PhD Struggles: Abstract Draft 11

One of the things I get frustrated by so much in my PhD is the writing of abstracts. Basically, you have to write say a 400 word summary of a specific part of your research that you would like to go present in say half a year’s time. So in other words: you need to make a summary of something you don’t have yet. I mean, if you don’t get any further in 6 months time, your PhD is probably not going so well.

Also, the abstract needs to be clear and understandable. Now, try writing a summary of your framework in this summary of your research. You know: the hypotheses of the framework, explaining some terminology, etc. Maybe in three sentences or so? I am absolutely convinced that someone who is not me or my supervisor will not know what I am on about.

And then there is the constant comments of my supervisor. I am at draft 11 now. And in every draft he tells me: explain this more, or give some more examples for that. Which of course gets me way above the word limit. So I have to get rid of other explanations and examples. Which my supervisor then asks me to expand on because it’s not clear enough.

In between draft 1 and draft 4, I changed the whole abstract and ended up with something very similar to draft 1 again. Then, I realised my theory had a massive problem and I cried a little. For draft 5, I sort of cut out the whole part that had the problem (which immediately solved the word-limit issue), but then I had to expand on another problem that now had an unsatisfying explanation. Thank goodness, for draft 6 I found a way out of my problem, but the explanation is rooted to deeply into the framework. For draft 7, I had to explain it better. For draft 8, I had to dumb it down because I was over the word limit. Then for draft 9, my supervisor decided I was better off swapping some paragraphs around, and for draft 10 I had to add in another definition which made me swap my paragraphs back to where they were before. But then I was over the word limit, so for draft 11 I cut out all my subtitles and the titles of the examples. I still have 4 more words to cut and then I am just under the limit. And I don’t think my abstract has turned any more clear than it was 11 drafts ago.


Another Wintery Memory, all the way down south

So I kinda only did a post like this yesterday, but my desktop scored again! This morning, it was South Africa. I don’t exactly remember how many years it’s been… But it was winter in the Drakesberg region. The nights were so cold, but during the day it was a wonderful 25degrees. And this, this was the view from our cottage in the morning. No hippos or crocs around, but definitely one of the most gorgeous lakeside views I’ve ever had. A wintery memory just like yesterday, but what a difference!



Wintery Memories

Today I bring you another Happy Desktop Photo. This morning my computer surprised me with a photo from Finland! Around 5 years ago now, I went on Erasmus exchange in Helsinki. And what better way to spend my spring holiday in March than to go up to Lapland?

It was a week of husky sleigh riding, sledging down every hill I could find, an attempt to ice fishing (we gave up because it took us too long to drill a hole through the ice), sauna with a dip in the lake after, making a thousand snow angels, playing with the pet reindeer, and some cross-country skiing for rookies. My goodness what a week it was!

Yes, Finland is definitely another place I want to go back to!


Movie Review: Deadpool

Me and the boyfriend love going to the cinema. When we were still travelling around Australia, we would go to the movies in every big town we passed through. When we were doing long distance, going to the movies was one of our typical things to do in the short weekends we did spend together. And now that we live together, of course, the cinema is the perfect place to be for Date Night.

Now, you might think this isn’t very original, but we don’t really care. We like the big screen, the loud effects, and of course the unhealthy snacks. Nachos with hot cheese for me, popcorn for the boyfriend. And sometimes some jellybeans or Ben and Jerry’s. The cinema isn’t too far from home either, so usually we walk there and back. After the movie, we have a 20 minute walk back to discuss our favourite parts. And Saturday night, we had a lot to discuss!

We went to see Deadpool. Hi-La-Ri-Ous!

I do like my occasional superhero movie, but I’m not into them enough to really know what’s going on in the Avengers series and the likes. For me, my superhero knowledge is limited to Spiderman, X-men, and the jokes from The Big Bang Theory. The boyfriend then is very much a Superman kinda guy. So watching a superhero movie nowadays is always a bit of a risk: if they put in too many references: we are lost. And I guess Deadpool is definitely a movie with a lot of references, but on such a different level. And even then, I might have missed half of the jokes, the half I did get was more than worth it anyways.

The movie plays with every single rule still standing in the screen business. It makes references both to the characters in other movies, as to the actual actors and production houses making them. And the general style behind these references: “let’s take the micky our of someone”. Now, who doesn’t like to have good laugh based on the shortcomings of something else? 😉

I don’t want to give any spoilers because it really is a fun movie to watch. It might not be genius or whatever, but it sure gave me a good laugh and I haven’t been so entertained in the cinema in a while. And all of this thanks to the jokes about the actors, characters and movies we all know and love.


Review – Otello by Verdi

Once in a while, me and the boyfriend like to enjoy what I call high culture. This is not to say that certain kinds of culture would be ‘better’ or ‘higher quality’, it’s mostly to do with the accessibility of it. For example: the occasional cinema visit, some comedy in the local pub, or a concert of a popular band, are easily arranged and (at least for the first two) not too pricey. Whereas high culture very much puts us and our piggy bank out of our comfort zone. But last Friday my parents invited us to go see an opera with them. Yes please!

My favourite operas so far, are the ones where you don’t know where to look first. Of course, you have the orchestra you can glance away at, the people around you in their fancy clothes and odd looking hairdos (and that is generally where we feel out of our comfort zone, being young and wearing are one and only set of fancy clothes, therefore referred to as my ‘opera’clothes). The insanely strong voices singing the impressive melodies coming out of these tiny little humans. (Yes, we generally sit on the 2nd balcony or higher). The stories unfolding, sometimes drama but sometimes pure slapstick comedy. But you also have the set and costume changes, the action happening on stage in the background, the choir doing all sorts of stuff. And usually, De Vlaamse Opera very much succeeds in bringing an interesting adaptation. They don’t put the opera on scene the way it was meant to when it was written hundreds of years ago. The only thing that is the same, is the music and the lyrics.

Last Friday, it was the premiere of Otello by Verdi (of course based on, as you all know, good  ol’ Shakespeare’s story). The set was quite minimal, which usually makes me worry a little bit, as it gets boring more easily. But this time it didn’t. And for me, that was all thanks to the choir and the music.

For every act, only the absolutely necessary characters were on scene. Nothing was happening in the background, no set changes or no secondary actors acting out a side story. Even the costumes were bland, everyone dressed in black against a black set. But when the choir came on, I was dead impressed. You could almost call it a choreography, the way they all moved as one. The opening image was one of a black stage lit up by lightning, the back of the stage filled by the choir. It was set in a boat on a stormy sea, and the image was created beautifully and only by the movement of the choir. Really well done.

And then their was the music. Quite melodic, which is I why I still prefer the classics over more contemporary operas. In the first three acts, the music was strong and powerful, but in the last act it winded down beautifully. And that’s probably why the minimal decor worked so well. The music suited the story so well, the actors created a beautiful image just with their voices. They only had their faces and bodies to work with, but really managed to get under your skin.

So all in all, this opera was definitely worth watching for the music and just that. The music and the acting was so strong, they didn’t need any set or costume changes to keep the audience’s attention. This opera went back to its basics and did so very successfully.


Check out this video, the opening song and one of the more quiet songs in the last act.




Same Old Same Old: Worries About The Future

I am officially not young anymore. Why? Because I’m scared of time sneaking up on me.

No, I’m not talking about wrinkles and back problems. I’m talking about having to make choices. Big ones.

In the next 5 to 10 years, there are two main things I would like to do.

Go on another crazy adventure, me and the boyfriend against the world.

Have children.

The last part is not necessarily something I want to do in the next 5 to 10 years, it’s more something I have to do in the next 5 years if I ever want to. Fuck that’s scary. I’m only 25. I feel like the world is at my feet, but I’ve got this heavy backpack full of lack of time.

I wonder how these adventure couples do it. We all know the stories: ‘we sold our house and bought a van and have been travelling for three years now’. How do they plan for the future? Or do they not? Are my dreams not combinable?

I mean, think of your parents. Parents used to be awesome before we came around. My mom and dad travelled through the Atlas Mountains on donkeys. They used to grow weird organic food in their garden in the 80s. My dad used to take meditation classes. Now, they are members of the local tennis club. They go to the opera once a month. And since my brother and I have left the house, they are slowly picking up travelling again. Last year they cross-country skied through Lapland. But for about 25 years, my parents drove us to our hobbies and made birthday cakes, while attending parent-teacher meetings and buying us new shoes every so many months.

I am so not ready for that. And I’m scared I won’t be by the time I need to be. Because let’s face it ladies, we are stuck with a biological clock. If we ever want a little version of us running around the house, we need to plan for it. Of course we want a wonderful partner first. Now that part I’ve got sorted, thank god. But ideally, we also have some financial security. A sound job and at least a two bedroom apartment that is our own. And then we will give our little rascals everything we have and we will love them like we have never loved before. And they will love us back, and that’ll be everything we need to keep us sane between all the smelly nappies and crazy teenage drama.

But what happens to our other dreams? I always figured you should live your dreams until children become your one and only dream. That’s when the time is right. And that’s the way time would do it. You get to grow up, find yourself, see the world, meet people, bump into your second half, and by the time you’re tired of the adventure, your motherly instincts will give you butterflies every time you see chubby little baby cheeks.

I seem to have skipped a part. I adore chubby little baby cheeks and tiny little grabby fingers. But I’m not tired of the adventure. And let’s face it, if you’re that crazy to combine them, you’re gonna need a whole lot of money to back you up. Because you will want your little monkeys to have it all. Just like you want to have it all. And if maybe time would just slow down, you could.



Our Pet Spider Called Pedro

Today, I would like to tell you about our pet: a spider called Pedro. No, he is not one of those exotic big hairy fellows in a fishbowl, he is merely a tiny little spider that one day turned up in our bedroom. This must have been around the time of my birthday, a little bit more than three months ago. The boyfriend had just contacted the landlords to ask if we really really really aren’t allowed to take a cat? We aren’t 😦 So I guess we decided Pedro could stay, to make up for the loss of our cat that will not be. (It was gonna be a tabby cat and we were gonna name him Bruce.)

Now, I can see you wonder what sort of weird people we are, keeping spiders in the house. Don’t worry, we do clean, and Pedro is the only spider we keep. The other ones that turn up are a lot less lucky. They go to “a farm on the countryside because there is more space to play,” if you know what I mean. But not Pedro, he has got enough space to play.

He usually hangs out in the top right corner of the bedroom. Sometimes he makes his way across the ceiling to the left side. Sometimes we’re worried he’s left us, but then we just find him walking about. He always ends up back in his favourite spot, the top right.

One thing I particularly like about Pedro, is that he eats the flies. You know, those tiny little ones that always fly right in front of your eyes? Yeah, we have none of those in the bedroom! Now, when it comes to summer, Pedro is really gonna have to prove he can pull his weight in the house. When the mosquitos come. He’s a tiny little fellah really, so I’m not sure if he’ll be able to handle the mozzies. But even if he doesn’t, I think we’ll let him stay. He’s part of the family now.

(By the way, does anyone know the lifespan of tiny little spiders?)