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All summer in a day
No, this isn't another piece on global warming / climate change. Even though last year we were promised that it would mean the UK gets long, hot, sweltering summers. While Swansea has escaped serious flooding prevalent in the UK (funnily enough, flood plains have flooded), it has been wet.
In fact, a more representative way of describing the weather is that Tuesday was nice. Warm. Dry. Not sweltering, but pleasant.
Nothing much out of the ordinary has happened. Been very busy at work, but we are getting lots done, so it is good.
We went to synagogue last week for the first time in a long time. We'd planned for me to catch the train, meet Bec at her work, and have tea before going to the service. I had a POETS and went to the train station. After a bit of a run, I got there with a few mintues to spare. Unofrtunately, due to flooding on the way to England, some trains weren't running. Including the train I ran to catch. The next train to Cardiff left half an hour later, and by the time it got in very late, we had time for Bec to pick me up from Cardiff station (the trains to her work weren't running), grab some salads and go.
I also played a game of footy. My knee is still feeling sore for it (at some point it was head-butted accidentally by an opponent). It was a good game. Played in a tough but fair spirit. During the season I've played alongside players from both sides. I didn't have my best game though. I didn't play badly, just not brilliantly. We were three points down at three quarter time before fatigue and a lack of a bench got the better of us, as we went down by about 5 goals.
Anyway, on to the review:
Ray Bradury's All Summer in a Day
Margot was a PhD student (gee, couldn't see that coming, could you?) investigating... Actually, no. Well, she was, but I think I'll focus on William instead. Let's start again, shall we?
William was a PhD student doing a psychology PhD investigating the effect of tormenting other researchers on their mental well-being at Venus University...
Ok, maybe I'll tell the story properly. It is only a short story. And I'm still not going to put in dialogue unless absolutely necessary.
Have I crossed the line between introduction and procrastination yet? Is it appropriate for a PhD story?
Once the last two of the readers I know of have submitted, I might occassionally have post-docs as heroes.
No one in the group could remember a time when the equipment wasn't busy.
The postgrads pressed to each other like so many roses, so many weeds, intermixed, peering out for a look at the hidden slot in the booking sheet. The sheet was full. It had been full for months; thousands upon thousands of hours compunded and filled from one end to the other. A thousand experiments had been lost and forgotten while the crush for time on the equipment forced the group members to replan their PhDs. A thousand literature reviews had been written and discarded as obsolete, re-written only to be discarded again. And this was the way life forever at Venus University, and this was the group of students of the supervisors who had come to this busy university to set up a group and carry out their research.
Margot stood apart from these postgrads who could never remember a time when the equipment wasn't booked, priority given to the paying industry over the researching postgraduates (it's supposed to be science fiction, so I should try to come up with a plausible reason why they don't get time... there was probably some inter-group politics at work too.). They were all late candidature students, and if there had been a day, just when they started, when a slot opened up on the equipment for an hour and they could be trained to use the thing, they could not recall.
All month, they had discussed their theories and predictions relating to the equipment and what they could do with it. Margot had come up with a theory. It was a short, but simple theory that just required validation.
But that was then. Now a slot had opened up, and they were to be trained.
Margot stood alone.
Bradbury tried to paint her as someone desperately missing the dimly remembered sun. The standard Bradbury character deserving sympathy: the victim. Instead, she was just a selfish brat who wouldn't work with others. She had transferred from an Earth University mid-candidature and had many experiments done already. She just needed to be trained on this particular apparatus and get some final results and she could submit. The other group members had been at Venus their whole candidature, and had never used the equipment as they had been too early in their projects to be trusted with the equipment.
There was talk that she had a post-doctoral fellowship lined up on Earth. She just needed to finish her PhD first.
Bradbury then painted William as a bully. The necessary plot item to play against the victim. I don't need a bully. I can just use chance and accident. So I'll write William out of the story. Besides, I don't like one dimensional bullies without redeeming features. Although really in Bradbury's story, it is the teacher who is the real villain. Do we really believe that a teacher can't count to 30 or so, particularly on a day as important as that would have been?
As an all to convenient coincidence to allow fate to make up for me replacing the bully with bad luck, the common room was the room right next to the equipment. And it was there that the other post-grads headed to grab a quick bite before the slot opened up and they could have their training session. Margot went to her desk to do some reading and have a quick bite.
They just finished their lunch as the trainer came by and ushered them into the room for their lab and equipment induction a little earlier than expected. They crowded into the room, spreading out around the equipment.
The equipment gently hummed, and then stopped.
It was free.
They could learn how to use it. They quickly learnt how to use it before running their samples. The trainer warned them that they only had two hours, and they all worked together, getting as many results as they could.
Bradbury gets floral with his descriptions. I don't.
With excitement, they gathered their data and they did tests and stuff. Suddenly, one of the students let out a little cry. Everyone looked at her, following her gaze to the door, where the next group had come in to use the equipment.
They turned and went back to their office, planning to debrief and drink beer in no particular order of preference. They got back to their office, and the first postgrad to the door gave a little gasp. She went to open the door, but it wouldn't open. The lock was stuck.
They went to try to track down Estates to get the door opened, and were told that someone would be there in a week. Suddenly, they remembered Margot, and told Estates that there was someone trapped in the room. They said they'd come quickly.
Eventually, Estates came, and working even more slowly, they unlocked the door, and let Margot out.
My favourite procrastinations
The Head Heeb - Jonathan provides a balanced view on various Israeli and (former) colonial states in less developed regions of the world.
The Bladder - a sports satire site. Well worth a look.