with a suitcase full of pistols and money

L4D2 came out on Tuesday 17th (on time, on target, no 28-hour delays), which meant a little extra work on Monday to allow for guilt-free zombie shooting with COGS for the better part of my waking hours. It’s much more of a game; much harder, too. Still need to find two more good players so that me and Wild Bill Hovercraft can have a foursome to take on the fiercer difficulties. Not that Normal isn’t occasionally a challenge.

After so much zombie killing I felt sleepy and a bit ill and, upon closing the game, slumped into bed. Then I realised that I had done nothing useful since the end of my seminar at 11, and for once felt bad about it. So I forced myself up, made a cuppa, had a shower, sorted out my diary for the rest of term (only three weeks left! Weird…), noted my essay deadlines (Dec 7, ie beginning of the last week, for both 2000 word history/WOR essays, assessed for Stuart and formative for Rob, start of next term for 3000 word Analysing Everyday Texts essay.)

Then realised I actually did feel really ill and utterly terrible and sent a worried and apologetic email to Suganthi saying I might not make her lecture tomorrow on account of going down with the Green Flu.

No worries.

Total number of books on my Somme Focused Study reading list: 23. Total number of these books actually present in the library: 0. So I reserved a few, and at Stuart’s advice booked the Styles Room (war studies sanctuary room and mini-library in the Arts block) for Friday. One of my reserved books came through on Thursday, and after a joyful and uplifting lecture about the siege of Breisach (starving soldiers murdering children for the pot, exhuming and eating rotten corpses, all delightful stuff) I picked it up.

Heading out from the library I noticed a large orange sign on the side of the perennial marquee in Centre Court saying “FREE FOOD” in big black letters. Sikh-Soc were running an awareness-raising, malnutrition-reducing langar, so: loads of handouts and posters and interesting things about Sikhism, along with all-you-can-eat Apani Dhani-esque veggie noms: delicious dal, potato curry, rice, chapati and samosa, with… orange squash. Giving out free food is probably the best way of securing the attention and goodwill of students there is; for Thursday, at least, Sikhism was the best religion in the world.

On Friday, our Somme focused study was somewhat divided: the War Studies folks arguing animatedly among themselves about LMGs and trench mortars and operations and tanks and the definition of grand strategy, the vanilla History students rather timidly and uncertainly talking about Haig and Rawlinson. One ventured an assessment of Allied reconnaisance which included “satellite photography”, upon which Stuart quite kindly said “I don’t think they had many satellites in 1916”. I went to the Styles Room at noon to use my booking, but (despite advertising the availability of the room in person and on Facebook) nobody else did. Their loss.

Total expenditures: £13.

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he passed away a true old west original/and near the end he liked it sprinkled on his food

baccarat detector says:
man I really ought to get my hearing looked at
just took drugs without meaning to
Hovercraft says:
*mumblemumblemumble*
…what
baccarat detector says:
me: OO CAKE
[redacted male]: mumble mumble it’s her cake
me: hey [redacted female] can I have some cake?
[redacted female]: mumble mumble
me: NOM
[redacted female]: YOU ARE AWARE THAT WAS HASH CAKE RIGHT
me: …oh. Am I cool now?
Hovercraft says:
…so you’re cooler than me without even trying?
baccarat detector says:
obviously
and now I have a funny anecdote for when anyone asks me if I’ve ever had weed
Hovercraft says:
[redacted the third] mentioned her friend was gonna hold a hash cake party ages ago and I’d be invited if I wanted, I said yes because I’m a “try anything as long as it’s not heroin or similar fucked up shit” mentality
but said party never materialised
baccarat detector says:
shouldn’t have any particularly ill effects
[redacted male] said that it wasn’t strong at all
and that dude… knows his weed >_>
Hovercraft says:
see, somehow I’ve never hung around with the necessary people to enable me to try it
also you should totally spike your next batch of flapjacks with LSD or something
baccarat detector says:
actually I did make… that exact joke *awesomeface*

but we haven’t got real friends, and now even the fake ones have stopped calling

CL2 was on Saturday.

Among the Bristolly things I intended to do on my visit home was make a trip to Scrivens the opticians and sort out the cancellation of contact lenses I’ve been failing to do for many expensive months. So, I arranged to leave the LAN and meet with Mum at Scrivens around noon, which would also allow me to get noms from the chip shop. For whatever strange networking reason, we couldn’t get online for most of the morning, so I phoned Mum, hastened our rendezvous and with her found a “back in 15 minutes” sign on the door.

Which, pretty much par for Scrivens, meant waiting in the mounting rain for three quarters of an hour. We stood and grumbled damply until an extremely nice, accomodating and bedraggled young man appeared, upon which we shouted at him until we felt better and then sorted out something approaching a solution. I think. I hope. Then, with a slightly clearer conscience, my gas mask, greatcoat and some bags of chips for me and Hovercraft I returned to the now-functional LAN.

I didn’t enjoy CL2 as much as I had CL1, but that was because of me failing rather than COGS. MR5D wasn’t as cramped as I remembered it, I sat next to Wild Bill Hovercraft (and we bought each other meals) to emphasise our status as the premier gay couple of COGS, Andy gave me a delicious ID card, Kim-Kim, creator of many many hilarious youtube things graced us with his rare and delightful presence, and used my computer to play TF2 for a while.

We played some L4D2 demo and some original L4D, the latter rather marred by certain retarded parties a) insisting on playing Versus b) telling me that my objections to this were entirely because I was bad at it rather than because Versus is a wretched abortion of a gamemode. I was quickly and comprehensively vindicated by a mass ragequit caused directly by Versus being a wretched abortion of a gamemode and really should have gone I TOLD YOU SO [more]. But that was the end of L4D for the day. Even at a LAN with its good feelings, lulz and easy camaraderie, L4D versus is ususally wank.

There was a Supreme Commander game I watched over Wildfire’s shoulder which seemed really rather fun followed by a Supreme Commander game I played which was a boring, futile porcfest and would’ve been even if I had somehow won and Rainmaker hadn’t kerb stomped me with a legion of bricks and bevy of monkeylords. The game fails, I think, because of the immense power leap between high and low tier units and the general stupid resilience of all higher tech units, which makes combat entirely about numbers rather than positioning, terrain, maneouvre or even range. TA, which I still maintain is with a little tweaking the finest RTS ever made, got that right. Supcom, even with its fantastic graphics and incidental attempts at a plot, failed at it hard, and is still in my opinion a significantly worse game.

On Sunday afternoon I went clothes shopping with Mum. Though I insisted that I was able, willing and prepared to pay for my own stuff, she still ended up offering to pay for two thirds of it, and I accepted these offers. Self-sufficiency is all very nice and proud and morally defensible, but my parents have reached a position in life where a few dozen pounds here or there is almost completely immaterial. I have not.

Sunday evening, I walked down to Temple Meads for the Jonathan Coulton concert in The Tunnels, a new venue built into a forgotten orifice of Temple Meads station. A nerd-music duo called Paul and Storm, who I’d not heard of but are apparently quite popular, opened for him, making up for their unmusic by being really quite funny, especially with cheap, painfully accurate shots at the stereotype of JoCo fans. Then The Man Himself played. The chorus of Re: Your Brains was loud and heartfelt; he didn’t even have to sing for Still Alive. At the end I bought some cake-scented stickers and Vikki got him to write COGS a love-letter. He did.

Yeah, we’re nerds.

Total expenditures for last week: £68.47

“Aw, I need my umbrella and it’s stuck in the bloody pumpkin!” – Jess

Due to switcharoos and McLeod the Roman lecturer man being unable to give his lecture on strategy, I had Rob Thompson two days in a row, which was great fun, despite (or perhaps due to) his habit of turning everything into a debate about the First World War. Lecture on total war/limited war? Ludendorff, Lloyd George and “business as usual”. Seminar on Vegetius and De Re Militari? DOUGLAS HAIG UP IN THIS BITCH.

More confident than ever that I have chosen the right course.

Returning from seminars I found a giant parcel, which was addressed to “Panzerwurst” to the bemusement of flatmates. Tom has posted me my Blastwave costume. He didn’t send the assault rifle as it was in London, which is sad but probably a good thing in a “I don’t want to get shot by the police” way. Egged on by evil blockmates, I silently terrified Flat 69. Intimidating full-face helmets, hoorah. I plan to bring this to the LAN.

Tuesday afternoon I attended a social of the nascent War Society, essentially drinking, telling drunken stories, wisecracking about war and arguing about war movies. We read and wrote in various forms to gain legitimacy from the Guild as a society and thus access to things like projector-capable rooms, decided on legal membership-fee based funding (despite the magnificent opportunities the clock tower would give us for rifle-related extortion of protection money) and are planning lists of war films to watch and possible field trips to fun warry places.

A poster on the inside door of the bike shed advertised a cycling advice thing at University Centre. So I went there, had my bike examined and oiled and brakes and gears tuned and bought a shiny high-visibility waistcoat thing (the long-sleeved kind, which they recommended, as it was the reflective stripes on the sleeves that actually mattered at night). In-the-know bike man told me that because of the older style of the brakes they’d never be as good as newer designs, but they were as good as they would get right now. His overall verdict was however “this is a good bike. Ride it till it falls apart and then get a new one.” That’s the plan, yeah.

Found myself reading Storm of Steel (memoirs of Ernst Junger, a WW1 stormtrooper) for most of the 11th. Not sure if this was a very good or very bad thing to be doing on Remembrance Day.

The rain suddenly appears in a horrible sustained downpour. Hopefully this will deter the billion and one crows who have appeared this week and continually orbit my block calling out all night and day in a deeply worrying way.

Got our essays back from Stuart today. The one I handed in, which I feared was drivel and horribly rushed due to failpacing and mental breakdowns, came out as 62*. Stuart however told us all that he had marked excessively harshly, that we could expect a grade higher in summer marking, and that in my case it anyway would be a 68 if it was a full essay rather than two thirds of an essay (I chose, when basically out of time, to polish the 1200 words I had rather add another 800 words of mediocrity, and explained this to him in a note). Spent the seminar talking over what to know to work on next time, and will get individual feedback on our essays next Thursday.
All this considered, 62 was still a low 2.1**. So I’m feeling much more confident and will begin reading for the next one forthwith.

Outgoings:
£4.50 shiny waistcoat
£2.70 big pile of veg
£2.20 laundry
£? JoCo tickets (to be paid to the Hovercraft)

* 62/100, but the boundary for a First is 70 and Stuart tells me even genius essays rarely go above 80. Here top end grades actually mean something truly notable, and “very good” is still far from “best”. This pleases me.

** For Yanqui devils and other such outerlanders, this is the second highest qualification you can get at university here; it goes:
First Class Honours (known as a First; awesome-tier)
Second Class Honours in upper (2:1, which from a good uni is a respectable qualification) and
lower division (2.2, you drank a lot)
Third Class Honours (worthless)
Pass (despite the name: kill yourself)

“he thinks we think he will; so he thinks we shall; so he will; so we must”

Success! The rather well locked, bike-shed-looking building with all the bikes chained up next to it in the open air is, as it turns out, not actually the bike shed (though my judgment that it would not have space for my bike was right on the money!). It’s an electrical substation. The actual bike shed is just past it and a code, ably provided by the ever-useful Siz, let me into a rather musty, Snickers-packet-strewn building with sufficient space for one more bike at least, so the water-demons will no longer cause me rust trouble in their fall from the heavens.

Also I found my weeny bike lights, so everything is fantastic on the cycling front. Except that I seem to have mislaid one of my gloves… blast.

Title, from my reading for today’s lecture, is rather funny and twee until the context is revealed, and the context is my lecture on strategy in total war, and more specifically the game of thermonuclear chicken. Also, slightly more entertainingly, my notes for this strategy contain the line “Korea: MacArthur relieved by Truman for wanting to destroy everything.”

TO SELLY OAK, ONCE MORE.

“that is not a gun. that is three guns somehow made into half a gun. it is an insult to firearms.”

Cycled up to Selly Oak again to catch what I was short on – butter, replacement eggs, more bread, milk, apples, grocery stuff. The weather is cold, crisp and clear, beautiful for now, but possibly less fun when it gets properly wintery. Especially if it gets icy. That’ll be murder on cycling. Good lord, I might even have to walk! On my FEET! Like a regular pleb!

Unfortunately, Sainsbury’s closes at 4 on Saturdays. This meant that I had no butter, so no welcome-back flapjack for Becky and Gemma. I must make some tomorrow. But I got a nice bike ride, and it’s all exercise, eh?

Speaking of my bike – the roofed bike shed is inconvenient and since there are always a bunch chained up outside it, presumably inadequate. This means that I lock my bike to a lamp post next to my block. I am slightly worried about rust/whatever happens to a bike exposed to the elements for a long time. Should I be? Is there anything I can do?

Reading week went… pretty well, all in all. I didn’t do an immense amount of reading, but I did quite a bit, and was also fairly productive learning to make TF2 videos, writing my own things, jumping through the next two hoops of this foolish transcription thing in the distant hope of sit-at-home employment.

Next weekend, home for the LAN, which will be followed by Jonathan Coulton. Should be fun.

Things I need to do in the near future:
– Food shop, again, make flapjack
– sort out my diary dates for the rest of the term – check all module handbooks to be clear on what is expected so’s to avoid nasty surprises
– tidy my room
– following getting essay back from Stuart, make plans for my remaining MotMW essay and my MOMD essay, neither of which are going to be in for a long time but I’d rather work on them now when I have time to spare
– laundry – save that until I’m basically out of clothes if possible, for VALUE
– go shopping for things: panniers, trousers, perhaps another jersey to replace disappeared one
– transcription – this is pending Dan getting back to me, and presently out of my hands.

Total expenditures for the week: £38

I will have more sausages.

Returned from Bristol and cousinage, with a gift of sausages from Dad, to find that what I had in the fridge was:
1) cheese
2) butter
3) the cup of sausage grease I’m saving to fry eggy bread in

Bangers and three kinds of fat. Brilliant. Delicious, but not a balanced meal. Which necessitated shopping. And oh did I shop.

Cycled up to Sainsbury’s at Selly Oak with a massive list; got to the counter with two thirds of it realised, summing £18 worth of delicious and nutritious things. This was my conservative (and as it turned out, wrong – insert tacky political commentary here) estimate of what I could carry. When at the till I finished paying and realised I still had some space left in my bag, I went back with my trolley bought some squash, biscuits, olives, choc ices, fish fingers and suchlike less-necessary-but-exceptionally-delicious noms to accompany the more prosaic. I was heavily laden, but overjoyed that I’d only need to make one trip up to Selly Oak in the miserable weather.

Unfortunately, the broken piece of crap pannier that’s still fifty per cent of my carry capacity fell off my bike on the downhill just short of the Selly Oak bridge, which embarrassed me and destroyed my eggs. I’m not so bothered about its now ingrown egginess, because I’m definitely going to buy new panniers before I next have to go shopping. But… when I buy new panniers, I will technically be shopping, and thus shopping without new panniers. This is meta.

On the way back across the little cross-stream footbridge that leads to the Bristol Road, I noticed that someone had stuck up signs saying “Cyclist’s [sic] please dismount and cross on foot.” I did, though it rankled taking orders from someone who is manifestly less intelligent than me.

Reading week is… readingy. As well as devouring many books and bacon, choc ices etc I am writing occasionally and having nice long lie ins, which I will of course miss once I get back to my cut-and-thrust nose-to-the-grindstone NINE-TO-FIVE-OR-DIE course. Ripped a video of Alex bungee jumping from a DVD for him, which was a learning experience. I am now working on making TF2 videos. Also, we need to bring Charlemagne to Youtube in force.

November 5, Remember Remember the Day of the Failed Demoman, and I joined a group of Block 12ers going down to the Vale fireworks display. which was deeply impressive despite the being timed to go off with the sky falling on our heads. I lost my party quickly, but found a tree. This did not keep me dry, or help me find them, but did give me a better view of the reflections on the lake. With rain-sodden glasses, mass fireworks accompanied by various movie soundtracks became exceptionally trippy, a blurred kaleidoscope of burning, coloured lights. And twenty-four hours later my clothes are almost dry, too!

Expenditures thus far: £22 shopping.