Monday, November 21, 2011

Ready, Set... Read!

Seeing as I was able to stick to my new year's resolution ("I will finish my thesis in 2011!") and so far I'm on track with NaNoWriMo I've been thinking of my next set of goals. One fairly significant one I've decided on is this:

I will read the shortlisted novels for the Man Booker, Miles Franklin and Finlandia awards.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

The PhD Movie

The PhD Movie came to Perth this week and was shown in joint UWA/Curtin screenings on Thursday, with proceeds going towards supporting Indigenous literacy programs. It's always a bit odd watching films in a lecture theatre - more like watching a really big TV with a bunch of people you don't know - but it was an appropriate setting for the film.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

A Village

It was my son's birthday party today, and it was glorious seeing six little toddlers playing together and only occasionally toppling over each other. Now, you might think it would be a bit crazy having that many toddlers roaming around, but you would be forgetting that they each brought on average two adults with them.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011


I'm on the home stretch of getting the thesis finished, and every now and then I'm struck by a very clear memory of writing a specific part of it, or of doing some of the research.

This book, for example, will always remind me of the oddest Australia Day I've experienced so far: it was in 2008, and I was on my first research trip to Finland. I read the book in a cafe at the Messila ski slopes near my parents' home, drinking cup after cup of hot chocolate while my husband snowboarded outside. There I was, all comfortably bunkered in to reading about shame and desire, when the radio started playing Land Down Under. It was all so gloriously, incongruously familiar it's stayed with me. I'm sure that in some bizarre way that moment pretty much encapsulated my whole research experience.

I've also been flicking through my notebooks looking at mindmapped plans of my chapters. I always marvel at the fact that when all those coloured marker pens touched paper significant bits of the thesis were only starting to come together. The progression from notes to actual finished thesis has been long and even painful, but somehow those notes make the early days feel much closer and the progress much more precarious.

(Note to self: backup files) 

When I first started my thesis I kept a diary about my progress with the plan to eventually turn it into some kind of book about writing a PhD - "if I could do it, so can you!". But then I got embarrassed at how slowly everything was going and how little I felt I was achieving I gave up on that project. As nice as it would be to have a record for the future of my possible successes, I'd rather not leave evidence of my potential failures, I reasoned.

I was an idiot.

If it's not too late for you (is there a too late?), do keep notes of your progress: the little breakthroughs, the periods of stagnation and despair. At the pointy end of the process you do want to be able to look back and know how you got to where you are, but the memories don't take form quite as easily long after the fact.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Scaredycat Learns A Lesson

When I was around fourteen three guest speakers visited my school. They were from SETA, the peak body promoting sexual equality in Finland. The guests were all young adults, and they talked about what it had been like growing up knowing they were different, the difficulties they had faced when they came out to the their family and friends and so on. I remember that two of them were siblings: the woman said she had felt particularly hurt that her brother, next to her on stage that day, had not been very supportive of her at first even though he was gay as well and would have known how vulnerable she felt at the time.

It was a phenomenal talk to listen to. I remember thinking how very, very brave all three had to be to come to a high school to talk about such private and sensitive things. I couldn't imagine that talking freely about your sexuality would have been easy even for grown-ups, let alone in front of a faceless mass of teenagers. I wanted to just say thank you to the speakers and let them know I appreciated their openness.

After the talk they had lunch at school, and I saw them talking to a couple of teachers in the lunch room. I had my opportunity to say something, but I didn't take it. Why? I didn't want anyone to think I could be gay. I didn't say anything to them, I just had my food and left, not entirely aware at that point that my cowardice rather defeated the purpose of the talk in the first place.

To recap: I didn't go talk to a gay person in case I was judged for it. In an environment clearly supportive of different sexualities, after an event specifically designed to make teenagers rethink their prejudices.

Let's take a moment, then, to consider how little support and friendship there might be for gay people growing up in less inclusive environments, such as the ones that people like Bob Katter and Barnaby Joyce like to think they represent.

Katter and Joyce are members of the Australian Parliament, and a couple of days ago they along with other MPs addressed a rally for equal marriage rights to express their opposition to it. Katter thinks that gay marriage "should be ridiculed" and Joyce is somehow under the impression that if marriage rights are granted to homosexual couples they will simultaneously be taken away from his daughters specifically.

Now, this isn't the first time Katter and Joyce have ridden the crazy train, and they're certainly not alone on it. I sincerely hope, though, that we can all, individually and collectively, develop enough backbone to stop perpetuating their particular brand of fear, shame and misinformation (Katter, you could do alot worse than start here).

Join GetUp's campaign for marriage equality. And next time you want to commend someone for being brave don't be a coward about it.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

The Academic Bookstore in Helsinki

Now, you may know that I think books are overrated. I like books, certainly, and am likely to spend a fair bit of time in bookshops, but the same applies to homeware stores and cafes. However, there is one bookstore, the mother of them all, that I could live in (also because it has a cafe). The few occasions I have the chance to visit leave me with a little bit more hope and thrill about the world.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

My Word; and Supervisors Say the Darndest Things

I'm going through the comments my supervisors made on the first full draft of my thesis: that's around 400 pages of marginalia.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Immunity Issues

I completed the first draft of my thesis on Monday. There's still a lot to do, but it is a pretty major milestone. I decided to reward myself by having a couple of thesis-free days, no writing, no researching, nothing. Just a spot of sewing and drinking tea and relaxing.

And then I got sick.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Status Update

I'm getting close to sending a full draft of the thesis to my supervisors (and I mean 'close' in terms of time, not coherence), and while I'm not close to finishing just yet, here is my research to date in (approximate) figures:  

Monday, May 16, 2011

Flying the Flag... of Turkey? Azerbaijan in the Eurovision Song Contest

I trust you have packed away your face paint and gnome hats and recovered from the glory that was Eurovision 2011. If you were not too sozzled from the drinking games during the event itself, you may have been moved to ask: Why did the Azerbaijani entrants, this year's winners, wave the Turkish flag?

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

The Elephant and the... Post-War Nation-Building Project?

Do you know the Black Books episode where Bernard and Manny decide to write a children's book? The finished product, The Elephant and the Balloon, is awesome.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Being and Not-Being Smart

At a recent gathering of like-minded postgrad lady folk we got to the topic of being, and not being, smart. Specifically the kind of smart that makes one postgrad or academic stand out from the rest: we can assume some basic level of intelligence in the cohort as a whole, but there are some people who make the rest of us wistfully sigh with an envious "She's really smart (not fake-smart like me or even normal-smart like him)."

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Good Enough

I'm rewriting my thesis. All the parts exist (except for a conclusion, and it's not like that's important...), but they don't flow, and there are still gaps in the literature that need plugging. I'm hoping to get a complete draft ready before the end of semester, which is about ten or so weeks away. For someone who only works two days a week... Well, it's not a whole lot of time, even with my weekend tinkering thrown in.

Still, it will be done.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Wordle Count

I'm clobbering together my last chapter, after which I get into exciting and terrifying intro/conclusion/rewriting- territory. To try to get a slightly different perspective on the whole thing I thought I'd Wordle my thesis. So here it is, a word cloud of a work in progress.

Monday, February 28, 2011

A Contradiction in Broome

I went to Broome over the weekend. It was an interesting place, although not much is open during wet season. What is fascinating is how embedded the town's pearling history, even its contradictions, is in everything you see.

Monday, February 21, 2011

L'enfant en dérive, or Baby-led Psychogeography.

I've been doing some research on psychogeography recently. Psychogeography is mainly associated with the left radical Lettrist and Situationist International groups in the middle of the last century, although it has enjoyed something of a renaissance since the 90s, often stripped of explicitly artistic or political pretensions. By and large psychogeography refers to the practice of exploring and analysing the city in unusual ways, for example by directing an almost scientifically interpretive zeal towards the back alleys and edges of the city, or navigating with the use of an outdated or altered map.The best-known psychogeographic technique is the dérive, or drifting, which sees practitioners wandering around the city without a predetermined plan, going where impulse takes them.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

The Blanket/Punching Dilemma: On Rape and Mommy Blogs

I am currently consumed with gendered rage. Perhaps you too have been bewildered about the rape and assault of the journalist Lara Logan in Egypt. Perhaps you have felt pommeled by the same message coming across any kind of writing about sexual assault. There's the classic "She should have been more careful." The Julian Assange- business gives life to the always charming "Was it 'rape' or was it rape-rape?" There are the speculations over someone's sexual history, attractiveness, motives. A victim's motives. It really does make me rather sick.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

The Trouble With Fruit

In anticipation of a delightfully productive and not at all technologically challenged weekend for everyone who has a deadline (or six) on the horizon...

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Crowdsource-a-Mole: Adventures in Digital Archives

The Finnish National Library, like many other libraries, museums and archives around the world, is working to digitise some of their collections to make them more accessible and easily searchable. The trouble is that having a human being manually translate documents into a digital format would take a phenomenally long time, whereas computers and scanners don't have the capacity to evaluate whether what they have reproduced digitally makes sense. The vast digital collection therefore includes mistakes and anomalies, and fixing them can be time-consuming.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

What's in a name, Severus Kalkaros?

I've just read Pollomuhku ja Posityyhtynen, written by the Finnish translator of the Harry Potter books Jaana Kapari-Jatta. In it Kapari-Jatta talks about the process of translating the novels, the complexities of finding suitable translations for Rowling's neologisms, decisions about which names to translate and hoping that a particular judgement call on a translation doesn't destroy crucial hints or plot developments in subsequent books.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

It is a truth universally acknowledged...

I'm in a bit of a Jane Austeny-sort of mood at the moment. I recently indulged in the BBC's 1995 Pride and Prejudice, and got stuck. Austen and Wodehouse do the same thing to me: I just wish I could talk like that, that as a society we could still get away with it. I'm doing my small part, though. I make a point of being extremely vexed every now and then.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

London 2012 prediction, part three

And now, ladies and gentlemen, the closing performance of the London 2012 Olympic opening ceremony.