Friday, 21 November 2008

Five things meme

Seen this in so many places, thought it would make a nice break from attacking my thesis.

5 things I was doing 10 years ago.

  1. In my first year of a Chemistry degree, enjoying labs and french but not the rest.
  2. About to do to my first ringing society dinner and start a very serious long term relationship.
  3. Loving exploring and discovering London.
  4. Still managing to work, ring, play my flute and sing.
  5. Getting used to having high speed on tap internet on my first computer.

5 things on my to do list today
  1. Bake a cake for a friend's birthday.
  2. Pack for the ringing society dinner and weekend in London.
  3. Work on finishing off a chapter and formatting stuff on others.
  4. Have lunch with my Grandmother.
  5. Chase up my fellow convenors for session at international conference in April.

5 snacks I love

  1. Hot chocolate
  2. Sesame snaps
  3. Jammy dodgers
  4. My Mum's version of Pret a Manger's Love bars
  5. Grandma's chocolate crispies

5 things I would do if I were a millionaire

  1. Find a job that let me do research, teach but in the USA and part-time
  2. Donate to various causes
  3. Go on an international travelling gap year
  4. Buy a house (or several in the USA, UK, possibly a small island off Belize)
  5. Pay off my student loans

5 places I've lived

  1. small village, Northants
  2. London (South Kensington, Turnpike Lane, Edgeware Road, Tottenham, Bow, Honor Oak Park, Wimbledon, Bloomsbury)
  3. Summer Camp, New Jersey
  4. Lusaka, Zambia
  5. another small village, Northants

5 jobs I've had

  1. Music teacher (many different forms including camp counsellor, Saturday morning music school)
  2. Credit controller
  3. Research Assistant
  4. Lecturer
  5. Research Chemist

Wednesday, 12 November 2008

Big questions in Geography

In the attack each chapter in turn thesis strategy that is occurring in response to the great PhD meltdown of 2008 I'm currently going through my introduction.

Something I'm finding hard, and I'm sure its the imposter complex along with not wanting to sound big-headed is the contribution of my work to the big questions in my discipline. In my case this is Geography/Environmental Sciences.

Cutter et al. (2002) addressed the issue of what the big questions in Geography are. The article is from an American stand point (similar to Pattison, 1964), having come out of discussions out of AAG# but is useful in shaping my argument somewhat.

Cutter et al. (2002: 307) think that the 10 big questions are:
1. What makes places and landscapes different from one another, and why is this important?
2. Is there a deeply held human need to organize space by creating arbitrary borders, boundaries, and districts?
3. How do we delineate space?
4. Why do people, resources, and ideas move?
5. How has the earth been transformed by human action?
6. What role will virtual systems play in learning about the world?
7. How do we measure the unmeasurable?
8. What role has geographical skill played in the evolution of human civilization, and what role can it play in predicting the future?
9. How and why do sustainability and vulnerability change from place to place and over time?
10.What is the nature of spatial thinking, reasoning, and abilities?

My work fits into (5) and (9) as it involves contamination of resources (water and food), coping strategies that may be sustainable (urban agriculture, food networks, food security), issues of vulnerability (the poorer members of society having less choice and therefore perhaps less concern with risk*) and alongside these questions concerns perceptions and policy relevance.

Alongside my usual pigeonholes of environment and development (including health, pollution, toxicity, sustainability) its sometimes easier for me to say what big questions I'm trying to answer as my work by its very nature is inter/transdisciplinary.

#The differences between 'geography' in the British and American contexts let alone in university departments is definitely a subject for a post all of its own.

* Something that has often come up in focus group discussion with urban agriculturalists in the field is that they say they can't afford (in economic terms) to think about the quality of the food they eat, only getting enough in quantity. I wonder if anyone has done any research at what point in the economic growth cycle people start to become concerned with quality rather than just quantity issues (like when people start spending money on non-essential items).

Cutter, SL., Golledge, R. and Graf, WL.(2002)The Big Questions in Geography, The Professional Geographer, 54(3): 305-317. ( DOI link )
Pattison, WD. (1964) The Four Traditions of Geography, Journal of Geography, 63(5):211-216.

Sunday, 2 November 2008


International Dissertation Writing Month (InaDWriMo) is a variant on Blog a post each day of the month (NaBloMo) which is a variant on write a novel month and I've signed up at Dr Brazen Hussy .

I've had a major thesis melt down this past couple of weeks (which had been coming for a long time) so this has come at the right time.

My aim is to finish the four chapters that are mostly written (have had comments from one or both supervisors) that is the study site, heavy metal levels, food consumption and the risk measures/health issues chapter. Also I want to have the theory and methodology for the last empirical chapter done (this is the bulk of new writing). This is not word busting just sorting stuff out really. Therefore, in an ideal world (but its not in my official target) I'd make a good go at the THQ chapter (which uses stuff from the HM and food chapters). I have all the figures for this from various EGU posters and after my main supervisor's revelation that he is OK with 1000 word chapters it can be quickly writte. Especially as my office next door neighbour got rave reviews for an emprical chapter written in a day. However, I'm newly enthused about getting through the hoops to get the piece of paper so we shall see.

I love designing research, carrying it out, talking about it, doing posters, but have an issue with writing. I'm also really missing teaching this term (I've been banned so I don't get distracted).

I probably should also mention that I don't really like working on Sundays. This often becomes not working the whole weekend, something I'm trying to change or sometimes I work half of Sunday. Sometimes its weird as after ringing, church, coffee its 2pm and I'm raring to go.