How to tell that you are too tired to be doing academic work


  • You had to spend 10 minutes convincing yourself not to change the title of the paper that you are writing to be a bendy, flaming, rainbow-coloured Microsoft word 2000 art title.
  • Finding colleagues in the lab and saying “I know i haven’t finished this coffee yet… but do you want to go for a coffee?”
  • You’ve used the same verb five times in a single sentence.
  • Proof reading entails reading just one paragraph 10-12 times, thinking that that it is the entire document.


The triplets have had a see-saw in their back garden for as a long as I’ve lived in the house next door. They have a lot of toys really, but most of the other ones they play with are designed for individual use. I suppose this is because three-year-olds readily fight one another over the colour of snot, so there is no sense in putting a shared toy into the middle of that.

In my time as their neighbour I have only seen them use the see-saw once, and it was a complete disaster. In hindsight, I have broken the components of why it was a disaster into handy steps for future use. I feel these should probably be incorporated into the small print of any kind of shared garden-based kids toy.

  1. Do not put the see-saw on top of an elevated wooden platform. Sure, I understand that you may want your garden to look nice and have an area for BBQ’s, but seriously a see-saw doesn’t belong on it. It belongs on something soft which has been heavily screwed down onto.
  2. Do not put the see-saw in the corner of said wooden platform, where one seat backs onto the hard, brick garden wall. This will almost certainly cause whoever is sat on that seat to repeatedly hit the wall.
  3. Do not use the see-saw in the rain. Just, do not. No.
  4. Has it been raining? If the answer to this is anything other than “absolutely fucking not” then do not use the see-saw.
  5. Do not provide two seats for a brood of three kids. This is never going to work. In the long sad history of bad ideas, this is the worst. Especially when the three kids in question are the hell-spawn.

“The Bike Phenomenon”

I strongly believe that, as someone who is forced to endure whatever the latest toddler fad the neighbours have been obsessed with, I should get a say in whether they are allowed to be bought their own copies of said fad.

They have been through a few fads in their short and chaotic lives: space hoppers, skipping ropes, little green squidgy balls (which probably have a name but I am too old to know what it is). Of the three, the latter caused the most damage to the triplets. It turns out you can really hurl a small squidgy ball in a garden enclosed by walls and fences, and you will probably hit everyone including yourself thanks to the power of physics*.

Bikes have been a popular fad for children basically since time began. They’re right up there with fire, sliced bread and Furby’s. For the triplets however, bikes are literally the most intoxicating and magical things in their existence. We quite often encounter the triplets being herded into their car (which is usually parked outside the front of their garage) while we are either returning to or leaving our own garage. This is because we have a garage full of bikes which are used to go places. It is sort of the primary use for a bike.

The proximity of our bikes to the hell-spawn has resulted in some odd phenomena, ‘the bike phenomenon’.

Stage one of the bike phenomenon begins with slow, quiet jabbering among themselves. This occurs in the early minutes of first seeing the bike and knowing that it is there and that it exists on this mortal plane. Presumably the jabbering aims to inform the others of the change in events, so that they may all move on to the next stages in unison.

Stage two follows once enough primary jabbering has been achieved. By now they all know that there is a real-life bike nearby and it almost certainly exists and is bigger than them. It might even be red. This is where they begin the bike chant: they each start saying the word ‘bike’ quietly and repeatedly, while exchanging looks with one another, and then back to the bike.

Bike, bike, bike

Stage three begins when enough excitement has been generated by the bike chant. This is apparent by the increase in volume of the bike chant. A bike is here, and that is fucking exciting. They are convinced that they have never seen a bike before, despite the fact that they almost certainly see one nearly every week.


The ultimate phase of the bike phenomenon happens when the sheer exhilaration of the bike becomes too much for mere mortals to bear. They simply must be as near as possible to the bike, and/or touch it, to glean its magical powers. As one they will begin to shuffle towards the bike from all directions. This makes it incredibly hard for us to go about our business (opening the garage and stowing the bike away). As they close in their chant morphs into the phrase ‘Big bike. It’s a big bike’, as if they had little to no spatial perception of the dimensions of the bike before they came within close proximity.

Thus, it becomes a race against time to get the bike into the garage, and to shut the door as quickly as possible. The mounting unease which is generated by unison chanting is disconcerting, and frankly, odd. As is their sheer wonder at a bike – which they see a lot. I suppose it’s good for them to be excited by something other than hitting one another, but I can’t help but wonder whether its healthy.


*I would like to mention that at no point did they stop to consider the physics behind that particular situation – they just kept lobbing the squidgy balls at high speeds around the garden while simultaneously crying. Much like the space hoppers, really.

The Three B’s: Bells, Birthdays and Bikes

This morning I was awoken by such a cacophony of bells it could only be attributed to the hunch-back of Notre Damme on crack.

I had had several extremely long weeks of work – the kind where sleep is lacking – and had been looking forward to having a morning off. Predictably this was snatched away from me by the neighbour’s triplets.

The intense ringing was high pitched, grating, and my fucking god was it tenacious. I laid in bed for a while wondering if it was even worth finding out what new toy they had, for surely sooner or later it would penetrate my life and I would come to resent it more and more each day. After 20 minutes of bell-ringing had gone by, showing no signs of stopping, I decided to get up and take a look.

I was horrified to find my predictions had come true. Someone had bought the triplets their very own bikes, equipped with bells. Individual bells.

Loud, individual bells.

As far as I could tell it was their birthday. This was tenuous link to make, as all I had to go on was some smeared icing across Thrasher’s face, a bedraggled grandparent in the corner of the garden, and a giant deflated balloon which had been burst and now remained slumped on the floor while the kids ran over it in their new death machines.

The only consolation was the fact that all of the adults seemed to be having as hard of a time dealing with this new development as I was.

Each parent added their shouting to the chorus of bells, while each grandparent meekly tried to swerve out of the kids paths. It was the sort of present a distant aunt would bestow on young children; to the kids this was literally the best day of their short lives, to the adults this present would cripple them if they couldn’t find a way to dismantle and/or destroy it. Cool Aunt would remain cool whatever the outcome was.

With my intended lie-in ruined I blearily moved downstairs into the living room. This is a good tactic when there is a particularly immense amount of noise coming from the garden, as the back door leading to our garden has a conservatory which acts as a welcome extra buffer for sound. Much to my dissatisfaction, the pitch of the bells managed to ring throughout the living room, too.

I hastily dressed and headed out of the house. My entire day was preoccupied by working out potential ways to somehow remove the bikes from my life. And, so, by the time the day was over I had achieved no work, but had a lot of budding ideas.

The Characteristics of Peer Reviews

The chances are that if you are working in academia in any capacity you will have to publish your work. The old peer reviewing system employed by most conferences and journals eventually becomes familiar to you. Ingrained, almost.

Reviewer 1 – Between 100-200 characters long. minimum grammar. Little structure, if any. Probs good paper though, I liked how they had a title.

Reviewer 2 – Between 1,000-2,000 characters long. Often content written by reviewer 2 resembles an entire rant cunningly disguised as a peer review. It is imperative that their opinions on the research area are fully stated, and stated at length. Reviewer 2 tends to organise this into a single monster of a paragraph where basic grammar becomes a fleeting memory, lost in the timeless void of incandescent rage. What they lack in structure they make up for in sheer indignation.

Reviewer 3 – Between 800 – 1,000 characters long. Overly polite, reviewer 3 is simply pleased to be here. The paper was pretty cool, the research topic is pretty cool, there are probably maybe some bits that could be improved with infinite time and effort, but they realise that you probably won’t do these and instead flag up small errors to fix instead. The only one of the reviewers to focus on one point per paragraph following a chronological structure. Ends their review with “cheers”.

Regular Workplace VS. the PhD Workplace


Workplace Scenario

Regular Workplace

PhD Workplace

On not completing work on time…

“Sorry, I’ve been swamped with another project and HR messed up their resource allocation. I’ll get right on it.”

“Yo, I didn’t do the work because I was so depressed even a kinder bueno and sit down didn’t help.”

On having your work critiqued by a colleague…

“Interesting, why do you come to that conclusion if you don’t mind me asking?”

“Go suck a dick, Keith.”

On having a comment made about your workplace outfit…

“Oh thanks Linda, I got this top a couple of years ago but never had anything to match it with. I’m glad you like it!”

“Huh, thanks. I thought I should make an effort because I’ve literally worn my pyjama trousers for the past 9 consecutive days. You just can’t see them when I’m chained to my desk.”

On meeting a new colleague…

“Welcome to the team, it’s nice to meet you. Where did you work before? Maybe I can show you around later.”

“This is my coffee mug. If you use it I will stab you. If you move it I will stab you. If you consume coffee intended for this mug, I will stab you.”

Hive Mind

Sometimes, I cannot help but consider the possibility that the neighbour’s triplets may have some sort of mental connection with one another, which others cannot fathom.

Occasionally they will interact with one another in such a way where I pause and think ‘this is what great and inspirational science fiction writers have been trying to communicate, this might be our future as a race’… and then one will promptly punch another in it’s face, and the magic breaks.

These rare moments of insight are amusing nonetheless.

They don’t last long, and are usually focused on a task or trying to convey a message to each other. Today’s moment of insight is centered on cornering the Geranium pot-plant in the garden.

This has gone way over my head, because the Geranium is already in a corner. I also have little idea why. As far as I can recall it has always been in that corner, and there has been no real reason for them to suddenly turn against it.

But against it they have turned.