Thursday, 1 December 2016

December - Planning for a New Year

Next year I will definitely be transferring to a new institution and starting again on a taught PG course. I attended one open day a week or so back, and am planning to attend another in the new year. Both are within an hour of home, so hopefully I'll be a lot less isolated than I was with my previous institution. Unfortunately I am not eligible for the Postgraduate Loans as I already have an MA - even though it's a "professional one". It's slightly irritating because I was ineligible for most types of funding when I took my original MA because it was classed as professional, and now I'm ineligible for the academic funding because said original MA is now too academic... ARGH!

Bloody typical! *sigh*

So, in practice that just means I'll continue part time.

When looking to go back to another more-local university I shortlisted 10 south-eastern institutions plus one near where TGO works. I don't really want to head back up there BUT it is a good university and a cheaper area to live, so... I put my inner-Aspie to work and have worked out a ranking for each institution and course based on a number of criteria.

Stage one: Identification

Seven institutions in and around London, with 10 courses that align with my academic interests;
One institution with two courses near TGO
Three general South-East institutions with six courses aligning. Some other south-eastern region institutions were not short-listed at this point due to accessibility (I don't drive) or lack of relevant courses.

Stage 2: Ranking
  1. Course titles:
    • Plain History couses were ranked lower than one that was either specifically "medieval" or which was designed as a Historical Research degree as I felt those would be of greater benefit to my future studies.
  2. Course type:
    • MA = 2 points, vs MRes = 1 point. This was because I felt I will benefit from more support at this stage.
  3. Dissertation lengths:
    • These were simply ranked by length, with a longer dissertation gaining more points because it usually reflected a lesser number of optional modules.
    • A shorter dissertation but more modules I deemed equally beneficial as a longer dissertation with less optional modules, assuming suitable support within the department.
  4. Compulsory modules:
    • A specific "Research skills" module was ranked most highly, with thematic overview modules ranking second. Other compulsory modules weren't ranked as I see these as 'things that I must complete' in contrast to 'things I find most beneficial'. 
  5. Optional modules:
    • Optional modules were harder to rank, so I decided to award 2 points to any optional module that I felt would be directly relevant to any future research I undertake.
    • Subsequent optional modules which would be useful in developing technique, contextual awareness, and so on, were given 1 point each.
  6. Language support:
    • I want a university that at minimum offers support and training in medieval Latin. Other relevant languages are a bonus, especially Middle English. Therefore Latin support and tuition was given 2 points, other relevant languages got 1, and irrelevant languages (to me) weren't noted.
  7. Cost:
    • Cost is always relevant, like it or not. Despite being mostly interested in part-time study, I ranked on full-time fees in part because not all institutions provided clear part-time fees.
    • Costs were ranked inversely, meaning a £10k/per annum cost was 1 point, and a £1k per annum cost would be 10 points. I used decimals here because there is a lot of difference between a £5000/yr and a £5700/yr cost.
Following this I decided to add in some additional adjustments to rankings based on some extra criteria.
  1. Part-time:
    • Not all institutions were clear that they offered their courses with a part-time option. I ranked those which clearly stated the existence of any part-time options as +1.

      This fed into adjustment 2...
  2. Tuition times:
    • Offering part-time tuition is one thing, offering ACCESSIBLE part-time tuition is another thing entirely! Many institutions weren't clear on how their times would adjust to someone who needs to continue working, and were mostly adjusted to accommodate those who had more flexible outside demands.
    • For 5 points, I ranked most highly those who offered evening tuition (one institution)
    • For 3 points, I ranked second those who offered tuition adjusted to work patterns, e.g. on one day or on specific afternoons.
      • This bias comes from my MA LIS, where Monday had most/all compulsory modules and optional modules on a rotating basis (i.e. Year 1 had 50% available, with the other 50% available on that day during Year 2). This meant that our part-timers had everything accessible on a day-release basis.
      • If an employed person wants to take a course, it is easier to negotiate a specific work pattern with their employer (e.g. longer hours Tues - Fri, swapping Weds for Saturday, and so on) than needing 2 hours on Monday morning, and an early finish on Thursdays for Term 1, then Wednesdays in term 2, and so on.
    • Those institutions who didn't specify, or which had timetables showing classes all across the times and days were ranked 0 as they were unhelpful to me. Some of these courses might have actually been available as a 3-point option, but they were really not helpful!
    • Only two institutions got any points here. One who only offer evening tuition, and one who offer a "flexible study-pattern" option. That was depressing!
  3. Palaeography
    • One angle on my future research plans involves extensive palaeographical work. I therefore would prefer an institution that offers palaeographical training and support. Some institutions didn't offer a named Palaeography course, but did offer Manuscript Studies or Training, which I viewed as a lesser-but-still-good version of Palaeography.
    • Palaeography courses were ranked +2, Manuscript studies courses were ranked +1, and courses without either got +0.

Stage 3: Results

Surprisingly, the course nearest to TGO's work got the highest rank, despite me not wanting to live there again. That was definite food for thought. They do offer part-time, I know from talking to past students that they are willing to be quite flexible on attendance (caused by working) providing you complete the work. They are also based within walking distance of the office I would have to transfer to.

There were four institutions and five courses which scored 25 points or more on my scale. Maximum points would have been 30-35 points depending on how long an optimal dissertation would be. I'll call these institutions B, M, R and U

M scored 27.5, having the best compulsory options, and second best optional modules. It offers palaeography and 2 languages but doesn't have optimal part-time study timings. Its fees are high.

B scored 27.4. Its compulsory options were a bit mediocre but it currently has some great and good optional modules. It offers both palaeography AND manuscript studies, but only Latin. It offers awesome tuition times as all its relevant classes are in the early evening. Its fees are moderate.

R scored 25.4 for one course and 25 for another (a third scored 22.5). It has good compulsory courses and solidly interesting and relevant optional modules. R offers palaeography and Latin, but no other languages and has an innovative flexible option allowing you to spread your course over more than two years. I have no idea how that would work in practice, so I will need to visit them soon to discuss how it would pan out for me. The fees are the best of the top courses.

U scored 25.2. U has less compulsory modules overall, but makes up by having the best optional modules on offer allowing a more customised course. It only offers manuscript studies not palaeography but offers many relevant languages in addition to Latin. Its tuition times sucked, but there is a part-time option. The main negative for U was the extremely high tuition fees. Removing tuition fees from consideration (not possible in reality!) would bump it up above both courses at R.

U and B have an additional advantage in that they are part of a wider network of institutions which sometimes permit sharing of modules BUT that would always be dependant on tuition times for me.

In all cases it was assumed that the options as advertised now would be available when I took the course. This is never guaranteed, of course!

Monday, 14 November 2016


I'm really not feeling in a good place mentally at present, so I'm going to leave the commentary for this month. On the up side, I just had a week and a half off work, and realised how much I'd pushed myself this year. I need to consciously work in breaks I think or I am going to break...

Saturday, 1 October 2016

Pop in

This month is knuckle down to it month...

In real life:

Must lose more weight to be able to undergo a procedure - BMI has relationship with success rate, and I need this to be successful!
Two birthdays to deal with - little sister and eldest nephew - he's going to be 10, where the hell did the last decade go to?!
Bits and bobs of travelling for work
Sorting out new ID card and Railcard for uni - need to go to campus to get things signed (unless I've managed to get that all sorted at the end of September (unlikely but possible)
TGO down here for a week for work (Yay for him here, Boo for snoring!)

I'm currently seriously considering as to whether it would be better to revise and resubmit my MA English Literature thesis, or restart with a taught MA course in a history department. My research interests and thesis align far better as History although I am currently based within English Literature. I'm paying writing up fees to postpone this decision in the shortterm but I'll need to get on with the process ASAP if I am going to apply. Additionally, if I do this, I think that it would be better to chose a different institution that is more local to me. Being a distance learner is very isolating and I don't think that I operate at my best within those parameters. What this all means is that I've now got a spreadsheet of universities within about an hour of where I am based which teach within my research interests. I'm now scoring them! Aspie brain ftw...

Monday, 19 September 2016


On Saturday morning I finally received my feedback from my viva. On Tuesday afternoon I'm meeting up with my supervisor (over Skype). I allowed myself the weekend to feel miserable about being told my original thesis was shit and needed a complete overhaul, and now tonight I have to get on with going through their comments to make a list of the changes needed. I need to learn from my mistakes otherwise I a) won't get this past the examiners on the second attempt, and b) if I DID get it past them, I certainly won't get through a PhD viva!

Plan for (the remainder of) September:

  1. Make list of Things to Fix from examiners comments
  2. Meet with Supervisor
  3. Agree timetable for corrections with supervisor
  4. Complete update of transcriptions
  5. Send updated transcriptions to supervisor

Future points:

  • Re-read / Read material to add into Chapter 1
  • Revise Chapter 1
    • Needs more material actively cited
  • Revise Chapter 4/5
    • Merge

Monday, 15 August 2016


This month began on holiday in Cornwall which was fantastic and Very Needed. As in recent years, this was a mass extended family holiday with myself, TGO, both sisters, our parents, one brother-in-law and three nephews. Back to work now though...

Currently I'm working on 2-3 things (#3 will happen if 1 and 2 behave!)

  1. Writing up a paper given earlier this year in response to general request from the Organising Committee. This is harder than it might seem because I ad lib most of my papers from a framework, so I don't have a paper to give them... I hate hunting down that reference I KNOW I read but cannot now for the life of me remember where!
  2. Transcription(s) for thesis rewrite. I ideally want to have all three done before term starts again so that when I get chasing for my flipping feedback (due mid April!!), I can get straight on with it...
  3. Paper or Panel for IMC 2017. I want to go, I would like to give a paper, but as of now I don't really have any ideas.
Well, the weather is lovely and I have much to do, but at least I can do it in the garden!

Tuesday, 19 July 2016

Popping in

Just popping in to say that I think I must be related to one of the Oz Wicked Witches because I'm MELTING! *cough*

Tuesday, 21 June 2016

It May be June - Conferencing While Aspie

Just a quick check in to keep the ball rolling on posting at least semi-regularly, since I missed May completely.

So, what have I done?

Mostly, have a bad mood crash, two big meltdowns, and recover from two conferences.

I love going to conferences, but they really wreck my mental health because I'm having to process so much social interaction. Borderlines was fantastic, for example, but I broke on the third day because my Aspie brain couldn't function any more. I don't think that there is any way in which conference organisers could reduce that for me, it's on me to manage this and I did so poorly that time. So, how do I manage conferences?

  1. Make sure my accommodation is as close as possible to the venue is important.
    This isn't always possible - using Borderlines as an example, TCD is smack bang in the centre of Dublin and right on almost all the tourist hotspots, so affordable accommodation was not anywhere near. We stayed with a friend a short way out instead, which was lovely, but meant each day was very long.
  2. Don't always go for coffee breaks.
    Skipping that small amount of social interaction is against the idea of conference socialisation but it gives me a much needed brain break. Taking time with no interaction for 10 minutes in the quiet of an empty conference room is very valuable. Plus if I'm getting brain tired, I'm more likely to make a prat of myself!
  3. Make sure I get sufficient sleep.
    The more interaction I need to have (and I do enjoy it!), the more sleep I need to recuperate. Acknowledging that fact took a while as I used to just push until I fell over. Now I know sleep is an essential part of the day for me. This means that I can't afford to go out for the evening with other delegates, although I "budget" in the conference dinner to ensure that I don't waste the gift of networking and geeking all at once.
  4. Drink lots of water
    Seriously, staying hydrated makes a fantastic difference. Drinking water also allows me to pause before communicating - important when stressed to get my brain in the socially acceptable mode. In addition, toilets are quiet places where I can legitimately recoup some brain space.
  5. Eat carefully
    Stress does a number on my digestion, and any social interaction is stressful, so trying to eat plainly can help because I'm not upsetting an already stressed digestive system. Stopping the cycle of stressed - bad tummy - stressed over bad tummy is essential too!
  6. Don't go straight back to work!
    Sounds strange, but wherever possible I take an extra day of leave from work when going to conferences so that I have a day or two to 'ground' myself. If I can't do that, I try to at least work from home. Fairly simple but long journeys can work for that too - travelling back from Dublin involves 3-4 hours on a single train back from Holyhead to London, which was great for just being allowed to zone out.
  7. Lastly - Plan travel carefully
    Planning travel is always sensible when you have an event to go to, but planning carefully is slightly different. Planning carefully means
    • Travel up the night before - no stressing over "will I get there in time" on the first day
    • Consider staying overnight afterwards so no stress about packing and getting to the conference, nor worries over where to store baggage during the day.
    • Pick trains without tight connections - while I can usually get between most London terminals in 10-20 minutes, take the longer connections and arrive unsweaty and (more) relaxed.
    • For IrelandBook onto the ferry before the one you need. I learned this the hard way going to Belfast! If there is any problem with a ferry sailing, you don't want to be stuck in the wrong country when you are supposed to be giving your paper, so try to book one to get there the night or day before if at all possible. If getting the overnight ferry again, I'll give myself a whole day before the conference, not a few hours.
Do I still have meltdowns and wobbles even following the above? Of course, but for me the ideas on the above list help me to manage myself more sensibly. Conferencing while autistic, for me, is all about reducing risks and stressors, and appreciating that the fun thing (the conference) is also one of the major stressors in itself.


What's coming up?

Main task is cracking on with my transcriptions for my thesis rewrite as I want to have all three done and dusted by the end of September (or even August). This is where I miss working term-time only and having all of August off work!
Attached to that is chasing for my feedback as I've still not received it, which means I'm a bit in the dark as to how they want Chapters 4/5 fixing. Chapter 1 I'm somewhat clearer on, but I'd prefer the feedback before I go too far down the wrong rabbit hole...

No IMC Leeds this year :( I'm not giving a paper and I couldn't justify the expense. I'm still rather sad about that as there are, as always, a number of really useful papers being given which I'd love to hear... Hopefully some will be shared on Academia afterwards. In fact, I may use any spare time (ha!) to do something I had an idea of before - creating a list linking paper titles with papers shared online. With things as they are now, storifys of twitter hashtags would be good BUT takes some of the control away from the author which I know some dislike. Perhaps hashtags/storifies* for roundtables unless curated by the speaker(s).

End of this month (June), I'm going to a Portfolio Building Workshop, to start preparing my Chartership portfolio.


* Storify, storifys, storifies? Not sure...

** Why do I keep stressing "for me" in my list? Because all people on the autistic spectrum are different, and while my techniques may help others, we're not all going to respond to the same things.

Friday, 1 April 2016

April - Am I a Fool?

Well I survived my viva, and I wasn't kicked out or told to go away. I do have corrections, but with plenty of time to do them in, so unpressured. I have a broad outline of the changes they want me to make, and I'm fairly happy with them.

  • Chapter 1 needs "tightening", although I await their detailed comments to know exactly how they want that to be achieved. One area I do know they want, is for me to mention more of my background reading for the prime reason of letting it show in the bibliography. Slightly tedious, but it's no skin off my nose to do it, so I'm happy.
  • Chapter 3 they want to see my own transcriptions alongside my translations. I had originally had mine in, but wasn't happy with them and lacked time to redo them. I am actually looking forward to having a good reason to go at that bit again :)
  • Chapters 4 & 5 they felt would be better merged. Chapter 5 was, in my opinion, the most clunky of the whole thesis, so of all the ones to pick on, that's the one that I am least attached to in it's current form.

Overall, I accept their criticisms, especially as something that will not only strengthen this thesis, but stand me in good stead for the PhD as well.


  1. Work on paper for Borderlines in Dublin - just over a fortnight away now so I need to get cracking. Currently reading up on opinions on chantry foundations as I don't want to get wrong assumptions that will kill my logic.
  2. Work on paper for EMREM in Birmingham - this is broadly the same area as the Dublin paper, but from a slightly different angle. Hoping to get some good questions in Dublin to bring into this paper. Regardless, I need it close to done before I go to Ireland as it's easier for me to amend than write.
  3. Go through detailed revisions notes once received from the examiners (probably next week).
  4. Think seriously on getting myself Chartered Librarian status over the next 12 months while I have the opportunity. It's mostly portfolio-of-current-work so I'd be surprised if it impinged on studies.
Other stuff:

TGO put in for a transfer to a long-term project nearer to me, so keeping my fingers crossed about that. Having just spent a week up with him after my viva I'm badly missing the chit-chat that you have when someone's in the same room/house as you.

Counting pennies to see if I can afford Leeds this year. I really want to go, but not sure about finances.

MA to PhD:

I have up to 12 months to resubmit.
I can start the PhD in either January or September following a pass.
Supervisor is on research leave from September 2016 for 3 years.
Get as much rewritten before September so I can get full feedback from her along the way.
Find a second internal supervisor, probably from History since my Principal Supervisor is from English.
Focus on LIFE bits to get them processed ASAP and thus completed within that 12 months as well
Aiming to restart September 2017, as January 2017 is a bit close for the entire process from corrections through the External examiner to acceptance, in my opinion.


Revisiting my old plans from October...:
  1. Make Christmas presents - sloe gin and maybe a flavoured vodka again.
    Made damson vodka instead. Had the flavoured vodka from last year as a NYE drink and loved it, so I now want to make more!
  2. Rewrite my paper for Borderlines into an article. The paper didn't feel like it 'worked' well, to me, so I really want to go back to it, pull it apart and fix it.
    Still a plan, still not happened. Maybe in May/June
  3. Create the database I'll need for the PhD research - I can't assume I'll fail miserably, so I'm just going to get on with it.
    Postponed for 9 months or so
  4. Start databasing some of the data for my PhD - it will need doing some time
    As above. Concentrating on getting the MA thesis "right"
  5. Read for fun - novels and non-research nonfiction
    Aiming at 1-2 books a month, but have also upped my intake of short stories.
  6. Do some sewing - I have patterns for a dress, top and a skirt I want to make, and now I have the time. (Simplicity 3847, New Look 6808, Simplicity 3673)
    Made Mum a peg bag for Mothering Sunday (she asked for one). Not started on clothes yet. Current bad excuse is that I need a tailor's dummy - I either need to stump up or shut up on that one really.
  7. Join an exercise class, or a dance class. Maybe belly dancing! Something to get me fit, but without boring me senseless, like I find I get in a gym.
    Um, oops
  8. Level all my Warcraft characters to 100. What, I never said I wasn't a geek!
    10/11 on main account. Secondary account lapsed due to finances for now.

Thursday, 10 March 2016

February Round-Up - Marching on

February is a short month. This year it started as another one of nothing much going on, but almost as the month ended that lethargy was followed by sudden urgent movement.

At the start of February I still had no idea what was happening with my MA thesis and was planning to discuss it with my supervisor “soon”. After many weeks of drifting aimlessly, I pulled myself together and submitted abstracts for two conferences – Borderlines in Dublin and the EMREM Symposium in Birmingham. To my surprise and pleasure I have since been notified that I’ve been accepted to do both papers.

On 25th & 26th I was at Quadrivium, which was being held in Leicester this year. I’ll try to remember to do a write-up of that separately as it was another good year IMO. As hoped, my supervisor was at Quad, so we had a brief chat and she STRONGLY encouraged me to contact the department on the Monday to chase my thesis progress. Back home on the Saturday, however, that plan was hastily dropped as I was met by a letter inviting me for a viva on either 17th or 22nd March. So the last three days of February have been panic stations trying to organise myself and my brain back to September, when I submitted the thesis.

Currently I’m still waiting on official confirmation that I’m being 'done' on the 22nd (couldn’t get the 17th off work due to meetings), but all being well that’s what should be happening. Plan now is:
  • Go up to UniCity the night before and crash in a Youth Hostel near the station overnight
  • Head into campus in the morning.
  • Viva is "make myself available from 12 noon"
  • Attend lecture that evening on campus (nice coincidence) – assuming I’m not a complete wreck!
  • Head to TGO to spend Easter there (*happy dance*, have arranged 3 days working from home and been asked to attend a meeting at a site not far from TGO's residence so perfect timing)
  • ~ Easter ~
    • House clearing and tidying so we get a bit closer to selling and then living together permanently again
  • Head back Weds after Easter
Once the viva is gone, I will be able to focus on any corrections (I’ve already found some I want to do!), and then the papers for Dublin and Birmingham. Despite all the stress of preparing for an upcoming viva, I can honestly say I’m glad because I can once again see forward. However terrifying the viva is in my head, and may be in practice, I have something I can work towards, which is so much better than sitting on my hands waiting and worrying...

A side benefit is that it has prodded me to chase down the letter with my official ASD diagnosis on it, to provide to my examiners.

Releasing stuff

In the unlikely event that anyone was wondering... I've just prodded the last few month's posts as they don't seem to have published despite being scheduled. My mistake I think on understanding how Blogger works on that (Save+ScheduledDate doesn't push it to the queue; Publish+ScheduledDate does). So yeah, 3-4 months of random witterings in one go, sorry!

Friday, 5 February 2016

February post

Nothing much to add this month. Currently stuck waiting for a gas man for the second day running - just what I wanted to do on my week off!

Still waiting on my MA thesis - even if all is well, I'm now not expecting to start the PhD before Easter at the earliest.

I'd hit a hiatus in research reading because I'd tied myself into mental knots. How? Well, I'd got into the loop of what should I be reading on - further depth for MA thesis, or onwards into reading for the PhD. I think that I'd convinced myself that A) I shouldn't read more for the MA thesis because I shouldn't change where I was (Hmm!), and B) I shouldn't read for the PhD yet because I'd jinx it (Double hmm!). I exasperate myself.

This week I've consciously been trying to break that and start reading again regardless, and it's working.

Currently reading: Peters / Patterns of piety.

Plans for February:
 Quadrivium in Leicester
 Kathryn Rudy lecture in Cambridge.