01 October 2010

Two years down, two to go

I am now at the halfway point of my time at the OU. I have been here for two years and a day, I will be here one year and 365 days more. I have received 25 grant payments, I will receive 23 more. I've written one dissertation, one probation report, and three articles. I have my thesis left. What have I learned?

I think I have learned the most about precision. Precision in writing and arguing. The evidence of this, the thing that I would present as evidence for 'learned about precision in writing' for my stupid 6 month progress reports, would be the reduction of my probation report from 18,000 words to 10,000 words. This cutting required the most important skill I think academics need: the ability to look at every word in every sentence in every paragraph in every section in every article and decide how it all fits together and if that word is needed. And if it isn't, to cut it, regardless of how much you love that word. The report was packed so tightly in the end, so dense. I was, and I suppose still am, quite proud of it.

But there is a lot to still be done. I have been overtaken this week by starting to lay the groundwork for this postdoc application, asking people I respect their opinion, contacting people at King's, both administrative staff and current postdocs. I am looking now for someone who might be potentially interested in collaboration. I e-mailed one Japanese academic, although my eye is still on this scholar in Hamburg... The good thing about getting a Japanese collaborator is the value (in uniqueness) to my application, but also for potential future plans as I would be happy to take a job or another postdoc at a high level Japanese university.

A friend asked me yesterday if I realised I was so calculating. No, I said, it surprises me. And I know that it won't work out the way I plan now: I will look back on this post in a year or two and laugh at myself. Or maybe I won't: maybe I'm getting to a point in my life where I actually know what I want and I can go get it. Either way, it's exciting to me.

I did receive my 25th grant payment today and it included the yearly 2.5% raise that we get. It's not a lot, but our utilities have gone down, I am saving £10-15 a month now on my Internet/phone, and our car insurance will likely go down again in November. All this together will amount to a substantial shift. I don't like counting my chickens before they hatch, but I think things financially are likely going to get better.

Lastly, my weight loss maintenance is going well. Much harder to maintain than lose for me. I'm not sure how much to eat. Well, I mean I know within about 300 kCals, but it's very hard to put my finger on. Yoko says I should eat until I'm not hungry, but this sounds much, much easier than it is. I have always seen eating as a task at meals, and then something I do intermittently through the day without any thought. I also tend to eat until the food is gone. This works some of the time, but not when there is more food than you need in front of you. What do you do? I've also only cycled three times this week, walking to work the other days, so I have been burning less. Still, I'm happy where I've been all week between 74-75 kgs. I'm going to shoot to keep that until the end of the year, I think and re-evaluate in January. My clothes are feeling a little big, which I hate and I don't want to go buy new clothes. I suppose I just have to get used to it: they don't look bad or noticeable yet. Just have to wear my belt a little tighter.
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