living and learning

Thursday, 29 April 2010

Cake & sandwich sale - fundraising week at geography

Next week, 4th - 7th May, third-year and Masters students along with the Geography Society are hosting a week-long cake and sandwich sale to raise money for the charity Friends From Marich Pass in Kenya.
Sparked by the slow progress of the construction of a new health clinic in one of the local villages, Tikit, students have decided to raise money as a way of 'giving something back' to those communities who partake in research for Geography Dept. students year-on-year. Money will be channelled through and distributed for projects in Marich, Mbara and Tikit by the Marich Pass Field Studies Centre.
In the first instance the funds will go towards completion of a clinic in Tikit where there are no health facilities for miles and towards the provision of drinking water. There is no potable water in the village. The charity also supports a number of educational projects.

See Facebook page for details: West Pokot Week

Wednesday, 28 April 2010

BBC People's War, Rationing - extraordinary tales of food

Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Strange Maps - for your curiosity

Monday, 26 April 2010

Where's your five-a-day?

Image from PostSecret

Fresh fruit and veg and meat are expensive, highly perishable, and bland compared to processed food.

71% of consumers are aware of the government’s 5-a-day target but only 55% meet the target.

But sometimes I secretly wonder, wouldn't all the money spent on alcohol and ready meals and confectionery be quite enough to maintain a steady supply of five-a-days?

Friday, 23 April 2010

Grapevine 19

'You can be sat on a toilet with a laptop, logging onto Facebook...'
- Debbie on disembodied identities

'Trains are the worst ones: everyone can stare at your screen!'
- Debbie on off-line surroundings shaping on-line identities

Thursday, 22 April 2010

Sheffield geographer casts inequality in new light

Wednesday, 21 April 2010

Dissertation - progress checklist

So the dissertation proposal deadline is approaching. For everyone prone to worrying their heads off, here is a checklist of essential things you should have done by now. (Compiled with help from a qualified geographer...who shall go unnamed for now:))

Progress Checklist

  • Decide on a topic and aim - what's your dissertation about?
  • Summarise the context - why does your research matter?
  • Read the relevant papers - how does it fit into existing research?
  • Pick your research questions - what would you like to find out?
  • Figure out the right methods - what sort of answers are you trying to get?
  • Think about the logistics - what will be more likely to work, considering time and cost etc? How would you go about doing it?
  • Speculate about the outcome - how will your research contribute to the field?

If you can safely say you've tackled each of these items and then some, congrats - you're all set to start writing up the dissy proposal! If your checklist looks a bit pathetic, at least now you know what to do:)

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

The Beauty of Maps - now on BBC Four

Monday, 19 April 2010

Eyjafjallajökull - a personal timeline

Unless you've been hiding under a rock recently, you must have heard about the ash. Lots and lots of volcanic ash in fact, freshly spewed out by the long-dormant volcanoes near Eyjafjallajökull, Iceland. This in itself is not terribly remarkable - what distinguishes this ash from its ash-brethren is that it's spreading rapidly over Europe and thus bringing worldwide air travel grinding to a halt.
Dear Iceland, we said 'send Cash' - can't you read? #ashtag
I had no idea a bit of ash would cause so much chaos, or even have a reason to affect my life. Well affect it did, and here's how the events unfolded from my unremarkable point of view.

Wednesday the 14th

Eyjafjallajökull volcanoes start erupting.

Thursday the 15th

  • I first read about the ash on Twitter, assuming it was a rare occurrence and not much else.
  • Read about cancelled flights on the Iceland-Europe route.
  • Talked to Dad about it - turns out he found out before I did.

Friday the 16th

  • Went to Notty House for dinner - housemate's friend from the US is staying over for the week and wanted to try out some proper English food!
  • Stumbled across the headline 'Volcanic ash found in Sheffield city centre' - realised this ash business might be more serious than I thought.
  • Looked up the pronunciation for 'Eyjafjallajökull' on Forvo - there were two entries, both pending pronunciation.

Saturday the 17th

Spent the day in the peaks doing conservation work and generally forgot about the ash.

Sunday the 18th

  • Was shocked to hear that housemate's friend was stranded here because all trans-Atlantic flights were grounded.
  • Housemate's friend emailed tutors about the situation, and was excused from attending lectures for the time being.
  • Starting to realise the scope of complications the ash has brought about.

Monday the 19th

  • Head of department sends out email titled 'teaching implications of volcanic ash' (you don't get that every day do you?:D)
  • Turns out 7 members of staff are stranded because of the ash. As a result quite a few lectures are cancelled.
  • Numerous helpful hashtags appear on Twitter, in an effort to aid stranded travellers.
  • I look up pronunciation of Eyjafjallajökull again - and still it baffles me no end!

I vaguely recall notions of time-space compression/convergence/distanciation from first year geography...which definitely play a part in this ash malarkey. I suppose it's a classic example of 'you don't know what you've got till it's gone' - we don't realise how the technology we take for granted have shaped our world views and society, until the day it malfunctions and we are left with a gaping hole. Let's say this a blackout, only on a larger scale. Let's say instead of tearing our hair out we whack out the candles (trains and ferries). Let's say we start thinking about why we would want to tear our hair out over a blackout, and what does that tell us about our perceptions of space...

Friday, 16 April 2010

Google Sightseeing - armchair geography at its best

Thursday, 15 April 2010

A bottle of soy sauce please. Err, which one?

Soy sauce aisle in Walmart (Shenzhen, China)

Soy sauce is the salt and pepper of Chinese cuisine. The versatile, unobtrusive condiment adds a touch of umami - the crucial 'fifth taste' - to any dish you happen to be cooking. It's part of our national identity, not unlike what Henderson's Relish is to Sheffielders.

15 years ago you could only get it at specialist Chinese supermarkets, all of which were a couple of hours' drive away, but since then the Brits have caught on and acquired a taste for the salty stuff:
Me: ...went to Tescos today, got a new bottle of soy...
Mum: What?? They now have soy sauce at Tescos?!
Times change, mum. Soy, falafel, pâté, hummus and all manner of outlandish food have been known to turn up in the student's pantry. Apparently Chicken Tikka Masala is the new Fish 'n' Chips!

Though our food culture is ever-changing, I wouldn't like to see the demise of English classics such as the Sunday roast and Yorkshire pudding. But I do dream of the day when you get to choose your soy sauce at the local corner shop:D

Wednesday, 14 April 2010

That 'sense of community'

Weston Park at sunset, 21.3.2010

Everyone loves Endcliffe. Everyone adores Tapton. Ranmoor didn't have any residents last year but if they did I bet they they'd be pledging their unwavering allegiance too. A quote from the uni's accommodation page:
I love it! The sense of community and friendliness is immense and I never have to worry about security.
City, on the other hand, is a different matter. I was on the City Community Development Committee last year, and one thing we were always trying to deal with was the lack of a sense of community. Is it because City is larger? Not true. Is it because City people are less sociable? Judging from the frequency of block parties and loud music emitting from halls: hardly. Or is there a better explanation?

We tried really hard at organising fun community events, probably more so than all the other communities put together, according to the uni's communities coordinator. Few of them were successful - while Endcliffers flocked to their events at the tiniest hints, City residents routinely ignored theirs. Excuses?
  • 'It's too far away.' (City consists of many halls scattered across a large area, unlike the other communities)
  • 'I'm not sure where it is.' (The only common room available for events is located deep in one of the many complexes, and normally only open to residents)
  • 'Can't be bothered.' (Would rather socialise within halls with familiar faces rather than go to City events where you don't know anyone.)
Proximity is the key word here. Student residential communities rely solely on proximity to bring their members together, take that away and you have no binding agent left. Hence 'the lack of a sense of community' among City members - the reason is, there isn't a natural community to speak of.

Tuesday, 13 April 2010

Free coffee tasting today and tomorrow at geography!

The marvellous Dr Coffee is offering free coffee for our tasting pleasure - all in the name of research of course! Pop down to C Floor of the geography department from 10:30am to 3:30 pm Tuesday or Wednesday for TWO free coffees of your choice:D

Where's the 'research' part, you ask? Ahh - the clever bit is that you will have to determine which of your two coffees better pleases the taste-buds, and surrender that information to the sacred entity that is research (Dr Coffee's, obviously). Not a bad deal eh? The official Facebook event page has further details.

Monday, 12 April 2010

Grapevine 18

'I hope you're all awake? Very good. Stats at 10 o'clock? Very impressive.'
- Adam in first lecture after Easter holidays

'Don't worry if it feels like your head is going to explode - that's fine...'
- Adam trying to reassure the stats crowd

Friday, 9 April 2010

Dissertation - keeping it together

Where have the Easter hols gone?? :( Two and a half weeks, and our dissertation proposals are due - better get cracking! A couple of lessons learnt so far:

Keep track of everything

I'd done the reading, found some meaty references, but when the weekly dissertation tutorial rolled around, I realised I had nothing to bring along! No lists or summaries, nada. It was was a grand mess - a bookmark or two here, a pdf file there - everything else resided in the foggy recesses of my brain. Not good, I figured, so I took the advice and got a 'master notebook' especially for the purpose. It's one of those fancy spiral-bound A5 project books with pockets (I tend to jot stuff down on scraps of paper), but any notebook will work just as well really. The plan is to put everything dissy-related in there, including searches and titles and ideas and whatnot. I've written down page headers such as 'things to find out', 'literature review resources', 'key papers', 'key dates', and 'questionnaire questions' (yeah my mind wanders) - the pages are mostly blank now, but if I keep adding things once they occur, I'll have a list of ideas handy for each leg of the journey!

Trawl the sea of literature...physically

My chosen area of research is rather obscure to start with, and even more so for the location I'm focusing on. As a result, my literature review tends to get stuck in a rut. A good way of stepping back to see the bigger picture is to go down to the library and browse the relevant shelves for related titles. I did a search with keywords and pinpointed 17 shelves of related material, each with perhaps 20 books. Around 300 titles to scan. Sounds horrifying, but I hit gold on the very first round - a social audit report that is the perfect working example of my vision if there ever was one! Definitely going to keep at it.

What valuable lessons have you learned?

Thursday, 8 April 2010

Poll: What needs fixing?

You may have noticed that The Daily Geographer has had a tiny makeover. Changes include: new navigation bar, Editor's Pick, new footer with 'Random Post' feature, faster loading archive pages, subscribe-by-email option, 'like' and 'dislike' buttons...and a thousand little tweaks to the code. Some things obviously needed fixing, like archives that took forever to load; some things are a bit trickier. Help us decide what to fix by pressing a few buttons:

Wednesday, 7 April 2010

Feeling peckish

I was walking pass Weston Park Museum today, and happened to see a massive yellow poster advertising this exhibition called 'Food Glorious Food':

Image belongs to Museum §heffield. Not me.

Look a bit familiar? Apart from the iconic Henderson's Relish bottle I mean. Well it turns out the masterminds behind it, the Changing Families, Changing Food research group has a branch in our very own geography department!

FOOD - oooh yes please. I'm particularly excited about the 'rationing' section, as I've always been fascinated by how people cope in times of hardship - a favourite haunt of mine is the BBC WW2 People's War Archives, especially the Rationing category. I've even pestered my parents for stories of 'how to make the most of your ration tokens'! (They were issued from 1955~1993 in China, and thus still on most people's memories.)

Alas it was late and Weston Bank Museum was calling it a day. So I sauntered home and splashed a healthy dose of Henderson's Relish over my chips instead.

Tuesday, 6 April 2010

Sheffield geographers first to witness drumlin in growth

...and they even made a movie to prove it! Featuring the film debut of Big Red, this short clip is a must-see for physical geographers everywhere;)

Monday, 5 April 2010

The Map Room - a weblog about maps

Sunday, 4 April 2010

Extra: The last Easter Sepulchre in Scotland

This time last year I was travelling around the UK with a friend, and we happened to stop for a couple of hours in Stirling, Scotland. The weather was exceptionally lovely, so we decided to forgo the touristy castle and go exploring instead - a most wise decision, for tucked away on the hillside was a rare gem: the Church of the Holy Rude. ('Rude' is an alternate form of rood, meaning crucifix.)

The church was quiet and empty save a woman arranging flowers in a recess in the wall. When she finished I asked her what it was for; she said it was an Easter Sepulchre, a model tomb that represents the one that Jesus rose from. Every Easter they put a bouquet there to celebrate Jesus' rebirth, and we were very lucky to have visited the day before Easter Sunday! All the more remarkable was the fact that it was the only one left in Scotland, as Easter Sepulchres are a primarily English feature.

There were more surprises. Engraved on one of the flagstones was this:
Unveiled by Her Majesty
on Saturday 24th May 1997
Being a bit of a Tudor history buff, I got really excited - James VI (or James I, depending on where you hail from) succeeded Elizabeth I, and was the first monarch to rule both Scotland and England. Wikipedia says that the Holy Rude and Westminster are 'the only churches in Britain still in use to this day that have been the sites of coronations.' So by pure accident I'd visited both on the list.

All this, and the church is still overshadowed by the nearby Stirling Castle. I wonder if it features in any 'alternative' sightseeing maps like 'The Geek Atlas'?

By the way, Happy Easter everone:)

Friday, 2 April 2010

Grapevine 17

'...the process of reading the necessary spatial data into the [geographical information] system is often very time-consuming, and hence costly. In fact it's not uncommon for data capture to account for 70~80 per cent of the cost of a GIS project. The main reason for this, is that data capture is still largely a manual process, often using a digitiser to input data from paper maps.'
- Steve in 1997

Thursday, 1 April 2010

Sheffield geographer helps solve Ice Age mystery

  ·  Back To Top  ·  Editor's Pick