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.