Archive for July, 2010

Wollaton and Beeston

Posted in about the blog, Culture, Me, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , on 31/07/2010 by arabrhizome

Right so it’s that time of day, or rather night, again. I need to think about something entertaining to talk to you about, for free I might add. I really like that I’m starting to have a proper readership, that is made up of personal friends and also people that I don’t personally know. Anyway, I didn’t have too much time to think about what I will write today as my day was quite busy. I guess I’ll just start writing and see if I get anything worthwhile out of it.

So today involved a lot of walking around again. We went around Beeston and then went to Wollaton park. It really is a very nice space over there. We also visited Wollaton manor and the frankly quite freaky taxidermy exhibit, or natural history museum as they call it. The collection is quite extensive for such a small town. I didn’t expect to see all those specimens, especially the giraffe. I always forget how big giraffes actually are. I mean its legs alone are taller than me, although admittedly that’s not too hard to achieve as I am quite short. In fact, some of my friends used to call me ‘échantillon’ which basically means sample. The joke was that my mom and dad wanted to see if they wanted a child and so only got the sample to try out and then decided that the actual version would be too hard to take care of.

So the exhibit was all right I thought, even though taxidermy freaks me out. I just feel bad for the poor animals as they all clearly didn’t die of old age. I’m not a vegetarian or an animal rights activist, I just don’t think it’s right to kill animals for no good reason. I think eating them is a good reason, and some, and I do stress some not all, medical research is a good reason, but I am hard pressed to find any other plausible and reasonable excuse to kill them. I think embalming them and displaying them is definitely not a good reason, especially that we don’t need to do this anymore, what with tvs and computer simulated replicas, as well as the advances in robotics and the very fine models that can be constructed. Admittedly most of the collection came from the 19th and early 20th centuries, when these things were not available. Although that opens up the question of colonialism and big game hunting at the time, which let’s not forget led to the extinction of a lot of species (as well as the suffering of the colonised peoples but that’s not my point).

So even though the exhibition was impressively extensive for such a small place, I did feel a bit uneasy about it. The hall itself is more interesting on the outside than the inside, I thought. They did have a few mannequins to show us how people used to live in there in Victorian times. But weirdly there was a barely audible recording playing over the various exhibits that I think was some kind of audio play thing that was supposed to explain to us how people lived in those times. It however felt like it wasn’t thought through, as what I heard involved a man, that seemed quite cross, telling a woman not to bring up something, I didn’t know what that was as I didn’t hear her speak. That just felt strange and out of place. It seems that there was a whole script that some voice over actors took quite seriously, but unfortunately it was played at such low volume and so randomly that I couldn’t tell what was happening. I’d like to think that there is a whole story line, and I think it would make it very poignant if it was actually good, that we will never fully know because the people at Wollaton didn’t think it was appropriate to raise the volume and put up some sort of sign explaining what’s happening.

After that we walked around in the actual park. We had a coffee at the overpriced cafe there, I’m not complaining that it is overpriced, they all are in touristy places. I had a lovely Victorian lemonade there, it had ginger, Juniper, and some other herbs in it, it was quite tasty. The park itself is lovely, it was calving season for the deer but we did not see any live births. We just sae a group of them quite far away from us. I quite like the park with its trees and rose garden. The lovely open spaces are a nice change from the lovely open spaces of Uni (that was a joke, but I realise that you can only get it if you know the campus of my uni. Otherwise I’m sure it just sounds weird. Although come to think of it I’m sure it sounds weird if you know the campus as well). I should make more of an effort to go and walk there, it’s good exercise in a nice setting.

We had dinner alfresco in Beeston. It was quite a nice dinner and the bouncer/security guard at the place was very talkative. At first I felt weird about him but by the end of the evening the weirdness didn’t completely leave but was joined with a but of sympathy for the guy. We now know that he is married, at least for the second time, has a six year old son from his first marriage, and that he does not live with his current wife, not because they’re separated but because it just worked out like that. As he explained the sleep together every night, sometimes at her place and sometimes at his. We also know that his birthday is tomorrow and that his son’s sixth is on Monday. He is taking a two week break from his day job as he is a bit tired. Oh and he just quite smoking two weeks ago, after 15 years, because of his asthma. This information was given to us voluntarily within the space of an hour. I hope my feeling of weirdness mixed with sympathy now makes a bit more sense.

Another funny thing that happened was that while we were eating a group of ‘youths’ passed by. From far they looked like trouble. The closest one to our restaurant had a hood on and a bandana thing covering his nose and mouth. As they passed close to the restaurant the boy started making martial art like gestured with his arms and hands in what seemed to be a threatening manner at the us and the other people sitting outside. However, as he got closer I heard what he was saying and it was, I swear this is absolutely true: ‘subzero, scorpion, come here, finish him, reptile’. He was saying things from mortal combat, and all of a sudden he stopped being threatening and suddenly became endearing. He was a nerd pretending to be a ninja in a video game. And then I was able to see that in fact the whole group of youths was just a group of nerds trying to look tough. I laughed but our new best friend the bouncer/security guard wasn’t amused and mumbled something about young people today having no respect.

Supervision and Other Stuff

Posted in Me, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , on 30/07/2010 by arabrhizome

Well I had my first supervision today. It went incredibly well. The whole thing took half an hour and was quite efficient. It was with my main supervisor who had very little to say about what I’ve written. He basically gave me a bunch of cosmetic changes to make and one main thing to rework. I basically have to make the chapter’s place in the thesis and its importance clearer at the beginning of the chapter. That’s all very fine. I can do that in a day. Now I have to wait for the next supervision with my other supervisor on Wednesday. That one will probably be longer and more ‘eventful’, but it doesn’t matter. I know what I’m doing, I’m happy with my argument, and I wont be put off by silly criticism. More importantly I must remember that he is the secondary supervisor and so I don’ have to take everything he says on board.

I also had to go and check on my claim for the extra stuff I did this year, I will be paid at the end of August which I think will be useful. I will be getting a good amount of money and will either put it in a savings account, or buy myself a new electric guitar. I will decide in the next month. I want to start a savings account, but I also want to spend my money, so it’s a bit difficult to decide.

I had a bit of fun with my mom today, we went to uni and walked around some of the parts of campus she hasn’t seen yet. I also made us a very nice prawn salad for dinner. I had it with some nice heat and serve mini olive cibattas. All in all it was a nice relaxing evening.

I haven’t been to the gym in more than a month but have started trying to walk about 20000 steps a day. I feel quite good about it. I think I’m already loosing some of the weight I put on while I was at home doing nothing but sitting in front of the computer and trying to write. It’s amazing how much easier it is to put on weight then to loose it. I will start going to the gym again when my mom leaves, but until then it’s steps, steps, steps.

I don’t know if you’ve realised, but I’m having a lot of trouble writing this blog post. I don’t know why. I just can’t think of anything fun that has happened to me today. Or at least fun in a more than 200 words way. So I think I will abandon it for tonight, I am getting a bit sleepy (although I’m sure I won’t actually sleep for another few hours), and try to have some weird adventure or think of some kind of intelligent thing to say tomorrow. Good night dear readers.

Sherlock Holmes and Other Stuff

Posted in Culture, Me, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , on 29/07/2010 by arabrhizome

I just finished watching the first episode of the new BBC drama series ‘Sherlock’. I will talk about it a bit bellow, but first I wanted to talk about the last couple of days with my mom. It has been mainly fun, although as every parent does, she’s starting to get a bit on my nerves. I don’t know if it’s because she’s getting older, but she repeats a lot. She always had a problem with that. But it seems to have transformed from a problem to the norm. I have had the same conversations with her over seven times. It is a bit sad when I think about it, but in the moment it’s very irritating.

In more positive news, we went to town yesterday. She was looking for dresses. She did find a nice one. I myself spent a small fortune on guitar equipment. I bought a gig bag for my pedal, a bunch of picks, a metronome, a couple of cleaning products, and a new set of strings. I have already cleaned and polished my guitar, all I need now is to change my strings and I’ll be able to start playing again. I am really in the mood to get back into music. After I rediscovered my enjoyment of music, I intend to rediscover my enjoyment of playing and making music. I still need to fix my violin that my mom got me and look for lessons. I really want to learn a new instrument.

Today we went to Uni. She was able to walk a lot on campus. I showed her my department and we had coffee while overlooking the lake. A joined us and I really enjoyed it. It was nice to hang out with him again, as I haven’t seen him in a few days. He had to go back to work though and my mom and I went to the lake to walk around there. As we were walking, quite slowly because she is very out of shape and quite a heavy smoker, she surprised me by suddenly picking up the tempo and being able to walk at a decent pace.

I then had a few errands to run. And then we went to town again in order to do a bit of shopping for my mom, have a drink, and then have dinner at an Indian restaurant. We however found ourselves quite hungry at the pub where we were having our drink and decided to just stay and have dinner there. We had their burgers which were quite good. The white bread and chips though didn’t sit very well, so I had to go for a bit of a walk to help digest it once we got home.

Well that’s all the ‘real life’, ‘what I’ve been up to’, stuff out of the way. Let’s talk about something really interesting: the new series ‘Sherlock’. Now, it is written by Stephen Moffat, who is the head writer of the new doctor who, so we know it’s not going to suck. Martin Freeman’s in it, and I quite like him. I know it’s only the first episode, but I quite enjoyed it. It was very well done in that it set the tone of the show and introduced the main characters very skilfully. Sherlock Holmes is the genius who is a sociopath that is addicted to discovering the answers to difficult challenges. Dr Watson is the veteran with trust issues and psychosomatic pains, he is a warrior and somehow misses the war. And it’s all set in modern day London, a place that we established in previous posts I really love.

Now as an aside, I find it very interesting, and quite like the fact, that the BBC do seem to produce a certain number of series where the main character is a genius, who is also weird and eccentric. I can think of Doctor Who as another example. Well to be honest Sherlock reminded me of Doctor Who in many ways. It seems to be a very nice reworking of some of the ingredients that make the character of the Doctor so good. Holmes is a genius who finds an assistant, Watson, who he finds interesting for some reason, and takes that assistant along on their adventures. The Doctor, like Holmes, sees things that others do not. He is far more intelligent than anyone around him, and finds it quite hard to not be rude to them because of it. He is a sociopath who doesn’t really know how to behave properly around people, and so comes off as either eccentric and loveable or as a bit of a prick.

I’ll try not to spoil the first episode while I explain what I liked and what I disliked about the series. First the characters are brilliant, the setting is fantastic, the writing is clever, the introduction of text that pops up above objects or people to explain what is being said or thought is very clever. The mood of the whole series is also very good. It is dark enough to not be childish, but is also quite accessible and has a few moments of silliness and light hearted humour. On the negative side, we all figured out a major bit of info a lot earlier than the supposed genius that is Holmes (well I say that but maybe it was just me). The foreshadowing was a bit too obvious I felt, but I might be wrong. It’s very hard to make this point without spoiling the episode, and I’d like to see if it was just me or if it was quite obvious. Also, I don’t know if all episodes will be 90 minutes, and so they needed to stretch that bit in order to fill time, or if it was properly intended.

All in all, I really recommend it. There are a few minor problems, but in the end it’s a brilliant and very well written piece of drama. The BBC have produced what could be a very good show, and a very clever reinvention of the stories of Sherlock Holmes. I’m curious to see the other episodes and see if this was a one off or if it will be consistently good. I know I’m hoping for the latter. Nothing like a good new series to make me happy.

Forgot

Posted in about the blog, Me, Uncategorized with tags , , , , on 28/07/2010 by arabrhizome

I completely forgot about the blog. I’m very sorry. I had a long and tiring day today. I wont write too much as I want to make the deadline in order to have a post everyday. I will make it up tomorrow with double the stories. Okay so quickly, today was good, although my mom felt a bit sick in the early evening. I think she got a bit of a chill, but she insists its because she had a latte. suffice it to say, I’m not convinced. She’s fine now though. Other than that I’m really looking forward to work. I actually want to finish my chapter and start on the next one. But I feel like this now because I’m not working on it. As soon as I do I’ll look back on this feeling and think what an idiot I was. I guess that’s the nature of the beast. Anyway, I should stop if I am to make it tonight. I’ll write something more substantial tomorrow. Good night.

Beeston Discovered

Posted in Friends, Me, Uncategorized, Work with tags , , , , , , , , on 27/07/2010 by arabrhizome

I took my mom around town today. We stayed in Beeston. I wanted her to see where I live and where I shop. It was nice. She was happy to go around and keen to see things. I had a good time with her. After a morning of walking around and explaining what everything is we went back home as it looked like it was going to rain.

It did in fact rain. So we stayed in and enjoyed a nice afternoon of me teaching her to use her new laptop. She now knows how to use skype and so I’m afraid I might have unleashed a monster, we’ll see. You see my mom can be a bit clingy. I’m aware that all moms tend to be a bit clingy, but only my mom is clingy to me, so there. And giving her an extra way of calling and checking on me might not have been the best idea. Anyway, it’s done now and I can only  wait and see what will happen.

In work news, it seems that I will have two separate meetings with my supervisors. One is leaving at the weekend and wants to see me on Friday, while the other won’t read what I sent till next week and want to see me on Wednesday. I’m hoping it goes well. I’m a bit worried about the second one more, since what I wrote is not complete and I’m sure somehow in the wrong register or the wrong voice. It might be not passive enough. Whatever, I’m happy with my argument. I think my thesis is going in the right direction and I will argue for it and defend it quite forcefully. For the first time since my first thesis outline was taken apart, I have a clear vision of how my thesis will work. I’m not going to let anyone spoil it for me.

I’m kind of excited about working on it again. After my mom leaves I’ll be able to focus on it for a week before a friend comes to visit. I think that I can basically finish the chapter in that week, if I focus properly. Then I can start working on the following chapter, which will be harder, because it involves more synthetic work (or work involving synthesis). The arguments and concepts I will have to synthesise are very complex and difficult, so summarising and simplifying them will be a bit of a chore. On the other hand, it will be easier, because the texts I’ll be working on have been worked on a lot, so finding secondary sources wont be too difficult.

I am very happy that my mom finally made it here. I am also looking forward to spending a bit of time with Z alone, when everyone comes and goes. It’s been a bit of a crazy few months between travelling, family and friends visits, conferences, and chapter writing, that we haven’t had a lot of alone time together. So I’m looking forward to that. I’m also looking forward to a bit of PS3 gaming. I have God of War III and haven’t started it yet. I actually got it about 2 or 3 months ago. I promised myself that I wouldn’t start it before I finished this chapter, and I somehow was able to have enough self control, or guilt to be more accurate, not to touch it. Hopefully I’ll play it when A is here. I’m sure he’ll enjoy it.

Oh I almost forgot to mention that my mom brought the violin Z gave me a few years ago. It needs a bit of fixing, so I’ll do that and then start taking lessons. My plan is to be able to play it properly by this time next year. I think it’s feasible, but it requires commitment. I will do my best. Anyway, time to continue my tv/radio/podcast catch up, and then sleep. Tomorrow will be a long day of walking around.

Long Day

Posted in Culture, Me, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , on 26/07/2010 by arabrhizome

I’m back home after a long day of walking, taking buses, taking tubes, taking cabs, and taking trains. It was an enjoyable, if tiring day. I woke up early and then had to go run some errands. Which was fun. I ended up crossing tower bridge (which a lot of people confuse for London bridge. Tower bridge is the one that opens and is so distinctive. London bridge is just a bridge) under the rain. It was fun but also a bit annoying. Had lunch at Wagamama and then made my way to the airport to pick up my mom. I did all this while my phone was off, because it mysteriously ran out of battery.

Now I know that iphones don’t have the best batteries, but that was just weird. That’s right I have an iphone, don’t you? That last sentence was for the benefit of two of the readers of this blog. I charged my phone during the day yesterday and it usually lasts at least 36 hours, if I’m using it a lot. But that’s the problem, I didn’t use it a lot and the battery still ran out of battery by the morning. So I was without constant access to information. I couldn’t check google maps to know where I was and where the nearest tube station was. I couldn’t see if there was a nice restaurant near by, etc. It was hell, HELL I tell you! That’s right all you people having to walk miles in order to get clean water, and you having to suffer the humiliation of occupation, yours is but a shadow of my suffering. I couldn’t get on my facebook from my phone!

Seriously though, it was weird not having all that information in my hand and on the tip of my fingers. I had to do it the old fashioned way and figure it out. I actually had to use my sense of direction at some point, can you imagine that? Well you can if you don’t have an iphone (isn’t that right person who will remain unnamed here?). But in the end I was able to figure things out with the help of such ingenuous methods as talking to other people and asking them for directions, or looking around for signs that told me which direction to take, the position of the sun. It was quite the ordeal.

So I ended up at Wagamama as I said. I really like that place. Well let me qualify this statement. I really like Wagamama in London, and I don’t like it much in Nottingham. The thing is the one in Nottingham is a bit shit, or at least was the two times we went there. It’s a cold place and it doesn’t seem to be managed very well. In London it’s efficient, quick, and consistent. In Nottingham it’s slow, inconsistent, and a bit shit. I wonder if there are Wagamamas outside this country or if it is a British chain.

So I waited for my mom at the airport. It was very nice seeing her. My cousin was the co-pilot on the flight and so was able to get her upgraded to first class. She had a good flight and we had a good time talking on our way back to St Pancras, through Paddington and a cab. We hung out there for a while and then took the train back to Notts. It was full as it was peek time. But most people got off at Luton and Market Harborough. The final bit of travelling was taking a cab from the station to my flat.

Tomorrow is going to be a busy day as well. We haven’t made up our minds yet about what to do exactly. I’m going to sleep soon and hope that I wake up early and have energy for a long fun day. I mainly hope that my mom has energy for a long fun day. She seems up for walking and exploring, so we might do that. In the mean time I have to catch up on some of the tv, radio, and podcasts I have missed. I only just discovered that the fourth season of the Tudors finished. That’s something to do.

London

Posted in Culture, Me, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , on 25/07/2010 by arabrhizome

So I’m writing this post from London, the greatest city in the world. That’s right! Eat your heart out New York! London is better, even though I’ve never visited New York, and probably never will. My passport is a passport control officer’s wet dream, especially if they’re American. You see I have an Algerian passport, issued in Beirut Lebanon, and I was born in Iraq. Isn’t that nice? When I go through passport control I can always see a little spark in the eye of the officer. That spark usually conveys their thoughts, you can see that they can already hear the rubber glove snap as the search goes intimate.

So what I do in order to avoid making their dreams a reality is try to bamboozle them, and by that I don’t mean pulling a rabbit out of my hat or flowers out of thin air. What I do is a bit more subversive and dare I say it, insidious. First, I try to always travel with my guitar or some attribute of a rocker, like a band’s t-shirt or something. That is phsze one of operation bamboozle a passport control officer. Because you can see their tiny little brains trying to comprehend the juxtaposition of the information they thought they gathered from the passport and the fact that I play guitar, or seem to be into rock music. It’s very funny to watch. it’s funny to see them think things like ‘but they don’t play guitar?’. So that’s only phase one.

Phase two is a little more fun. It involves being extremely polite to them and speaking perfect English. That just throws them off. They are really unprepared for politeness and even less for a good command of the language. It’s also fun fixing their mistakes with a smile on my face and with so much honey in my voice and tone that they cannot but be grateful. I remember this girl, who really felt like a teenager, and she was telling me that she couldn’t understand why my passport was issued in Baghdad. She was speaking with very bad grammar. So I explained to her, in excellent English that in fact I was born in Baghdad and that as she could see, right where I was pointing, the passport was actually issued in Beirut. She actually said ‘oh thanks! Sorry!’ And she couldn’t be rude to me, as she was being until then, because I was so nice.

So Anyway, yeah, take this New York, London is the greatest city not you! And I will never visit you. Because while my strategies might work for UK passport control, I somehow don’t think it’ll work on US ones. I just don’t think I can avoid the rubber glove in the US. Getting back to what I was saying. I am in London now. I had a nice long day cleaning my flat. I finished and then went down on the train.

The train journey was okay. There was this girl sitting in the aisle next to me who had an advance ticket but not a reservation. Which is just crazy! Anyone who’s ever been on a train in this country knows that an advance ticket is only valid with a reservation. But she didn’t have one. So the ticket controller explained that it said so on her ticket. She started being rude and , saying ‘you know what? It’s not my problem! the machine only gave me that one!’ Which is a flat old lie. The man was very nice about it but firm. he explained that in fact it was her problem and that if the machine didn’t give her the reservation then she should have gone to the human tickets salespeople who would have given it to her. He also explained that she needed to pay for a full ticket now.

This went on for a while. The girl was getting more and more agitated and ruder while the man was being nicer and nicer to her. He explained that if she didn’t want to pay she would have to get off at the next station. Ten minutes in the conversation she finally agreed to pay. She still wanted to use her railcard, which of course is not allowed. So she threw a hissy fit and tore her old ticket in half. The man with perfect comedic timing and with the sweetest tone told her ‘Well you are going to have a problem though since that ticket included another destination, and because you tore it in half you will now have to pay for that other trip as well’. And then he left. It was very satisfying for me to see him use the polite strategy against this stupid bitchy girl. He had won the contest brilliantly.