Confessions of a drinker student abroad

Friday, August 26, 2011


It isn't every day you realize that you're leaving home, and that the place you're going to, is so familiar and so alien. The roads remain, I remember the trees, but something is gone.
It isn't every day you realize that a good friend and childhood hero isn't away on vacation, you haven't seen them not because they're away at school, but because you never will.
It isn't every day you question your existence, your quality, your worth, and come up wondering what exactly it was that made you into this mediocre copy of your imagined self.
It isn't every day...just today.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Doctor Gatsby the Great

Bear with me, you will understand in the end.
Dedicated to my Dad and my older Brother.

When I awoke I was on the freeway, standing in the interior breakdown lane along with a crowd of people. I wasn't sure what we were all doing there, everything in my life up to that point had been a rush and a blur, I knew I had to cross the lanes of speeding cars, but not matter what the stream of metallic pace never let up. I ran along side them, trying to match pace, trying to go one lane at a time, but it was worthless.
Suddenly there was a commotion farther along the highway, a crash, an explosion, and the river of traffic came to a halt, I seized my opportunity and raced across and up the gravel path at the roads edge. I could see the mansion up ahead, the front garden strewn with children's toys. Something was wrong with the statues guarding the gate, they were different, and one was missing, it should have been there, I knew it, but it was gone.
I was in the lower garden now, alongside the pool, chaos decorated the patio, someone was missing. As I came up the steps I heard them talking, he was gone, the cybernetic servant, he had staged a daring escape, even destroying the statue of ____ the Gray that guarded the front gate, and whose ghost now stood in the garden demanding to know what had happened to his body.
I knew who would know, the Doctor, he always knew. I raced up the building to his suite and entered. He was kneeling by a case, he explained that in the case was a meteor fragment, taken from the one that had caused the earlier explosion. It contained oil, similar to our oil, but infused with cyclamates, he was very clear about that, the combination of nitrates and something else caused the oil to become enriched with cyclamates, which was what made it more potent. He took a sample that had been expanded into an orange fuzz and dropped it out the window, when it hit the ground there was a powerful explosion. With this oil we could change the world. But they were coming, they were after him and his children, there wasn't time to explain, the robots would be there soon.
I ordered the children into the back room and hit next to the door, waiting for them to enter. When they came in I was totally unprepared for them, they looked like us, only with sparking wires extending from their cheeks and across their mouths. I let them come in, only when the entire squad was in did I attack, rampantly destroying their horrid countenance. In the bathroom one of them entered the mirror and hid behind the Doctor's daughter's reflection. I stepped to the side and fired at an angle that would pass by her reflection, killing the assassin. "Geometry, bitch!" I muttered.
Suddenly he was there, the servant who had escaped, he lifted the body of one of the assassins up for me to see, it was a man, not a robot. When I turned the Doctor was smiling at me, his children were the robots. It was then I understood, Dr. Gatsby was trying to take over the world, the oil was for a bomb.
The servant grabbed me by the hand, we had to escape, we ran out to the balcony, the servant jumped into the gap between this and the neighboring balcony. As he fell he used his hands to check his momentum at each story. I knew my human hands could never take the battering of descending that way, so I jumped to the neighboring balcony one story down, descending by this method I fell one story at a time, but the building began to curve inwards, I wouldn't reach the ground in time to escape. I dropped myself faster and faster, but by the time I reached the bottom I had curved in to an interior basement, directly in the path of the escaping Dr. Gatsby and his robotic children, all looking for revenge upon 'The Evolved'.
I fled through the side door, reaching a car park, and raced around the corner of the brick building, trying to hide behind the smokestack as the army of children marched past. Suddenly there were lights everywhere, the servant had gone to fetch the military, they shot the evil doctor and captured the children. I asked the servant how he had gained his independence, when he had learned to think for himself and recognize that destroying the world was wrong. He looked at me and responded, "It's because when I was created I was made using PYTHON." I was incredulous, he adamantly repeated that he was different, because his AI was developed using Python. Everything froze.

It was at precisely this moment that my brain called out, "Bullshit!". It wasn't when the cars were driving the wrong way on the freeway, it wasn't when a statue had a ghost, it wasn't when The Great Gatsby was about a robotic servant abandoning his family because Dr. Gatsby was a maniac. It wasn't when I shot a guy in a mirror, it wasn't when the children were robots, it wasn't when the building curved in on itself, it wasn't when outside gardens became industrial parks, no, it was precisely when a robot told me it was developed using Python that my conscious self rose up and said, "I cannot take this anymore, I must be dreaming, and it has grown too farcical." Not even mentioning the the servant was the guy who played Johnny Storm, or that one of the kids was Sean Young from Bladerunner.
None of this was invented after the fact, none of this is exaggerated or in anyway stated other than as it happened and I experienced it, proving that 1: My subconscious is geekier than 99% of people and 2: Inception ain't got shit on me.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Away from the Arcade

Just down the street from the castle, near the Queen's Arcade, is nestled a small cafe. A warm place, with a dark wood door. There is a large window in the front of this cafe, an invisible barrier against the rain and winds, but a welcoming gate to the light of an early afternoon, or the golden beams of a kindling sunset.

In the corner of the cafe, where the walnut paneling fits seamlessly against the window frame, is a small table, nominally for two, sat for three and practical for one. Rarely is it occupied, as the corner intrudes upon the comfort of even one occupant. Even if one is small enough to sit comfortably between the wall and the round pedestal, it makes for a poor supporter, as one of its legs was damaged long ago, leaving it with a somewhat delicate grasp upon the floor. A hold so tenuous that the landing of a single fly on the correct edge might upset the balance, transforming a stage into a schooner deck and turning the stable occupants of saucer and cup into so many stumbling drunks, no more capable of retaining their contents than a beach is at restraining the waves.

A young woman sits at the table. Her book lies open on the opposite edge, while a porcelain cup balances precariously close to the edge of the see-saw. Neither the book nor the cup, however, are enough to occupy the woman's mind. The pages rest unturned, the tea in the cup forming an adorable replica maelstrom as the slender hand absently agitates the spoon. The pale green eyes drifted out through the glass pane into the street, where the summer rain pounded against the brick pavement. The swirl of overcoats and umbrellas parted, revealing a figure across the path, for a moment the eyes flickered, a keen light passed through them, and then disappeared when she realized it could not have been who she thought.

Her mind drifted back down the street, the falling rain disappeared, the crowds thinned out as night fell. She saw the hood, a shimmer in the dark and then the stillness. It wasn't her fault, it wasn't his fault they said, and he’d been protecting her. Three strangers met on the street corner that night, one never walked away. He was young, he was strong, he hadn't meant for it to happen. When the hood glimmered he had struck out to protect her, her that he didn't know. When the hood hit the ground there was a sickening sound, a gasp they would never forget. When the hood fell back he realized what he had done, a hood can age a person. She often went to see him, he that had saved her, as he sat alone by the window. She wished that she could reach him, explain why it happened, but that answer didn't exist. She watched while he faded, never looking forward, always out the window at the rain. He looked back on the corner, the glimmer in the dark, and knew he was the only one to blame. He tried to walk away, leave the hood there in the dark, but wishes wouldn't cover up the face. He gave up one winter evening, alone there in the dark, for a life, a life, and only one remained.

And so she sits by the window while the rain beats down. She wonders what mad fate drove them all to the corner that night. She remembers when he told her it would be all right, when he said he'd come around tomorrow. It was a lie of course, she knew it even then, but still she came to the cafe every day. The window faces away from the street corner, but all she can do is look through the window, away towards the castle, and wonder what life is like out there beyond the arcade.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Romance is horsesh!#

Wow, what a strong title, guess we're gonna have to say something special to justify that. Really I'm following a traditional journalistic practice of putting up a sensationalist headline and then following it with something that is either A: rather less overt or B: completely unrelated. Obviously though I have some beef with love...not really, I'm a huge fan, what I have a beef with is the modern portrayal of love in 90% of movies.

For example, I just finished watching Hitch. Now, for those of you unfamiliar with the premise...ah forget it, if you don't know what it's about, watch it. Anyways, this chick screws him over royally. Why? Because she's irrational, jealous, and lacks the ability to openly discuss issues with him before getting passionately angry. But this is played off as her being a loyal that it? With one circumstantial second-hand quote you completely throw away all gut feelings about someone just based on what your societal perspective has trained you to believe? Panther piss. She behaves like an unreasonable wench, and he does nothing about it, apart from eventually vindicating himself once his life is ruined, and the lives of others with it. Once he's vindicated he ends up crawling back to her, asking for a second chance. And this is where the shovels start working.

Someone treats you like that, you don't say, "Oh, well she's a proud woman and independent and I can't live without her." No, you say, "Screw her, hope she gets fired after being forced to print a retraction." You move away, drink in a bar, and hold onto nothing but enmity for her.

This modern portrayal of the proud man having to realize how much he needs the woman and then come back to her, is not how life is, and it creates a false expectation in many young women that they can do whatever they want, they're the proud and free spirit that he has to come to accept. Nope, you're both people, and unless you learn to behave like decent people and develop some trust, you're never going to make it.

I'm not saying men are always right, but they're most certainly not always wrong. This ladies first mentality was created a long time ago with the concept of chivalry. Men would idolize their ladies, protecting them from the world, and putting their needs before self and safety. However it was a two-way street, in exchange for this sort of treatment the women acknowledged that the men were indeed doing something remarkable.

Now, with gender equality, women want to have all the same privileges, responsibilities, and power as men, but yet they expect to still be treated like queens by men, who have passed from a proud warrior dedicating himself to service of a fair lady, to mere footstools of servants. We're expected to put a woman before all else, but not given any of the respect that comes with this endeavor, it's just what you're supposed to do.

Thus, love is real, romance is reprehensible, and Hollywood is Horsesh!%.

On a different note, I really need to stop watching so many movies and reading the news all day. I get an extremely jaded view of the world, and after reading all the news I am less and less inclined to go back to America...not that anywhere else in the world is particularly spectacular, but I see a lot less abuse of power and oppression here in the UK, maybe because here people just don't care, they're okay with letting the government handle it. Honestly I don't mind letting the government do their thing, so long as they leave us alone to do ours. And preferably stop bombing foreign countries based on political and economic interests.

So, yeah, that's my rant for the day, all two of them. Brighten up though, hopefully this will give you a laugh. In keeping with the battle of the sexes theme today.

And one for Fathers' day, cause I'm pretty sure my dad has this book.

Enjoy, and have a happy Fatherz Day

Saturday, June 18, 2011


Here it is again, saturday afternoon. This must be what purgatory is like. You know there's something good at the end, but the lack of good just drags on interminably. I apologize for not posting all the time. I re-read many of my early works, and now see somewhat the difference. Back then life was an open book, so full of adventures and unknown paths that simply thinking about it set my head to spinning. Now, however, I can see the future clearly enough (so I think) to know what the path before me is, but not clearly enough to wax poetic about it. 3500 miles and several months still separate me from my greatest adventure yet, but the distance might as well be in parsecs. I'm not good at seeing myself settled down. Running rampage across the continents, acquiring a reputation and stories, yeah, I could see that. For me, that's the easier path.

I've always been terrified of settling down. As the elephant in Servants of the Queen by Kipling, I am betwixt and between. I know well enough my own imperfections to doubt that I will overcome them. What I do not know well enough is the strength that can be gained from faith and a loving companion. I see myself as I am alone, not as I could be with her. I am a hexagonal lattice, there will always be a bond dangling from the edge (yeah, sorry, dissertation permeates my entire thinking process).

What comes after settling down? Do we like....get old in one place? I dunno, I've never spend that much time in one place since coming into my own. There were always jumping off points just over the horizon, future paths to consider. Now though, there is one path, and it stretches out as far as the eye can see, showing no signs of a divergence. So yeah, that's the difference in my writing I reckon. I am terrified, and yet excited as I have never been before.

So...yeah, summation, I don't know enough of the future to see the adventures. The adventures may be on a smaller, less Michael Bay explosive scale, but they will ideally be shared with my best friend. One thing I do know, there will be plenty more slow saturday evenings listening to music and watching the sky fade to grey, but I can pretty much guarantee I won't be on here blathering on to you, I will be on a couch, a cold concoction of reminiscence in my hand, and my other hand will be holding hers, and life will be, in that moment, perfect.

Sorry, no poetry or deep platitudes tonight. Hope your saturday evenings are mellow, cool, and shared by those you love.


Monday, June 13, 2011

Under the Setting sun

Here in Wales the sun has just set. The sky is still the lighter blue of twilight before the night goes dark, and it's 10:30. I would apologize for not posting, but before tonight all you would have gotten is a short "Here's my daily routine, gym, lab, watch baseball online, eat some frozen food, sleep." Which is quite boring, nothing new has happened, not much exciting going on. Tonight however two things happened, I played some futbol with coursemates, and watched an excellent film, these things have gotten me in an artistic mood.

The Last Word
As I said, I found this to be an excellent film. Maybe it's the writer in me, but I always enjoy understated, realistic levels of drama. Stories that are fabricated, but the people in them react in a normal fashion. There's no overt comedy, no melodramatic rise and fall, just life. Good things happen, bad things happen, a joke gets told in passing, and that's how it goes. Somehow the characters become so much more relatable then, allowing us to truly experience the emotion as they are. I vastly prefer this to films where the entire point is to be sad, or make the audience cry. Because while life can be sad, it is often overplayed into tragedy for the sake of an oscar, but even while viewing an intensely sad film, I often struggle to understand the emotions portrayed, because it's just too much, there's no empathy between audience and character. Because of this, The Last Word was a great film.

Well, it wouldn't be a proper evening of kickabout if both my toes weren't bleeding, but happily the damage appears minor, no massive holes or ripped blisters, just ones that formed and popped. It was a good evening, the only two shots I took were both on goal, but blocked by a defender who decided handballing was better than letting it go in...kind of a dick. Granted I also miscued about 10 passes and through-balls, but hey, I'm American, we're not good at this. I forgot how much fun it is to get a group of friends together and just run around. One of the more interesting conversations I heard was a kid from Libya explaining that he wouldn't be going home this summer, due to a lack of interest in getting shot. He was so matter of fact about it, "I'm not going home, there I'd be killed." Happily his family is safe, hopefully soon they can all be together again.

There's a shine on the green turf as the players take the field. There are no stands, no crowds, no refs, and most of all no salaries. Uniforms are only makeshift, those who brought a red shirt against those who didn't. With a rush the ball is off, whirling and dancing through the forest of legs. The sun settles low over the trees as shouts of Line, Again, and Center echo off of the surrounding buildings. The most common sound is the rattling of the ball off of the fence behind the goal, since none of these are professionals. The heat, the excitement, there is a joy in racing along the springing turf, legs stretched out and lungs pumping. Friendships are forged, respect is given for a well struck ball, or a well cut out pass. It is a game, just a game among friends. As the sun sinks lower many legs tire. The energetic runs of early on are gone, replaced by closely marked friends, casually strolling and chatting, waiting for an opportune chance to spend some of their precious remaining energy on a run. But eventually the light fades, the boots are removed, and everyone limps off the pitch to return home.

Anyways, I'm off to bed, early start tomorrow. This summer cannot go by fast enough.

Sunday, May 29, 2011


Just got done watching a film, quite a good film actually, where the main characters parents have just recently gotten divorced, citing the reason that there was nothing left to keep them together. After dealing with this, and talking to his parents, he finally asks himself, and them, "What's so wrong with ordinary? What is the problem with boring?" Nobody has an answer. I think this question reflects almost perfectly a primary cause of broken families in the Western World.

Originally people painted love as happy and peaceful in movies, it was beautiful, romantic and our realistic perceptions soon became too jaded to accept it. We knew full well that love wasn't always peaceful, love had bumps and bruises with it. We were okay with love not always being portrayed as 'eternal bliss' because when the fallings out came, the drama mounted, we learned something about ourselves, and always ended up coming back together knowing that it wouldn't always be easy, but we would always grow and change and love.

The problem is that even that portrayal isn't a true one. Love, life, boring sometimes, but that seems to be the one thing we cannot stand. We have been conditioned (by self or others) to expect adventure and drama from our lives. We expect the monumental peaks and dismal valleys of emotion, we want to have a rosy tinted photograph of best friends on a beach, and we want to stand out in the rain when our heart has been broken. But this melodrama that we have come to expect is counter-intuitive to real life. This is why when we reach a level place, be it a plateau or a river delta, we don't know what to do with it.

How many people have said, or at least heard, "I wish I had more excitement in my life, I want to have adventures." I'll be honest, I always wanted adventures. The problem is that adventures are fairy tales. Even when they happen in your life...they aren't real life. They may be a sustained vacation, they may be a diversion, but they aren't real life except for a select few. We all suppose ourselves to be the protagonist of the story, but the truth is that we are actually the villagers who eagerly await the return of the adventurer.

This determination that we want adventure, we expect adventure, has created an entire generation that seems to be incapable of settling down and living their own lives. Irreconcilable differences, that's what they call it. Or maybe even mutual agreement. A divorce where nobody did something overtly wrong, but both parties agree to end it anyway. Why? Because it's boring, they want something more. We may all claim to want a normal life, but what we want is a normal photo album. We want the highs, some lows, and everything framed just right. Unfortunately that's not what life is. Life is boring, love is ordinary, and if you are unable to understand the difference between boring and unbearable then marriage isn't your thing.

Boring is okay, it's fine, it's living day in day out with people you love. I'm not saying there won't be ups and downs, but they probably won't be high in frequency or amplitude. Today, you get up, go to work, and come home. Tomorrow you do the same. Only by seeing each moment together as a victory, something to be cherished, do you realize that life may be ordinary, but ordinary is miraculous.


Saturday, May 28, 2011

The Valleys

Along the gleaming rails of steel
The light shines off and away
Off to the mist lying over the hill
Where the road turns away and around
Around the ridge and into the veil
Of the fog sleeping close to the ground

From here in this city
Where the lights all shine up
Up to the clouds and the winds
From here in this city
There is only the sight
Of the rails running off to the north

Away in the valley
Where the houses are dark
and the hearts beat softer
Away in the valley
there once was a girl
whose heart longed for me, but no longer

For here in this city
Where the buildings are cold
and their arms block out the stars
For here in this city
I think I've grown old
Now my soul is too tired to wander

Out there in the valley
does a candle still burn
Alone in a window at night
Out there in the valley
do they still know my name
Or am I the one they've forgotten

It's here in this city
My heart made its stand
pitting pride against love
It's here in this city
My bones turned to sand
Wishing only my love had been stronger

Away in the valley
The valley so dark
her heart beat once for me
Away to the valley
I'll ride the last train
No candle in the window
No light from the door
Alone in the fog, but at home.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Bitches, Bernoulli and a Tribute to the Cobras

This week I've been locked away studying in the library for River Basin Management...when I'm not watching Boondocks that is. The combination of the two has lead to a great deal of learning on my part. Some of which will be imparted here.

If in doubt what to say to a girl, remember, "Bitches love smiley faces."
If wondering whether the girl you met at the bar is interested in you, just a free drink, or maybe just sees you as a piece of meat, "Only like, 25, maybe 40 percent of women are hoes. Naw'm sayin? I mean, if we go out, and I pay, it's like, I'm payin, dat makes her a ho." "But that's just considered common etiquette." "But I'm payin, therefore she's a ho."
Why is the modern man so effeminate? "All men have a phobia, some can't cross a bridge, some are afraid to go upside a bitches head."

Also, when your professor tells you the best way to do something is to perform multiple iterations to calculate a value, when you know what the final threshold is, you could, you know, start with the final parameter and backsolve through the two equations with only one unknown each to find the original value. Did it get the same value? Yes. Did it take half as long? Yes. BAM!

So, yeah, explanation of Bluetooth headsets. "Dude you look stupid in that headset, only thing you gonna use it for is call a bitch, and unless that bitch be martian there ain't no need for a phone looks like that."

Other than that things are going well, 1 exam down, another one on friday, feel confident of both. Sadly Cardiff folded like an origami expert to Reading, meaning the last hope for a Welsh team to move up to the Premiers is Swansea, it's like getting kicked in the groin to get on national television, kind of messed up.

Watched Alchemy last night, flick about a guy creating an AI that passes the Turing test so well that they run an experiment to see if it could make a girl fall in love with it. Geeky Romantic Comedy...granted the director/producers idea of geeks is, they like labs right? Let's put the guy in a lab. They got his title right, he's in computer why's he set up in a chemistry lab? Do they just think science labs need sciency things, let's put some beakers and funnels and test tubes on the wall. Except they're chem lab tables. Oh, and his fancy computer equipment, since you know, he's brilliant and this is a complex computer machine, let's tack an ordinary desktop, attach some bright lights, and then stick lots of other gadgets around it to make it look complex. So they toss in an Ohmeter, digital ampmeter, analog frequency modulater/reader (okay, so I may not know what they're called, but I used them in circuits labs).

Well, not quite in the mood to continue transcribing the epic of Easter, so we'll leave that for later.

No lie, I miss football. After the oldboys game on Saturday I was pretty sore and tired, but the awards ceremony was ledge, classic banter sessions, including sarcastic awards and photoshoots. These boys are like family, I reckon that's what happens when you spend hours in rain and ice battering some of your mates, doing your best to knock them down, and other times you lay yourself on the line to protect one of them. And it ain't cause you're getting money, or fame. It's cause that's what you do, and cause you know if the roles were reversed they'd lay themselves on the line for you. That's the principle of football here in Wales. No stopping, no quitting, no letting go until your boys are on top and safe, you hit first, you hit harder, and if they play dirty you hit them when they ain't lookin. When it's done you can chew the fat, banter, take the piss, cause everyone knows when the chips are down a Cobra is never alone.

It's summer now, the grass is green, the weather is usually warm and the sun usually shines (it is Wales after all), and when the weather is this nice the thought of winter is far away. The whipping winds and driving rain are a vague memory lurking in the back of your mind. The warm sunday nights in a pub with all your best mates nothing but a fond dream. And while we may all disperse for these glorious days of sunshine and freedom, it's a sure bet that when the leaves turn gold again, that field by the river will once again be torn by the pounding of football boots, the silent chill nights split from moon to trees by the defensive calls and adjustments. As autumn turns into winter, blue skies into rain clouds, the helmets will crack, the voices will go hoarse, and once again we will stand shoulder to shoulder, in body or in spirit. Cheers boys.


Saturday, May 14, 2011

Tenby and Caldey Island

Righto, presentation rocked, projects handed in, free time before exams, let's write some stories. Returning to the beginning of our adventures, herein will be set forth an account of our trip to Southwest Wales, specifically the seaside town of Tenby. Early morning train journeys, winding along the southern fields, ending up in Swansea (*spits). I had to take an extra shower that night just to wash off the stink. And yes dear reader, I flipped on the Jack Bastard's stadium, and all the houses with the dirty black and white flags of those low down scoundrels. Might as well have been the White hand of Saruman on the black fields of Mordor. I've been told that "Swansea isn't that bad, it's got a nice beach and the people are nice." I guess for the car theft capital of Europe it's got to have some positive least it was until the Jack's realized that being on the Dole meant they could lay at home and not even have to steal cars to raise the legions of illegitimate children sired in that cesspool by the sea. On the other hand they do have the Gower, which I hear is quite nice.

All I know is that at Gowerton station and American clan on holiday boarded, led by the proudly international but still sporting her metallic New Jersey accent wife of a local (well, not really local, he's an Englishman). She talked incessantly about life in the UK, giving worse than tourist grade information to a gaggle of her relatives. The children squabbling over who gets the window seat, the mothers pointing at the castle ruins. My favorite was the Jersey broad's lecture on what an estuary is, granted, she did know it involved water, but that was about as close as she came.

Eventually we arrived in Tenby, David and I made a beeline for the docks to catch a boat out to Caldey, an island just off the coast that had a Monastery on it. Out on the island we did a bit of the tourist shtick ourselves, walking all around it, visiting the old chapel, the cliffs on the outer shore, the fudge store (yeah, Monks make good sweets) and finally dragging our weary selves back to the dock for a boat back to Tenby.

Back in town we had some time to kill before the train back to the promised land of Cardiff, so we hit up a pub for some food and a pint after a long day of walking in the sun. We grabbed a window seat so's we could watch the street and the people while we relaxed in the cool interior of the pub. In both directions as far as one could see, about a block and a half, the houses were all painted bright shades of blue and green and pink, glowing in the evening sun. Along the street walked one of the most singular parties I believe I've ever seen. A lad walking with his girlfriend hand in hand along the cobblestone. Attached to the girlfriends other hand was a younger child of around 10-12, a little brother. You're thinking, aww, she brought her little brother on their date. But the boyfriend was also escorting a younger sibling, a sister who appeared to be around 15, and was wheelchair bound. Had either member of this couple been American, or at least the American you're likely to find in a seaside town, I can't imagine them bringing younger siblings, much less one that requires constant assistance getting around, but this was one of the most happy troupes we had seen all day, nothing but smiles and affection. From the comfort of my leather couch and cold pint, I remember thinking, these two are gonna make it. I sure hope they do.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Geek time

So, aight, it's revision week, which means I'm spending a lot less time contemplating the meanings of life and deep things and far more time reading journal publications that are so far above my head that the only appropriate units to describe the distance are measured in AU. So, any way, some of the things going on lately. Completed my case study, or at least significant completion, provided I don't wanna take the novel and totally impossibly geeky route of trying to prove self supporting characteristics of a cylindrical lattice structure at nano-scale level. Or instead I could do what I'm good at and focus on coding. Yeah, leaning towards that.

So, anyway, it's geek time. LoTR III, Frodo is having trouble carrying the ring, it grow's heavier and heavier the closer they get to their destination. They signify this by showing the chain chafing around Frodo's neck, and of course the obvious statements by Frodo, "The ring is so heavy, I cannot stand, I cannot bear it." The ring bears a supernatural weight, as is signified early in the films when the ring drops to the floor, instead of bouncing and emitting a ping as would a normal ring, there is a heavy thud and it does not bounce. Obviously the ring has a higher than normal density, leading one to believe it is not a standard gold alloy. So, here's the things we know, the ring is not normal, it is heavier than normal, its weight becomes so great on the slopes of Mt. Doom that Frodo is borne to the ground and is literally unable to go on.

Now, the Ring has a great influence over the bearer, only Frodo can carry it and resist the evil the ring holds. All other people becoming instantly corrupted by it, this is shown in the tower when Sam has trouble returning the ring to Frodo after he rescues him from the orcs. So, the ring is evil and nobody but Frodo can carry it, however, the weight becomes so great that Frodo is unable to carry it. Once he falls, Sam gives an inspirational speech, then, still unable to get Frodo moving, since he had no tail to twist, Samwise the Brave picks up Frodo, and begins trekking up the slope.

The problem with this is that Frodo is still wearing the ring, so Sam has just picked up the ring, which is so heavy that Frodo is unable to stand with it, and Frodo along with it. Samwise just slung a person and something that's massively too heavy for a person over his shoulder. Compounding weights, not to mention that the ring is now a point load, displaced off of Sam's center, so it's adding weight and also generating a pretty significant moment that would throw Sam's center of balance off, so he'd end up toppling backwards, or at the very least wrenching a vertebrae. Since none of these things happen we can only assume that Sam is actually essentially the Strongman champion of the Shire. Leading me to a new question, why didn't they just have Samwise throw the ring from Rivendell, Hobbits have exceptional aim for throwing, and obviously Sam could make the distance.

How 'bout them apples?

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Easter Holidays

This shall be a Chronicle of our doings far and wide this past two weeks. I apologize for not writing sooner, but having had no means of internet access, I feel justified, it was not through laziness. I did take many photographs, and many of them have stories of their own that I will write in due time. But until then we must try to sort through the tales in a fashion that will do them justice, whether this be chronologically, or simply as they return to me we shall see.

Over mountains capped with snow
Across the lochs where cold winds blow
From the cold north sea where oil dwells
I've come with many tales to tell.

Right now in my room it is morning, and my own belief is that morning is not a time for gaiety and the whirling confusion of pub nights and ceilidhs. It is a calm morning, the skies are blue and the trees are green, and to any observer this is a time for joyous breaking of the nightly fast before a beautiful day. However, the mood that sits on me is a reflective one, like a raincloud before my eyes, with thousands of memories reflected from behind me in the shimmering droplets. With this in mind I shall embark upon a tale that is not a joyous one, and pray your forgiveness when the song is done. But before we begin there will be a word of truth, this story did not transpire exactly the way it is set down here. In fact there is some doubt as to whether it happened at all. I feel that while my own two eyes may not have seen the events as told, my spirit felt them, inspired by some small thing observed, reach out from the past.

An additional word: my sincerest apologies to the lovely young woman in the foreground of the picture, it was not my intention to record you, but only the ocean walk, it was not until later that I realized my mistake and had not time to return.

The Widows' Walk

My travels brought me at last to Aberdeen, where the Highlands run down to meet the North Sea, it is there, nestled in between the Cairngorn hills and the gray vastness of the ocean that I spent my few remaining days on the journey. After a shower and night's rest to refresh myself from the train I set out upon the streets. Aberdeen is a small city, it's position never lent itself to travelers, passersby, wanderers or traders. For hundreds of years it was an island, adrift in the mists of the north, cloaked in shadow and fog, where the creak of the foremast and crack of a set sail were commonplace.

Yet the town has changed in recent years. Now there is a university, and the recent discovery of a hidden treasure under its harbor waters led to an influx of outsiders. Hundreds and thousands came seeking the black gold, looking to draw from the ground and the ocean the sustaining lifeblood for the machines that brought them. The buildings grew taller and the streets more crooked, leading often to darkened alleys and houses of worse name. There the evil that always followed a city boom could shelter and hide away during the days that seemed to always get brighter, as if the Sun herself had become interested in the goings on at Aberdeen and refused to be kept out of the secret.

It was on a bright and clear morning in the spring that I set out to discover this city. My feet bore me down towards the harbor, sensing that this was the direction in which the most bustling markets could be found. When I reached the high street where the buildings gleamed and people crowded, listening to street performers and staring through shop windows, my eyes drifted down a narrow stair and saw the harbor itself. Something about that stair drew me inward, the ships in the harbor, tall, stately, weatherbeaten monsters, called to me. I had not seen a harbor such as this on my journey, and it must have been curiosity that spurred me onward. Down along the quay the ships rocked and heaved on the waves, giddily tugging at ropes and bumping into the docks, for they had a day of rest in the sunshine, while their partners and fellows had gone out to work, searching for newer and better places to drill. As I walked along I saw more and more ships, all bearing the name of some large company, all sent here seeking the wealth of the North Sea.

Far out along the quay, where the harbor mouth opens into the gray vastness of the sea there is nestled a small village. I doubt very much I could find it again if I were searching for it, but on that day I simply turned a corner and stumbled into its midst.
There the brightly painted houses and shacks drove away the noise of the harbor and the shadow of the giant ships over the quay. Here Aberdeen had chosen to hide part of its old self away from the prying eyes of tourists and visitors. As I strolled along its gardens I was called again by a small opening in the wall of houses. Behind the houses lay the beach and sea wall. I peeked around the corner and looked down the path that lay above the wall. Along the path ran an iron rail, struggling mightily to be the last defense of the land from the sea, but alas, the only success it made was in keeping the land and those upon it from the sea. Far off to the north the sea wall gave way to a sloping beach that ran down to the water, crowned with arcades and small shops that crowd along every water front with the hope of snaring summer holiday travelers. It was only after a moment of gazing off to the horizon where shops turned to grassy dunes and bent far away out of sight, that my eyes returned to myself and saw what was happening closer to hand. Along the rail were several women, clad chiefly in black. Each one carried a flower or some small token. The eldest was advanced in years, a mother, and a mother of mothers, with her youngest heirs standing somberly by her side gazing out at the water. Other such groups were spread out along the rail, each one far enough away to be respecfully removed, but close enough to lend a shaky support to those on either side. Either end was occupied by the women who appeared most advanced in years, the cornerstones of this structure. Towards the far end there was an open space. Suddenly a newcomer came out from the village, a young girl, not more than twenty walked out along the path. In her gait there was something amiss, the strides were a bit too long, and the pace was a touch too quick, as if in an attempt to appear carefree. As she neared the open space in the row her pace slowed, each step more labored and filled with dread than the last. When she drew even she stopped, but remained facing down the path. With a start she turned and drew her arm back, preparing to cast something into the cold water, an offering, or perhaps a bribe, but her hand failed her, it could not release its precious burden. As her arm returned to her side something broke inside of her. She turned and fled along the path away from the village, but her feet were not able to carry her from the sea, after a stones throw they gave way, and she stumbled forward against the rail, clinging to the cold iron. The oldest woman there, on the far end of the row walked out to her and knelt by her side. She smoothed her hair back and whispered calmly in her ear. The older woman gently opened the young ones hand, and removed a small object that shone in the sun. She slipped the tiny thing onto the hand untouched by Time's withering kiss, and then turned it so that the glimmer disappeared. She helped the young girl to her feet, and led her back to the right place at the rail, not leaving her side, for the first summer is always the hardest, and it is only as the years pass that the spacing of the line grows. On a smooth white hand there glowed a golden band, the light that had once sparkled on the outside was now turned inward, a source of pain, a source of memory, there to remain in the tradition of the village.

The cold wind whipped along the pathway, stinging my eyes as I watched, blurring my vision. This was the way along the quay of Aberdeen. The powers to the south desired something of the Sea, the men of the north wrested it from the Sea, but the gray vastness that stretches beyond the horizon demanded something in return, an unspoken covenant, an unholy lottery. Year by year the vine along the path grows longer, the old protecting the young, as rosebuds turn into thorns.

Monday, April 18, 2011

The Brightest Beacon

Come now children and let me tell you a tale, a tale or warriors strong. A tale of old, a tale of yore, a tale of homegrown sons on foreign shores.

As some of you are aware, my brother is here now, if you're one of his blog followers that somehow found your way in by the fire, look less for truth here and more for colourful depictions and exaggerations.

Yesterday dawned bright and cheery, and then we pulled down the window shade to secure a few more hours of precious sleep. The night before had been somewhat uneasy after watching vampire shows, and just being able to feel someone else in the room made me uneasy. My poor brother shut the bathroom door and one point and I jerked out of sleep and was halfway out of bed into what would have been a teeth rattling hit when I caught myself, this was not post apocalyptic Kansas, and i was not being chased by demon possessed groundhogs...yeah, my dreams are a mix and match.

Anyway, Sunday morning, bright and clear. We met with Phil and made the trek down to Dewi Sant (Saint David's) Cathedral for the Passion. The choir was even more well coached than the last time I was there, their angelic tones helped transform a relatively plain building into the Sacred Temple that it was. I saw one of my nanomechanics professors there. Afterward my brother and I wandered our way to the Cardiff Bay. There to see the sights of the Torchwood fountain and the Ianto memorial, and feast on the rare delicacy of Eddies American diner...where they didn't even have the wall clocks set correctly. While ostensibly set to the current time in several different American Cities, they somewhat missed their mark, placing New York and Boston in different time zones, which pushed off Chicago and L.A. Then the Washington clock (whether set for State or District) was magnificently wrong, we were unable to even find the pattern followed to obtain the time displayed.

Today though is when the real story begins. I was up morning doing paperwork so I don't run out of monetary units, then to the market to get some bread and apples for a traveler's breakfast. Then we hopped on the train to Aberdare. I know I've been there twice, but I really love it more each time. As you go farther and farther north you can feel the city slipping behind you. Maybe it's that the forests are thicker, and the hills are greener, but it was a magnificent ride. In Aberdare we went straight to the bus stop, hoping for a #7 up to Penderyn. I think the reason I love it out there is the people. Here in Cardiff people are either 1: students 2: here making a living off the students 3: jaded city dwellers who are trapped in with the students but can't enjoy the sunshine as much. Out in the Beacons the air is cooler and the people are friendlier. Not that they go out of the way to welcome a bunch of Americans, but they're friendlier to each other. Everyone knows each other. The smiles are genuine. On the way up you see the children on holiday running around, because as you move from Aberdare to Penywaun, to Hirwaun, and finally Penderyn, you're going from a town half a mile across, to a village you can throw a rock over. In each one there's a pub, a chippy and a small market. It's sunny and playful. There's boys in the park playing football, smaller children chasing each other around a playground, and over it all a quiet peace that assures those present that this is safe. It's not the wealthiest area, it's not a place of big opportunities, but it's a place where love grows deeper than the pure springs of water coming out of the hills.

We went to the distillery, but that wasn't the true impression I was left with. When we got on the bus back to the city a young woman boarded at a later stop, she was quite attractive, but then I noticed the small boy with her. My mind ran the gambit, from "Oh, it's a sister" to "that's his mom, she's so young, poor girl" to "poor boy, born in a place like this". When we reached the bottom of the hill I was put to shame. The mother and boy got off the bus and a young man was waiting for them. His face lit up when they appeared, the boy running forward to his arms to be scooped up and held in one arm as the mother and father kissed. The young man was rather young, probably 19 or 20, as was the girl. He had plaid rugby in his day and still wore some of the scars from it. I realized suddenly, who was I to judge this family? They were young, sure, but there was love there, a love that I can only hope one day to find for myself. Their lives may not reach the glamorous peaks that we always think of as a success, but who's to tell them that living in a beautiful countryside, with a community that cares about it's people, and a loving family is not a success. May we all remember them in our lives, you'll never hear of them on the news, see their picture in a magazine, but if we could all in our lives even glimpse what they have grasped, we will have lived well. Cheers.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Spring time and Leeds

Springtime in Wales, absolutely fantastic place to be. We've had pretty consistent sunshine and 65 degree weather. I guess it kind of makes up for the winter. And what better way to enjoy the spring than with shenanigans and athletics. So, we'll do a football post, probably the last one.

Playoffs, an absolutely magical time. We've basically been playing for our playoff chances since November after starting the season 0-2. I clearly remember sitting in Live Lounge the night after we lost to Swansea (bloody Swansea) by one point. It was heartbreaking. Since then we steamrolled, going undefeated in the second half of the season, including the UWE bullets, who were undefeated. That 6 game winning streak was enough to put us in third in the conference. Since we beat UWE we were ranked pretty high, actually the second seeded team in the Challenge Trophy tournament, which was all of th 3rd and 4th conference ranked teams on the island. Since we were seeded high we got a bye week before playing in the quarter finals against Exeter. Exeter didn't quite live up to the hype, and we racked up 39 points. then came NTU in the semis, we railroaded them...sadly I didn't play, I sprained my ankle on Thursday before the game and was having trouble walking.

Last week was crazy, people were bouncing off walls all week with excitement. I got myself an ankle brace and doped up on Ibuprofen. Thursday was fun, I ran at Slot receiver and ended up throwing a touchdown on a reverse pass. On friday we all got on the bus up to Leeds, got there and crashed in the hotel. Saturday morning we were all up early, destroying the breakfast buffet, stacks of bacon and eggs later we all grabbed our kit and went outside to do starting lineups in the sunshine. There was an thrill in the air as we boarded the bus for the ride to the stadium. When we pulled into the parking lot there was murmuring running up and down the bus. All year we've been sweating and bleeding and freezing on floodplain pasture, and now we were going to play in a stadium.

We got into the locker rooms, music pumping. After a bruising season everyone was popping ibuprofen by the sleeve and slathering on icyhot. Once we were all in kit that matched for once, so we looked the part of a finals qualifying team. We actually got to do a run out of the tunnel to Enter Sandman, which was awesome. Even more awesome was the wait in the tunnel before running out, we were jumping and shouting and headbutting each other. Charlie and I smashed our heads (helmets on) so hard that a rivet popped out of my lid, literally I had a screw loose.

What followed was our most physical match, we got two receiving touchdowns early in the game. Then in the third quarter nobody scored. Finally, in the fourth quarter I got on for the last drive, we punched in a rushing touchdown on the last play of the game...not that I had anything to do with it. We ran weak side so all I did was headbutt a few linebackers. With the final whistle we were up 20-0. Next came an epic celebration, body checks, hugs and shouting. Postgame celebrations, ladding it up on the bus, and then after a day of recovery on sunday we capped it all off last night with a night at Tiger, which of course led to Live Lounge when a bunch of us didn't want the night to end. We all got home around 4:30 in the morning after a mackey d's. There aren't many better ways to cap off a night than shouting and screaming along to the Live Lounge DJ with a bunch of friends.

Anyway, here's some pictures, be warned, sweet hair styles are inevitable. Enjoy.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Lotta stories

So, long time gone, been shenanigizing all about the country, you know...actually I've been reminiscing about all the shenanigans back home, St. Patty's day over here was interesting, pretty tame compared to back home, went out campaigning for a friend, had some time in the sunshine hanging out with the lads. Then, since, you know, being sober on St. Patty's day until 2 is just a crime, at least to me and our one Irish born lad, we headed off to lecture early so that we could hit the pub on the way down. Sadly, they only import from Northern Ireland, so pints of Murphy's were all they had, but hey, for 2 quid it's not bad. Then we spotted a bottle of Bushmill's on the counter, asked the lovely barmaid how much for a shot, figuring they might have a deal like, 1.50 per or something, turned out, 99p. Cue up emptying the money pocket. Lecture was short, just a hand out basically, then out with some of the lads to another pub for some dinner before training. The rest of the night was pretty usual, training, sleep, no real zombie hunting, harassing of exes or sitting on the dock talking until all hours of the morning, but then again, not every St. Patty's day can be that way.

Saturday was Super Saturday for the 6 nations, all three final games in one day. 2:15 we were at the pub, I in my Wales jersey, Patty in his England. The Italy Scotland game was fantastic, and Scotland won, so...awesome. The England game was a travesty of awesomeness, for starters, if you're trying to figure out the definition of 'cheeky' as an American, here it is. God Save the Queen shares a melody with our beloved 'My Country Tis of Thee'. Cheeky is singing the latter over the former at the beginning of a major sporting a pub crowded with England fans. Somewhat akin to going to a bar in Columbus OH and shouting 'Go Blue'. And yes, I did, luckily my mates have a sense of humor. Ah, it was wonderful, Ireland stomped on the English, shattering their dreams of a Grand Slam.

Since then things have been somewhat blurred, training and a lot of stress over coursework, I feel massively underqualified for the project I'm on, no matter how much my professor admires my interest and keenness, it doesn't give me magical coding skills that are apparently necessary. Oh well, they made help files for a reason I guess, so idjits like me could remind ourselves of the syntax for an if/else statement. Yeah, that's right, I rtfm.

The weather here has been absolutely gorgeous, they say it will turn sour again, but I reckon spring is proper here, given that I saw the girl who inspired my last story again, no hat this time, but instead a Robin's egg blue ribbon in her hair...didn't really recognize the girl, but between the eyes and the ribbon, it must have been her.

On a humorous finish, apparently I'm too strong for British Mosquitos. A lot of people have been complaining of bites as the weather warms. Maybe it's my killer instincts, or my policy of relentless extermination, or the fact that my skin has been toughened by years of Georgia summer evenings to the point that they can't pierce it. Either way, it's nice.

Well, I'm off, I should probably check out some stuff on one dimensional molecular chains before tomorrow, I hate spending so many nice days in the computer lab. Cheers.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Thoughts for the day

So, after several internet arguments today, I'm gonna start saying some of the things I've been thinking.

1. Why didn't we just shoot Gaddafi 20 years ago when we had the chance?

2. Kung Pao sauce can spruce up cheap spaghetti.

3. Calling an American a racist because he supports Israel, while simultaneously saying that 'Zionists' are evil and the root of all problems is funny, because you're a bigoted little shit.

4. On a related note, 'resistance' movements strike against military targets, shooting rockets into hospitals and schools is not resistance, it's terrorism, and honestly, when you side with people like that, I hope you get kicked in the teeth.

5. Backing up your internet argument with an XL spreadsheet graph without any citations is also amusing...kind of like putting MS Paint printoffs in an art gallery.

6. Because it's such a 'classic' I've tried watching Friends...I have laughed twice, once, when one of the guys gets a new laptop and is excited over a 50 mB hard drive, and once when I realized that people used to dress that way in the 90's Watching this show is like breaking an arm using a hydraulic loading cell, it takes forever, but on some level you want to finish just so you can say you did.

7. England...I know you guys beat Scotland, but it wasn't by a lot....and that's pretty sad, cause, you know, it's Scotland, and they're terrible. (This is Rugby fyi)

8. Sick and tired of having a cold every month or so.

That's really all the thoughts for the day, I'll try to find more creative or entertaining things to write about soon. Cheers.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

New Day

Well, yeah, that's about all there is to say about last post. Quick anecdote, the other fullback feels the same way, I've switched to defense, maybe coach will get the point. Oh, well.

This week my dissertation topic was changed, apparently I'm now researching the impact of microstructure on crack propagation. It's totally cool, definitely not something I would never in a million years have put down as a desired topic to work on...except it is. Top that off with my professor sending me a dozen article links where I can't get access to any of the articles, stellar. Well, sad songs and waltzes aren't selling this year, so on to brighter topics, cause let's face it, who here wants to hear about how Grad School is hard and growing up and learning is difficult? Nobody? That's what I thought.

Planning a trip for post dissertation fun times. Basically I'm tired of rainy weather, so I'm dreaming about sunshine and ocean breezes, so I figure after I'm done with the diss. I'll pack up, ship my bags home, and catch a boat across the channel. Not sure why, but I really want to take at least one boat trip while I'm here. From France I'm thinking a train south, hopefully with a stop of 2-3 days in Switzerland. Then back across the country to Andorra. After I have my fill of mountain scenery (yeah right) on south through Spain and Portugal, visiting castles and such. Hopefully end up on the Rock of Gibraltar as a final destination.

After that it will be a hop and a jump back to the states, hopefully to a job, but definitely to home.

Oh, right, also story, went to the Reel Big Fish concert on Tuesday, absolutely stellar. The band right before them, The Suburban Legends, were also quite good. The other two bands were pretty small potatoes. Sub. Leg. did a song from Lion King, which was a lot of fun singing along with a bunch of other people waaaay to old to be singing Lion King. Oh, and the singer totally looked like Harold from H&K go to White Castle. I was down in the dance floor in front of the stage when RBF came on, and I almost thought we had a Who-Cincinatti event on our hands, massive stampede to the front was bad enough, but then the rebound wave as everyone at the front pushed back was worse. Cue in 1.5 hours of pushing and shoving and jumping and, a standard Ska mosh pit. The best was when they closed wtih Beer, and we started a circle, somehow I got bumped into the middle, and was one of 20 people getting pushed around a circle by some 50 odd people. Twice I went down, but everyone was really good, soon as people went down a circle of the larger guys was formed around them and everyone got up. Picked up a new CD and a sweet T-shirt afterwards, walked home covered in sweat and spilled beer, battered and deaf, but absolutely an awesome night.

I think that wraps up my week pretty concisely, perhaps a house party tonight, more likely I'll be sitting around playing vidgi games and watchiing movies cause I'm a homebody. Enjoy waking up Muhrica, I'll talk to you again soon.


Monday, February 21, 2011


Well, that was a shit weekend. Apologies for language, but nothing else really expresses how upsetting it was. Yay, let's spend Friday and Saturday inside watching movies and resting because on Sunday we have a huge match, it will finally be my chance to prove to myself that all of my hard work hasn't been for nothing. Oh, wait...turns out it was just two days and nights of staying in so that on Sunday I could learn a new life lesson. Sadly, that life lesson was not, "even if you do your best sometimes the other team is just better". Instead the lesson I learned was, "No matter how much time and money and work you put into something, it doesn't really matter, because when the chips are down, someone in a position of authority over you is going to slag you off in favor of someone less qualified and less dedicated for no apparent reason." This of course leads to plenty of time on the sideline to question your ability, and since you obviously don't see what's wrong, maybe there are things wrong in other places where you think you're doing okay.

Football used to be what kept me going, it provided comraderie, self confidence, and helped me believe that if I just worked hard enough I could make a difference, whether it was on the pitch, or in my profession. Instead, it's shattered all of that. So, summation of the weekend: everything is pointless, cause it doesn't really matter how hard you try, you won't be given the chance to make a difference, so now all that's left to do is wait for Wednesday with hopes high that I've failed at least 1 class so I can leave this hellhole.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Reunion Tour

Wow, crazy weekend. Stenger got in last thursday, that night was an epic walkabout session. Friday, since I had no lectures, we went up to the Beacons. Sadly the distillery was pretty much shut down for the winter, but it was nice to get out of th city and see some other parts of Wales. Once we got back from the Beacons we hit up the Mackintosh for dinner, then up to the SC for some pool. Saturday was equally as epic, went out for a full English before catching the train down to Cardiff City stadium to watch the Bluebirds. It was a great time, stood outside in the walkways drinking beer and watching the second half of the Manchester Derby, Rooney's goal to win was the most amazing thing in the history of amazing things, then back to our seats for the CC match.

Overall the match was kind of boring, until the 80th minute when everyone decided to play, at that point it was a given Cardiff would win, even though it was 0-0, just cause they were always on the press. Then, in the 85th minute a long cross was headed back in to the box by Parkin, then finished off by a name I don't remember to put the Bluebirds ahead. Even better, we were three rows off the pitch, directly behind the goal where it happened, seats don't get better than that when purchased night before a match.

Sunday dawned rainy and cold, surprising for Wales yeah? Still, we headed out to Llanrumney to show those Bath Spa boys what was what, when we got out there, it was even worse, lashing rain beat on us as we warmed up, every one of us was soaked to the bone by the time the game started, the pitch was an absolute mess, 4 inches deep in mud. We then proceeded to beat them like a dead horse in a Godfather movie...which is an unfair assessment of their ability and heart. Playing against one of the biggest and meanest teams in the league in horrible conditions. We specialized in power running, they in finesse and speed, both of which were negated by the mud. In spite of it all they were a classy bunch of lads, also, one of their players had the sweetest high-top fade and headphones, straight outta '92.

Monday...coursework, followed by 2.5 hours or so up in the pub shooting pool, which was a nice relaxing evening, except for the absolute exhaustion both of us were feeling.

Tuesday we went to lunch in town, then down to the Castle for a bit of tourism. It was cool, walking down stone corridors that had been in existence since before anyone went to America was kind of spooky. The empty beam pockets in the keep showed than instead of a hollow cylinder it had once held a great hall and many other rooms. A grand place of roaring fired and heavily laden tables. You could almost hear the ghosts of the old soldiers when you walked along the battlements. After we toured most of it, we went down to the Welsh Dragoons museum. It was just a little place, detailing the role of the Welsh Guards in the British Army throughout the years, down there though we ran into an older gentleman who worked there. He showed us the place where you could try on old uniforms, and even offered to take pictures of all of us. Then he would randomly pop up and chat to us about something we were looking at, telling us all about the American flag hanging there from the battle at Ft. Detroit in the War of 1812. The story of how the goat came to be the battalion mascot. I finally asked him if he had served, turns out he had, 11 years and change he had been in the Guards. He pointed to an old painting and started naming the people in it, personal friends of his. He told us about the other lads he had grown up with, first in reform school, then as drummer boys in the Guards, then as soldiers, and how they meet every year for a few pints. Sadly the museum had closed while we spoke, so eventually we had to leave, ducking under the barriers to get out.

And so ended the weekend, last night I had training, and Ben had to catch a train to the airport. It's back to real life for a while, but hopefully soon I'll be heading off again to see something else new and unexpected. Until then, sleep and work, and as usual I'll try to tell you a story or two.


Wednesday, February 2, 2011

New Term and the Unkempt Tapestry

Whew, exams are over. Now just to wait two weeks to find out how it went. The new term isn't bad, my schedule is rough on mondays, but because of that I get fridays off all term, which is suweeeet! Finally a day when I can catch a train and go a touristing. I'm also studying nanomechanics this term, and I don't have to tell you how awesome that is. Bloody love it, although it's kind of disturbing to realize how far away from the original construction inspector I've come. Who knows what the future holds at this point, but I'm kind of curious to find out. Anyways, I won't bore you with details of the Lennard-Jones potential, or Chiral spun CNT's. Instead, here's a bit of writing I've been thinking about. Enjoy.


The Straw colored Hat; or, The Unkempt Tapestry

It was a January day in Wales... a typical day. The rain was falling as usual, the ground was soaked, as usual. The wind was blowing, as Welsh winds are wont to do. Today though was a day of particular fury for the Red Dragon's attack. It was no mere playful wind, or winter gust that swept the streets. This was something entirely new, a wind that whipped at your hair and pushed you back while you walked, tipped your bins, scattered your rubbish, stole your hats, and made your eyes water. It was in this wind that I saw the straw colored hat.

The hat was perched ever so daintily on the back of the blond girl's head, delicately resting where it should by all rights be battened down. There were no visible tie downs on the curious furnishment, instead it seemed perched there, determined to stay where it wanted, regardless of the weather. And when I looked into the eyes of this girl I could see clearly why. Her eyes were the color of the Pontcanna fields freshly covered with dew, sparkling on the cloudy day when all other eyes had turned bleak and cold.

The girl carried a cello in a white case, with a single daisy painted near the head. She couldn't have possibly been much larger than her instrument, and her shoulders sloped under it's weight. Still, the head was erect, the eyes beaming out in wonder at the world. I stopped in my tracks, unable to explain what I was doing. As my newly taken position lay in her path, she could not help but notice me. I made a weak gesture of greeting, stated my name, and inquired if I might buy her a cup of tea. She smiled at me, a smile that had seen a thousand sunsets, and a thousand more sunny fields.

Abigail, that was the mortal attempt at naming this splendid young woman, an attempt that fell far short of the intended mark. However, while it missed describing adequately the beauty in her eyes, it resonated deeply with what she had to say. We skipped straight over the standard pleasantries that so often drag down human interactions. Neither of us inquired about the weather, or the other's studies, family, welfare, or hobbies. Instead, we spent the next hour deeply discussing life, and beauty itself.

I am an engineer, a practical man. I saw Cardiff for what it was, home to thousands of young people with far too much time, and desperately few inhibitions. It was a place that once held beauty, once represented greatness, now driven down until it was the home to a hundred seedy bars and clubs, each vying to bring in the most degenerate and wealthy crowd possible. It was wet, cold, dark, and dirty. Their drainage was poor, their pavements failing, and buildings crumbling. All the while I spoke she smiled patiently at me, until finally I simply stopped and waited for her reply.

She said very little, and I don't remember it word by word, but the spirit of it was a concept that grasped me so tightly I could never let it go. Cardiff, was humanity, at its best and its worst. Cardiff was where children went to grow into adults, they experience the violent extremes of ecstasy and remorse before emerging as a new individual. People came to Cardiff to find themselves, and ultimately it would not be done in bars and nightclubs, it would be done on Rugby pitches, on city sidewalks late at night, in dimly lit cafes. Cardiff was a tapestry, woven from frayed and untested threads. They strained and stretched themselves, but ultimately pulled together to form a beautiful pattern.

I still think of Abigail when I'm walking down the streets late at night. I think of her when I see someone carry a stranger to a cab, when the small birds whistle and sing in the early morning stillness, but most especially when it is dark, cloudy and windy, and some vestige of the beauty around me appears. Tonight it was a single Lily in a window. Th vase that housed it was plain, the flower itself quite small, but it was beauty, being kept and appreciated by someone who cherished what it represented, one tiny bit of light and beauty in a city struggling to find itself. It is then that I realize how the straw colored hat stood upright against the furious winds that day. It remained upright because it was beautiful that way, and it would never dare to disappoint someone who so loved beauty. Someone with a white cello case, with a single daisy painted on it, walking joyfully down a dirty sidewalk.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Super Surprise Post

So, due to awesome circumstances, I'm free for a few days...mostly cause I have a week till my next exams, so I'm taking two days off to recuperate. Naturally I'll be watching movies and drinking scotch during this break. Awesome things that happened today. I finished the exam in enough time that after checking all my answers, I still had time to draw an old, old wooden ship. Maybe that'll get me a few extra marks.

Also, after buying a bottle of scotch to celebrate, I discovred that I have in fact zero glasses....I have one ceramic teacup, but I would rather have something glass, cylindrical, you know, normal. The options present to me were travel up to Tescos and buy a set of tumblers...or improvise. Since I had just finished my 200g jar of Nutella, I considered it. The small jars have no threaded lids, just a plastic one that fits down over the's about 3" high, cylindrical, glass...yup, I found myself a scotch glass. It works quite well too.

Sadly, I feel rather anxious, not over exams, but rather, I want to do things. I want to travel to spain and take photographs, I want to do the same in Scotland and N. Wales. I want to see things...naturally I have no time. Football keeps going, and now of course I have the chance to go out for a spot on a semi-pro team. One division off the league that actually gets paid money. Not that I have any fantastic dreams about making the NFL or living off of football, but hey, it'd be awesome to play at that level. Then there's the whole, I'm more than 3,000 miles from the place I really want to be. But, well there isn't a whole helluva lot I can do about that now can I. I need ideas to write about. If you have anything, let me know, I'll do it soon as I get the chance. Until then, I'm going to continue killing brain cells with Fifa and Scotch, life is awesome.


Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Lack of Posts

So, 5 exams, the majority (read 'all') of my grades depend on these exams. So, yeah, I wouldn't expect a whole lot of writing during this month. Perhaps next week....but likely I'm off until february. Then I shall continue the posting of shenanigans and stories. Cheers kids, wish me luck.


Saturday, January 1, 2011

Home III

Well, here we are again, lying in bed exhausted, and yet sleep eludes me. So we'll do a bit of writing and pass out halfway through. This blog has gotten so dreadfully serious over the past month :( It's like....sad and stuff, or at least mature and dignified. I think it's high time for some crude humor...instead, here's a link that will always brighten your day.

Yes, puppies, because no matter how many times life kicks you when your down, or even if you're just bored, puppies are the answer, and the question. Puppies? Puppies! Bam, instant love.

So, it's a new year...woot! It's pretty much like the last one, only you know, different. 2011, now with 50% more 'extra', also more than 100% more palindromic dates, which is cool. So, remember that tomorrow, when your head is split in twain (yeah, I said it) and your eyes ache to move, and the light fairy outside your window refuses to tone it down, and the fly on your ceiling is just toooooo loud, it's 1-1-11, which means it's the same whether you're in Europe or in the States, and even more importantly, there's someone out there who cares about that.

Now, on to the seriousity, it's a new year, and if we all turn back to last year at this time, I was single, looking for work, and planning on staying in the Midwest until I could get the money/opportunity to go overseas, whether with EWB or join the FFL. This year? Yeah, haha, this year is a bit different. I don't really feel the need to enumerate the differences, but I'm sure you can figure them out.

So, without getting into lots of great and gory detail, life is different, big things are happening, oh my gosh my life is changing...yeah, that's what happens, welcome to the planet. Ahhhhhh! Writing gets random as time wears on and caffeine wears off's a compounding effect leading to an exponential decrease in energy and coherency. Thusly we arrive at the conclusion that when the spacetime fabric unravels revealing the giant universe monkey its quantum entanglement upspins the eyebrows of galaxy chipmunk resulting in a catastrophic collapse of the continuity of fields. Yes, all of these are words, yes, this is a sentence, no, it is not supposed to make sense. If it does, then you should probably stop mixing your meds. Moving on, I think it's word pattern playtime.

Curtains calling quaintly
Curtailed cattle quailing
At the terrifying sound of
Classic cantors quantifying
Canyon's calming quiet

Pole barn on the corner
and the dog is in the pen
The rabbit's run their way to nest
And foxes to their den
A white house with a garden
Standing by the street
A blonde girl in the doorway
Stealing one last peek
The car may leave the junction
And the town may fade from sight
But often will I think of her
When winds blow cold at night
The damsel in the doorway
Is the thing that we all seek
A girl in love, this rarest dove
Just stealing one last peek

Silent snow sliding slowly
Slipping slightly Earthward
Never knowing nothing other
Than the thinning treetops
Warily waltzing westward with
You wearing my wool hat
We walked with wonder
Down dimly lighted corridors
Of Birch trees white with snow

The clocks that spin and din and call
With echoes dim and shadows tall
Are silent in these hallowed halls

With trembling lips of rose and glass we whiled away the time
Wishing we could rise and sing of auld synes lang and gone
While slowly fading friends forget we had this final night
Someone's somewhere singing something sounding like a song