Saturday, 31 October 2015

Halloween 2015

Not much to write about today - I went for a walk in the morning with my mother and in the afternoon I walked with my brother. For this evening, we closed all our windows, blinds and curtains to dissuade trick-or-treaters and we ignored the ones who did knock.

A moderately negative post, this one is. Sorry about that. Happy Halloween!

Friday, 30 October 2015

Bloggers Blog Party - September 2015

Less food and more buses for September 2015's Secret Life of Bloggers Blog Party post:

Friday 4th September: Mum cooked a vegetarian lasagna for lunch the following Saturday. While my family is not vegetarian, every once in a while we eat a vegetable-only meal, although it's because we like a particular recipe.

Wednesday 9th September: I visited Mansfield, a massive town in northern Nottinghamshire. I have been driven through Mansfield before but this was the first time I set foot in the place. I travelled there on a Threes bus, taking the long route through the towns of Kirkby-in-Ashfield and Sutton-in-Ashfield; the journey there took almost two hours but my Threes return bus was more direct, taking only an hour to arrive back in Nottingham.

Friday 11th September: This is a residential tower in Clifton. One of my friends just groaned when I asked her what the building ("this monstrosity") is.

Saturday 12th September: This is the Rushcliffe Country Park, located in Ruddington, which is near the aforementioned Clifton. Ruddington, Clifton and this park are beautiful places.

Tuesday 15th September: Someone drove into a traffic barrier near to one of my bus stops. I didn't see what happened and this has since been fixed (mostly).

Wednesday 16th September: A friend and I went to the cinema at the Cornerhouse; this is a view of Nottingham taken from the top floor of the building.

Friday 18th September: This interesting advert.

Saturday 19th September: This is the market square of Bingham, a town several miles to the east of Nottingham. This was my first visit to Bingham; I used the voucher for the free ticket to cover the trip.

A Rushcliffe Villager bus! I think this was the one that brought me to Bingham in the first place, although as it's been over a month since this day I'm unsure if this was a different Villager bus (same route, though).

When I rode another Villager to return to Nottingham on the opposite route, I photographed the city, which can be seen in the background.

Sunday 20th September: This is the centre of Stapleford, a town to west of Nottingham on the border with Derbyshire. I also visited Long Eaton and Sandiacre on this day. The teal-coloured bus in the picture is the bus I rode to Staplefored; it's on the I4 route.

Friday 25th September: This is a Ruddington Connection bus, taken from when I was on board my own bus. Sadly, the Ruddington Connection will come to an end on the 22nd of November, as the tram system has cut down on bus use on certain routes.

Monday 28th September: At my college, one of my friends discovered that the canteen is now serving these delicious iced buns. While the bun does not look particularly huge in this picture, I can assure you that they are enormous and filling.

Wednesday 30th September: A sunny day in Hucknall; the road ahead leads back to the town centre whereas behind me is the road to Mansfield.

Thursday, 29 October 2015

At the bottom of the disagreement pyramid

On a certain popular Facebook page last week, the owner posted a joke that involved animal cruelty. Now, I have a fairly healthy sense of humour but even I have limits - I do not enjoy laughing at the suffering of others. As such, I posted a comment critical of the joke and since my comment was among the first posted, it received significant attention and was soon the most "liked" comment in the thread.

While the comment went on to be my most "liked" to date (160+), it was not without its critics. In fact, I would estimate that over half the people who left a non-like response opposed me. I say "oppose" because they were not discussing or arguing against me in a constructive manner; no, far from it - they immediately descended to the bottom two tiers of Graham's Hierarchy of Disagreement:

The first person to respond fell into the "Ad Hominem" tier, as they decided to interrogate me on whether or not I am a vegan and a user of animal products. Their goal was to derail my criticism by painting me as a hypocrite if I answered no and yes, respectively, or to label me as a liar if I said I did not use animal products (everyone uses animal products in everyday life, whether we like it or not). Other people who fell into this tier were those who mocked me for being "offended", even though I clearly stated that I had not taken offence and that criticising something does mean that someone is offended. Also, even if I were offended, that wouldn't have invalidated my point.

A couple of others attacked my intelligence, claiming that only someone with a low IQ would criticise the joke or not appreciate the humour. Most other people fell into the bottom tier, "Name-calling". Yep, because yelling "you're an asshat/idiot/stupid" is an excellent way of refuting an argument. I shrugged off the trolling and in one instance flung an insult back at its speaker; as tempting as it was to engage in reciprocal obnoxiousness, I maintained my composure.

My point is that I was astounded - although I shouldn't have been - at the amount of people who jumped to aggressively defend a poor joke by maligning me. Over a joke involving cruelty to an animal, at that! Even if people had politely disagreed I would still have regarded their views as wrong and would not have been convinced by their arguments but I would have at least respected their willingness to engage in constructive debate. By attacking me, not only did they reinforce confidence in my own perspective but they left me with a negative impression of people who laugh at the type of joke I opposed. It's disappointing that so many people think that trolling and vulgarities, backed up with no substance whatsoever, is a valid form of debate.

A few people defended me, such as by agreeing, telling others to not "jump on the bully bandwagon" and by praising me for speaking up, all of which I appreciated. Less than 24 hours after my comment was posted, the joke was deleted; while I did not ask or demand the joke's removal (they were free to post, I was free to criticise) I nevertheless appreciated this response to my comment, to those who made similar comments and to anyone who agreed.

It is possible to disagree with someone without insulting them. If you disagree in a constructive and civil manner, at the very least you and the other person will have respect for each other and the possibility exists for one person to change the other's mind. By contrast, if you denigrate someone, it is almost certainly guaranteed that you will not defeat their argument and you will most likely cause that person think that anyone with your viewpoint is prone to attacking rather than debating.

Note: above image is not mine and is from:'s_Hierarchy_of_Disagreement-en.svg

Wednesday, 28 October 2015

The staring sheep

In the addition to photographing the rolling greens yesterday, I also took a picture of this staring sheep:

Most of the other sheep in the field ignored my brother and me but this one thought we were interesting enough to watch. She continued to stare at us as we were walking away.

Tuesday, 27 October 2015

Rolling greens

A gap in today's clouds allowed me to photograph the local green and rolling fields:

A few moments later, a cloud covered the Sun and shrouded the fields in darkness.

Monday, 26 October 2015

Way too early

I saw this and others like it on Friday night:

Late October is still way too early for holiday decorations - in fact, I think that seeing them anytime before December is too early. People complain about how the season is "too commercialised" but putting out decorations two months in advance seems like more commercialising, not less.

Sunday, 25 October 2015

Bus connection photos

Here are pictures of three bus lines:

Here is the middle and back of a Rainbow One bus; coincidentally, I was on board a Rainbow One bus when I took this photograph. On the Trentbarton buses I've travelled on so far, the interior colours match the exterior, so seats on the inside of Rainbow One buses are blue.

This is a current Red Arrow bus, which I am assuming will be gradually replaced with those from the new fleet. This picture was taken on the same day and place as the aforementioned Rainbow One bus. The image is a little blurred because both the Red Arrow and my bus were in motion.

And this is the Calverton Connection. This was on a different day to the above two images and I was standing outside rather than on a vehicle. The only other black buses I've seen and ridden in Nottingham were (I think) a reserve Rushcliffe Greens bus I encountered a few months ago.

Saturday, 24 October 2015

Second course, first half-term

The first half-term break of the course has begun; as such, I am at the family home in Northamptonshire for the week. College resumes on the 2nd of November.

Not a long post because there isn't much to say - it's rained for most of today so other than packing/unpacking belongings and travelling in a car, I've haven't exactly done much today!

Friday, 23 October 2015

The Red Arrows

Mere serendipity allowed me to witness this spectacle this morning:

For most of today in Nottingham's market square, Trentbarton was unveiling their upgraded Red Arrow fleet, which the company's website notes is composed of Plaxton Elite-i class buses, with a focus on greater customer comfort and expanded timetables. The event consisted of displaying the new buses, having people tour them and giving out information about the Red Arrow line.

Red Arrow is the non-stop route between Nottingham and Derby. While I have not yet travelled on the Red Arrow line, the route has certainly interested me in the past (the current Red Arrow buses are still, in their own right, impressive behemoths observable in the centre of Nottingham) and seeing this new fleet has most definitely increased my curiosity. I shall have to plan a trip to Derby soon - not necessarily to see Derby but to ride Red Arrow and back!

Thursday, 22 October 2015

Quiet room study sessions

For the past two days, a few of my classmates and I have utilised the library "quiet room" to complete our work. The quiet room is, by nature of its name, essentially a small room inside the library that is sealed off from the rest of the facility; even when the rest of the library is noisy, the quiet room remains...quiet.

I spent five hours there on Wednesday and seven hours there today. While none of us finished our new assignments, we wrote large amounts for our pieces and spent a long time each just reading. We also helped each other where we could, within limits (like advice with something or help with grammar/spelling - not outright doing each other's work!).

Wednesday, 21 October 2015

Biden declines

United States Vice President Joe Biden has declined to run for president in 2016:

While I think that it is a shame that Biden will not be contesting the Democratic nomination, I respect his reasons why. It is late August and usually by now, everyone who wants to run for president has usually been in the race for months. Biden has stated that his family was ready for him to run even with the death of Beau Biden, his son; however, Beau's death occurred back at the end of May, which is still fairly recent. I shouldn't speculate but it wouldn't surprise me if that has played a factor in Biden opting to keep out of the race; it was a devastating loss.

Biden is a recipient of continued bad press but I think it's unwarranted; his job as the vice president is to support the president and even before his election to the position in 2008, he had achieved a long and respectable record in the Senate. Overall, I think he has been an excellent politician.

Tuesday, 20 October 2015

Sunset near the station

Last evening while riding back on the bus, I photographed the sunset from near the train station:

Even with the tree and building in the way, this was a fortunate capture: A red light stopped my bus in time for me. Whenever I've tried to photograph similar sunsets from the same position they've turned out blurred because of the moving bus.

Monday, 19 October 2015

The official position

Early on in my second course, I mentioned that I had been elected the Class Rep and that the position had been made official by my signing the relevant form. This afternoon, I finally received a letter in the mail stating that I am indeed the Class Rep; it also informed me of the dates and times of the meetings.

I'm pleased that my position is now "officially official". Ever since I signed that form I've been wondering when my duties will start and it's good to be in the proper frame of mind for the role. No more waiting around!

Sunday, 18 October 2015

Saturday, 17 October 2015

A familiar face

Today, I rode the Rainbow One bus route to Kimberley, a town to the northwest of Nottingham. From there, I walked along some public footpaths, then to Giltbrook and then to a town called Eastwood. I had a great afternoon out, exploring places I hadn't yet visited.

Still, in this sea of new lands I found a sense of familiarity: As I walked back into Kimberley from Giltbrook along the border of the two towns, I saw, at one of the bus stops, a lady who frequently rides on the same morning buses that I do and occasionally in the evenings as well; we live in the same town.

I was surprised to see her and I think she was equally surprised to see me. It's understandable for us to be on the same bus together on some mornings in our own town but to encounter each other some 15-20 miles away from where we both live...even in a localised area the odds are unlikely.

We acknowledged each other through smiles, which is, as far as I can remember, our first interaction, unless one of us once motioned for the other to board a bus out of politeness.

Friday, 16 October 2015

Bathroom shock

I experienced a sweat-inducing shock this afternoon. I required use of a bathroom at college to wash my hands; this doesn't sound exciting in itself - because it isn't. However, when I opened the bathroom door to exit, there was a woman waiting to enter.

The lady completely took me by surprise, as I was certain I had entered the men's facilities, but the sight of her caused me to think that perhaps I'd somehow entered the women's bathroom by mistake or that a prank had ensnared me. Fortunately, she turned out to be a cleaner and I relaxed.

Still, the experience was alarming, mainly because for that brief moment I thought I was in the wrong place and was scaring her. I am pleased that wasn't the case.

Thursday, 15 October 2015

The Riverbank

This evening, my grandparents, Nottingham aunt and uncle and I all went to The Riverbank, a restaurant by the Trent on the way in to Nottingham:

Whenever I take the bus into Nottingham from home I always pass by The Riverbank. While I've ridden and walked past the building hundreds of times, this is the first occasion on which I went inside. I ate the following:

It's a "Cloughie burger", which is named after footballer Brian Clough. The meal consisted of a burger with two meat patties, pickles, lettuce, relish and Stilton cheese, with a small ball of coleslaw on the side and a tin full of enormous chips/fries. The dinner was delicious, the service was excellent and everyone enjoyed the evening. I highly recommend The Riverbank.

Wednesday, 14 October 2015

Taking back the days

During my last college course, I attended four classes over four days a week (Mondays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays); for this course, I'm only in for three (Mondays, Tuesdays and Fridays). However, what is lost in days is made up for in time: last year three of my lessons were for three hours and one was two. This year, I'm in all day Monday and Friday, and in for most of Tuesday.

I'm now in the process of increasing my time there to be in on Wednesdays and Thursdays, too. When I complete work at home, I tend to do it inefficiently in that I become distracted and end up doing something else for a while before I return to my work. When I'm working in the college library, I am just working; even with all the chatter and other noises, I still achieve more there than in a quiet bedroom.

I have the freedom this year to do this because I have been granted a proper bus pass rather than a card that the college needs to top up with money every couple of months. The bus pass gives me unlimited travel on most Trentbarton buses in this area, which is also why I've had access to places such as Stapleford and Calverton. This pass expires in late July of next year.

I enjoy being in college so going in on weekdays when my lessons aren't present is not a problem for me; I complete my work, I love being there and it costs nothing for me to travel. There's no downside.

Tuesday, 13 October 2015

London, October 2015

My class and I attended the college London trip today. The coaches departed the college at about 9:00 and arrived at the museums by 1:00. I will post more later but for now I only have time to provide a brief description of my activities from today.

Monday, 12 October 2015

More bus fun

Today's morning bus story is, like all my bus stories, fun. I was across the road from my usual stop when the bus appeared a couple of minutes before it was supposed to; I didn't cross because the road was busy and I knew that the bus would be gone by the time the traffic had cleared. A few seconds later, the bus continued its journey.

I then decided, rather than wait at the stop for ten minutes or so, that I would walk to an earlier stop on the route and be picked up sooner by the next bus. To my complete surprise, the next bus appeared while I was between stops and I was unable to run fast enough to make it to either stop. At this point, I was unsure which bus was early and which one was late while at same time frustrated that I had missed both within a couple of minutes of each other.

On the bright side, thanks to this fun a mother and I had a conversation at the bus stop, which we would not have had had I caught one of the other two buses or arrived at my stop after they'd already driven by. We both talked about the new bus routes and the old routes, and when we caught the next bus, we made it to our respective destinations ahead of schedule.

Sunday, 11 October 2015

The Calverton Connection

I added a new town and bus route to my list today: I visited Calverton - a town to the north-east of Nottingham - via the Calverton Connection route provided by Trentbarton. The journey there lasted about forty minutes and I then enjoyed a pleasant walk around the town. The landscape on the way there and back was also something to behold:

I was unable to properly photograph the landscape on the outgoing journey but on my return trip to Nottingham I ensured I sat in a seat that allowed me to take excellent shots like this one. The rolling hills, trees and background buildings make for fine scenery.

Saturday, 10 October 2015

Americans and their passports

The world enjoys mocking the United States regarding how supposedly a low percentage of Americans hold passports (ranging from 10-30% by some estimates). It feeds the stereotype that Americans are uncultured and ignorant of the world beyond their borders while believing that the United States is the center of the planet. It's argued that the American government and media declaring that the United States is the "greatest country in the world" discourages Americans from going abroad. That might be one explanation but how about a good-faith, less hateful reason?

Look at the geography and climates of the United States. It's one of the few countries that has a massive array of landscapes and terrains. Do you want forests? The Pacific Northwest is the place for you. Deserts? The Southwest. Beaches? California and Florida. Mountains and snow? Alaska is the answer. Surfing? The Golden State again and Hawaii. Flat and farmlands? The Great Plains states. Places with an "old" feel to them? New England, parts of the mid-Atlantic and Virginia would be safe bets. With all this tucked into one giant country, is it any wonder why many Americans don't see the need to travel abroad? Why bother with the hassle of international airports when you have everything you need and want within your vicinity?

It could be argued that exploring a foreign country opens you up to a new culture. That is true but honestly, how many other international travelers go to another country "for the culture"? Many people have to travel because it's a part of their job, much as it was for my father; his time in other countries was for work-sponsored tasks, not for pleasure. In addition to him, people such as diplomats, military personnel and aircraft crews are all required to travel by the nature of their jobs. They're not going there specifically to absorb local cultures, although it can sometimes still be possible for them to simultaneously work and experience another country. Immigrants usually choose to move to another country for economic reasons; learning the new culture is a part of immigration rather than the cause of it; take my family - our international moves stemmed from economic motives.

And, of course, let's not forget the thousands of British people who visit Spain, Italy and Greece every year. Are they going there because they harbor deep desires to learn about the Reconquista, Leonardo da Vinci and the Cradle of Western Civilization? No, they go there for the beaches, the hot weather and (sometimes) for intentional intoxication. Who does more harm: somebody who visits Spain, gets drunk and ends up committing a crime or a family who travels from Ohio to Florida on a family vacation?

Not visiting other countries does not mean that you know nothing about them: Thanks to the Internet and easy communication, I know about French politics despite having never set foot in France. I haven't been to Iran yet I have conducted some studying of its cities and while I've never been anywhere near New Zealand, I have learnt that its terrain is similar to that of Oregon. Granted, it would be an amazing opportunity to visit these places and I would benefit from that but, at the same time, I lose nothing by not traveling. I would never criticize Americans who don't engage in international travel and I would be a hypocrite if I ever were to: during my family's fourteen-and-a-third years living there, I never left the country during that time (except when we moved away) and I have yet to travel from the United Kingdom since we came here in 2010. Only Dad travelled - because it was required of him for his work.

It's not shameful to not travel provided that you don't hate other peoples simply because they're different. The problem isn't people who don't travel - it's people who don't take the time to learn, understand and appreciate others, and such close-minded individuals can be of any nationality.

Friday, 9 October 2015

Relative encounter

After I left college this evening, I walked to the Victoria Centre as part of a short walk before taking the bus back home. Just before I left the vicinity of the Victoria Centre, I noticed a friend and his daughter about to cross the road over to where I was located; I moved to the left in order to greet my friend but in doing so, I looked over my shoulder to notice an extremely familiar man leave the centre.

It was my uncle! I thought he was on his own but then he moved again and I saw my aunt materialise from around his side. It delighted me to see them and so I went over to talk to them for a few minutes; they were equally surprised and pleased to see me. While we chatted, I noticed that my friend had not seen me and was walking in another direction (I knew he hadn't ignored me - the crowd blocked his view).

Randomly bumping into family members is not something that had occurred to me prior to today, to my knowledge, mainly because of all that time I spent in the United States, away from relatives. I am unsure about random encounters during my initial five years here, though, for I was too young to remember.

Thursday, 8 October 2015

The stylus

I own a phablet phone. A major reason why I am delighted to have such a phone is because of its huge size; on smaller touchscreen phones - even on the Galaxy S III - I've been prone to pressing the wrong buttons due to my large hands. Another major reason is because of my phablet's stylus, which I can use to write on the screen:

Both of these aspects of the phone have been incredibly useful since my second college course began. The screen size is great because it allows the font size to be increased, which allows for easier reading (incredibly useful when conducting research), while the stylus allows me to take notes when I don't have a pen and paper to hand. My college encourages the use of technology in lessons provided that it's used to assist with our work.

Wednesday, 7 October 2015

"Such Great Heights" - The Postal Service

This is "Such Great Heights" by The Postal Service:

I first heard of The Postal Service when I read that Owl City's music had been compared to theirs but I didn't hear any of their songs until I watched them perform on an episode of The Colbert Report a couple of years or so ago. The Postal Service have only ever released one album, Give Up, which they released in 2003 and re-released in 2013, the latter as a celebration of the ten-year anniversary of the album.

Sadly, after little activity in the aforementioned decade, The Postal Service announced in 2013 that they would be permanently splitting up, which I think is a shame. Their music is both interesting and imaginative, which is where the Owl City comparisons originate.

Tuesday, 6 October 2015

Improved description/tagline (redux)

Back in February 2013, I wrote this post in which I called for opinions on my suggested improvements to Air Nice-to-Livelands' tagline:

To date, I have not changed the tagline. At the time, there was one comment to support one change and a second comment to support another. As such, I wasn't sure what to do and then I forgot about it. For some reason the post meandered across my mind tonight.

Monday, 5 October 2015

Hucknall new houses

When I visited Hucknall on Sunday, I walked to a part of the town that I hadn't been to before nor even knew existed - this housing development:

The development is so new that it shows up on Google Earth as a dirt-track construction site. I did not walk around the development because it was late in the day and I had two bus rides to catch.

The combination of the colour of these houses, the clear sky and the hills in the background briefly caused me to forget what country I was in. I felt a touch of California here.

Sunday, 4 October 2015

Impatience or helpful?

I witnessed an interesting event this morning when I boarded a bus. There were four people ahead of me in the line; the first two boarded without issue. The third person was in the process of paying by cash when the man behind her swiped his bus card on the scanner. When the driver had finished the transaction with the lady, he scolded the man for not waiting until the person ahead of him in the queue had finished paying.

The man's response? He complained that he was saving the driver time by swiping then rather than later. This caused the driver to give the man a lecture about being patient and waiting his turn; when the man argued back, the driver asked if he wanted to leave the bus, noting that he was "being rude". He then told the man to sit down, which the man did.

I can see the event from both sides. The man possibly acted in good faith and thought he was saving the driver a few seconds of time; after all, he did not barge past the woman ahead of him when he swiped - he waited. That being said, the driver has to oversee all transactions and it's hard for him to watch the scanner when he's dealing with someone paying by cash. There's also the matter of simple politeness - it was not yet the man's turn in the queue when he swiped.

The lesson here? Regardless of your intentions, wait for your turn in the queue.

Saturday, 3 October 2015

Short U.S. citizenship test

I was linked to the following page, which contains questions from the U.S. citizenship test:

I scored 15/15, as the questions were easy to me and on that projection I could pass the test. How well can you perform?

Out of curiosity, I ought to see if the test or a variant of it can be found online; I am confident that my knowledge of the United States is strong enough for me to pass the test by a substantial margin.

Friday, 2 October 2015

Dog duty

I encountered this "polite notice" up in Hucknall on Saturday. I wonder what would happen if a "rude notice" were to be implemented.

Thursday, 1 October 2015

Decline of Detroit

I posted this to Facebook earlier:

"It's both shocking and saddening when you read about the population history of Detroit. At its peak in the 1950s, its number of inhabitants stood at 1.8 million people - on par with Los Angeles at the time. Nowadays, its population has dropped into the 600,000s and is smaller than places like Indianapolis and Charlotte.

The past few decades have been unkind to Detroit. It would be great if the city one day reverses its long-term decline and bounces back."

You would think that there would be more shame and outrage present at the fading of a great American city. Instead, few people really care and many mock Detroit and its supporters. This is a city that was once an economic powerhouse and the throne of the American automobile industry; nowadays, it's a place that recently exited bankruptcy and a laughingstock.