Well, well, well… It’s been a looooong year, but here we are, at the very end of it. I thought I would reflect on some of my running goals, the peaks and troughs, and what running resolutions I might set for 2017.
So how did it go? All in all, I don’t think it was a bad year. There wasn’t a lot of progress in pacing, per se, but I was a lot steadier and more consistent in getting out for runs, and I had some really good months (unsurprisingly during the summer).
|January||32.4 km over 4:51 across 6 runs||It’s hard to remember this far back…||The usual New Year weather blues!|
|February||94km over 8:31 across 16 runs||Picking up training volume again, including a 54:23 10k||The number of runs that are just shy of 5k|
|March||90.4km over 8:13 across 14 runs||First 10k+ run (13.7km in 1:13)||That my average pace starts a slow decline here|
|April||94.2km over 9:06 across 15 runs||Steady as she goes…||Noticeable pace decrease, including two 10ks (57 and 59)|
|May||131.8km over 12:05 across 13 runs||Two half-marathons (first ever at 1:57, second at 1:58)||That I was too cheap to pay for the Runner’s World app training…|
|June||91km over 8:16 across 12 runs||I at least managed an 8-miler||I couldn’t face a long long-run this month, having done halves in May|
|July||112.82km over 10:06 across 17 runs||A good increase in the number of runs||Quantity =/= distance|
|August||136.4km over 12:25 across 22 runs||Still on the up, including some 10-milers and some 8-milers||Average pace is down, though…|
|September||113.1km over 10:47 across 19 runs||Holding fairly steady and enjoying the sunshine||Only one 8-miler|
|October||60km over 5:32 across 12 runs||Despite travel and moving house, I’m still managing a few runs a week||Most runs now pretty short|
|November||70.75km over 6:29 across 15 runs||Got in a 10k and a 5-miler||Pace is still trending down|
|December||76.18km over 7:05 across 14 runs||Starting to pull back up again, distance-wise||Still a bit slower|
I have found myself slightly frustrated with Strava after discovering that it didn’t have the delightful Excel download feature of RunKeeper, so pulling together my stats was a bit of a hassle. I’m going to have to think about whether I try Nike+ Run Club (which I think lets you download stats), or the paid-for version of Strava.
- The two half-marathons I did, just by myself.
I’m happy that my first one ever was supposed to be a 10-miler that I just pushed on with, and it came in sub-2:00. But the fact that I only managed two and then my half-marathon-a-month plan fell apart is indicative of a fairly basic fact: I’m not that interested in longer distances.
- Running is more part of my everyday routine than in 2015.
There was almost no week when I didn’t run at all. I had some niggles, like shoulder cramps (yep, a weird one) or tight ankles, but still trundled on when and how I could.
- That the half-marathon-a-month plan fell by the wayside so easily.
I’m partly baffled by quite why this happened, and partly glad that it helped clarify quite what I’m running for.
- That I still haven’t figured out how best to get speed workouts into my routine.
I do these workouts intermittently, when I’m feeling guilty or in a clear rut. If I want to “progress”, which I guess means getting faster, then I need to take these more seriously, as well as strength training, etc.
- That my pacing seems to have decreased.
If this is a function of running longer, then it’s disappointing that I haven’t picked up a great deal across the year, which may reinforce the point above about speed workouts.
It’s that time of year, and I’ve been refreshing my academic CV to see how it’s taking shape. Although I’m a part-time PhDder and work full-time in another industry, I try to be as active as I can in academic endeavours, so there’s plenty of updates and tweaks to be made.
Taking a look at some colleagues’ CVs for tips and hints on structure, etc., it began to strike me that those of us who are interested in digital humanities face a challenge: where do our programming skills belong?
Sometimes, it’s easy. There is a role or project that involved particular development work. But increasingly people put HTML, or CSS, or Java alongside French or Japanese, with a “fluent” beside them (I’ve yet to see anyone using an ILR or CEFR scale marking, though). The first time I saw this I smiled a little smile to myself. Well, we’ve got to try to get these things on the CV somehow. But after a while, I started to wonder: when we say this, do we mean it? As a literary scholar, I have strong feelings about the fact that words mean things. And as a spouse of a professional developer, I feel sceptical.
What does it mean when we say we are “fluent” in a programming language? Is coding ever so smooth, graceful and effortless as speaking or writing in a ‘natural’ language? Do we ever code easily and accurately in the same way as we might speak our mother tongue?
The rate of bugs or errors in your average professional code—the type produced by developers at Apple or Google—is about 1 every 10 lines. If one were to have a typo or lexical error in every 10 sentences of written work, one’s supervisor would raise a red flag!
Now, perhaps we may quibble about whether a line of code is equivalent to a sentence (or, indeed, the comparison to a mother tongue), but I think the point stands. The rate of error is much higher in professional “fluent” code than in academic written prose.
Similarly, professional coders do not for the most part store the whole or majority of the language intuitively in their brain in the same way as one’s mother tongue. The reliance on coding reference materials, such as Stack Overflow, is higher than the reliance on linguistic ones, such as dictionaries. Tales of developers finding a perfect and helpful answer on such repositories, only to discover that they themselves submitted it years before, are legion. What would be the equivalent in terms of a ‘natural language’? Stumbling across the idea of using consonance to convey a certain effect, having forgotten that it existed?
All in all, reading “fluent in HTML” on an academic CV strikes me as a category mistake. And it makes me wonder about their French, too…
Yesterday, Amazon announced its steps into the online education market with Amazon Inspire. The growing expansion of online education, from the early days of VLEs to MOOCs in all disciplines and languages, has me thinking a lot about teaching and how it is increasingly escaping the physical classroom.
As a PhD student, ordinarily I would be expected to undertake some teaching, in particular if I aim to enter academia after I earn my PhD. As a part-time, long-distance student with a full-time job, however, the reality is that regular teaching isn’t possible, even if my institution’s admin team were working proactively to try to make it happen for students in my situation (spoiler alert: they’re not).
Being a sometime MOOC fan, and now working with Dino Felluga and his team on BRANCH (Britain, Representation, and Nineteenth-Century History), I’ve been thinking about how digital media might make it possible to teach outside the traditional classroom.
Ordinarily, we think of online academic provision from a learner’s perspective: how well are their needs met, how robust is the learning and examining process, how does such an education compare with traditional university experiences? However, what if we diverge for a moment from models of academic provision that remain centred on traditional institutions?
MOOCs mostly follow traditional course structures with weekly homework, readings complemented by video lectures, often delivered with PowerPoint, and forums to replace office hours, where teaching assistants answer queries. Coursera restricts itself to organisational “partners”—for-profits, universities, not-for-profits, etc.—and edX does the same. That means that, for teachers, MOOCs do not remove barriers but reinforce the priority of academic institutions over the individual educators that make them up. Academics, particularly PhD students and ECRs often talk about blogging, online-only journals, etc., as a way to get our scholarship out there, but what about the opportunities for getting our pedagogy out there too? The articles on BRANCH, for instance, are certainly educative, but they are scholarship, not pedagogy.
Lots of lecture courses from traditional universities make their way onto YouTube or Udemy as platforms, but it seems that the possibility for cross-fertilisation of ideas—between students, students and lecturer, etc—is limited. Such platforms are “stuck on transmit”. TED Talks, although maligned, feels less staid, but the form is much the same from an online perspective (the live experience may be different). Discussion forums underneath videos are not much different to comments under news article, and we all know what’s said about those.
Teaching online is an increasingly prevalent mode of educating that merits PhD students’ and ECRs’ attention. What is expected of us now as teachers, especially in cases where traditional teaching opportunities might be closed to us because of the changing HE landscape? I don’t have an answer to this, but I do have some more questions:
What are some of the ways that you have seen effective teaching being done outside traditional environments, in particular online? What sort of distinction is there now between online scholarship and online pedagogy? Is the act of making scholarship freely available and accessible—to those who can engage with it—an act of pedagogy? Are attempts at online pedagogy—particularly those that are fairly low-engagement for the teacher, as MOOCs often are—inevitably less effective than classroom-based teaching? Will moves towards more online or open-access teaching detached from ‘real’ (classroom) teaching only exacerbate an attitude in academia of treating PhDs and ECRs as contingent labourers by replacing more of our traditional work? Would promoting one’s ability to teach through, for example, one-off Prezis/YouTube videos or Udemy courses actually be counterproductive for a job candidate?
Borges’ short story ‘The Library of Babel’ was one of my favourite pieces from my sophomore lit-crit tutorial, so I’m weirdly excited by the fact that someone has now devised a website that can make it a “reality”. Programmer and author, Jonathan Basile was stirred by the resonance between Borges’ description and the capabilities of modern technology and surprised to find the code not already written, so he set out to produce a digital version of the library, which re-mediates Borges’ library. Once an imagined place whose literary content could only be inferred by an imaginative reader, it is transformed into an online on-demand production of literary content abstracted from the physical sense of a library.
On the home page, as soon as one hovers over a link, the ‘counter’ of letters begins to whirr, rendering the word one had chosen quickly gibberish, but also exactly the same (because the ‘About’ page will be the end result of a link, even when the link text itself has been transformed into ‘Abqkj’). The changing digital text oddly offers a more fixed link between the symbolic and the real than the printed text of a short story’s page might.
The LibraryofBabel.info ‘About’ page notes that the site does not, in fact, “contain” the full Library of Babel, but only a small proportion of it (all permutations of 3,200 characters, rather than 1,312,000 characters). The question becomes, however: If the necessary algorithms are already there (as in, they could be written), is the website, in fact, as complete as Borges’ textual library? The website might be said to “contain” the full Library, but render only part of it accessible, without compromising the Library’s integrity. Indeed, the website adopts this claim elsewhere, such as on the ‘Reference Hex’ page: “Borges has set the rule for the universe en abyme contained on our site” (emphasis mine).