Saturday, 13 December 2014

The finish line approaches

What a long time it's been!

So, so many things have happened since I last put pen to paper here. I've written essays, I've given speeches, I've got a cat...

He's called Salem. He's about 1,000% more photogenic than me.
I say I've got a cat - it's really more of a "we". That is, my partner and I have a cat. We live together. We share bills. We're considering...a future. That means finding a graduate job, and sharpish - an ongoing and terrifying prospect. So far there are a couple of things lined up, but I'm always on the lookout for more so if you've any suggestions do please leave a comment. So far it's the Civil Service...and that's about it. Not a great start.

Other exciting things? Christmas is fast approaching, and we're well prepared. We've got gifts for almost everyone, we've got Christmas lights up, we put the cat in a Christmas hat (he got out of the Christmas hat pretty quickly). We're also going down south to see the family, which will amazing as ever - the food is plentiful and the people wonderful.

I mentioned that I've been writing essays, something I always enjoy and always leave until far too late. Something else I do, something I've not noticed I do until just recently, is leave really sarcastic comments in the footnotes. My partner pointed it out to me, and I'm at the point in my university career now where I feel like I'm just going to keep doing it. My 2:1 is - touch wood - almost guaranteed, so from here on sarcastic footnotes will continue to feature in my work. The work from here on in, by the way, is on Science and Literature and the French Renaissance, as well as the opportunity to take a class in French on a French subject. Quelle opportunité for a show-off like me!

I think that's about me for the moment; I'm going to try to get back into blogging semi-regularly back in the new year but in the meantime Happy Holidays, and thank you for sticking with this blog.

If you have. If you're new, I have no idea why you're here but thank you.


Saturday, 11 October 2014

Future fear

Grad schemes are hard, and they're made harder by the fact that I was until quite recently a callow, stupid youth. I'll be honest: I have made innumerable fuck ups in my brief time on this planet, and one of those mistakes was my A-levels. I made a hash of them. I went from high-flying GCSEs to very poor A-levels, and while I've made a concerted effort since - improving my Maths knowledge so that I can teach it, improving my economic knowledge because - well - it's necessary to form opinions, and improving my French knowledge - although that's mostly just a by-product of, you know. Studying French.

Ah, la France. Avec les jardins. Et les petits, petits arbres.
But here's the thing. Since a lot of people have a degree - and that's a good thing; I think more people should be getting degrees, more people should be getting the chance to go to uni and not worry about paying debts or paying bills.

But the trade-off - a phrase I learnt only recently via +Aberdeen Debater - is that firms need some way to differentiate applicants. And also a way of ensuring they don't get too many people who aren't up to their "intellectual calibre."

As a consequence, I am struggling to find any firm who'll even look twice at my CV. We change so much in the three, four, five years we're at university that it's astonishing to me that even the Big Four - for all their claims of seeking excellence - are just as blinkered by their obsession with UCAS points. 

I hoped to join PwC way back when; even got to the interview stage before I put my great fat foot into my great fat mouth. Even through uni I considered it but now I'd done. I am just 100% with firms that think at 18 your future's done and dusted.

Welp. I can't go back and redo it; I haven't the time to resit A-levels; and I refuse to lie on my application, as has been suggested to me. 

I know right. I'm going to be kept warm at night by my principles.

Still, maybe things will happen between now and graduation. Maybe I'll get Living Wage implemented, maybe not. Maybe I'll get an interview with an MSP and avoid putting my foot in my mouth for the 1,493,576th time. Maybe.

Whatever happens, I've decided to stop worrying about the distant future and just on the proximate. To wit, how am I going to get businesses in Aberdeen to pay a decent wage?

Thursday, 2 October 2014

Things. Things are happening

Five weeks to Living Wage Campaign launch. One and a half days until I meet members of my committee. Twelve weeks until I head home to see my family and friends for Christmas. And a whole ten hours until I have to get up - that's right. It's my evening off.

The gaps are where I do my uni work
So it's time for a super-brief update. I've not taken anything else on...sort of. I'm doing the STAR award this year, because it essentially makes my VP role epic, an upgrade on the awesome it already is. I talked about the STAR award a little bit last year; it's a few hours of workshops with someone I respect and look up to on campus plus genuine employers from the world of real jobs. An extra six hours is really all it's going to cost me between now and graduation, so I feel I can take that on.

Living Wage is kind of planned out, and I need to talk to some people about getting other groups on board - groups like trade unions and Aberdeen City Youth Council, but also groups that don't even know they're powerful. Groups of staff in shit-paid jobs who could band together and apply real pressure to the people above them.

Aside from that, things progress. If you knew me a few years ago, as some of my readers do, you'll know I was an insufferable ass. Don't get me wrong, I'm pretty sure there are still time when I'm that, but I think I'm getting better. Case in point: Sartre vs. Beauvoir.

N.B if you're bored by existentialist philosophy and gender roles as performances look away now.

Simone de Beauvoir (r) and Jean-Paul Sartre (l)
So: Sartre and Beauvoir, like all of the most I of VIPs, go by only one name. Sartre's existentialist philosophy is fascinating: it says we are condemned to choose. There's no God; not a God who controls us nor a God who commands us, so there is both free will and no moral imperative. If you, like young Raskolnikov, see a young woman bothered by a lecherous drunk then be assured that there is no moral imperative to act. Similarly, if you are depressed by your boss, who works you to the bone for almost nothing, then (says Sartre) you choose to allow him that. You might also choose to punch the odious boss in his pallid face and make your way through the cheering crowds - but then, you have chosen that too. Almost any person in dire circumstances, according to this philosophy (one he argues is only for philosophers, which makes a lay person like me wonder what the damn purpose of it is then), is in those circumstances as a consequence of those choices.

In an egalitarian world where everyone starts from the same circumstances I could have time for this kind of philosophising, but since it ignores all pre-existing racist, classist, sexist, cissexist and homophobic structures that already existed in society and yet were apparently invisible even to a man as smart as Sartre, this philosophy for people who've already won the lottery of life and need a reason to sneer at people in other socio-economic conditions goes IN THE BIN.

THE BIN I SAY.

Also: check out the sheer length of that sentence. This is what happens when you read French at university: you lose all sense of scaling sentences and end up writing Ulysses. 

In any case: enter Beauvoir, who expanded on the philosophy and produced a phrase that defines feminism, the problem with so-called "femininity", and is also epic in French. In English it gets fuzzy. It goes:
On n'est pas née femme; on le devient. - We are not born women; we become women.
Womanhood - and, indeed, manhood - are performances or constructs that you grow into and in doing so you completely give up your freedom. You trade freedom for security. You fit into the mould crafted for you and you don't need to choose any more; you are no longer "condemned to choice," as Sartre said above. You can go through the motions, like a character on a cuckoo clock.

So then we get all kinds of complex questions like (a) are you betraying womanhood if you take part in this construct (b) what do you mean, womanhood? Aren't we all individuals? and (c) hey, I'm a guy, I have an opinion on this and you should listen to it.

I'm super-sarcastic this evening, and I do not even slightly apologise.

If you skipped past existentialism and gender roles, please start reading again here.

Other news: big scoops with the Tab this week, but not mine. We have done a pretty good job exposing the frankly obscene amounts the university paid a company to make a super-shitty video that they finally took down. As a sort of unofficial response to that piece of crap, there's a "Reclaim the Night" march happening in Aberdeen for self-identifying women and genderqueer people. If you don't know about it yet I know you'll be made welcome if you go, and if you are in either of those groups, do please join the march. If you are instead a man, don't go. Don't be that guy.

It's that simple.
PIR - our next event is shaping up to be bloody enormous, with over 170 folk turning up. It's going to be huge, and I will be working as per. I hope people get photos.

Right. That's a massive update. I'm well, I'm doing many things, and I shall shortly be kicking some buttock or at least poking it with intent to harm. I hope you're all well and if you've got this far have a prize of my friend John using the phrase "penis monsters" in a chat about his sexuality. 


References to Crime and Punishment are all well and good, but for humour there's nothing better than an Englishman using the word penis.

Monday, 22 September 2014

It's done, it's finally done

21 days and 8,000 researched and referenced words. Quite frankly I'm not sure even I believe it, and I wrote every one of those words. It is without doubt the biggest task I've ever undertaken, and if I could go back in time there's no doubt I'd do the whole thing again exactly the same way.

What can I say? The month I should have spent writing I spent working in an organisation I'd love to go back to, so it wasn't wasted. I wouldn't have given it up for all the sleep I haven't had these past three weeks - though perhaps I'd have asked for just a little more time, so that I could have got home to see my mother, whose birthday I missed due to this enormous project.

With that particular enormous project out of the way, though, it's back to other enormous projects.

  • My VP project - to try to encourage Aberdeen's big businesses to move up their minimum wage. It's looking likely anyway - both the Conservatives and Labour have been making noises about it - so my argument's going to be simply that if they do it before they're forced to, they look like positive, pro-active members of society rather than the vile, tax-evading corporate monsters they are.
  • My PIR project - generate coverage for our trips. I'm going to involve the Loch Ness monster.
  • My Tab project(s) - cover something big. Really big. Like a pyramid. Wait no, not like a pyramid. Wrong kind of big.
  • Degree classification - this...probably shouldn't be at the bottom of the list. Still: it's got to be a 2:1. 2:1 or nothing baby.
  • Life project - don't take on anything else between now and graduating. Kick me if I even think about it.
  • Post graduation projects - apply for every job going. I've already got one well in hand, another in progress, and others are lining up as I speak. There are a few I can't start until next year, post-graduation, but until then I can keep plugging away at the ones that accept predicted grades.
See? When I make a list it doesn't look at all like a Sisyphean boulder I have to push up a mountain. Besides, even if that is what is resembles, I'm getting into Camus again (via Sartre's more-than-a-bit-privileged-existentialism and these bloody gorgeous comics) and that means I can he happy about my Sisyphean task, because it gives me purpose, and without purpose (even if that purpose is meaningless) we are nothing.

A cheerful blog today then.

And just to round it off, here's my front page: a work of art and a challenge to the laws of language; a 30-page, mildly acerbic, poorly written assault on laïcité that stretched the word "no" into 8,437 words.

In terms of words per minute, formatting this page
was the hardest thing in the entire paper.

Saturday, 23 August 2014

Week three over: 4 days to go

Thanks to a bank holiday in England (but not in Scotland; looks like Beastie's working on Monday then) I'm well on my way to the end of my internship.

I'm also watching "8 Out of 10 Cats does Countdown" and I worked out the numbers game, so I'm pretty smug at the moment. I hope it doesn't bleed through too much.

I should have been writing my dissertation today, but for some reason when I woke up my eyeball felt like someone was trying to inflate a balloon behind it. It's an oddly recurrent sensation, but here's hoping if I do nothing it'll just go away by itself.

What...what are you doing back here?

In any case, its been an incredible month and while I won't miss getting up at half five - especially heading back to braw Aberdeen, where it's already distinctly colder than it was when I left - it has told me loads about the industry, all of which I'm going to apply with vigour once I get back.

Speaking of getting back - French courses are up for next year, and by the looks of things there are some exciting courses next year. I need 75 credit points, and my choices are:
  • History and structure of the French language
  • Contemporary French thought
  • New Wave Paris
  • The politics of difference in contemporary France
  • Modernity and change in postwar France
  • Literature and science in nineteenth century France
  • French theatre (oooh!)
  • The Renaissance in France
  • The 21st century novel in French
  • Post independence to Diaspora: the postcolonial African Novel in French
Nothing like a long title to give one faith in the course. 

They're all 15 credit points, so I need to pick five. Only five! Of course, I could pick them all, but then I'd probably fail them all, and that would be a disaster. Besides, I'm planning on sneaking into lectures on the International Relations/Politics side of things. Fingers crossed they won't notice the Arts student. 

Professor: "So how should Russia, considering the international economic situation with reference to the EU, react to the US presence in Iraq?"
Me: "Je m'appelle Jonathan."

 It'll be fine. In any case, let's say a minimum of five - I really like the sound of contemporary French thought, which has a gorgeous reading list: Sartre, Beauvoir, Foucault...and then I think theatre, difference, structure, science and one other, to be decided.

I'm rather glad I've worked that out. It certainly makes it easier going into what will likely be a chaotic first couple of weeks, as everyone gets used to the earlier start to term and the annual source of corridor jams that is Freshers Week - a part of which I'll be orchestrating as PR for the P&IR society and as SM manager for the Tab. Oh, and VP Employability, so I need to get some projects on the go for that. And the other job for which I still need to email the finished paperwork. Oh, and a woman who's several thousand times smarter than me has asked me to get involved in a really exciting project - and you can't say no to that.

Well.

I can't.

Am I still in the unfortunate universe where there are only 24 hours in a day?

Yes?

Shit.

I've also just eaten a meal which could easily have two people, and so I am now sitting/deflating slowly and trying to breathe. I think my stomach is squashing my lungs. It is not a happy feeling. If this is even slightly what it's like to be pregnant then quite frankly you can keep it. Tomorrow will be a day of studying. I hope.

Otherwise I'll have to fall back on writing, and we both know that will end in tears.

Saturday, 16 August 2014

Week two: over

Never have I ever needed to sleep so badly as I did this morning. It's been an amazingly busy week, but unfortunately I have limits - I've talked about my frustrations with the flesh-sack that keeps my brain operational - and so I slept for a good 10 hours and woke up with a blinding headache. This is clearly my meat-sack's way of telling me it doesn't approve of the way I talk about it.

I'm just saying. I bet he doesn't get headaches.
It could also hypothetically be caffeine withdrawal, as the wonderful barista at work reckons a double espresso is for weaklings and what I really need is a quadruple espresso. A quadruple espresso is about 100ml of coffee, which I am reliably informed by Google is approximately 212mg of caffeine. So two of those a day - one in the morning, one after lunch - is only about 424mg of caffeine. How much caffeine will it take to kill me?

See? I can have 135 more and be fine.
I'm halfway through my internship and it's getting even better, if that were at all possible. More research, more responsibility, and a lot of pitching. Journalists are naturally friendly people, and it's really exciting to try and write the perfect story.

Alright, it's exciting to me. 

I'm not exploring the capital as much as I should be; after the days at the office I'm absolutely shattered - especially because getting up at 5.30 means getting to bed by 22.30, and that doesn't leave a whole lot of time for exploration. I was planning on doing it this weekend but by the time I'd had a headache and mooched and read up on the ongoing clusterfuck occurring in Ferguson, Missouri I wasn't really ready to do anything except not do anything at all.

However, my dog (being a dog) has absolutely no concern for international global politics, and has therefore been a very restless puppy all day. I should probably take him for a walk but after last week's flaking out I'm a little unsure. I can't deal with rejection two weeks in a row. It would break my cold little heart.

In the grips of today's headache I found myself doing odd bits of research, as is my wont, so now I've rooted my phone, filled out the basis of my application to the European Commission, and finally emailed the paperwork I should have done weeks ago. Oops.

Anyway: I'm going to try this dog walking thing, at a slightly slower pace. There'll be more next week.

Saturday, 9 August 2014

The end of the first week

I am so knackered someone needs to invent a new word for it.

This week, my first at the internship, has been tough. I get up at half past five in the morning, to make sure I have time for lunch and to watch the morning news, and then it's fantastically tough days of research and writing. There's not much else I can say about my work, except it's fun and the people are great.

So what else is there to say?

Days are long. Commuting is hard, but the company is good - a very old friend who's also interning in the city catches the same train, so it's a good opportunity to talk about current affairs/talk about the horrifying way our peers are getting married and producing spawn like frogs in the springtime.

The weather in London has been horribly hot all week, so the women of the City have broken out smart dresses and skirts. Meanwhile, the men are sweating enough to fill a swimming pool the size of Hyde Park, because we're all essentially constrained by the same structure and it's dumb. I am tempted to get a kilt and just wear it to work every day, because this is becoming untenable. It'll also make sure everyone remembers me, so - win?

I met up with old friend and excellent feminist blogger +Monique Bouffe a couple of times too; the first for a pint, a burger and a game of Scrabble; (which I lost at the last moment because of an excellent placement of "quint," a run of five cards in piquet) and the second for the Battle of the Bands, Prom number 30. The conceit was essentially a bit silly - Count Basie's band against Duke Ellington's - but the songs they played were fantastic and done with huge amounts of passion. I was struck, however, by the fact that for Big Band music, the players were almost entirely white.

Pictured: more black people than were playing in both bands last night.
It's a bit odd.

It was also frustrating that, since it was the BBC, "Battle of the Bands" became "Gentle Competition between the Bands" where everybody won. It's a competition. These are grown men (and a couple of women). They can deal with it.

In any case, it was amazing. There's nothing quite like seeing a Big Band play Cottontail live.

So now it's time for the weekend, and a run that was cut distinctly short by the fact that my running partner decided halfway through that he'd had quite enough and was going home after a measly 2.5km. This is my running partner, by the way:


Quitter.
Getting a phone call saying your dog has found its way home by itself is more than a little worrying, especially when there are roads between there and the woods where we were running. On the other hand, he got home okay, so I suppose that's the most important thing. He's limping around now because he overdid it. 

Silly dog.

And now it's time for dinner and it looks like steak and chips, so I'll write some more next week but in the meantime, here's my friend John on the news.

Friday, 25 July 2014

A pretty good day

A second blog in as many days can only be for a very special reason, and I have two to celebrate.

Actually, three - in a move sure to disappoint a Disney employee of my acquaintance I'm happy to say I am not engaged in any way. There was apparently some confusion yesterday, but fingers are still free of rings and knees have not recently been rested upon.

On to exciting news: I have a start date for my internship and it's August 4th which is, oh shit, 9 freaking days away. I've a mountain of paperwork to read and sign and I plan on doing significant research into the area in which I'll be working. I'll also be keeping fairly tight-lipped about what I do but I cannot wait. I'll be home for a month, and I'll be working in London, and I'm going to get paid to do something I love - honestly, I could not be more excited.

And then, once I get back, I'll have another job!

Memes are the last refuge of a scoundrel - Samuel Johnson.
Maybe.
That'll bring me to a total of four part time jobs. That seems like a lot, especially when half of them aren't paid. On the other hand, I love them. It's hard to let go of things you love but apparently that's what you're supposed to do, which seems counter-intuitive to me - but who am I to argue with the wisdom of a thousand years?

The other job is the very exciting Student Ambassador job I talked about yesterday, and it looks like it's going to be an amazing opportunity to get stuck into some seriously meaty projects. There might be a budget. There will be things at the end of it, and there may also be filming and social media and brochures and multi-faceted-brochures and yikes, I'm so damn excited I might explode.

Plus: there's the minimum wage campaign to get cracking on - I got some great research and support only yesterday from a charity that's should help me start producing materials and generating research teams. Hopefully. Fingers crossed, etc.

Anyway: folks living in London who read this blog - approximately sixty, according to my analytics - where should I go? What's new and hip? What's worth seeing in the theatre?

Give me a shout on twitter: @jonodrew.

This is getting habitual

I used to be able to produce blogs at reasonable times. No more. Now it's whenever I get some spare time, which is inevitably after Beastie goes to bed and I'm left feeling like The Worst Boyfriend Ever.

Especially when she makes me cute little gifts like this. Wait, annex?
So a brief rundown then: a friend got engaged, I had a job interview, I may possibly have a start date for H+K and I've managed to lose over twenty hours of my life to a video game.

That may or may not be why this blog is so late.

The job interview was the one I mentioned in the last blog: the Year Abroad/Exchange Ambassador. It sounds fantastic, and seems to be right up my street, but I'm really not sure how the interview went. Time will tell; I hope to find early next week. Still, I got to talk ideas with interesting people and get more interview experience, which is always helpful. Going over answers after is absolutely awful though, so Beastie and I had a coffee. Well, I had coffee. She had cherry cola, which was probably a better choice since it's been ferociously hot today. The sky is as blue and empty as the sea, which is to say it's full of vicious creatures with fins and teeth that you simply cannot see.

I spoke to a contact at H+K and might have a start date - I know I've already said that above but there's not an awful lot more to be said at the moment. It's all rather up in the air but when I know you'll know. I mean you'll know when I get round to writing it. We don't yet share a mind-meld.

Not yet.

I'm playing Assassin's Creed III a lot and it's enjoyable; the settings are huge and wide-open but the cities feel a little small. The previous two games were set in the Crusades (so the Middle East) and Renaissance Italy which did not lack for tall pointy buildings which inspired awe and were absolutely gorgeous to run all over. You'll notice that the games have been steadily moving West; whether that's intentional or not is up for debate but it is more than a little frustrating to be moved back to the US. Where are the Chinese assassins? The Indian? The Mongol? The Egyptians? Think about how gorgeous it would be to scramble around St. Petersburg at the time of the Revolution! Instead it's the American Revolution, and the new version - Unity - is the French Revolution. Please, +Ubisoft, let's get out of Europe.

(Don't get me started on female characters. That would be the absolute end of me.)

If you don't know about the series that was a bit meaningless, so here's an awesome video of people dressing like characters in the game and running about Paris.


Otherwise? Life rolls on. Work is work, and it's not terrible, though one of the guys I started with is already about to move on to bigger and better things. He's off to London to become a film star - no, really - so it'll be a massive blow because he's a fantastic guy. 

On the other, movie star, London...I can see why he's going.

I suppose it's because I've been playing a relatively open-world game, but it's an uncomfortable feeling knowing that unlike non-playable characters in a video game people aren't always going to be there, waiting for me to escape what's pursuing me and grab a chance to talk. Unsettling, the way the world reminds you in a thousand ways that you are not its centre. I could probably do with remembering that more often.

Or, you know. Keep running madly in the wrong direction. It's worked out fine so far...

Sunday, 20 July 2014

Sunday: foggy, with more than a hint of garlic

It's been a very, very lazy Sunday. That's despite a 6-hour shift at work; I still got up at 8, made vanilla pancakes (which came out way too flat, as I didn't account for the vanilla extract) and strawberries with some epicly strong coffee and still had time to fart about for a good while. Work was frenetic; plenty of people bringing their kids in for a lovely little family movie - on which note if you have small infants that you need to entertain for whatever reason, do please go with Mr Peabody and Sherman; it's got plenty of decent jokes that parents will get but is equally full of kid jokes.

Please, please, please don't go and see Pudsey: The Movie. It is the most painful, most awful, most horrible movie I've seen in a long time. If nobody sees it perhaps it'll stop being shown and I can finally, happily, stop listening to the aggressively horrible end-credits song. Just hearing the first bar gives me cold sweats. Hideous.

In any case, after that mad-cap day (in which I saw the end of Dawn of the Planet of The Apes no less than three times, which has probably spoiled the movie for me forever) I came home to find that Beastie had prepped 60 cloves of garlic for dinner. Dinner this evening, friends and followers, was roast chicken with the aforementioned 60 cloves of garlic, carrot smash, roast potatoes, mangetout and warm tiger bread with some of those cloves squished into a garlicky paste. All of this with an excellent bottle of fitou and charming conversation which mostly revolved around the taste of human.

Pork or human? Doesn't matter. All tastes the same.
Also: it turns out I have not the first damn clue how to carve a chicken. It is the worst damn thing to carve because it's so tiny. Pork is easy. Beef is easy. Lamb is easy-ish, because they all come in massive great lumps that you can just slice away at. Compared to those beautiful, succulent meats, a chicken is the equivalent of threading a needle held by a 6 year old. In a darkened cinema, watching Pudsey: The Movie and trying not to chew your own ears off to stop the horrible noise.

Anyway: that much food means an awful lot of cooking, so here's what happens when you let me loose in your kitchen to cook Sunday lunch:

Pictured left to right: chicken, plates, casserole dish, 3 leftover potatoes wondering what they ever did wrong and the only part of Beastie that doesn't burst into sulfuric flames when photographed.
I can almost see how keen Mother is to have me back.

I've got the day off tomorrow, but I've also got wardrobes and a television screen coming so I'm going to set them up and then play Assassin's Creed for about ten hours. I've not played in literally two years, so ten hours may turn into ten days without a shower. If nobody's heard from me by next weekend, send help.

By the by, if you thought I was over-exaggerating about Pudsey: The Movie then I welcome you to sit all the way through the video below. All the way. Don't move, don't switch tabs or programs. Just stay here, focussed on this waste of bandwidth, film, talent, oxygen and electricity.

The torture starts at 0:23. Don't say I didn't warn you.


Saturday, 19 July 2014

Sisyphean tasks

There are many things that feel Sisyphean. The struggle to master a language; for example. There is always one more word you don't know, a structure that seems just out of tongue's reach. Even with a perfect vocabulary there's cadence to master; the rising and falling tones of a joke or a sarcastic riposte. Language learning never really ends, which to a perfectionist like me is about the worst damn thing in the world.

Forming a cogent opinion about Palestine and Israel is a similar experience. You have to drill back in time all the way to the creation of Israel, and then you realise you actually have to understand the reasons for the creation of that state, and then you have to really understand the competing factions and desires as that new state struggled from the womb and started screaming and thrashing and biting. But then, of course, you have to understand the Palestinian position, and ask yourself who has the greater right to live. And then you have to work out who started this idiotic, deadly war that's killing people with the eager glee that has characterised (and still characterises) religious war since there was gods of earth and sky and sun and moon.

In short, these are the kinds of tasks that remind us of the endless battle faced by Sisyphus, pushing a boulder up a mountain only to be thwarted at the last minute. We face the very epitome of uphill battles, because this is a situation that evolves and changes in real-time. It is also an issue on which most people have taken a side and will defend it until their death, and these people are probably not going to be convinced either way because, to be honest, it's far too bloody complicated.

It's a bit harder to struggle through and keep an open mind, especially when children are killed and teenagers are kidnapped on their way home and burned alive. The first casualty of all wars is the humanity of both sides, because when the day comes that the death of children is met with a shrugged apology, it's about time to question whether the price you pay for victory is too great when it is your soul.

That being said, it's probably worth struggling on. After all, a Sisyphean task is hardly worthy of the name if you give up. Sisyphus didn't. Neither should we.

News at Midnight

Alright, I've just bashed out a blog about a conflict and that'll be coming out in about 8 hours, but in the meantime here's a wee update about my life for people who like that sort of thing.

I have an interview for an absolutely amazing job, so I am crossing everything. It's the position of Study Abroad Ambassador, which I'm so excited to even be shortlisted for. I wrote for a year on my year abroad, I did a whole lot of stuff, and that blog is still getting hits which is the weirdest. If you'd like to add to those hits then please, head on over here for the first post or here for the best bits. The interview is on Thursday, so I'll try to write a little thing about how I felt it went. It means more social media-ing, so hopefully there'll be a blog I can completely geek out on. Google Analytics is my rediscovered love right now, so there'll be filters and goals and so much data for tables and graphs and wow.

I need a minute just to calm down.

Dissertation is crawling along: my introduction is fully drafted but, according to Beastie, dramatic. Dramatic? Moi? Surely not. Nobody who knows me could say with a straight face that I am dramatic.


Alright quiet.

Anyway. Today has been an enjoyable day punctuated by enormous amounts of stress, and that's glorious because the stress is punctuating, rather than continual, and that's glorious. Soon it'll be unending, but for now...it's just irregular. Joyful.

Plus, tomorrow we're going to buy a wardrobe so Beastie can move in properly, and possibly the cheapest TV we can find so I can procrastinate with Assasin's Creed, and it seems I'm becoming a grown-up. And I know I keep saying that, and I think it's true every time, because actually I don't think we're ever properly grown up. I'm confident we're all just blagging it, and some of us are doing better than others, but I'm blagging it with someone exceptional so that'll do me just grand until the next grown-up moment comes along.

Speaking of which, when should I start applying to Masters programmes? And should I (unlike The Woman) assume I'm going to get a glorious first, and just put that on every application? And then just blag it when I inevitably don't?

So in short: interview, wardrobe, Xbox, Masters, growing up and blagging the whole damn thing.

If you have any answers to my burning questions then please get in touch however you'd like; email me, tweet me, comment below, send me a message on Facebook or etch your glorious response onto a sheet of bronze and bury it at a crossroads. I will find it. I will find you.

(Sorry. I'm still crazy into +Jeffrey Cranor's Welcome to Nightvale and it's leaking into my writing. It's also leaking out of my fridge. I might be storing it incorrectly.)

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

News!

Such news, such news!

So up first: a while back, I badgered you on and on (and on, and on, and on) to click on a link. Apparently a few people did and, while I have absolutely no idea if it contributed in any way, thank you so much if you did because I actually won it! If you'd like to read it (and let's be honest, why would you not want to read it?) you can click here. (Last time I'll ever plug it, promise.)

I won an internship in an incredible and exciting firm in London and I'm still a bit surprised. I'm incredibly pleased and excited of course, but now I'm just itching to know when I can start - if only because carriage all the way down to London is going to cost me some serious pennies, and the sooner I can book it the fewer pennies it will cost.

Fun fact: these are worth more as scrap than their face value!
And yet we keep making them. Glorious.
And then? And then it will be London for four weeks. I cannot express my excitement: I am a child on Christmas Eve whose birthday also falls on Christmas Day and is also flying to New York in Concorde to experience Christmas and birthday all over again.

Whew. Convoluted but I'm sure you'll agree it was totally worth it.

My other job chugs along quite nicely and my dissertation is slowly taking shape, that shape being a vast and looming behemoth growing and spinning and writhing out of all control. I now have to face up to the fact that I have been attacking this from an entirely Euro-centric view, which is lovely but would be a very valid criticism and one that I could potentially deflect if I tackle it now - so it's time to look at Iran and Turkey for alternate views of secularism to see if we can perhaps fit that model to the French.

I'm also realising that it's going to be impossible to cover all the bases in this paper, so it'll essentially be entirely hypothetical followed by a crushing "Well, this is all very nice, but it won't happen in a month of Sundays so essentially this has been a total waste of 8,000 words with no practical, real-world applications. However, I clearly understand that so could I have high mark please?"

Dammit Mr Ball! Sorry, Professor. Professor Ball.
Other things that are new? There was a reshuffle in the UK Government, and there are now five women in Cabinet instead of three which is excellent news for progress and also terrible news for progress, because on the one hand women in unrepresented areas is a huge positive while women who believe in capital punishment and voted against equal marriage is less positive for progress.

Something to struggle with. Luckily we can all unite in hatred of the Daily Mail, the contemptuous rag of a newspaper which today had a double page spread on what it charmingly called "The Downing Street Catwalk," because who the fuck cares what these women think or their careers when we can judge their clothes, hair, age, wrinkles, and OH YE GODS WOULD YOU STOP.

The word "catwalk" is also a stinky little word which brings up other words like "catty" and "catfight". These women are people and while I am not going to be going for a beer with Pritti "Bring back hanging" Patel or hanging out with Nicky "Gays aren't equal" Morgan, the reduction of these politicians and working women to clothes-horses and objects is creepy and shit.


Also Michael Gove got booted from Education, which has pleased...well, everyone, it seems, but mostly teachers according to this +BuzzFeed article.

Palestine and Israel are still killing the hell out of each other, although since Israel's got superior everything the first Israeli casualty was yesterday, when Palestinian fatalities were at 109. It's an incredibly complex and brutal struggle, but it got even worse when a video of Israelis apparently watching the bombing of Gaza with popcorn.

Yeah, I know. You were wondering how it could get worse too. Isn't it nice when people surprise you?

All told it's been a pretty hard week in the world, and everywhere that's not here. So I'm just incredibly thankful that I've won this competition, and that I get to go and learn from some of the best. If I keep going at this rate I might be able to effect change by the time I'm, ooh...35?

Ten years away. There's time. Besides, someone recommended an excellent Masters programme at the other end of the country. I've always wondered what it's like in the West Country...

Thursday, 10 July 2014

An inability to sleep

I am once again cursed by an inability to sleep. I lie down, roasting hot, and wait for my brain to switch off. It doesn't do that. It keeps going. It is a Duracel bunny doing laps in my skull, and that's a tough thing to sleep with.

Squeak.
Squeak squeak squeak.
SQUEAK SQUEAK SQUE-ALRIGHT FINE I'M AWAKE
And so of course to pass the time I'm looking for things to enlighten or amuse me, and I'm drinking hot chocolate because obviously something hot will help me cool down. And so I have, in short order -

  • watched a +CrashCourse video on Rorsach, Freud, Neo-Freudians and other half-remembered things of A-level psychology,
  • read and written up a plan to implement analytics in email correspondence for a potential new freelance client
  • played half a game of chess with someone halfway across the world
  • and read about 70 pages of Confessions of a Sociopath, which is a difficult read purely because the author is a sociopath and therefore boringly self-aggrandising. If she lets a paragraph go past without mentioning her staggering wit, intelligence, etc etc it's a wasted paragraph.
That being said, it's an interesting read. Sociopaths are fascinating creatures who should probably be exterminated, since they live in a world free of consequences, recrimination, and guilt. They are only useful humans in a world which values cut-throat attitudes and an utterly uncaring attitude to others, which is true only of a capitalist worldview which views companies as people and people as resources.

Ah. That's the world we live in. Damn.

I went to see Derren Brown last night, and it was exceptional. I mean it was just as exceptional as the last time I saw it, and I'm still no closer to working out the tricks that I couldn't work out last time - and I'm also still no closer to getting my books signed. It's getting to the point where I'm considering camping out by the theatre with a pen and a Thermos flask.

I won't, because that is a very weird thing to do, but I also wouldn't be lying if I said the thought hadn't crossed my mind. However, I am going to say that if you get a chance do, absolutely and definitively, go and see it. It's glorious, and I'd love to tell you all about it. I seem to have forgotten most of it though. I think there was something with a shark. Or a bit of a shark. And there was a game of chess with a dark hooded figure who seemed to be simultaneously there and not-there, like a veil made of lead.

Skinny, too.

Anyway. It's probably not important.

My new job is still fun but my throat is still sore, and I could do with a whole lot less of that. Still, I've opened up a couple of times and organising the day's plan and stuff is enjoyable. Sweating through my shirt as we frantically sweep up popcorn and rescue discarded packaging from all over the place is less fun, but it's mindless and repetitive and it's actually pretty pleasant to shut off the brain for a bit and just do work.

Speaking of which, I should really give this sleep thing another try. Just lie there and try not to be aware of the fact that for several hours I will be completely unconscious while my mind plays randomly edited together footage of faces I've glimpsed juxtaposed with impossible scenarios, all of which will seem as vividly real as this blog while in this state of being.

Meanwhile my limbs will tense, my organs will slow, and my bones will get slightly heavier.

In short, I'm off to skate perilously close to death but not actually fall into the icy water, because (among other things) I've based several decisions on the assumption that I'll wake into this reality again tomorrow, and it would be a shame if they were all for nothing.

Of course this assumes that this reality is the real one, and I'm not dreaming this one, because while it's an entertaining thought that would require that there exist a reality where what I'm doing is utterly nonsensical.

...he says, signing off at past 3am while half-watching a Senate debate in Australia where a man called Lazarus has just spoken so who knows. It's entirely possible I'm in a dream.

Thursday, 3 July 2014

Up again

Today I've had another massive blast of enthusiasm and energy. It's a little unsettling, how it comes and goes, but it's come and I'm making the most of it before it goes.

So I'm writing something for the first council of the year, and it requires some help from legally minded folks and/or people who know people. And people who know economics. Essentially, I need a lot of help crafting something that we can work on for the rest of the year, and it's going to be something that I strongly suspect is going to cause problems.

On the other hand, nothing's ever gained before it's ventured, so here's the plan: let's make the minimum wage in Scotland £9 an hour. Actually, let's make the minimum wage in the entirety of the UK £9. Let's do it everywhere. Let's start reducing the massive, massive difference in wages between the 1% and the 99%. Let's create a whole new middle class.

Now, everyone who studied economics and believes in the free market is frothing violently at the mouth at this point, because traditional economics says that if labour becomes more expensive, demand for it will go down. This is because labour is a lot like bread, and if bread got more expensive we'd all cut down on toast.

Only labour's not really like bread. Companies need labour to work, and to keep working at peak efficiency they need (presumably) the same amount of labour they currently employ. An increase in the cost of this labour will increase the wage cost, which will reduce the company's profits. That's not an awful thing all round, if the company's CEO is earning a multiple that's 350 times the lowest paid wage-earner, but more of a problem if it's a boutique store owned by one person employing two people.

Here's the thing though - if everyone's got more money, everyone spends more money. Low-income earners typically spend far more than they save, and more spending is great for the economy. Especially because it means companies are producing more than ever, and that means they need to take on more staff.

That's not a bad thing.

And what's more important is that paying people such a low wage makes them desperate. It doesn't make them want to work for you - they always have an eye out for another better job, one that pays maybe ten pence more - because ten pence per hour more is three pounds fifty more a week, is fourteen pounds more a month, is one hundred and fifty-eight pounds per year. And that's not very much, but it'll do for now.

If your employees aren't worrying every minute about paying their bills, they're not going to come in even when they're ill. That's got to be better for your company.

If your employees are earning more money from you, then they could well spend it with you. And if they don't, their friends will. Remember, every one of your workers is wealthier now, and they're moving the money around. The more it moves the more wealth it generates. The worst thing to happen to money is being stuck in a bank account; it begs to be spent.

I am under absolutely no illusion that in the short term this is going to be a hard sell, but I'm also fairly certain that it's possible. If it's possible in America, a country far to the right of Scotland, then it absolutely must be possible here.

This is not a call for an overhaul of the system: capitalism is the best way of producing goods, of creating competition, and basically just employing people. But unbounded, unfettered capitalism has resulted in what we have right now: a minority hoovering up the last few crumbs that were allowed to fall from their table.

Let us have capitalism. But the free market is an illusion; there is no magic spell in it. The invisible hand is so invisible as to be immaterial; no, let us have capitalism for the people. Let us have capitalism that works for the advancement of all, not the few.

This campaign will need voices and it will need data. If you'd like to contribute my anonymously telling your story or taking part in a survey, please let me know - you can get hold of me through any of the links on the right.

Saturday, 28 June 2014

The countdown begins here

It's dissertation writing time! As well as working tonight time!

And instead I made a video time because I'm struggling to find a working definition of laïcité because it's a thing every French person knows, expect others to know, and therefore do not explain.

So I'm going to go right ahead and ask a Belgian.

This guy. I hope he has an answer.

So: I made a video, because I've been thinking about it recently. It's not well lit or as lively as I'd like, but it's the first and hopefully they'll get better. Hopefully there'll be more. Hopefully there will always be more of everything - I like creating things, which you'll know if you follow this and read the odd things I write and create.

And yes, of course that's a problem because I should really be focused on my dissertation but it's not possible to work full-time on something like that. I've got a plan, though, and it's pretty detailed. In the Frankenstein of my dissertation, I have a skeleton and some major organs. Now I just need to fill it with muscles, and blood, and this got suddenly very creepy.

But it's Saturday, and I'm working this evening - Mrs Brown's Boys and How To Train Your Dragon 2 both came out yesterday so I imagine tonight will be more than just a little bit busy. Still: I quite enjoy that. The more I work, the faster the day goes, and that's just fine by me.

Before I close up, I had a fantastic meeting yesterday and learnt that Kilau is pronounced Kilo, which quite frankly has completely thrown me and I'm not even sure what my own name is any more.

Aside from that: in ten days, I find out if I'm on the +Hill+Knowlton Strategies UK shortlist for my competition entry - that poem that I'm sure you all read. I'm really very excited about that - it'll be an amazing opportunity even to get on the shortlist. I was also approached the other day for a very interesting position, though it'll mean graduating six months later.

Much to think about. In the meantime I made a video and I invite you to watch it and tell me what you think.


That's all for now. Probably.

Tuesday, 24 June 2014

I am definitely working

A glorious morning in dull and very grey Aberdeen; we are merely three days after the solstice but the Silver City has already utterly given up on seeing the sun again. In sports news, sport is being played by sporty people like Ronaldo (salary: 80m USD per year) against other sporty people (the nation of the Ivory Coast, GDP 36.1bn USD or approximately 450 Ronaldos) and that's about all I know about sport. Though Chrome has undertaken to keep me updated, as has twitter, so who knows. Perhaps I'll become an expert in short order.

Today featured a very interesting talk from the Permanent Under-Secretary to the Foreign and Commonwealth Officer, one of the most senior civil servants in the Government, Sir Simon Fraser. (Or Mr Fraser, if you're an idiot like me and get tongue tied trying to speak and open a door simultaneously. One day I'll be able to multi-task. One day.)

Sir Simon Fraser (or Tamsin, if you're reading this) then please accept my humble apologies. It absolutely was not an intentional slight but the apology is there nonetheless.

In any case, Sir Simon came to the university to talk FCO careers, and was absolutely fascinating. The role of diplomats is changing and now they have to be active on social media - but this can give them much greater access to the people around them. This in turn allows them to ambass with greater skill and build closer relationships with the local people, and that can only be a good thing.

He went on to talk about how ambassadors need to be open-minded, friendly people who really like Ferrero Rocher. Luckily for me I qualify on every single one of those criteria! Now all I need to is pass

  • the psychometric tests
  • the in-tray test
  • the group assessment
  • and the final interview
Pah. I eat such challenges for breakfast and go for a run after.


In any case, Sir Simon was incredibly helpful and answered an awful lot of my questions, which was probably a bit unfair on the less vocal members of the audience. He also did a twitter Q&A after, so have a look for that and see what he's saying if you're interested in a career in the FCO.

As for me: I'm sitting in the library and have written my conclusion, which is essentially that laïcité as practised by the French is kinda racist and kinda islamaphobic and that's shit, but quite frankly your other option is going down the route the US did and that's still racist and islamaphobic, so quite frankly guys I've not got any idea what you're going to do. But please give me a high mark.

Outside of the ongoing and laughable horror that is my dissertation I need to get on with sharing information about something else, so I'm going to get on that very soon. Probably. Just as soon as I finish working out how many Ronaldos the UK is worth. It's a brilliant new unit of measurement and is also endless amounts of fun.  I assure you.

Alright. Not everybody has the same sense of fun as me
Finally, I closed up the day with teaching of pronouns, adjectives, verbs, and good lord why has nobody taught this child properly? I appreciate it, because it means I can earn a good living making up the difference, but it's more than a little heartbreaking.

So in conclusion: a day where I reconsidered future plans; where I met students who know what they want to do and a student who hasn't a clue. All of them bright and only some of them failed by the system. I also got asked for my opinion on something new and was told that someone appreciated my existence. And that's not a terrible thing on which to end the day.

Saturday, 21 June 2014

The End of #ESES2014

The past couple of days have been enormously stressful. I've not been active much, and I apologise for that, but it's been an enormously steep learning curve. I joined the ESES2014 team as a video editor on a single project - I was in the right place at the right time, and I spoke to the right person, and I did the thing I was supposed to do. And then I did another video. And then all of a sudden I was directing and shooting my own two minute video, and now I have about 8-10 hours of footage to review and edit. All of this footage is from cameras I positioned and was filmed by people to whom I taught everything I know.

Look in the other end. Point. Press the red button.
I didn't know an awful lot about this when I started but - there's an enormous benefit to having all the knowledge of the world at your fingertips. Of course, that means that the world has all the knowledge of you at its fingertips, but it's a trade-off. After all, what could possibly exist that could embarrass me?

That picture has absolutely nothing to do with the above statement.
I just wanted to remind you that I'm fantastically good looking.
Learning theory the night before and then getting to apply it the next day is an amazing opportunity, and one that I wouldn't get the opportunity to do anywhere else. The fact is that while I absolutely want to do my best and create a finished product that everyone can be proud of I, like every other member of the team (save one, who saved everyone at the last minute) am not from the discipline in which I found myself.

And yet we still threw ourselves into the approaching storm like spawning salmon, ignoring the enormous great grizzly bear of failure in the hope it would go away if we pretended it wasn't there.

And weirdly...it worked.

If you're actually a salmon, this may not work. It's a metaphor.
Also, thanks for reading. Even though you're a fish.
The whole thing came together. Don't get me wrong, there was one point when I thought I'd misplaced 32GB of footage and very nearly swore. Normally this wouldn't be a problem, but there were more microphones than there are normally around me and while some readers - some dear readers - find it charming to hear cursing in an unnaturally English accent, I rather suspect it would have put a dampener on the whole thing.

In any case, I've now got a totally full hard drive and a totally awesome amount of work to do. I can review the footage, I can find out if any of it's useable (please, please let some of it be useable) and I can jam it together with the sound my colleague dutifully recorded and I can watch the sessions I couldn't be in, owing to the fact that while my electrons exist in a quantum superstate I, unfortunately, do not.

This is a nerd joke. Carry on.
But the sessions were great, and a lady from the UN did what everyone from the UN does to me - inspired. I'm sure I wasn't the only one in the room who felt it, which is going to make going for the jobs there even harder, but hell - what a chance. What an opportunity.

There was also a session on nuclear energy and, while I can't show you it (as the footage is not really mine, and I'm doing this work for someone else, and so releasing the footage is really not my call) I made a brief speech in support of nuclear energy that was light on figures but heavy, seriously heavy, on pathos. If I do get a chance I'll show you, but I'd like you all to remember that the camera adds pot bellies. This is a true fact.

In conclusion, then - what have I learned? Plan well ahead. Buy more SD cards than you think you'll need and buy the hard drive that makes you go "What? This much space? I'll never use this much space. Never."

Because if you film something, you will. Because it gets in your blood, and soon you're filming everything...

and that, kids, is how I became head of CCTV.

Thursday, 19 June 2014

#ESES2014

I'm sitting in an almost-empty Arts Lecture Theatre, and I've been here for quite some time setting up cameras. We're almost ready to start welcoming people in, and I'm seriously excited - it's been a labour of love and quite frankly more than one instance of flying by the seat of our pants.

So: to work.


Thursday, 12 June 2014

Funny letters

My dear audience;

Should you ever consider learning Russian, I recommend you do it. It is a beautiful language. It has a flowing quality and it opens your world to the many opportunities available to Russian speakers: caviar salesperson, judo instructor, and oil/gas magnate. Theoretically one could be a spy as well, but I think we're probably looking more towards Arabic and Mandarin Chinese there. And American English...I don't trust those guys.

But if one of those three career paths calls to you (and you may choose only one, like the beginning of Pokémon) then Russian is the language for you. Be warned, however, that it is not easy like English. After all, in English we have poems that are child's play.

Um. Moving on...
In Russian there are two alphabets: the printed one and the handwritten one. Not quite as bad as Japanese, as my friend Rachael would attest (it has three, which is an absurd number of alphabets (though of course they're not technically alphabets but syllabaries)), but still more than us common Western folk. And some of it's not too problematic...

Mostly the same...odd handwritten t's though...
and then it goes a bit

From top to bottom: v, ye, r, s, oo, ch LOL WHAT
and then all of a sudden it's

Russia no. Russia why. (l, p, f, e, yu, ya)
all the same, while it's a harsh learning curve I'm enjoying it. I'm picking up plenty of vocab and Anna's leaving notes around that have familiar shapes on them. Don't get me wrong, comprehension is still a distant, blue-white-and-red-waving flag, but at least the shapes are vaguely familiar. So that's good.

First three hours at the job; I have remembered all the names (which is a pleasing and useful skill, and is sure to impress your mother, future mates, and spawn) and some of the names of people I'm not sure I was supposed to remember: Gary, Neil, Edward, Thomas, Paulina, Margaret, Simonas, Robert, Jakob, Joshua, Shannon and Majika. I may be wrong about the last one

In any case: my life is stumbling on in the standard, shambling way that it does. I had a pretty good interval run today, with an average pace hovering around 4.20 minutes/km for my fast paces and 8 minutes/km for my slow. I've also been introduced to Welcome to Night Vale, which is gloriously creepy and weird. If you're not listening already get stuck into it, and if you need further convincing check out these very unsettling tweets. Then listen to episode 1 right below.

So until next time...goodnight.


Tuesday, 10 June 2014

Leg day

Every day is leg day here, because I just love running. I'm also not sure how one goes about doing weights and things without an actual set of them, and I'm not so bothered about that to be perfectly honest. Give me stamina! Give me swift legs and slightly less of a tummy!

So that's what I'm getting. Very slowly; I shaved another second or so off my pace today, so that's pleasing. We did intervals today; 90 seconds of walking followed by 60 seconds of steady running making a total of 20 minutes exercise, plus a 5 minute jog as a warm-up. All very pleasing indeed. I'm teaching tonight too - more Lord of the Flies, more creative exercises and a long walk back because buses apparently don't run after 7.30 in the evening. Ho hum.

My dissertation has hit a rut (sort of) in that I have to pause when reading books or watching interviews to yell at fat white French guys who are convinced that women covering their faces victimises them. While they make the occasional good point - a full-body, full-face covering does have some potential security issues - their main one seems to be "...and what if I want to engage 'er in conversation? I cannot see 'er face! I am ze victime, it is not French, it is not in ze French soul to cover ze face..." and it's all utter wankery. I am rather afraid my conclusion is going to piss off a lot of French people, because it essentially boils down to "be more like America in this one thing."

Not in any other thing. Because that would be obscene.
You are not the victim because you are not entitled to see anyone's face. You are not born with this right. It is strange and alien and thus uncomfortable to you, like black people with the vote and gay people marrying and, I imagine, black gay people marrying and voting. But you have to get over it. Because what you thought was your right was actually your privilege, and that's being chipped away. Suck it up.

Hey look! I've got a conclusion. 7,950 words to go and I can call it a day. Easy.

That's all for now folks. Tomorrow: my first experience with a Russian textbook. Gulp.

Sunday, 8 June 2014

Après le soleil....

We've had a whole two days of sunshine here in Aberdeen, and as that second day comes to a close dark clouds gather like vultures after a drought. It's not started really raining yet, but sources tell me it's close by in Westhill - so it can only be a matter of time. Thank goodness I'm curled up with exciting books like La Laïcité face à l'Islam, Religious Voices in Public Spaces, and that summer blockbuster De la séparation des Eglises et de l'Etat à l'avenir de la laïcité. Oh yes. Fun times abound with me.

I ran again this morning - yes, yes, I'm, becoming an awful bore who talks about running. The point to this is not to make me look impressive but rather to demonstrate that if I can do it, shambling gutsack that I am, then there's literally no reason you can't do it. This time it was a longer one, at a slower pace, but still - I'm doing stuff. I'm making the gutsack run. And it hates me now. My calves are as stiff as boards and twice as painful.

But nearly 3 kilometres!
I signed a contract today and start on Wednesday, which is terribly exciting, and aside from that...nothing. I'm still waiting, and hoping, and wishing to hear back from H+K but it's been quite a long time now and frankly that's not conducive to my need to book tickets in advance to avoid getting seriously stung. Hurry up you guys.

Anyway, the books, the books are calling. Two pages in and one of them has contemptuously noted that in Britain, even customs agents and police officers may wear the veil.

The snobbishness of the French. Long may it continue.

Saturday, 7 June 2014

Turnabout's fair play

I am in the library, and I am feeling very lonely indeed. There's almost nobody else in here, though I'm pretty certain that if I open up my Thermos full of soup a librarian will swoop out of nowhere or manifest out of bats or electrify my laptop.

I am suspicious of the powers of librarians.

So why am I in the library? Simply because my dissertation must be written, and it will not be written while I sit at home and play Civilisation IV or film applications or write blogs. No, instead I must go forth and read all sorts of books about government, the future, and possibly even read some of the manifesto of the Front National, after which I'll need a shower.

I had another run this morning with a slightly faster time. This is a bit silly, because I should really be trying to slow my pace and go further rather than running straight at it as fast as I can before I collapse, but then that's how I've lived my entire life up until this point. It's a hard habit to shake, and it's really only just struck me how it keeps popping up in a lot of aspects of my life.

Running away at top speed only to get back to where I started. This may be a sign.

As a side note, 87 calories is not very many calories at all, and I am quite frankly horrified that this is all I get for the feeling of lightheaded proximity to death I experienced. I should be able to eat more than a handful of grapes for that sort of sensation.

As time off for good behaviour (in terms of my dissertation) I'll be writing an article for everyone's favourite tabloid, +The Tab, about things you can't wear after uni. So far I'm thinking onesies, ironic t-shirts and yesterday's clothes (that, let's be honest, were yesterday's clothes yesterday). If you've got suggestions, leave them in the comments or get in touch with me via my social media profiles.

I start my new job on Wednesday, which is pretty damn exciting, because quite frankly I'm running out of money like Prince Charles is running out of time - quickly. Still, unlike Charlie, I've got an end in a sight. Speaking of royalty, by the by, the Queen has made her speech to parliament and good lord it's a dirge. "My government this...my government that...". One needs to vary one's language in order to convince, persuade, entertain, or even hold the attention of one's audience - but then I suppose Lizzie's pretty much extraneous at this point, and it's an awful lot of bother just to tell a load of people what they already know. Still, we do like our pomp and circumstance. After all, why else would we have a new state coach when there are 3.5m kids in poverty?

I'm going to call it a day there, because that question's a difficult one to follow with anything cheery. There'll be macaroni cheese for dinner tonight, because lactose free cheese and lactose free milk exist.

There might be a god after all.

Friday, 6 June 2014

Let the sunshine in

Today has been a most excellent day. I say that wheezing and with calves that feel like jelly, but today has been a pretty good day. As you can likely guess, I've started running. So far so slow: 1km in 5min, at which pace I'd do a marathon in 6 hours. Seeing as I did 1km at that pace and felt my head trying to explode, I'm pretty sure that's an unlikely kind of time. Still, we start as we mean to go on.

Not pictured: the point at which I realised I can't multitask breathing and running

I also had a very enjoyable stroll down to the beach and an outdoor lunch; tuna pasta salad, crisps, juice and satsumas. Satsumas in Russian are mandarins (no word yet on what mandarins are, or indeed what Mandarin is. Stay tuned.), and I learnt this because my girlfriend is very patiently teaching me Russian. I'm still struggling with things like the alphabet, and haven't the first clue how to count, but I know how to ask "What's this in Russian?" and so that's what I say.

It's kak eta pa-russkie, if you were wondering. Or как это по-русски? if you know the letters.

I know some of the letters.

I also got offered a new job; it'll be a fun, minimum wage kind of gig but the people seem very chill indeed and that's going to be good for me. I'm also filling in all sorts of applications; internships for the summer are essentially over so I'm planning my Christmas holiday very carefully. I'm even looking forwards to the summer after that, and graduation. Oh yeah. I'm getting organised. 

I have a budget. I also have celebratory steak and fitou for dinner, the sun is shining, and I'm still on an endorphin high from making my fleshy brain-support-system run around. It's a weird thought that I'm leaving you with, but enjoy it - everything below your neck is (mostly) bossed around by the grey lump between your ears.