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I have spent a lot of my career for the last 30 years or giving advice to young academics, and hearing their advice for me. Early on in that period I was young myself and was fortunate to have fantastic mentors and advisors throughout my early career. Thank you to all of you both for the advice you have given me and for allowing me to think through and reflect on my own ideas about so many of the issues that young academics – and not-so-young academics – face in their careers. In the last few years I’ve put random bits of advice onto social media here and there, and onto my own web page, and looking back at those I realise that my “advice to young academics” posts have have generated the most interest and stimulated the most conversation. Therefore I have decided to try and be a bit more organised about posting up that kind of material. From now on I will try to include tips for young academics more often into my Twitter feed @petergknight http://www.twitter.com/petergknight and I will try to develop that theme here too, with an “advice for a young academic” tag, or theme, or category here on my wordpress blog. A tag? A category? A book? Who knows… give me a break – I’m not that well organised: I’m an academic. My first bit of advice for a young academic is always to be aware that you are going to get a lot of advice from a lot of people, and most of it will be useless to you. Taking advice wisely is an important skill to cultivate as many senior academics have not cultivated the skill of giving it wisely.

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I am starting a new category within this blog to house posts for a new writing project. So if you see anything new with the “The Places We Have Known” category you will know it is part of that project, and if you decide to follow that project then you can just look up everything in the “The Places We Have Known” category! If it takes off, I’ll move it into a new blog. If it dies the death, it may as well do so here, quietly, while nobody much is watching. Whether this is part of the empire or part of the termite army remains to be seen. Watch this space but, as always, avoid holding your breath. Why is it called “The Places We Have Known”? It’s from Proust: “The places we have known do not belong only to the world of space on which we map them for our own convenience.” Like everything, it is about Geography, History and Memory.

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When I first had a web site, and wrote “open letters” on it that were a kind of blog, nobody else I knew did the same, and people thought it was kind of weird. Obviously I ignored them and carried on doing it in my own way just for fun. This is my 10th year online with an unbroken history of blogging and blogging-by-other-names, and I just noticed that a whole bunch of other people from where I work have web pages and blogs (it’s so easy nowadays!). Looking around their pages, I started to think that they put mine to shame. Theirs are so… plein de poissons: so full of stuff. They have real content. Ian’s is full of rocks and seismic profiles and information and detail. Katherine’s is full of chemistry. Rob’s has so many opinions on so many interesting things. Partly because mine has grown up in a bit of a vacuum and never been out much, a bit like Kaspar Hauser it has ended up, well, different from other people’s. By coincidence, I think I may have met a dog called Kaspar today, which may be why I thought of Kaspar Hauser just now. As usual, I’m not entirely sure. I’m also not sure that meeting a dog called Kaspar would get a mention on my colleagues’ blogs. In the grand scheme of things my encounter with Kaspar should probably have been entirely ephemeral.

Ian’s rocks are of great moment. They are clearly important to a great many people who follow his blog, and are probably what Antoine de Saint-Exupery might have referred to as “matters of consequence”. Just as Saint-Exupery’s Geographer declines to record The Little Prince’s flower because it is ephemeral, perhaps I should be more thoughtful about what deserves to go into my blog. Perhaps I should confine myself to matters of consequence and stop recording ephemeral flowers. My problem is that ephemeral flowers seem to me to be matters of consequence. ephemeral flower

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Irredeemably Online

I used to carry a notebook in my pocket and keep lots of files of paper at home and in my office at work. I used a pen a lot, and showed 35mm slides in lectures. Now I have a website, which I use as a kind of library, archive and canvas all at once. I have this blog, which is more like a notebook. I have a Twitter page which is for announcements so people who need to know if I am around can keep track of me. I have an airset.com online “cloud” calendar that syncs with my iPhone and is my main record of all forthcoming appointments. I have a Facebook page, which is for nattering and playing games. I have an official work web page with links to a whole raft of teaching-related web pages that I maintain for the different courses I run. Each of these courses also has a set of online Virtual Learning Environment (Blackboard) pages.  I have a YouTube site where I put videos of some of my lecture material, and  I put some of those materials together online using prezi.com and screenr.com .  How am I supposed to remember all this? I need a notebook to write them all down in.

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Thoughts from the road

We’re always on the road. Sometimes there are things to say. Sometimes it’s clear that what you have to say should go into a notebook, or into a conversation, or onto a postcard. Perhaps just to yourself. Perhaps not. Sometimes the best place just seems to be here, so that’s what this blog is for. Just for when this feels like the place to put whatever it is, while we are on the road.

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