my friends are rock stars

I have been terribly incommunicado this of late. First uni work peaked, then I spent reading week being ill and writing a novel. (More on that later, when it’s FINISHED.) And this isn’t a return to form, just a copout image post. Enjoy!



for the attention of the war studies faculty

BA War Studies students at this university already feel marginalised, under-taught and neglected. We are constantly competing with regular History students for modules that should be ours preferentially, leaving some of us with war-unrelated modules that may cripple their degrees. We have struggled to differentiate our course from standard History, save that we have even fewer contact hours than History students. We understand that this is not a “cut,” but an investment in postgrads and research – but from our perspective, it has the same effect.

The teaching fellow and academic advisor whose positions are about to be lost are the heart of the undergrad course. It is their work and their contact – in class and in office hours – which make the difference. They are not flawless – but from here, it feels like they are all we have. The majority of the War Studies faculty, while their academic credentials are impeccable, are not primarily tutors; some have no experience in education, and based on those who have applied to them for dissertations, regard undergrads as an annoyance to be avoided wherever possible. This may not be the intention, but this is how the department is perceived.

I and my fellow students already feel neglected. Those of us having our dissertations supervised by the teaching fellows – of which I am one – are especially worried of the effects this decision will have on our final marks; you can be certain this lack of regard for our degrees will certainly be in the National Student Survey responses. From an undergrad perspective, this is not an “expansion” of the War Studies course; it is a reduction to an already under-taught BA. Regardless of your assurances, we have no faith that academics who are primarily being brought in to support research and postgrad supervision will be able to give us the same amount of time and attention.

I get three hours of academic contact a week. This lack of direct teaching is of course traditional in humanities; the idea that independent study foists a spirit of critical thinking and removes the need for instruction is an old, and persuasive, one – and when a degree was Government-funded, this was perfectly acceptable. But today’s undergrads are paying thousands of pounds for their degrees; they will shortly be paying tens of thousands. The question will arise: what are they paying for? Library access? The minimal attention we are getting is barely acceptable now; no student would want to pay twice as much for our current course, if they knew how little they were getting for their money. No student would now, if the tuition and guidance given to undergrads is being further reduced.

This is an interconnected world. Web forums and blogs allow opinions to circulate widely with future students. This trend is becoming more and more developed; the outspoken, connected students of today are increasingly influential in the choices of the students of tomorrow. We do not only inform our friends, our younger peers, our siblings; we inform the entire pool of potential War Studies applicants. We are the ambassadors of this course. You cannot afford to ignore us.

War Studies, class of 2012

from now on, boy, this iron boat’s your home

Op Art last Wednesday, on the industrialisation of war, was the most technical lecture we’ve had so far (done by Rob Thompson, who seemingly has about the same mentality as me when it comes to weapons) and it worried me somewhat. Because I understood it all. Not just the better-artillery-means-this-tactical-change etc, not just the gradual and then intense ramping up of logistical pressures caused by the development of rapid-fire artillery and machine guns, or the huge parts system required by ever more sophisticated weapons and ever greater teeth-to-tail ratios, but the real technical stuff: deflagration rates, chamber pressures, hydro-pneumatic recoil mechanisms, terminal ballistics. I didn’t just know the ramifications and the scuttlebutt, I knew the physics and the metallurgy. I was a regular Hermione in there.

Also, Schlieffen had no idea what he was doing.

Though uni only furnishes me with two official excuses to go onto campus each week, I’m making an effort to be there – in the library, if nowhere else – more often, and it’s a good thing; I don’t know if I’m doing much more work, but I feel more productive. A couple of friends have resolved to do regular 9-to-5s at the library, which might actually be a good idea…

Part of this is a renewed commitment (christ, what a marketing-scumbag I sound like) to Redbrick; now that they’ve got some people who actually know what they’re doing to rebuild the website, which I’m sure is beyond my abilities, all I need to do is general tech support and fixing it when it goes wrong, which is well inside them – even though they use Macs. Hawk, spit etc. And I like Redbrick, and the warm office filled with friendly journo-hacks; later this term, I’m going to be unofficially doing Micaela’s Online Editor thing, supervising the uploading of WordPress articles on Thursday (ie, the exact same thing as I’m doing for money right now, but with copying and pasting rather than writing.) Talked with one of the uploading folks on Thursday, to find that she’s the sister of one of Olly’s Warwick friends – small world. I have also been spending more time in general chilling with Samuel “King” Lear, including an excellent curry on Thursday afternoon before going together to the Law-for-Non-Law Society… except as it turned out I got the date wrong, and it’s next Thursday. Well done me. Also went to a work experience fair, which was a huge disappointment, being basically nothing but large organisations datamining our e-mail addresses without actually offering anything.

Ought to be getting our essay marks back this Wednesday. Ought to. Group Research is coming to a head; two of our six never show up, when they do show up they say nothing, and when they do say anything it’s useless. One of the two opened today’s proceedings with “I’ll be honest, I haven’t done anything,” which pretty much says it all. I know this is public, and there’s a sliver of a chance that it might make its way back to them, so I won’t say anything here I wouldn’t happily say to their faces. GET YOUR SHIT TOGETHER GUYS, THIS IS PATHETIC.

Ned came over on the weekend; I made her the Famous Thai Chicken Curry and we saw the closing night of Olly’s Spring Awakening at Warwick, which was… something. I don’t know quite what I was expecting, but it wasn’t this.

…fun, though.

guns and butter

Every day Svetlana Vladimirovna works a long shift at the machining factory beside the smelter at the edge of her city in central Russia. The factory makes the best beds in the Soviet Union, all of them of exceptional fine steel. But no one in Svetlana’s city, including Svetlana, has a bed. This is an unfortunate but perfectly understandable matter of policy. The comrades who run the factory, and who have designed such magnificent beds, better than any beds in America, have decided in the spirit of the revolution and correct socialist principles that they must give beds first to all of the hospitals, and to the army, and to the universities, and to the collective farms, and to many other important institutions necessary for the people and the government in the world’s most rapidly and inevitably advancing socialist society. To do this, the factory must work round the clock. Three shifts a day, and only rarely stopping on holidays. It is understood that the workers need beds. But it is not yet the workers’ turn. Only recently did cosmonauts receive beds!

And so everyone who works at the bed factory returns home after each shift and sleeps on the floor.

One summer, Svetlana’s sister Natasha, who long ago married a man in Leningrad and moved away, returned for a visit. She was appalled that after ten years Svetlana still had no bed. After all, Svetlana was strong of hand and skilled with tools and one of the best machinists at the factory. “My dear sister,” Natasha said “You have not been thinking correctly. It is very easy to have a bed. Each day you must steal one piece of bed from the parts bins at the factory and smuggle it home. And after a week or two you must assemble the parts. Then you will have a bed. And you will never again sleep on the floor.”

Svetlana listened closely. “My dear sister,” she sighed, “it is you who are not thinking correctly. We have tried this many times. We have stolen the parts and carried them home. We assembled them in the room. And every time, after we finish, we discover that instead of a bed, we have an automatic Kalashnikov.”