Confessions of a drinker student abroad

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?