Category Archives: Stuff

Two views of goths

The BBC has covered a recent study with an article titled ‘Goths ‘more likely to self-harm’‘. The New Scientist has also covered a recent study of youth culture and titled their article ‘Goth subculture may protect vulnerable children‘. The titles suggest that the studies have produced opposing results, but they are both covering the same story.

The BBC’s article does counter its shock-scandal style headline with a quite reasonable article yet I can’t help but feel that the damage will have already been done.

As for the study itself, it suggests that people who have self-harmed (cutting and burning usually) are more likely to associate with the gothic ‘subculture’. The New Scientist points out, very reasonably, that it appears that people have self-harmed less after becoming involved with the non-violent and accepting goth social group and so being ‘goth’ has been of benefit to these people.

I find it amusing that the old adage of goths comes into play here, that anyone who says that they are a goth isn’t really a goth, but that’s a bit beside the point. In the study only 25 people said that they were goths, which means that the figures, while being interesting, are worth about as much as George W. Bush’s contribution to the rap music scene. I wonder if one of the people had been missing a leg if the articles would say ‘Goths more likely to lack 25% of their digits’.

Thanks to Wookiee and Novander on my forum for the links.

Random acts of kindness

I had to buy new gloves this winter. I’d had my old ones for about ten years, but I was walking home from the pub on a frezing night and there was a policeman on guard duty without any gloves so I gave him mine.

I had cold fingers for weeks until I bought a new pair, but a rosy glow inside.

So this is your task for the week: find at least one way to do something unexpectedly nice for someone else.

A very beardy film

Yesterday I went to an extras casting session for The Golden Age, which is a follow-up to the film Elizabeth (UK link US link). I did suggest the title ‘Elizabeth 2’ but for some reason people didn’t seem so keen on the idea…

Anyway, they have described it as ‘a very beardy film’ so for the first time in my life I will be growing a beard. It will probably only be for a week, because if I’ve not been called by next Saturday then I’m not cast, but it will be interesting nonetheless.

Demotivators

I used to go to a gym, and they had posters on the walls with things like ‘Only those who follow their dreams can soar above the clouds’ on them. It was a nice thought, until you factored in the lack of oxygen and the imminent plummet to your death.

Demotivators is a whole website devoted to that kind of thinking. Here’s my favourite:

http://www.despair.com/quality.html

You can see them all here.

Goths rule the world…

but in secret.

In a blatant excuse to fill a page of the newspaper, The Guardian has decided to cover a recent doctoral thesis that argues that goths end up in well paid jobs. The theory runs that the goth attraction towards art, literature, and music creates networking, aesthetic, and other skills that then come in useful in education and the workplace.

Sometimes I wonder why I bothered to write about literature at all, I could have just said ‘goths are picked on and find solace by reading stuff so end up well read’…. That’s a bit of an unfair summary of a thesis, but that does appear to be the revolutionary proposal put forward by it.

A PhD is supposed to be a genuinely original contribution to a field of study, and while it seems logically obvious that many goths will be pushed to achieve good academic results it doesn’t seem like this proposal ranges much beyond common sense. I assume that the study is backed up by analysis of groups of society and their fashion choices during their lives. Given that ‘goth’ in the modern sense has only really been around as a recognised group since the 1980s then it is only now that a reasonable study of the life-impact of the movement can be made on its followers. Perhaps it’s not such a daft thing to study, when we have now reached a point where anecdotal hypotheses can be made into workable theories.

There is another reason why this proposal may be considered to be worthy of a PhD: the thesis only has to be an original contribution to a field of study, so if no-one has bothered studying this before then it naturally it will count as an original thesis, even if it is common sense. In this line of thinking, for my next thesis I shall be working with the title: ‘Eventual career paths of teenage poets: Do they all end up a bit floaty or do they become outwardly more normal?’

Hahahahahaha… ‘Next thesis’!

The Guardian article also has a handy ten tips to spot if your boss used to be a goth. They’re pretty accurate, and once again reveal that I’m not a goth. Or at least, not a proper goth!

Real-life version of The Simpsons intro

I have worked out how long I have spent watching the title sequence to The Simpsons. By my very quick calculation I have come to the conclusion that I have spent approximately twelve hours of my life watching it. That is a very, very sad thing indeed. I just hope that my calculations are wrong…

Anyway, Sky (the main channel that shows The Simpsons in the UK) have created a live-action version of the title sequence, so there’s another minute of my life gone. If you can overcome the growing sense of nihilism that I am facing then you can download it here. It really is very good indeed.

Source.

What I’ve been up to lately…

It’s been a bit quiet on my site for a while now, so you may wonder what I’ve been doing with my time. This week has been a good example, and I feel I’ve been really productive.

This week I got my complete thesis over to my tutors, I’ve been learning some new PHP, I’ve got through a few lessons in Japanese, I’ve got a dull-but-harmless temp job, I feel like I’ve progressed a lot in my Wing Chun class, and I’ve even had some freelance work helping Wateraid promote the upcoming World Water Day.

In more detail:

I’ve put through most of the changes suggested by my copy-editor friend in my thesis and got that sent off to my tutors on Monday. Next up with my Ph.D. is the response from the tutors, which will hopefully be ‘this is ready’ or might ask for a few changes. Either way we’ll probably go ahead with contacting the examination committee. You need two internal examiners and one from outside the university. Once they’ve agreed to examine my thesis and they’re ready then my thesis gets sent to them and I wait for three months-or-so while they read it. I then have an interview with them where they get to ask me questions about my ideas and generally discuss what I’ve written. This usually lasts about an hour, but apparently has been known to spill over into dinner and late-night drinking! I’m guessing that any interview that ends with a slurred proclamation of eternal friendship will generally count as a ‘pass’.

The most likely result of this will be a request for minor changes to be made. This is usually stuff to do with formatting and an occasional paragraph here and there. This is a common request these days because it’s so much easier to ask for changes in the computer age than it was when everything was hand-written and typed. Typically I will have six months to make these changes, but usually they can be done a lot faster and the thesis resubmitted. Assuming the thesis has been changed to the satisfaction of the committee I then pass and do a little dance. And then dance a bit more. I plan to graduate in October at the latest.

The PHP stuff is for a new website I’m working on (hence the haitus in animations recently). PHP is like html except that it allows webpages to talk to a database and create ‘dynamic’ content, which is just a fancy way of saying that it responds to what you do. I’m at the point now where I believe I can put together the basic structures of the site so I’m hoping to get that going in the next couple of weeks.

I’m learning to speak Japanese from audio-lessons on my MP3 player. It’s interesting, but the style of presentation could be done in a more structured way to help learning. Mostly it’s repeating stuff parrot-fashion, so you have to work out the grammar of what’s going on for yourself. Still, it’s a good start.

I’m not selling enough stuff in my shop to afford to live even on a very low wage, so I’ve started temping part-time to pay the bills. This is another reason for the lack of animating recently. Real jobs suck, but the one I’m doing at the moment is nice enough and quite easy. At least it gives me time to doodle!

Wing Chun is a type of kung fu, and the only major martial art system in the world that was invented by a woman. It relies on angles and sensitivity rather than strength so can help small people beat much stronger opponents. I studied it when I was first at university and I started again last year when a new class opened in my area. A lot of the form is based on the idea of flowing around and through your opponents defences, creating a system that becomes incredibly effective even when applying only the basic techniques.

Lastly, Wateraid are a great charity that I’ve worked with a few times before and I’m really happy to be helping them produce presentation for their build up to World Water Day on the 22nd March.

I feel like I’ve been really productive this week and I’m feeling generally very happy with life. As usual, and as you can probably tell, I’m ridiculously busy, but I’m getting results which makes me feel good. I’m sure you can see why my work on this site has been slower than usual!

Jumping through hoops

Google video has some odd stuff on it. Here‘s one of those ‘if I hadn’t seen it I wouldn’t believe it and I’m still not sure anyway’ clips of a girl jumping/being thrown through a basketball hoop. The world is a stranger place for me today.

Count to ten in Gothic

Ains, twai, threis, fidwor, fimf, saihs, sibun, ahtau, niun, taihun.

Yep, that’s how the historic Visigoths counted to ten. Next time you’re caught in a ‘I’m more goth than you’ situation I suspect that this might be the gothic verbal equivalent of an H-bomb. Be the envy of gothic friends and learn this today!

Source: Thanks to my friend Patrick over at http://deadtech.co.uk/ (maker of fine cyber-gothy T-shirts).

Exam tips

A friend of mine is coming up for her mid-term exams in the US, so I thought it might be a good idea to mention a couple of things that have helped me in exams.

Firstly, relax. I always think about exams as a way to demonstrate what I know, so think of them as a puzzle: ‘how can I say the most things that I know about my subject in answer to these questions?’ Approach them with the attitude that they can be an enjoyable workout for your brain and you’ll perform a lot better than if you’re massively stressed. So, relax.

A good way to help you relax is always having enough water. Obviously you don’t want to drink so much that you need to go to the toilet constantly, but the brain is the first part of the body to get dehydrated and this reduces its efficiency. Have a glass of water on your desk that you can sip at and don’t be afraid to ask for more during the exam. You might even like to get more than one at the start. There is another benefit of this: we don’t sit exams every day, but we do drink everyday, so we put a familiar motion in our body to help it relax and feel more at ease with the strange activity of exams. For the period before your exams, maybe a week or so, every time you take a sip of a drink think ‘relax’ and really get yourself to feel it. This will help condition you to associate relaxation with the drinking motion, and whenever you take a sip of water in your exam you’ll feel invigourated and ready to produce some great answers.

So, that’s the mental approach to the exam, now you need to get the best elements of what you know onto the paper. I would always spend the first five minutes of an exam brainstorming at the top of your answer sheet. It might feel like a waste of time, but it will give you a plan of what to write that you can refer to throughout the exam, so that instead of wondering ‘what shall I write next?’ you can simply look at the next point you want to make. This also helps you get everything said that you want to include, but more about that in a moment.

Write a two or three word summary of the question topic in the middle of the top third of the paper, then think of major ideas to branch off with from the main topic and draw them on.

Look through the main ideas and add branching sub-topics. Get about three or four sub-topics for each major idea. If you can’t think of that many then consider putting that main topic as a branch of one of your other topics.

Take a few moments to look at the overall set of ideas for themes and links that you might want to mention at the beginning of the essay, and then number the topics in the order that you want to write about them. With only a few minutes effort you then have a plan of what you need to write and in what order you will present it. Put a single line through the plan, to show that it’s not part of the formal submission, but leaving it perfectly readable. I’ve heard examiners say that seeing such plans increase the chances of a good score because, although they cannot formally mark it, they demonstrate the thought processes of the student and indicate a logical and organised approach to the subject matter.

Here’s an example plan that I drew up in a few minutes:

Here there was a hypothetical question of ‘President Bush’s reputation is extremely low in the international community. Discuss what factors have contributed to this situation.’

In the middle of the plan is the theme ‘Bush failings’, then we have four main subjects branching from this: Environment, Foreign Policy, T.W.A.T. (The War Against Terror), and Speech.

I then put in the main topics I could think of for each of these main areas of failure, such as not engaging with the Kyoto agreement, the prisoner abuse scandals in Iraq’s prisons, the lack of W.M.D.s in Iraq, and Bush’s sub-standard public-speaking abilities.

I began numbering the topics and decided that I had enough material and that discussing Bush’s lack of coherent communication skills next to allegations of child rape to get mothers to talk in Iraqi prisons was to trivialise the latter, so I crossed through the ‘Speech’ section. If an examiner looks very quickly at the plan they will be able to see this thought process, so you have demonstrated an analytical decision before they’ve even begun reading. Great!

So, my essay would move through the subjects like this:

Bush’s failures
-Environment
–Kyoto
–(Oil drilling in) Alaska
–(Tax breaks to polluting) industries
-Foreign Policy
–Trade
–(Stopping imports of) UK steel (despite requests from the PM and his support in other fields)
–(Encouraging) China (into trade, then stopping imports when China gets better at textile production than the US)
–Afghanistan conflict (this may have been a good choice, but invading a country because of groups in it sets a bad precedent)
–Iraq
—(Was there any long-term) plan
—(Lack of rights for those in) Prison
-TWAT
–(Widespread allegations of, and legalistic redefinition of) Torture
–(Strategy that has) Angered Muslims (making them more likely to become radicalised)
–(Allegations of Iraq having) W.M.D.s
—(False) Evidence
–(Allegations that the war was really about controlling) Oil
–(Allegations of widespread) Corruption

As you can see, it would be pretty easy to write an essay from this quick plan, just by filling in the gaps. Also, this approach gives you a simple method of time-management. If you’re only on point 5 of 20 and you’re halfway through your time then you know that you need to make your next few points more quickly to fit everything into the time available.

I hope this has been of some use to you!

Feeling like being a show off?

Then it’s time to learn some tricks with pens! (Of course.)

So, what kind of website would you go to to find such things? http://www.pentrix.com of course, silly me for thinking that this would be too obscure a hobby for anyone to build a whole website around.

There’s a great collection of videos of the tricks here (this one is particularly flashy).

It’s great, in a slightly scary-obsessive kind of way. Have fun dropping stuff!

Odd bathroom gadget

Do you find towels irritating? Perhaps you have a massive phobia of damp cloth? Or maybe you are just too lazy to bother manually drying yourself and are looking for a machine to do it for you? If you find yourself saying ‘yes! That’s me!’ to any of these questions then you need the Triton Luxury Body Drier.

You know those hand-driers that you get in public toilets? This is like a big version of those that attaches to your ceiling. Why would you want this? Err… It’s a bit of fun? Towels are just too common? Well, for £400 you could get one for your house. It’s even remote controlled so you can pretend that you’re using a television, which, for a person who can’t even be bothered to dry themself, is probably a common hobby.

I think that’s probably among the most pointless gadgets that I’ve seen for a very long time.

Musical sandwiches

This is just taking ‘Christmas Cheer’ way too far. Tescos, a UK supemarket chain, have made a sandwich with a chip in the packaging that ‘plays a medley of classic Christmas tunes including Jingle Bells, Santa Claus is Coming to Town and We Wish You a Merry Christmas’.

This is one of those noise chips that have been around for years that creates a horrible tinny bit of music when you open cards. They sound awful, and so the idea of putting these things into sandwich boxes is utterly baffling. Why do it? Do people really want to hear slightly flat renditions of Christmas tunes while eating their lunch?

Although I hate the things singly, they can be quite fun en masse. Get a huge load of them together and try to get them all playing at the same time and you create a strange whining harmony. Damn… I guess I’ve found a reason to buy lots of Christmas tune sandwiches…