Thursday, 28 January 2010

Noam. Like Gnome but with a far more logical name.

Best photo I've seen all day.

Contrary to what these posts may suggest, I'm actually a pretty busy person. This results in a seriously uncool hourly structuring of my daily activities, despite only spending six hours a week in official university stuff.

Anyway, what this results in are minor celebrations when something I thought I had to do doesn't happen. Like, for example, the realisation I could register for the dentist over the phone, whilst checking my Facebook, rather than cycling a couple miles and filling in some forms. Lush.

The subsequent celebration of this extra hour and a half of my life has resulted in some voluntary self-education. It's something I've become especially keen on in 2010. Radio 4 is constantly muttering out of my battery-powered Roberts (it doesn't really do music any justice), and I pick up a newspaper most days, even if the sport section remains on the coffee table for the next week.

Therefore, when I heard about VBS's interview with Noam Chomsky, I got pretty mega-excited. Not least because he went from my mind's peripheral knowledge - I'd maybe be able to shove him in, not necessarily in the right place, in a pub quiz - to the central stuff a few days ago. Yes, Noam Chomsky is up there with Marmite, vintage floral denim and pumping up my bike tyres. A couple of linguistics kids were chatting about Chomsky, comparing him to the Einstein of the field, and then I found out that the guy who was the degree programme coordinator in my School of English and titles emails with 'BOLLOCKS, BOLLOCKS, BOLLOCKS' was his pupil at Harvard. That brings us a couple degrees of separation closer, anyway.

This is the interview, anyway, and it's really good. Get self-educating.

Wednesday, 20 January 2010

Finding dead stuff in the pub, the perfect post-exam celebration.

Thankfully, this wasn't taken in The Cumberland Arms,
but just on another occasion of pheasanty goodness that happened a little while back.
Every now and then I get reminded of my Shire roots in Newcastle and it gives me a humble little thrill. Such a thing happened last night, when, whilst ordering at the bar of so-traditional-you-get-evils-for-interrupting-the-folkies, The Cumberland Arms, I noticed a Tesco bag hanging off the front of the bar (they have hooks on there for such purposes). Anyway, it had a couple of feathers sticking out of it.

The Shire origins came shining through. I quickly identified these long plumes as belonging to a pheasant. This is because they're always stopping in the middle of country roads waiting to get killed, and I once opened the kitchen curtains to find one staring me out, oh, and there's a stuffed one in the house. It's a kind of taxidermy heirloom that Nick Hewer amongst others is a big fan of. Prodding the bag a little after making such an observation I announced (probably louder than really necessary) "HA! There's a brace of pheasants in that Tesco bag!"

This was met by a fair amount of disbelief - we were in the non-folkie, non-Geordie, kiddie side of the pub - including that of the barman, although it became apparent that this kind of thing happened fairly often. After waving the bag around for a while a bloke who looked like the least likely suspect to kill anything, let alone decapitate and pluck it, claimed them as his, most casually.

This in turn led to a massive discussion about taxidermy, something I'm personally a massive fan of - not necessarily doing it to endangered creatures now, but certainly making dead zoos out of all the poor blighters the Victorians got so much fun out of stuffing. Given the context of vegetarianism also at the table might not have been the best admission. Needless to say we moved swiftly onto discussing whether Cheryl Cole is in tune with second generation feminism in her recent Glamour interview by luck, judgement, or a PR company.

Friday, 15 January 2010

Isotopically Heavier: I want to emigrate.

I think the fact that this brings me so much joy is indicative of what institutionalised education can do to people.

If this had a bowl on its face people wouldn't be able to tell us apart.

Fun fact for you: a millionaire lecturer in the Marine Biology department of Newcastle University discovered that if you starve yourself, you become isotopically heavier.
I don't really know what this means, but it's what my flatmate just said because she's actually doing some revision, and I opened Bowlface out of procrastination at the same time. What are the chances?

As well as fun science facts I pretend to understand, my brain is also full of racist children's literature from 1930 and (woah, another fun science fact, bone structure can tell you what you've been eating for the past fifteen years) the fact I want to be where all my friends are right now which is both Canada and New Zealand. Canada more so.
This is mainly because four of my friends are wandering around there in varying amounts of plaid, but still enough that people keep thinking they're in a band, and because it's doing fun snow, rather than lame snow, and it's really pretty and there are no exams on racist children's literature. They've got a really great blog about how much of a really great time they're having here. I think it might become like the Julia Childs one, except people won't send them food because they've clearly got far too much of that already.
NZ is where fellow Bowlface sibling is kicking around. It looks lush. But one particular attraction is that they're going to forests where Lord of The Rings was filmed and it looks mega ethereal and another slightly racist children's book I'm being examined on is The Hobbit.
The main attraction, however, is these grumpy looking superbirds that are apparently related to my favourite endangered animal THE KAKAPO (the brains behind fourplayincanada.blogspot also have a Kakapo-dedicated blog) and they eat loads of stuff apparently. Plus look at that face. Amazing. The sibling was kind enough to send me a trans-hemispheric text message saying "guess what I'm 2ft away from? The waddling flightless parrot! So cute and fat!" and then, the best bit, an educational fact: "they are called Keas".
The aforementioned blog has some fairly Kea-abusive stuff to say along the lines of them being preppy try-hard varieties of Kakapo. But then it's coming from a self-referential man-child who thinks he's a bird. That's the state of zoology graduates these days. Hootface, I say bring it on.
Oh, and another fun fact to end on: Starfish reject their limbs in a squidgy fleshy pink kinda way when they're cross at you. My science flatmate had a dream her dog's head did it.

Tuesday, 12 January 2010

Glee: 1, Revision, Nil.

Wanted to get an Oncomouse in there but it totally wasn't working.

The snow's gone, turned into rain and looks thoroughly miserable, seen out by two little snow bunnies keeping me entertained as I gazed out of the library window when I was meant to be learning quotations.

The snow bunnies were also a pretty indicative sign that I should leave the brown brick construction of pressure that is the Robinson library, not least because I'd been whispering very loudly about them to my friend on the next desk. In the Silent Zone. Where I normally glare at people for doing the same. I would hate myself for hypocrisy, but c'mon, SNOW BUNNIES.

Anyway, when I got home the long-lost flatmate had returned. And I'd received an amazing home-adapted real ale box of Mummy Bowlface baked delights. 'Smushing' on the flatmate's bed with chocolate fudge slice and a catchup was completely essential. Then it was tea time, then it was attempted revision/irrelevant research time (I know what an Oncomouse is now) then it was what I'd been waiting for for three weeks: Glee time.

This programme has been as heavily trailed as 90210 and How I Met Your Mother, which isn't saying much (actually, I've got a bit addicted to 90210's second series). However, it had all the components for being really great. I could tell from the advert:

High School teen cliches, check.
Musical theatre inclusions, check.
Unfeasibly attractive teachers, check.
Unfeasibly witty American jokes, check.

I was totally not disappointed. From the crazy wife of attractive teacher (am I just getting old or were teachers never that hot in school?) and her 'craft room' and hysterical pregnancy, the cute ginge with OCD and fun leaflets on bulimia, and the soundtrack entirely created by kitsch choral interventions, rather than ruining Interpol or Patrick Wolf or someone who really doesn't want their fans to know they've sold out, all makes for a new reason to drink less. As in a Monday night going out tradition, rather than a dependency I don't have on alcohol.

Anyway, Glee is so, well, gleeful, that I've even commented on the Guardian website about it, as well as updating you lovely Bowlface followers. The fact I've got an exam in under two hours has obviously nothing to do with it.

Wednesday, 6 January 2010


Official photojournalism from the Shire: sock monkeys, seemingly oblivious of their African origins
Official words from a small child, in a playground, that I grumpily trudged by around 9.20 this morning. Out of the mouths of babes and sucklings, eh? Ok, so there was also a kid grabbing onto the railings shouting 'GET ME OUTTA HERE' but we'll only stick to the relevant outbursts.

Technically this is my second snow-based post, not including the one from the Dolomites, home of deep, crispy and even sneh. But if BBC News can spend two mornings in a row reporting solely on the weather then Bowlface is definitely qualified to. Thank god there's loud whispers of an anti-Gordon ballot, for a change in news if not greater political reasons.

I opened my front door and promptly plomped a DM into a DM-high amount of snow. Not the best way to start a twenty minute walk. Good job the shouty kids came up 200 yards later. Then a tiny spaniel puppy was being dragged down some steps similarly covered in snow. That was quite good too.

Other snow adventures include the man towel-drying a dog and a massive increase in fur hats. Granted, it is the only real time I crack the Russian hat out, what with it being double the size of my head and looking thoroughly ridiculous in a non-Siberian context. Watching brave souls wobble about on bikes in the stuff is also slightly lessening the pain that my beloved bicycle Joan is still wrapped up inside my lounge. The fact my head is not inside a helmet is third reason why fur is a justifiable casing. Otherwise, it's unnecessarily cold, makes everywhere difficult to get to and is putting me in a thoroughly Scroogey mood. I can't even appreciate how pretty is because of the size of the fur hat.

A man on Radio 4 said it might last til March. Heaven forbid. If kids are bored already, massive social unrest will definitely break out. At least if the grit's running out there's less chance of it coming at me hidden in a snowball.