+4 vs France, stacks with the standard +2 vs France bonus granted by fighting the French

My 24-month contract with Orange ends in February, which is about 18 months too late. I’m basically paying them £15 a month for texts, since I never actually use my phone as a phone (why bother?), and that’s not great. So come February I want to get a porting authorisation code, up sticks from Orange and move on to giffgaff, who do very cheap texts and internet on a monthly basis. My current phone is a fantastically overspecced WP7 device Olly obtained for me through his black Microsoft-worshipping channels; I’m eager to get the net on it so I can procrastinate more tactically.

I phoned Orange customer support on Tuesday, while visiting Oliver in Cov for a massive baconfeast, and curtly told them as much. The bloke on the other end told me they could give me what I’m currently getting for £5 a month, if that’d keep me; I told them no thanks, I liked the giffgaff internet deals, and he said they’d throw in 500mb a month for the same £5. On a thirty-day rolling thing so I could stop whenever I liked.

Yeah, that works. Can you set me up with the internet… now? Of course, sir. You should be getting a text soon and then you will have delicious bandwidth. Unfortunately, as with the time I tried to pay for mobile internet last August, the text still hasn’t come through. Irate phone call tomorrow, I think.

I realise I have managed to totally forget my HERE’S SOMETHING I’VE LEARNED plan. So, two for the last two weeks:

1: Thermos flasks are the shit. Bill, Tom and I play a lot of Left 4 Dead, and campaigns tend to last slightly under an hour. Tea makes for an excellent accompaniment to shooting zombies, and preparing a cuppa before we get down to business is SOP, but halfway through the campaign, after fighting through endless hordes of the mutated living dead and with another few endless hordes to come, the cup is empty and we need more.

Solution (I can’t remember who first suggested it): Thermos flasks. Fill one up before the game, and in the quiet saferooms that link one running battle to the next, we heal up, reload, and sip our newly-poured piping-hot tea before opening the steel door and once again fighting for our lives; it makes for a very civilised zombie apocalypse.

mods are sleeping, post flasks

isiah fought but was easily bested, burned his body for incurring my wrath

The hair demanded one hour’s attention. The crown and back were smeared with wax and fastened back so tightly by a ribbon that individual hairs were liable to spring out again with an almost audible snap. Finally the head was liberally sprinkled with powder (at an allowance of about 2lb a month), and the locks at the side were curled up by one of the soldier’s comrades or by the company friseur at the captain’s quarters. The grenadiers had the special obligation of keeping their moustaches stiff and smooth with black wax, and in order to keep the points in pristine condition they used to tie them up with thread before they went to sleep.
– Prussian army, mid-18th century.

Essays were handed in at the end of a tea-addled writing marathon: a 4,000 word comparative book review, of which I remember not a single word, and a 4,000 word ramble on the recalcitrant indecisiveness of 18th century warfare, complete with unnecessarily florid language and opening quote from Edward Gibbon. My printer ran out of ink at the eleventh hour, but as for once they weren’t handed in in a complete panic, I had plenty of time to run down to Soraya’s and use hers. I actually think they were pretty good. I know I’m jinxing myself to say so, and I know I left some fairly important things out of ROMW, but yeah. Quietly confident.

Another term starts, and with it even less attention from the department. Crit analysis doesn’t exist any more, bringing our contact hours down to a numbing three per week, and has been replaced by dissertation prep, which I’ve heard nothing of yet. Group Research at least has some attendance these days, but we still don’t seem to be getting anywhere. ‘Nam is fun as ever; in the near future I’m doing a group presentation on Ap Tau O, in which Charlie ambushed an American armoured column and made armoured columns look a bit silly. I’ll get to a) talk about tanks and b) use the word “audacious” a lot, so it ought to be fun.

Rise of Modern War has become Introduction to Strategy/Operational Art, which is also cool (and has much more sophisticated weapons! Though Toby has a much too high opinion of the Dreyse needle gun…) but seems much more about theory than practice. We do presentations on various modern military thinkers, and I reckon I’ve drawn the shortest straw, focusing on two rather odd interwar British thinkers who had all their best work nicked by the Huns: Basil Liddell Hart (self-aggrandising wanker) and JFC Fuller (nutty fascist who thought he was a wizard). I do at least have Jon as my winghollyman, but why couldn’t I have drawn Mao and Che?

Ah well. We do what we can, with what we have.

democracy tempered with assassination

[16:53:07] sry_101: whats this i hear that for one of your essays you made up all the references hmmm
[16:53:21] Brosencrantz: the one I got 77 in?
[16:53:29] Brosencrantz: are you judging me? =(
[16:53:44] sry_101: a little
[16:53:54] Brosencrantz: mean
[16:54:04] soraya hassan: hardly
[16:54:10] Brosencrantz: cruel
[16:54:48] sry_101: no…now your exaggerating
[16:55:00] Brosencrantz: judgmental
[16:55:38] sry_101: hardly, those books in your room are just for show…
[16:55:53] Brosencrantz: IT’S TRUE THEY ARE
[16:55:55] Brosencrantz: I CAN’T READ =(
[16:56:21] sry_101: you’re doing pretty well at reading this
[16:56:29] Brosencrantz: text to speech software
[16:57:14] sry_101: you do ok with texts
[16:57:18] Brosencrantz: speech to text software


I took my degree not really knowing what the hell I wanted to do with my life (more on that tomorrow) in the vague hope that sometime through university I’d strike on a career I wanted to pursue. I think that longed-for epiphany (that word twice in as many posts; bad habit) has struck me, almost exactly as planned – but it’s still come as a bit of a surprise.

I want to be a solicitor.

It only occurred to me this Christmas, but I’m pretty sure of it, as sure as the tangle of contradictions inside my head gets. I hadn’t really even considered doing law, until a random piece of browsing led me to a page about What A Solicitor Does at the end of last term and I thought hang on a minute, I could do this.

Further research only strengthened the feeling. Soliciting looks interesting. It uses the exact set of skills I have, the ones I thought were doomed to be worthless in the real world. It involves lots of research, knowledge and cross-referencing, the things my degree is honing right now, and the persuasive, careful and formal written communication skills I’ve been working on all my life. Everything about this feels like something I can do, something I’d be good at. And (and the solid numbers behind this were the last thing I discovered in my research, not something that sealed the deal but something which sure as hell sweetened it) it’ll be a solid, well-paid job, something that will secure me the comfortable well-off middle-class lifestyle that I’m so attracted to.

I’ve had some great advice – especially from Miriam, my sharp and stunning BA Law blockmate from last year, and from Dad’s orchestra friends Tom and Helena, who both did conversion courses from totally unrelated degrees and are both very cool and put together people. Between them and the homework I’ve been doing, I know pretty well what I want to be and what I need to do to get there.

A one-year GDL conversion course at the end of my War Studies degree will put me on the same footing as those who’ve done a three-year BA in Law, provided I can scrape the 2:2 you need to get onto most of the conversion courses (I’m getting a first, I hope; if I don’t get a 2:1 or better it’ll be because I’m dead.) After that, the same procedure as the law folks: the one-year Legal Practice Course is needed to qualify me for solicitin’, and a two-year (paid – usually quite well) training contract with a law firm to get me up to speed also happens before I’m a fully fledged solicitor. I won’t be able to apply for vac schemes and TCs until next year (they usually open the applications two years before you actually go on the TC) but I’ll be sending emails to IP-related lawyers asking for work experience this year now. If I can get a law firm to sponsor me for a training contract well in advance – which I aim to, obviously – they’ll also pay my way through law school. I have a firm eye on one – Bristol-based Burges Salmon – but (partly because the odds are long against me getting them in particular) I want my options open; there aren’t any sure things at this stage.

I want to get into copyright/IP law. This may change – I’ll be exposed to the entire field for my GDL, and might strike on something I really like – but it’s what I want going in, and according to Tom and Helena it’s very good to have a focus. It’s something which interests me, it’ll (as Mr Reeve pointed out) have me talking to cool creative types like him and it’s a field that is going to get hugely shaken up in this coming century. Best of all, I understand the forces involved; years of arguing about piracy place me pretty well for it.

Law is competitive. There are a lot more grads than there are TCs; there are a lot more people than there are good jobs. The best get stacks of rejection letters; the worst get nothing but waste and debt. And law school is by all accounts a vicious, difficult slog. But I can do it. I’m bright, and I’m capable, and I can go far. This will be a challenge, and I’ve been casting about for one of those for a while.

and he said, times they got to change/but so do we

I’ve always sort of wanted to do a Year’s Roundup Thing, but they come off far too down-pat and generic-wisdom cliched, like one of those obnoxious printed-out Christmas letters that nice families send folded into a card with blurry jpgs of all their happy children and relatives. I already post all the interesting things that happen in my life here, it’s a continuous diary, so a highlight reel would just basically be masturbatory hyperlinked self-reference.

But I saw somewhere on someone’s LJ (I can’t remember whose) a roundup of Stuff I’ve Learned This Year, and the idea tickles me enough to steal it. When I get back to Brum I’d like to do one of these a week, because it’ll be a bit shit if I’m not learning something new every week at uni, won’t it? Which will again leave me without any New Year’s post, but whatever.

I’m pleased that there were a hell of a lot of potentials suddenly crowding my mind, so many that this might have ended up as Fifty Things or A Hundred Things or some other appropriately round number, but I’m lazy and this was a decent arbitrary number to articulate; any more rarefied, and it would have ended up as a massive essay consisting of far too high a proportion of sarky little one-sentence attempts at wit. This is the real thing: the stuff that’s been, if not an epiphany (lovely word, shit concept) something that’s surprised me, or enlightened me, or at least changed my mind.

Without further fluff, Ten Things I Learned In 2010.

1) Che fucked up because he didn’t understand why the Cuban insurgency succeeded. Batista had alienated everyone and everything – the military, civil service, the peasantry – and half the work was done for them. The lessons the Cuban revolutionaries drew were, counter to Mao’s subtle, long-term insurgency doctrine, that charismatic high-profile revolutionaries could act as a sudden focus for discontent and cause a popular revolt capable of overthrowing the establishment. Che tried it in Bolivia, without the long, long stages of building up popular, political and logistical support. It didn’t work, and he got shot in a nameless hut.

2) Women are complicated. Yeah, wow, huge revelation. I’m also complicated, and it’s mostly my fault when I’m unhappy with things. I don’t think I’ve learned any truth of my heart this year, and it doesn’t help that I’m instinctively chasing things I’m not sure I even want. But that whole “confidence gets pretty girls smiling at you” really does work. Be the awkward one, and nobody notices you; pretend to be clever and comfortable and on your own ground, and everyone plays along.

3) I can, on demand, produce writing I honestly think is good, and still think is good a month later. However, because of the totally fragmented and self-destructive way I write, it’s possible I’m never going to be able to finish something novel-scale. It’s been months and months since I started trying to write Blood on the Tracks, and I don’t honestly feel closer to finishing it than I did at the end of the first week, though I’ve gone through (and mostly ditched) more than 50,000 quite good words in the process.

4) Group Research is a wretched abortion.

5) In most things, you get what you pay for, and I haven’t regretted any of my relatively high-end 2010 possessions: good mouse, good GPU, good monitor, good overcoat. And I’m a lot happier if I don’t stress over the price too much, even if I feel an atavistic twitch that’s my Scots/Jewish ancestors spinning in their cheap, cheap coffins. (Exceptions: Sainsbury’s Basics peanuts, smoked bacon and custard creams, and those nice £5 trousers from Primark.)

6) Barrel length doesn’t actually affect accuracy. Muzzle velocity, yes (and thus range), but not accuracy, past enough rifling to put a positive spin on things. Heavy barrels are more accurate due to harmonics: light ones flex more and add unpredictability; these same barrel harmonics are why sniper rifles usually have free-floating barrels and why you shouldn’t rest a gun’s barrel on anything. According to /k/ scum, the PSL is actually more accurate with a shorter barrel; this is not improbable. The reasons short guns can’t hit things are mainly bad sights, which are mainly due to being short.

7) It’s actually quite easy to be perfectly civil and long-term friendly to someone while thinking them a worthless deluded knob-end; the biggest reason I’ve been totally incapable of suffering fools in the past is, I think, that I haven’t really had to. Be advised: if you’re someone I know in real life who a) knows about my blog and b) cares enough to be reading this far in, I’d like to reassure you here and now that you’re a great person and I’m not saying bad shit about you behind your back.

8) I am intelligent and can do most things I set my mind to.

9) Big, expensive, overhyped AAA games are actually pretty good. I got MW2 free with my graphics card, and played it when curiosity overcame the snobbish it’s-popular-ergo-it’s-crap hipster bullshit that had (along with cheapness) kept me from playing any COD game, and I was honestly surprised at how fun an experience it was, simply because everything was so damn pretty and polished and well-made. Not the totally silly excuse plot, of course, or even most of the content, but there really is a lot to be said for high production values. For reference, Metro 2033 is excellent in almost every way.

10) Everyone has feet of clay, but there really is nothing in this world that beats a bro or two beside you.