The UKUUG conference was fantastic, I got to listen to lots of interesting talks and speak to people from all around the industry and academia (I even met someone who used to live in the same building as one of my ancient history tutors, which shows how small a world we live in). Everyone was really friendly and approachable, I got several people who I didn’t really know coming up and talking to me about various topics. As usual I was overdressed, though being the only person in a suit seemed to make it more obvious that I was one of the helpers, and I was very glad of my long jacket as I was responsible for waiting outside Old Trafford to make sure that the coaches all pulled in at the right place. I picked up some cool freebies, including a Google mousemat and an OpenSolaris pass holder, as well as being given one or two business cards so that I could contact people later.
On the subject of conferences, I also went to AMPAH last weekend, which required a trip to Oxford. I must have learnt a fair amount about history in the last few months, because I found myself understanding most of the papers and I even asked one or two questions. I also did a fair amount of networking, chatting to lots of different people, some of whom remembered me from AMPAL, which was nice. In particular I ended up talking to one of the professors who was working on an online project involving the Vindolanda Tablets. There was a mention of perhaps more software being developed and I was encouraged to email him, so I will definitely be following up that lead because it would be just the kind of thing that I’d be interested in and would have the right skillset for, plus it would look fantastic on my CV.
Whilst I was down in Oxford I also got to meet up with Peg, who I haven’t really spoken to properly (or perhaps ‘soberly’ might be a better word) since we started university. We had a few drinks in the pub and a meal at a very nice French restaurant and basically caught up on stuff, which was great. I also met up with Jennie afterwards and we had a good natter about lots of random things in various pubs.
The MEnt rip-off
Unless something unexpected comes up (which is always a possibility when I’m involved), I’ll be a real person next year at least. I’ve looked more into the MEnt programme and in my opinion it’s basically a way for the University to make money. For six to seven thousand pounds you get: a desk with a computer, phone and internet connection, which I already have; two courses run by the Science and Enterprise Centre, which are probably so general as to be of little use; and a course unit option from whatever discipline you are studying in. That doesn’t seem like a particularly good deal to me, and for that amount of money I could easily go to one conference a month, including accomodation and travel, and not only would I get more useful information but I would make better contacts as well. There’s also the fact that doing another different course might make me look undecided, as opposed to the actual case, which is just that I have interests in lots of areas instead of being a full time computer scientist.
To carry on in academia or not
I’m still pondering whether to carry on with academia after a year’s break (it’s too late to apply for a PhD this year even if I had my mind set on it). I didn’t think I would stand much chance of getting funding as I’ve only got a 2.1 (I know it’s a good degree and most people couldn’t give a damn, but the AHRC seems to prefer double firsts from Oxbridge) and the AHRC is having its funding cut by about 6%, but the rest of my academic CV is starting to look rather impressive. I’ve been to several conferences, helped out at two (and I’m doing so at another conference next week as well) and presented a paper, and I still have the Classics Association conference (this is the big one) and a smaller one in Reading booked for this year. Not only that, but I’ve actually shown my face enough for people to recognise me, which I think is far more important in the long run. Job prospects at the end of a PhD wouldn’t be that good, but then I’m in a much safer position than most people because I’ve got my company and several years of commercial experience to fall back on
In terms of my course, I’m a bit worried that I still haven’t sorted out my dissertation yet, although my other essays are coming along—one is being written at the moment, another one is properly planned out (and my tutor has seen the plan and agreed with it, which is always encouraging) and I’ve got a topic for the Roman Army essay. Various things have happened which make me feel a bit isolated and not part of the rest of the group though—mainly events which no one mentioned to me but which I heard about through other channels instead.
Both Megs and Warped seem to have gone downhill somewhat this year, despite my best efforts to prod people into doing stuff. Only four of us are going to Blackpool tomorrow, which is disappointing given that I remember paying for at least twenty people last year. I think it’s partially down to having two different trips, which meant that some people had split loyalties and then not enough people said they were going to get that critical mass where everyone else who is a bit apathetic decides that they will go too. I think Megs will disappear once Chloe and I finally leave university, which is a shame because it’s been a good laugh over the last four years. 🙁
Finally, I seem to have lost most of my enthusiasm for aikido, though I don’t know why. I think it’s partially because there seems to be a competition every five minutes, plus I ended up doing the same thing for most of the last session, and I kept getting it wrong, which made me more frustrated and therefore more likely to screw up again and… you get the picture. I seem to have fallen behind everyone else, even the people who are at the same grade as me, and I keep having to miss sessions because I’m so busy with other things, which I don’t think Terry is too happy about. I can’t see my workload easing off in the near future though, so I suppose it might be a while before I make it back to training on a regular basis.