Saturday, 28 June 2008

Laser Eye Surgery

Cyanide and Happiness, a daily webcomic

Ewww. But tee hee.

Cyanide & Happiness @

Friday, 20 June 2008

Ah, Boris.

Boris, Boris, Boris. Do try to do your homework first. Or else you'll only go around saying that documents don't exist when they do, and you had access to them, if only you'd noticed.

Also, statements such as

"these are going to be the most wonderful Olympics in history, since 753BC or
whenever it was that they kicked off".

sound rather less endearing in print, and rather more idiotic. This is why I was happy to see you on political comedy shows, and not running my city.

Ginger's Beauty Tips

Ok, I'll admit it, for all my optimism about future academic/career directions, it's hard not to feel like a little bit of a loser having dropped out of my PhD, particularly when you look around at peers doing Proper Grown Up ThingsTM like getting married, buying places to live, having decent career progression etc. And yes, chinks in my armour are starting to appear, resulting that for the first time ever I recently came away from a look in the mirror thinking - hmm, wrinkles.

Nonetheless, I shall endeavour to resist a wholesale submission to the beauty industry that would like to plant insecurities in my head to encourage me to part with my cash. To help you do the same, I hereby offer you two of my top secret beauty tips:
1. Enlarged pores? Don't stand so close to the mirror.
2. Puffy, tired looking eyes? Stop reading about eye creams online and go to bed.
My work here is done.

Thursday, 12 June 2008

What goes "Ha Ha Ha" *thump*?

No, not a man laughing his head off, as the old joke goes. Rather, a man about to be arrested for discovering that a little laughter can be a dangerous thing.

So, Chris Cocker from Blackburn was watching Have I Got News for You one evening when a particularly funny joke made him laugh so hard that he fell off his sofa. No big deal, one might think, until the Police turned up and arrested him. The noise of his amused collision with the floor had attracted a neighbour's attention, who believed he had collapsed, and phoned the police (quite why he didn't call for an ambulance no one seems to have mentioned). When the police turned up at Mr Cocker's door, the latter was initially helpful, but as the police became more insistent about being let in to check that things were ok, Mr Cocker became more obstreperous. With the eventual outcome being a dousing of pepper spray and a night in a police cell.

You really couldn't make it up, could you? Just as well events didn't take a turn for the worse, or else he could have become a prime candidate for a Darwin Award.

A Political Twist

Well, quite an eventful couple of days in UK politics. Firstly, the Government narrowly wins a vote to increase the number of days terror suspects can be imprisoned without charge, partly thanks to what some regard as Brown almost bribing DUP members to back him. That a political leader in trouble should go to such lengths to secure a successful vote it perhaps not surprising.

But what happened today was. David Davis, the shadow Home Secretary, resigned not just from the shadow cabinet, but as an MP, in order to protest against the result, and to trigger a by-election on the issue. It's a move that is being hailed as 'unprecedented' in UK politics, and seems to be as much a shock for his party and leader as it has been for the government and the media.

Personally, although my voting habits are firmly to the left (which does not necessarily mean Labour these days), I've got to applaud Mr Davis for taking such a stand. His actions, alongside those Labour cabinet ministers who were willing to resign their posts over the Hybrid Embryo vote, demonstrate that successful politicians don't necessarily lack integrity. He has an awful lot to lose - even if he wins back his seat there will be no guarantee that he'll be warmly welcomed back - there is some suggestion that this is likely to seriously displease David Cameron for bringing into turmoil what has been a recent increase in the popularity of his party. But sometimes you've just got to take that kind of risk if you really care about something.

It'll be the first time in my life I'll be willing a Tory candidate to win an election!

Saturday, 7 June 2008


Just seen this on The Culture Show. If you need to procrastinate, watch this video by Johnny Kelly:

I love the idea of colour-coding your shelves.

Tuesday, 3 June 2008

Ginger is no longer in a relationship with her PhD

"The time has come," the Walrus said,
"To talk of many things:
Of shoes--and ships--and sealing-wax--
Of cabbages--and kings--
And why the sea is boiling hot--
And whether pigs have wings.
And why Ginger has taken the slightly dramatic step of quitting her PhD."
-Lewis Carroll (and others)

Yep, that's right. Your blogging hostess is officially a PhD drop-out.

I realise that, from the perspective of my blog, this might seem like a bit of a bolt from the blue. Sure, I've had the odd grumble, but mostly I've kept my disgruntlement to myself. But trouble has been a-brewing for a while now, and recently I made the big decision to call time on my research project. Without wanting to go all 'group therapy' on you, I thought I might use my blog as a way of offering an explanation. Not least because I found Googling 'Quitting a PhD' quite a helpful way of seeing what other people's experiences of this kind of situation had been before I made my final decision.

So, where to start? Well, I entered into my project with the best of intentions, and the desire to see it through to the end. And it's not like I went into it blind - I'd already worked at the lab in question for 10 weeks before I committed myself, as well as gaining lab experience elsewhere. And things were fine to begin with. I had the newbie enthusiasm, the naively optimistic 'get back on the horse' attitude to the odd experiment that failed here and there. But as time went on, things began to unravel. A bit of extracurricular reading introduced me to the existence of a different field which got me far more intellectually and emotionally fired up than the one in which I was working. I began to realise that, post-PhD, I'd rather work in that field and cease lab work altogether. I still remained committed to seeing it through though.

But then... well, there were the experiments that failed to work over and over again, gradually eroding my self confidence, and occupying weeks and months of attempts before I finally managed to show that it wasn't actually my fault. The realisation that the technical problems plus the consequent demotivation meant I was at least six months behind schedule. The dread with which I was filled at the thought of carrying this on for another couple of years, and the long hours it would entail, when my heart was no longer in it. And other problems I won't go into on a public forum.

I do appreciate that everyone goes through 'second year blues' where it becomes overwhelmingly apparent that you have no data, and the end is both a bloody long way off, and yet too soon to get everything done. And I don't think that any one of the reasons I cite constitutes, on its own, a need to throw in the towel. However I do think that, in combination, there was a compelling argument for my decision. I did not want to give over a major part of my life for the next 2-3 years to something in which I no longer had any confidence, had lost passion for, and which was no longer directly relevant to my future plans. I have a deeply ingrained 'I'm not a quitter' attitude, but I am beginning to appreciate that sometimes there is virtue in walking away and not flogging a dead microarray.

Something that has surprised me is how much kudos I seem to be getting for making the decision. PhD/science web-fora seem to be full of people saying 'I want to quit, but I don't want to let my parents down' or 'I wish I'd quit a year ago'. I am fortunate in that my family and friends have been supportive of my decision. What came as a surprise was that people seem to view it as a brave step to take. Certainly, I know it's one of the gutsiest decisions I've had to make, but I was fully prepared to have to justify myself and fight against the perception that I was a wuss who didn't have the courage to meet the challenges of a PhD. It's been a pleasant bonus not to be burdened with that label.

Right, having managed to spout cliché after cliché, it's time to get on with the rest of my life...

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