positively say that I've seen wood pigeons, starlings, magpie, crows, jackdaws, robins, great tits, gulls. It's a start.