Research update

It’s 10 pm on a Friday night… and would you believe I am in my office?

As of March 12th, 2011, I have been here in Wellington for 1 year.  That is 1 year in which I have read more than 300 scholarly articles, and not one single novel.   While a number of adjectives could be used to describe my PhD journey so far (ambiguous, bewildering, annoying, exciting, tedious, frustrating, etc.), it has nevertheless been an interesting journey.  A number of people who have gone through what I am presently experiencing have indicated to me that the 1st year of a PhD is usually the hardest.  Today, a faculty member said that completing the proposal stage is the “most challenging technically”.  At Victoria, the process works as such:  From the time you first enroll in the PhD programme, until your full proposal and revisions are accepted by the school, you are a provisionally enrolled PhD student.  A provisionally enrolled student has 15 months in which to submit his or her proposal, and make a 45 minute presentation to the school.  At the presentation the faculty members will provide comments and raise questions that may or may not require substantial revisions before the final full proposal can be submitted and accepted.  Once the full proposal, generally comprising the first 3rd or 3 chapters of your PhD thesis, is completed and submitted, you can then start gathering your data, which eventually becomes the remaining 3rd of your thesis.

Presently, I am in the home stretch of finishing up my proposal.  I have a few more substantial parts to work on (including a pilot study!), and then address some issues I have been putting off, clean it up, and then prepare my presentation.  Once this is done, I am going to take a holiday.  I am going to read a novel.

The timing of my progress is actually surprisingly good.  My mom will be arriving from Chicago on May 4th, to spend 2 weeks here in New Zealand.  I aim aiming to have the proposal done by April 20th, with gives me 2 weeks to prepare my presentation, which I will do the afternoon of my mother’s arrival.  I will then be able to take off 2 weeks guilt-free, to spend some quality time with my momma, before I finish up the revisions and tackle the human ethics committee application.  Hopefully, the HEC application and approval will not take more than 2 weeks, and, then I will be pretty much ready to head to Laos.  This coincides well with the end of our current lease on 20 June, after which things are still up in the air.  It looks like my sweetie might be heading back to Canada for a job opportunity, in which case we will hopefully have some time to travel a bit together before he leaves, I put my stuff in storage, and go to Asia for a few months.

I am actually quite pleased with the progress I have been making, and the timing of all these things.  While it is a bit annoying that so much is still up in the air, I’m pretty confident I can accomplish what I have set out to do, in the time I have left.

Now I’m just waiting on HEC approval for my pilot study… then I’ll finish up my methodology chapter, write a quick summary, a gantt chart, and start crafting some power point slides!

If you want to check out my research profile, now available on the VUW website, this will tell you all could you ever want to know and more about my current research.


http://www.victoria.ac.nz/sim/research/research-students.aspx#NicoleGaston

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Life photographic archive now available on Google image search

I recently discovered that what seems like the entire Life photographic archive is available in digital format through the Google image search function.

 

http://images.google.com/hosted/life

 

In my previous life (before I was a PhD student), I studied photographic archives.  In fact, I wrote an entire 50,000 word research paper on photographic preservation.  I was also involved in Rush University’s digitization project of a part of their photographic archives.  Getting to sort through hundreds (thousands?) of old pictures made the tediousness of numbering them all less painful.

Anyway, the Life image collection is really fantastic.  Here are some of my favourite images I have come across* so far.

* My search terms often include “library” and “bicycle”

 

 

 

Wellington earthquake

Just when you thought it was safe to put a teapot on the top of your kitchen cupboards…

a 4.5 magnitude earthquake shakes your kitchen!

Ok, not exactly.  Yes, there was an earthquake in Wellington on Monday night.  Yes it was 4.5 magnitude.  Yes, a lot of people felt it.

No, I did not feel it, and no, it did not shake my teapots.

In fact, I probably would never have even known there had been an earthquake if Ticker hadn’t called me from work, where he informed me that the entire kitchen at Maria Pia’s (the establishment where he is employed) was shaking.  Thanks to that call, I barely slept a wink all night.

Now… should I take the wine bottles and teapots down off the top of the cupboard?

Oh, in unrelated news, I also wanted to mention that I recently participated in Wellington’s “Round the Bays” 7-km fun-run, my first time ever participating in an organized sporting event.  At a pretty slow jogging pace I completed the 7 km run in just under 52 minutes.  I am certainly proud of myself.  Will I go for a 10 km or half marathon next?  Pretty unlikely.  Running more than an hour is pretty boring.  I’d rather stay at home and knit while watching Louis Theroux documentaries.

Speaking of knitting, I have been on a rampage lately!  I finished a tea cozy last week, and am about 75% done with my first ever pair of mittens!  I shall post pictures time permitting.  I have also been doing quite a bit of sewing and baking, much to the detriment of my progress on my research.  My most recent interest has been in savoury muffins.  A sample recipe follows – spice it up with your own personalized additions!

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup oil
  • 2/3 cup milk
  • 2 tbs baking powder
  • 1/2 cup grated cheese (colby or cheddar are nice)
  • 1/4 cup toasted seeds (sunflower or pumpkin are nice)
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh herbs (I used parsley and sage)
  • a pinch of salt
  • pepper
  • 2 tbs sweet chili sauce
  • 1 tsp crushed dried hot chili flakes

mix and match your favorite savoury ingredients, including stuff like:

  • spring onions
  • walnuts
  • blue cheese bits
  • bacon
  • ham
  • olives
  • sauteed mushrooms
  • corn
  • fresh tomatoes
  • chopped spinach
  • goat cheese
  • a handful of chopped sundried tomatoes
  • 1/2 an onion, finely sliced and carmelized

Whatever you throw in, don’t over do it, remember “less is more” when it comes to flavours, and just be careful not to overmix your batter, or the muffins will come out tough and rubbery.  Mix everything together with a few swift strokes of a spoon or knife, until just combined,  Spoon into greased muffin tins, sprinkle a bit more cheese on top, and bake at 375 F/180 C for 25 – 30 minutes or until golden brown.

They’re great on their own, or served with a nice bowl of soup.

Hrm… now I’m hungry.