Thursday, May 19, 2011

Power Surge

This morning was horrifying. There was what my dad and I are calling a power surge. We don't have any other explanation. At about five in the morning, alarms were going off outside. House alarms, I mean. They wailed angrily at being disturbed, waking a few of the residents up.

In our house, the alarm was silent. The extractor fan - or, the extrapolator, as I call it - went on to its lowest setting. But, the most horrifying part of it all was the iPod dock in going on. My dad's iPod was in it. It has music on there for my mum. Westlife began to blare from underneath the floors. It was terrifying, utterly terrifying. I mean, I though exams were bad, but this was scary beyond belief!

To make things even weirder, I have just been informed that the lights all along the road my dad takes to work were out. It was still early in the morning. They were needed.

So, I have come to a conclusion. The power surge was caused by one of four things:
  1. Someone really messed up in the power station.
  2. God decided to make us re-think this rapture stuff (for better or for worse).
  3. There was a lot of static electricity in the air.
  4. Someone has developed the mutant ability of electrokinesis but cannot control it.
Personally I prefer the last option. Sure, it's dangerous, but it's also nerdtastic in nature. Dublin would be a weird place for mutant-kind to first appear, though. The population is sorely lacking for the probability to be high enough.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011


So, in the middle of my study of the ever-exciting Sacraments* I began to explain to the people of Twitter how I am annoying. They have refused to agree or disagree with me. I even asked for a vote. It turned out 100% to say I was annoying, but I was the only voter. Kind of spoils the process of voting when not a single person does it.**

I know I am annoying, though. I know this because I have been told I am annoying. Not by my family - they don't count. No, I was told by my friend; we have a silent agreement that he's allowed to be brutally honest with me. This was one of his not-so-revealing-revelations. I am annoying. I am constantly annoying.

Want proof? Okay...
  1. I turn far too many things into sexual innuendos - I think it's funny, but mainly because I need something to laugh at and they're easy.***
  2. To finish an argument, I drop an insult and walk away before the person can do anything about it. No matter how much they want to shout a comeback, they can't just yell out in public, and they can't wait until I come back. It's over by then. Victory.
  3. Tonight, while tweeting, I talked about three things in quick succession: religion, shit and wanting to make a phone call but not having the time because I had to study.**** Yes, I talked about religion. Can you believe that? And shit... well, that was actually my desk being a mess and using the word crap to describe everything that wasn't notebooks.
Is that enough proof that I am at least mildly annoying? Or do I have to start talking to you on the phone without stopping, until we reach one of those awkward moments when no one is saying anything and I still refuse to hang up because I want to talk? And still say nothing. I've done that before. Several times. I've been told it's annoying. Along with the kind of nervous laugh I do when I don't know what to say. Surprised I didn't publicly humiliate myself by putting that into practice during teaching practice!*****

So, official voting time: am I annoying? And on what scale?******

* If you want to torture somebody, make them read up on the Sacraments. Though be sure to let them have a break if you're trying not to kill them. The boredom will do that.
** Note that this is how you take down a government: get no one to vote. At all. Not even the politicians. If you really want to fuck everything up, just don't let anyone vote. Eventually the parties will kill each other for power.
*** That's what she said.
**** I still have to study...
***** Practice practice practice... don't worry, aside from that public humiliation, I also had to face up to half the teachers who were there when I was in that school for learning purposes.
****** For drunkenness, you measure on a scale of 1 to Coppers. What do you measure this on..?

Monday, May 16, 2011

Nuggets of Info - Music

Music is an ever-changing subject for me; when I was younger, I didn't have too much of an interest in it. My time with music was restricted solely to religious music and musical theatre - one musical, Joseph and the Amazing Technicoloured Dreamcoat, in which I was Benjamin. On Sundays and on drives, my dad would play music I liked the sound of but didn't know the artists. Turns out it was Neil Young.

When I got to secondary school, it wasn't until I was in third year that I developed any real interest in any band. In saying that, I only really developed an interest in Green Day. I had most of their albums, an American Idiot notebook, and a stereo in my room that let me play them every day. I may have overplayed them, sometimes. It wasn't until later that my brother introduced me to Smashing Pumpkins, when I began to branch out my musical tastes.

Then came fourth year, and Roddy Doyle's The Commitments. This marked a new stage in my musical interests: I began to listen to Soul. It started with the film's soundtrack, then the likes of Aretha Frankin, Otis Redding, Wilson Pickett and Bill Withers began to fill my room. I got a Blues Brother's soundtrack and a Marvin Gaye album for my birthday from a good friend of mine, and suddenly I was gathering more Soul than before.

During this time, Muse and OneRepublic found their way into my life. I loved the new sounds; I played their stuff constantly. I was doing key board lessons, and what I most wanted to play were some of Muse's songs. To this day I still can't do it. A severe lack of playing the instrument would do that to a guy.

As I began to pick up new bands, including Nightwish and Hollywood Undead, I joined a choir. My friend was running it. Suddenly religious music was back, but combined with some pop songs I hadn't listened to before.

As time went on, I came across the likes of the DFTBA musicians, The Mountain Goats and the show-choir cover-artists that embodied the television show Glee. Towards Summer 2010, I picked up The Doors, and in the months following Oasis, Creedance Clearwater Revival, Bob Dylan, The Beatles, Elbow and Electric Light Orchestra, all courtesy of a friend in college. Lately Cee Lo Green found his way onto the shelves - basically thanks to Gwyneth Paltrow's cover of Forget You on Glee.

About a year ago, I picked up the ukulele. I still don't make myself play it enough to learn how to actually play a song. So, with over 2,000 songs on my laptop, I remain a Shower Singer, with a taste for music in as many genres as I can think of. The list above isn't exhaustive, it's just all I could think of as being the truly significant ones. And I still bother my friend for new music.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Nuggets of Info - Paper Vs Ebooks

A while ago Rebecca Woodhead sent an email around looking to see which people preferred: Paper books, or Ebooks. I had given it some consideration, but I was too busy to reply to her directly. I suppose, as a writer, I ought to make my opinion heard. Even if only by a few people.

So, I do consider the two to have their advantages over the other. Paper books give that feeling of actually reading a book. They don't put as much strain on the eyes as you would get looking at a screen all day. They keep the economy going a little bit, as people are more likely to pop into a shop and buy the books than go online to buy them, spontaneously. Unless you're walking past an online bookshop, you won't just decide out of the blue to buy an Ebook. The spontaneity of book buying helps keep the shops open. There's also the added perk of "new book smell" to consider.

As regards Ebooks, they're lighter. You won't find an E-Reader heavier than two or three books. It just doesn't happen. Unless the books are tiny, the E-Reader is more ergonomic. You can store whole libraries on one, or on your computer or online. You have access to the books whenever you want. With certain E-Readers, you can just buy a book on the spot, without having to go into a shop. This has the advantage of saving you time. In a matter of minutes - usually in less the time it takes to even get to the shop - you can be reading your book.

I stand somewhere in the middle of the argument. I don't have an E-Reader, so paper books are my only choice aside from reading on my laptop. While Ebooks are cheaper, in general, I do prefer paper books. I like to hold the book. I like placing the bookmark between the pages. I like getting my books signed by the author. I like giving books as presents. I like that my job is to sell the paper books to people who don't know what they're looking for. I like the feel of the book and making sure the spine and corners are okay before I give the customer the book. I like keeping my books in as good a condition as possible. I like getting individual copies of my books printed through as a notice to myself: You did this, and it's not just on your laptop anymore.

Of course, I love that there are Indie authors who have found Ebooks to be a great way to get an audience. I love that they can make a living from it all. I like the controversy behind turning down a publishing deal just to publish an Ebook themselves. It's even better when the figure was huge - half a million dollars in one case!

I will use paper books for as long as is possible. I may make a transition to E-Reader if I end up in a position of travelling a lot, unless I know where good bookshops are all around the world. But of course, the problem is that if I'm travelling a lot and I keep buying books, I then have to carry them around with me a lot more. There are always pros and cons. Right now, I'm a paper book reader.

Nuggets of Info - College Course

I'm just about coming to the end of my second year in college as I write this, and I suppose it helps to inform people of what I actually study. I don't think I've ever explicitly said it on my blog, mainly because my friends already know. But the rest of my readers might not be so familiar.

It's a four year course, for a start. I study three different subjects: Education, Religion and English. The Education part of it is about child psychology, teaching methodologies, the Irish curriculum in Religion and my chosen elective - English - and a number of other areas that I have not yet had the experience of studying.

During the four years, we undergo six periods of Teaching Practice. In first year, we have a brief period of teaching very short micro-lessons to primary school kids. In second year, we head out to primary schools for two weeks; we teach two Religion classes a day, and one elective class a day. In third year, we have another period of teaching micro-lessons, this time to secondary school students. Following that, we head out to secondary schools for three weeks. I'm no entirely sure of the teaching hours, but it's mainly Junior Cycle students we teach. Come fourth year, there's this lovely experience of going back to our "home" schools for two weeks to teach. That means we teach in whatever school we studied in. Later that year, we have four weeks in another school, usually in a disadvantaged area where the students are less academically minded, trouble makers, generally difficult and/or from a "lower-class" family. The combination is different for each set of pupils. I've heard good things and bad things about these schools, but generally the pupils are okay to teach when you get past the difficulties. And that's the point: the difficulties. It's supposed to be a challenge, and to stop us thinking we'll all be teaching at private schools where the students can't afford to mess about.

Naturally, while I'm there, I won't be announcing the personal details of my pupils online. I'm not that stupid.

As regards my English modules, I have four a year for the four years. This is generally divided up to include: Prose, Film, Poetry and Drama. In first year, it was a Varieties of Fiction module, Adaptations from Fiction to Film, Victorian and Modernist Poetry and Modern Irish Drama. Things got a little more complicated this year. Come fourth year, we'll be studying Ulysses in depth, as well as Moby Dick. It's going to be thrilling stuff. In the Film modules, in my experience to date, we have to write a journal based on what we saw. This is a long but generally enjoyable task. I like looking at the films in detail. It helps I go to the cinema almost every week!

For Religion, we have all sorts of modules, covering: scripture, Church history, liturgy, ethics and philosophy. There are seven or eight modules a year for Religion, some of them interesting, some of them downright boring. Religion is the main topic we have to study. Mind you, my description of it is still only limited to what I've studied. In the future, there will be chances to study Greek, Hebrew, Feminist theology, World Religions and a number of other equally exciting subjects. I am sure the fourth years can attest to having a great time sitting their lectures...

And that's my experience of college. I mean, obviously I do more than just go to class and write essays (lots of essays), but this is what my college course is like. It's full of lectures, full of different topics, and we generally go to twice as many lectures as some other colleges do, looking at a whole range of material that we haven't always heard about. It's interesting, but also challenging. And our library doesn't always have the books we need for our course. Just saying.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Nuggets of Info - Alcohol

For me, alcohol is a seldom touched substance. I used to never drink it at all. I had my confirmation vow and an unofficial status as a pioneer. I never actually became one. I was nineteen when I had my first taste of alcohol. Not much has happened since in that field. I can literally recall ever time I drank alcohol. In order.

The first drink was a sip of punch with the wonderful title of Purple Pussy. You really can't get a funnier name for a drink when you're texting someone telling them how much you like a person's drink, purposely failing to mention that it is a drink. I'll let you figure that one out on your own.

After that, sometime later, I had a vodka and orange and something I can only describe as filth. It was the end result of a game of Kings. A horrid mix of all sorts of stuff. I downed it quickly. As we were leaving, we had shots of Micky Finns. I didn't touch another drink that night.

Following that was the Jager Bomb incident. I say incident... I had a Jager Bomb. My first one. It was bought for me. I drank it. I didn't drink anything else that night. I danced with my drunk friend and had a pretty good night out.

Come November, I went out for a friend's birthday. I tasted several people's drinks: beer that tasted like piss, beer that tasted like piss and vomit, Bacardi (dangerous stuff! Far too easy to drink!), Guinness (I'm told one needs to drink more than a sip to appreciate it...), Bulmers, and finally Captain Morgan's and Coke. I settled on the last one. I had one for myself.

A week or two later, there was a table quiz. I got one drink that night that lasted several hours. A single glass of Captain Morgan's and Coke.

New Year's Eve, I drank with my family. I had two or three drinks. Not enough to get even slightly drunk, because that was over the space of several hours. All three were the Captain.

February: my birthday. I got drunk. Between quite a few drinks courtesy of the Captain and a couple of shots of Micky Finns, I was talking quite a bit of rubbish. Well, I wasn't talking rubbish, as such... I was just talking a lot. But I was relaxed. I had a good night. And I only had the munchies the next morning.

My next, and last, time to drink was the night of the Elbow concert. I had two and a half pints of Carlsberg (which, to me, tasted like piss, especially if it got warm... which it did, quickly, since we had plastic cups!), before we went to a pub. I was with the Captain all night. I got drunk. I was also tired. I slammed my head of the bar. It hurt, and I deserved it. Despite putting headdesk into practice, I still had a good night. And I had no hangover the next day, just the munchies again. I call that a success.

There were a few times during all that that I had a drink out, but with the exception of one - between my birthday and the concert - I can't remember when they were. All in all, I think it adds up to less than a dozen times drinking alcohol in over twenty years. I think that's a fairly good record. Unless you're trying to see if I have a good social life, which it doesn't look like I do. Still, these are my experiences with alcohol. So far they have not been bad.

Nuggets of Info - Exams

I have a very simple approach to exams: panic. There are some pros and cons to this, of course. The cons obviously include the bad health stuff. However, I think this is offset by the pros. Panicking releases adrenaline. Adrenaline makes us focus in a weird way. This focus helps us work. In the twenty four hours before an exam I learn just enough material to be able to formulate an answer. My studying is literally a massive cramming session.

Long term study doesn't work for me. I can't make myself do it. It bores me. I don't have the drive, the focus, the willpower. So I go for the short term stuff. My short term memory is less deceptive. It doesn't always work, which is why I have to drive all the info in there. I have more or less mastered this, for myself.

I read the notes. I highlight stuff as I go along. When I am done, I go through these notes, and I write down the highlighted stuff in abbreviated form. I do this for the two-three questions for each exam. I then do a quick read over these notes. If I did this the night before an exam, I then go to sleep. The next morning, before the exam starts, I aim to test my knowledge. I jot down the key points. Just simple, memorable terms. I then add the extra info onto this. I compare this to my notes.

If other people are doing the same question, we talk about the topic. Mostly we have stuff to tell each other. We remember everything better that way.

When it comes to the really boring stuff, like Jeremiah (Oh... My... God...), I find making some humour out of it helps. Like summarising it in a contemporary form. Using my Jeremiah summary: His message in the second and third periods of his ministry can be summarised to the following: "Do what I say or die, bitches." The last word isn't necessary for his ministry, but it helps me remember it when I picture him as a (street) gangster suddenly stepping up and leading people in a time of great despair: people look down on him generally, but he knows what's best. And it works. I remembered everything I needed to know about Jeremiah for my exam.

My approach to exams isn't recommended. I mean, it's very likely that lots of people approach them in this way. But I kind of have to focus on each exam as they come. This year, I have thirteen written exams (after having already done an entire module based only on continuous assessment!). If I tried to prepare for thirteen exams all in advance, I would never get time for myself.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Facebook Spamming Issues

Several people, by no direct fault of their own, have become spammers on Facebook. The problem has gotten a bit out of hand. It's simple: they see a link a friend posts on their page, they click it, and within seconds the same link with the same comment is posted at least a dozen other people. It can be stopped by removing the post without clicking the link. The X is found in the top right-hand corner of the post. Make sure to click "Remove Post..." instead of the other options, as they may cause your friend problems in the future. It's highlighted below, in blue, so you can't miss it.

There are two big offenders in the spamming: Osama and a link to show you what you'll look like when you're older. There are obvious reasons why people think these are genuine links: everyone wants clarification that Osama is dead and lots of people are amused enough by images to click the second link.

So far I can't see any major problems with these links except that they spam the heck out of as many people as the link possibly can. The more friends you have, the more people will get spammed. Simple as that.

The biggest issue seems to be that they are just annoying links, posted dozens of times all over Facebook. There may be more in the future, but for now these are the two I am familiar with. Before the admins at Facebook can get around to fixing this problem, users can prevent themselves becoming the centre for spam by simply removing these posts from their pages; even if you don't click it, your friend might. Hopefully the tide of spam will stop within a few days if everyone follows this simple advice.