In Which I Decide To Get A Job And Shelve The PhD Plans

There are several reasons for this. First and foremost is the oddest feeling in which I want a job after spending the last four years in permanent academia. The second is my growing frustration with this odd world that is academia.

To cover the second point first: Initially I was overawed by the proliferation of intellectual horsepower everywhere I turned, now I am just disappointed at the massive emotional immaturity of many of these late 20s to early 40s academics. Sure, they are v clever and have worked v hard to get where they are. What most have managed to dodge is the real world. In the real world there is a vast spectrum of people. In academia they probably get the top 10% or so of the population, with the obvious exception of Geography and Media Studies pupils. This means that they, the academics, navigate through life not having any strategies for dealing with thickies like me. I may be enthusiastic but I am definitely on the outside looking in. They just don’t get this. All they know is being inside the academic bubble dealing with other like-minded people. It has been a very frustrating experience so far. I can bleat on  about Sheffield being the wrong place to be for what interests me, but it isn’t the fault of the University. I only seem to be able to work these things out with hindsight and whenever I try and get in front of things the academic “help” (and I use the term help very loosely) has proved to be absolutely effing useless.

Getting a job though, that will be the next challenge. If the last 4 years has taught me anything it has been that the sort of job I want is helping/influencing or teaching. Obviously I write this in the full knowledge that any potential employer is likely to come across this. Hello, I hope you are enjoying reading instead of looking at predictably dull but non-existent pictures of me larging it up with the lads. Possibly saran-wrapped naked to a lamppost and doused in baby oil with inappropriately worded and mis-spelt remarks etched on my forehead in red lipstick? Nope. Just this.

I am looking at the UNHCR, teaching or working in some sort of policy formation/advice role, possibly with an NGO. I need to get through (pass) this semester and then write up my dissertation this summer. Working title of “The Anatomy Of Environmental Denial”.

More to come…

Advertisements

An Imbalance In The (Charitable) Force

Fo a bit of context: I have moved 150 miles away from home to pursue an MSc at a good university. It has a great big Students Union (SU) building and more often than not there is a gentleman in the foyer selling the Big Issue, about my age. This means that he is homeless and is working to rectify that rather than just expecting others to do the heavy lifting. I find that most inspiring and endeavour to give him my spare change. However, this post is not about my charitable choices though, it is about Rob.

Today I spoke the the gentleman, he is called Rob. Rob stood there talking to me telling me a bit about his story and how, after 10 years, he has got his first flat and doesn’t have to live rough anymore. All the time Rob is holding a bulging rucksack and after a few minutes excuses himself to put it down. I asked what was so heavy and Rob astonished me with his reply.

Rob pointed at the SU foodbank collection and explained that he has brought in some tinned food for the foodbank. My jaw hit the floor and I checked that he, Rob, the chap selling the Big Issue, who has been homeless for some time, who is clearly just making it with a frayed shirt collar etc etc, was giving food to the food bank. In his soft voice he said, without any hint of irony, that there were people worse off than him, it was from his spare income (WTF???) so he was just giving the little bit that he could.

Capitalising on the shock on my face he wordlessly reached in his bag and produced a Christmas card for me, a regular. I was humbled and had to thank him and walk away as I thought I was going to cry from the huge mix of emotions that welled up in me. Shock, shame, relief, wealth etc. It really was rather overwhelming, for moments before I was cursing the feeling of deep fatigue brought on by my endless petty sicknesses that I have had since coming to Sheffield. It was a really sucky feeling that was jolted into perspective by Rob.

It is easy to intellectualise about the plight of others distant from you, share in a sense of empathy and be horrified at the people around you that don’t seem to care. If you want to do anything to make a difference this Christmas go up to a stranger like Rob, engage them in conversation and prepare to be surprised. Me? Stuff like this throws me more and more. Perhaps it is age.

 

Decoupling Eugenics From Race Class And Gender: Can It Be Done?

Is this even possible? I believe that with the advances in genetic (I use the term broadly) science the human race has gained a credible means of insight into the how and why of many inherited diseases. If eugenic practice was a voluntary undertaking where, regardless of one’s race, class or gender, the state offered equal access to all to discover more about their genetic predisposition, so that they can choose if they want to breed, that would be a good thing to eliminate some diseases.

There are many  many issues with this utopian view of choice being in the hands of the people. There are many issues and to touch on a few: Firstly, wealth is an issue. National wealth in the form of countries means that this would only be possible in some parts of the world. In others the richest could do this and the poorest could not even dream of it. Secondly, education is key. What is the point of clutching test results that you are unable to contextualise, analyse and render you liable to irrational influencers such as theists or racists? Thirdly, unless there exists (and there still doesn’t) an equality of the sexes then the more powerful, – usually us men – could exert a greater than 50% influence of a decision making process. Finally, until we look at ourselves as one human race then it is unlikely that eugenics will lose its Nazi/Racist/Sexist/Classist taint.

Eugenics is a fine theory for improving the health of the population but it is fraught with impossibilities that we, the people trying to improve ourselves, bring to it. Introduce me to someone who isn’t prejudiced. We are all prejudiced to a greater or lesser extent, so we are condemned to try and learn to be satisfied with who we are. Warts and all.

 

 

Revolutionary Secrets Revealed

It’s not often that I’ll throw food away that I have bought, especially cake. However,  I think I may have unwittingly stumbled on the secret weapon that the Ukrainian people have used to prosecute their revolution.

To explain; today there was a food fair put on by the various Oxford International Societies so as a loyal member of IRSoc I scooted up there to show solidarity, by eating their food. Having done a lap of the hall to see what was on offer I decided to eat from stalls representing places I have never been. I settled on a Jamaican Lamb Patty that was gorgeous but lacked authentic hot sauce (wtf?) to drown it in.

Having a bit of spare space in my tummy I sidled over to the Ukrainian stall and partook of a delicious herring and beetroot w. potatoes concoction.  I was then further seduced by the sight and sound of a Sour Cream Cake that had an impressive layered construction, so I parted with a further two quid. I didn’t realize that it is actually intended for disabling armoured vehicles, such was its density. Initially I thought it was a rather parsimonious portion for my £2. How wrong I was as the plate sagged in my hand and the plastic fork splintered when I tried to cut a piece off. However, I wasn’t going to let a mere mechanical failure deter me from eating my cake so with some effort I hoicked the piece up and after several mouthfuls conceded defeat and binned it. It made a rather disturbing thump when it bottomed out in the bin.

As I left the last thing I saw as I glanced over my shoulder was the sight of some poor chap trying to lift out the bin-liner to replace it with an empty one. Poor chap, it looks like several people before me had had the same idea. His back, my tummy.

Free At Last

In fairness, finishing my first term of Uni isn’t quite up there with gaining civil rights plus I am a middle-class white boy. Nonetheless, and though it shall pass, for the moment I am sitting in bed with coffee just feeling as if some tyrannical yoke – of capitalist oppression? Apologies, still writing for exams – has been lifted. If I were on the other side of this post I should scoff at the whingeing student bleating away. From this side all I can remark on was how bloody tough it has been this first term.

I imagine it is largely to do with my congenital idleness married to the first formal academic environment since school finished some *ahem* twenty years ago. It was a shock. On induction day we had warnings about trying to do anything else other than study. Two day long lectures plus one, one hour tutorial a week  meant I indulged in a small snort of derision. I was so very wrong. Part-time job has gone, much socialising has gone, girlfriend has gone and application has steadily increased. Although I am not up to the additional voluntary thirty hours a week of self-directed input suggested, I am creeping towards it.

All I need to do today is get ready to go to Canuckistan by buying dollars, chucking a few shirts in a bag and indulging in totally guilt-free feelings of excitement that precipitate a trip home to B.C.

If you are my mother’s neighbour in Canada and are reading this then I remember your kind remarks and will drop by to say hello. Two options for you are now available: battening down the hatches, turning off the lights and cowering in a back room pretending you are not in (a very British way of dealing with Trick or Treaters incidentally) or alternatively, mines an egg-nog laced with rum thank you very much.

These last two to three weeks has been a time of a relentlessly steady but minutely incremental application of pressure. If anyone wants to know about the Hegelian dialectic approach to crude Marxist theory please don’t expect me to enlighten you. No essays, no revision and no exams. Free, free at last. Well until next January.

Bah Humbug

God Hates Atheists

The onset of winter brings the inevitable start of perennial rounds of man-flu. Usually it times itself to coincide w. the start of a holiday, a fact that can be explained by my atheism. It’s a well known fact that God hates us and he/she/it has singled me out to be a particular bastard to. I mean, why wouldn’t he/she/it? Us Atheists are easy targets because there are relatively few of us amongst the population, so it must be a target-rich environment for a vengeful deity.

To ensure I am being totally accurate in my assertion I must check with my favourite Atheist – a Northern farm boy – if he feels similarly picked on. Possibly just a persecution complex of mine but two of us ought to constitute a scientific fact. Any fule knos that.

Let me demonstrate what I mean about bad science: I was asked for a hot-toddy by a colleague the other day and was then upbraided for making it w. boiling water because, and I quote here, “you’ll kill the all the vitamins in the lemon juice”. When I tried to explain that vitamins are a chemical entity and not living things I was met w. a pitying look, a resigned headshake and the pronouncement that it was a well known fact, go look on the internet. That’s me corrected then. I started to protest by invoking boring things like science etc and was then struck by the saying, “Never argue with an idiot as they’ll drag you down to their level and beat you with experience.” I was going to point out that it is possible to remove the vit-C w. boiling water, but providing one drank said water you’d still get it. The facts are just so boring when they contradict folklore.

Right-ho. Cancelled my tutorial and now need whisky, honey and lemons for hot-toddy. Am off to Google some facts, pray for good health and murder some vitamins.

Fish Fingers

I was eating fish fingers and couldn’t think of a title ok? FYI they are best eaten in large quantities (6+) with a nice pinkish swirling of ketchup and mayo. *Burp*

Moving on; I was in quiet repose with a cup of coffee this morning when I had a sudden wave of guilt for not posting for a while. This usually passes as this one nearly did. That is until I sat down with a stack of the aforementioned and went through my email to find that a friend had sensibly upgraded her domain to direct to her blog, when I see that Idleness is listed as a suggested read.  Interestingly I reside beside my ex’s blog. She is a far more accomplished writer IMHO so if you have stumbled here from Moon Landings (another ex from long long ago and a very sound lady. Employ her, you won’t regret it) then I suggest you read some proper decent English and go to Musings From The Sofa.

Still here? Right then, a small catch-up. Car sold to Harold and Albert. Heard of dirty money? This lad paid nearly ten grand in the dampest, stinkiest twenty pound notes. You know how the bank counts notes by weighing them? No chance as these were too damp. And smelly. Really really smelly. The cashier was not thrilled at having to hand count the entire lot.

Uni starts in less than a week and I am apprehensive and anticipatory in equal measure. Like most things I have imagined they rarely turn out to be as elaborate as that which I have designed and constructed in my mind. I am expecting to be surrounded by a load of Marxists who think that the Labour Party is a load of centre ground sell-outs. This view has been based upon one meeting I attended where there was a proper swivel-eyed loon who was too easy to goad (I resisted). Good value in small doses as he firmly believed that PR companies, whatever their size, existed solely to put a glossy spin on the exploitation of a firm’s workers. All points were made with much finger jabbing, bulging eyes and a final, if repetitive, verbal flourish of advocating revolution as the only credible answer. To everything. I then got a reading list, which contained some *ahem* interestingly presented arguments. Finally, the list for societies to join during Freshers week has a certain bent. I have no truck with the People of Palestine yet nor do I wish to overtly show friendship by enrolling with the Friends of Palestine. I can only imagine the meetings; The People’s Front For The Liberation of Judea anyone? Still, Freshers Week proper is the following week. I’ll see if there is a bourgeois socialists Porsche driving wine appreciation society, or similar. Additionally I can’t wait for my Bod Card as it means 1yr of swimming is £80. Bargain. All that aside I am looking forward to it immensely and wondering about the right time to deploy red trousers and moleskin jacket.

Living life in reverse is what I have dubbed my existence now. I am a bicycle only student with a bar job where I am surrounded by beautiful people half my age that seem to live a work, drug and alcohol fuelled existence. It’s a funny mix as I refuse to live in the typical student hovel, my girlfriend is a grown-up with a proper job and a dog, I look at drugs and think “yeah, been there, not anymore,  thanks for your kind offer” in a genuinely polite way as offering ones stash to strangers is nothing if not generous and costly.

Am five days away from another juddering change of direction. To put it all in perspective Heloise casually asked me during breakfast the other day, “Daddy, where is the edge of the universe?” We jointly decided that our entire universe was but a single atom in the universe of another little girl.