Wednesday, 22 December 2010

My Graduating Year Christmas I

I thought I'd keep a mini diary of what my Christmas as a third year university student of Lancaster University has so far and will have consisted of.


So far, I have recovered from illness, rang up train companies to ensure I have a case for refunds (yay!) and been hassled to ring various other people to make my displeasure known - UK RecordShop.com, I mean you. And I still need to sort out my online bank account again, since they've done that thing where they think I need to activate it, despite having used it for years.
Annoying.

So my brother's Christmas present isn't here, I owe money to him for my share of the Grandparents' presents, and I've not yet even bothered considering looking for new boots that I desperately need. Well, maybe not desperately, but a little warmth wouldn't go amiss.
I also still have to get around to deciding or finding little christmas gifts for my two best friends, since I sort of want to. And said I would in their Christmas cards which I wrote weeks before actually giving them to them. Smart girl, me.

Today I wrote about 700 words to finish the essay I would have finished for last Friday had I not been ill, and tomorrow I shall post it. Hurray for me - no more work for Sandy until the last week of my holiday when I should perhaps start to at least plan which essay I'm going to do for him that term. I can start around week 2, I should think. I sort of forgot to bring my course guide with me, so I've still not finished the gobbets I was supposed to email him a while back, and I'm not able to start the next lot yet. I assume, we're supposed to. Either way, I hope he's not too angry at me for failing to do the third one when I said I would. I was just iller than I thought when I emailed him! :(

I'm currently in the process of planning my dissertation attack. I've just been through my sources, so that I actually know what I can and can't do, and I've just got to do some secondary reading. Otherwise, with the material I have here, I can certainly stretch it to at least 7500 words with a basic 3-chapter plan. I could just start writing it here and there, and hope to go somewhere, but that'd not work. Well, maybe if I just write one chapter on one particular version of the Life of Mary of Egypt at a time, which is really what I should be doing. I'd start with the original version, but I don't have a copy with me. So I'll skip onto the next one, which is anonymously written and fortunately actually translated into normal English from Old English. (I have one version and a half that's not been translated. And it's in verse. Yay.)

I've also persuaded the grown ups in the house to have a Christmas tree this year - we've not had one in years, since we used to go on holiday every year, and there was no point, then one year we didn't go away cause we got stuck in traffic, and then after that we just couldn't be arsed. Pretty much.
Only this year I'm trying to get used to things and make stuff a bit different, and since our neighbours offered us one of their trees for free, I didn't have to shout too hard for them to give me something to do. So we went and got one - it's a bit short, but it's a nice tree. Good colour, well fleshed out and shaped, and I should make a sweet little tree out of it when I decorate it on Friday. (I think they think I'm doing it tomorrow, but that's weird, since our tradition is for it to go up on Christmas Eve. Maybe they want it just out of the way - it's in the garage since we're forecast to have another 10 inches of snow today/tonight.

I hope it does snow purely cause I missed the chance to use this lot to make a snow man. Well, could still do it - it's thawing a bit, so it'd be wet enough to. But I'm supposed to be doing work today. Bummer.

Monday, 20 December 2010

What a "little bit of snow" can do.

After being an hour late getting up, I got a taxi to the train station, since I was freezing and I couldn't be sure the X1 would turn up or leave on time etc etc, and I had to queue to buy a ticket for the train.

The train was about 5 minutes late, and ended up about 20 minutes late at Birmingham New Street. BNS was swamped with people. The queue to get information was quite large, and more and more people were swarming into the station, hoping to get somewhere. All the trains on the board were delayed - one was over an hour late.
I found a train I needed to get, but it was 3 carriages, and all the standing room had been taken. I couldn't get on, and nobody was going to shift to let me on with my little suitcases.
I decided to wait, and to get the next one, an hour later.

I made my way to the platform that had been announced, and waited. A train to Plymouth was supposed to be coming to that platform a minute after mine - it was a delayed train from about 45 minutes before - and I was a bit concerned about how that train and my train were going to be using that platform at the same time as a parked empty one.
It was announced that my train was now leaving from another platform. About 50 people all ran up the stairs as best as they could with luggage, and across the station. We got there, looked up and saw a nice fat CANCELLED sign above our train time.

After discussing things on the phone, I went to buy a ticket so that I could go via London - of course, in hindsight, I should have shoved the rules where the sun didn't shine and just bought an underground ticket once I got there, but you never know with this things.
I forked out a horrendous £58.60 for a one-way ticket to Cambridge, a whole £8 more than my OPEN return had cost me. I was considering breaking down in tears at that point, and getting someone to feel chivalrous for me, but I didn't have time - a train to London Euston had pulled up at platform 3.

It was an interesting journey to London. It went smoothly - there were some nice people in my carriage. I sat next to a girl trying to get to Covent Garden to see The Nutcracker, a sardonic OAP with a suede jacket, and these two girls from Brixton... erm. Let's just say that they didn't fail to amuse and talk absolute rubbish <3 They were great, really.
We got to Northampton to be told we had to continue our journey on another train which was waiting for us "on the platform over the bridge".
We got on the train and waited. And waited. And waited until the driver's voice came onto the intercom - the good news was that the train was going despite the weather, and it was going to Bletchley, Watford Junction and London Euston. And that the train was working. And that the train had a driver. And the driver was sober.
The bad news is that the conductor hadn't arrived yet, and apparently trains can't run without conductors - even if the carriages are too full for them to get through if they bothered to look at our tickets.
We left about 15 minutes later with a cheer.

As we approached Watford Junction, a woman's voice told us that the train was terminating there. No mention of connecting trains, or why, or how to get to London Euston. Just that we were terminating. There was much outrage from the passengers in my carriage, mixed with bitter amusement.
We all piled off the train and made our way to the end of the station with any semblance of an information board. Then we heard a station announcement telling us all to get back on the train, there had been some "wires crossed". When we were first told by the conductress that we had to get off the train, I thought she sounded French.
When we were back on the train and grumbling, she came on the intercom to apologise for the misunderstanding and "information error" - unfortunately, her being flustered did not help to soften her accent and it was quite clear she was Eastern European and probably hadn't been told what ''terminate'' meant. *sigh*
I hate to sound racist by saying that, but there was not just an "information error" but also a "communication" error.

When I got to Euston about half an hour later, it was crawling with police - there'd been a security scare, as well as the circle line being affected by delays and such.
I was ok though - I just had to go one stop on the Victoria line which was running smoothly, to Kings Cross + St. Pancras.
I am not familiar with that part of the station - I have not been to Kings Cross in over a year, and it was a different part that was not under construction. I asked for directions and was misdirected into St. Pancras for a while, and there was no real way for me to tell otherwise - I could tell you what time trains to Bedford were leaving, or which Eurostar train was due in, but there was no information about any trains otherwise, and nobody was around to ask. I followed VERY poor signs to the SouthEastern train platforms, to find the passengers had been kettled, effectively, until an announcement told them what was happening with their trains - Havasham was cancelled, by the way.
I decided to break past the barrier and go around just to ask a very rude and short-tempered woman whether I was even in the right part of the station for a train to Cambridge - she helpfully snapped at me that I should have been in king's cross, next door.

I made my back the way I'd come, and looked for signs towards King's Cross, and found it. It was cold, lots of scaffolding and people and only one or two signs were saying where trains were going, what time, whether it was delayed and occasionally which platform.
Nobody working for the station was in sight. I just stood there with a small crowd and waited - our train was never given a platform. Some trains that were due and never updated to ''delayed'' or ''cancelled'' or given platforms were just taken off the board if it was 10 minutes after they'd been due.
Eventually, a woman I spoke to and I noticed a small trickle of people heading to platform 9 and decided to investigate - we asked a random guy in a visibility vest which train it was, and he said he THOUGHT it was the one to King's Lynn via Cambridge. We asked people on the train where they hoped the train was going, and they all thought it was going to Cambridge. We decided it was probably better to stay on the train, until we heard otherwise. Eventually, a driver said that it was indeed the train to Cambridge, and he hoped to leave soon.

I got back to Cambridge about 10 hours after I left my flat, and got back to my house about 2 hours after that - since the roads were so terrible.

Normally only takes about 5 hours...


Seems that there are only so many delays those electric information boards can take before the system just crashes and burns. And there's only so many members of staff that can take being asked questions- it's better to take them off the floor and out of the public eye so that they aren't murdered or something by fraught passengers trying to get home.

Thursday, 2 December 2010

Hear Ye, Hear Ye, Excitement to Come Your Way

Well, my way, but whatever.

So I might have mentioned before that the history society - well, to start with me and my friend - were trying to get funding for a full-on Medieval fair. Well the guy *finally* got back to us (5 weeks later) and we're to do a presentation for it this evening. Eek!
Got a layout and plan in my head, and we know who'd be involved and why, and how it would affect us and them, and that it'd be for charity, if possible, and we'd get local school children involved and it's going to be huge and we need a field and lots of money cause that'd be awesome.

But yeah. I just can't wait. I'm all hyped. And if the meeting goes well, I can no longer boast that I "might be organising a Medieval Fair", I can say quite honestly that I am and that for once crazy off the cuff ideas are going to work =D !!!!


Yeah. Bit excited. I want a costume. :3

Once it's been confirmed, I'll update with what we'll actually be having done. But it's proper amazing.

Sunday, 28 November 2010

Ann Widdecombe - Why I dislike her.

What can I say about this particular person. She is in some ways thoroughly pathetic and pitiable, yet in other ways you can't help but admire her. If only because of her ability to say what she thinks - but you know, there are plenty more people out there to admire for that who are far more classy, glamorous and more importantly humane. [See Joanna Lumly as example]

I'm sure that even if you didn't watch it, you'd know that she is currently in her 9th week on Strictly Come Dancing.
To start with, you admired her for trying - she took the comments from the judges - 3 of which rearranged the marking scale for her. One week I believe she even got a 6.
Craig (and quite rightly, really) has been stubbornly refusing to give in to her - he is marking her according to the dances, not Anton's limitless imagination or the cringe-laugh factor. I have to agree with him: She shouldn't be shoving other people out of the competition. Unfortunately that is the way the British Voting Public works.
John Seargeant just happened to have the good grace and conscience to bow out when a far better dancer was voted off.

Anne Widdecombe: she's had songs written about her (Victoria Wood's is the most famous I suspect) and she's had all sorts of jokes made about her. Her steadfast personality is admirable in politics, despite her policies (which are awful btw; summarised here v. briefly), but I'm afraid that I'm losing any seriously grudging respect/admiration for her fast. She is an embarrassment. She is simply displaying the true reason that she "chose" to be celibate. Bitchy, yes, but I don't care.

Her refusal to even attempt to dance something that is a standard in a dance like the Rumba or Salsa is just pathetic. It's not "suggestive" to have Anton lean over her from behind in that inward body roll thing. It is a standard dance move - I don't think sex when I see it. Just shows how frustrated she is, if you ask me.
I can understand her desire to not show us what she "wouldn't show the Pope" - in fact, believe me, we're ALL grateful. But that doesn't mean that she should prohibit moves that would otherwise appear in a dance. not that she'd have done it well, anyway. No doubt the weight of her chest would have result in her tipping forward and falling onto her face.

I'm not sure why, though, she let Anton fling her around the dance floor, and to pull her around by her leg. That's just the most stupid substitute for "suggestive" steps that they both could have come up with.
How is that maintaining her dignity? Seriously. She's got her priorities crossed, not her legs - there is less dignity in this shit than there is in her being held close to Anton and letting him unbutton one more shirt button.


Having fun? Yeah, perhaps she is. And I can't help but applaud Anton's relentless imagination trying to come up with routines that she will be willing to even try. Being flung about doesn't earn respect from people with an IQ higher than that of their dog.

I have to say that the Titanic routine this week was almost good - incredibly stupid and pointless, perhaps, but she almost did something.
Her argument that she has every right to be voted through each week does hold up in a democratic society, but then so does the right to prohibit abortions in America - it's legal, but that doesn't mean it's ethical. 



She doesn't have to come up with stupid tricks and gimmicks, but then, she probably knows that that wouldn't get her anywhere. She probably had fewer votes the week she took it vaguely seriously than the week she was forklifted off the stage.

 Even her costumes have gone down hill. Apart from this week, her dresses have grown more and more ridiculous, looking less as though she is trying to look presentable and more as though she is hoping that the audience will vote her through to endure more humiliation.

For a [ex] politician this is a somewhat worrying trait. It is perhaps reminiscent of Boris Johnson's victory during the campaign to be Mayor of London - less because of his policies, but more because he is such a loveable yet bumbling prat most of the time, when on television.
However, "BoJo" doesn't have horrendous policies and nasty personal opinions - he's just a bit of a baffoon. Unfortunately, Ann seems to be getting the public to forget her ugly involvement in politics.
Or the stupid protest voting that goes on - The BNP only got a seat in the Euro elections because people thought that voting for fun wouldn't matter since nobody else did. Well that backfired, didn't it?



I could write about how she's a horrible person all round, but that's a separate blog post all together; Why Ann is NOT a national treasure.

Saturday, 27 November 2010

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part 1

Ok, I'm over a week late with watching it, but you know, I had other things to do. 

I think it's best I start with a brief summery of the 6th film's main failings since I rewatched it last night with a friend who'd not yet seen it.
The biggest failing, which I noted in the cinema on first viewing was that instead of spending a little more time with Dumbledore and explaining to Harry about how and why Voldemort chose the objects he did to turn into horcruxes, they faffed about by burning the Burrow, an event that does not happen in the book.

As a result, the 7th film(s) will have Harry and his pals somehow haphazardly coming across horcruxes with plain luck. Yes, Hermione works out that they need Gryffindor's sword, and yes they work out the tale of the Deathly Hallows, but I can't help but feel this was rather careless of the directors, if they wish the films to be easily understood by non-book readers. 
I physically winced when Ron angrily pointed out that he couldn't believe Dumbledore spent all that time with Harry and didn't even tell him how to destroy horcruxes - because I knew that Dumbledore at least told Harry what they most likely were and therefore they'd be.

Right, as for the seventh film, I actually quite enjoyed it - hell, I was ready (not rearing, but ready) to sit another 2 hours to watch the second half. I have no idea why people these days are unable to watch Gone-with-the-Wind-length films. But maybe that's just me.

It begins with a scene only hinted at in the seventh book, which I thought was rather touching: Hermione ''sorting out'', as it were, her parents' memories of her. If they don't know who she is, then they can't be harmed.

Heartbreaking though, if you think about it. The audience seemed to feel quite sorry for her.

We have a quick scene with the Dursleys leaving, Petunia looking, dare I say it? Remorseful? No sign of Dudley though which is interesting. Must have shoved him in a wardrobe that was on the roof of the car or something. 

Finally the book parts get going - the collection of Harry by members of the Order (Bill very quickly introduced since we missed him in the 6th film) and Ron and Hermione was very well done, with the 7 Daniel Radcliffs wearing other people's clothing and using other people's voices and making jokes.
The subsequent fight and flight scene as the death eaters ambush the Harrys was actually quite thrilling. We see them scatter but all the focus is on Real Harry and Hagrid in Sirius's motorcycle. Whilst it wasn't quite canon, Hedwig's demise was actually more upsetting that way - in trying to protect Harry (rather than being in her cage and accidentally getting hit) she not only dies but gives him away as the Real One. 
The only thing that made me "oh no, they didn't...><" was when Voldemort's failure to kill him resulted in a big dramatic "NoOoOoOoOoOoOo!!!!! *lightening and thunder*" [I kid you not]

Madeye's death was briefly dealt with, and more or less wiped under the carpet, with only mutterings from me about that "bastard, Mundungus". I'm more angry with Film Mundungus than I am with the book Mundungus, cause I thought that Madeye was, along with Luna, one of the few characters done flawlessly in the films. Shame.

I can see why some critics would argue that there was a lot of drawn out scenes, as Harry, Ron and Hermione don't get up to much in the wilderness. I liked it, though - there's no point in missing things out and shoving too many fast-paced and action scenes into a smaller time frame. I think that those films tend to be slightly poorer than films that have lulls in between. I'm not saying that this film is a 5 star masterpiece, but it would have been spoiled if they just juiced up the half of the book which was about theory and what was going on in their heads rather than fighting and Total War.
Besides, the countryside they used was beautiful - I can't help but wonder if it was all filmed in England. It wouldn't surprise me if there were Wizarding World bits of the map that us Muggles don't know about.

Sophie Thompson (left) David O'Hara (right)
Harry's already changed back, you see.
I think I should pay a little tribute to three otherwise forgotten actors in this, who I thought did a good job: Sophie Thompson, Steffan Rhodri and David O'Hara as the Polyjuice Potioned Hermione, Ron and Harry in the Ministry of Magic. As you may remember, they must retrieve the true horcrux locket, since the one which had been obtained in vain by Dumbledore and Harry in the 6th film was fake. To infiltrate the ministry, they knock out three random employees there, and use polyjuice potion.
They all act awkward and confused admirably. Or so I thought. Particularly David O'Hara as hopeless Ron.

I suspect that 80+% of people that watched the film were moved by the return and exit of Dobby the House Elf. He tags along with Kreacher when he is looking for Mundungus, and after that is instrumental in the rescue of Harry, Ron and Hermione from the Malfoy mansion. He even has a little patriotic (sort of) speech - "Dobby has no owner. Dobby is a free elf. Dobby will save his friends". Unfortunately, those of you that have read the book know how that went down with Bellatrix and what befell him.

The scene was ruined perhaps by too short a dramatic pause after his last lines, but the tears were there. It did not count as crying though, cause they stayed behind the rims of my eyes, so there.

Death giving the youngest brother the
invisibility cloak.
The effects in the film are getting far better. Ok, I think they'll never perfect Nagini, but apparently slightly larger-than-normal pythons are too difficult. And then there's Ralph Fiennes, the noseless thing that he is.

The scene in which we learn the story of the Deathly Hallows - the three wizards that attempted to defy Death - was exquisite.  I thought it was beautiful, artistic and engaging. It was quite Tim Burtonesque, I suppose - I did think ''Corpse Bride'' with the Resurrection Stone. It was pretty shadow puppeting.

I'll keep it brief with "the sex scene" - not exactly a sex scene. More like two topless people with serious snogging. And lots of smoke. Briefly, about 2 seconds. The most saucy part of the film, arguably, is when Harry strips down to his boxers to dive into a minus-temperatures pond because an unexplained apparition of a Doe indicated that he should.

Unlike J.K.Rowling, the directors KNOW that Snape and Draco are lost souls. At the start, with the torture and killing of the Muggle Studies teacher of Hogwarts, there is quite clearly supposed to be hint of back story to Snape, as she begs him "Please, Severus... we were friends". A test by Voldemort, perhaps? But Alan Rickman plays him well, as does Snape, so perhaps that hint of sympathy is imagined.
Draco, on the other hand, is quite clearly being traumatised by the cruelty, despite what he thinks of Muggles and Muggle Studies.
The Malfoys are quite clearly on edge, what with Voldemort's temper being a bit testy. Seems Bellatrix is the only relative of the Malfoys who's got any - well, it's not respect, but you know. Favour, I guess - from Voldemort. Perhaps because of her amazing hair? Which gets more and more copious each film, I'm sure.


Overall, I give the film 8/10. It's certainly the best one of the series. I suppose the directors are actually skimming through the books now. What with all the loose ends that are tied up, they need to know how it's done.

The acting has really broadened out, too. Like Rupert Grint's shoulders.





By the way, since I saw this picture before I saw the film, I couldn't watch this scene without picturing the party hats. Slight shame there xD

Friday, 26 November 2010

Shepherd's Pie or Cottage Pie?

Ok, so I made my first Shepherd's Pie today. 


Look at it, isn't it gorgeous? =D
But this sparked the discussion between a friend and I about what is Shepherd's Pie, and what is Cottage Pie - I personally thought that what I made was the mince variant of the lamb version, whilst Cottage pie would just be plain meat and potato, no veg at all. (That's the distinction my local Spar has made with its ready meals, anyway).

In Scotland, they say that the lamb version is Shepherd's pie (make sense, when you consider that shepherds herd sheep, not cows) and the beef is Cottage Pie.

This is what our good ol' friend, Wikipedia says:

The term "shepherd's pie" did not appear until the 1870s,[2] and since then it has been used synonymously with "cottage pie", regardless of whether the principal ingredient was beef or mutton.[2][3][4][5][6][7][8] There is now a popular tendency for "shepherd's pie" to be used when the meat is mutton or lamb,[9] with the suggested origin being that shepherds are concerned with sheep[10] and not cattle,[11][12] This may, however, be an example of folk etymology.

 So it would seem that what I've made is neither, considering Traditional Shepherd's/Cottage pie doesn't appear to have beans/peas/carrot (delete as applicable to taste) separating the potato from the mince. 

What the person I was talking to about this claims to make is (in my mind a bit wrong...):
I make what I call a cottage pie, with beef mince, onions, green beans, baked beans and mashed potato on top. In the oven.
And lots of gravy on top :p 
Hm....

Well, at least I know mine was delicious. <3 And plenty of left overs. :D

How do you make it?

Cool Stuff - "The Invisible Man", Liu Bolin

Ah, the stuff you hear about from Have I Got News For You. This really Cool Thing is Chinese clamoflage artist, Liu Bolin, who became what papers have called an "Invisible Man", because he couldn't get a job elsewhere.
He goes all over the world, and paints himself the exact colour of the scenery. I think it's cool, personally.



      




So yeah, that's the cool thing I found out about today. Probably old news, knowing it...

I think whomever it is that paints him does a great job.

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

A Few Things I Don't Yet Understand About [my] University

  1. The suggested work load - Some of you might correct me on this, but I *think* that I remember hearing that the recommended time spent a week on a subject is 40 hours a week per module - so if 3 hours a week is taken up by seminar and lectures per module, that leaves you 37 hours to study per module, which would leave you just 48 hours to do everything else in your life.
    (7x 24) - (40x3) = 48.
    Factor in sleeping and eating times, that's say 8 hours x 7 a week, plus maybe (3 x 1.5) x 7 for eating meals and then you're supposed to have a balanced work-social life, so if you're spending a good 3 or 4 nights a week doing something that isn't work for ~5 hours (I know people who party more, but I'm talking more more about just downtime on an average night) that's 20 hours... not entirely sure how that works... if you sleep and work to the department's poorly phrased schedule, you have 2 hours a week to do whatever else you like - shower and brush your teeth, I imagine.

    Of course, if individual tutors stopped pretending that their module was the only one available for the course, and they applied the 40 hours to all three modules in total (making it just over 8 hours each week per module, which doesn't actually seem enough) then perhaps that'd be easier to understand.

  2.  We graduate in our colleges - Most people will agree with me, I think, that if a person makes the majority of his friends through his degree scheme, it'd be much nicer to graduate with said people in his degree scheme. Unfortunately, this is impossible if they are all from different colleges. It can happen that you graduate with one person you barely know cause you were only flatmates for one year and went in separate circles, instead of milling around with your besties from your course in which you've shared 3 years together. I shall be graduating this year, and will perhaps see three people I know but don't actually hang around with - one is my flatmate whom I've not seen in over a week, and there're a couple of people I recognise from first year, and then there's one dude I know, and do speak to occasionally (he had a very dapper suit on yesterday, for example, with a really nice tie) but will probably not see on the day anyway. And besides, he does Physics. I do history. It's almost strange we know each other at all, really. [Actually, I have mixed with quite a few physicists. It just sort of happened.]

  3. Angela Baywater - for other students at my university, that's probably 'nuff said.

  4. Where the porters go when they're ''on patrol'' - They're wonderful people and they love it when you get mail BUT porters are mysterious creatures. They have walkie talkies they never respond to, and these weird things called ''patrols''. You'd think that'd be obvious - clearly, they're walking around campus doing their thing. I argue that that is rot. Most of the time, when the porter's lodge is dingy, with a football match on the pc on silent, and a sign in the window stating the porter's whereabouts as 'on patrol', he is in fact just going for some air. He is probably musing life and the buzzing noises of the saw near by (we have building works) or the annoying yelling and screeching of young adults returning at 3am after a night at the Sugarhouse. He probably thinks deep deep things, in a corner of campus where nobody can happen upon him.
    Sometimes, he is not even on patrol, but is using that excuse when it's his lunch break. Or when he's gone to the loo. He even uses it as an excuse when he's actually been to sort out a student's short circuited kitchen (as the last time I saw him).
    Whether and where the porter "patrols" is going to forever be a mystery.

  5. Extreme Heels + Copious Booze = amazing agility - I can't help but admire scantily clad girls wearing beautifully dangerous heels on cobbled streets, clearly smashed off their face being able to walk, albeit not in a straight line, pretty normally. I can barely stand in those things sober, so goodness knows how that works. Generally girls coming back from a night out are walking better once their feet are partially crippled than when they're starting out at the start of the night.

  6. How girls who got at least one A at Alevel are still stupid enough to wander around town or campus when it's subzero degrees outside (and had been snowing the night before) wearing less than 50cm of vertical length pieces of fabric. Coming back from town and complaining of cold feet when wearing a hat, gloves, scarf, hoody, leggings AND cotton tights, knee high boots and a coat made me look, well, like an arse, in comparison to the squatting mass of blue flesh on the curb waiting for a taxi. 
    Didn't stop me saying "I could really use some ear muffs right now" as loudly as I could to my equally well-wrapped up friend without sounding like a complete dick. I'm sorry, but when you know that hypothermia technically kicks in when you're just 2 degrees cooler than the normal body temperature, you can't help but feel bitchy and scornful of those idiots complaining when they're the ones going around in practically nothing - not even a pair of skin-tone tights to complete the outfit. Skanky.


 I'll probably add more to the list - anybody that has something about university or their university specifically that you'd like to add may comment.

Sunday, 21 November 2010

Many a things a happening.

First term so far has had its ups and downs. Fortunately the downs were mostly cause I was ill. =D
Yay me.

I've made many new friends - Ian the Bowland Barman, Jeremy the County Barman, That lovely American girl that's here for a year, other people that have now joined the society. I've been chilling out a lot with my friends and spending a ridiculous amount of money in doing so. It all adds up, you know.
I've achieved one or two of my goals for this year. I've had to change one, perhaps, but that doesn't matter.

Let's see. What have I done? I've finished one essay out of 2 I need to do this year, I'm a bit behind with my dissertation cause the sources turned out to be tricky to get hold of - I have to read one or two in Old English. Yay.

      I've had teacher training with the volunteering unit on campus, and I went to their social which was great fun. It involved really good free food, epic games of Giant Jenga, Twister, hoola hooping contests (I can still do it! Not done it since primary school, and I tell you, doing it for more than 3 minutes is oddly tiring) space hopping, ''INVOLVE Olympics'' - my team came second - and just chatting to people who also love to work with children. I tell you though. Space hoppers are really hard on your inner thighs when you're on a slippery floor and you've never done it before.
      I've also got an official job. As in, paid and contract and everything - I'm working for Aim Higher, trying to persuade people that whatever reason they have for not going to University when they've got the academic ability to is not really an issue. Bit hard to sound convincing when you've got the Government undermining everything you say.
I'm so cool.
      Probably not of a huge consequence to you lot, but I've got lovely new clothes, too. I LOVE my tartan skirt. It's so comfy and soft and pretty. I'm always a bit cautious with tartans. I tend to dislike the pattern after a closer look. But this one, I really like. Except I have to put a bit of tape on one of the fake buckles, cause the bits that go through the leather of belts and such sticks up at a right angle, threatening to pierce my shirts. Not very friendly! And it hurts when I unwittingly ram my hands onto my hips.
It's cool though, that part of my skirt is always covered by a top. I don't really like tucking them into my skirt... don't like the back of the waist line so much.
     I've been to the cinema, as you might have guessed. I actually also saw Burke and Hare, but I've not felt I could really bother writing an entire entry about it. It was ok, that's all. I mean, they said themselves it's not historically accurate, but it's not going to be on my pre-order list. I plan to see the first half of the last Harry Potter film. I'm a canon-Potter fan, so I shall be critiquing the film against the book. If there are scenes that are irrelevant or never happened in the book, I will rage, just as I did with the sixth film, when the Deatheaters burned down The Burrow.

Nom nom nom
The guys and I have been having loads of fun. We've seen films, been to town, (ah there's another friend, the Juice Cafe guy. Go to Juice Cafe for milkshakes! They're WAY better than Diggles. Seriously. And it was Juice Cafe that came up with the idea and recipe in the first place!) When I had my training, I missed out of the History Society trip to York. :( But we made up for it by having a film night in my room with Some Like It Hot and trying out 99p facemasks from Superdrug. We all had different ones - but only Hannah's and Simon's came out looking pasty and cool. I just looked sunburned for a while.
Hannah and I have been trying to do Pilates - we've been once, then one or the other of us was ill, and the instructor was ill when we weren't, so you know. But we'll probably go again tomorrow!
We've been doing Art Soc, too. I dunno. It's not quite as structured as it was sold to us, but apparently that was to do with Amazon orders and such for t-shirt week. I enjoyed the life drawing, and the door sign stuff though. So there are two hobbies there ''expanding''. I've been going to live music nights with Kate, and it's making me want to join a band more and more. Maybe not here, but I've made my mind up to try out for the Linton Jazz Band. Though it's really nostalgia for the Windband at my secondary school that I'm really feeling. :(

He's such a poser.
My ex-flatmates and I met up, too, when the lovely Ibby came to visit. She's a working gal, now, so the weekend was greatly appreciated. Twas with them that I saw Red,  and we had a lovely long dinner at the Bella Italia.

And my younger (height does not = age) brother and grandfather came a-visitin' as well. That was fun. Get on quite well with my brother, see.






....And stuff. Yeah, there's probably loads I've missed out. It's got to that point where I'll have something to write, but it seems lame or I get distracted by something else really cool.
Had quite a few weird dreams, too. I have to write up that one with dragons in. All I wanted to do was to meet Kate by Greaves Park. Jeeze.

Sunday, 14 November 2010

Long-pronged forks and fisticuffs are apparently the most effective weapons against Zombies.

It was dark, and I was crouching behind some tall boxes. I peeked through the crack and listened to the discussion going on between the Dean and some other strange, dark looking people.
It'll happen soon, they said. Then it will have begun and the road to domination would be complete. It'd start at County bar and move throughout the country.

I got away and spread the word: the zombies are coming, week 10, during the Winterfest. County bar will be attacked first. 
I'd seen what the protoypes could do - one female zombie kept a machete inside her, which she drew out through her eye socket. (She removed the eyeball first) I had sneaked out a very long-pronged fork, which I knew would be dangerous to them if in the hands of the students.

I and my friends and others in my college were assembled in the bar. We had ammunition in the back of the bar. We barricaded the doors. The windows were glass, but for now they'd do. The air was tense, and we were nervous. I was kicking and punching the air as I fidgeted, knowing that if we didn't do something - didn't fight back, then there'd be nothing stopping them making their way towards Alex Square and the Winterfest.

One girl arrived in a neon green skirt, with heels. It was a pencil skirt and she could barely move her legs apart to walk normal length strides, never mind kick. I told her to go back to change - didn't she know that they'd be here soon? How could she fight in that?
I spied a surley looking boy in the corner. He had the bad 90s curtain fringe, and pale pale face with shadows around his eyes. He saw me looking and as I started towards him, feeling worried in my stomach, he got up and left. I was almost sure it was one I'd seen when I discovered this plan.
I sat with my friends, as we discussed the plan. They were worried. I reassured them, saying that the long pronged fork would be of use to us. Kate was carrying a large baseball bat. 

Soon it was dark. If you looked along the length of the window, down the spine, you could see the white tents and lights from the Winterfest on the edge of Alex Square, near Greggs.
People came out of the shadows. Those of us in the bar took up our weapons. We were surrounded by 5, perhaps 6 of them. The machete girl came out, with a cat by the scruff in her right hand, and the machete in her left. She held the cat up, holding it under the stomach, and slit its back open, letting the spurts of blood spot the ground and around the bar. She looked at me and smiled.
I knew that that was how they were going to seal us in - with some sort of force field. The surly lad from before had his face up against the window, and I looked at him face to face through the glass. I felt my fist curling in anger and testosterone.

How dare they do this to us?! 
I saw the tents in Alex Sq from the corner of my eye and fear gripped my stomach - what if we couldn't stop them? 




And then I woke up, thank GOD.

Retired and Extremely Dangerous

Mixed reviews online - generally, I can see what they mean, and I guess if you review films for a living, you will have seen this plot line at least 50 times before. So I forgive the 2-star givers.

For me, however, I considered the film to be enjoyable and funny - yes, the fight scenes generally don't include a lot of danger (it's a 12A, get over it) and yes, the jokes are probably as old as its cast, and yeah, Morgan Freeman isn't exactly stretching himself into a new character. I still rather loved it though.

Not read the comic, so I won't be making comparisons.

The plot is pretty basic: Ageing Bruce Willis (he's so bald!) has fallen gently in love with the girl that answers the phone at the pensions office. He tells her he's coming to visit, but that night he's attacked by (very sloppy, I must say) unknown assailants who DEFINITELY wanted him dead. He realises that his phone's probably been tapped, and so goes to kidnap the girl of his dreams for her own safety.

He meets up with his old pals in the form of aged, ill but still active 88 year old Morgan Freeman, the absolutely insane paranoid John Malkovich, the mysterious but cuddly Brian Cox and the glamourously deadly Helen Mirren in order to infiltrate the FBI HQ, and to take down the person(s) behind the death orders.

The film has gags in it, and the cast is fantastic, but it's one of those films that could still be better. The writing was a bit predictable - there was the aforementioned lack of danger. Perhaps that's why it was a 12A film, or perhaps that is what they were aiming for. But the special FBI agent moves and the gun fights and the explosions were all too perfectly choreographed. That doesn't mean, of course, watching Helen Mirren handling an enormous machine gun whilst in a gala dinner dress wasn't entertaining.
Perhaps if the writers had followed the cast's lead, the film might have been better - the lines were delivered very well, but there wasn't always enough pace, or the action scenes were too formulaic. The end of the film was a bit too clich├ęd for words.

What I do know is that despite it being yet another Bruce Willis Proves He Still Has It at 50+ film, he is still endearing (and cool) and John Malkovich's performance was brilliant.
The sub-romance plot between Cox and Mirren was more enjoyable than the main romantic plot between Willis and Mary Louise-Parker, though.

I'd give the film 3.5 out of 5 - still enjoyable and fun to watch, but it wasn't quite brilliant.

Saturday, 23 October 2010

There is nothing funny about sharing a bed with Anne Widdecombe

In my state of over-sleeping, I encountered a terrible dream, which so far has achieved grossing me out, and making my friend laugh.


I was at home in Cambridge, and Anne Widdecombe was, for some reason, staying at  my house. She'd slept in my brother's bed, and now it was my turn to share a bed with her. [Why we went through all this before I stomped downstairs to the sofa is beyond me]

It was cramped in my single bed, and I was against the wall, trying to touch as little of her as possible. Her breath stank, and I muttered as much. She threw a massive hissy hit and said, "fine, we shall sleep head to toe". And proceeded to put her head on the other end of the bed, whilst planting her rather horrible looking feet on my pillow. Which disgusted me. I pulled the pillows away and told her I'd rather she slept the other way round. I went to the toilet, and then downstairs to get some air. My grandmother was still awake, so I asked if I could sleep in her room, or on the sofa, because Anne Widdecombe was really getting on my nerves and it was impossible and how did my brother manage a whole night!?

So that is what I did. I got loads of sympathy from my grandmother, who assured me she'd be going home tomorrow, and my bedding would be thoroughly washed, whilst I went downstairs.



...I sound like a massive Anne Widdecombe hater; I wish she wasn't a tory and into some of her crazy tory policies. But I have a sort of respect for her, for a few reasons. Plus she's rather funny on Strictly Come Dancing, and a good sport.

Friday, 22 October 2010

Inception


I could write a massive commentary on it, but for now whilst my brain digests everything, I'll quote my dear friend Hannah:

"HOLY SHIT THAT WAS AWESOME."





Jealousy, violence and perhaps one hour too late to bed last night?



Since the dream contained people I actually know, and it's embarrassing and weird, I'm just going to go ahead and completely change their names. ^___^ I've gone with the most appropriate anime characters I could think of... and corresponding pictures.


I was in my flat which somehow managed to turn half my flatmate's rooms into a living room with sofas (should do that... we won't miss them) with my friends and this guy, "Tobi", had tagged along. I'm not and wasn't in the dream going out with "Tobi", but as I was coming back from the kitchen with snacks and stuff and he came behind me (despite everyone else in the room) and did that annoying thing guys do when your hands are full and put his arms around me, stroking my belly and sides and leaned into my neck. And a took a large, sharp bite. Full mouth, not just a nip with his front teeth. Canines and all. (But not in a vampire way.) =| 
I of course curl up a bit, hunching my shoulders, pushing him away going "Ow, what the hell!? You DO know that's not how you do it if you want to get anywhere with anyone right?" and my friends are all sitting there watching incredulously and I move to the other side of the table and put stuff down. He's wearing a really dark, ugly look, and I tell him that I really wasn't into that, or him, and I just wanted to be friends, if at all, and that I thought he should leave. He made this big charade of not being able to find the front door, so I dragged him by the arm and pushed him out the front door. [Wish I could do that with people more than a foot taller than me]

The next day, "Sheska" and I were walking back from the library, and I spotted him. We legged it, for some reason, and took refuge in a side room in a lecture building he couldn't possibly have been in before [we do different courses] He somehow turns up there, anyway, from behind. And he makes this huge fuss, and how I'd been leading him on and did I think I was too good for him or something?
"Sheska" and I just held hands and walked off, and kept going until we were in a very public place and stuff. He followed, but didn't follow us to my flat.

Another day, I was talking with another guy friend, and we were talking with other people from the History society with the Physics society last night - physicists and other historians and his flatmates - round the back of one of the college bars near some recycling area (which is near the local radio station for some reason. Nice.) when "Tobi" came up and started to cause trouble. He had me backed against a half-wall, and was seriously going to punch me. His face was soooooo scary. I had to put my arms up and shield my head, when "Jean Havoc" stepped in front and pushed him off. This started an all-round fight, and one of the physicists I know and I had to call the police to get them to come quickly [there's a station on campus]. But it'd broken up by then. And I thanked "Jean Havoc" for helping me, checked he was ok, and everyone else was, and squeezed his hand, and went home.

Later, after a special evening lecture, "Tobi" cornered me and was all ashen-faced, and telling me to punch him and that he's an idiot that deserves it. And it was really not very pleasant. I didn't, and I told him I was sorry if I ever gave the wrong impression, and I just wanted to get on with things. And he wouldn't let me leave the room, again. And he was absolutely mad.

And the alarm woke me.




The people in this dream are completely not like that in real life xD I have no idea why this came about in my head.

Sunday, 17 October 2010

The end of the official first week back

Tis a Sunday evening, and everything's quiet.
And after a hectic two weeks, I really don't mind it.

Yeah, I just started off with a lame rhyming couplet. You try reading incredibly hard prose from ye olden days without wishing for some waft of verse here and there.

What happened to me in: 

Freshers Week There seemed to be more freshers this year than last year - I dunno, maybe I noticed them more because I kept doing things that required interaction with them or maybe because THEY'RE A HERD OF LOCUSTS where Spar bread was concerned. I swear, there was no bread in Spar until the Thursday or so after I arrived. That's 4 days of breadless bread aisle. I seem to recall that when I was a fresher, my loving grandparents thought to give me half a loaf of bread from home. Oh yes.

So my week was comprised of: Get storage, meeting, meeting, Grad Fair, waiting for Freshers to win the Treasure hunt, postering, shopping, shopping, Freshers fair, fresher's talk induction and my friend's birthday night out. It turns out that in order to get a cold, all you have to do is to talk to about 200 freshers and have them touch the pen, card, money, sign up sheet and anything else after sneezing, coughing or just sweating. I was bedridden all of Sunday once my cold decided to to climax with extreme breathing trouble and temperatures. But it was cool, cause I was fine for the lecture and seminar the next day. How lucky is that? With the help of my lovely friends, of course, who brought me medicine. <3 

My first week was really good fun. I stressed a bit trying to find the willpower to finish writing the Murder Mystery for the first official History Society social of the term, but otherwise, it was fine. My lecture and seminar went well, and I'd done the reading for it. Then my 3 hour session with the Crazy Scotsman was pretty painless, except for the fire alarm going off midway through. I met up with pretty much all of my friends in the first couple of days or so, so that was nice.
My first dissertation meeting this term went well too - Paul seems to think that my plan is coming along well, and I've a clear idea of what I'm doing. That's great, really, Paul, but would you mind telling me what you think I'm supposed to know?! But it's fine, cause I've got all but two of the books he wanted me to get and read.

Despite seminars and such going well, I'm already a little bit concerned about how the fudge I'm supposed to be writing my dissertation AND doing two essays for week 10 at the same time. One I'll have no reading material list for, and the other I'll be too busy trying to keep up with Gobbets to do a decent essay in the same relaxed and plenty-of-time manner I'm accustomed to. I suppose I could do the majority of the writing of my dissertation over Christmas, though. I hope I'll be in that position. This whole dissertation thing is really quite scary. Specially with an essay for my special subject being required by week 6 Lent term (thanks to some loud mouth that blew Crazy Scotsman's cover and exposed the fact he'd been cheating the deadline system).

Social-side wise, I'm pretty busy though. I'm keeping at least one day a week absolutely free to do reading and stuff for dissertation only, and I hope to fill my other day off with a weekly spot working in a primary school.
Otherwise, I should have two or three evenings a week which are entirely dedicated to extra-curricular things: Got Art Soc on Wednesdays, Hist soc on Thursdays, and I want to do some sports thing another day. Even if it's just walking around campus on the footpaths and roads with a friend.

And somewhere in all that illness and work and stuff, I managed to find time to plaster my pin board with cool pictures and things. <3

The murder mystery went really really well - nearly 50 people came, and the volunteer suspects were really into it and did really well. Nobody actually won, but I think it's just the massive holes I'd left in the plot simply  cause some of the questions that were asked by our detectives were so out there, I'd not thought of them. That and the person I had as the killer was apparently unable to do it, cause she couldn't lift the weapon very easily, but never mind. I got very positive feedback, and people want me to write another for next term, which is slightly terrifying, considering the amount I have to write as it is.

Saturday, 2 October 2010

Beast



Orasmyn is the prince of Persia and heir to the throne. His religion fills his heart and his mind, and he strives for the knowledge and leadership his father demonstrates. But on the day of the Feast of Sacrifices, Orasmyn makes a foolish choice that results in a fairy's wretched punishment: He is turned into a beast, a curse to be undone only by the love of a woman.
    Thus begins Orasmyn's journey through the exotic Middle East and sensuous France as he struggles to learn the way of the beast, whilst also preserving the mind of the man. This is the story of his search, not only for a woman courageous enough to love him, but also for his own salvation.





This book provides a rich back story for the most famous beast in the world - Belle's beast. It combines Islamic and Persian culture with European. It blends the wild with the tame.
In it, we see how he must have struggled to learn to walk as a beast, hunt, hide from humans and to find a balance between his basic animal needs, and his own spiritual and mental needs. It explores the differences between man and beast, questioning, I think, the line between what is human and what is not. Perhaps it is just sentience, or perhaps it is religion. Maybe depending on your personal beliefs religion-wise, you'd choose the religion over sentience or argue that in order to be sentient you must have religion. I don't know. It is interesting, either way.

Orasmyn repeats to himself several times that he is the Prince of Persia, and does not require help, and that he can do whatever he is tasked to. He maintains the mantras of his homeland, even if many of his Islamic practices are dropped because his animal needs are greater (prayer before killing, for example). He experiences the strength of carnal desires - not just hunger and thirst - but lust and fear. He realises, with horror, that his animal self sees any living thing as meat, regardless of his own humane thoughts.

He is deprived of speech, human hand dexterity and colours, but his other senses are sharpened. He must learn to communicate with just his eyes, and by scratching words in the ground. He also learns how to care for others different to himself - a fox cub and Belle.  He manages to control his base senses and to reveal his true self to Belle, even if he can't tell whether she understands.
He also, and readers might note the irony, learns that how he sees Belle is just a shallow, face-value appraisal, realising that she is more complex than he thought.

It is perhaps a more selfish portrayal of the beast, as we watch him lure Belle to his castle, working hard to make it habitable for a human. It was entirely for his own benefit, but somehow it's easy to forgive him this.

The imagery is potent and the heart of the story, the part where he woos Belle, is touching and revitalised. Because of the true animal form of Beast, unlike the more traditional speaking form, the end result feels that much more rewarding and deserved.

Friday, 24 September 2010

About A Boy

I first watched the film years ago, and recently I tried watching it again. The DVD refused to play past track 12 (Where Marcus meets Will's girlfriend's son). I don't know why, since it has no scratches or dirt, but there you go.  I thought about it, and remembered that it was a book, so instead of watching it, I chose to buy the book and read it instead; I'd heard good things about it.

And they were true: it's funny, insightful and it is an interesting study on the relationships between a mature youth and an immature adult. I have to say that on reading, I repeatedly said to myself "Good lord, Hugh Grant was perfect". I'm sorry, Hugh Grant, if you're googling yourself and read this, but you come across as a bit of a tool, like Will.

I think it also quite cleverly critiques the strange trivialities of life and death per individual: the affect one person has upon the world, and how great the effect spreads depending on who that person is. For a mother to commit suicide is sad, and could leave a lost individual growing up blaming himself, but that is a contained fallout. For a world-famous and influential musician to commit suicide produces all sorts of wide-spread grief, as people either lash out or join in the thousands with candle vigils. Attitudes to death vary, too, and even attitudes to suicide as people attempt to deal with the idea in their own way, be it watching a comedy where suicide is treated lightly, or avoiding such and being disgusted at the idea of death being taken so lightly.

What the book is about is in some ways hard to explain, but also somehow stupidly simple: the life of a boy. But it's not exactly one boy that is the focus - it is the 30-something boy prancing about and teaching a 12 year old boy how to behave and look like an actual boy. Together they experience their first love and romance. They are both loners, if for different reasons, and they both are linked by what they perceive to be the selfish, if failed good intentions of a mother.

The dynamic too, between Marcus and Will, as each teaches the other about life and attitudes towards it is quite fun, tragic and interesting.


In comparison to the film, I can't say that there is a terribly large difference. Ellie, the grunge girl that Marcus gets a crush on at school is far more developed a character in the book. You see her family background, her passions and uncontrollable behaviour. You see more of Marcus's father and his inadequacies. The incident at school where Marcus sings at the talent show is fabricated by the film makers.
As I said, Hugh Grant, in my opinion, was excellently cast - and largely down to the fact that he wasn't allowed to play his trademark bumbling twittering ''floppy'' (as my French teacher called it) character. He became the narcissistic sloth that is Will, and certainly one that is perhaps a little in keeping with his later tabloid images.

Toni Collette is fantastic as depressed mum who's completely clueless about the needs of his growing and unhappy son. She is able to also step into the shoes as Will's mum and conscience as she forces him to take responsibility for his strange roll in Marcus's life as adopted father figure. If indeed, ''father figure'' is quite the appropriate term, here, which I don't think it is.

I was delighted to discover as I read the book just how much of it was used in the film - I can't completely vouch for the latter half of the film, as the dvd failed to play, but for the first part, it is certainly Nick Hornby's sardonic writing that is central to the film, with the small edits or additions by the film crew, creating a really rather good film.

Whilst Hugh Grant's voice and face is the last thing I'd want to imagine when reading, for example, Sense and Sensability, when reading About A Boy I was surprised to find that I found that the on-screen Will was the same as the book Will, and the same went for all the other characters, completely.

Of course, I prefer the book, ultimately, and I thought the end of the book was better than the end of the film, but as far as book-to-films go, this one was a successful one.