Dont buy the Sun.

Dont buy the Sun.
Hillsborough Justice campaign - Remember the 96.

Thursday, 28 April 2011

The nightmare continues.............................

saymaz b4 me sick worser. Probs is now ownlee can do txt-speke. LOL. Sucks big stylee IMHO. S.A. due weekon, innit? :). I so over it, nuf said. Smashin it tho peeps, end of. Chillin at w/e mit m8's 2moz, seen?

Weed out


Sunday, 24 April 2011

...and it get mugged by a gang of sloths.....

......When the police get there they ask the snail to describe the incident, and it says "I'm sorry, I really cant help you, it all happened so quickly"...

I am the snail. Actually, I think we all are, not the World, but the snail. But perhaps thats for another time.

This snail's tale picks up where I had just decided it was a brilliant idea to try to pretend my essay was nearly finished. I have suffered, and recovered from, as you may recall, a number of essay threatening ailments. I considered myself in the clear, the only question remaining whether I had the self-discipline to diligently complete the formalities required for completion.

I have a curious relationship with self-discipline. On the one hand, I can (and have) worked myself into practical and operational insanity (or at least instability) by completely over-riding any natural inclinations, or clinical indications that I should stop, or at least reduce, working. I accept that this might not be self-discipline, but stupidity, but nonetheless, I have the capacity to will my body to extremes. On the other hand, I am a complete jelly. On a warm summer's night when a nice, cold beer is indicated, I will jaunt to the local Fireworks/liquor store, buy a few tins of amberish nectar and plonk them in the fridge. The whole point of this exercise is in contrast - warm summer's night/cold beer. Yet I do not think I have ever waited until the beer has actually gotten cold before consuming it. Once it's bought, it has to be consumed, and I do not have the self-discipline to wait, even an hour until its actually of consumable temperature. Its beer, its there, I drink.

So there are questions on which side of self-discipline my ability to go through all the niceties of formatting and editing sit. I get no pleasure or comfort from the process unlike a lot of people I know, who like seeing everything neat and tidy. But on the other hand, I have uppermost in my mind that this academic thing is a competitive sport (Ref; Grasshopper 2001 onwards), and although I hate the indignity of conforming my genius to the artificially imposed constructs of a degree, if it means I win, then I'll do it. Usually, its not such a bad process anyway because I edit as I go along, so have minimal changes to make.

There are hitches though, mostly as a consequence of catching on of the writing diseases, a couple of which I've already illustrated in previous posts. Now, when I press save, and open the document in Word to give me a two-page view, I realise that I've contracted, somehow, further writing diseases. The first, and most obvious is that I've got Irregular Paragraph Syndrome. This is potentially the most serious condition yet. Instead of having a visually beautiful essay comprising a number of paragraphs of approximately equal length - with an allowable addition of two extra long paragraphs per two thousand words towards the end for Very Important Points - I have an essay whose paragraph length is totally random. There are really long paragraphs at the start, tiny ones in the middle, a mixture of long, medium and short towards the end and a couple of bits that look like Ogden Nash poetry in conclusion. It looks horrible.

The second disease I have is; Colonic and Semi-Colonic Uncertainty: a sub-condition or Punctuational Uncertainty, - where I have completely = lost the ability to punctuate. Properly. This,,, at least, is repairable - I think: at least if I can decipher what I (originally)meant to say ?! But like all Colon related issues, it is irritating.

So what's it to be, iron self-discipline or "that'll do" ? I look longingly at the fridge. I wonder if you can have both??

Thursday, 21 April 2011

There's this snail walking through the jungle.................

"Conceptual Conjunctivitus" finally cured, I plough on towards my ultimate goal - a nice vacation on the beach. All is going well. Words, as before spill from my virtual quill onto the electronic display, not quite Pepys, but definitely not Pepsi - there's some substance to my work, its not all just sugar and froth. One essay even approaches 'completion', although like The Cathedral of the Holy Cross and Santa Eulalia, that word is very relative. Indeed I have an advantage over that place in that while it admittedly get visited by millions of tourists very year, neither it, nor the parrots in its immediate environs will shortly be host to a Bachelor of Arts degree. Knowing I am going to be cleverer than a cathedral is inspiring, and I am buoyed enough to begin the process of the end.

Beginning the process of the end is a bit like initializing docking procedures in space. Long hours of preparation have been invoked towards the final product but the final product itself is still many steps away, even once you reach your destination.You have written the essay, you still have to proof-read it, remove (SEE WIKIPEDIA) from your list of references and find real ones, format it and make sure you have saved it somewhere on your hard drive you can find it. And like docking a spacecraft, a small error in any of these final steps can be fatal. You only really know you've been successful if nothing bad happens. You expect when you finish to be fireworks, whether or not purchased with booze. You expect to go out and get absolutely hammered in celebration, and have images of all your mates round you cheering "RED MAZ, RED MAZ, RED MAZ", then going home having wild sex with at least three people, and generally partying your m**th*rf*ck** ass off. [I have no idea why people put asterisks in when they swear in text - its not as if it changes in any way the pronunciation or meaning of the words used.] What actually happens is that you finish on a Tuesday afternoon about three thirty, and no-one's around. You've had no shower for two days, you have three days ugly stubble and have eaten pizza so much that the impossible happens - you want vegetables.You might well call your friends to go partying but no-one wants to party on Tuesday - it is, short of being Sunday about five o'clock, the worst possible time for having fun, so your brilliant plans to have a sombrero party, complete with tequila, ends up being much more restrained. Its very depressing, and ultimately not worth while - you're better off waiting till the weekend. Or if you're in space, waiting till you've touched down safely. So there's just you and 5000, 10000, 20000 words looking at you. It's a massive "So What?" moment. And that's just if all final docking procedures go well.

If things go less well, then it is, also like space docking, fatal. Often irretrievably so. It can be the moment when you realize just how far away from the end you truly are. This happened to me. I thought I had written the draft. I knew there was a 'bit' still to do, but decided to make myself feel better by starting to do the end bits. I would make it all 'look' like an essay and then playfully edit, perhaps for fun using Bill's programme "Find and Replace for Dummies", or maybe do a bit of light formatting, mess around with fonts to see what it looked like in Gothic.

The steps to making something look like a final version are

1. Convert it all to the same font in the same size (Wikipedia does funny things in word when you copy and paste)
2. Remove unintentional 'bolds'(see above)
3. Add correct line spacing.
4. Add header, footer and page numbers.
5. Remove extraneous 'notes to self' to do with checking facts, such as "MAKE SURE THAT HUMANISTS ACTUALLY DO ALL HAVE MURDER CONVICTIONS" or strategic notes like "INCLUDE REFERENCE TO Auerbach DESPITE IRRELEVANT - LECTURER LOVES THIS AUTHOR".

This all done, you go to "Save As", enter "Draft Essay Version Final V5 Final. Final" and wait as the screen squiggles. Hopefully a thing of beauty unfurls before your very eyes.

I dutifully did all this successfully, and things went well as far as the screen squiggle. A first glance at my new born draft and it became obvious that I, if not it, had been premature.

Saturday, 16 April 2011

THere's good news, and there's bad news....

The good news is that my vocabulary disorder has been cured. For essay writing this is, indeed good news, as by midnight last night the situation was critical. I had lost the entirety of my vocabulary apart from the words "furthermore", "hence", "therefore", "the", "a" "derived" and a solitary noun "context". That it was an acute case is evinced by the fact that I had also invented a new word "theretowithin". The strange thing was that conceptual clarity was maintained, but I'll leave it to neuroscientists to investigate the intricacies of this. My whole essay was hence (notice I am not fully recovered)reduced to a series of future postulates entirely dependant on the proceeeding argument. But as the proceeding argument was entirely a future postulate, dependant on the proceeding argument, the prognosis looked grim.

Urgent times call for urgent measures, so I called at the local firework/liquor store for remedy. The phrase "only in ..." is one often used to attribute specific, unique characteristics to a locale, but in this case it is not a cliche. My experience is that it is only in Hull that a licensing authority grant a license to a store that effectively resulted in a direct link between purchasing cheap booze and obtaining, on a year round basis, massive amounts of explosives. Nevertheless, it is the case - our local liquor store sells "The Devil's Revenge" next to "The Devil's brew". I opted for the brew, and, by dint of a self induced unconciousness, woke up this morning with a vocabulary fully restored, albeit that there was a physiological resistance to reproducing any of it out-loud.

The Nickson are made of stern material though, and an inability to speak was not going to stop my ultimate goal - that of completing the essay ahead of schedule. This was accomplished tonight approximately twenty minutes into a soccer match - the FA cup semi-final - that saw Manchester United unceremonisously dumped out of a major competition. Buoyed by this, and sseing it as sign of good fortune I reviewed my essay. Vocabulary-wise, it is brilliant. I have used words like 'pursuant' and 'eclectic' in the right places. I have used words like "obviate' and "tenacious" surgically, and even managed to minimize the frequency of "this finding means". But there is a problem, and this is the bad news. I have developed a new condition, namely "Conceptual conjuntivitus".

"conceptual conjunctivitus" is a little understood, (although in one variation, sadly too frequent) condition, whereby the sufferer's conceptual frameworks meet at a conjunction. The conditions of conceptual conjunctivitus are Type A, and Type B. I have Type B, the unfortunate one, where tragically, an essay writer will develop two beautiful, connected themes,towards a working hypothesis that they interact. Unfortunately, in Type B, the themes do interact, but they nullify eachother. So when the bit of the essay (technically known as 'the conclusion') is reached when you tie it all together, a sufferer of Type B will discover, to his or her, horror, that one idea that has been beautifully developed disproves the other. For me,this manifested itself in the discovery that I had been simultaneously arguing against determinism and advocating cultural development as only possible by application of the same.

So it's back to the firework store. I'm not buying booze tonight, I'm going for the fireworks.

Friday, 15 April 2011

Towards the end....a discus. Sorry, discourse.

Well, today did'nt go great. I would estimate that about fifteen thousand words were written today, and about 98% of them were rubbish. This is an attrition rate greater than the Somme. Te major problem is I wrote myself into a logical corner, and, while this was happening, developed a shrinking vocabulary.

I know a lot of people misunderstand how a shrinking vocabulary works, so I think I need to explain. It is not simply having cognitive access to less words, although this is a feature of the condition. What may people dont realise is that accompanying this reducing word pool is necessarily a broadening of meaning of all the words that you do have left. You do not necessarily become less articulate, conceptually. You just become more inaccurate about explaining everything. for example, for horrible reasons I will not enter into further,when describing an environment where learning occurs, a lot of the literature use the words 'setting' or 'context' or 'situation'. Ask me why they dont just use the already familiar words like 'school', 'university' or 'college', and I would have to reply like the great Harry Worth said "I dont know why and there you are". It just is.

Naturally, when trying to write an essay addressing this subject, one is more or less forced into using the language of previous treatise, otherwise one is thought of as un-academic, and frankly, that just wont do. So I start today writing and its going a storm. Words are flying onto the page, and the little men who live in my computer and hang all the letters up on the screen in response to my key-strokes are working double time. "This" I think to myself "is a piece of cake. At this rate, I'll be brilliant by teatime" and blythely I plough on. But who was it who said beware the sleeping fox, he has one eye on the chickens? No-one I know of actually, but it could have been said, and if it had been, it may well have been apropo because when I next glance at the wisdom poured onto the page - my argument a fragile and beautiful yet incredibly strong construction like the ice on the Shubenacadie in February - what is actually present are sentences like:

"In context, the contextual situation of the setting situates, and contextualises, the contexts of learning in situations. The context of learning for the situation is dictated by the contexts of the setting."

I gasp and re-read, convinced that Toshack (incidentally the world's naughtiest cat at the moment) has knowingly sneaked hallucinogens into my morning Earl Gray. I simpy cannot have written that, because what I actually said was a devastating critique of neo-liberal attitudes towards education that posit it as an entirely economic process. But instead of "economic", I've written "situation". Instead of "Gramsci", I've written "context". Instead of "interstitial" I've written "setting". The concept is quite clearly there, on the page, its just that its written in the wrong words! Vocabulary shrinkage has occurred so that I've had to use words - in this case the ones I've mostly been reading - to mean more than one thing. And just as when a song you hate sticks in your head, the words that I notice most when I'm reading are the ones that irritate me the most.

I try to recover the situation(see its happening again) re-reading what I've written, grasping for the concept, argument, point, logic I was trying to advance, but as I glance the meaning starts draining out of the page, leaving only the words. A sly thought enters my head. I take a quick peek round the house to make sure no-one's looking, then go to the 'Review' tab in Word, highlight the words I've written and press 'Word count'. The results come in - one hundred and eleven. I re-read what I've written. Actually, it doesnt look that dissimilar to the type of words used in the paper I've just been reading - "Autonomy and Agency in Discourse: A Freireian Action Research Investigation of Setting, Context and Situation", and arguably, my words make a bit more sense. I copy and paste the whole paragraph of one hundred and eleven words to the next free space. Then, I copy and paste a few parts of it, re-arranging it a bit. Now, I've got two hundred and twenty two pages.

On a serious note, today's entry is dedicated to the 96 Liverpool fans who lost their lives in the Hillborough Football Stadium. You will never walk alone. Justice for the 96. See here for more details, and of course, DONT BUY THE SUN

Thursday, 14 April 2011

Deadlines: Non-Negotiable; An Update

Reflecting, as I always do, although not perhaps circularly enough for some, on the last post, I realise an omission. That omission is that in addition to the target words I have to write every day being a numerical constant, they also have to have another quality, namely they should not be utter gibberish.

So, where I to claim (accurately) that today I wrote 1000 words, I ought to always add the qualification that approximately 943 of those words were palpable nonsense. Even this re-ification though is inaccurate, as in the world of academia, as has been demonstrated elsewhere (Sokhal), one man's gibberish is another man's prose. The distinction between the academic science papers and academic arts papers is often quite clear, for example

"Acquired mind-blindness following frontal lobe surgery? A single case study of impaired [`]theory of mind' in a patient treated with stereotactic anterior capsulotomy" is clearly within the real of science, and having read it, although intellectually interesting, it fails to move the senses, and I would argue, its purpose is not to do so. If you get excited about this, it is entirely a matter of your own agency, but that is a question for positioning theory perhaps, and philosophy almost definitely. On the other hand, "When I wake up I dream of electricity": The lives, aspirations and [`]needs' of Adult ESOL learners." is a thing of beauty, not brilliantly written perhaps, but as a short ethnographic piece it is deliberately emotive, with no claim to generalisability.

My 'field' though (and sometimes it feels like one) is neither definably art, nor science. It can be either, it can be both. But frequently, and this is the difficulty in trying to write academically about humans not descriptively, as ethnography does, but in order to 'prove' a point about something they do (like the 'right' way to educate them, or the correct system of managing them, or the best economic system for them), my field is neither art, nor science, nor a synthesis of the two. It is frequently just a bunch of words. A lot of those words are gibberish.

It is the problem of describing something as a social science. A whole load of 'theories" (which are actually ideological models) are proposed, which then have to devote an incredible amount of space to defending themselves. It is like the inedible defending the unspeakable, to mangle Oscar W. One such notion, is the idea of "priveliged positions". This is not necessarily the same as advantaged through wealth (although social scientists often mean that, so why dont they just f****ng say it), rather it is a rather circular way of attacking what has variously been called a hegemony, specifically that of Technical Rationalism. Here, technically rationalist expertise is frowned upon, with the lived experience of 'critical practitioners' held to be a downtrodden, but worthy alternative. A more complete science would be n action science, with experimentation and theory arising through reflective relationships between practitioners and 'clients'. Research from a lab, or those temples of technical rationalism, Universities, would take a decidely back seat.

There is a paradox here. Most of this theory is avowedly left wing. But when I try to concieve of how it might work in practice, I cannot but help see neo-conservatism in action. It might be coincidental, but included in Mr Thatcher's supporters in the 1980's were the many of the writers and editors of Marxism Today. And apart from politics, I have to say that I quite like a lot of technical rationalism. I want the antibiotics I take to be tested in a laboratory on something and someone else before I use them, I do not want that experimentation to include me and my local GP in a virtuous circle of knoweldge co-construction. I want the Humber bridge to have been technically designed in a wind tunnel, not erected through an experiential process of discovery learning ("Well we tried mud, but when we reached a certain height it collapsed killing everyone"). I make notes for my essay, trying to capture how I will address this issue:

"Priveliging expertise is seen as a bad thing. But if you were to visit your doctor and that doctor had no priveliged expertise you would be rightly pissed off."

As I say, I wrote 1000 word today. Most of them were gibberish. I did however, for the first time in my life use the word 'semiotic' correctly. Surely a sign of greatness to come.

Monday, 11 April 2011

Deadlines. Non-negotiable.

Gulp. There's 39 days left till my degree finishes. Double gulp. And there's a total of 13000 word demanded towards fulfilment of same. Yoiks.

Calculations show that this means I have to average 333.333 word per day between now and 20 May if I am to successfully complete all the requirements.

In the intervenening time, I also have an interview towards my Post Graduate application to engage with (which for reasons I will not go into at this time is even more a source of stress).

This means I have 936 hours to complete my assignment, a word rate of 13.96 words per hour. The target might seem easy, but in a single day, I sleep at least eight hours. This increases my word rate-per-hour to 20.18 necessary if I am to pass. Looks very achievable you might say.

But there are eight essential soccer matches to watch between then and now, a total of 12 hours. Plus, the inevitable time spent socialising, as I cannot just ignore RHB, regardless of whether she, in fact ignored me totally for three years during her post-graduate. This means approximately an hour per day = 39 hours. Then, there are the cats, which require some attention, otherwise I would be denying some fundamental principles I have come to live by. Call this 1 hour per day = 39 hours.

So, now we have a word rate of approximately 25 word per hour necessary. But writing is not the only thing, there's formatting, editing, submitting, proof reading. Each essay, this usually takes me about eight hours.Then I have to eat, so time out for eating, assuming three square per day is 3 x 39 = 117. I also have to book a holiday as I am going to Greece directly after the last submission date. Last time I did this, I forgot to book a return leg of the journey, and that took my six hours, so assume eight hours total to complete this task. Then there's finding my passport - another eight hours. The maths tells me I now have to produce 35 word per hour for completion.

Other things intrude as well - I spend about eight hours a week in formal exercise and another eight riding. I also teach one day per week, which takes up about 4 hours. Then there's bill paying and banking - say three, chatting to neighbours (one per day), housework (one per day) and watching Survivor and other rubbish on the tv (two per day). By now we are down to a need to produce 68 words per hour, every hour in order just to pass.

This is all fine and dandy, except that I have to have something to write about, which requires reading - two to four hours per day. And analysing the date in the light of that reading - another hour or so per day. Then I need to think about it, decide what to write - another two hours per day. I also need to wash occasionally. And I've promised the other half of Cheek to cheek that I wont stop our music, because the music, quite simply, cannot be stopped. That takes time.

ANd these statistics dont tell the truth about the conditions for writing - the need to be alone, quiet, not bugged by cats, or chatted to by partner. And the window for that is about once per day, if I'm lucky.

I've given up using the calculator by now and am just navigating rule by thumb, but I am truly panicking. A quick re-analysis of what I've just written reveals that my best strategy is to simply give up, as I've come to the conclusion that I need to write all 13000 words in about half an hour, tomorrow afternoon. So if you telephone tomorrow, dont expect an answer.