wake up, you’ve got a lot of things to do/wake up, the sun is rising without you

Term One is over. It was a good term! Let’s have more like it.

I have three things to do over Christmas. One is a 4k essay for Critical Analysis; the same subject as the 1.5k book review which I blagged in about half an hour for a 77 (which a little bird told me was actually the highest mark in the year; how did this even happen?) so I am not exactly frightened about it. One is another 4k essay for Rise of Modern War, which I have been doing lots of reading and prep for and have an immense stack of books to carry home; inside sources tell me that Toby’s marking is pretty savage, so it’ll get a good deal more polish and painstaking, though it’s half done already. The third is organising and planning a group research trip to the archives in London. Let’s not even talk about that.

The Big Things I was getting into at the start of term haven’t panned out exactly as hoped. Redbrick have obtained some tech support blokes who are (unlike me) worth their salt; in a meeting with them they reeled off TLAs with wild and gay abandon while I struggled to get FTP working (turns out guild internet was blocking it; still looked a right idiot.) I like the Redbrick people, but will, without much reluctance, give up the Technical Directorship that I am criminally unqualified for. The History Department’s staff-student committee might have been effective at tackling my issues if it was well-attended, well-advertised, resourceful, regular and capable of actually talking to the rest of the department; it’s none of these things, and the one-hour meeting I was actually invited to (out of two in a term) was almost a complete waste of time, in which a tutor basically contradicted the War Studies guarantees Flash had extracted previously, the complaint about office spam was pre-empted by someone proposing a leaving present for the spammer and a thank-you card for what a good job she did, and the suggestions for dealing with book shortages met with a flat “you can’t do that”. On the other hand, I have become Treasurer of the War Studies Society, which ought to be mildly interesting and will certainly, as every extracurricular thing claims, Look Good On Your CV. I was elected unanimously. It was nice.

Thanks to my brother, I have scored a sort of blogging job, writing posts for money; it’s about the same payoff each week as I would expect from the tiny part time jobs I applied unsuccessfully for last year, except it’s less than a tenth the work and I can do it from my laptop anywhere. So not a lot of money, but enough to cover my weekly food expenses with a little left over to buy small fun things or offset impending poverty.

I have also, after much casting about and procrastinating, decided on A Career, and something to actually do with my life. I think it’ll be interesting, I think it’ll be challenging but a challenge I can take, it’s in a field that is going to get shaken up quite a bit in the next few decades, and if I can fight my way through the qualifications and get a job with the right people it it will also see me comfortably off for the rest of my life. More about later; I need to talk to people about it over Christmas before I shoot too high. Let’s talk about that face-to-face.

I’ve gone and mail-ordered myself a 1-litre Thermos, after the problem of procuring lots of cups of tea during hour-long L4D campaigns was discussed by Tom, Bill and I. It goes very nicely with my 1-litre teapot and is ace for instantly making myself a cuppa whenever. I also fill it up last thing at night and have fresh hot tea in the morning. It’s lovely.

After a visit to Olly’s friend Taylor over in Sutton Coldfield this weekend, I tried to make my way home as eight inches of snow descended on Brum. Trains were a hilarious nightmare, though not nearly as bad as the catastrophe last January, and I actually got on one after only about fifteen minutes of standing in a shivering, irritated press of humanity. On the slow, halting journey out to Selly Oak, I struck up a conversation about phones with a couple of fellow passengers, and another passenger gave me a mint; it’s nice how well people get on when they’re packed into a sardine can pretending to be a train. As I came home, there was a car with its wheels flailing in the ungritted snow on the fairly steep incline at the end of Reservoir Road; I asked the driver if he needed help, and pushed on the bumper while his tiny son regarded me impassively through the rear window. I got driven the last couple of hundred metres home for my trouble. Did I mention eight inches of snow? It’s wonderful, breathtakingly gorgeous. I took some pictures on my phone camera, might upload them later if they’re any good.

My toothpaste tube has “TOOF GOO” written on the lid in black permanent marker. It looks like my writing, but I can’t for the life of me remember where it came from.

So, yeah. Good term. But I’m rather looking forward to getting home.

any old iron at all

­underneath the open sky says:
[16:59:16] ­http://www.myspace.com/sprangtunes
[16:59:39] ­don’t even ask about the background
[16:59:42] ­I don’t wanna kn
­Wild Bill Hovercraft says:
[17:01:12] ­are you sure it’s not just that one is obscured by the chain and the other is on the lower edge of his rock-hard pec and thus difficult to spot?
[17:01:41] ­http://www.myspace.com/sprangtunes/photos/2380661#%7B%22ImageId%22%3A2380661%7D I definitely see a hint of nipple there
[17:01:43] ­wtf are we doing
­underneath the open sky says:
[17:01:56] ­what the fuck are *you* doing
[17:02:01] ­I’m not staring at his nipples
[17:02:08] ­leave me alone
­Wild Bill Hovercraft says:
[17:02:18] ­you stared at them long enough to conclude that they’d been shooped out
­underneath the open sky says:
[17:02:25] ­I GLANCED
­Wild Bill Hovercraft says:
[17:02:25] ­you could tell by the pixels
­underneath the open sky says:
[17:02:37] ­and from having seen quite a few shirtless black men in my time

that gunpowder soufflé I’ve always dreamed of

>last train back from Coventry
>pulls in at midnight, no trains home
>too cheap to get a taxi, fuck it, I can walk
>about 7km home, mostly by canal
>but it’s late and icy and dark! there might be SCARY PEOPLE
>6’1″, black hoodie under black overcoat, black trousers, black gloves
>I look like a rapist
>do the walk
>solid black ice underfoot, starlit darkness, not a soul in sight all the way home
>canal is iced over, temperature is… bracing
>see an owl!
>ascend to street level at somerset road for last 2km
>pavements icy as fuck, roads clear though
>set phone to play music, put in hood
>doing my leo strut down the centre line of abandoned roads, Pendulum blaring from the small of my back

do it for Spitfires and afternoon tea

You can tell it’s suddenly turned winter: the sky is slate-grey, the air is stinging cold, the canal is wearing a thin layer of ice and, oh yeah, there’s SNOW EVERYWHERE. Alex has struggled heroically with various freezing pipes to get the washing machine functional; the snow, now throwing the world into a tasteful Brummie monochrome (and greyscale slush), presents me an interesting dilemma regarding my travel options in the morning:

– cycle (in my nice snug polo-necked birthday cycling jacket from Jez and Sue), as I do in more even-tempered temperatures: this adds more than a little risk to the equation, as the pavements and cyclepaths are murderous and I need to use the (thankfully well-gritted) roads. I’m out in the cold for much less time, but with cycling airspeed adding to the fast winds, the convection cooling is the cold equivalent of a blitzkrieg, massing overwhelming force at weak points. I’m tempted to get a scary terrorist balaclava from the milsurp store down the road; I mean, if you’re going to wear a balaclava, may as well make it a skull-print one worn with red sunglasses, right?
– walk (in my gorgeous, warm, intensely comfortable birthday greatcoat from zer parentals), which is marginally surer and safer, despite the pavements being foot-pounded ribbons of black ice, but much slower – it thus a) pulls me out of my nice warm bed into the loveless icy misery of the world a good fifteen-twenty minutes earlier and b) has me out in the winter much longer. The cold is less intense; it’s more of the brr equivalent of a Maoist insurgency, swimming like fish in the sea of the world, impossible to keep out, inured to failure or setback, wearing me down at all angles.

I reckoned my 2k Vietnam essay (Rolling Thunder, Linebacker and the bombing offensive in general; oh, Johnson, did you get anything right in ‘Nam?) for Rob Thompson was pretty good; had it basically done on Tuesday afternoon, for a Wednesday morning deadline. Then I got an email saying two of the books I had tried to reserve had *finally* come in, so zipped to the library and back for extra referencin’; these two books then caused me to question my conclusions and, um, stay up all night rewriting the essay. It’s probably worse now, but much more honest; and if it’s not first or high 2:1 material, we’re only assessed for one of them (plus an exam), so I get a second stab next term. Something I’m very much enjoying with Vietnam is that all our resources are digital, so there’s none of the scarcity nonsense getting in my way. Since ‘Nam is going to be an ever-increasing proportion of my reading, I’m seriously tempted to ask for an e-reader for Christmas… James showed me the Kindle his dad gave him in ROMW a couple of weeks ago, and I was dead impressed by it.

The same unnecessary scarcity is, however, damaging our Critical Analysis module. As with Practising History last year, there simply aren’t enough books; while our excellent tutor Simone is willing to slave over a scanner all day churning out hundreds of pages of .pdf so that we can actually get the reading, the department would gig her for copyright, so instead she’s having to spend two, three times as long at the photocopier, making deadtree copies that we still have to fight over and then give back – which is still illegal, just the department will overlook it. (This story at least does have a happy ending, but not one I’ll admit to here; IM me.)

Speaking of Critical Analysis, I got back my 1500-word book review (which seemed to be far, far less work than the 2,000 word essay) – 77! I think that’s my highest mark ever for an individual piece, and a good omen as it’s my first piece of work which actually contributes to my final mark, though it’s worth a mere 6 credits. That’s… 1/40th of my degree, though, so not to be sneezed at. I have plenty of other reasons for sneezing.

On the theme of department bullshit, Aisha Benachour has been replaced by David METCALFE-CARR (as he signs his emails, must be an alpha male thing) for admin; still no BCC, still get dumb spam, overall seems a bit SSDA. But I went and asked him about it, and it turns out the outdated junk software they’re using doesn’t even support BCC, and they’ve been trying to get on the horn to IT for a while and IT are giving them the cold shoulder. It’s all very Wire-ish: trying to do more with less, running on a shoestring as the uni takes away most of the fees for arts students; the department is failing us, in numerous important ways, but they in turn are being failed by the system, and good, well-meaning people (if I give them the benefit of the doubt) are unable to do their jobs because the institutions they’re trying to work through have different pressures. I suppose it’s tough all over. Tomorrow is the first Staff-Student Committee I’ve actually been invited to; I’ll try not to be too hard on them.

just like with their cars, the French don’t copy anyone, and nobody copies the French

Right. Rise of Modern War questions have come through, and I’m going to do my level best to get this essay done before the Christmas hols start, to avoid having it hanging over my head by a procrastination horsehair like a 20 credit Sword of Damocles.

Unfortunately, they are bastard questions. WTGAW = Way Too Generalised And Wanky, my catchall “don’t like this one”: it’s not a question which (I think) has enough decent historiography arguing over it, or it’s too vague to be well and easily answered without neglecting a good part of the question, or it’s just a crap question.

1. How did the recruitment of Thirty Years War armies impact on the societies that they drew upon?
WTGAW. The Thirty Years War lasted THIRTY YEARS (it’s in the name) and involved a huge number of different European societies which it affected differently; plus, this is social history, and I’m crap at it. It would probably end up as a comparative case study of Sweden, Scotland, Swabia and Switzerland, and I’m uncomfortable with that much alliteration.

2. In what way did military theoreticians of the Eighteenth century attempt to resolve ‘the recalcitrant indecisiveness of warfare’? Refer to at least two writers in your answer?
I’m probably going to do this one, because it follows on nicely from the Military Revolution stuff and lets me use the excellent Roger of Orrery quote for a third flipping time; but while there are plenty of books on the changing face of war at the time, it’s going to be annoying nailing down with good references references exactly what those Theoreticians actually said. I’ll go for Maurice de Saxe and Frederick the Great, I think, two of the period’s great characters.

3. Account for the fact that the war for the Spanish throne from 1701 to 1713 was primarily fought in the Low Countries.

4. What impact did technology have on war at sea in the Eighteenth century?
I have no idea, but this is my backup plan; should be an open-and-shut one if the reading is good.

5. ‘Napoleon was no great innovator; he merely adapted what he found to his purpose.’ Discuss.
WTGAW, a question which first requires me to define “innovator” and will result in endless semantic bollocks. Denied.

6. What determined the strategy of Louis XIV’s wars? How successful was this policy?
Interesting, but verging on WTGAW. Biggest issue is that I don’t know if there’s a simple answer; was it an early balance of power thing?

7. Was colonial expansion between 1713 and 1815 driven my military opportunism, or vice versa?
WTGAW; a hundred years on a topic covering the entire planet in 4k words?

8. Many writers have focussed on the failure of British strategy in the American War of Independence. Have these been fair or accurate judgements?
WTGAW, holy shit. Do not make me define “fair” and “accurate” in an essay, that’s philosophy, not history. The question boils down to “Are you a revisionist? Justify your revisionism in 4k words with references. Also, lol the wretched colonials won.”

9.‘Prussia’s rise to Great Power status was entirely the product of its military machine.’ Does this strike you as a valid proposition?
WTGAW, too many factors flying around.

10. How far was nationalism a driving force in the outbreak of wars before 1815?