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Friday, 27 November 2009

The Correct Use of Soap

THE VAULT nightclub in HULL. As always, I would recommend clicking on the photgraph for a full view.
THE NOVA SCOTIA PUB with Walkers Crisps van outside. In Bristol.

There are phrases, I confess, that I run away from quicker than a global warming denier runs away from peer reviewed journals. Some of these - "take it to the next level", "step up to the plate", "to be fair", "to be perfectly honest", "Manchester United are a good team" - are so repulsive that I have sworn a blood oath never to use, even in jest. Some Other phrases I have been forced, particularly in light of my position as the joint-second best Academic in England, to silently despise but not publically foreswear. These Other phrases, I actually hate more than the ones I dont use, mostly because I know that I will have to use them one day. One such phrase is 'cognitive dissonance'.

The week has, eventually, turned out "rather nice, aint it?", as my Cockney friends might say. The week, considered as an entity, warmed slowly as a vintage car might, and it was as if the week itself slowly worked through the gears of sobriety until the effects of the wedding had faded and its kidneys had rejuvenated. Love life as we do, it should never be forgotten that our aim, since we arrived here, has to be thoroughly bored as soon as possible. THe weekend was far too much fun for the desired state to prevail - the week, cold master of time, warmed up to an excitement level that was tolerable and low key.

The same week that we have been discussing also culminated with a visit from Amelia, a Canadian friend we last met in Halifax, and whom we had not seen for several a year. Amelia and her partner are now ensconced in Aberdeen, a Scottish place, where Amelia now works in a similar field to RHB. Amelia was here (ie Hull) to give a talk on her research. Afterwards we went for a nice dinner. I dont normally attend these academical binges, but loyalty to my chosen country prevailed, so we went to the usual place, a local Thai restaurant. Naturally, it was great to see Amelia, and also great to hear a Canadian accent, and before long we (Amelia, RHB and self) were chatting happily.

Our companions at the meal, Skarra and Ig (co-boffins of RHB) joined in, but occasionally I could see a quizzical expression cross the face of Skarra, who, as well as being a colleague of Red, is my partner in "Cheek to Cheek", a new musical venture. More, perhaps, about "Cheek to Cheek" another day (we aspire to be a Radiohead/Wayne County and the Electric Chairs/Morriconi acoustic tribute band on the local club circuit) but suffice to say, I know Skarra quite well by now. We are, despite his hailing from Manchester and supporting the football devils that inhabit the place, friends.

It was as RHB was describing how the local 'store' was "kitty corner", and perhaps more importantly, A was understanding what she was saying, that I realised why Skarra bore on his face an expression similar to one that might be worn by a fisherman, who fishing for trout on an inland stream, had actually landed a cod. The problem you see, is that while I will never pretend that I could ever insert enough 'r's into the word 'coffee' to pass as full blooded Canadians, we both can communicate in Canadian, as well as standard English. We are bilingual, and by virtue of meeing Amelia had both entered the mysterious world of language slippage, caused by the proximity of a native of the True North, Strong and Free and our years of several excursion in the Best Country in the Worldtm. Over the course of mere minutes, 'cats' had become 'kittys' , 'shops' had become 'stores', 'Hoovers' - 'vacuums', 'cash machines' - 'ATM's, 'rubbish' - 'garbage'. 'Cars' had become 'vehicles' filled with 'gas' and if things were'nt 'hilarious' they were 'awesome'. It 'rocked'.

Despite this division, commonality among the whole group, was restored when the conversation shifted to talking about University life, research and students. I observe among the assembled brains a passion for science, deep involvemnt in their research and a genuinely expressed concern for many of the young minds they witness voyaging through the seas of knowledge that is the University experience. Back home, RHB and Amelia continue the discussion, looking forward to the next day when battle with the Unknown will again commence, but soonish sleep beckons, cognitive processes slow down and a peace settles over the intellectual powerhouse that is Large Mansions, interrupted only by the embarrasingly loud noise that accompanies the anal grooming of the larger of our two cats.

The next day, I wake early - so early in fact that it is not even an 'o'clock' yet - and shower in preparation for my last lecture of the week. The Crosstowner is made ready, and when prepared I bid adieu to Amelia and 'later gator' to RHB,cycling the kilometer or so to University. The lecture is the last of a series for this semester, and our lecturer, echoing the concerns of the previous evening's dinner co-attendees, (at least in respect of desiring to see students do well), is anxious to fully prepare us for an essay we have to complete. The details of the module and topic are not relevant - suffice to say that we are, as second year undergraduates, asked to compose, in groups, a list of 'things' that we do, and do not, 'like' about our recent learning experiences at University. Reproduced below is a sample of offerings derived from this exercise. I may be guilty of terminological inexactitude in rendering the below as justification for using the phrase 'cognitive dissonance', but I do believe that, as with many religious epiphanies, I experienced the sense of the phrase for several hours after the lecture. At least until I could get home and give the cats a good tickle.

Question: Discuss, in groups, what you do, and do not like about your learning experiences at University.

Responses as tabulated on the interactive whiteboard during the lecture:

group work
colourful powerpoints
lots of handouts
short lectures - not boring

big words
complicated texts that arent brokn down
abstract concepts
complicated theories
being told I am wrong
loads of information

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