Category Archives: Health

Got a brain? Forget daytime tv.

On a sick day at home and took a break from work (yes, even on a sick day) on the couch. Discovered daytime tv is just horrible. And insulting.

If it wasn’t for BBC World News‘ repetitive coverage of the life of Margaret Thatcher,* I probably would never have known… But French daytime tv is just awful. Perhaps people have warned me that this was the case, but I’ve never taken the time to pay attention before today.

Of course it’s not my fault that I was home sick the same day that Margaret Thatcher passed away, but it is a pity that BBC World News spent so long on that one story and less on the stories of the rest of the world (what with “World News” being part of its title). BBC’s usually interesting news stories were replaced with a loop of people describing their impressions of the life and influence of the late Iron Lady – resulting in too much repetition for my liking.

I ending up zapping/channel hopping. Oh dear.

And I landed on “Comment ça va bien” on France 2. Dear God.

Firstly, is all daytime tv outside of the 24-hour news channels so blatantly targeted at women assumed to be living in the 1950s? The show was horrific. The first segment was about fake hair accessories, with Max (complete with red dicky-bow) demonstrating with the youngest and slimmest member of the (seemingly all-female) audience how to wear a high-ponytail attachment (real hair, though). Then Max showed us the wonders of the synthetic hair bow clip (just like Lady Gaga!). And last, but not least, the full-blown wig that you simply clip over your ponytail and add a hairband for that retro Brigitte Bardot look! Cringe.

Secondly, there was a “craft” segment. Just what do you do with those boring old plates? Why not give them some new life with porcelain markers! Or a dash of paint! Yes, a whole segment on drawing designs on plates. Just like you did in playschool/kindergarten/crèche. But as a grown woman, of course you’ll be very excited by this.

To top it off, there was a special guest whose name I can’t remember (not being up-to-speed with the minor French celebrities), who plainly thought most of this was ridiculous. They made him take part in the hair and plate demonstrations. It seemed he was taking the piss, but everyone else was Deadly. Serious.

Then I couldn’t handle it anymore. I switched off, and in my indignation wrote a tweet in French about it, but that wasn’t enough venting, so here I am writing this.

I generally felt sad about the very existence of this show:

– because the clear target audience for this show (airing at 3 o’clock in the afternoon) is women. Women are more likely to be at home watching tv at 3pm than anyone else? Still?

– because this daytime tv show seems to be aimed at no women I know (i.e. is this target audience of the tv show the majority intelligent, independent women of the 21st century? It doesn’t seem so);

– because the question I can’t answer is whether tv shows exist like this because there is actually a demand for them or whether these tv shows exist because they’ve always existed… Where does this start/end?

– because I always thought that we were so close to the day on which women wouldn’t have their intelligence and brains insulted so blatantly in public. Call me naïve.


Needless to say, those two segments on the show were as much as I could handle and motivation enough to get back to work/twitter/blog venting. But sick day blues has been topped off with general fed-upness with the state of the world.


 *Very impressed with how speedily Wikipedia updated Margaret Thatcher’s date of death on their page about her…


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Filed under downtime, Equality, Health, women

When all the world is partying…

In those final months and weeks of writing-up, there’s a cloud of guilt every time I do something other than writing… The world can party on St. Patrick’s day, but I’ll be here tapping away at my laptop.

There are two breaks from my laptop and my various draft chapter versions I foresee over the next 8 weeks (besides when I’m sleeping): the Easter weekend when I visit family, and Earth Hour on 23 March when I’ll turn off the lights and the computer. Beyond that, I cannot manage to pull myself away from work: whether that is actually writing, re-reading chapter drafts, thinking about what needs to be written next, panicking when I discover there’s a vital piece of information that I’m missing, or feeling guilty for watching rugby games when I should be writing (thank goodness the Six Nations is over, and not only because both Ireland and France sucked this year and it’s something we’d rather forget…). 

I don’t mean to make the whole PhD process sound like hell, it’s just a bit testing at times. But the light at the end of the tunnel is there! And in some masochistic way, there is a real pleasure to be found in seeing the pages mount up, and the number of corrections reducing… Plus there is a massive community of people out there who are going through the same, or have gone through the same. If they can do it, so can you. I often take heart from seeing comments on twitter from fellow researchers on a weekend when they are also knuckling down to their own to-do list.

Working on Sundays is not forever, just for the moment.

P.S. Happy St. Patrick’s day

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Filed under downtime, Getting through the PhD, Health, Uncategorized, Work/life balance

Welcoming 2013

This is not another blog post about New Year’s resolutions and how to stick to them, I promise….

My new year is off to an excellent start. Today is day one of getting back to the grindstone after ten days of madness en famille, but I’m spending it sitting at my desk at home with a blanket wrapped around my shoulders, another blanket over my lap, a cup of piping hot tea beside me and a box of tissues to hand at all times. Unsurprisingly, I am in no mood for making new year’s resolutions. And in even less of a mood to keep them. And just thinking about my history with resolutions, I want to say that I blame reality and the world and society for any resolutions I’ve ever made that I’ve not kept!

Calvin and Hobbes: "Reality continues to ruin my life"

Calvin and Hobbes: “Reality continues to ruin my life”


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Filed under Getting through the PhD, Health, Work/life balance

Sit up straight!

Healthy body, happy mind, productive PhD researcher! Again, it seems mother was right…

How many times did my parents annoy me by telling me to “sit up straight”. Ah the wisdom of our elders. I should have paid more attention. It is a little bit frustrating to have to say: oh it turns out my parents were right about that all along. If only I knew then what I know now (isn’t there a song about that?).

Today is a tough day in the office. I have just taken some painkillers to combat the back pain I’ve been suffering since yesterday. It’s lower back pain on the right hand side, and I know it’s not due to any major injury, because I haven’t fallen or lifted heavy things or anything like that. It might be due to stress. It’s been hectic, to say the least, for the last few weeks. It might be due to fatigue. But the bad posture I have when sitting at my desk is certainly one major factor.

I have been working furiously at my desk, for long stretches of time, over the last few weeks. I managed to ‘get into the zone’ with work and writing and haven’t been careful about taking breaks. You know that feeling when things are just flowing and you’re afraid that if you go for that cup of coffee now, you’ll lose the rhythm? That’s where I was. It’s usually a good feeling, but my body evidently disagrees. Now my back is in pain and it’s distracting me from work and I actually have lost the momentum! Just goes to show – my body can only take so much, and if I don’t want to be prevented from working I have to be more reasonable with myself.

Today I am very consciously sitting with my feet flat on the floor, back straight and attempting to get the 90 degree angle right for typing, and the monitor high. I’ve swapped chairs for one that has a straighter back, hoping that will help force me to keep the position. But I imagine it’s not ‘just like that’ that I will get over this back pain. Hopefully I will be able to get some rest to help recover. And I must avoid heavy lifting (could be challenging since this weekend I’m taking care of my young nephews who love to be carried!).

Hopefully I can develop some positive habits to prevent future pain too. Right now, this back pain is rather distracting. Perhaps I should indeed listen to my parents a bit more…

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Filed under Health, Work/life balance

The power hour

This morning I had an update from linkedin: “find out what successful people do with the first hour of their day“! How could I resist? I could already guess, as I clicked on the link, that they didn’t do things like click on the links of articles with titles like “how to be successful” or “how not to procrastinate”. I could also already guess that they didn’t check their emails or their linkedin updates. That’s just what procrastinators like me do.

So, to summarise, for those of you who can resist clicking on titles like that, this article is saying that successful people get up early, do some exercise, may even do some meditation (or positive thinking exercises), eat nice breakfasts, and certainly do NOT check their emails. They take care of some of the more difficult tasks first thing. One person commented on the article saying something like: “I go for a 5-mile walk at 5:30am, I do sit-ups and push-ups and I have a great breakfast”, and he’s 72 years old. Suddenly I felt like a lazy so-and-so. I don’t even know what 5:30am looks like (unless I stayed up all night until 5:30am, but that’s a particular type of 5:30am).

I was beginning to feel guilty about my clearly unsuccessful life, and I decided to take stock of my morning routines. Would I ever be successful? Here’s what I did this morning for the first hour/hour and a half:

1. I got up at 7:25 (yeah, my alarm went off at 7, which for me already seems super early – probably could do better).

2. I checked my emails (BOLD!!).

3. I ate some cereal and drank some juice (breakfast – success!).

4. I showered (I’m sure even successful people shower, although they didn’t really mention this in the article).

5. I cycled 6.5km uphill to the office (exercise – more success!).

6. I spent the first half hour in the office chatting and making tea (not so much success).

I’ve obviously got the exercise and breakfast bit down. Now all I need is the super-early getting up time, the meditation and gratefulness, the NOT checking emails (or twitter, or whatever), the getting the major, annoying and difficult task out of the way first thing, and the not reading “how to be successful” articles online, and then, bob’s my uncle, I’ll be one of those successful people too. Oh yeah.

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Filed under Academia and research, Getting through the PhD, Health

Repetitive Strain Injury


Typing is wonderful. Deep down I am fully aware of this: I can type faster than writing long-hand, everyone can read typed words (can’t say so for my handwriting); it can be stored without needing reams of paper; it saves pens; and editing is super easy.

But, my goodness, I am an RSI sufferer (a mild one, to be honest, but it’s still annoying). I never quite seem to get the chair/desk height/arm angle/screen height right, and just a few hours at the computer leads to creaking wrists, aching shoulders and a sore neck. I do have all the extras – external mouse, external keyboard, external screen, nice office chair, adjustable desk – but still I can’t take too many uninterrupted hours at the computer.

I am lucky in that I have relatively mild complaints, and most similar cases can be resolved by simple strategies (regular breaks, change in activities, rest etc). If you suffer serious symptoms of RSI, you made need the services of a physiotherapist – but the best cure is prevention. Sitting 9 hours every day typing without many breaks, then another 2 hours playing guitar would probably increase your risk level…

For some time, I have been making a list of how wonderful my life will be once the PhD is finished. Less RSI is definitely one of the major highlights I’m looking forward to (along with reading those novels I’ve been meaning to read for ages, going to the theatre, doing a bit of travelling, starting a new sport). Although, to be honest, much of my post-PhD worklife will probably still involve similar hours at the laptop. I wonder is there research showing a correlation in our working style and numbers of RSI sufferers?

I’m off for a short walk, a bit of arm wind-milling and wrist rotating in the hope that I’ll be able to get through the rest of the day without too much discomfort.

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Filed under Academia and research, Health, Work/life balance