Sunday, November 13, 2011

Crazy Week, Academically Speaking

If you tried to contact me over the past few weeks and found me a little comatose and unresponsive, it is because I spent most of the past two weeks (up until the 7th) working on my first paper (which was due on the 7th).  I realized how much time I wasted that I could have been preparing.  Therefore, I've decided to focus more.  I probably put 4-5 hours a day (sometimes more) for two weeks to get a simple 3000 word essay on the apparent disconnect between sovereignty and globalisation.  It was long and arduous to get back into academic paper mode, but I think I'm there now.  After a bit of post-paper mental crashing, I'm ready to start a new week, focused and on the ball.  I have a room in the institute where I study now, to keep me distraction free (it also has bathrooms, an oven and a microwave, electricity that I don't have to pay for, and a few like amenities), so now I'm set to work on the three papers I have remaining this term and to start the structural planning for my dissertation.  My papers aren't due until the 16th of January, but I'd like to get 2, if not all three, out of the way before Christmas.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Mishmash of thoughts and info

Well, I have now been here a month....and have three blog posts to show for it.  Apologies.

I'm starting week 4 of my master's degree on Monday.  I must say, there is a lot of reading involved and I am not doing nearly enough of it.  Andrew, you're my inspiration and I am not living up to your example.

My International Relations course is in the school of Political Science and International Studies  (POLIS). As such, it has a strong political component in all of its modules.  I'm taking more than a third of what is required this semester.  Courses I'm taking include Contemporary International Security, Theoretical Approaches to International Relations, and Conflict, Complex Emergencies & Global Governance.  And there is a lot of reading.  Did I mention that?  For example, one of the classes has 6 pages of suggested readings (books, articles, podcasts, webinars) per class period.  One of them was nice and only gave us 21 books to read this week.  As is, I have not come close to finishing the readings.  But I have come close enough to give reasonable input in our seminars and discussions.

This is actually a really interesting topic of study.  Our debates are certainly enlightening and I'm really interested in the subject.  I also found it amusing on Tuesday as I was walking from one of my lectures with a classmate and as he turned to the POLIS building for his next class, I said, "Have fun in Terrorism class."  It took me a moment to register what I had just said, but it's true.  The module is about terrorism...not how to do it, but how to prevent it and measures countries are/should be taking.  I couldn't fit that module into my schedule this semester, but I am taking Insurgency next semester.

I'm in week three of dance here on campus and I must say, ballroom in England, at least in the part of England I live in, is nothing like I expected.  It seems that a lot of people in England like dancing and see it as British, but no one really does it (I had a discussion about this on the way to the Huddersfield church dance last night with some friends).  Actually, I've danced with two girls (out of four) who said that I was the first guy they had ever danced with.  Apparently, the shortage of guys here is worse than at BYU and that beginning girls pretty much learn how to dance with and compete with (as partners) other girls.  Yikes.  So, on team, we males are a wanted commodity.  I think I may have found a partner, although she is about a head shorter than me.  We danced together last week and it felt pretty good.  Standard was a bit of a stretch, but she's really good at Latin.  There looks to be about 8 competitions the team is thinking of competing in over the year.  I'm excited, although this is certainly no Utah.  There are no classes, no ballroom (we're in the refectory [cafeteria] for practice), and no team routines.  But, there is a professional who teaches the classes, so that's fun.

I'm also spending a lot of time at institute.  We have lunches there three times a week for a quid and dinner on Thursdays for a pound fifty.  Pancake breakfasts are also every Friday.  I go for lunch on Wednesday and Thursday and stick around for institute at 1:00.  I'm taking Teachings of the Living Prophets, Marriage Prep (or whatever it's officially called), and then Book of Mormon on Thursday evenings before ballroom.  There is quite the institute program here.  :)  And, we do a lot of get togethers.  Annie, for instance, had a games night last week and 17 people showed up.  I brought one game that works for that many people.  It was fun, but crazy (rooms are small here).  I'm excited for the annual Muppet Christmas Carol party this year.  I've already purchased the movie.

Well, I think that's good for now.  I have to get ready for the second Huddersfield dance (they're having a convention this weekend, but I didn't know about it until they were already full, so I'm only going to the dances).  It's a live swing band playing tonight, so that means that the music will (probably) not be ridiculously deafening loud and they might play some music that I can dance to.  They don't play slow, swing, country, latin, pop, or any genre that isn't loud bass techno stuff.  ~Sigh~

But, I need to start travelling soon.  Any suggestions for fun weekend getaways?  That aren't too expensive.  I haven't found a job yet.  :P

Sunday, October 2, 2011


Pictures I've taken so far (not many):

This is my house.  You can see windows from all four stories.  My window is the one on the left on the second story.

This is my street.  It's fairly steep and made of cobbles.  My roommate hates it....well, driving on it.  :)

This is a view of the little park directly behind where I took the picture of my street.  There are tall, old church spires everywhere, kind of reminding me of....

....the mosque I walk by everyday on my way to uni.  I figured Andrew would like it.  There is a huge Arabic population in the area.  

And here is an old cathedral converted into the Leeds business school.  I don't have classes there, but I thought it was cool.  It's pretty high tech inside, despite the 18th or 19th century facade.

And a picture of me, sporting a double chin, despite the fact that I've lost weight here due to walking (briskly...especially when I'm running late) 20 minutes or so to and from university, sometimes twice a day.  

Hopefully that will appease some of you until I have time to take some decent pictures.  :)

Wait...I forgot one.  This is the picture from my window on the day I got here:  

It was a gorgeous day, much like it has been for the past week.  It's been unseasonably warm and sunny.  I've enjoyed it immensely.

Staying Up Late

Whew!  I'm certainly not as young as I used to be - a couple of late nights really did me in.  At least it's conference time, so I can wind down a little bit and listen to conference (when I'm not nodding off - Sorry President're talk was one of my favorites, but I think I missed a quarter of it).

Friday night, my roommates and I drove down to Manchester to go to the YSA dance.  It's about an hour drive from Leeds - or about 45 minutes when Chris is driving.  The dances are also very different from anything I've been used to; which isn't saying much when I consider the (lack of the) amount of dances that I have been to in the past several years.

A few differences between American and English dances:

The music is louder in England.  I could hardly talk/hear anything and lost my voice.
The people are fun. Wallflowers, however, exist in huge numbers.... not that that is actually a difference.
They only play one type of music.  No swing songs.  No slow songs.  No Latin songs.  No country songs.  Just Techno Pop/Rap.  I'll have to see if I can change that a bit.

I danced some street swing with a couple girls.  I did some merengue with another girl to a song with a Latin-esque beat.  I also joined in the breakdancers for a couple of songs.  I might need to get Logan or Mark out here from my old dance crew because they are in need of some help.  :)  It was a really fun night (dances are always as fun as you make them), but it was also a really late night.  We went to an after dance gathering of YSA and then headed home, getting there around 3:30 am.  And then I was up by 7:30.  Stupid sun.

Saturday was a very non-productive day.  We cleaned the house and I played some wii and that's about all I actually remember doing.  I may have napped a little, but I don't think so.  3 hours of sleep does that to me.  8 o'clock and I was getting ready to turn in...when a few people from the YSA came over and invited us all to go to a bonfire.

So, we headed over to one of the girl's apartments and hung out until everyone arrived.  Then we took about 5 or 6 cars and headed up to the moors.  The highlight of the trip occurred in the national park parking lot when I got to play the role of psychopath in a cheap horror film.

There were several cars in the parking lot when we got there.  Seeing one was occupied, I walked over and looked in the window.  As I was reaching to knock on the door, the girls in the back looked and saw me.  All four occupants started screaming hysterically.

The details:

Alex (from New Zealand, almost moved to Okotoks, and played for Real Salt Lake while living in Orem.  Random, I know.) and I pulled up and I saw a car that I thought was Chris and Mosiah.  I knew that they had gone to pick up some girls...although I thought is was Jenni and Becky.  These girls were obviously not Jenni and Becky (they were dressed fairly immodestly), but Mosiah's always grabbing investigators for the missionaries so I thought that might be it.  Well, I walked down and looked in the window, thinking it was Mosiah.  I was about to knock on the door when I realized it wasn't Chris and Mosiah - just a the same make of car.  That's when they started screaming.  I apologized profusely, we all thought it was rather funny after, and we even invited them to the bonfire (although they declined that invitation).  I think it helped that I was Canadian.  The girls even asked if I knew Justin Bieber.  Fortunately, I could say no.

Well, after that, the rest of the night was kind of dull.  It was your typical bonfire with us older singles chatting near the fire while the 18 and 19 years olds flirted and sang up on the rocks.  The view overlooking Leeds and some other towns was breathtaking.  The atmosphere and soil/vegetation are so wet here, that we didn't have to worry about our improvised fire pit causing a fire (if we had been that non-careful in Utah, there would have been another brush fire).

We stayed out until 1 am.  And after 2 straight nights of getting home after 1, I am absolutely dead.  But it was fun and I'm glad I went.

Here's a bad shot of the lights of Leeds from the moors:

Friday, September 30, 2011

Getting to Europe

Fortunately, the trip to the UK was rather uneventful.  Getting up in the morning, I decided to weigh my bag.  It felt a little heavy, especially after I lugged it up the stairs.  Yeah, 85 pounds was not going to cut it, so I decided I'd better get a second bag packed.  :)  I had a good chat with Mom while I did that, and then said my goodbyes to Mom and Josie.

Patrick dropped me off at the airport, like he's been doing so much lately (not for me - he's pretty much been the unofficial chauffeur for actors for the LDS motion picture studio).  Claiming that goodbyes were not his thing, he hopped in the car and drove off.  :)  I met Uncle Bruce in the airport and he watched my luggage while I checked in, then while I weighed my luggage, then while I weighed my luggage a second time after repacking the bag that weighed 53.5 pounds.  After a quick goodbye, I set off for security - and made it through in 5 minutes, giving me two hours until my flight.

The flight to Chicago was uneventful, but quick.  I talked to my seat mate (I forget her name) for the entire flight.    It certainly made things go quicker and she was a nice old lady.  

The flight to Manchester was much longer.  I tried to nap as much as possible to minimize the effects of jet lag.  It didn't really work.  The coolest thing was seeing the sun rise from the airplane.  The big dipper pretty much filled my whole window during the night.  It was so clear.  And then, slowly, the cloud cover underneath us started to get lighter while the sky overhead remained dark.  It was kind of like a soft, undulating wave of glow (I wouldn't even call it light).  The colors when the actual sunrise began were stunning; reds and purples and pinks and yellows and oranges.  

Unfortunately, the cloud cover lasted the entire trip across the Atlantic (from what I could see) and I didn't get my first sight of England until we ducked below the cloud cover over Manchester.  It was great just looking at the historic architecture and landscape mixed with the modern.  

I caught the train to Leeds and then another to Burley Station, which is about 5 minutes from my house.  My co-workers at the HBLL will be glad to know that I've already made good use of the map book they gave me.  It certainly got me to my house.

Leeds is an old mill town, which industrialized in the late 1800s.  The mills built many settlements for the workers - large, red brick apartment buildings - on the knolls.  These have been converted to student and family housing around the university.  I live in one of these, in a family neighborhood called Burley.  It's about a 20 minute hike from the university.

Here's a picture of the type of housing it is (not one of my photos)...

The house is four stories high, with kitchen and storage in the basement, living area and entry way on the first floor, two bedrooms, shower and bathroom on the second floor, and two bedrooms on the third floor.  It's cosy.

My roommates include Chris Vingoe, from King's Lynn (or something like that) and doing a BA/MA in architectural engineering, Mosiah Torres, from Ipswitch (and Portugal) and doing a BA in mechanical engineering, and Mike Marshall, from Bristol (and Panama) and majoring in Dentisty.  They're great roommates, clean, active, and I couldn't ask for better accommodations that way.  Even our landlord likes us and fixes anything we ask quickly.  Apparently that's rare here.  :)