Confessions of a drinker student abroad

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.