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A Dabble in Academia, Apparently.

It’s been nine months since my last post on this blog. Since then babies have been conceived, born and named. It’s a long time, and really not conducive to a lively and well-maintained blog. But here I am again, returning once more to my lonely little blog, and really aiming to reacquaint myself with it.

You may ask why I’m now coming back. It’s a mix of reasons, mostly that it’s exam season, and I’ve got actual work to be doing, so naturally I’m ignoring it in favour of blog-based procrastination. Furthermore I have a legitimate reason (sort of) in that soon I’ll be embarking on a paid placement, one element of which will be blogging. To this end, I thought I should dust off and stretch my blogging arm. To ease myself back in, I’m only going to tackle a nice little round-up/looking ahead post about my recent, future and projected doings.

I’m soon to finish my second year of university, which is going far too quickly for my liking, but has forced me to consider other aspects of life, namely where I’m going to end up post-uni and how I’m going to stumble there. Firstly, I need to do well this year. That’d be a good start. And I know I need to, because for the very first time in my admittedly disorganised life I have a plan for the ‘future’. It’s probably ambitious, but I’m quite enjoying that fact. Many many people appear to go to university for a number of interesting reasons, whether it’s simply because it seems to be the case that one can’t get into a good career without a degree these days. Because of this people will go, and they’ll study something they’re familiar with, or they think will open doors. Maybe they’ll study English because it’s popular and well established but not too science. Perhaps they’ll plump for biology because it’s the most accessible of the hard sciences. Or Computer Science, because we live in the information age and there are well paid jobs available. Lots of reasons. And from what I’ve seen, this can lead to a distinctly miserable experience. People will plod along, doing what they have to in order to continue, all the while complaining how uninteresting or difficult their course is. Now, don’t think I’m opposed to the odd whinge; we Brits do love the occasional moan. However I do feel like, in the face of all this, I’ve rather lucked out.

For some reason, I picked to study archaeology at uni, with virtually no real experience of it at all, past ‘The Savage Stone Age’ Horrible Histories book I’d loved as a youngling. It’s a generally low paid sector, and not blessed with the immediate respect of teaching, the career opportunities of Computing, or the respect of Physics or Chemistry. Yet, I absolutely love it. I find it endlessly fascinating, and I think I’ve even found my favourite period to study.

Front (1)

Alas, poor Dmitri. I knew him well.

I’ve written essays and reports, taken tests and spent hours being utterly perplexed by the teeth and clavicles of a medieval skeleton my lab partner and I named Dmitri. I’ve aggressively breathed on flint, stroked pottery and crawled around the insides of a 5000-year-old burial monument. I’ve even dabbled in philosophy, and had my mind twisted by the thoughts of the more out-there scholars in the field. It’s been a weird couple of years.

Off the back of this unexpected enjoyment, I can’t face the idea of stopping studying it, so I’ve set myself the ambitious aim of getting onto a Masters course at a university even better than my own (which as it happens is really rather good). I’ve got one exam to smash, a paid placement that I can use to alter the working environment of the discipline, and I’m just starting along the path of my dissertation, a piece of research that is not only endlessly fascinating, not only centred around my own home, but is genuinely new research, with the possibility of contributing to the world’s collective knowledge about our own past.

I’ve got a lot to do, and although historically I’ve baulked at any amount of work presented to me, I’m excited to do it, and slightly scared at where it could take me. Now excuse me while I try and convince myself to actually do some if that work. I’ll be back here very soon.


Pewsey: Valed in Mystery

It’s been a long while since I last blogged. But I’ve been uncharacteristically busy as well as characteristically lazy. A combination of the two has really stunted the growth of this blog. Anyway, now that I’m back home with not a whole lot to do, I thought I should probably attempt to write something again. Unfortunately I’ve not come across anything recently that’s made me want to write about it in a slightly sarcastic manner. As such, this will be more of a reflective piece about what’s actually happened in my life in the last couple of months.

This summer I properly began my journey into the world of archaeological fieldwork. Not an unexpected use of my team I suppose, as I am studying for a degree in archaeology. But my university’s field school, at the Vale of Pewsey, will be the main focus of this post. A month in a tent has never been an idea that’s much appealed to me, and I stand by the fact that brick walls were really a rather spiffing idea. But it could’ve turned out to be a lot worse, after all we had real showers. Now, as my first experience of a dig where I was actually taught what to do, it was a lot of fun, as well as being lot of hard work. Starting with a humble post pad, I got a decent run through the world of paperwork, from context sheets to plans with a nice little stop off at the section drawing café. After that came the ditch intersection. Now, I don’t want to bore you with an explanation of that utterly horrible ditch, but I also want you to appreciate and possibly hate it as much as I did. Even though I ended up digging it with someone who would become a good friend, it was not a kind ditch. You see, most of the time in archaeology, if you’re digging a ditch and find some of the natural geology it’ll be the edge of bottom of the ditch. This one however decided that that was a tad too cliché and instead blessed us with 5 layers of redeposited natural to curse at instead. Of course this can be put down to my friend’s ‘curse’ of having everything she touches turn to redeposited natural. Even when I’d definitely found the edge of the ditch, as testified by not one but two experienced supervisors, she tapped it and lo and behold it turned out to be redeposited natural. Apologies for that rambling story, but hopefully you now have some appreciation of how redeposited natural is the worst thing ever. I blame the Romans. What did they ever do for us?

Besides that though the dig was very exciting and important. A very exciting human burial was discovered in one trench (not mine), a range of beautiful Neolithic tools were found (not by me) and a Neolithic building was carefully excavated (not by me, as you may have guessed). But, thanks to my rubbish back preventing me from any actual digging for the last week or so, I got really good at context sheets, and isn’t that what we all dream about anyway?

However a dig is obviously not all about the archaeology, and living in a field with a group of people for a month really does get quite weird. There were some very strange nicknames – Name, Herr Oberst, [5132] and Kev just to name a few – and quite the large amount of drama. Dig parties really can get weird, and sometimes they end with a wise wizard snapping tent poles via intervention from a tall man clearly so jealous of Short Man Syndrome that he wanted a piece of the action. Good for him for smashing those stereotypes though, good on you, you lanky progressive campaigner you. On the other hand I really did meet some properly great people, and I’m glad I did, because without that lot the dig wouldn’t have been nearly as fun. So all in all, some really great archaeology, none of which I got to dig, some brilliantly fun and funny new friends, and drama better than anything the BBC’s ever aired made for a damn good month. Sorry for such a positive post, I’ll try to find more things to poke with a metaphorical stick next time.

Some People Just Aren’t Suited to Politics

I’m going for the position of secretary for the committee of my Ultimate Frisbee team next year. I have to write a manifesto for this. I started out with a blank word document, no idea what I was going to say, and an ill-fated decision to type up every fleeting thought I had. If you’re really bored enough to want to read that junk, here it is. I apologise in advance!

Right. Manifesto time. Right, write, rite – ritual. Is there a way to do this? Some sort of weird paganesque ceremony perhaps? Did George Osborne and David Cameron prance around a bonfire while chanting and thrusting sticks to the air when they were manifestoing? That’s definitely not a word; manifestoing. To manifesto, one can manifest, maybe a Spaniard manifestos? Seems pretty likely.

But time for my one, going for secretary of Ultimate Frisbee. Perhaps less glamourous than prime minister. But then again, I’m damn good at eating bacon sandwiches, take that Ed. I can’t just criticise politicians, I’m gonna have to write something eventually. Why would I be good? Maybe I wouldn’t be good. But I can’t say that, or people won’t vote for me, Clegg got votes with downright lies, maybe they’ll work for me too! Convincing though, I’ll have to be concing. Maybe wine would help. I don’t like wine but Clegg likes a Pinot Grigio. That’s post 2010 election though, things might’ve changed. He probably just drank water at that point, he didn’t have to null himself to all the hate. Good on him for staying off the absinthe thus far though. Not that I know he doesn’t drink absinthe. He could be a world expert in it for all I know. That’d be cool. Wonder if he’s been to the museum in Pontarlier yet. Probably not, bit far from the ski resorts.

Anyway, my manifesto. What are my pros? I’m organised, ish. I get things done in the end at least. That’s good enough really, there’d be no point in deadlines if last minute stuff didn’t work! That’s definitely not a valid point. I can’t claim that I’ll be an improvement on last year’s secretary, cos let’s face it, Jess was pretty good. Apart from the whole wingin’ it/sunburn fiasco of course. Maybe she was just embracing the spirit (ooh Ultimate joke) of the tournament name and adlibbing the whole shebang. Jokes in the manifesto would work. Maybe if every point I make has a Frisbee pun in it no-one will notice that they’re not actually legitimate ideas at all. And if I’m the only candidate then they’ll just have to grin and bear it, haha sucks to be you guys!

So far I don’t seem to have dabbled in manifesto-y language. Bullet points might help, that seems like the best sort of format for this, so here goes:

  • Bullet points or numbers though? That’s always a tough choice

2)    Nope, I’m thinking bullet points looks more professional, if that’s what I’m going for.

>  Arrows though? Arrows are cool

  • Retracted, arrows aren’t that cool.
  • Am organised. (Already said that, but this time with more conviction!)
  • Will get stuff done. (Rehash of first point, need more than that really)
  • Definitely not disorganised (Come on, this is getting silly)
  • Have lots of ideas for the future of the club (many might be secondary ideas that I didn’t actually come up with, but that can remain subtext)
  • Passionate about the sport (that one is true, with all the folly that accompanies it)
  • Wrote manifesto (that shows something)
  • Am standing for the position (better than almost 100% of my rivals for the post)
  • Believe in democracy (will push for elections again next year rather than attempting to establish a Frisbee dynasty of a thousand years)
  • Not a communist (such negative connotations these days, just seems like it could help my cause, especially if someone else opts to grow Marx-style facial hair, which, let’s face it, would sway some voters, myself included)
  • Will spend most of the budget on grapefruit spoons (ah, in-jokes are good)
  • Will not be exclusive (but if you didn’t get the previous joke then you’re out)
  • Will do MVP votes rather than electing one (supports democracy thing as well as being a slight at the previous committee. Ooh controversy)

That’s got to be enough bullet points. Election sealed.

An Ultimate Experience

It’s been a long time since I’ve posted anything at all on this here blog. One could probably say that a fair amount has happened since. A few days after my last post I turned 20. Not a huge achievement, but just about significant enough to warrant inclusion. The most significant thing to’ve happened however is almost undoubtedly starting university. Thus far I’ve found university to be both an odd, and an oddly normal, experience. Obviously leaving home and blah blah is a big deal. And then there’s the culture of being a student that I found myself thrown into. Funnily enough, very little changed. I’m still not big on clubbing and the associated activities, and I still prefer to have smaller gatherings with a few friends. In that way, little really changed. There’s some work to do a lot of the time, although, being a first year, I only technically need to do 40% of it (I do try and do a tad more).

As well as the social (read drinking) side of university and the academia that we’re all actually here to get on with, there were a whole host of societies and sports clubs to try out. In terms of non-sporting activities, the CU was really the only one I paid much attention to. Although I also had a look at the possibility of writing articles for the uni’s newspaper. Unfortunately it transpired that the news section of that at least is full of proper articles written by proper journalists who demand a fee for their services taken and re-written by students before being lumped together in the form of a free paper. That didn’t appeal to me massively. So a few days later I went to the sports fair to see what my options were in that area. I disregarded the normal sports in general, I’d never get near the football team, I’m far too small and weak for rugby, and I’m 5’8”, hardly the size for basketball. I knew I was going to attend the taster sessions for 3 sports already, and those were table tennis, squash and korfball. Table tennis because I’ve always been ok at it, it’s fun, and it’s not too energetic. Squash is a fantastic sport that I love, but the taster for that was difficult, being split into groups of varying ability with very little basis for the decisions and having to hit only single sporadic shots made for an unappealing session. Korfball I thought I’d try as my friend had got into it the previous year at his university and had raved about the sport. It was fun actually, and I’d recommend it (look it up, it’s Dutch and really rather fun).

But there was one other sport I knew of vaguely that I thought I’d try, and that’s the one that stuck, the wonderful, if lesser-known, Ultimate Frisbee. I wasn’t expecting to love it really, but my word it’s fun. If you’re not aware of the sport, it’s sort of like an odd mix of football, American football and netball, but played with a Frisbee. I know, weird right. The basic objective is to throw the disc to someone stood in the endzone and have them catch it. Simple stuff. Then there are forces, which is when the defender tries to stop the disc being thrown, and all the many different throws. You might be able to think of one, maybe two. There’s the flat backhand (that’s the one you’re thinking of) and then roll curves, IOs, flick, blades, hammers, scoobers, chicken wings and other similarly ridiculously named throws. Enticed yet? Of course you are. But on the off-chance that you’ve not just bought a disc and formed a club, let me tell you one more thing about it. Puns. Puns everywhere. Never has a professional, IOC-recognised, sport had so many puns. Teams are named with puns. Clubs are, draft leagues are, plays are, even tournaments are. It’s practically inescapable. And why would you want to escape it? There’s more to the sport of course, but I think I’ve said enough to heartily convince even the most stone-hearted amongst you to buy an officially licensed round lump of plastic, gather some friends and blade it at them with the passion of a thousands suns while shouting ‘up!’.

Text Me Some Happy Thoughts. Why?

If you had my phone number, would you text me some happy thoughts? Unprovoked, you probably wouldn’t. I hesitate to suggest that the motive of many a text is purely egotistic. What could be a negative outcome of taking a minute to think about the things that make you smile, make you laugh, and make you love? I can only imagine this altruistic desire to make the world, or at least part of it happier, in a time when time is a commodity in high demand, is what led one Lee Gannon to create Text Me Some Happy Thoughts.

You most likely haven’t heard of this game, unless you’re a hipster. If you are, well done, but it’s time to put down your skinny chai latte and heed my warning; stop playing it, it’s getting a bit too popular. The basics of it are just that, basic. You send a text to five friends/acquaintances/colleagues asking them to ‘Text me some happy thoughts!’ while reminding them of the leniency of the rules, in as much as it can be anything that makes you happy, from the profound to the ridiculous, be it your own opinion of the man you have become or your enjoyment of a particularly excellent Radio 4 comedy show. Maybe you’d like to get a bit sentimental, that’s fine too, if that’s what makes you happy, then that’s what you should text.

It’s a simple idea that could easily become popular; simplicity is always a key component of these sorts of internet-born activities. In these times, where mental illnesses like depression are starting to wriggle free from the stigma that used to encase them, a prompt from a friend to stop and consider what rays of happiness pierce your shrouded view of the world – especially when you’re prompted with the sort of ferocious yet well-mannered persistence used by the game’s creator – can give you that little perk you need to pull yourself out. Even if it’s a temporary respite, it’s worth it. Equally, someone with a perpetually cheery disposition will enjoy the chance to reflect on all the good things there are around them, whether trivial or life defining. After all, contrary to the saying, it’s not just the little things.

I’ve established now that this game could well have positive outcomes, and even as the hardened pessimist I am, I’m having difficulty seeing how this could produce negative side effects. But what spurred the creation of the game? It could be, as I previously suggested, an altruistic effort to brighten up people’s everyday lives. Perhaps it was out of wondering why a text with the intent to do nothing other than make a friend smile is too rare a spectacle. Maybe it grew out of a boredom of boredom. Many of the world’s great inventions were probably pursued as a means of reducing boredom, and although this hasn’t quite reached that status yet (It could still, Stephen Fry has been tweeted) it may share a birth.

Being a good thing to do, this new creation cannot be without benefit to the instigator, a good deed never is. No, the person sending the texts may be heartened by the responses of their friends. Being reminded of the good things about life that had slipped their mind. The responses making them laugh, making them smile, making them glad they’re able to call those 5 their friends. A warm feeling indeed.

So why not partake in the spreading of joy? After all, the key to making you happier could be no more than seeing the things that make your friends’ lives better. Maybe they’ll even cite you.

Oh for a theme

Blogging is not an easy endeavour. It takes up time, demands attention, and makes you hate the sight of a barren word document. And there’s no pressure on you to write anything at all, so why bother? Because you started it, and you pledged that you’d keep it up. Man, that was stupid.

Thousands, if not millions, of people around the world have blogs, and although many will end up on the Internet’s scrapheap many are updated regularly and in keeping with that blog’s theme. And there it is. A theme. The thread that runs through all the posts, keeping it together, driving the blog, acting as a directory, showing potential readers to the corners of the interweb where pieces of writing have been directed at them. People who are interested in Doctor Who will read blogs that are about Doctor Who. People whose lives revolve around football, and a specific club, may look for blogs about that club. It all makes sense when you think about it. But why follow logic and reasoning when creating a blog? That would be utterly ridiculous. Ha, Logic.

People tend to have themes for their blogs in order to help gain a base of readers who have similar interests. They may base them on what they know a lot about, a blog will not often stray far from what that person would choose as their specialist subject on Mastermind. One of my friends writes largely about Halo or Doctor Who, having written reviews, case studies, and analyses of both. He can do this well because he knows both subjects pretty much inside out. If I were to follow a similar tack, you’d be reading an in depth study of the different themes and characters of Scrubs. Likely to have less of a pull I wager.

Another reason for a theme in a blog is to direct the posts. If you have a theme, you know what you’re writing about. If this was a blog full of reviews of television shows, then I’d watch a new programme, and then proceed to pick holes in the plot, or the casting, or the direction, costume and lighting before ending the post by abhorring the show and pleading with my readers not to watch it, unless of course it is so bad it’s actually quite entertaining. That’s how most objective reviews of things seem to go, people love being critical, and it gives others something to moan about, everybody wins. Maybe if I had a political blog I’d scour The Times to find the latest parliamentary debate and then articulate everything that’s wrong with our government, topping my article with a thick layer of doom and just a sprinkling of gloom. Unless of course it was the Jam Debate that had been hotly contested in recent days, then I could just copy John Finnemore’s satirical overview of it from The Now Show, changing it slightly and aiming it at a different demographic in the hope I’d be able to revel in the praise truly due to Mr. Finnemore. In that case maybe I’d add a little political cartoon, to separate my blog from the hoi polloi of political-ish blogs. What is a political blog without a shred of whimsy?

Rather than meticulously planning my blog theme, or even stumbling upon a theme as I wrote, I’ve ended up with a stuttering, confused blog that spans Instagram, through history, to politics and even a fanciful imagination of archaeology in the future. Even though when my friend and I were discussing this issue prior to starting blogs I had an idea that it would consist of ill-defined ‘rants’ about the social or political issues of the day, that lack of a concrete base has led to the coma my blog has descended into in recent weeks. Anyway, hopefully now it’s woken up for a while, probably should’ve used that time to conceive a theme. Oh well.  

Grab a Revolver and Believe that music still has its Heroes

Music. There’s a lot to it. Some of it is incredible, some of it is terrible, the terrible stuff is incredible and the incredible stuff is terrible. Such is the paradox created by the opinions of people. The same piece of music can be reviled, worshipped, and ignored simultaneously. That all means that nothing I or anyone else can say about music is right or wrong, true or false. There’s probably some types of music you enjoy, there are some I enjoy, and our opinions are as valid as each other, as are those of anyone else. With that in mind, I’d like to take just a few minutes to compare 4 artists. The first comparison is one that’s been made before, much to many people’s horror; The Beatles vs One Direction. The second will be equally as appalling to many; Justin Bieber vs David Bowie.

Firstly, The Beatles and One Direction. The Beatles had millions of die-hard screaming fans, One Direction have millions of die-hard screaming fans. That’s an obvious similarity. The Beatles were pioneering, changing the face of music as we know it, One Direction are, erm, apparently very good looking. The Beatles formed in school before working hard off their own backs prior to being discovered, One Direction were put together by Simon Cowell after each was deemed not good enough to be a solo singer. One Direction sing (but don’t write) some very catchy songs. The Beatles wrote and played some catchy songs too, but clearly lacked One Direction’s creativity and ability to tell stories through music. Lady Madonna’s all well and good, but did she ever know she’s beautiful? McCartney told Jude he was “Made to go out and get her” but he left out some vital advice – how could he not tell him to live while he’s young?! A real blunder from Paul there.

Both bands have become massively popular across the Atlantic, and One Direction are probably close to being as big as The Beatles. In fact Harry Styles reckons they’ll be bigger than them, and subsequently, bigger than Jesus. That’s quite a claim, Harry, and you’re a moron for making it. You may think that’s a bit harsh to Harry, but no, that’s an unbelievably ridiculous thing to say. The Beatles transformed music. One Direction haven’t even dented it.

Justin Bieber’s quite the phenomenon. He’s got millions of fans, most of them 12 year old girls, but fans nonetheless. He’s a singer-songwriter who’s famous worldwide. David Bowie is also a world-renowned singer-songwriter. They’ve both had tremendous chart success, Bieber’s Baby was a huge hit, Bowie has hit the top of the charts a few times himself. But Life on Mars? Has nothing on Bieber’s work. Bieber’s songs are so evocative, so powerful, so inspiring! He sings about real things, not alien rock stars and spiders from Mars, what were you on about Bowie?

Maybe Bieber’s been listening to Bowie though, he’s definitely made some Changes and he’s even dabbled in drugs, a signature Bowie move. However, moving back to sincerity for a minute, Bowie is one of the real legends of music. His constant reinvention allowed him to stay at the top for years, and his latest release showed the power he continues to yield, leading him to be named as one of the 100 most powerful people in media. Bieber is a temperamental teen whose ego far exceeds his musical ability and who’s contributed less to music than Jimi Hendrix’s appendix. He’s led millions of preteens to believe that meaningless pop drivel is the pinnacle of music and his antics show that he’s not worthy of the adoration he receives. As far as a comparison between Bieber and Bowie goes, it’s like refusing to use a Macbook pro and instead showering praise and admiration on an Amstrad CPC 464. Sorry to bring my own personal bias into this, but I couldn’t bring myself to leave my views on Bieber and One direction even slightly ambiguous.  If you do listen to Bieber and One Direction, fine, each to their own, but if you’ve not given the likes of Bowie, The Beatles and Hendrix a chance, I implore you to do so.

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