Viva today

Today I find out whether I get a PhD. I’ve been strangely not-nervous about it, although I’ve woken up pretty early this morning. It’s difficult to `revise’ since most of what we’ll be talking about is what I wrote. I’ve been trying to refresh my memory of papers I cited (especially those of my examiners…) and of what I wrote, but it’s been so boring I haven’t done much. Let’s hope I don’t regret it later.

I’m fairly hopeful about passing – I would hope my supervisors would not have let me submit if it wasn’t going to pass, but I see the viva as being both a rite of passage everyone has to go through (i.e. a horrible experience that my examiners had to go through, so they want to inflict it on me, and a negotiation process about how many corrections I need to do.

I’m not worried about having a hard time today: I tend to stand up reasonably well under face-to-face pressure like this, and I hope I can robustly defend points of which I am confident, and give way in places where I should refine my thinking. I’m more worried about the corrections. I just can’t imagine getting back into writing my thesis – I’ve left it so far behind my thinking, I’m so sick of it, that the idea of writing another chapter or two is horrific. It was bad enough the first time.


I made a page for the band Pete Beresford and me had when we were at uni. You can download the 3 songs I was getting around to sending to John Peel. If you like your metal instrumental and a tiny bit Propellorheads, it might be for you: Mnemonic. If you like it, let me know and I’ll send you some FLAC recordings of those songs (still not great quality, I’m afraid), and/or some of our other songs.

Guilty Expression

Having previously been the anonymous benevolent dictator of Guilty Expression I have decided to become non-anonymous and I’ll just have to make sure what I write there is either acceptable or I’ll have to log out before I write it. Guilty Expression is a web site for people who want somewhere to express the thoughts and feelings they have about God and Christianity that they can’t express in their church (if they have one) or with people in real life.

I set up the sire after talking to several of my friends who used to be church-going Christians, but were hurt in one way or another (by their church, or by God in the sense of things happening to them) and are now almost-Christians, or ex-Christians but who still think a lot about these things and want to talk about them without being branded unsound or a heretic. A couple of these people have very genuine relationships with God, which, by their very messed-up-ness are very real, but they obviously suffer from not being part of a community. GE is supposed to provide a way back in to talking to people like them and people who feel more confident in their faith (but are very tolerant of those who aren’t).

GE is also a place for Christians to complain about their churches and the attitudes of other Christians, and other people, and almost to let off steam about things in a way that does not have very bad consequences in terms of hurting people or causing division in their church or group.

We’ve had articles written by people of lots of different ages and backgrounds (from pastors to non-Christians) on loads of topics (from anorexia to the bible to science) and lots of different viewpoints.

My excuse for writing about it on what I hope to be a mainly technical blog is that it presents an interesting challenge in terms of how to build a community. The site is supposed to be for people who are feeling disposessed and out of it, and so they’re not likely to be looking for it. The vast majority of visitors and contributors to the site are people I have told about it personally, and it has spread a little from there by word of mouth. My being anonymous has not helped, because it has made it difficult for me to spread the word through my other web presences, and that ti why I’ve decide to own up. If you have any ideas about where it might be useful to spread the word, let me know by email.

If you’re interested in GE, go to the site: and consider signing up for the mailing list to hear every now and then when a new article is published.

A real job

Getting used to working is an interesting thing. I haven’t been as tired as I thought I might be, probably partly because I got into a routine of getting up at 7am with my wife (she was working while I did my PhD). However, the weirdness of how much of a job is to do with social pressure is interesting. What I mean is that it takes a lot to get fired (in my job, anyway – I hope…) and you could probably get away with being pretty mediocre and keep your current salary. The things motivating you to do well and work hard are mainly desire for promotion (and within reason your salary will probably increase over time even if you’re mediocre) and social pressure. The main way in my work you are motivated is that if you don’t do what you were supposed to do one week, you have to survive a difficult moment on Monday when we have our status meeting.

Anyway, none of this is relevant to me because I am really motivated by how fun it is to be working with other people on something that I am reasonably good at, and also because I never have to read or write academic papers again.

Except, of course that I have my viva later this month, and I will have corrections out of that. But I’m trying not to think about it.