Thursday, 3 November 2011

11. The things that came to be

Many choices in my life have made me the person I am today, the person laying on his bed in the early hours of the morning, dwelling on these thoughts which you’re reading now. Choices cannot be changed. Three years ago, I made one of the biggest choices in my life, and that choice was to go to University.

University was always a farfetched goal for me. I never got the A-Levels I wanted. I was kicked out of school because I chose to be obnoxious, irritable, arrogant and lazy. But I found a way to get in to University and I had two choices before me:

  1. Work my way up the corporate ladder in some dead end company.
  2. Fly from the nest and join academia once more.
I obviously chose the latter. Would that have been your choice? That one choice has changed my life forever. I wouldn’t have met some of the most amazing people which are in my life today. I wouldn’t have learned so much, gained knowledge, or be in the U S of A. But all that can be balanced and tainted with making “enemies” and partial regret. You win some, you lose some, right?

Anyway, academically speaking, I think I have perhaps wasted some of my life. I have always wanted to study archaeology, ever since “Meet the Ancestors” was aired on the BBC in 1998, presented by Julian Richards. I was a young boy, aspiring to be an archaeologist. I remember going to my local library and reading every book they had on Ancient Egypt. I even wrote down the recipe to make "Eesh baladi" or "Egyptian Local Bread". I never got around to making it though. But I made the choice to go to University which doesn't offer archaeology. A regret, perhaps.

Now I’m torn by what to do… Do I give up on my degree and pursue my love of archaeology? Or do I suck up my pride; bite my tongue and power through this degree? Everything falls down to choice.

Maybe I’m having a midlife crisis… at 23 years old? I hope I don’t die at 46, fuck… I don’t think I’ll even know what I’d really want to do at 46 years old. The other day, a good friend of mine told me I have the “academic bug” and I think he’s right. I want to learn so much, I want to learn everything.

A digression:

I’d like to mention that you have to take the good with the bad. It’s obvious you have to. You have one life to live, all the love to give and not a lot of time to action everything you’d ever want to do. So let me give you a piece of advice, take it or leave it, that’s up to you. That’s your choice.

Wake up, plan your day, do something different, something you’d never think of doing. Make that choice. Don’t stop whatever you do. Your choice may be “good” or “bad”, but good and bad choices are be perceived differently by every individual. Who are you to judge? Who am I to judge? You can never make everyone happy. Do what you need to do. Never let people or money get in your way, it will only make you sad. Never say “what if?” just do. And remember, you always have a choice. 

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

10. Stateside

I feel bad for this extra long blog hiatus. I was originally planning on blogging once a week whilst in the States so I could keep a diary of my times out here, but too many things have been going on and I've generally been busy. But I'm back now, and hopefully with a vengeance!

Where to start? From the beginning, I suppose.

After successfully unwrapping the passport from it's packaging, which could only be related to the difficulty of cracking the Enigma machine, I set off to Oxford with my luggage packed, a smile on my face, and a very long journey ahead of me.

The train journey to Oxford was a pleasant one as always. My cousin picked me up straight away this time. Shock! It was good to see her, a friendly face. We drove back to her place and she started to make food. She's always willing to make me food. Over the couple of days which I stayed there, we enjoyed various meals, spaghetti bolognase, thai green curry, and leaving the best 'til last, a doner meat wrap, with lettuce, tomato, onions and garlic sauce; it was to die for. We definitely pigged out and drank a little bit of alcohol over the couple of days which I stayed there.

The 12th August finally came around and I finally left her house for the last time this year. We drove down to Heathrow Airport, which was easier to find and park than I was expecting. We started off by eating breakfast, which was overpriced and undercooked, exactly what you expect from an airport. I then queued up to use a self-service machine to get my ticket. The self-service machine didn't work, as expected, so I had to queue up again in the manual lane to get my ticket, which was probably a good thing to do. Everything happens for a reason, right?! I look across the hall and who do I see? A friend from my university, going to Florida for 2 week! It was a nice surprise as I thought I was going to leave the country with only having my cousin for contact. It was nice to see her! Anyway, it was time to depart my cousin after converting £200 in to $312 at the travel exchange. The departing wasn't emotional, upsetting or full of anxieties, it was the complete opposite, in fact.

The plane journey was somewhat surreal. I sat down on a plane next to some woman who's stomach was caressing my thigh the entire flight. I heard some woman talk to a man about “study abroad” and I turned around and asked her if she was studying abroad. She said yes. How strange! I then asked her what university she is from, which is obviously the normal thing to do. She then replies “I go to Keele, you?” My jaw dropped. “Me too!” I replied, and for the 8 hour flight from Heathrow to JFK, I made a new friend. It was a shame she was going to San Antonio, though. After going through customs in JFK, and departing my newly found friend, I had to get a taxi from JFK to Newark as I booked the wrong flight. Well, I booked the right flight, just booked one with a wrong connection so I had to fork out $120 to travel that distance. It was obviously worth it and I didn't know there was other means of travel to and from airports at the time. Flying from Newark to Salt Lake City was a horrible mess for me. 30 hours without sleep as I'm unable to sleep on planes, no food given to me on the flight, some man next to me who teaches Russian, didn't speak more than two words to me the whole flight.

Landing in Salt Lake City was insane! I saw the giant “U” on the side of the mountain, and I didn't know that is where the University is situated, which overlooks Salt Lake. I met some lovely Peruvian man who gave me an “Express Shuttle Ride” to the University. He was the first Mormon I had ever encountered. He was a lovely man, a sign of things to come!

I finally arrived at the Heritage Center in Fort Douglas, at the top of the U of U. It was 8:30pm Mountain Time. I couldn't even calculate how long I had been awake for now; I just wanted to get to bed. I walk to the desk to get checked in and get my key. Some lovely woman comes and takes me to my room, which had a desk, a safe, a bed and a chair in it. My new home for one semester. I thanked her and she let herself out. The air conditioning was on and it was cold, too cold. I had no bed sheets, no pillows, no nothing. I slept with my clothes piled on top of me, and my hoodie was used as a pillow. It was hard to get to sleep, the altitude of Utah was hurting me and I had severe jet lag. It felt like I was floating!

The morning of 13th August I woke up at 6am. Welcome to the world of jet lag. I had to find a place to get a sim card, there was no way I was going to survive without a phone for more than one day. I finally signed up with T-Mobile, and popped the sim card in to my phone and voilà, it worked!

Over the next week or so I met many new people, I had various inductions, health checks, “what to do” and “not what to do” classes. The international orientation week was well organised, they had many events on for us, such as a barbecue and taking us to see a baseball game! My very first baseball game, in fact. It was fantastic!

More to come another day...

Thursday, 28 July 2011

The Day Dan Stood Still

Okay, so the last week has been more hectic than I could ever imagine and the two black Chanel bags under my eyes account for the lack of sleep. So let's start from the beginning. On the 17th July I called up the US Embassy to confirm my appointment after I emailed all the documents through to them. I had two choices for my appointment.. 8:00am or 8:30am on the 26th July.. Obviously I chose the latter as I thought 8:00am would've been too early – in hindsight 8:00am would've been perfect.

I'll just start by saying I quit smoking on the 19th July 2011. So things are obviously a lot worse than they usually are, for me anyway.

I booked my train on the 22nd July and I called my father to see if he could give me a lift. I haven't spoken to him in over a month and I thought him having to drive me 20 miles to pick up my tickets would have been okay (unfortunately I couldn't get my tickets sent to me as the dates landed over the weekend and I don't live in London so I couldn't get “express delivery”). It was okay! He said yes. What a shock, I thought he would've been “too busy” or “had a drink” but no, he was more than happy to drive me. He pulled up in front of my house with his new red Peugeot 107 with a smile on his face and his teeth being covered by his moustache which has been above his upper lip for the best part of 30 years. It's progressively turning grey, though. My father decided that he'd bring his intolerable fiancé with him. She's a strange being. She doesn't speak much and isn't the best looking woman in the world. But once she's had a few drinks in her you can't shut her up – and I like talking, a lot. So she gets out of the car and pushes the seat forward and looks at me. My eyes looked at her like “Come on, love. I'm 6 foot 4 and there is no way I'm that nimble to be able to get in the back of that car”. Funnily enough, I found out I was that nimble! To cut a long story short, that journey took an hour and a half and as much of a good man my father is (sometimes), he doesn't half drive slowly. He'd call it “being careful” but I'd call it pissing me off because I was in a rush.

So Monday 25th comes along and I had a good 4 hour journey ahead of me. All packed and ready to go. I wonder around my local town thinking “this journey is going to be intolerable if I don't get something to read” so I picked up two books from the local library: Dolores Claiborne by Stephen King and The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown. It's the very first time I've read a Stephen King book and I can assure you that I will be reading one again. I still have 40 pages to read but it's absolutely fantastic. The 4 hour journey was relaxing whilst reading, even though I can't usually read whilst travelling – dreaded travel sickness. When I'm on the train I usually fall in love with at least 3 gorgeous women walking around. Well when I say gorgeous, they're “train gorgeous”, which means that they're the nicest looking on the carriage and you would like to do some things with them which wouldn't even be disclosed within a court of law, right? This time I didn't fall in love with anyone. I fell in love with the book and I continued to read it, even when I finally got to my stop as I had to wait 45 minutes for my cousin to pick me up.

On the night of the 25th my cousin made me a Thai green curry, which was absolutely outstanding. We had a naan bread which was filled with Coriander and Garlic. Her husband came around as he doesn't live there at the moment as they're on a “break”. He came around specifically for me, so I could fix a couple of his laptops. I obliged, obviously. Sorted them both out and borrowed him the 3 pin plug connection for my laptop charger so he could charge his laptop. He bought a cheap charger from eBay and as he plugged the charger into the wall it instantly tripped the entire electrics within the apartment. Fantastic. I fixed that too. I decided that sleep was the best possible answer after travelling and socialising with family. So I finally got to bed at around midnight, but I couldn't sleep for love nor money. I had to be up at 4am, 4. I was tossing and turning for the best part of two hours and as I drifted off I must've been thinking about something bad and I startled myself, sat up in bed and I swear my heart stopped. There was silence throughout the house, my heart not beating, the inability to breathe. I sat up at the side of the bed and eventually had the energy to take in a deep breath to save my life, checked my phone and it was around 3:30am. I had to be up in 30 minutes. I laid there, unable to sleep. I think I must've slept around 2 hours that night, maximum.

So D-day arrived. The 26th July 2011. The day which is obviously going to be the marker for my life changing experiences. 7 days without a cigarette touching my lips, it was 4am in the morning and I got dressed. I started to eat breakfast and words from my mother the day before were echoing within my head “I feel like you're going for an execution, I don't know what the answer is going to be.” As I tucked in to my breakfast, I could imagine what the people in Death Row might have felt like having their last meal. My cousin decided she'd come to London with me, which was good as I'm not good at being on my own – as I said, I like to talk. So we catch the bus from Oxford at 5:00am and luckily 2 weeks ago I bought an ISIC card, which gave me £3 discount on the bus, get in! I continued to read Dolores Claiborne on the bus, the plot was getting mightily juicy. The bus was travelling extraordinarily fast. There was a guy sitting opposite me with an iPad 2, which was obviously jailbroken as he was using FaceTime with someone over his 3G signal. Quite a few business men were on the bus as well. Why on earth would you work in London having to travel from Oxford at 5am. Are they mad? Perhaps, but it's a job, I suppose! We arrived in London at 6:22am. We parked up right outside a Costa, which wasn't open until 6:30am to our utter disgust. Luckily the Starbucks opposite was open, so we strolled right in! I had a Caramel Frappucino with extra coffee in it. What a lovely breakfast. As we walked down Baker Street, we both looked at each other and thought that we were here way too early. It was now around 1 hour and 45 minutes until my interview. We wondered around looking for the US Embassy, baffled why we couldn't see it. We asked a Met Police officer with a gun strapped around him where the Embassy was. He pointed behind him with his thumb as he looked at us. “It's here, mate, you're standing right outside it!” I said “Fantastic! Though we're here way too early.” He asked whether I had an interview letter. Of course I had an interview letter, I've been wanting this interview for god knows how long. I'm sure he wouldn't have known that, though.

My cousin and I bump in to two guys standing in the queue for the US Embassy at 7:20am, I was wondering why. I asked them and they said “it gets really busy mate. Get in the queue now!” so I got in to the queue and waited. 30 minutes pass and I was getting rather edgy and my knee was hurting severely. Once the two people came out to check documents, they gave us a small plastic bag to put our stuff in... Wallet, watch and random change in my pocket. I then told my cousin she couldn't come in with me and she had to stand outside waiting for me. I told her I could be up to 4 hours, to her utter disbelief. So I depart company from my cousin with all my paperwork in hand and go through the first check point, being scanned by a metal detector. I didn't beep! I then picked up my stuff from the plastic bag and continued on my journey to the next check point. Whilst putting my watch back on, I get to the next check point, where I got assigned the number “N7” by the nice Scottish woman behind the desk. The waiting game took place. It was 7:55am and I was 7th in line to being seen. 8am arrived and the entire embassy sprung to life, all the workers were at their pods ready (most of them armed with Starbucks and a Subway sandwich wrapper beside them, I might add). “N1” got called. N1 was the guy which I spoke to originally to see why he was in the queue so early. “N2” was next.. And so on until it was my turn, 5 minutes later. I shuffle towards the woman and she went through all my documents, asking me why I had been arrested so long ago, a lifetime ago. I explained thoroughly. She then progressed to take my finger prints. Left hand 4 fingers, right hand 4 fingers and 2 thumbs, respectively. She then says everything is fine and takes the documents she wants, including the new passport which I mentioned in a previous blog. I then had to sit down and fill in another form and wait my turn. This is where I start to panic. “N1” gets called.. I thought “not long now”. “N2” gets called.. I was thinking “yes, I'll be out by 20 past 8!” N3...N4...N8...N9... Why didn't they call me?! 20 minutes pass. My heart is pounding, unlike when I woke up that same morning and the sweat dripping from my hands and forehead was unprecedented. Within the entire history of mankind, I don't think anyone has ever had that much sweat on them. I hear the magic words “N7 to interview room 19, please”. YES! I thought to myself, then my legs felt like they were weighed down with lead weights. I walked so slowly. I could see the woman sitting there ready to grill me about my arrest. To grill me about why I wanted to study in the US. To grill me, full stop. In fact, she was the complete opposite to what I thought she was going to be. She was a very nice woman. An American woman. Nice brown eyes and very clean teeth. She asked me the reasons why I got arrested and I explained to her that it was 5 years ago, and I was 17 years old. I had too much to drink and I had a fight. She said was like “drinking when you were 17?! You must've looked older than you were!” I said “yes, I always have been tall” I didn't say I have always been fat, though. As the interview progressed, she said this to me “can you promise me something? Can you firstly, not drink and secondly, don't fight in Utah?” I replied “yes” without hesitation, though I'm obviously going to have a few drinks – social drinks. She then said “I've issued you with your visa, take this document and pay for your fee!” I skipped towards the desk where you had to pay, then my heart sank. I saw the price was £14.80.. I only had £10 on me. The sign also said “card payments only” I only had cash. Panicking, I checked my wallet. Thank god I left my credit card in there. I couldn't remember my pin but the lovely lady decided to swipe it and look at my old passport signature as proof that I am who I say I am. Funny that, they still check to see who I am, even though I've just gone through 2 interview processes. I walk out of the Embassy, and I see a woman there crying. They denied her a Visa, but let her husband have one, she was totally hysterical. She was absolutely gorgeous too, better than any woman I've never seen on the train, anyway!

The time was now 9am. What to do in London for the rest of the day? I finally meet up with my cousin and we do the usual cliché sightseeing. We went to Leicester Square, Chinatown, Piccadilly Circus, the Strand. I finally got to saw the London Eye, the River Thames, Big Ben.. The Houses of Parliament! We then went back to Chinatown at 12pm where we had a stunning all you can eat buffet. Getting progressively tired, we decided 1pm was enough and we made our way back to Victoria Coach Station where we caught the bus back to Oxford. That bus was extraordinarily hot on the way back and I still have the burn mark on my left arse cheek from the radiator.

So that's what has been going on in my life for the past week or so. I told you, manic!

Now I'm just having to pull the money together to get the flights to Utah, and I'll be on my way!... By the 12th August, anyway.

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

The Butterfly Effect

For two months I have been worried about being able to study abroad at the University of Utah. Finally, I received the go ahead on the 1st July, which was utterly fantastic... or so I thought. This is where my torment began. 

Within one week I have almost become clinically insane trying to sort out everything from paperwork to funds to be able to show the US Embassy that I am in fact capable of looking out for myself whilst residing in the U.S of A. Everything has deteriorated in an ever increasing downward spiral. 

So where shall I begin? The call from the study abroad office came a week late, because of an "admin" problem, which didn't please me one bit. I am very impatient. Thankfully, the go ahead came and I could start actioning everything, getting everything in order so I can leave around the 12th August. Right now, the 12th August is so close I'm not sure everything will be done in time.

I started by paying off several fees which I know I should have done already, but I didn't want to fork out that much money before I got the results through just in case, then all that money would have been used for no reason and funnily enough, every bit of it is "non-refundable". So after I've paid my SEVIS (Student and Exchange Visitor Information System) fee, it was time for me to call up the US Embassy to book an appointment, which was great! Things were finally falling in to place.

And this is where everything took a massive halt. The lovely Scottish guy at the US Embassy started talking to me, took my details down, passport number, the usual details. He asked me if I had ever been arrested. I could have said "no", but something could happen in America, whereby they found out that I did get arrested and I would be in a load of trouble. So I said "yes... 5 years ago when I was 17" and everything fell on my body just about then, I knew this wasn't going to be an easy ride whatsoever. 

The first "butterfly effect" scenario:

The reason why I got arrested is because I had a little too much to drink and unfortunately lashed out on a friend. Since then I have never had any involvement with the police, and because I was a "minor", I honestly thought it wouldn't have mattered, but it does.

I can't believe something so small and so trivial could essentially ruin my chances of studying in America because I was young, naive and had an unfortunate "I don't care" attitude.  

As my money starts to dwindle, I get the message from the guy at the US Embassy to say that I have to pay yet another "non-refundable" fee to make an appointment, or at least hear him talk about me maybe having an appointment. I have to pay this fee anyway, as I need the "MRV" document whilst getting in to the US Embassy, so I didn't mind. He then progresses to tell me that I have to fill in a form complete it and send it off to ACPO (Association of Police Chief Officers) just so I can scan the document and fill in another form and email them in to see whether I'm suitable enough to have an interview at the US Embassy or not.

I have yet to receive the ACPO letter back, after paying £77 for the pleasure of them to print off a sheet of paper and deliver it back to me. I only sent it off today, so I'm not asking for anything right now, but time is of the essence, and I don't have time.

The second "butterfly effect" scenario:

Oh, another thing... my passport is damaged, what a surprise. And all because a friend accidently spilt coke over it a few months ago, I thought it would have been fine. 

I have asked numerous people to see whether the passport would suffice whilst travelling, all have said no. Great. So I called up the passport office as well, and I have to have an appointment to get a replacement passport. Fan-bloody-tastic. Could anything else go wrong? Well, I have to pay £122 for "fast track" because I need the passport as fast as humanly possible. So that means having to take a day off work to go to the passport office almost 100 miles away. 

So that's where I am right now, awaiting for letters to come through so I can hopefully get an appointment at the US Embassy so I can get my Visa sorted and buy my flights and insurance. The next time I write here will either be me absolutely ecstatic that I have got everything successfully actioned, or me moaning about how ludicrous  the World's governments are as they cannot speed processes up. I honestly hope for the former.

I could do with a cigarette. Will I have to write another "butterfly effect" scenario 30 years from now?

Friday, 27 May 2011

A free man in turmoil

As of today, I am a free man. Not in the "single" sense, but I mean free from University for another year, or at least until the new academic year starts anyway.

I'm sitting on a small two-seater brown leather sofa with my feet up on the arm of a three-seater brown leather sofa and even though I have the whole summer to enjoy the time I have off, I feel like I'm almost regressing back into a vegetative-like state 5 hours in to handing in my last piece of work.

I don't want to leave here. Can I stay here forever? Has the bubble of the University finally taken a hold of me and if I try to leave a strangle hold will commence? Possibly. I feel like I should be doing something, right now. Something active, to keep me going, something mentally challenging so what brain cells I have will not exponentially dissipate.

I should be happy! People around me have grins on their faces which can only be compared to the Cheshire Cat from Alice in Wonderland, and here I am with a face like a slapped arse and with thoughts running through my head, which are by no means the best of thoughts at times. I think I will just miss my friends.

Newsflash: This is possibly the first time Dan has come to terms with the fact that he is going to miss his friends from University when he leave his residence on the 10th June.

I know I have friends back home and writing this now feels like I'm somehow insulting them, but I am not; or at least I don't mean to. Why does University have to stop over the summer? I have come accustom to living here and if I could find a job that will help quite significantly and I would try my very best to keep at least one, or two of my close friends from Geology by my side.

Why am I in such torment anyhow? Can't I just be happy that I have the summer off? I can find a job back home, I can go down the beach, see my friends, socialise with my family, go for walks, buy a bike and cycle everywhere and even do a little bit of geocaching in my spare time. That list sounds like a fantastic summer, a summer which can rival previous years. Yet I am still not happy. I do have other things to look forward to, like going to the University of Utah in August until December, to study Physical Geography and Geology, or as I'd now like to call it: "MGeoscience".

Yes, I've taken the transition, I've decided it's in my best interests to convert to an Undergraduate Masters Program, which will enable me to have a Masters' degree at the end. Isn't that better? Yes, yes it is!

Well, I've come to the conclusion that moaning about all this isn't going to help. I just need to sort myself out.

Friday, 20 May 2011

Plugs and Dreams

Now revising words such as pyrometamorphism, eclogite, metasomatism, pleochroism, fiamme, aphanitic, plutonic, hypabyssal… und so weiter... I thought I’d take time off and update the blog. After a moderately enormous hiatus I’d like to say that I’ve been busy, but I haven’t. I’ve just been rather lazy and having nothing to say – I wanted to be an intellectual when writing a blog but I’ve come to the conclusion that a blog, my blog could just be a diary as such. So what better time than now to write about something which doesn’t concern anyone? Well, we’ll see.

Unfortunately, my ear plugs broke today. I am a little bit upset because I’ve had them for almost a year now and that £7 was definitely well spent. But now I’m thinking of purchasing some new ones. I have decided to go with something that involves rocks – funny that, coming from a geology student, no?

At the same time, looking at these ear plugs has spurred me on to actually look at the minerals which make them up. I’m going to go for the amethyst and / or the turquoise ones. The history behind these two minerals is fantastic. I found out that turquoise plugs were a part of a ceremony in Sicán in Peru – which shows that turquoise has been used as plugs for thousands of years! Exciting? I think so. But there’s nothing like the deep violet colour which dwells within the quartz mineral either. I love purple; it’s got to be said. It’s one of my favourite colours. It’s also cheap and cheerful and I hope that isn’t a metaphor for myself. I’m anything but cheap – haha. Oh, and according to Wikipedia (the most reliable source of information, ever.), amethyst is derived from Ancient Greek, which means “not-intoxicated”. The belief was that amethyst would help with hangovers, I honestly think that they were just hoping for less devastating hangovers. I also wish that, so the Ancient Greeks and I have something in common!

If any of you did want to look at the website with these plugs on, take a look here

Anyway… On to another topic now.

For the first time in a long time, I woke up with a smile on my face and I felt content with life. For some reason, I had a dream about – dare I say it? My perfect woman. This dream was very strange; it was like my whole life within the few hours of sleep that I got. I met this girl and straight away we hit it off. She was wearing a white blouse and sandy-coloured, high-waisted trousers which flowed like MC Hammer’s trousers funnily enough. She also had a pair of brown leather sandals which came above her ankles. Her hair was blonde, short and soft, with her fringe covering her left eye, but her hair flowed, so it didn’t actually cover her left eye – which is strange because I thought I always liked long hair. She had deep grey, mystical eyes, a perfect complexion and even her lips were perfect. And everything just fit with me and her, we went out for meals, she fit in with my friends straight away, we even walked arm in arm together perfectly. And yeah, we were just perfect together… So all day wherever I’ve been going I’ve been looking out for someone like that, and I shouldn’t! I wish I could write more but I honestly cannot remember any more of the dream.

Well that’s all I have for now, there’s not a lot else to say. It’s been a pretty strange day! Now it’s time to go to Subway and get that well-earned Meatball Marinara!

Saturday, 12 March 2011

Industrial Impacts on the World

For my tutorial approximately 4 weeks ago I had to do an Oral Presentation on a subject of my choice. Seeing as I study Physical Geography and Geology, I thought why not do something which shows the potential harm which industries have on certain areas throughout the World.

I was going upload this sooner, but I didn't want to upload it until my results came through for the tutorial, just in case of plagiarism!

It is pretty long, just to give you a heads up!

So let's start with the presentation:

As our pursuit of various resources ever greatens, for resources such as coal and oil and natural gas. We as humans will stop at nothing to get this “vital” resource which leaves the World scarred and perhaps irreparable. Every resource which we acquire has pros and cons, which will be listed as I talk about them. So let’s start with coal and one process which damages the environment on an enormous scale. Mountaintop Removal.

What is Mountaintop Removal?
Well as the question says, Mountaintop Removal is basically the removal of a Mountaintop to access the coal reserves underneath. The process of Mountaintop Removal is one of the worst ways to extract ecologically by basically blowing up the mountain side. Though it is very cost effective economically as the process needs less man power to extract which costs less money. Simply put, the less money spent, the more is gained so it’s a win win situation for the companies doing this throughout the world. But there must be a reason as to why the extraction has only recently started in this area, and that reason is now that it’s economically viable to do so. But is it ecologically viable?

Economic Value?
Once thought to be not economically viable due to the cost of the blowing up a mountain side, it has now become a lot less expensive due to the increased price of coal and raw materials which companies gather from the area.

But what problems does this process have?
Filling up the streams with rubble which cuts off the water flow and supply to the surrounding areas. Cutting off vital nutrients for the animal and plant life which may survive around the area.
Wiping out crucial forests and spoiling the environment where diverse ecology survives.

Open Cast Mining
A process which can extract various ores or materials is through Open Cast Mining which is possibly the easiest way to get access to these materials, but definitely has bad implications towards the landscape. The Tar Sands pit pictured in the background are crucial to the economy of Canada as it is one of the main providers of oil to the United States, which creates a steady political link between the two. These pits are the second largest oil reserves in the world after Saudi Arabia, approximately the size of Florida which will one day be extracted, destroying the landscape forever. Unfortunately extracting the fossil fuel out of the sand generates more “heat-trapping gasses” than that of conventional methods such as oil drilling and this production is the single largest contributor to Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions due to the way in which the oil is extracted; with blasts of steam and other industrial processes which also uses Natural Gas.

Here's an aerial map of one of the Tar Pits to show the scale of extraction in one area.

Natural Gas
Natural gas has many uses, ranging from the help in production of oil in refineries as I’ve just mentioned to heating up our homes to fertilisers for the production of food. The gas takes a long time to process and usually has very big refineries, as pictured in the background, where the gas gets prepared and transported. These refineries are usually placed near a river or a water source so that the gasses can be shipped instantly, or transported through pipes which span a vast amount of countries, destroying habitats along the way. From the Pie Chart shown shows the Natural Gas usage in the USA in 2002. As you can see 32% is used up for Industrial Uses, which goes to refine oil and in to coal production.

Natural Gas converted in to Fertiliser
Natural Gas can go through a process in which it gets changed in to Fertiliser for Agricultural Purposes. The upside of this is that as the world’s population increases, the more food we need and therefore we need more fast, reliable ways in which to produce the food needed, which is a basic human need. On the other hand though, the fertilisers which help create the food can in fact destroy other parts of the food chain by polluting rivers and streams which run near the agricultural land, killing the ecology which dwells in those areas. This is known as Agricultural Runoff.

Fertiliser Waste
As you can see from this picture, the fertiliser is dumped in to water, which is then pumped in to “containment ponds” where the liquid is separated from the solids for disposal.

Is there a way to stop all this?
Renewable energy would possibly be the best way in order to stop the production of Oil, Coal and Natural Gas, which destroy the landscape. But the tree hugging hippies out there may also be concerned about renewable energy sources such as Wind Farms, Hydroelectric and harnessing the incoming Solar Energy. Even though these are ways in which we can stop harming the environment, the impacts they have could just as severe. Offshore wind farms can destroy habitats to produce electricity, but after a while, those habitats will be restored throughout the wind farm area, creating new areas for life to flourish. Onshore wind farms can be an “eyesore” though if people want renewable energy, I suggest they come to terms with having a big white turbine on the top of a hill. Hydroelectric production is great and steady as well, though blocking off entire valleys, destroying the landscape to support humans, is that really worth it? Of course more fish would be introduced, but even for the humans which resided in the valleys in the first place will have to be relocated. Harnessing Solar Energy would be fantastic, which we do today, it’s just not as cost effective in the short term as we would all like it.

If we want to continue to consume as much energy as we need, we are going to have to face facts that the landscapes we once knew and love will disappear.

The End!

If you have sat through whilst reading all that, well congratulations! I enjoyed giving that presentation, even though it was only 4 minutes long!

Friday, 18 February 2011

It's been a while!

Well I've currently been slacking pretty bad in this whole blogging department, don't know why.. Well I know why and that's down to revising, procrastinating and not having much to say but now I'm back, for today at least!

I've been thinking quite hard today, well at least for the past 8 hours or so about what I'd like to do with my time to actually develop a certain skill and I've come to the conclusion that building things, things out of wood and carving is something that I'd like to do. I've always enjoyed carving wood, ever since I was about 10 or 11 and we put up an amazing archway in my old school to commemorate the year 2000. I had the best job, I drew a horse and cart to resemble the old village where I grew up.

The village is called Penally which is located just outside of Tenby in Pembrokeshire. I wish I knew more about the history of the village so I could give more depth to the story. All I know is that the church there was built in the 13th Century or was it the 12th Century? I don't know, next time I'm down that way I'll have a look and correct myself in a later post. It's a very picturesque place. If you go just to the Green near the church you will be able to have fantastic sea views which overlook Caldey Island. The village has farms scattered, delightful pubs which host fantastic meals. One pub in fact used to be a Paddock, hence the name "The Paddock Inn". Most of the people there are friendly enough to say "morning" to you as you walk passed them on your way to the shop and be greeted with a friendly hello and welcoming feel as you walk through the village. I like that place a lot, I hope that one day I could retire there. What else? Oh yeah, the main road which goes through Penally was originally built for the transportation of a horse and cart and I had luckily been chosen to draw it.

So I drew the horse and cart on to a piece of paper which I then traced on to the big slab of wood. All the tools in front of me, the chisels and hammers were just amazing, razor sharp and so precise. I had the help from some guy, I wish I knew his name because I would like so much advice right now on how to do so many things which I want to do! The horse and cart looked fantastic, with deep ridges around the outside scaling inwards with the raised image of the picture within the middle which then got carved even more to give it a 3D effect, was totally beautiful.

So why arts and crafts you say? I don't know, there's something, somewhere subconsciously telling me that being able to make things with my hands would be so much fun. I'm inspired by how people such as Ray Mears can sit down for hours upon end and caress a piece of wood and turn it in to something which will be there for a life time, or until it gets weathered down anyway. Maybe I'm a descendent from some tribes men? Or is there just something buried down deep within us somewhere where we like to make things, from things? I'd like to find out nonetheless.

I'd like to start making small things, nothing too drastic. Boxes for starters, perhaps along the lines of Jewellery Boxes or picking up some drift wood off the beach and just sit there for a few hours, or a couple of days and just create some gorgeous looking stick to gather dust in the corner of my room, but also showing it off to anyone who dare enter the lair.

I talked to a friend today about it, and he said it's best to just start at something basic. He's fantastic at what he does and it's so much so now that he's got his wife involved too! There's no going back now, she's finally left the kitchen! - Yes that is a joke. Anyway, their website is though it is not up and running as such yet, he has promised me once everything has been sorted he will put pictures up there and prices of the items which he produces all by hand, or a lathe. If any of you are interested in finding more about his wood craft, why not take a look at the facebook profile This will definitely be a good place to start looking at what he can do.

For me it's not just about wood craft, it's about finding anything which has no use for it any more these days. I think sitting in lectures about being eco friendly and conservation has finally been drilled in to me. I've seen so many things I can make from different materials, from plastic drum barrels to a packet of crisps. From old glossy magazines to discarded old shoes. And this is what I want, why can't we do something productive and creative out of the things in which we throw away? We waste so much, we don't recycle enough.

Yes some of you must be thinking that this is a waste of time now, he's started talking about the village he grew up in and now he's wanting us to be eco nuts! Well, that's not the case, I think rubbish could in fact be art and I'm going to try my damned best to start creating something from nothing, just to see how it goes! What's the worst thing that could happen? Probably a bunch of rubbish in the corner of my room, which I will then go on to recycle! See, every body wins.

Well that's about it for now, hopefully I'll be here again soon to talk about something else!

Wednesday, 9 February 2011


Oh how I hate Wednesdays. It always starts out really well with going to the gym and then I think about what to do with myself to make it as productive as possible and what happens? I just sit on my arse for near on 12 hours and cook dinner around 6pm. It's mind numbing. You totally forget the outside world and realise that there is nothing in your life, only because the productiveness has gone right out of the window by 11pm at night when you actually want to do something. The Wednesday mindset.

It's already time for bed and the next two days are so rammed with lectures that I will probably have no time to catch up on reading over notes, or catching up with work which doesn't get done in lab sessions, even though if I sat down and actually did the work, I would understand a lot more and already be confident enough to do what I need to do. I'm sure Wednesdays are for that reason; reading notes, finding out about things which you aren't so sure on and hopefully from now on I suppose I could do that, couldn't I? Unless I could find a part time job, but do I really want to do that? I mean even though Wednesdays are the in fact awful, working wouldn't give me much more of a reason to enjoy them, though it would give me the extra money for which I can enjoy myself, buy things which I wouldn't usually think of buying. Definitely something to consider.

Wednesdays are definitely a downer, sometimes it actually makes you think how slow life can be. There really should be someone there constantly telling me to get off my arse, like a personal trainer shouting at me at every given opportunity when I decide to sit on this brown leather throne and relax. Relax? Watching TV for 12 hours and having a few hours on World of Warcraft is anything but relaxing, it's quite irritating when you realise that you should try and not take life for granted and just do as much as you possibly can to make you think "wow, that was actually a good day" and feel good when you finally hit the sack.

Maybe I should get a personal trainer, or just invite one of those hyperactive and always happy friends around every Wednesday to do something relatively productive. Could've gone out for a meal tonight, but we had steak inside instead. I'm not saying steak isn't enjoyable, because it is! I could've just been out and interacting with more people! That isn't a dig at my flat mates by the way, they're great.

Perhaps moaning about it isn't the best way to go either, because I'm still sitting on my arse right now as I'm complaining. Though it does help, the thoughts and feelings there in front of me, in plain black and white which get reread about 100 times before I actually press "Publish Post" to see if I could put anything else in there, to show that Wednesdays are what Wednesdays are.. As the German's say "Mittwoch" which is literally translated to "mid-week", not yet the weekend, and not yet the start of the week where you usually have so much enthusiasm to get so much done. Where does all that enthusiasm go? I wish I knew. Perhaps caffeine could be the answer, definitely need more of that.

Anyway, fuck it, this Wednesday is almost over!

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

The blog has landed!

Well look at this, it's already my second day updating this blog and though I have no idea what the hell to put on here I thought I'd update my little corner of the internet as it were. Who would've thought? Me actually sticking to something for a change.

I think there's been like some sort of drastic change in my life to actually stick and do things. For example, this diet that I'm on at the moment, I've been doing it for five weeks strong and apart from my course obviously, is going pretty well. I say my course isn't going well, but it is. I just like to think and challenge myself to not do as much reading so I can stress out as much as possible at the end which is what I've always done and it's how I'll be. Not only have I stuck to my diet at the moment, but also my new love.. Twitter.

Why Twitter? I honestly thought it was the worst thing known to man, "why have facebook status updates and not have any other function?" I'd used to think to myself, but then realising it was more than just that I joined and follow the people or organisations which interest me, it's like your own little news feed, with up to date information which I personally want myself, none of this manufactured horse shite which we get spoon fed on a daily, if not hourly basis on ITV, Sky, Channel 4 or BBC.

Though is the stuff which I'm reading manufactured on Twitter? I mean these so called celebrities or companies which update "breaking news" or articles on a regular basis or updates about little, trivial things in their lives which make a massive difference in other peoples lives, people who follow them, including myself. Let's be honest, who doesn't like seeing a picture of an animal which has just been discovered and just so happens have to be 'cute'? Or the recently discovered Amazonian tribe which has literally no contact with the outside world? Or how a celebrity has decided to inform the entire world that they have just stubbed their toe on a cabinet? Has the entirety of the general public become so completely ignorant to the real world which is around them? To lose track of the one thing which we can hold on to, intelligence.

Now I can hear you thinking "Ha, intelligence? What about the guy who lives down the road who can't string a sentence together?" Obviously, I'm talking about the human race as a whole. We have come so far in such a short amount of time, from being hunter gatherers who survived on basic survival instincts, to a race which now is so technologically advanced and so technologically dependent that half, if not most of the human race have no idea where, why, when, how or even care how we have evolved. Wikipedia will only give you so much information.

Are you thinking I'm being rather hypocritical about all this? I mean all the resources which us humans have used to create just this laptop which I'm using right now, the minerals, the ores, the land, the ecology, geology, geography and the lives which we have lost just to produce the every day things which we see around us. Our sofas, our carpets, our fridges, dishwashers, even our water. You would be right in thinking I'm being rather hypocritical, as I also take all these things for granted, and I do enjoy them, to an extent. It's just a part of evolution.

Wouldn't it be nice to devolve? Not physically, but technologically. Would you survive? Could we survive? To once again feed off the land, to be 'at one' with nature, to understand and comprehend your surroundings so well that you might just in fact find what you're looking for, peace of mind. To not take the land for granted, as it's your home, and to look after the land as it is your mother. Would you in fact shed a tear about a tree being cut down? Bedrock being exploded, demolished just to create cement for the houses which we dwell in. I am obviously technologically dependent, but I would love to leave it all, if I could, to live off the land, to experience life the way it should be. I do envy those Amazonian tribes, they have such a simple way of life, but it suits them. No Twitter or Facebook. They get their updates from the voices which surround them and I find that quite warming. Though there is one big word within that paragraph, and that is "if". Everything is if, what if, as if, if I could.

Trailing back to the question about the content of Twitter being manufactured. I have come to the conclusion that it really doesn't matter about whether it's manufactured or not, as in the long run it doesn't actually affect you, as you will still go on with your day to day life, in such a dogmatic way which everything you read 15 or 20 minutes prior will have been shot from your head and you're wondering when is the best time to leave work, find a new job, take up a new hobby, find the love of your life or just drop everything and go.

Well that has been a pretty intense rant, apologies!

Monday, 7 February 2011

Well, this is new.. apparently!

Well time to start the blog! On the 6th January 2011 I decided to create a blog whilst I was daydreaming on the 5 hour train journey which I have to endure every few months to go back to university, or to go 'home'. I make it sound like a complete chore, but it's honestly peaceful, calming, the views are relatively nice, if you like Wales that is. You usually meet some people which you'll obviously never speak to again, but they usually make quite an impact on you!

I stopped off at Crewe train station and I had a 45 minute delay so I decided to have a cigarette as you do! 35 minutes pass and I realised that I had dropped my tobacco, so I had to go and buy some more, harmless you say? Well, let's move on to the train!

I got talking to some fantastic guy who offered me a beer and he eventually departed my company, which was unlucky on my part because he was keeping me sane whilst we both had to stand for 50 minutes, delays and snow are never a good thing. So I finally get a seat where everyone usually throws their bags and some woman sits opposite me, but this woman has a table and I was utterly jealous. So after about 30 minutes of sitting in the same position she catches my eye and starts talking, and this is where it all goes down hill.

She was definitely in her late 50s, on her journey to Newport to meet her 'fella' who she hasn't seen in a while, and she started talking about what she would do to him when she saw him. I'm not sure what put everyone off more, the moustache which was under her nose or the absolute filth which was coming out of her mouth. Personally I found it absolutely hilarious and egged her on quite a bit. So as the conversation faded somewhat, I realised that in craving nicotine, I needed a cigarette and so I decided to just say to her 'I could really do with a cigarette', and to my disgust, she pulls out a packet of tobacco, which funnily enough looks exactly like the one I lost at Crewe. She then started to laugh and I said "what?", totally irritated with her, she stole my tobacco! She said "some poor bugger dropped this at Crewe, I stood on it, checked it was full so I picked it up and put it in my pocket." So I questioned her about it, and there was something very specific about this pouch, baring in mind it was one of those new Amber Leaf pouches which come from a box but is totally tiny and it had some writing on the inside of it to which I can thank a friend in a lecture for that. So she asked "have you got any skins so I can roll a fag?" I looked at her and said "by any chance does it say Hitler's Pubes, with an arrow pointing down inside the pouch?" Well, I've never seen someone's face go from glee to disbelief in such a short space of time! But not only that, she then stood up, shouted "no" at me, stole the rizla from my hand and sat elsewhere! I think I made a friend.

Right, so after that massive tangent on why train journeys are just so magical, back to why I've started a blog! So why did it take me so long to write my first blog? Well, this isn't actually my first blog, but I've been very sporadic about the way in which I write blogs, so I've deleted them all and this one is what I'm going to stick with, I think. This blog is going to be more of a journal than to actually try and make my mark on the world and become famous. Becoming famous is not why I write, or care about. I write for my own personal use and just hope people enjoy some of the stories which I tend to spill from my mind!

So, let's see where this blog goes...