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 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


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 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.

Wednesday, 4 June 2014


We're back to standard Aberdonian summer weather: cloudy with a hint of rain. As for me, I'm trying to force myself into doing dissertation work. It's not easy, but the more people whom I respect I talk to about it, the more impetus I have to do it because they assure me they'll be interested in reading it. So it'll essentially force me to not only do it, but do it well.

Other bits and pieces are coming together nicely too. My first video went out, my second is coming out soon, and I've sent off an application to be a Go Abroad ambassador next year - a team of people who are going to try to get the word out about Erasmus. You probably guessed from my extensive blogging during my year abroad that I enjoyed my time enormously (what do you mean you haven't read it? Go and read it now.) and this would give me the opportunity to share that love with other people.

Masters programmes! Are hilariously expensive. I'm looking all over the world for cheap/good/interesting programmes that want me, and currently that number is zero. There are cheap programmes that require one to have an undergraduate in Political Science (don't have), there are great programmes that require one to be born into a family of such wealth that your butler has a butler, and there are interesting programmes that require one to have started planning this approximately half an hour before your conception.

But you know, I'm going to go for them anyway. Scandinavia, Sciences Po in Paris, LSE, and probably GWU and Georgetown. Because hell, if I'm going to go big I may as well go hell big. And pray that I win the lottery without ever actually playing the lottery.

I also had an odd experience yesterday as I was apparently head-hunted to be a Deloitte ambassador. It sounds like a really interesting gig, so stay tuned for more information on that.

Right now there's food to be cooked and articles to write - I've written a couple for The Tab now, and here's one that might resonate with some readers: it's about the seven kinds of guy drunk guys turn into.  Plus videos for ESES. So very much to do, it's almost like I don't have a dissertation due in a couple of months. Ulp.

I'll be hiding, if anyone needs me.