And The Earth Did Move

It would be remiss of me not to make a post marking the Great British Earthquake. And it was such a British event. A jolt and then a mild shake, admittedly bigger than any in Britain for some year, but still, nothing significant really. Yet it dominated the national news all day, and was the topic of conversation for all of us.

Amazingly, some of my housemates managed to sleep through it. But then, most of them would sleep through the Second Coming. I was woken up by the bang, which signified the arrival of the “P waves“. That was a little surprising… it could have been anything. I’ve been woken up by loud bangs in the middle of the night before; one time was the explosion of a chippy a few miles away. So at first I didn’t have a clue what it was. Then a few seconds later my bed began to shake, as did the things on the shelves in my room. Nothing too exciting though. A gentle rocking is all I would describe it as. It lasted about 10 seconds.

When it finished I couldn’t get back to sleep. I wasn’t entirely convinced about what I’d just experienced. Having never been through an earthquake before I wasn’t 100% that that was what had just happened. I wanted to turn on my computer to find out what it was, but I thought better of it. It wasn’t that spectacular.

I managed to get back to sleep, where my brain went into overdrive. I spent most of the night dreaming about what the possible explanation for the events were. My brain’s best theory was that an enormous sheet of ice in the North Pole had just broken into three different parts. The sound of the snapping caused the whole world to vibrate.

I woke up from that dream at about 7am, and minutes later I got a text from my mum asking me if I’d been heard the quake. It was a bit surreal. I thought it was an earthquake, but it wasn’t only until I read this text that I could be certain about it. Everything in my brain had been confused by this extremely convincing (though ridiculous) dream I’d had.

It was then the talk of the day. Me and my housemates spent all morning talking about it, which is when I discovered that only one other of them had been awake for the activities. I’m sure lots of other people slept through it too. I suppose they didn’t miss much in truth, but still – one to tell the grandchildren about, I guess.

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The Birthday Party

The past week has not been a particularly enjoyable one, largely because I’m steadily getting more and more fed up living with two of my housemates. The lesson I have learned is fairly simple: never live with a couple. Unless you’re already friends with both of them independently. Otherwise, the result is a natural duopoly that can easily control all of the communal resources in the house with no great effort at all.

For example, if I’m sitting in the living room with the TV off, reading a book, taking notes for an essay, and am then joined by the happy couple… if they want to switch the TV on they can, because they outnumber me. If, on the other hand, either of my other housemates came downstairs on their own, they are less likely to want to turn the TV on because they can see that I’m working and they wouldn’t want to disturb that.

Of course, I could just go and work in my room, but in here there’s very little space. The only place to sit down is at my computer, and it’s not exactly comfortable here. Plus I get bored of being here all the time. A change of scenery always helps. Plus it takes me away from the temptation of checking my e-mail or something else… there are too many distractions on my computer.

On Friday we went out for a meal. This was the fourth day of celebration for my friend’s birthday, which finally happened on Tuesday. Every year he manages to drag it out an enormous length of time, and this year was no different. Friday was the culmination of it, and so we went to an Indian restaurant. I enjoyed the food, apart from the price… but the real problem was that the Happy Couple spent the whole meal sitting there in misery. Unfortunately, I was at their end of the table. It later transpired that the female member of the couple, the touchiest person I know, had taken enormous offence at the most flippant and jokey comment of the night about doing a PhD. So I had to sit opposite the face that sunk a thousand ships, with no one to talk to, while down the other end of the table they laughed, joked and generally had a good time.

But at least the birthday celebrations are over. Not that they need an excuse to drink. Every Friday and every Saturday night has now become a drinkathon, normally inviting around friends who either a) don’t stop talking; b) are brash, rude and ignorant; or c) are clearly here to be the butt of all jokes. There is one guy who was here last night who was referenced in nearly every conversation in a disparaging way. But he’s such an idiot that he doesn’t realise they are genuinely taking the piss out of him. I was stuck down there with them last night because I was trying to watch the France v England rugby game on TV.

The odd thing in all of this is that for extended periods neither of the Happy Couple talks to their guests. They’re just left to talk amongst themselves.

All this is a real shame because it’s really ruining my last year at University. I thought it would be much better than it has been, and all the blame for the bad bits can pretty much be attributed to them.

Anyway, it’s Sunday, which means another day at the coalface. I’ve been laying the groundwork for my next essay in the past few days as I’ve planned out how I’m going to approach the end of this semester. I spoke to my tutor the other day who said I still have a chance of getting a First. In all honesty, I might as well go with what he says as otherwise I’ve got nothing to motivate me this semester. I could get 50% on everything until the end and still get a 2:1. So my plan is to get one of my essays completed within the next 10 days. I’ve done all the research so now I just need to write it up. “Just”. Still, after writing 12,000 words for the dissertation, 3,000 should be easy…

I’m going to go home for 2.5 weeks from March 6th. I’m looking forward to that. It will be a well earned rest after the hard work so far this semester. Plus it will be good to get out of here. Then when I get back I will polish off the rest of the dissertation and get it printed and bound. After that I’ll have one more essay to do in four weeks and then it’s just the exams. Cool.

Unfirst Class

At this time of year, thoughts generally turn to exam results. And so it came to pass this morning.

I got 70% in one module at 63% in the other. The first result was unexpected, the second result wasn’t. Though it puts me even more strongly in the 2:1 category, I had been having vague thoughts of late that maybe, just maybe, with an outstanding dissertation performance I could squeak home on a first. Hardly anyone gets firsts in politics from Hull, so that would have been an achievement in itself.

But these results put paid to that. Though one of them is a first (70%), that is the absolute minimum. I could have done with the other module being around 68% or so to put me in with a chance. As it happens, even a stonking great 80% for the dissertation would only just put me into borderline first territory, but I wouldn’t have enough credits at first level to give me what I want.

Never mind. I have been expecting a 2:1 for a long time anyway, so I’ll be very happy with that. I just got a bit carried away. I knew my second module, the 63%, was going to be fairly bad because the exam was so harsh. The questions were not phrased the way I liked, I had to use my third and fourth choice revision topics and, even worse, questions appeared on the exam which we had been told would not come up. And then there was a question which came up on the essays, which should never have appeared in an exam.

So all in all I think I got away with it, really. At the price of scuppering any possibility of a first. It’s a shame, but I’ll get over it very quickly. Instead I’m just going to be happy that I’m still doing well and now officially 2/3rds of the way through my degree in credits (though approaching 7/8 in time). We really are in the endgame here…

Meanwhile, it’s been a relaxing weekend. I think I deserved it, though it hasn’t been without its controversy. Particularly yesterday, when I finally worked out that the bad smell downstairs was because of a rotting, decaying mouse underneath the fridge. That was a surprising discovery. Especially when I realised those brown stains on the floor around the fridge were not spilled coffee…

But apart from that the weekend has been good. I went to town and got myself a new headset, so I can now join the Skype age. Then I bought a present for my housemate’s birthday tomorrow (though I’m not sure he deserves it after all the noise he made on Friday night after returning from a night out). And watched a lot of FA Cup football. That was reasonably entertaining. As was watching the film Rope for the first time.

So… all is well at the moment. Including the weather. Though it’s bitterly cold in the morning, the glorious sunshine throughout the day is a joy to behold.

62%

It’s been a rough few days. In fact, it’s been a rough week. I started writing my dissertation last Friday, and because I like to do things quickly when I feel the momentum, I’ve pretty much wrote the whole damn thing. Finished on Wednesday, spent Thursday pissing around with formatting errors caused by the useless Microsoft Word and compiling the bibliography, which took ages.

And though I’ve finished writing it, the percentage counter is stuck at 62%. The reason being I’m still nowhere near finished. This is, a work of art. It is my magnum opus. It could also make a big difference to my final grade if it is good enough. This is because my dissertation is worth 40 credits instead of the usual 20. I’m writing twice the amount compared to others, and in return I get to skip one extra exam, one extra essay, endless revision, one tutorial presentation, and two extra hours of teaching a week.

Well worth it. Well, it is if I get a good mark. And the answer to that will not be known until June. So the mystery will remain.

But the rest of the stuff that takes me up to 100% is all in the redrafting. I’m also waiting for one more interviewer to get back to me, which will provide me with a little extra stuff to pack in as I’ve got about 200 words spare. Might as well get as much as I can in there. Once that’s incorporated, it will take me to 65%.

The first redraft, involving restructuring, finding more sources to back up claims, and general rewriting of awkward phrasing will actually take me some time, and when finished will probably take me up to about 80%. I don’t think I’ll do this for another week or so. If I leave it for a while I’ll be able to look at it with fresh eyes and a bit of critical distance.

The second redraft is a largely proofreading exercise. But proofreading 12,000 words will take a bloody long time. That will take me to 90%.

Then the final 10% is all about the lengthy process of printing out about 100 pages – £5 in printer credit, and then sending it off for binding – another £26 down the drain.

There’s still a little way to go then, but I’ve pretty much broken the back of the work, and for that I’m absolutely delighted. It really wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be.

Inbetween all this I managed my blood donation on Monday, meaning I’ve now been 7 times. I have my eyes on the big prizes in store. Woohoo.

The weird thing is, though, that now I’ve done so much work I’ve not got much idea what to do next. I could, theoretically, start work on one of my remaining two essays this semester, but since they’re not due in till 6th of May, plus I deserve a bit of a rest, I think I’ll just play some Zelda on my Nintendo DS. What an awesome game…

And maybe, just maybe, with the sun shining this weekend, I might go for a little walk. That would be nice.

21%

This weekend (including my wonderful pre-Saturday on Friday, and now Sunday #2 today) is going well. On Friday I forced myself to sit down and concentrate on my dissertation.

And do you know what? I actually did. I took my research, which is currently lying scattered across my bedroom floor, and read it again. I made some spiffy graphs, and all of a sudden I was interested in the subject again. So the writing began.

I’m going to take it at a steady pace, as I think I’ll get depressed if I lock myself in my room and type all day. A thousand words here, two thousand words there… and I know that sooner or later I’ll get it finished.

21% is probably my estimate of where I’m at at the moment in terms of completion. Though I think I’m underestimating to make me feel better when I finish it quicker than expected. But I shouldn’t tell my brain that. No, I’m trying to fool him.

Friday, Saturday and Sunday have all vanished under a cloud of typing. Probably about five hours on each day, though some of it is spent staring at the screen wondering what the hell I’m going to say next. But I always get through it. There is enough for me to say to reach my quota, without a doubt. 12,000 words is the target.

It’s hard work and heavy going, but it’s actually easier than writing an essay, which tends to be a lot more stuffy and filled with references to other material. This one, because it’s my original research, there is nothing to reference. I am the authority on the subject. I quote my survey results, I quote the interviews I’ve done… and that is all that’s needed. This is why I think it’s going so well so far. Though I don’t want to curse it. There’s still a long way to go.

If I continue at this rate, I estimate I will be finished within two weeks. No later than the end of February. Which is amazing, and better than I had hoped. But there’s still a long hard slog before I get there.

And I have to avoid distractions. Unfortunately, today is going to contain a rather big one this afternoon when I go and give blood. Apparently their stocks are running low at the moment, so they’ve called me pretty much as soon as I was available (four months since last time). Normally they wait until March and my normal next session at the University.

But that’s fine. I wouldn’t say I’m looking forward to it (who wants to see a needle lodged in their arm draining away your hard-earned blood stocks!) but… at the very least, it will get me out of the house.

And the sun is shining too. This weekend I’ve only been able to enjoy it through my south-facing bedroom window. Which has actually been great. I’ve been typing away bathed in glorious winter sunshine.

So far, so good.

Woeful Wednesday

Election nights are always good fun for me, and I’ve probably referred to several while I’ve been posting to here. Last night was yet another one, Super Tuesday in the States. But such excitement is always followed up by a complete write off of a day, mainly because of the fact that to watch results come in you have to stay up all night.

And I did. Ish. US elections allow a bit of leeway. I managed to go to bed about 9pm, and though it was a disturbed sleep I got up at 1am to start the watching process. UK elections don’t allow that freedom, cos it all kicks off from 10pm normally. By 1am the good stuff was starting to roll in. So I got up just in time.

The hours flew by. The coverage on the internet of elections is first class. I had Newsweek’s online webcast going, a bit of the shit BBC coverage on the TV, watching the results on the CNN website and reading the comments on the excellent politicalbetting.com. All the while talking on MSN to a friend who was also staying up late for it.

I guess you have to be a real political junkie to like this stuff. It got me through to 6am, when I decided to have a couple of hours sleep to get me through the rest of the day. And it seems to have worked, once again. I never used to bother with short sharp doses of sleep, preferring instead to battle out the whole day. But it was always a struggle. With some sleep I can function for the whole of the day and can get back into normal sleep patterns the very next day.

Though, as I said at the top of this post, it does make the day afterwards rather sluggish. Luckily I have no lectures today, and I have actually done some work on my dissertation since the last post, so I don’t feel too guilty about it. In fact, the work I’ve done on the dissertation has convinced me that the write up, which I might possibly begin this weekend or early next week, will not be as bad as I feared. 12,000 words sounds a lot, but when you have as much data as I do, it should be notched up without too much difficulty.

I hope.

But for now I won’t worry about it. The results of last night made me fairly happy. The sun is streaming through my window, and the world is looking good for a change. Long may it continue.

Uninspired

The winter is finally drawing to a close, which is making me feel good. In the past few days it’s been pretty chilly (no snow, though, which is disappointing) and it has suddenly caused the skin on my right hand to go all cracked and bleeding. Which is not nice at all. I had this last year too. It always happens when we get a few days of really cold temperatures.

Thursday was the worst, however. I walked to my lecture, about a mile away, in the bucketing down rain, which was then combined with painful hail stones for good measure. Add in a gale force wind, making me utterly freezing, and I really wasn’t a pretty sight by the time I got to the university. My first witty quip when arriving, looking like I’d just fallen into a lake, was “This better be worth it!”. Unsurprisingly enough, attendance was very poor at the lecture given the conditions, but the comment from the lecturer, “I could feel the cold, hard wind of global capitalism washing over me as I walked over here” was enough to restore a smile on my face. The lecture was about socialism. I guess you had to be there.

Despite the chill I’ve been out and about a fair old bit. On Wednesday afternoon I did a ten mile round trip from here to Willerby and back again. All because I was so bored of sitting here doing nothing. When I should really be getting to grips with the dissertation…

The date is now looming in my mind. 7th April. The only positive is that I have two other essays due in this semester, but they are both due four weeks after the dissertation hand in. So I can quite legitimately spend all my time on the dissertation from now until the submission date. This is good, though it means I can’t make excuses. I think I will do some work on it today. I don’t anticipate today being a very interesting day as a result.

I feel a bit uninspired at the moment. Life in Hull has gotten too routine. I tried to shake it up a bit by bringing my guitar down to a late night drinking session on Friday night… it worked to some extent, I played and sang some songs for the group (I wasn’t drinking as usual) and it went down really well. I enjoyed that. Not done that for a long time. But drunks are an easy audience to please.

But other than that we just press forward relentlessly. Though I can say something new.

Five months to go.