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Category Archives: Silly

GRS ShakeOut – Get Ready!

Before the New Zealand ShakeOut, there were a myriad of awesome shaking-moments-from-history.

There was Shakin’ Stevens, milkshakes, K.C. and the Sunshine Band urging you to shake your booty (I defy you not to get down like James Brown after checking that video out), and, of course, three hands shaking all at once:

john-key-rugby-world-cup-handshakehttp://www.m2now.co.nz/10-worst-handshakes/

The Graduate Research School live and breath preparedness in all aspects of our lives, so when Department health and Safety Officer, Katherine van der Vliet, told us we had to do our earthquake drill, we complied eagerly.

The drill was useful for two reasons, first we know better what to do in an earthquake (a very real, and as Christchurch residents will tell you, important thing to master) and we also found some amazing stuff under our desks.

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Mel found the chewing gum she left there and has been stuck in this position since Thursday.

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Robin found her ‘be prepared emergency bag’ and discovered Claire had removed the first aid kit and replaced it with a small bottle of boutique-made gin.

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Annoyed about the loss of her bandaids, Robin threw a box at Claire.  No brains were harmed in the ensuing tussle.

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Tina, dedicated as always to the doctoral candidates, chucked herself over a newly submitted PhD and continued to run the office from underneath a straw hat.

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True to her Australian roots, Belinda held on to the table legs like a Koala grips a Gum tree in a gale-force wind.  Belinda was delighted to locate a Vegemite sandwich and a cork hat behind her rubbish bin.*

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Lisa took a break from paying our lovely scholarship-holders and was absolutely delighted to find her ponytail.

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Susan was reminded of the dark days when she first started yoga and her yoga instructor had to send her to hospital after she seized up during downward facing dog.

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Under her desk, Sarah found her mojo again and was equal parts delighted and horrified.

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To be honest, this was just plain embarrassing.  The Dean was not actually taking part in the drill and I just happened to need to ask her a question when I found her like this.  I dont really know what to say.

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The all round awesome and massively overachieving Karyn found at least three awards that she hadn’t realised she’d received during her earthquake drill.

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I was feeling as perky as anything as I took my ShakeOut selfie.  I’m a bit worried that I might have jaundice though.  Nothing a bit of foundation won’t fix I guess.

So, the Graduate Research School are all sussed in case of emergency.  The question is are you?

* This exhausts my cultural stereotyping, although I was mighty tempted to include reference to Trevor Chappell’s cricket ball.  However, I’m too nice for that.

Claire “Without Borders” Gallop, Graduate Research School

Spring

Master Panada

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*.

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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)!

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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.

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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!).

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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???)

Gym Bunnies (opps, I mean Bears)

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.

Panada on Couch

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 Bike

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.

ROwing machine

Hmm, my nemesis. Was slightly nervous about this one given my past experience. However, Panda’s bareness meant we escaped without getting caught up.

swiss ball

In the face of ongoing speculation, Panda was determined to show how well balanced he is.

Pand on the leg curls

Panda rest his foot

Leg press

 

Slump panada

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.

Panda is superman

Like any good trainer, I pushed Panda through the bleak period and he was soon flying high again.

Panda in the shower

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

***Don’t ask

****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 

The Dean Cooks a Sausage!!

What:  Dean’s Sausage Sizzle

When: Thursday the 26th February

Where:  Abbey Common

Why:  Fun!

It was a beautiful day for a real kiwi bbq.  The smell of charred snarlers and the sounds of some dodgy tunes filled the air.

 

Rachel “Break-Your-BBQ” Sproken-Smith, Susan “Onion-Empress” Craig, Sarah “Monster-Sausage-Wrangler” McGregor, and Claire “I’ll-Falafel-You” Gallop put their spatulas on the line for the Graduate Research Community.

the chefs

As a manager, I look to develop my team wherever I can.  Witness the enjoyment on Tina’s face as I teach her how to flip a falafel on the BBQ.*

TIna and Claire

The top ten per cent of theses at Otago are classified as exceptional.  It is a little known fact that in the world of charcuterie there are special classifications for exceptional sausages.  1 in 14 sausages are Monster Sausages and GRS are awestruck in their presence.

salad and an exceptional long sausage

Rachel “Smasher” Spronken-Smith destroys the BBQ with a brutal prod of the tongs. Some gentle probing uncovers the fact that she doesn’t want her husband to know that she can actually barbeque and is prepared to destroy Abbey College’s equipment to avoid the grill at home.

Dean and broken bbq

The queue for food before the riot broke out.  Rachel “Destroyer” Spronken-Smith waggled her tongs at the marauding attendees and soon got them back in line.

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It was a lovely event and it was great to see so many people come along.  Thanks to the team at GRS for organising it and for Abbey College for hosting it.

*<As a staff member I pretend to put up with Claire’s nonsense but actually I am thinking about Panda’s handsome and broad shoulders> Tina.

Claire Gallop, Graduate Research School

Panda’s Big Graduate Research Adventure: Undercover Staff Member

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.

What is life like as an administrator in GRS?  Is it a basket of kittens or a bag of badgers?

Day One: 8:30am

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.

panda rocks reception desk

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.

Panda in schols office

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.

Panda and the dean

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.

Panda lies down

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

Panda’s Big Graduate Research Adventure: Undercover Student

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…

Day One

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. Panda and ClaireI knew I’d said too much when we explored my bamboo habit and my relationship with my mother.  I’ve never known such tiredness.Panda lies down

Day 1095

So as not to draw attention to myself I waited 1094 days until I submitted “my” thesis.  No one seemed any the wiser until I spat out the Chocolate Fish they gave me.  Fish??? I’m a vegetarian!Panda Submits PhD

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