Category Archives: lecturer

Black Pudding, French Fries and the Irish Revolution

I’m starting to think that Ireland has a tendency to make everyone slightly nuts. I don’t have any proof, but I’m sure that they use whiskey to purify the water here. It’s the only explanation for why everyone is so happy all the time, and why we are all on a continuous mission to cause mischief.

irish-potato-232x300Added to this, there seems to be incessant need for the Irish to prove that they’ve recovered from the potato famine of the 19th century and feed you as much potato as they possibly can. I’ve already mentioned the baked potato stuffed with mash, but the other night we had lasagne and french fries. Who the hell serves french fries with pasta?! I’m convinced it’s a plot to take over the world. Get everyone drunk on whiskey water and weighed down by starch. Nobody’ll be able to do anything when the leprechauns move in on their bunny army.

Not to say that the food isn’t great, because it is. The doctor might disagree. She was conned insisted on trying black pudding at breakfast (excuse me while I take a moment to laugh hysterically again). I’ve never seen anything come out of someone’s mouth so fast and yet so politely.
‘That bad?’ I inquired.
‘It tastes like burnt blood,’ she said, taking huge sips of orange juice.
Now, I’m no expert here, but I have to wonder how she knows what burnt blood tastes like. I know I don’t. If it were the Middle Ages, I might consider reporting this odd incident to the local priest. It could be evidence of some odd Pagan sacrifical ceremony involving insubordinate undergrads. For now I’ll just have to watch my back.

Either way, we’re off to Belfast today. When I return I shall regale you with tales of the mysterious stranger, the wise professor’s saged advice about sex and older men, oh, and Belfast. Yay!

Keep It Simple Stupid

imagesToday, I’m going to get a little personal. I apologise to everyone in advance, but I write this post as a way to, hopefully, generate a little discussion about the lives of students. Every so often my department tries to “promote a culture of learning” and invites all their postgrads to a seminar in which either a senior postgrad student, or a staff member, talks for an hour and a half about their research. The problem is that it’s usually only the most junior of postgrads who attend (there are reasons for this, but I’m not at liberty to divulge them), and for me, it appears that most don’t want to be there, and honestly, don’t really seem that interested. I’m not sure how true this is, I’m hoping that some will be brave enough to comment on this post and talk about their feelings (I’m like a cool social media therapist in that way).

Perhaps part of the problem is that most of them have just come from a two hour seminar, but I think there’s more to it than that. Yesterday was one of those days, and while I was listening to people talk after the presentation, certain things struck me as to why most students don’t seem that interested in attending these talks. But before I begin, I want to make one thing clear, yesterday’s presentation was interesting, and if you’d read the piece of work the presenter was talking around, it would have made it easier to follow.

Anyway, I think a lot of the problem has to do with the delivery of the whole thing because there’s a definite sense of them and us. Everyone seems oblivious to the fact that most of the people attending these workshops are still starting out in their academic careers and are still learning how all of this works. And that they’re still apprehensive about seeing and talking to their lecturers as people. Some would argue, tough they must grow up, and that this process isn’t meant for them, but to give staff members a chance to understand each other’s research and work. Well then, if that’s the case, why not just set aside a time to do this privately (again, I have theories, but I value my life)? We do this because the little ones must be given a chance to see where research goes, they tell me.  But then why does it seem that everyone is incapable of talking about things in a simple manner, and making it and themselves more accessible? Maybe, it’s just the academic way, but for me (and this is where it gets personal) it appears that most people are just trying to sound smart rather than having the ability to generate real discussion around an issue. I’m sure that if people were less concerned with using four-syllable words and academic jargon (usually incorrectly), they would get more people joining in on a discussion.

It’s no wonder that the ‘real-world’ view academics as living in ivory towers coming up with ideal ideas about things that have no bearing on the realities of the outside world. The sad irony of it all is that there is a lot of value in the research that is done at universities, but because of the way it’s delivered, the general population are excluded from engaging with it.  One of my students recently wrote a post complaining about the way that academic articles are written, and I see her point. So for the next seminar, which I have the misfortune of having to present, I’m going to try something different. Keeping it as simple as possible. It may work, it may fall flat on its pimply pre-pubescent posterior, but I’m going to try. So, no more pedagogical endeavours masquerading as entertainment, mine’s about chilling, chatting, laughing and having fun.  Oh, and there will be wine because the best discussions always have wine.

5 Ways to Get Your PhD

student_dreaming_graduation_lg_whtAnybody who told you that getting a PhD was about hard grafting, reading vast volumes of work and writing up your findings in a couple hundred pages was lying. Getting a PhD goes far beyond that. I’ve promised that one day I’ll write an entire book detailing the things that I’ve had to endure while being a grad student. Today, however, is not that day; instead, it’s the best advice I can give anybody who thinks that becoming a grad student is a good idea, and how to get out as quickly as you can.

1. Assing Around 

It may sound absurd, but hear me out.  Being a grad student generally involves taking some time to work as a grad assistant, or grad ass, as I like to say (with the emphasis on ass). You’re at the bottom of the food chain in the academic environment, which means that you are responsible for the ass-end of things, and the general mopping up of any shit that goes down. And I mean that quite literally. I’ve actually been made to dispose of scat left by the building’s feline colony (I have my suspicions that it’s actually students leaving a warning to various lecturers about their teaching styles, but I try not to rock the boat and keep my mouth shut).  Anyway, you should prepare to be treated like an ass.  You’re a necessary evil to make people’s lives easier, but something that most don’t like to deal with. The quicker you learn that, the faster you can impress your supervisor who will speed up the process of reading your work to irrigate the department, so to speak.

2. Learn how to reference

This might seem like an obvious tip, but I don’t mean learn how to reference for your thesis. I mean, learn how to reference using every style that you can lay your hands on. Why? Because referencing is a time-consuming banality of academics.  The chances are when your wise and supremely talented superior submits an article for publication they are far too busy contemplating existentialism and the meaning of life to worry about such menial chores, so you, as the ass, will be entrusted to put their reference lists together.  And God help you if the article is rejected because of bad referencing. You will spend an extra six months waiting for your draft to come back because you cocked up, and your supreme leader has to take time away from your thesis to fix your incompetence.

3. Learn how to use Google

Again, this many seem obvious, but when you are putting together that reference list the chances are, that in their ultimate wisdom, your supreme ruler will have forgotten to include one or two references, page numbers, journal details or the like to test your abilities. It’s up to you, like a super smooth 1920s detective, to work out where the information came from and fill in the blanks. Being able to find missing references is an art, especially when you are looking for a page number of a quote from a book that’s been out of print for the last 50 years. Being able to do this fast, and correctly, will prove to your supervisor that you are worthy of a few extra minutes of their time. Remember, every minute you save your supervisor, is an extra minute they can dedicate to your thesis.

4. Be able to define a ‘thingie’

If you’ve ever watch The Devil Wears Prada, you might remember the scene where Miranda tells Andy to book that restaurant that she likes with the guy whose name was on the piece of paper that she had in her hand last week (or something to that effect at least).  Now combine this vagueness with the more stereotypical vagueness of an academic and you come out with the following conversation:

Supervisor: What did I do with that thingie from two days ago.

Me: It’s on your desk under the book on phenomenology.

Supervisor: No that’s the other thingie. I’m talking about the one with the thing that has the thing on the thing with a thing.

Me: Oh that! Here you go.

I’m that good. And sometimes, if I’ve been really good, I even get a thank you and a whole two minutes to discuss my latest theoretical idea.

5. Be observant

Always pay attention. You will be asked to find lost books, envelopes, passports and of course, thingies. Like a wild game hunter, you need to know your surroundings and be able to notice when something’s amiss. That’s the difference between an average grad ass and a super grade A ass. Your ability to notice and remember where you see things can make it seem like you’re super-human, with awesome psychic powers or x-ray vision, and nobody wants to mess with a superhero. If you are able to locate random missplaced essentials with seemingly no effort, your supervisor will speed up the process. Either because they fear what you may do with your super powers if you turn to the dark side, or because there are only so many times that their egos can be upstaged by a know-it-all grad student. Either way, you’ll get out fast.

And if all else fails, threaten to write a book 🙂

Be Nice

Be-Nice-or-Leave-PosterEvaluations. I hate them. Especially when they come back from quality control and you get a sense of how much a class either liked you or loathed you. Most experienced lecturers will tell you to just ignore the nasty comments because those are usually written by the most difficult students, but if you’re having a marginally bad day, the remarks can make you near-suicidal. Luckily, I haven’t had anything too awful written about me yet; though once an evaluation had clear death-threat connotations attached to it, and another said that I shouldn’t get a salary because I suck. But while perusing the bitchiness and constant nit-picking about whether or not I’m old enough to lecture, or if I’m nice enough to talk to, I began thinking, why don’t we get to write evaluations on students. I know we mark their work, but that’s an assessment on how well they’ve applied themselves to a given task. What would happen if their final mark was assessed by their overall approachability, organisation and conduct during class.

Luckily, I have a blog, so here are a few things that I would like to comment on in my evaluation of individual students over the years:

For in-class behaviour

1. Student hasn’t brought any writing implements with them throughout semester. Concerned that they never learnt to write. Perhaps they should learn, come back next year, and try again.

2. Student on cellphone throughout class, with headphones in. I do like the sound of my own voice A LOT, but I can talk to myself at home… in bed… with coffee. So, if you don’t want to listen, please stay away.

3. Student conducts private lecture at the back of the class. I would really like a break so I suggest that you take the whole lecture (on a side note – wait until someone starts giggling for no reason and see how confident you feel).

For assessments

1. Student cannot form a complete sentence. Please go away and don’t come back until you learn to write.

2. Student writes gibberish. When I ask what they meant, they look confused and reply ‘I don’t know’. Please go away and don’t come back until you realise that I don’t speak idiot.

3. Student wrote beautiful essay on the public sphere. Pity they were required to write on postmodernism. I assume their reading level is up to Twi-hard. Just walk away…

Overall performance

1. Student smells. Disturbing other students. I advise deodorant, or more preferably a bath.

…….. Wait, hang on…..

I’ve always threatened to put up a shame board of ridiculous student answers and antics. That could be a way of getting back at the mean ones (you think we don’t know your handwriting and those evaluations are all anonymous… Ah, bless).

Bad academics

Just in case anyone had doubts as to who the evil one was

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Ranting, Raving and Venting

I am on the verge of committing various forms of violent acts involving large blunt spoons, super paper cuts, and something that I’m still deciding on, involving plastic explosives, stuffed bunnies and a very big stick. Things have gotten completely out of hand, and to be frank, I do not have a free day over the next month to do anything except work, mark, and stare hopelessly into the abyss that is my Masters. Remind me again why I bothered with this stupid idea?

Oh wait… I remember now.. Because I am stupid.. DUH!! Sorry, with stupidity comes slowness. And to make matters worse, I have to write an academic paper based on that nonsense I wrote about Facebook last year (cause no-one is over this topic yet!! YAWN). Oh but wait, there’s even more joyful news that coincides with this piece of work…. They planning it over the Hallowean weekend so we can all go to a costume party in the evening. Nobody seems to understand how much I cringe at the thought of those sorts of things… but it’s fine.. it’s all for the good of the department and I can just get them back by going as a gardner, or a giant toilet roll… or better… in my stinky, sweaty cricket pads as Hansie’s ghost! God, I have tact! Hahahahahaha!!!!

Academics Are Next!!

So I promised that after I went after the fat people I’d go after the academics around the world.. ok so I guess I don’t know that many.. and in fact I kinda like the ones I know so I really don’t have much room to complain. So then what to bitch and moan about? First years?? Been there!!! Uh.. Men.. Oh wait.. Done that too.. Um… Monkeys?? Wait.. Why would I do that? They so cute and cheeky.. Like me 🙂 Oh wait, I digress… Hmmm… Let’s think about this for a while……………

Well I can’t really think about who to bitch about in general.. And after listening to a third year lecture today, I guess I really shouldn’t stereotype so. Sorry obese American people.. You are special too.. Fat.. But special! AAAAGGGHHHHH!!! This is gonna take some time to think about… Let me get back to you in a few days!

Melt Downs Lead to Frozen Dessert

Yeah, so it wasn’t really a melt down, it just sounds funky as a heading. But since yesterday’s drama, when our supervisor thought Michelle was about to die, it seems to be that the order of business has been cake, waffles, and copious amounts of ice-cream. I now know why none in the department pursued medicine, because to be fair they have the strangest remedies for different situations.

Michelle felt faint and had a little chest pain… so remedy… cake!! I’m not quite sure how this was meant to help. Shame though, everyone was so worried that she might die and then they’d have to do all the work that they had pawned off onto her. I know that if you have a sugar low cake is good, but maybe it would have been a better idea to hand over some aspirin if they weren’t sure.

But my favorite part of yesterday, was when I had a slight asthma attack on the way to lunch, and so was trying to control my breathing.. the remedy this time… a threat of an adrenaline shot!! Um… I’m no expert here, but surely that would kill me??!! I think I am rather hurt now.

I guess that’s why Michelle suggested ice-cream today, try make me feel a little better after it was hinted certain people wanted me dead. Not that the ice-cream really did anything to help my mood, it actually made me feel sick, but watching Mich create a cheesecake cookie chocolate milkshake was rather entertaining. Almost as entertaining as watching the waitress’s face when she ordered an ice-cream sundae with cheesecake on the side. Oh, plus the random little person who gave Mich shoes to watch… What the hell was that all about??

Breathe In Breathe Out

Today I had to present my research findings to all the Media lecturers.. easy right.. I know this stuff backwards… I did spend six months doing, it didn’t I? True, but let’s just say I have a little problem with prepared public speaking. And picturing any of them in their tighty whities, terrifies me so I prefer not to imagine them naked (shivers down spine)… not that they not all special and amazingly good-looking in their own ways, I would just prefer to think of them fully clothed.

I don’t know why I get so nervous, maybe it had to do with being cast as a tricycyle in the nativity play… that’s bound to shatter a child’s confidence. A TRICYCLE???? How does that fit into the nativity? People hadn’t even invented the wheel at that stage!! Ok so it’s official… it is the fault of my Class One teacher for crushing my confidence.

Actually, I liked being the trike… I got to race around the corridors “practicing”. I guess that I just get nervous cause I don’t like having to prove myself… bullshitting is easy and if you confident enough no-one will question you. However, with this type of stuff you have to be sharp… especially with Prof van der Hoven around… he’s bound to test your knowledge using the biggest words and terms imaginable…

“Do you feel that Facebook is contributing or detracting from the new public sphere as an online democracy as viewed by the earlier theories of Habermas?”
……Ah…….. actually some of the research that I have conducted has pointed to….. um…… to both aspects…. but I think it needs further investigation…. (What the hell does that mean?). But I guess it couldn’t be all bad… he said I conducted a very professional presentation… wait is that code for it was pretty just no substance…. EEEP!!!

Michelle says I’m just being paranoid as usual, but it worries me that the questions from my lecturers after I had finished revolved, not around my research, but about my personal life and how they think I should find a nice boyfriend to cuddle over Christmas. I mean WTF?!!? And then I hear remarks from people such as they want to know when other people have booked me… booked me for what? What is going on? I thought I was presenting my Facebook rubbish, not providing a random service for driving away the male species. I’m so confused….

Firsties Need Respect

I’ve come to the conclusion that most firsties are the rejects of the earth… I think they are the proof that government experimentation on human intelligence is being done… and failing miserably!! Today, I was sitting in on one of their lectures (I didn’t realise tutoring meant selling my soul to the devil) and was once again astonished at their ignorance, rudeness and utter lack of dress sense…. tights and skirts… I’m sorry, but who was the fool that thought that was a good idea!?

The poor lecturer, who I think was already having a bad day, was trying to teach the little monsters about film and audiences, but you think they could show her any respect? It baffles me as to why students sign up for courses that they have no interest in. Ok.. fair enough I understand that in first year you pick electives that have nothing to do with your intended major. But the part I don’t get is why do firsties seem to think that they already know everything and don’t have to listen in the lectures.

Here’s news for everyone… as crazy as academics are and act, there is a reason they are like that… their brains are completely overloaded with brilliance and at times a little puppy… but the point is that they know their shit and it’s taken them years to get there. No arrogant little firstie at this point has the capacity to even vaguely comprehend the knowledge a proper academic possesses. Even me with my brilliance, cannot comprehend it… actually it makes my brain hurt trying, and it upsets my puppy.

So my advice…. listen… they actually do know what they on about most of the time and besides little ones, you are paying them R2000 to stand up there to talk to you; you might as well pay attention and pray that some of their talent rubs off on you, cause let’s face it, you need it… your brain isn’t that incredible!!


The Art and Soul of Writing


The ramblings of an overworked underpaid grad student in South Africa



Nikolai Jericho

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the written word!

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