We were all lined up to celebrate our first birthday, yes, we have made it! One whole year of blog posts. Sadly, Panda E Bear is out with the flu so celebrations will need to wait for another day. In the meantime, let us introduce Master Panda. A slightly smaller (and less troublesome) panda, Master Panda normally hangs out in the Dean’s office at GRS, helping the Dean out with important day to day matters (namely keeping the door open). Anyway, after a week of rather terrible weather we took Master Panda out for a stroll around campus, snapping signs of spring and enjoying the sunshine*.
Every man and his dog (quiet literally I took some pics while walking the dog the other day) have taken a pic of the magnolia this year. Not sure if it has been the grey weather or the threat of snow but this year the magnolia looks amazing. Master Panda had to get in on the action and of course be the main focus of the picture (he doesn’t get a lot of air time)!
Master Panda was super keen to find some daffodils. Amazingly we managed to locate some outside the Richardson building but despite much coaxing they refused to play ball and be photographed with Master Panda. They were rather shy and hid their sweet wee faces away from the camera. This is the best we could get. Maybe they are a bit nervous with all the building work going on around them.
A Dunedin Icon. The Rhodie. Master Panda very gallantly climbed up the tree to get this pic (it took ages by the way – Master Panda is only 15cm tall and takes little teeny steps). Despite the windchill factor, he then fell asleep for an hour in the sun (some of us are lucky enough to have a big furry coat!).
We had to bribe Master Panda with a chocolate fish to get this one, and we promise that is in fact blossom! What you can’t see in the background is the team of stunt people assisting Master Panda in this shot. He is leaping off a trampoline, superman style**.
So as we wander back to the Clocktower, feeling refreshed from seeing the sun (we even managed to soak up some vitamin D, albeit through the limited amounts of hand and face surfaces exposed!), delighted at the sight of spring flowers and full of hope that this very cold weather might just come to an end at some point – we hope you will be inspired on the next sunny day to take a stroll round campus, avoid the construction sites and see if you can spot some signs of spring.
*Sunshine: noun, “direct sunlight unbroken by cloud, especially over a comparatively large area”
**No pandas were hurt in the shooting of these photos. When it comes to photos the GRS team are highly trained professionals (does High School Bursary Art count???)
A long time has passed since I first went to a gym. The year was 1990 and the fashion was for gym-goers to wear g-string leotards and fishnet bicycle shorts.*
It would not be an exaggeration to say that I have had a mixture of gym-based experiences.There was the time I forgot that the weights room was lined with mirrors and that the cute boy in the corner could see me “appreciating his form”. In terms of embarrassment, this was exceeded only by the time I fell off the backwards incline bench*** and the occasion I had to get cut out of the rowing machine.****
Despite this periodic public humiliation, I have always enjoyed the gym and since thesis candidates should not live by thesis alone I thought I’d venture back there to scope it out for you. Armed only with my obligatory sweat towel and a giant Panda to spot me on the bench, we tested out the facilities at Unipol.
Denial is strong in this one and convincing Panda B.Ear to leave the comfort of the couch was trickier than you might imagine. His attempt at camouflage was impressive but ultimately futile.
It was a nice walk to Unipol but slower than normal. Panda basked in the attention of some tame professors and I was stopped by Campus Watch inquiring about the strong arm tactics I appeared to be using to get Panda moving. Needs must and all that and I headed off with a slightly weaker grip on the Bear’s throat.
Panda started with a bit of cardio and some off-key singing. One minute in and the sweat and guy-liner was running down his face.
Hmm, my nemesis. Was slightly nervous about this one given my past experience. However, Panda’s bareness meant we escaped without getting caught up.
In the face of ongoing speculation, Panda was determined to show how well balanced he is.
The middle part of the gym excursion was evocative of the middle part of the thesis journey. After the initial enthusiasm for the adventure there was confusion about what any of the equipment was for, bouts of self-pity, and an inability to meet the direct gaze of anyone official.
Like any good trainer, I pushed Panda through the bleak period and he was soon flying high again.
A sweaty bear is a stinky bear and a stinky bear makes an unhappy Claire. Panda was surprised but pleased there were no changing facilities for bears at Unipol. Not to be undone by this odd oversight, I broke into a nearby student flat and drained their hot-water cylinder getting the sweat off Panda’s fur.
Now you know how inclusive and welcoming Unipol is, you have no excuse not take a break from your thesis and get down there.
Getting some exercise will make you feel better, sleep more soundly, and will help you work out the next bit of your experiment or the best way to word that pesky chapter you’re stuck on. Not only that, you might meet a nice Panda there.
*To be fair, it was only one woman who wore this combo, but the memory will be forever etched into my mind’s-eye**
**Which I’d like to poke out
****Really don’t ask
Unipol gets five bamboo sticks out of five.
Claire Gallop, Graduate Research School and Panda B.Ear, Under-Cover Reporter and Raconteur
Recovered from putting the system on trial as a thesis student, undercover Panda Bear, Mr Panda B. Ear, heads back to the Graduate Research School to delve into their stationery drawers.
I slipped behind the GRS Reception Desk like a Jaffa slips through a Manager’s sweaty hands on a hot day. When I first explained that I was the new temp replacing Katherine on reception for the week, no one was any the wiser. I was confident and dressed for success. I was convinced the job would be a doddle.
Things started going downhill when Tina started to get suspicious of my telephone manner. By 9am I was imagining her eyes boring into my handsome and well-proportioned back.
Day One: 9:15am
Hmm, not such a doddle after all. It seems needing a bamboo break is not an acceptable excuse for screaming at a candidate trying to submit a PhD. Who knew?
Katherine has been recalled from her holiday and they have shunted me into the back office so I don’t “scare” or “bite” the students.
Day One: 9:45am
Am beginning to despair of this assignment. All these guys do is work and it seems they do not take kindly to members of the team using doctoral applications to line a litter box.
I’ve said I’m going out for donuts but I’m actually going for gold. If there is any dirt to find, I’m convinced it’s in the Dean’s office; I never trust a professor with a double-barrelled name.
Day One: 9:57am
Turned out there was nothing to see there. The Dean caught me wearing her lei and chewing on her favourite pot plant; thank goodness she didn’t see me making anklets out of her paper clips.
She sent me packing and with less than one and half hours of service on the clock, I needed a wee rest. This was the longest morning of my life.
If going undercover in the Graduate Research School taught me anything, it’s that those administrators all need a jolly great pay rise and a big hug for doing all that paperwork.
Especially the Manager of the School, she’s particularly awesome. I’d go as far as to say she is magnificent. Yes, that’s surely the moral of this story.
Panda B. Ear
Before the Kardashians were exposing themselves (ahem) on TV, the U.S. had Hunter Thompson exposing the Hells Angels and Woodward and Bernstein exposing Richard Nixon. Roguish Irish journalist Donal MacIntyre exposed the British underworld and even New Zealand had hard hitting investigative journalism in the form of Target exposing the tastiest corn-chips.
This time the tables have turned on the Graduate Research School when charismatic megafauna, World Wide Fund for Nature mascot and undercover bear, Panda B. Ear, spends time inside GRS. What Panda finds inside the Clock Tower may change you forever*.
In a two part exposé, first as a doctoral candidate and then as a member of staff, Panda puts the spotlight on Otago University’s support for thesis candidates.
* The chances are slim to vanishing.
This is Part One of Panda’s story…
Given that there were no current vacancies in the Graduate Research School, I decided to go undercover as a student first. My rugged good looks mean I am hard to ignore. I stayed up late reading about total fraud and has-been, Winne-the-Pooh; this gave me that haunted dark-circles-under-the-eyes look that so many grad students seem to have. I blended in perfectly and no one noticed anything amiss.
I’d heard that the Manager of the School was good for a chat so I went to see her about my “thesis”.
I discovered I could talk to her forever and soon I was telling her about how I didn’t feel like I fitted in and that my supervisor did not realise how rare and precious I was. I explained that sometimes the University feels like such a zoo; I’m unique, don’t treat me like one of the pack!
I also asked for some Excel advice and for some help with some quadratic equations. To be honest, she was completely useless regarding the latter issues but she did help me to stop being so black and white. I knew I’d said too much when we explored my bamboo habit and my relationship with my mother. I’ve never known such tiredness.
I’d found out all I could about life as a doctoral student. GRS’ most heinous crime was in its choice of marshmallow confection. I sensed there was more to this story and I started to plan how to get behind the (frankly crazily high) reception desk.
Panda B. Ear