Wednesday, 20 February 2008

With the lights out!

When I was younger and lived in Arizona, the power would usually go out during a summer thunderstorm. My family would gather in the living room with the few candles we had and the huge camping flashlight and sit there, doing nothing. The power outages would last maybe one hour to three at the most. Maybe sometimes longer, but I can't remember. These were fun times for us. I couldn't tell you why, but there is nothing like a power outage to bring the family together.

Yesterday we had a power outage at Victoria Hall. Except it wasn't windy or raining. And it was just our hall that lost power; the two dorm halls behind me still had their power. The city around us still had power. It was strange, but fun at first.

At first when the lights went out at 6pm, I thought my lightbulb went out. I was watching a DVD on my computer so I figured that's what happened. Soon I was able to push past my blonde moment and realize that my laptop had a battery to run on AND it was impossible that both my desk lamp and the light on the wall conspired together to go out at the same time.

I picked up my cell phone and used the backlight to poorly guide my stumblng steps out into the hallway to make sure I was not the only one to be plunged into sudden darkness. There I found my flatmate Cindy checking the fuse box and Ama dashing into her room to gather her flashlight. It was really a power outage! This isn't the first time its happened to us; however, the power flickers we've been exposed to previously never lasted for longer than a minute. We concluded we must be the only flat without power and opened the front door to find light in the stairwell. Problem was, all the flats across the way were dark also. And then our neighbour came out to see what was going on. Her power was out and so was everyone else's.

Me and my flatmates gathered in the common room and stared at each other. Conversation was hard at first. It was not a normal power outage. At least, for me it wasn't. I mentioned my memory of power outages and no one seemed interested. I left it at that.

Eva stumbled into the flat an hour later and began panicking. She's a student teacher and needed to make her lesson plans for the next day. She soon left us for the Information Commons. The only amusement she brought to our situation (before her departure) was the fact she went out into the hallway and expected there to be light, burst back in saying "I can't see!," grab a candle and dash off.

By 7.30, I was falling asleep. Ama and Cindy were hungry. We decided to go to Pizza Express. I went along to contribute to more witty conversation and to see if they had dessert. I ate ice cream while Cindy and Ama had pizza. Cindy fell asleep as she was eating her pizza. It was quite amusing.

But not as amusing as sitting in the living room with your parents, watching the lightening roll through the black sky.

We returned home and played Taboo by candle light. Our evening started to pick up--despite the fact we did not have electricity--but by 11pm we were tired. That's right, I went to bed at 11pm. I don't think I've done that since I was ill. Or in high school. Ama spoke to the porter to see what was going on before I went to sleep and reported to us that an underground power cable burst and the engineers weren't coming our way until 10pm. OH MY GOD! Cindy's friend John (who lives in our complex and came over to play Taboo) thought it was a conspiracy. He's quite the conspiracy theorist.

I was able to get ready for bed by the LED light on the back of my phone (without stubbing any toes, thank you very much!) and I soon fell asleep. I was awoken at 7am when the porter came in to flip on our fuse box. I silently gave a shout of glee and settled back to bed.

After that whole experience, I've decided I don't like power outages. Our food all went bad (and I had been grocery shopping that day and the day before with new food in the fridge and freezer) and that was a lot of money lost. I don't think the stupid energy company or the dorm hall understands how much money I lost! And how much good food I lost! I lost microwave chips, for Pete's sake. Chips! My favorite food besides ice cream. Oi!!

When I was younger, I never paid attention to the politics of a power outage. (Yes there are politics to such an event) I used to sit in a candle-lit living room and do nothing with my family. It was like the only time we would come together as a family. Maybe that's why I liked it so much. Now, being without power is like being tortured by an enemy in a dirty POW camp. You can't open the fridge or freezer because you'll let the cold air out. You have to toss the food in the fridge/freezer out if the power is out for over three hours. It's impossible to see where you're going or know who you are in all that darkness. Thinking of things to do that does not require power during an outage is horrible. Relying on candles that may burn your house down is nerve-wrecking. You can't access the internet or use a cordless phone. And all you can do is go out to eat or go to sleep. Yawn.

If this happens again, I'm going to find the cause of the problem and fix it myself. I hate power outages.

Tuesday, 12 February 2008

This is becoming a problem

Today we had a guest lecturer from the London Times online division. What should have been a fascinating talk about how to work in online media and advice with dealing with the conversion of print and the internet turned into an overdrawn droll about issues we've all heard about before (the evolution of the newspaper). It didn't help much this speaker had a posh London accent and quite frankly, sounded like an elitist who didn't know the slightest thing about online media.

To occupy myself, I wrote another silly news story relating to the event:

Lecture hall implodes after dry lecture takes places

The Richard Roberts Building on the University of Sheffield campus burst into flames after a lecture took place in the auditorium about the London Times online.

Undergraduate and postgraduate students of the Journalism department and their professors were shaken to their core after the building spontaneously combust like a ticking time clock early Tuesday afternoon.

Twenty-seven students and eight professors were injured by the blast. Those with light injuries were treated on the scene; ten of the students and four of the professors were rushed to the Royal Hallamshire Hospital after sustaining serious injuries.

The blast occurred twenty minutes into the presentation. Flames exploded behind the auditorium doors like effects on a rock band's concert stage and the building shook with a mighty force, causing parts of the ceiling to fall down. The cause for the explosion and pyrotechnics is unknown at this time.

"It was like an earthquake hit," said Gemma Rhodes, 23. "And I know there isn't a fault line running through Sheffield. When I heard the building imploded on its own, I thought it was quiet funny."

One person who did not find the situation humorous was guest lecturer Anne of the Times online.

"I was in the middle of a very important presentation! These students were robbed of my brilliance," Anne said with a London huff.

(She continued to blabber on about her brilliance for another twenty minutes and your dear author thought it to be quite excessive and monotonous and left her mid-conversation to interview another student affected by the blast.)

"She said what?!," posed postgraduate student Sophia Saleh, 33. "That lecture was not... er... never mind. No comment."

For now the Richard Roberts building remains closed for further investigation. No structural damage was sustained during the blast, incredibly enough.

"Yes, it's quite odd. We'll see to the investigation with diligence and speed so the students can get back to class straight away," said the University of Sheffield president.

The building will be closed until further notice. Students with lectures in the building have had those classes cancelled until the building is put properly back together with scotch tape, glue, and a little love.

When asked if there was any chance this blast was caused by a terrorist attack, a University of Sheffield professor, who asked not to be name because he did not want his boss to find out what he said to the press, scoffed.

"This is Sheffield. We're only important because of this university and the Arctic Monkeys. I highly doubt we're on Al-Qaida’s hit list. They probably can't even point out the city on a damn map!," he said.

The police chief of the South Yorkshire Police also does not believe it was a terrorist attack.

"Probably a pipe bomb hidden in plumbing or in a closet or something," he said.

Students have a different opinion of what caused the blast.

"I think it was because we were all bored to tears. The building felt our internal strife to stay awake and not be bored and imploded. It was a simple distraction to get us the heck out of that lecture," said a postgraduate student who asked not to be named because he did not want to get in trouble with the University.

This was the first time in University of Sheffield's history something like this has happened.


Monday, 11 February 2008

When I don't pay attention in class... this happens

Today we had an introductory meeting into our special week of media convergence. We're learning how to put together things to be published on a webpage. (woo-hoo!) In order to take up two hours of our time this morning, the profs decided to submit us to a slow and painful death by letting an old prof (who doesn't even teach my courses) ramble on about his take on media convergence. All was received by our short attention spans was a 24 hour schedule of what news websites and podcasts the guy pays attention too. Wow. Riveting. Shall I come up front and go on about the podcasts I download? And tell everyone they should download the Anderson Cooper video podcast from iTunes/CNN because he is like, the best CNN reporter in years? (NO!)

While we were subjected to this cruel and unusual punishment, I took and opportunity to be silly and news-y by authoring a short sarcastic piece that was relevant to our torture. Enjoy.

Student goes into coma whilst in lecture

A 22-year-old University of Sheffield student fell into a coma caused by boredom after attending a lecture about media convergence week.

The postgraduate student in journalism, who is an international student from the US, came into class today fully awake and with a cup of Starbucks in her hand. Twenty minutes into the lecture, she passed out.

"She was fine five minutes ago!," said friend Sophia Saleh, 33. "Her family is going to be so upset..."

The student, whom her friends asked for her not to be named so as to not ruin her reputation and cause defamation, had no known sleeping illnesses. Nor was she on any medication that could cause a person to randomly fall into a coma.

"It's very strange. I've never seen anything like this happen before," said NHS paramedic Derek Sheppard.

She was taken to Royal Hallamshire Hospital where experts in several medical fields from across the country have flocked to her room to try and figure out what happened to the student.

Word is there is a competition worth money for the doctor who can figure out what happened to the student and how to revive her.

When a comment was seeked by the hospital on her status this afternoon we were told by a head nurse to "bugger off."

As far as we know, she is in stable condition and brain waves are active. This is based on information which a candy stripper leaked after we bribed them.

For now, the student will rest and miss class.

"I'm just jealous it wasn't me. I could use a long nap," said friend Johanna Zimmerman, 23.

Single (still) in England

When I came back to England in January after three weeks at home for Christmas, I was indifferent to my occasional swooning for a boyfriend. I was so chuffed to be back with my flatmates and coursemates that I could care less. Now that we're all back into the flow of our everyday lives, I'm starting to care about finding a proper British boyfriend.

There are an enormous number of fit guys here in Sheffield so one would think I wouldn't be complaining. Problem is, the ones that catch my eye usually fall into one of the Five Categories (according to my friend): 1. gay, 2. taken, 3. a jerk, 4. a mama's boy and 5... I can't remember the fifth one. And the huge problem that remains is the fact I'm HORRIBLE with talking to boys unless I a) work with them, or b) they're part of a group project, or c) they're one of my friend's friends. Even then, conversations aren't that varied. I try, really, but I'm not good with coming up with a broad range of convo topics.

I have confessed my utterly dismal performance with chatting up boys to a few of my friends. All give me the same advice: "Just go up and talk to him." UH, HELLOOO that's my problem. I'm too shy to approach the opposite sex (unless necessary) and I have nothing exciting to say!

AND I'm too picky. Do you know why I'm so picky? It's because I've been rejected by guys I thought were good for me and have rejected guys I was blind to see where good for me (one guy especially in the recent past and yes, I'm still kicking myself for that one. It was both our faults... Mais, c'est la vie!). I have taken all the favourable qualities of those past guys and put them in my "list" of what the perfect boy should be like. Oh and I add on whenever I get a crush on a rock star or actor (John Krasinski--now that's the perfect man!)

Thus far (in my advanced age), here is my list of the perfect man:
1. Taller than me (5'6 to 6'2 is good)
2. Thin but not too scrawny
3. Flattering, indie style hair cut (if possible... if not that just a flattering hair cut will do)
4. Nice smile, nice eyes
5. The best sense of humour (and can tell when I'm joking around)
6. Likes indie rock (whether it be the really awfully slow, whiny kind of bands or more mainstream indie like the Killers)
7. Is a liberal (or moderate) and has an opinion on politics
8. Has at least a BA degree and is on some type of respectable career track (or, for example, a really smart musician who has dedicated his life to music but can go on about literature, etc)
9. Isn't afraid to argue about intellectual issues (like Mr. Darcy)
10. Nice personality. Not controlling, not overbearing, polite, and opens the door for me! (like a true gentlemen should--yes, that's right folks, I'm traditional!)
11. Can pick up after himself! OH MY GOD is that so hard to do?? I'm not your mother.
12. Lastly: non-smoker, drug free, and rarely drinks (like one pint when he goes out with his mates and that’s it)

I know you can't tell these things about a guy at a glance, obviously. Sometimes you can't even pick out their personality until you've known them for a while. Now, I can compromise a little on some things (like political affiliation and height); however, it's difficult to know what I will compromise on when I'm so stingy and barely chat to guys.

Another problem I have besides meeting and chatting to a boy is the fact I have low self-esteem. Can you believe it?! (hardy har har) I don’t think I’m particularly pretty at this stage in life (I still look like I’m 18 and still have sporadic flecks of acne) first of all; second of all I cannot find clothes to flatter me or make me look my age because I have such a weird body shape so I will always look too young; and last of all, why would guys be interested in chatting to me when I have such gorgeous friends?

I always seem to make friends with girls that are really pretty, like the girl-next-door-type of pretty or girls who are semi-exotic looking. Why would any guy look at me and think I'm cute over my friends? And trust me, despite what people in the US say; having an American accent in England does not make me more attractive than my friends.

Here’s an example of what happened today to me (and what spurred my thought process for this blog): My friend who is from Germany is very fashionable, tall and pretty. When we went to do a voxpop assignment today, the guys would of course talk to her. When she went to ask two guys from the MA print course (we're on magazine) to answer her question for the voxpop once we re-entered our building (we were outside; and sorry forgot to mention that a voxpop is when you go around and ask a common question that can get a general answer) they were glad to talk to her. Joked around a bit, it was funny. I leaned up against the wall and laughed when appropriate. Then one of the guys (who I’ve seen around and think is pretty fit and after hearing him speak today, I found his accent to be quite cute and made him a little more favourable) said "we'll see you in the next lecture?" which my friend looked at me and we said "sure" and we left to go put our equipment away.

Now why on earth would a guy we've never really spoken to before (despite having some shared core classes) ask her such a question? Because he liked her! DUH. Well we didn't go to the lecture… even thought it would have been VERY interesting to see if those guys sought my German friend out.

I’m making myself more depressed as I write this blog; despite the fact hashing this information out always makes me feel a little down and I am usually able to shrug its lonesome tendencies off my shoulder quite easily. Today, I cannot. I’m not sure why. Maybe because it’s Valentine’s Day this week. Maybe it’s because all my friends who have boyfriends are complaining they’re not getting a Valentine’s Day gift this year. And maybe it’s because I’ve had too many people ask me “have you met any cute guys in England yet?” over a very short amount of time. (By the way, if someone asks me that question one more time, I am going to scream)

I hope I can find comforts in hanging out with my friends again and not think about wanting a boyfriend very soon. These thoughts are a girls’ worst nightmare.

Sunday, 10 February 2008

A fresh start

I should have started this blog months ago. As a postgraduate in journalism studies, one would venture I have no problem what-so-ever starting up a blog, getting inspired, and indulge in typing my life away. Ha ha, I wish. If only I was that inspired. At times when I feel like I'm inspired, I'll sit down in front of the computer, only to be greeted with the cold rush of my thoughts running away like a criminal out-running the cops. Today; however, I feel inspired. So let’s start this from the beginning.

I came to England on 19 September 2007 to begin a new chapter in my life; the Postgrad Year. Since I applied to graduate school in December 2006, I have been excited with the prospect of going to uni abroad. At the same time, though, I was shocked at my opportunity. Never in my life did I imagine I could leave the comforts of the Western United States and my family for another location in the US--let alone go abroad. Even vacationing abroad seemed out of reach, given my financial status. When I accepted my place at University of Sheffield in Northern England, I looked at it as killing two birds with one stone. I got to leave my comfort zone for another location and I get to be a tourist.

At first when I arrived, I was scared. Of course! London wasn't what I thought it was the first day or so (then I loved it once I got to the Westminster area) and Sheffield seemed too small. I wanted to turn around and go home. Things weren't actually turning out the way I planned them to be and jeez--it's hard when your plans are ruined. I'm not good with back-up plans. But things came into order, I became good friends with my flatmates and some of my coursemates, and am getting used to Sheffield. Since I arrived, I've had to tell myself how lucky I am to be here. And I really am. Sure I'm in serious debt (I could own a Mercedes right about now!) because of my decision, but... it's worth it. You can't get this type of experience anywhere or at anytime. I believe in fate and fate brought me to Sheffield.

Yesterday, as I was preparing my dinner, I thought about how I used to act whilst a resident of Tucson. I lived only to go to class and do my homework. I barely hung out with my roommates. I hardly saw my other friends. I had to seek therapy and medication because I was having a quarter-life crisis. Most of all, I was self-destructive.
For example, if I had cooked tortellini in Tucson and had some of the filling burst out from its starchy seams and not drain from the pan properly, I would have dumped it down the sink and not eaten dinner at all. The little voice in the back of my mind that tells me to give up in in light of those kinds of stupid situations hit me last night as I was trying to successfully drain the water from the pan with tortellini. But I wasn't going to give in. I know better than that. I'm an adult! Not a prepubescent teen. And I'm not who I used to be. I've grown up ALOT over the past four years, but mostly by force of the situation. Now I'm growing up on my terms. I'm a postgrad. I'm living in England. I'm stronger than the girl who was in Tucson two years ago. I'm even stronger than the girl who left Tucson in May last year (who was pretty strong given the fact she finally went into therapy and wrote an awesome thesis).

I like the fact that I'm in England and I get to start over again. Never again will I give up. I've gotten myself this far so I might as well keep on evolving into a real adult! I have a fresh start. How many people get this opportunity? Not many. I'm lucky. I'll remember this always. I love the feeling of being excited to live somewhere and not be grossed out by the heat and the scenery. I like knowing I have friends that will be there for me even though we've only known each other for four months. I finally belong somewhere.

Sure, I also belong back in the Pacific Northwest, where I can fulfill my lifelong stereotype of being a liberal tree-hugger. (thanks Arizona!) But, for right now, I have somewhere else to be. A place that finally gets me and accepts me for the Anti-American/Anti-Bush person that I am. They may not like that I say "excuse me," "thank you," and when I apologize; however, they don't get a choice when it comes to my personality. They can yak up all they want about the stereotype I'm supposed to fulfill as an American citizen, who is from the West Coast, and is from the Pacific Northwest--but I'll just laugh at them and tell them they're wrong. (I love telling people they're wrong) And I may not be as fashion forward as the rest of the Brits, but at least the girls here aren't some deranged valley girls who carry around a huge Louis Vitton purse and are dumber than a doorstop. These British fashion mavens and valley girls may all be bitches, but sometimes the ones in England can surprise you. The valley girls? I don't think so. I don't expect much out of them. Well, except their vote when I run for the House of Representatives in like, 15-20 years.


As a side note before I skitter away from my introductory note into my life thus far in l'Angleterre, I'd like to give the reason for why I chose Sheffield for grad school.

I chose Sheffield not just because it has one of the highest rated postgraduate programs, but because I love the Arctic Monkeys and Sheffield is their hometown. My goal before I leave England at the end of August is to see the band in concert in Sheffield and meet at least one of them. And guess what? Part of that dream came true on Friday (8 Feb).

I was packing up a box of goodies to send to my sister when I realized I hadn't purchased anything for her boyfriend. I had already been to the store that day and didn't feel like going back. But I remembered I had postcards to send off too and the closest mailbox was about two blocks away in front of Boots. Agh! I didn't want to go just to the mailbox. When I run errands, I need to go to more than one place. I decided I'd go inside Boots because I needed face lotion and they had a small selection of candy bars there. I finally got up off my lazy butt and went to Boots. I took some time in there deciding between things, purchased the items I chose, and left. As I walked out of Boots and walked towards the crosswalk, I noticed a guy on the other side of the crosswalk (coming towards my direction) that had a nice leather jacket and was pretty cute. Then my eyes refocused and he wasn't just a cute Sheffield guy anymore--he was someone very very familiar looking. I studied his face (while trying to look at the traffic and pretend I wasn't staring at him at the same time) and the lightbulb went off.

A look of "You look familiar..." flashed across my face and the boy looked over at me like he knew I knew him from somewhere. As we passed each other on the island in the middle of the road, I glanced at him, we made brief eye contact, and my expression (and body) went into shock. He looked at me as if he expected me to say something... but I kept walking.

My heart pounded as I left the island, crossed the road and landed onto the pavement. By the time I looked back across the street at him, I knew I wasn't mistaken. I had just walked past the drummer of the Arctic Monkeys.

I know I should have said "Matt?" or said SOMETHING but he was with a girl and I didn't feel like embarrassing myself in front of them. (plus I didn't feel like bringing attention to him in the centre of town! he's lucky no one else around me noticed him because I'm sure there would have been a crowd of people swarming at him) I'm a horrible journalist for not saying anything, but my god. Just seeing a member of one of my favourite bands in the middle of the freaking city centre was rewarding enough. My heart pounded in strange beats in my chest at my excitement the entire way home and for the rest of the night.

Can you believe it? I saw 1/4 of the reason why I came to Sheffield. Fate surely had something to do with this. There was no doubt about it. And maybe fate will be kind enough to let me make up for my horrible misjudgment of keeping my mouth shut. Maybe I will see them before I leave after all. I've got seven months to find out... Let’s see what happens.