Category Archives: Glitches


…that I haven’t dreamed about my PhD before now.

A couple of nights ago I dreamed that I had my viva and they gave me a result of “Second, with distinction”. That doesn’t make any sense, because as far as I know only a bachelor’s degree gets a first, second, etc., and “with distinction” doesn’t apply to a second-class degree anyhow. But that was my dream. It meant, I think, that I’m anxious about how well I’m going to do.

It doesn’t help that I’m having problems with my main laptop. I’m not going to rehash the story here, but Apple still haven’t come up with a diagnosis/solution that make the problem go away. It’s seriously getting in the way of my productivity, and I’m really glad I never got around to selling my old one. It doesn’t have the memory, speed, or storage of the newer one, and it weighs a lot more, but it suffices as an interim solution.

Shopping and wifi and cell phones, oh my!

I’m spending Thanksgiving in North Carolina with family, and then will go to Maryland for a few days. I wasn’t planning to go to the mall today, but I needed to visit T-Mobile to see if they could sort out something I thought had been sorted in March. The kiosk couldn’t, although it’s a T-Mobile kiosk and not a reseller. Gotta go to a full T-Mobile store to see if I can make that happen. Meanwhile, I’m sitting in Starbucks drinking a decaf caffè latte and using the free customer wifi. (Don’t worry, I’m not taking the day away from family — my sister and brother-in-law are at work and I have the day to myself.) I may have to go to the T-Mobile store where I bought the phone, which means I’d have to brave the post-Thanksgiving rush (it’s in Maryland). But I refuse to do it on Friday. At least not in the morning.

For my friends outside the US, do you know where the term “Black Friday” comes from? I always thought it was supposed to be the day on which retailers go “into the black” with all that high sales volume, but I just looked it up and found that sources have different views on its origins — for example, Wikipedia and Salon. Regardless, I don’t support the craziness and I don’t shop on that date (if I can help it).

Library weirdness

I use the university’s online library services fairly regularly. After checking the online catalog I do one of two things: reserve a book if it’s in the catalog, or make an interlibrary loan request if it’s not (or if an article is not available on line from the university’s network). This much, I can do from home. In the case of a book on interlibrary loan, I have to wait for the email that tells me the item has been received from the British Library (all of the interlibrary loans I’ve ever received have come from the British Library) and is available for pickup. That part is straightforward enough: make interlibrary loan request, get email when book is in, pick up book, return book by due date (or renew it).

Nothing else even comes close to this level of reasonability, though.

In the case of an article or research paper, I used to receive a paper copy in the mail (“post” to my British friends). But now they deliver digitally. I receive an email with the document attached — BUT the British Library’s digital rights management (DRM) prevents me from printing it more than once or even viewing it on more than one computer. If something goes wrong I have to phone the university library and they reissue the digital copy.

That’s not particularly weird, just copyright protection taken to extremes.

Here’s the weird bit. But let me explain it by telling you a story.

I’m working on the Literature Review section of my PhD thesis. Right now I am managing my references — ensuring that I have copies of all the papers I’m using as sources and have at least borrowed all the books. (I photograph a reasonable number of relevant book pages under fair use, for when I want to quote from them.) I’ve downloaded many of the articles and papers I need — if not via my own account with the ACM Digital Library, then through the university’s access to journals to which it subscribes.

When a catalog search finds that a book is in fact in the university’s library, it offers the option to reserve a copy. I’ve reserved 3-4 books this way, in the last couple of days. I had done this before, and had always received an email when a book was ready for me to collect. (This has been my experience with the Montgomery County Library system, as well.) This evening I had to go to campus for something else, so I decided to stop by the library and see if the books were in.

No books awaited me on the reserve shelf.

I asked why there was nothing there, and the assistant said they were probably still on the shelves.

Huh? But I reserved them, I said.

The system, she replied, doesn’t notify the staff that a book has been reserved. It simply prevents anyone from checking it out. At that point they can mark it and put it on the “reserved” shelf.

Evidently, my previous experience of receiving an email within a few days was due to someone else’s having tried to check out the book. So I’m going to have to go into the stacks, find all the books I reserved, take them to the front desk so I can trigger the notification, then check them out as reserved to me.

This. Makes. No. Sense.

Sorry, Northumbria. I love you in many ways, but this is not one of them.