Sunday, November 25, 2012

Exciting times indeed

My entire draft thesis was emailed to my supervisor on Friday. What a great feeling. Tomorrow I can go to the beach, shop, swim, ride or whatever I feel like. It's the first real holiday feeling where there is no point working on my studies. LOVE IT!! Freedom for a week...

Mount Bold Reservoir 4 months after the 2007 wildfire

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

The hare and the tortoise

Been a bit slack on the home readers lately. This morning I ignored the mess and made some time for my little man. What an appropriate story to be reading today "the hare and the tortoise". I'm still trying to work out whether I've been a  hare or tortoise with this never ending PhD. Definitely the tortoise when it comes to pace- plodding along continuously and slowly. It feels like I must of taken a huge rest like the hare but truly that is not the case. Each week something progressed on the PhD, maybe not as quick as I would of preferred.  The finish line is getting closer. I had a minor melt down the other day thinking it will never end and that I could not spend another day on it. I'm hoping it's like the transition phase with birth. Just when its all too much its time for the little head to pop out. Fingers crossed. I wrote the conclusion last week. Geez that felt good!!!!!!!!!

Friday, September 28, 2012


Have you ever watched a silkworm spin a cocoon? Tranquil - yet lots of work. The last few weeks PhD-procrastination effort has involved a short walk to the local uni carpark to pick a few mulberry leaves to feed the worms. Ok I get strange looks and the odd question, I'm fairly used to that outcome in life. The worms hatched in June (of course we forgot about them) so only half survived the year long wait to emerge from the envelop in our pantry. Starvation probably beats last years culling effort - I fed the excess worms to the chooks. My Mum used to keep silk worms when we were kids and for some reason I have followed the tradition. Our boys know about the life cycle, watching with varying levels of interest as the worms grow from being a millimetre in size to the current 7cm fat caterpillars. Just last night two started to weave their cocoons. Its time to place more egg cups in the box so they have a safe spot to build their sleepy homes ready to emerge as moths for the fun-reproductive stage of life ; )

I woke with a cold this morning. Great excuse to hang with the boys rather than bury my head into statistics. We'll visit the local growers market, change the silkworms home with clean newspaper, play computer games, build bionicles and dare to shop for school shoes. I remember a motivational speaker at school who recommended doing the ironing when you were sick as you may aswell get the horrid jobs out of the way when you feel awful. She also kindly referred to buckets of chips as buckets of fat. Yes she was the famous nutritionist, Rosemary Stanton who was the Mum of numerous kids at our school. Back then she wasn't as well know as she is today. I tend to use sick days as no thinking days - these normally turn into fun-productive homedays.

Friday, September 21, 2012


Alas it's official, I've failed to complete my thesis before my candidature ran out. It appears to not be possible to finish a PhD whilst raising three kids, remaining married, birthing a child and moving interstate. Tomorrow my PhD is due- whoops. I still need to finish a paper and the discussion - there is no way I can hand it in.

Tears ran down my face today at the school assembly. I tried really hard to not let anyone realise I was crying. It dawned on me that what I was experiencing at school was worth the wait. My eldest son (10yr old) played the piano at the start of the assembly. I was so proud of him. He volunteered to do it and he played beautifully. He is no Mozart but the Boogie jazz piece he played off by heart made me proud. I wish I had the confidence like him to just give it a go. I watched the kids dance and sing, entertaining all the proud parents in attendance. I was so happy to have the opportunity to see them. It's been lovely watching the kids grow over the past 7.5 years. Just last week the kids dressed up for bookweek. I took an hour away from study to watch the parade. An hour well spent : ) Being a part of the kids life was the type of parent I wanted to be. I can accept an unfinished PhD knowing I managed to be there for most of the little moments such as assembly today.

I'm sure the tears were provoked by my knowledge of the eminent failure. At the assembly I felt anything but a failure. I felt like a proud mother of three gorgeous boys. Ok I failed to finish my PhD before my candidature ran out. Life and family is worth this slight failure. Luckily I have one years extension on my candidature so I'll still finish the PhD monster. Stay tuned- its getting close!

Monday, September 17, 2012

Aims or objectives or hypothesis or goal or enlightenment= 42

The answer is 42. If only we knew the question. Hitchhikers guide to the galaxy is a classic book that seems to answer why a PhD thesis is so difficult. If we know the answer then we need to know the question. Neither is easy to define. Today I have put the entire day aside to make my thesis aims and objectives clear.

Studying across three differing universities makes the "simple" (lol) task of writing my aims seem impossible. Everyone has differing views and styles. Hmmmm which one is correct? Well that is the beauty of it, clearly if no one agrees then there is not a black and white answer. The main thing is to make them clear so the reader can work out what you are attempting to do and so the discussion can link nicely back into them.  I'd be fascinated to hear if any student used the same aims/objectives in their final thesis as they did in their proposal. Your ideas are refined during your candidature and it's unlikely they are the same at the end as when you started. If they were the same as your proposal was the journey really worth it? Did you learn on the way?

So in order to better work out the ideal "aim" I've been procrastinating by searching the web. Here are some interesting sites I found- just to fuel your own procrastination. If you know some good sites for thesis writing - especially  aims -please leave a comment.

How to write a PhD thesis


What is a Thesis Statement?

How to Write a Thesis: 


Marias Diploma and Ph.D Thesis writing suggestions


Writing a thesis proposal


10 easy ways to fail a Ph.D.

Aims, Objectives and Guidelines for PhD Students

Planning a PhD: Getting Your Research aim/question Right

With this small selection of web-sites and numerous completed PhD thesis to guide me I'm a step closer to knowing the question, but then again maybe my answer isn't 42.

Sunday, September 9, 2012


It's been a week since the Perth conference. I was in the wrong headspace for the conference. All I wanted to do was to finish this never ending PhD. It was great to catch up with friends, especially the Project Vesta researchers. Most of the time I spent thinking how much I'd rather be writing than listening. Normally a conference is motivational but this time it was a hindrance. I was dreading telling everyone I've still not finished. I actually ran into the right person just before I boarded the plane. He took something like ten years to finish his PhD and he has since gone on to have a  great career. This gave me some peace of mind. I've seen many students start and finish in my time studying. Its always lovely to see their delighted faces when its all over. Best part of the conference was walking around the Kings Park garden. The wildflowers were exquisite.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012


A new distraction has hopped my way. A very cute bunny was discovered by our dog hiding under a car on Sat. I've always told my kids if they caught a rabbit they could keep it. This offer was made knowing full well they had little hope of catching the wild rabbits. It appears this rabbit is not wild - it was friendly and very fat. So we now have a new pet rabbit until someone claims the little fella. The chances are slim as I gather people dump unwanted rabbits at the uni. The environmentalist in me should know better as rabbits are a pest in Australia. We joked on facebook about making rabbit pie, alas the kids have become instantly fond of the cute fury little fella. So another excuse to procrastinate away from finishing my PhD.

A fabulous mum friend has nearly finished her PhD. Its been a long ten years for her and light is appearing at the end of the tunnel. I'm still dabbling in statistics so the light keeps fading away. By the time I've finished I think a paper on the limitations of statistics needs to be written. I'm off to Perth to another conference next week. I'm using the conference as a writing retreat away from the kids to get this crazy thing finished. Back to statistics today.


Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Sanity with three boys

There is a simple way to stay sane with three boys before the school bus whisks them away for the day.
Don't stress the little details
Our socks tend to not match and the toys aren't put away. This means handball can be enjoyed outside by all. I did draw the line at the geopicks being swung around. Geopicks in the front yard are a by-product of having a geologist for a dad. Hospital trips before school is not a good look with a pick in the head. Yesterday it was a clay ball in the ear that caused Liam to miss the school bus. Nothing a bit of ice couldn't fix. Today was sane, yesterday maybe not so. That's life with three boys. I spent yesterday trying to make my data normal using logarithmic equations in "R".  Today it's on to randomForest. I keep picturing beautiful rainforests but alas its data crunching and computer programming.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Anything is better than working on my PhD

Ahhhh the washing needs hanging out, a paper needs reviewing, an honours student needs a meeting. Anything is better than working on my own PhD. An ex PhD student passed on a gem of advice the other day. By the end of his PhD he hated it sooooo much that he realised everyday spent procrastinating was one more day he'd have to wait until the PhD torment was over. I kinda got what he meant. Time to end the torment. However the latest PhD avoidance trip to Port Macquarie was well worth the time. Three lucky boys wagging school standing on a turbidite. Another four days of PhD torment is worth a trip away with the kids. Now that I'm sitting here having lost four days the PhD hatred is creeping back. On with a life of regression analysis.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Silly Twat

One of my finer parenting moments occurred yesterday. I was happily volunteering at the school canteen when I called a student a silly twat. He had forgotten to place his lunch order. Well I gather that word is not what you call a student, or even another person for that matter. My two friends looked at me in horror then burst into laughter. Clearly I had crossed the line. So I've sinced googled twat to confirm via Wikepedia

Although sometimes used as a reference to the female genitalia, the word twat is more often used in various other ways:
  • As a derogatory insult, a pejorative meaning a fool, a stronger alternative to the word twit - 'He can be a complete twat' (often used in the UK)[5]
  • To hit something (or someone) hard or violently - 'Let's get out there and twat it!
Yes I grew up in a very open household that did not hold back in the use of colourful language. My Dad's nickname for me was b1tch. Always said affectionately in a friendly tone. I had never focused on what twat really meant. I checked with an English buddy who as a kid thought it meant fish eggs until her mother explained it was very rude and meant a vagina, Ohhh why can't we treat vagina's with respect rather than turn them into swear words. Really it's just a wonderful part of the body. Next time I call a person a twat I'll have to explain it's the silly fool (meant nicely) rather than a derogative insult. Maybe I just need to find a new word for a fool.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Program download

My brain has been downloading. I'm trying to learn the statistic R program. I'm feeling rather like Trinity looked in the matrix when she downloaded how to fly a helicopter. I'm referring to the mental appearance- not the physical. Need to work on that side. How I wish it was as easy as the matrix. I'm up to computer program number 6 to learn in the interest of obtaining this PhD. 

I'm using  to quickly learn R using quick tutorials. It's working. The strange computer language thrown my way by a fabulous friend last week is starting to make sense. R is an amazing program. The two minute tutorial author Anthony Joseph Damico makes me laugh whilst learning computer programming and statistics. He goes so quick there is no time to be bored. The great thing about a screen cast is I can rewind when I get lost. Trust me - I get lost when applying the stuff time and time again.

Friday, July 13, 2012


I’ve been asked to review a paper in what I regard as a decent international journal. I’m rather delighted with this request. I’m not delighted about doing more work when I really should be finishing this PhD.  I’m delighted because someone thinks I can contribute to science. The peer review system is a strange way academics keep the world honest. Only those papers that are worthy of publication are meant to get through. I guess the best way to understand the process is to get involved. This will be my second review. Luckily there will be another reviewer so it’s not just my opinion that counts. I am new to the game of academic review.

On a more social side our family went away on holidays for an extended weekend. I took this photo and enhanced the image using high dynamic range (HDR).  It seems like a dream destination with a slightly abstract reality to it. It’s bit like entering the science world. Reviewing papers has this strange reward of finding out about the latest research before the rest of the world does. Almost reality - but not - as the other reviewer or myself just might see the dark side and reject the whole paper. A beautiful work of art that someone has spent hours designing and researching left to the control of a few individuals and the journal editor to decide if it becomes a reality.

Thursday, June 28, 2012


When is a good time to write the thesis discussion!

Hi Ho Hi Ho its off to work I go

Monday, June 11, 2012

Top of the mountain

I'm on one of those highs with the PhD today. Banff is gorgeous. What a great spot for a conference. The paper is published and the view from my room is fabulous. Super nervous about presenting the paper. I used to be a flamboyant, confident presenter but recently I have croaked. The more I know the more I realise I don't know which has shattered my performance.

Walked up Tunnel Mountain today. Amazing view.

Came across a bear. So many people assured me I was unlikely to run into one. Maybe I was in a dumb spot where bears  like to be- near a camping ground.

I loved this sign about eskies/coolers and the strength of a bear. Needless to say once I met the bear I altered my trek and returned to the roadside near other people. I was imagining the newspaper headline. Careless Aussie eaten by bear. I guess it's about time bears strike back for all the Aussie killings by sharks, spiders, jellyfish and crocodiles   
Haha bear I live to tell the tale

Coolers may not be bear proof, neither is my skull

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Bears and roots

Made it to Canada. Freedom of no kids or hubby is amazing. I'd rather have them here too but that's way too much on a student income of nothing due to the never ending status of the PhD. I discovered a few Canadian things today. Stay to the right whilst walking or potentially run into everyone, cars actually stop for pedestrians so don't stand on the roadside and piss off the drivers, the city of Calgary has internal walkways across the roads, in the morning everyone walks around with  huge disposable cups of coffee, Canadian kids at the zoo are just as gorgeous as all kids around the world, don't wait for darkness before dinner as you'll be starving at 10pm, appetisers are the main meal AND you can buy wine in 6 or 10 oz glasses.

Bit scared of the bears in Canada. This one was in the zoo at Calgary

Not scared on the local talent. Just love the shop name- seriously with this picture on the front

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Calmer kids

It's been a busy week here in the Gong. Just last Thursday the photographer came over to take a shot for the newspaper. Our kitchen needed a quick clean, so lucky there are drawers to hide things in. I was worried the reporter would make our family sound like a bunch of crazies. I was so happy with the outcome. The article touched a chord with many families, my phone has been ringing with Mothers and Grandmothers telling me similar stories about their families. Our school hall was bursting with people who came to see Sue Dengate speak. What an amazing job she does. What an important message she has to tell.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012


I have joined my crazy brother and turned into an activist. Nothing to the same level. He managed to end up on the front of the newspaper being thrown into a police wagon. My cause is much saner and so simple it is frustrating that there are still brick walls placed in the way of people trying to make a difference for our children. The cause I'm trying to promote is giving our kids the best start in life by understanding how food can affect their behaviour. When we were kids our parents laughed about red cordial. Today its no longer a laughing matter with so many kids high and grumpy on artificial colours, flavours and flavour enhancers. It's so simple to remove from their diet why is so little being done. There are claims the science doesn't exist. That's bullocks. Science is not the only evidence (this is coming from a science graduate studying a PhD in science). Ask a Mum with a food induced crazy kid and she will often know the underlying reason for the way out silly behaviour. Sooo I'm happy to have snuck flyers all over town, in the paper, at childcare centres in school newsletters. Everywhere I can find. Even if just one parent's life is improved by discovering that they can make it so much calmer then my activism had paid off. Meanwhile I'm dead excited Sue Dengate is coming to Keiraville Public School on 28 May 7pm. For more info check out her website. She is presenting all around Australia.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Uni in the Brewery

We spent last night in the pub attending uni in the brewery. Nothing like beer, wine, chips and research. The topic was about

'Dilemmas of household sustainability'

Sol, the boys and I featured due to our time with the Illawarra Super Challenge. Uni studied our involvement to determine the role of gender and time in contributing to household sustainability. So here goes why is the PhD still not finished. This was a quote from back in 2009

"Every year you take on more and more, and then you're going 100 miles per hour. But if you stop and plant a seed and watch it grow and pull out a few weeds, it's really relaxing. And you start thinking it really doesn't matter if I don't finish that assignment...I've got something to eat"

So I've stopped planting seeds for now and started writing. Its time to finish this never ending PhD. Actually the deer keep eating the seeds I plant so for now I'm  buying the vegies from the local markets.

If you fancy a beer with some research check out uni in the brewery

Monday, April 2, 2012

Rollercoaster ride

Talk about a roller coaster ride.

I'm currently cleaning my emails trying to find the details for my mid-year review. Came across this email conversation with my friend on 22 March. I generally miss the grumpy bits on this blog cause I'm too busy being grumpy. Here goes, it's time to share

  • Friend
...! How are you?

  • My reply
I'm crap. Sitting here with a patch on my eye waiting to see the specialist cause I cut my eye on wire from the dress ups. My back is stuffed from hunching over the computer. Phd is good but with no eye and a useless back I'm having a cup of tea instead. Whoops U asked : ) also made Liam cry this morning cause I'm a crabby cow. How is u?

So the PhD life can be horrid. There are some simple solutions to the problems above. Be nice to kids even when I'm grumpy (hmmm I'm no saint and neither are they). Don't sit at the computer for too long. I'm now perched on one of those big ball chairs. It makes me sit straight rather than slump. Also the physio gave me some exercises for the back and a recommendation to get up every 15 minutes. I rely on an alarm for that one as I get too focused on my writing. As for the eye I was lucky. Just a superficial cut on the white of the eye ball. Shame I reacted to the eye drops but all is well. I still have my eye sight.

The roller coaster on friday reached high- I got the proofs back for the next publication and  I handed in draft Chapter 1 to the supervisers. Hopefully the coaster ride won't travel too far down when I get Ch 1 feedback.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Location maps

I'm currently writing up the thesis introduction. Today I proudly made this location map of my study site. It'll get ripped apart by the supervisors shortly so here goes. Have a peak look before they do.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

The outback adventure is closer...

We finally did it. Sol and I went to the camping show and put a deposit on a camper. We are now committed, all stations a go! Six months - family of five -  travelling around Oz promoting geodiversity, collecting rocks and distance educating our kids. Should be fun (famous last words). I found a  bargain doona cover at target today for $15. It's going to end up covered in red dust from the desert so there is no point buying anything fancy.  It's taken us years to decide on the perfect camping combination. We have gone from a motor home that tows a 4WD right down to a tent. Obviously finances destroyed any extravagent plans. We settled for a camper trailer with a queen sized bed and a kitchen. No room for the kids, they get to sleep in a tent most of the time. We tried to show the kids the latest set-up but they preferred to stay home and play minecraft. It's gonna be grand. One guy politely pointed out to me that I needed to get over the red dust issue, no point travelling if its going to bug me.  Easy solution, we take minimal stuff and replace it from time to time when the red dust has set. Ok yes- the PhD needs finishing before we go. Last week I wrote paragraph one of chapter one. That felt pretty good , until of course it comes back covered in red- red pen that is, not red dust.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Grant writing

Another great way to prevent finishing my PhD is by grant writing. This has kept me occupied the last couple of weeks. A few late nights (we're talking 1am finish with a 6am rise). Talk about a zombie brain walking with minimal intelligence the next day. I need my sleep. I'm so hoping to snag this one, it's a big project with ambitious goals. Fingers crossed!

For those not in academia, grant writing is a bit like bread and butter to us. Often the main funding comes from grants. We rely on handouts generally from the state or commonwealth government. It's a wonderful skill to share with life outside of uni. My proudest grants would be obtaining toys for playgroup or the BBQ and gardening tools for preschool. Who would guess the two worlds blend so well together. Canteen has helped my PhD due to the need to learn publisher in order to layout the school canteen menu. I've since used the software to create images for my publications. Sweet hey!

So no more excuses tomorrow. Back to writing chapter one (and baking banana bread for the school canteen).

None of these loaves were cooked by me. I'd be proud if they looked like these.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Guess where I'm going?

There is a wonderful positive side to studying a PhD. Ocassionally you go on an amazing holiday to attend a conference. Ignoring the nerves of public speaking to an international audience of extremely smart dudes the trip can be a real treat. So guess where I'm going? I've been too afraid to blog about it incase I jinxed it. Seems my manuscript is accepted. YEAH!

Monday, January 30, 2012

Schools Back

Hip hip hooray. School went back today. Alex our dog was so happy to chase the school bus again. The kids enjoyed a morning of handball and I'm loving my free quiet day. Holidays were fabulous. Even the conference paper with a one month turn around was OK. Just maybe another chapter done on this never ending PhD journey. Fingers crossed this year is IT. Ok so today I have paused to absorb the peace and quiet. Hope you all had a lovely break.

Friday, January 27, 2012


Wow where did 2011 go? Roll on 2012. My plan this year is to live in the now. A bit less planning and a bit more enjoying today, this moment, right now. Truthfully it's not possible with my mind. I'm always dreaming up new plans...

So 2012 I'm gona

  •  Replant and weed the vege garden. I bought some seedlings this morning at the markets to get it rolling along.
  • Finish this PhD (hmmm I'm sure this is the third year I'm saying that)
  • Buy a camper trailer. Yes the plans keep rolling- Geodiversity project here we come
  • Improve my fitness via enjoying the outdoors. Its time to orienteer, mountain bike ride, climb, run, geocache
  • Bake bread (loving this one, we have been eating five seed bread, white bread, brioche, wholemeal bread)
  • Enjoy my three little monkeys -school on Monday ; )

Here's hoping you all enjoy the now in 2012

Run down garden in need of love
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