Thursday, March 29, 2007

post #100!!!

So it's now officially post number 100! *throwing confetti!* I'm sorry, I should have reached this prestigious landmark quite some time ago, but by actually working in the real world lead to me neglecting my blog a little bit.

This week has been odd. My supervisor has been back, but I haven't seen too much of him, besides one meeting and a few strange conversations. the Autralian came back today and there was much hilarity. I had no idea a labelling tool thingy could be so much fun!

I've been working hard this week, finally making some real headway into my proposal and getting things done. I'm still floundering slightly, but I think if I work properly it should be ok. the main problem is that there are a lot of things I know NOTHING about and I need to learn a bunch of new techniques. That generally involves me writing emails to random academics and begging for help. It's awkward! I hate writing "Dear so&so, I am a PhD student..." I don't FEEL like a PhD student. I feel like an honours student who has faked her way this far and is about to go horribly wrong.

So I'm a bit depressed. I just get the feeling that I peaked last year and it's all downhill. Like those kids at school who were straight A students, captain of whatever sport and so on who got to university and failed and dropped out because it wasn't school anymore. The gap between honours and what I'm doing now is just as big. I ended up spending about 2 hours with Luke (and Laura a bit later) getting more and more depressed as we realised that we were both feeling the same way and how horrible it is. I think we should switch supervisors. I can get excited and throw ideas around and learn so much when I'm talking to Luke's supervisor, and he seems to be able to talk to mine. The trouble is I don't like what Luke and his whole lab study. It's interesting, but nothing like as cool as what I'm going to be doing!

so I'm exactly where I want to be, doing what I want to do, and I'm so incredibly depressed. Lets hope I get over myself soon and get back to work like a sensible person.

Oh,and I'm going to mycoke festival! It's going to be awesome!

Sunday, March 25, 2007

minus a brother, plus a sister and family of Mediterraneans

so Friday I didn't even go into wits. Instead I delivered wine to the reception venue, then went to the church to practise walking down the aisle in my shoes. Halfway down the aisle I thought 'Hey, I can DO this!' and took a confident step, only to slip and hold onto a pew to keep from falling. the guys polishing the floors managed to keep straight faces which was impressive! after that I went makeup shopping - I wear makeup quite often, but I hardly ever wear heavy makeup and the colours I needed I didn't have and so on. From there I had my toenails done, my nails done (they are currently about 2 inches long and I have gouged my eyes from trying to remove my contact lenses), and my eyebrows done. All this while rushing home to help pack cars with all my brother's stuff to take to the new house and battling with the 'I'm not at wits!' guilt.

After all that I went home and collapsed, waiting for 4:30 to arrive so I could go and collect Carla's honeymoon luggage. My brother decided to move some more stuff accross and I joined him. their house is HUGE! It's a double story with 3 big bedrooms, 2 bathrooms (2 baths AND a big shower and a whole load of other rooms. from there we went to get the luggage from a highly emotional Carla and then my family (my parents, my brother and me) went out for dinner.

This morning I rushed out early and got my hair done, amid frantic phonecalls from Carla and then calm and then frantic phonecalls... they did my hair really nicely, so of course it rained like crazy and I had to do the whole jersey-above-head-rush-to-car thing, rush home, do my makeup, have lunch (at 11:30) and then go off to Carla's house to change and help her get ready and so on.

The wedding (after a good 3 hours of preparations) was really beautiful. I didn't trip or slip on my way up the aisle, my brother did a happy-dance (literally) when he saw Carla, they both burst into tears in the middle of the first hymn, she cried in the middle of the vows so he had to pull faces at her to get her through them , and the 2-year old flowergirl/ringbearer who had flat-out refused to walk down the aisle or sit still at all at the rehearsal, sat on the altar cushions quite happily eating the jellytots that had been hidden in her basket.

From there we went to the reception, where all the trouble started. We were having photos in the garden, but as it had been raining we kept getting stuck when the heels on our shoes sank. I had a list of all the photos that needed to be taken, but it turned out that the photographers didn't so they took mine and sent me off to fetch petals. In the meantime I was needed in pictures and got yelled at and then Carla yelled at me for not organising people for photos because I had no list. When I said that the photographers had it she got even angrier and kept screaming that it wasn't my list, it was theirs. And that ruined my day a lot.

The reception was also really annoying. For starters, I was at the main table,which is a long table where you only sit down one side, facing the room. I was almost on the end, next to my dad (not exactly renowned for talking at family functions) and the best man, whose girlfriend was 2 tables away. Every time there was a speech the video people put these BRIGHT lights on us and the photographers were everywhere. It really annoyed me. Like after the first dance it was the father-daughter/bridal party dance and I was dancing with the best man (neither of us knew what we were doing) and we kept bumping into the video guy. It was so irritating!

I'm sorry, but I think a beautiful day was slightly marred by the need for 2 photographer and a vido guy. I have big problems with people who spend so long trying to save bits of memories that they don't actually live them, and I felt that that was what was happening tonight. That and getting screamed at by my new sister-in-law was fantastic. She was still 'not speaking' to me by the time that they left. which really upset me.

The other thing that upset me was the way that everyone thought I'd had my makeup donw professionally. When I said I had done it they got all shocked. I felt like saying 'YES! I KNOW WHICH END OF THE LIPSTICK TO USE!' Just because I don't plastr on makeup like that doesn't mean I can't...

and not I'm tired and grumpy and I'm going to bed.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

It's not monday

Yesterday was a public holiday, and now it feels like monday. It was awesome to have a break though! I was EXHAUSTED!

It all started on Monday, with an hour prelab for the Bird Prac (play ominous music), where I had to fight giggles the whole way through. Hearing the lecturer, who is very English and 'well-mannered' (for lack of a better word) say things like 'cock-up' was a bit more than an early morning brain could handle.

The prac itself was a disaster, it should have taken an hour and a half and ended up taking 4 hours. The thing is, it's ordered in stations, with questions at each station and 3 minutes to answer it. The lecturer kept complaining that there wasn't enough time, so we had 8 minute stations, 15 minute stations, half an hour stations...

Then on tuesday, on top of a whole pile of bird pracs to mark, I got my first-years' pracs in my pigeonhole. I also started coming down with flu, and ended up falling asleep over my computer wearing 3 jerseys and shivering. I ran off at lunchtime to see Carla's wedding dress (it's SO stunning! ) and then to see Jo at work and try and make peace. That done (it's all more or less normal, she's doing my nails tomorrow, I'm buying her a carton of cigarettes for her birthday and dying of guilt if she ever gets lung cancer).

After that I went home and collapsed and slept for around 15 hours. At one staeg I got an sms, hear the tone, looked up, fell asleep. Reached for my phone, fell asleep. Realised it wasn't there, fell asleep. Reached on the other side, fell asleep. It took me an hour to find my phone and read the message.

Yesterday, feeling much more human, I went off to my friend Trishya's 21st. It was nice, very relaxed, just sitting around listening to a whole bunch of geology students getting excited about rocks, and one really annoying girl going on andon about rainbows and pink teddy bears and pink hearts...

Eventually I spent about 3 of the 4 hours talking to Lynne, her sister and it was really nice. I haven't talked to her properly since my 12st, which was just under a year ago.

After that I went home and started marking. I got through all the bird pracs (I must post the amusing answers sometime, I made a list. They weren't as funny as usual this time though), and most of the first year pracs. Those were shocking. I have a nice bunch of students, and they all do pretty well, but I think they're getting lazy and put very little effort into it. It's actually an insult to me, that they don't bother with their work and expect me to put hours of my time into marking it and giving them constructive feedback. It's too bad that I'm not going to be there tomorrow, or they would have got SUCH a talking to!

Anyway I must finish my marking now and get back to work.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Energy reserves

No, I'm not going to talk about something like oil and coal and war and why I drive around instead of taking the bus. I'm going to talk about people. How is it that some people have this boundless energy? And others just run out so quickly? What makes some people able to jump up and down when it's necessary, while others just collapse?

I'm thinking about this because I finished at wits today completely exhausted. My first years were not the most cooperative today, they were bored by the material I think (tapeworms and so on) and tired from writing tests all week. Eventually I finished and settled down at Biosoc with a bunch of people to try and relax enough to be able to go home without nervous twitches (but not relaxed enough to fall asleep on the lawn and wake up covered in hazard tape).

Then my brother called. It turned out that Tree 63 - a South African band that has settled in the U.S.A but has been here touring - was playing a last concert about 2 minutes drive away from my house. Carla was so busy being stressed out about wedding plans to go, so her ticket was free. I refused because I knew she'd love to see them and should probably take a break. He called make a few minutes later to say that she was going, but there were still tickets from friends who couldn't go, and I must get home ASAP to make it in time.

So I went sprinting down the hill, where I ran into Ben, a masters student studying owls. Turn out he's going on a Happening weekend - a kind of camp type thing, hard to explain - and I ended up chatting to him for ages before I realised the time and dashed home.

The concert was really good except that 3 little teenage girls (all: 'watch me dance! I'm so pretty! let me swish my hair into other people's faces so they can see how shiny and soft it is!') kept dancing into my way so I'd shuffle to the right a bit until I ended up separated from my brother and Carla and behind a rather stocky afrikaans guy who kept yelling stuff like 'Vrystaat!' and 'Boerewors!' and who had obviously eaten something too rich or something before he came, because the smells emanating from him every five minutes or so were enough to knock out a full grown lion from a 25m radius.

A cool thing was also that I ran into someone I had in my group when I was a staff-member on Happening. I had been very fond of him, but lost his number somewhere along the line. It was so nice to see that he's doing well and still laughs a lot and jumps around. He's a long story of mine that I won't be telling here. But I will say that the fact that he is laughing like that means a lot to me. He's going to be delivering stuff to people for me tomorrow.

Anyway, seeing him, and chatting to Ben and being too tired to walk after TAing and jumping around made me think about energy. How is it that sometimes you have this hidden reserve and sometimes you don't? Like today, I wanted to collapse, but I was able to have a great time at the concert. Another time I was on a camp as staff and we were so exhausted one day we all fell over and lay on the floor together. The minute the kids arrived we were all on our feet dancing and jumping around and doing silly things. Where does the energy come from? And why can't I harness it more often?

It's all run out now. I'm going to bed.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

For once I just can't think of a title...

I've really fallen out of the habit of writing here. Maybe that's because I'm actually moderately productive at the moment. Vanessa sent me an article yesterday about how boring scientific articles are, and how we're trained to write in a really boring style. I managed to read the whole thing without losing concentration, which is the first time that's happened in ages. So maybe I'm struggling so much because of the boring style of scientific writing. The scary thing was that in the list of things to do to keep your writing boring, I identified with a lot of them! So my writing is boring too :(

On a positive note, the honours students finished their presentations yesterday. The first one was ok, not great though. The problem is that he's doing the whole 'my supervisor must contact me' thing, so a lot of his points were completely confused. Especially the experimental design, the stats and so on. Often he's start a sentence with something like "I'm not quite sure how I'll do this yet." As I said, he's still a K-I-D-S in a lot of ways. He's heading off on fieldwork in a few days, but doesn't know how he's going to store the animals there for 2 weeks, what to feed them and so on. He really needs to talk to my supervisor, but I don't know if he will. the thing is that my supervisor tends to forget about pretty much everything that's not in his immediate vicinity. It's annoying but you have to work around that and actually remind him of stuff. I'm not getting involved, so this should be interesting.

The other student's presentation was a lot better, she'd actually sent it to both her supervisors and me for feedback. So the supervisors corrected the science side of things and I commented on stuff like fonts and slide layout. she also did an extra practise session with me, so it came out sounding pretty good. There were a few issues, like the fact that she has absolutely no history with behavioural ecology and that sort of thing, so she's confused about the main issues that she's investigating. She's learning quickly and I'm sure she'll sort it out. At least she's not too proud to ask for help!

Otherwise I went to Claire's kitchen tea on Saturday. It was in Boksburg at the House of Ribs. TI was fun, very small. It's looking like this wedding is going to be a lot smaller than the huge ones I've been going to, which is nice. I'm glad I got a chance to meet some of the people who will be there.

Chris has been running the shop for Jo while she's away for 2 weeks. HE's gone a complete power-trip, taken practically all the shifts, kicked me off a shift (I wanted to go at 5 or so on Saturday when it got busy, he refused, and then told Jo I hadn't offered anything). she got really angry when I organised for Matt to work for me this Saturday so I can help with stuff for my brother's wedding. It turned out Christ had asked Matt already and then not told me. Then he called Jo and said I was refusing to work. She sent me an angry message and I called her immediately and she screamed at me. So I'm working on saturday and Carla is angry with me for not helping. I can't win sometimes :(

I watched some interesting movies recently. On Sunday I watched half of 'Little Miss Sunshine' before it went out. It was awesome! I can't wait to see the rest of it! I was laughing so hard at some points! I will make more substantial comments when I've seen the rest of it. After that I started watching 'Spellbound' which is a documentary folloiwing a few of the kids going to the national spelling bee in america. They show it on ESPN! It just really shocked me to see how long some people spend learning to spell words that they will probably never use. And the kids work so hard! Why does anyone care? It's spelling. And there's no international contest because nobody actually cares. I just feel really sad for kids who spend such huge chunks of their life doing that, What for? Will it actually get them anywhere. I guess they learn to perform under pressure and apply themselves to studying for something and so on, but really.

Then yesterday I took my huge piles (2 piles) of marking home to mark in front of the tv. I had a movie called Enigma, with Dougray Scott and Kate Winslet. I enjoyed it so much I kind of forgot about my marking pretty early on and just sat there watching it, so I ended up sitting marking until quite late last night. I left one set of memos at wits, so I only got through one pile, but at least it's done now. I don't know why I liked it so much, it's very different to the sort of thing I usually watch. I don't know, but I liked it.

Anyway I must go and read more boring papers. then mark a HUGE stack of drawings.

Friday, March 09, 2007

It's over!

And now we reach the end of yet another week at Wits. It's been entertaining, while mildly productive. I've got to the 'start-writing' phase of section 1 of my proposal, but am putting it off in favour of reading for chapter 2.

I also spent countless hours TAing, marking and doing general admin around wits, while sitting her until late at night working on my actual research. It's weird, we are ehre primarily as research students, but have to squeeze in the research among all the rest of life at wits.

I saw a lot of people's photos - Sarah's from Dubai and a new student from downstairs showed us so many amazing REAL desert photos that I really want to travel again. I'm thinking that Sunday at work would be a good time to sit down with some maps and start planning. Just because a trip is 4 years away doesn't mean that I can't start getting excited!

I'm still babysitting the honours student. Rather 1 of them. The other one is really calm, as was expected. So far there was one very anxious day but otherwise he's as relaxed as is possible! The other one is a bit calmer because the Australian, her cosupervisor (and thus someone who actually UNDERSTOOD what was expected of her), came back for a day and helped her a lot. She emailed me a copy of the big presentation but forgot to attach it. Oops.

Anyway, world war 3 is still going at home. I gave up on fighting, it's too much effort, so I'm just avoiding most people. It's less draining.

Otherwise I had a lot of funny things happen, watch this space and I mightr write about them. I laughed a lot this week, which counts for something!

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

I'm still alive, I promise!

I'm sorry I haven't posted for a week, it's been super hectic.

Firstly, I have plans for saturday that didn't go with work, so I had to ask for time off, to find out that ALL the staff are off on Saturday. I resorted to grovelling and got someone to work for me. Yay!

I'm still behind schedule studies-wise, but making headway. I'm starting to get a 'feel' for the literature and stuff and I'm getting to know the questions I'm asking in a broader context rather than just in my study animal, which is AWESOME!

My supervisor is ignoring all of us again. I'm pretty used to it, and glad I'm not being watched as I very slowly read about 3-5 papers every day (which is nothing), between cartloads of teaching duties. the honours students are presenting their proposals on monday and tuesday next week and are completely freaking out. It's weird to see it from this angle. It's not quite deja-vu, but almost!

I had a huge fight with my mother today. Basically, at the kitchen tea, Carla's sister made a huge show of thanking one of the bridesmaids who had done nothing other than arrive the night before to tie ribbons onto glasses and then complain that only me and her husband could tie bows. I got a 'oh, and Helen was there too!" thrown in. I felt, understandably I'd think considering the amount of time I'd spend doing stuff for it, a bit upset but decided to leave it.

Then this morning my mother asked if I was going to the dress fitting. It was the first I'd ever heard of it, and it turned out that Carla was having a fitting for her wedding dress and had invited my mother, her mother and her sister to go and see it. Apparently I was invited too, but never heard anything about it. I was a bit upset because I had specially asked to see the dress when it arrived, but figured it was a parents thing and thought nothing of it. My mother insisted I call Carla and ask but I refused , figuring that if I asked where my invite was it would be forcing her and making her feel awkward.

So my mother did the 'natural' thing - went to Carla, told her that I hate her and my entire family and therefire hers by extension and that I had not been thanked at all for the kitchen tea and yadda yadda yadda. So I got a really upset sms from Carla and then got called by my mother who said that I have to 'build bridges' and make up with her.

Thanks mom. And good job of BURNING ALL THE BRIDGES I've been working on for the last 4+ years. Something tells me that when I'm finished this degree and I go overseas I'm not coming back. And then if my mother tells everyone that I hate them (she did it with my grandmother already) I won't have to deal with it. I can't handle this anymore!

I've been trying to sms Carla for 2 hours now. I just don't know what to say. I think she'll be upset, but I can't allow myself to reply when I'm still angry.

I'm going home now. I have to, sooner or later.