Also, because it’s funny and so you don’t have to comment on the depressing wall of drivel below, I had a strange L4D moment in the Arts block toilets seeing an A4 poster with a variety of handwritten graffiti on it:

The actual text, which you can’t really see on the crap phone camera:
Below it: “Maybe that’s because they don’t actually have hands?”
Little arrow: “What about spider pig?”
Far right, in reply to this: “Left filthy trotter marks on walls and ceiling.”

love, love is a verb, love is a doing word

At the more gruesome end of the “Columbian Exchange” of concepts, people, animals, vegetables and minerals between Old World and New stands the exchange of diseases. European explorers and settlers gave the American Indians, mostly free of charge: yellow fever, scarlet fever, typhus, typhoid, chickenpox, smallpox, measles, cholera, influenza, malaria, bubonic plague and leprosy, among others. In return, we got syphilis. And people cry about unbalanced trade now! Those natives were making a killing off us.

Or, as Hovercraft put it: “Huge net profit for them, but the currency is DEATH.”

Essay looming, due Friday; first “proper” work (I don’t really count presentations or reading.) Spent an entire weekend failing to do it. I thought I was clear on what I had to do. I thought I had decent prep down and done. Yet when I looked at the essay all I could put down was random scatters of thought that made no sense the minute after I typed them. Every piece of help I tried to find just made the essay seem less and less possible. The overall whole seemed further and further away every time I looked at it. I took breaks for meals and games, returned to essay, stared blankly at essay, wallowed in misery feeling depressed and useless and incapable of anything. One essay, a mere 2,000 words on a doddle of a topic, one essay that doesn’t even count for my degree. I couldn’t put down more than a straight sentence without a minute later realising it was worthless and tearing it apart. After two days, I had 500 words of useless unsuitable nonsense.

Felt terrible.

Siz appeared and offered sober counsel and told me not to fret, and how, simply, to do university essays, and sent me one of hers so I could see how it was done. So I spent most of today either at lectures or in the library taking notes. I’m still not particularly optimistic, but I think I can at least do something resembling an essay and I no longer feel that I should drop out of university through being mentally incapable of doing any proper work. And at least I was punctual and made a concerted attempt on Saturday rather than finding this out at 3am on Friday morning.

General feeling of uselessness and crappiness prevails though. Not just in me. War, Armed Forces & Society lecture on 2nd-3rd century Roman strategy was awful. Lecture began by attempting to big itself up as the foundation of all strategy ever in an insecure kind of way, followed by lecturer spending ages on repeated, redundant explanations (we are doing War Studies, we do actually understand what defence in depth is the first time, we do not need it explained condescendingly under three names and in four different ways including one involving some unrelated jabber about Hannibal), completely failing to substantiate what struck me as rather important claims (why, exactly, did having legions stationed across the empire’s borders mean that Rome was incapable of fighting a war on two fronts? Surely dispersal of forces under devolved command, especially in the classical world where even a forced march on straight roads was agonisingly slow, is better disposed to deal with multiple threats than a central reserve which would then be divided…) and contradicting himself. (Open with “Man for man, the legions were no better fighting forces than the barbarians. It was in strategy that the Roman defence was superior.” Five minutes later: “The Romans knew that the tactical ability of their legions would guarantee victory in direct battle.” Ten minutes later: “Legions became increasingly redundant and reduced in quality.” Two minutes later: “Disregard, cocks.”) How can you say that the late 3rd-century auxiliary-based forces were no better than the disorganised rabble of barbarians they fought with, and in the same breath say that they were crack specialists capable of taking on anything? I don’t know much about classical warfare. This was true before the lecture and is completely unchanged after it. The most enlightening part was post-lecture discussion with James and John on the way to Room 101 for Practising History, and that mostly concerned stirrups.

Room 101. The fantastically named Marios Hadjianastasis told us about various student help things and his helpful studenty blog “The Student Cycle”, and then the lecturer enthused about an account of the Colchester Oyster Feast.

Now, I did make a genuine effort to enjoy and understand the reading. I downloaded it as soon as I got the email to, set apart an hour from my essay misery on the weekend to read and analyse it. That the account was incredibly dry, scattered to the point of incomprehensibility, 40% footnotes and making mountains out of centuries of whimsical petty-bourgeoisie barnacles did not deter me at first. I tried, I really did. It was the way that the lecture was so incredibly, unendingly enthusiastic about this impenetrable, futile text from which I had gleaned nothing. There was some genuinely useful stuff about analysing books in there, but it was pretty well buried under the oysters. Worried that the inability to make head, tail or shell from the Oyster Feast was confined to me; this worry evaporated quickly. One guy got gigged for listening to his MP3 player in the lecture; the shuffle of embarrassment afterwards seemed to indicate that everyone else wished they had come similarly equipped. I felt somewhat sorry for the lecturer, who was doing her best.

John left for his medieval lecture, James and I stayed in our seats, and it was up to our Making of the Modern World lecture on the pre-Reformation church, third and last lecture of the block, to salvage the day. It opened with pocket biographies of two drinking, whoring, profiteering, warmongering popes and a Lutheran propaganda woodcut featuring, among many many other things, an evil Catholic friar with a tiny demon standing on his shoulder sticking a set of bellows in his ear and pumping his head full of evil thoughts. It really only got better from there and was immensely cheering, though the slides don’t seem to have gone up on WebCT for me to revise and enjoy.

Last week’s expenditures: £33.90

Also. Nick played 20% of all TF2 played by all COGS members in the last two weeks. He’s averaging forty hours per week. This just isn’t healthy.

heed my every order, and you might survive

GEMMA: So you’re eating… sausages, potato, olives, pasta, tomato sauce and Caesar salad dressing.
ME: Om.
GEMMA: In the same bowl. That’s just…
ME: This is why I eat in my room. I’m afraid of you judging me ;_;

On Sunday night I went out to the Shackleton pub quiz. Our team, the… unusally named “Wank Bullett [sic] II” (this being the sequel to Wank Bullett, which won last week) came second with 35/50 points. And we were terrible. The competition was evidently pathetic, possibly because the prize was a paltry £100, and the second prize an even more disappointing few bottles of beer. Which my teammates chugged with relish.

Weather has taken a turn for the miserable. Despite this, and despite actually having the basic necessities for survival (bacon and pasta) at home, I cycled up to Sainsbury’s for what surprisingly turned out to be my most expensive shop yet. There was no individual item over a couple of quid, just lots of small fun things which added up. For some reason a tiny plastic packet of Basics olives in air is 99p where a larger glass jar of own brand olives in brine is 80. Ours not to reason why. *nom* I also picked up a surprisingly cheap, surprisingly heavy bike pump from Halfords for Siz.

On the way back crossing the bridge from the Bristol Road, a girl talking on her mobile phone said “eek! I’m surrounded by cyclists!” as I and another bike going the other way bracketed her, which gave me a grin that didn’t fade til I got home and found I had lost my stylus to holes in my pockets. These are the most aggravating places for holes to be, though another pair of trousers has a massive gash in the leg. The pockets may be repaired, the gash I think is beyond it… I may just need to buy some more clothes.

On the topic of inadequate cloth constructs, the pannier I took has nothing to secure it to the bike beyond the worn plastic hooks and gravity (which works okay when full of oats but falls off a lot while empty). I will either need to ask Greg for how best to tie it to things, or get another pannier. (It also has holes in the bottom and is generally past its best. Lot of it about.)

Even further along this topic, my emerald-green jumper has one-upped both trousers and pannier in flaws by completely disappearing. Since my room is barely large enough to swing one of the constantly scurrying rats in and I have searched it thoroughly, I think I may have left it in Bristol.

The blasted washing machine ate my £2.20 and then didn’t work. The maintenance man who someone else had called due to three other machines (out of the six) also misbehaving, though he unscrewed it, did not then give me a free load as he did for the small attractive female student with the lilting accent who had the exact same problem. Come see the corruption inherent in the system.

So laundry cost me my last two detergent portions, an hour, £4.40, and worst of all the sheer frustration of time and treasure lost. Ah well. Priya gave me a COOKIE and is lovely and wonderful and pedantic about calling cookies cookies rather than biscuits. My oats, butter and sugar are renewed; flapjack for all to follow shortly.

My flatmates have a terrible, terrible obsession with this song. Not just the kind where they play it and sing along regularly and loudly (though they do that… lots), the kind where Becky described the length of the walk to the Guild as “three repetitions of it on my ipod.” I… next time they’re all singing along I’ll try to video it, because it’s deeply hilarious to see.

50p quiz
£10 DOW2 (it was half price on steam, but I am still regretting it)
£17.20 shopping
£4.40 laundry

your mother’s so fat she takes four heavy support slots

Informal, often used to show contempt says:
I wonder if there’s a pro building group
butane daydreams says:
“yeah we’re all about the new TC5613s, no other tower crane does what it does, lifting torque 800kilonewtons, shift them girders like nothing else”
“TC5613 is shit tier bro what’re you going to do with an 8-ton load? carry your cheap john deere cement mixers to the top of your three-storey buildings? lololololol”
Informal, often used to show contempt says:
and wow
butane daydreams says:
an imaginary pro builder tower crane flamewar
Informal, often used to show contempt says:
it was surprisingly realistic
butane daydreams says:
yeah I looked up a crane’s specs
my retarded jokes are AIRTIGHT

Hovercraft says:
aren’t you supposed to be doing a degree?

that I haven’t dreamed of you and I/and marriage in an orange grove

Rose’s dad brought us a telly. He’s in the business of TV sets, I believe. So we have a giant screen in the sitting room. As I type this they, with Rachel and Becky (the unofficial 6th Flat 68er) are watching the close of Last King of Scotland. Mmm, depressing.

Cooking this week has been a little less prosaic and a little more expensive, featuring deliciously experimental things involving sausages and olives and actual vegetables and Caesar salad dressing dripped everywhere. In a shocking turn of events I have gone to ANOTHER SHOP – Aldi, who are slightly downmarket from even Sainsbury’s, and provided cheap olives and sundries.

I also bought a little red screwdriver of my very own to unscrew my HDD to bring to Bristol and help with general flatmate handiness.

I have made two rounds of flapjack this week; despite the distressing crumbliness (I think it’s down to using coarse unrefined demerara rather than the soft brown sugar I should be) people seem to like it very much; the consignment Becky took up to the flat directly above me was eaten by Tom. On the one hand it meant the other half of the tray was needed to ensure Siz and Sophie got their fair share; on the other hand I have better names for telling the Toms apart! Where there was “Blond Tom” and “Dark-Haired Tom”, there is now plain “Tom” and “Bastard Flapjack Thief”. So I need to buy better sugar, and a really big bag of oats this time, and some sort of Tom-distracting tool.

I went to Bristol on the Friday. Absence truly does make the heart grow fonder – I got showered with roast chicken and a hot water bottle and parental love and all the tea I could inhale. Sleeping in my own old bed was strange, finding Nick’s weeks-old cake by the pillow and dirty socks under the mattress far stranger – that should be my cake, those should be my socks. That should be my decade’s worth of accumulated loose change sitting in that jar and drawer where it fucking isn’t [frownyface].

I went to see the Edwards house play at school, which was not good, and then to meet COGS for the pre-lan freshers’ social. Which was magic, as usual, and the most stunning contrast to CVGsoc. I got a Panzersticker and conversed animatedly til hoarse and was man-hugged from all directions with terrible passion. We COGSers love each other hard and long, for who else will have us?

The LAN party was as good as any I’d ever been to. I got to play multiplayer TA for the first time in… seven years or so, and the TF2 was glorious, and the L4D was brutal, and the pizza was delicious, and the apples were sweet, and the players were boisterous and joyful, and it was just general fun, and SUN TZU SAID THAT, and I’ll be back for more.

This week’s total expenditures:

they’re teaching anglais to the natives ’til the global redistributing has ceased

I had a seminar with Rob today about military mutinies at 11 and cycled down in good time for it, parking my bike at a tiny car/bike park hidden underneath Muirhead Tower which is never as cluttered and overused as the wholly inadequate arts block and centre courts bike racks. The seminar had been cancelled; essentially a day off. LET THE EXPEDITION BEGIN.

The University’s very own railway station is not far at all from the Arts block; £1.15 return train to the centre of town, through the overcrowded misery of New Street station and out to the open sky. The walk from New Street to the coach station at Digbeth is not unmanageable, but not short or easy; it would be both unpleasant and possibly mugging-bait (there are so many horror stories) to be dragging my computer, and so I am glad and thankful that I will be able to borrow Oliver’s.

Then as I headed back, at the road crossing by the Bullring there was one of those weird cliche moments which I’ve seen in films but never thought happened in real life. Standing at a crossing, someone else on the other side; the lights change, we both begin to move, and just before we walk past each other I glanced at her and there’s a sudden strange recognition, and I stopped, and half-turned, and took a step back, and said her name, and she looks around, and hello! I had run into Mary (of Mary and Harry) on her way to a CAG meeting and we chatted for a few minutes about university and consultants and suchlike. How unexpected and nice.

My bus research satisfied I set off with my map in the opposite direction towards the fabled floating coffee shop, and along the journey realised that my phone actually contains a camera (not a good camera, but still, pictures!) so here are some pictures of my day out.

many pics, few good ones