alternative credentials
Saturday, August 28, 2004
No, really, I'm still here; goddammit, why don't you guys believe me? Okay, so I've been lazy about updating. My apologies. It has been a hell of a week. I handed in that dissertation on the 19th and then proceeded to batter my brain for days, figuring I didn't really need it anymore. I could go into agonizing detail about ecstasy, magic mushrooms, and cocktail happy hours, but you know what? I can't be bothered. ;P (And anyway, I'm sure you can all imagine.) If you want interesting drug literature, try Timothy Leary. Sooner or later some photos will be posted on this blog, or on my boyfriend's. They'll be amusing and a hell of a lot less tedious than reading my attempts to describe the lightning bolts of ruby gemstones that shattered over me while I was tripping and listening to Muse.

We (myself, Rich, and his friend Kathrin from Germany) left the house this morning before 8am so that Kathrin could begin her trip back home (where she will doubtless hibernate for a few days.) I walked through the cool morning with a huge, dopey grin on my face, absolutely thrilled to be up and outside not long after sunrise. A lot's changed in the past year: I wear bright colors much more frequently, I've got a new man, I've arguably gotten more laidback (though that's not to say that I'm not still a stroppy cow much of the time.) But perhaps the most shocking thing of all, and the one that's most indicative of everything that's changed about me, is that I've become a morning person. I'm usually up before nine am, and the hour or so that I spend alone with my book and my tea watching the sunlight melt into the room making everything sparkle is my favourite part of the day.

Tuesday, August 10, 2004
It's now almost 11am but the day is caught in that rainy greyness that makes a perpetual twilight of any hour. It's been like this since before dawn yesterday morning. Normally I'd be bitching but just now the rain is a welcome break from the heat, and anyway this dream-like greyness feels appropriate. I went to bed shortly before midnight last night, woke up just after 3am with a bone-grinding sort of pain in my left knee and never went back to sleep. Just puttered about: washed the henna out of my hair and made a mess in the tub, went downstairs and had toast and tea, and read Dorothy Parker and listened to the rain for hours until the grey outside got lighter, and I thought, well, might as well have cereal and go to uni and work on my dissertation. It was splendid. I was too tired and shell-shocked to even consider procrastinating or having grumpy thoughts about the damn thing: just tapped out 1,000 words and that was that.

So am I tired now? Hell yes. But part of me wants to go home, make lunch, and see just how long I can keep this going. Stress manifests in funny ways sometimes. I'm not conscious of worrying over my research project, but for a week or so I've been caught in this weird combination of lethargy and dizziness. And now the insomnia.

Guess what though, chickens! This mo-fo's due on the 20th of August, which means that in ten days all of this -- the whole MA -- will be over. And there will be dancing in the streets -- or, more likely, sleeping in the bedroom.

I'm sure there was something else I wanted to type, but I've forgotten what it was....

Your sleep-deprived Val, signing off now.

Friday, August 06, 2004
Have reviewed my savings account online and concluded that I am majorly fucked where money is concerned. Have just under $13,000 right now and will have to shell out $1500 for rent in Florence as well as $2000 for TEFL certification. Not to mention living/travelling in Italy and getting a plane ticket home. Rich and I have been doing some serious talking about going to east Asia and whether this is going to work or not. Frankly I don't think I have a choice; until I get my TEFL certificate I'm not really qualified to *do* anything at all. I need to look at salaries overseas and see if working there will enable me to make monthly payments on the student loans. If not, it might mean staying in FL and doing a crap job (Publix) until the loans are paid off. On the bright side, minimum wage adds up to $12,000/year and I only owe $10,000 to the creditors, so although it would be dispiriting, at least it would be far from permanent.

Rich is seriously considering the fact that he'll be more employable in the next 6 months than at any time for the next 5 years, and wondering if going to China (or Taiwan or Japan) immediately would be a mistake. Perhaps he should seek a permanent position in London or some such. He spoke to his parents on the phone last night and they, bless them, are both encouraging him to go overseas right away. Personally, I worry that coming to east Asia right away would hurt his job prospects, but knowing him as well as I do, I think that if he embarked on a permanent, professional-type job directly after graduation, he'd soon sink into a depression. It's just not in his nature to be happy doing that sort of thing.
What do you think?

Tuesday, August 03, 2004
Check out this link to see what was recently in the news over here. And then have a browse through the rest of the site, if you want a look at a major UK newspaper that's more liberal than anything of a comparable size in the States.

So can someone please tell me what the hell is up with (some) animal rights activists anyway? Do they not see the irony in their position -- so peaceable and distressed by suffering that they can't bear to eat animals or see them caused any discomfort, yet at the same time so freakishly militant and aggressive that they'll cheerfully destroy the personal property and endanger the lives of human beings who disregard their politics? An editorial I read recently in the Indie's magazine about the sickening shit that went down in a KFC chicken slaughterhouse ended with a statement by the author that whenever he saw a picture of Col. Sanders, he 'wanted to punch him right in the face'. How very Franciscan. What an asshole.

Now, I'm an on-and-off vegetarian myself and have been for a long time -- didn't eat any meat but seafood for years, started eating land beasts again in the past year but have recently eliminated those and gone back to seafood only. I'm not a strict vegetarian (and never have been) because I have no deep sensibility against killing animals; my concerns about a meat-heavy diet centre more on issues of suscpicious hormones and sustaining maximum food productivity levels on arable land. (So that with luck, everyone can have enough food, comprende?) I've met other vegetarians whose ideas were a little different from my own -- folks who didn't consume animal flesh because a) they could do without and b) since they could do without, why bother putting critters capable of feeling pain to any unnecessary suffering? And you know, I can respect that viewpoint. It's based on empathy that not everyone shares. But it's respectable -- especially since these were kids who were laidback, friendly to all animals (including the human ones), and didn't shove their politics (or in some cases, religious viewpoints) in other people's faces. They brought it up 'cuz I asked.

But when I think of morons who, in the name of putting a stop to needless suffering, actually promote a politics of violence, when I think of a vegan I used to go to school with who'd shout at the minimum-wage cafeteria staff for merely serving meat, when I think of Dr. Vlasak telling an animal rights conference "I don't think you'd have to kill too many [researchers]. I think for five lives, 10 lives, 15 human lives, we could save a million, 2 million, 10 million non-human lives," when I think of my ex-fiancee's vegetarian uncle sneering at his fellow diners "How are you enjoying your beast?", makes me want to punch Col. Sanders right in the face. Just to vent frustration, you understand.
Monday, August 02, 2004
Another long day in front of the dissertation with the cursor blinking tyranically at me, but I can't complain as the weekend was fabulous. It began with bottle after bottle of cheap wine on Thursday night and continued with an unexpectedly fun night at Oblivion on Saturday - dancing like a maniac and getting targeted for some truly ferocious flirtation by a good-looking gothette. So the number of girls I've gotten off with (American English: kissing with tongues!) is now eight, and boys are at a measly three. And despite the fact that 8/11 is such a nice, high percentage, I'm not sure this makes me 80% Birkenstock-wearing, folk-music-listening lesbian (not least because I don't listen to folk music and only occasionally wear Birks.) Two of the gentlemen I've snogged and only one of the ladies (the most tomboyish) blossomed into relationships. Seems more like I'm attracted to masculine minds but much prefer the way women look. Sounds very rational, doesn't it?

Anyway, it was splendid feeling wanted, and in the interval things with my boyfriend have been sweet and charming. British summer is in full swing as well, meaning I get to feel comfortable while everyone else bitches about the heat. Unfortunately we're due to have rain throughout the rest of the week. At least I get to fuck off to Florence at the end of this month.

Tuesday, July 27, 2004
I've spent all afternoon in the library typing my dissertation. Rich has been doing the same thing at the computer a few feet away from me, although I notice now that 'work' for him seems to have degenerated into alternately banging his forehead against the machine and strumming his fingers over the keyboard as if it were a xylophone. No industrious types here.

On Saturday night we were late arrivals at a rave out in the middle of the woods, which sounded like an absolutely smashing idea but which turned out in reality to be a motley collection of seriously drunk townies listening to awful music. We didn't turn up until half three and our friend Paul pointed out unhelpfully that the music had been good 'until you guys turned up.' Thanks Paul. The highlight was watching one fellow who had very obviously dropped acid wander about talking to invisibles and climbing a tree (and that was nerve-wracking for all concerned.) At one point he was walking about slowly in a half crouch with an expression of deep concentration on his face, making sweeping gestures with his hands from time to time rather as if he were gently knocking caps off the heads of knee-high gnomes (perhaps he was?). Rich said something to him then and his somewhat defensive reply was, 'They're teasing me.'

Sunday morning came and went, presumably; I certainly wasn't awake to see it. And when we actually got up and started moving, somewhere around mid-afternoon, the remainder of our day was salvaged by a friendly houseful of musically-inclined young men who live a block or two away from us. Though we only have the most tenuous of social connections with most of them, centred around frisbee in the park and alcohol-doused parties, they not only let us crash in their living area but cooked dinner for us and kept us around until one AM watching Pulp Fiction. It could be because one of them is trying his damnedest to win the love and affection of Rich's friend Mim, who was with us, but, you know, I prefer to think that it was just because they're such an all-around good-natured bunch.

Friday, July 23, 2004
The Indian fellow living next door to us has been hard at work for a week building a little house to keep his garbage bin in.

It's all made of tidily-spaced, black-painted plywood boards that he hammered together one by one. Yesterday he finished the roof.

Being awakened by the industrious hammering sounds that accompany skillful bin-house construction is, I suppose, a step up from being kept up at all hours by scally scumbags joyriding in stolen vehicles. That particular joy was ours at the last house that Rich and I slept in. And that's working-class UK for you: the soul-uplifting sound of little children's laughter drifting in through your open window, followed closely by the unnerving crunch of broken glass.
Insurance prices in Leeds are high not because of flood, fire, or hurricane, but simply because of the destruction wreaked by frustrated poverty-line brats with no future and nothing else to do but smash car windows. Visiting England? Stick to the south.

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