Sunday, 31 January 2016

Bloggers Blog Party - December 2015

I was early for November 2015's post but for December 2015's Secret Life of Bloggers Blog Party contribution I'm back to the end of the month. Some days have multiple pictures, which wasn't intentional but it works and means I can implement this in future blog party posts:

Wednesday 2nd December: I walked past this anti-war protest near Nottingham's Brian Clough statue. There were at least 100 people present while I was observing and they were protesting British military involvement in Syria.

Also taken on this day: A close friend gave me these delicious candies for my birthday. The American candies she gave were especially thoughtful and highly enjoyable!

Monday 7th December: My college's canteen was serving gingerbread cookies over the Christmas period.

Also taken on this day: One evening, I received thi free Zigzag ticket from Trentbarton. There had been a delay during a driver changeover, which resulted in every passenger receiving this free ticket and an apology. I have since used the ticket.

Wednesday 9th December: A "cleaning in progress" sign was hanging near the urinals in one of the toilets in my college.

Also from this day: I photographed these Christmas decorations within the Broadmarsh.

Again from this day: The Victoria Centre looks downright awesome at night.

Saturday 12th December: This was the day when I visited Chesterfield for the first time on my own. The spire can be just about seen in the background but the rainy day limits the view.

Wednesday 16th December: These pigeons were just hanging around. They, like all pigeons in Nottingham, aren't bothered by humans and know that we generate food for them.

Thursday 17th December: I broke up two full bars of Cadbury Daily Milk for a batch of brownies I baked for a college fuddle.

Friday 18th December: A glorious sunrise on my last day of college for 2015.

Tuesday 22nd December: I crafted two eyes in the slice of bread when I noticed it possessed a "mouth".

Wednesday 30th December: My antepenultimate picture of 2015, this is a small view of Northampton from within a friend's car.

Saturday, 30 January 2016

Adele as Adele

This came up in my Facebook news feed a couple of months ago:

I'm not usually a fan of pranks but this one was both harmless and hilarious. Adele pulled the trick off splendidly.

Friday, 29 January 2016

Early Valentine's Day surprise

I received this wonderful gift from my friend and fellow blogger Jessica today:

It was a letter and a Grumpy Cat-themed Valentine's Day card. Jessica said she was sending some friendly Valentines out to her close friends but I wasn't expecting to receive mine so soon.

Thanks, Jessica! When summer comes, she and I will have been friends for five years.

Thursday, 28 January 2016

In early (2)

I repeated my actions from yesterday: I went into college early on a day without timetabled lessons and spent all day working in the library on my assignments. The tactic paid off, as I completed more work today than I would have done had I spent some extra time sleeping.

I will have new assignments by this time next week, so I think I'll continue this, judging by its success from today and yesterday. I already go to college on my days off but going early is a new strategy.

Wednesday, 27 January 2016

In early

While I did not have any timetabled lesson today, I arrived at college early (8:00) so that I'd be able to work on assignments in the library for a few hours before lunch. Since Wednesdays and Thursdays are my days off, I often put in some extra sleep before getting ready and then arriving at college around midday to work in the afternoon.

As I have an assignment due in on Friday, I figured more time in the library was worth more than some more time in bed. Judging by the (significant) amount of work I completed today, I think it was a wise decision and one I'll be repeating tomorrow.

Tuesday, 26 January 2016

Approaching primary season, 2016

It is now less than a week until the Iowa Caucuses, which will mark the start of the presidential primary season in the United States. I think the 2016 election cycle is certainly going to be an interesting one, to say the least. A year ago, it looked as though the election was guaranteed to be a Hillary Clinton-Jeb Bush contest; now, Clinton is behind in polling in Iowa and New Hampshire to Senator Bernie Sanders and Bush polls in the single-digits behind other candidates.

While politics should not be entertaining, there is no doubt in my mind that this election will be entertaining due to some of the candidates involved. I reckon that factor will determine the primaries in at least some manner - we shall see.

Monday, 25 January 2016

Another pigeon frenzy

At the Victoria Centre bus station this past weekend, I encountered another pigeon frenzy:

There was some food on the ground but I couldn't tell exactly what had this avian fleet in a fiasco. They had earned themselves a small human audience.

Sunday, 24 January 2016

English? It's a bargain

I posted this to Facebook earlier:

"I encountered *another* British English vs. American English 'debate'. I've concluded that the best response to the claim that non-British variants of English are 'butchering' the language is to note how many people want to speak English.

Many countries, including ancients such as China and Iran, encourage English as a second language to help their citizens succeed globally. If the 'cost' to Britain is each country crafting its own variant(s), thus creating a 'unifying' language, that's not a butchering - that's a bargain. The diversity of English should be embraced not eschewed; equally, my hope is that other countries' native languages do not lose their influences, as they are in far more danger than English will ever face."

Fighting over whether or not "color" should have a U, if "Z" should be pronounced "zed" or if "pants" is interchangeable with "trousers" is petty and pointless in the long run.

Saturday, 23 January 2016

Overdone steak

This evening, my grandfather gave me the chance to cook my own steak for my dinner:

I overcooked my steak and the resulting toughness meant I was forced to cut the meat up into small pieces to eat it but it was tasty, nevertheless. I was concerned about undercooking the meat given my relative inexperience with cooking steak; out of the two, I would say it is better to overcook.

Friday, 22 January 2016

From half an hour to two hours

When I returned home from college this evening, I was exhausted, to the point where I had been fighting drifting off to sleep on the bus. I thought I'd re-awaken once I'd exited the bus and for a few minutes, that was the case; however, after being back for about half an hour, I started drifting off again and struggled to remain awake.

As such, I went to bed to sleep for thirty minutes before dinner. I figured that rather than sleep my way through my food, I'd rest for a bit. Unfortunately, I underestimated how tired I was - my half-hour sleep evolved into a two-hour rest instead!

To be fair, I needed the sleep; I have had a busier-than-usual week at college and I have not slept as much as I should have. I just hope that when I return to bed soon, I won't be up for half the night trying to return to sleep!

Thursday, 21 January 2016

Less than a year remaining

I find it hard to believe that yesterday marked a year until President Barack Obama leaves office. The man, who campaigned as an inspirational and transfigurative candidate, has experienced one of the most brutal presidencies in the whole of United States history.

Brutal. Not brutal in the sense of Obama being an authoritarian but brutal in all the criticism he has received and the sheer amount of opposition he has faced at every turn. Every action he has taken or proposed, no matter how insignificant, has received criticism that has ranged from healthy skepticism (which is completely reasonable and expected) to utter hatred and accusations of him being a "traitor", "un-American" and other loathsome terms.

Such language would never have been acceptable under any former president. I think it's important to remember that no matter how much anyone may disagree with Obama and his policies, everything he has done (and still wants to do) has been because he thought it was best for America. He never set out to "destroy America" or to engage in any similar nonsense - after all this time, after all he's been through, he still cares deeply for and loves all Americans, no matter how much any hate him. I also, after all this time, after all I've been through, believe in Obama and I care. I care - about Americans, about Britons, about everyone. Because that's what we should do. That's what "Hope and Change" was about and I believe that message remains relevant.

In January of 2008 - an astounding eight years ago - I lived in Southern Oregon, had two cats, both parents and no official education. Nowadays, I live in Nottinghamshire, have no pets, one parent, some academic qualifications with more on the way and a chance to make it into university. Oh, my universe sure has changed since the pre-Obama world; I am a massively different person to what I was back then.

Wednesday, 20 January 2016

"How Internet Commenters See The World"

Given the amount of times I've moaned here about Internet commenters, this CollegeHumor page seems appropriate to share here:

All of the cartoons are on point, especially #2, the one about feminism. Every time a woman (or even a man) says something fully rational about women's rights, trolls come out from under their rocks like termites from an appetising piece of woodwork. Also, in the last cartoon, I like CollegeHumor's subtle jab at its critics (look at background comment directly above the highlighted comment).

I acknowledge that I have posted a few items from CollegeHumor recently. Don't worry, my blog isn't turning into a re-post hub from that site!

Tuesday, 19 January 2016

"We R Tongue Tied In 1996" - MacGeecy Project Mash-up

In the final months - possibly even weeks - of the last academic year, this song became one of my favourite mashup:

It's "We R Tongue Tied In 1996", which is the MacGeecy Project's mashup of Kesha's "We R Who We R", Grouplove's "Tongue Tied" and The Wombats' "1996". I came across it by chance when looking for remixes of "Tongue Tied" on YouTube; my discovery of this excellent mashup delighted me. If I were to grant ratings, "We R Tongue Tied In 1996" would definitely receive a 10/10 from me.

I have mentioned Kesha on a few occasions, the most notable two being here and here. Until this post I had never written about Grouplove or The Wombats, although I was certain I had covered "Tongue Tied" here at some point.

Monday, 18 January 2016

Snow-inspired bus change

As I have full days of lessons on Mondays and Fridays, I have to leave early and catch a bus that goes through my town at times between 7:40-8:10. Depending on traffic, such buses arrive at my college between 8:10 and 8:40, and if I take any later bus than one that I can pick up at 8:10, I arrive at college too close to the start of class and risk lateness, which I don't want.

Due to snowfall that occurred Saturday night, which has since melted, I became inspired to take a bus that travels through at 7:30, which is also one that drives closer to my house. My main reason for not taking this bus is that I thought it would take me to college too early and that I'd have to hang around outside for 10 or 20 minutes before entering the campus; however, when I took the bus today, it arrived at about 8:05, which meant I could enter without any issues.

I think I'll start taking this bus on Mondays and Fridays from now on, assuming this pattern holds; I'll try it out for the next few weeks and if I prefer this time to my previous times, I'll stick with it. This will also mean I'll be out of bed faster on Monday and Friday mornings.

Sunday, 17 January 2016

Sanctions revert

Many of the sanctions placed on Iran by the European Union, United Nations and United States were lifted or suspended today:

While a multitude of the sanctions were measures taken to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons, others were implemented before 2006 for other reasons. This rolling back of sanctions is because of Iran's compliance with a nuclear deal arranged between itself and the West last year, which was welcomed by the world.

This move allows the Iranian economy to start recovering from years of heavy sanctions. It will benefit the Iranian people while everyone as a whole benefits from continually-improving relations between Iran and the West. In addition, Iran's help is desperately needed to deal with serious issues affecting the Middle East at the moment, so it's in the world's interests to have Iran on board with the international community. The lifting/suspending of sanctions goes a long way towards making that a reality.

The only people who oppose the deal are hardliners and "warmongers" who, for no sane reason, want more conflict in the Middle East. The people in that part of the world are tired of war - they want to fighting to stop, not to escalate.

Saturday, 16 January 2016

"Shake Your Leg Friday!"

At my bus stop yesterday morning, I encountered a bin man/garbage remover singing as he was cleaning up trash and emptying bins. When he arrived at my bus stop, he stopped his singing, greeted me, said “Shake Your Leg Friday!” and asked how I was. I said I was well and hoped he was, too. Once he had finished emptying the bin near my stop, he wished me a good day, which I reciprocated; he said thanks and then resumed his singing. 

Someone waiting near my stop with me was equally amused by the bin man’s good cheer but we agreed that if he was making his job happier occasion for himself, more power to him. Perhaps he'd received a promotion or that his partner had just said yes to his marriage proposal (or vice versa) or that he'd just learned that he was going to become a father. Regardless of the reason, it was a delight to see someone in such a positive mood, especially before 8:00am while said individual was removing garbage.

Friday, 15 January 2016

"All Star Wars Characters Have Stupid Names"

A few weeks before my aunt and cousin took me to see Star Wars: The Force Awakens, CollegeHumor released this parody video of the film:

It portrays the film's primary antagonist, Kylo Ren, becoming increasingly frustrated over the "stupid" names that inhabit the galaxy. I really enjoy this video; CollegeHumor usually creates hilarious clips but this is one of their best, in my opinion.

Thursday, 14 January 2016


According to my "Published" panel, upon saving this will be my 1701st blog post. The number 1701 carries a certain significance in society thanks to a long-running television/movie franchise. Unsure what I'm talking about? Much as I hate telling people to "Google it" when I can easily tell them myself, in case, I recommend Googling the number.

Wednesday, 13 January 2016

Chips, pizza, croissant

I purchased this delicious meal combination in the college canteen yesterday,

Chips (large fries), pizza and a croissant! The canteen, as far as I'm aware, serves chips every day but the pizza is rarer and the croissant I had never seen at all until yesterday afternoon. For £3 this made a worthy lunch.

Tuesday, 12 January 2016

Two conditional offers

I sent my university application to the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) in the first half of last December and, in turn, the organisation recently submitted my application to my university of choice, Nottingham Trent. I have wonderful news: I have received conditional offers for two of my five choices. For now, I have been offered:

English and Media
English and TESOL (Teaching English as a Second Language)

Both offers are "conditional" in that I need to pass my current Access course in order to fully secure either course. In addition, I still have to wait for decisions on my other three choices before I can do anything else. That being said, conditional offers are still something to celebrate and I am delighted to have received these two so far.

Monday, 11 January 2016

Summat, summit and something

I posted this to Facebook in the late evening:

"You can tell when you've lived in an area for a while when you start, without even thinking, picking up the local dialect. An example of this is earlier when I said "summit" in the place of "something", which is common among people from Nottingham and the surrounding regions."

It's unsurprising that "Nottinghamisms" have crept into my vocabulary, given that I've had abundant interaction with the locals since September 2014. It's not just the occasional word that has appeared in my speaking, sometimes pronunciations manifest themselves, such as when I've said "bus" the way people from Nottingham do.

Sunday, 10 January 2016

The five routes

Without setting off with the intention to do so, yesterday I rode on five different bus routes. Not just five buses but five routes - I never rode the same route twice. I took a second visit to the towns of Kimberley, Giltbrook and Eastwood to walk around them for the afternoon. My bus journey is as follows:

Home to Nottingham city centre: Rushcliffe Mainline.

Nottingham city centre to Kimberley: Rainbow One.

Kimberley to Hucknall: Amberline - this route was unexpected. I forgot that Amberline runs from Derby to Hucknall and that Kimberley is one of the towns on the way. When I was waiting for my Rainbow One bus back to Nottingham, the Amberline was closer and so I rode that to Hucknall instead.

Hucknall to Nottingham city centre: The Threes.

Nottingham city centre to home: Rushcliffe Villager (while the Mainline and Villager overlap for much of the journey, they are separate bus routes).

As far as I can recall, this is the first day on which I have ridden on three or more buses and each of them was a different route.

Here is Amberline, at its last stop in Hucknall - the library. Amberline shared the same colour as The Threes and Hucknall's Connect.

Saturday, 9 January 2016

The Force Awakens (2)

Yesterday evening, I wrote that I had just come back from seeing Star Wars: The Force Awakens, which is the first of the sequel films and the first Star Wars movie since Revenge of the Sith was released in mid-2005.

Other than that I thought there were more comedic moments present compared to all the other Star Wars films and the fact it lacks "Episode VII" in the title, I have no complaints about The Force Awakens. Unlike many modern science fiction productions, I did not think the film relied on flashy special effects to make up for poor acting and weak storyline. I felt that the characters, new and old alike, were interesting; I did think that perhaps Kylo Ren, the film's primary antagonist, needed some additional development but I expect to see that in the next film.

I prefer it that The Force Awakens is indeed a continuation of the Star Wars story rather than a reboot. The Star Wars universe is expansive enough without the need to reboot the saga. The ageing of original characters with new ones thrown into the mix, as has been done here, is all that's required.

Ending the film on a cliffhanger was a wise decision. When The Force Awakens was approaching its conclusion, there were several unanswered questions remaining, few of which would be addressed by the end. The anticipation builds interest for the next film, as well as gives a suitable end for the current one.

Overall, I was satisfied by Star Wars: The Force Awakens. It is a worthy sequel and I expect the next films to be equally as fulfilling.

Friday, 8 January 2016

The Force Awakens

My Nottingham aunt plus my visiting cousin from Hong Kong took me to see the new Star Wars film this evening. I shall write a short review of the movie tomorrow, as I have only just returned from seeing the film after a long day.

Thursday, 7 January 2016

The cashier's good wishes

I posted this to Facebook earlier. I purchased a few items in a Tesco this evening and had this (slightly condensed) discussion with the cashier who served me:

Tesco cashier: "How has your week been so far?"

Me: "It's been good. I've been excited to be back at college."

Cashier: "I haven't heard many be happy about that! What are you studying?"

Me: "An Access course to get me into university."

Cashier, giving thumbs up: "Hope you get it, champ."

I was already in a good mood this evening but the cashier's words only served to strength my positive resolve. He had also been talking to me about putting Cadbury's Daily Milk on Ritz crackers and thought that my putting said chocolate into cooking was a worthy idea. His words were welcome, especially in light of yesterday.

Wednesday, 6 January 2016

Man of the past

Was there anything strange about my blog posts over 2015? Perhaps yes, perhaps no? Is there, maybe, someone nearly completely absent from the 365 posts I wrote last year, whom I used to refer to frequently from Air Nice-to-Livelands' beginning? This person has only been mentioned in four posts this past year:

* Liveland History: 29 March 2012: A reflection piece in which I discussed a visit to Nottingham from three years ago, at the time.
* Phone armour: Wrote about my phone's armour and asked my readers if they remembered my post about this other person's kickstand phone case.
* Bloggers Blog Party - August 2015: This person appears when I wrote about seeing an advert in an old book of theirs. I never disclosed why I looked through the book.
* Americans and their passports: A brief end-of-paragraph sentence about this person's travelling, in the context of the post being about travelling Americans.

Dad is missing. Over the past year, whenever I travelled between Nottinghamshire and Northamptonshire, my grandfather or an aunt/uncle drove me - there was nothing about Dad driving me. Whenever I was in Northamptonshire, I only mentioned my brother and mother - Dad isn't there. Whenever I was up in Nottinghamshire, there were no visits from Dad - no random drop-ins, no car service appointments...nothing. Finally, in my New Year's Eve post - my last post of 2015 - I made references to certain events I wish had "never happened" and a "stark contrast" in emotions over the year.

Dad's been dead nearly the whole time.

That's the horrid reason for his absence in my blog. A few days into 2015, while I was still recovering from that vindictive cold/flu I caught the previous December, he unexpectedly collapsed at work and was taken to a hospital, where the doctors were unable to save him. He wasn't even 52 and his and Mum's 25th anniversary was approaching. Dad's death was a sickening blow for a multitude of reasons and Mum especially has had to pick up the pieces of the resulting aftermath, which is an ongoing process.

Today is the first anniversary since his death. Only now have I felt ready to say something here, as this has long been a post that I haven't wanted to write. I've been crafting my blog carefully to avoid mentioning mere hints of his death, although I'm sure there's a post somewhere that says "mother and brother" or some other variant. It's not because I've been insulting his memory - it's because writing about the death of someone close to you is hard. It was difficult enough years ago when I wrote in a diary about the deaths of my cats but a parent...

I still find it unimaginable to think that he is gone and that he has not seen any of the progress I have made since Christmas 2014. Nor, for that matter, has he seen anything my brother has done. The last time I saw and spoke to Dad was Christmas 2014 but I was sick and could barely talk, so conversation was brief. The last time Dad and I properly conversed was on my birthday of that year, in November. 2015 is the first year of my life during which I never saw him - only some texting occurred between us in the days leading up to his death.

Dad's death is a major contributor to why I zealously attend college every day, even when I am not officially required to be in, and why I was so upset the day I overslept and came close to missing a lesson. I completed my first college course, despite what happened, with 100% attendance and I want to finish this course with that same figure.

I went into college today to complete some work; I had no official lessons but, as always, I found it beneficial being present. I had a chat with my Employability teacher from my previous course, talked to a couple of my classmates and was amused by some of the comments from the library staff. My teacher was concerned about me prior to the break and she was pleased to hear that Christmas for Mum, my brother and me was, all things considered, okay.

Dad did so much for Mum, my brother and me in the time he was in my life - for me...and my succeed will mean that all the work he put in for us paid off in the long run. It's beyond a shame that he won't be able to enjoy it or anything else.

Tuesday, 5 January 2016

Executive actions on firearms

Frustrated by Congress' constant inaction on cracking down on gun violence, President Barack Obama has taken matters into his own hands and issued executive orders:

In response, self-described "supporters of the 2nd Amendment" and Republican candidates for president have opposed his actions, saying that they are "unconstitutional" and should be repealed; however, a look at what the actions contain shows that the 2nd Amendment is not under threat, despite what a vocal minority seems to think. Here are some of the provisions:

"Background checks for all gun sellers, overturning current exemptions to some online and gun show sellers"

This seems entirely reasonable and in line with what the public wants. A Pew Research Center poll from last August found that 85% of Americans, including 79% of Republicans, support greater background checks for weapon sales.

"Increased workforce for the FBI to process background checks, hiring more than 230 new examiners"

This means that any backlogs relating to gun backgrounds checks will be cleared more quickly because of the increased staff. Theoretically, people waiting to buy a gun might be able to purchase them quicker.

"Congress being asked to invest $500m (£339m) to improve access to mental healthcare in the US"

The aforementioned poll notes that Americans support limiting weapon sales to mentally ill people; in addition, many of those against gun control measures are also in favor of such a limit. Asking Congress to improve mental healthcare seems like positive step to make; I don't see why anyone would be against this.

At any rate, no president can unilaterally nullify an amendment; it requires the states themselves and Congress to perform such an action. Firearms are not being banned - if President Obama really were the "dictator" his opponents make him out to be, he would already have banned them by now. He wouldn't be bothering with executive orders that are short-term fixes.

It is entirely possible to be pro-2nd Amendment while also supporting measures to exercise caution during gun sales. For example, the poll notes that 79% of Republicans support stronger background checks; this is significant because Republicans are generally more hostile to gun control than Democrats. From personal experience, most of the gun owners I knew in the United States supported background checks on the sales and were distrusting of buying weapons from unofficial venues.

Finally, regarding any such actions or legislation pertaining to firearms sales being "unconstitutional", it should be noted that at least three amendments (the 15th, 19th and the 26th, in particular) all defend voting rights. Using consistent reasoning, any restriction on voting rights is also unconstitutional and any state with voter ID laws or other methods to limit voting is going against the Constitution.

Monday, 4 January 2016

The Comet

This afternoon, a new addition made it onto my list of Trentbarton routes on which I have ridden:

It's the Comet, which travels between Derby and Chesterfield. I was free today because college starts again tomorrow and I had received a free ticket from Trentbarton last month as a result of a driver mix-up, so my Red Arrow to Derby, Comet to and from Chesterfield and Indigo ride back to Nottingham were all covered by that ticket. Unlike the last time I visited Chesterfield, the rain was light and infrequent rather than constant.

Sunday, 3 January 2016

On to the second term

As of this afternoon, I am back in Nottingham now that the Christmas break has concluded. I do not feel that the break trudged along or zipped by - it passed at an appropriate pace. Now, I can jump into my second term of my second college course.

Saturday, 2 January 2016

"The Guy Who Won't Stop Talking About Jar Jar Binks"

Given the recent release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, I thought this was an appropriate video from CollegeHumor:

It mocks people who still, after all these years, complain about Jar Jar Binks from Star Wars: Episode I: The Phantom Menace, believing that his character ruins the film and, thus, all the prequels. Even for The Force Awakens, some people protested about a potential return from Jar Jar Binks (I haven't seen the film but to my knowledge, he is not present).

Friday, 1 January 2016

New Year's Day 2016

This is the New Year's greeting I posted to Facebook earlier:

"Wishing everybody a Happy New United States Presidential Election Year. If you enjoyed 2015's season of the political show, with all its eccentric and fun-filled characters, 2016 is guaranteed to be even more action-packed! Watch partisans from all sides slug it out against both each other and supposed "moderates" in a metaphorical arena of ideologies. It's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that never seems to end!"

Happy New Year!