In error.

February 28, 2007

I work at an institution with a strong worldwide reputation. Because of this, I get the occasional email from interested students looking to study or work here. Most of these go straight to the trash, for two reasons:

  1. I am not in a position to handle these requests.
  2. If they emailed me, they didn’t follow the instructions on the website.

These mails generally don’t look like spam. (Is there such a thing as academic spam? I suppose there must be…)

Here is the mail I received today. I’ve copied the text verbatim aside from removal of identifying information, marked by [square brackets]:

APPLICATION FOR SUMMER INTERNSHIP 2007 Dear Sir

I,[name], take this opportunity to express my interest in
pursuing my summer internship during the year 2007 in your institution.
I am currently a student in 6th semester of 4 year Bachelors of Engineering
in COMPUTER SCIENCE at the INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY AND MANAGEMENT,[location] which is regarded as one of THE BEST INSTITUTE of the country and is known for it’s rigorous training to able individuals in different engineering sciences.

The summer internship (for duration of around 2 months
i.e. june 2007 – august2007) is a part of our curriculum.
Besides this the summer internship from an esteemed institution like
yours also helps us in our future endeavors.

Due to my willingness to pursue such an opportunity in your
prestigious institute I am prepared to bear all the expenses on my
own. Though any kind of financial help is most welcome.

Besides this I recognize myself as keen,ambitious,hardworking and
sincere person.I have always enjoyed taking up tough and challenging
problems be it academics or in other spheres and have always stood upto
the expectations of my parents, teachers and seniors.

I assure you that with my utmost sincerity and hard work I would be able
to add value to any project I am associated with.Kindly find herewith
my resume for your review and kind consideration.I would be willing to
provide you any other details that you may require.

Lastly,I would like to thank you for giving me an opportunity to
express myself.

Sincerely,

[name]
[address]

And, yes, he did attach his resume (UK: C.V.). His references appear to exist, his course choices indicate a fairly average course content, his exam marks look to range from average to excellent, and he does appear to have a life if his extra-curricular activities are anything to go by.

I really do wonder why he emailed me rather than following procedure outlined on the same webpages he must have retrieved my email address from?

*delete*

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Having a life.

February 27, 2007

It would appear I tempted fate in my previous post. I now don’t seem to have time to chill out in the immediate future.

A whole bunch of old friends seem to have resurfaced. Some are back from lands afar, some I just haven’t heard from in a while. This is great — I love catching up with people, and I love going out and having a quiet couple of drinks. There’s suddenly enough of this happening that I’m having to schedule friends around each other. “Um, I’m busy tomorrow night. Are you free Thursday?”

Comedy nights, gig nights, the odd quick dinner or lunch, just drinks, group reunions, trips through to Edinburgh, parties, etc. This as I took on more (scheduled) work at the University to tempt applicants to make the Right Choice. My calendar is now set to “insane.”

The grass is always greener, I suppose.

Dreich.

February 27, 2007

I’m absolutely drooket. It’s not stopped raining all day. Who’d have thought such a short walk for lunch would have attracted so much water?

Sunshine.

February 26, 2007

Sunshine makes me happy. Today, there is but one perfectly formed cumulous cloud hanging quietly in the otherwise perfectly blue sky.

Good tunes on my music player. Sunshine pouring gracefully in the window.

Good times.

Titillation.

February 26, 2007

People have amused me for years. I’m an observer more than a participator. I’m introverted (albeit not shy). My preference is to be on the outside of a situation as a mere observer rather than to be within the situation. This is the obvious source for the title of my blog. The other source is slightly more obscure, but I’ll leave that as a game for you, gentle readers.

Whatever the rationale behind my stance on other people, they certainly amuse me. What amuses me the most is the way that some basic drives take over otherwise totally rational people. We are all totally rational until the possibility of nudity, or nudity itself, presents itself.

Take, for example thopper23, a good photographer and clearly a little bit of an exhibitionist. That’s fair. The web is a great place for exhibitionism, if that’s your game. I found her profile in a friend-of-a-friend sort of manner. I don’t normally think of Flickr as a place for titillating content such as this.

One of her more popular pictures is this one, which to my untrained eye is a fairly atmospheric image with a slightly unusual pose … that could certainly use a good crop to cut out some of the barren top third of the image. Perhaps cutting to just above the nipple would have served to tease a little more effectively. But, hey, I’m not the creator of this work.

What amuses me here is not that somebody would take a picture of themselves and put it up online. No, lots of people do that, and most aren’t brave enough to be so open about it. Thopper23 is certainly not the focus of my criticism here. What amuses me is, quite simply, the automatonistic nature of the people who reply.

The picture has upwards of 20 comments, plus some by the creator herself. 51 people have favourited the image. Over 3,000 people have viewed the image. Yet she has many other images on which there are no comments, and no favourite tags. So what’s the difference?

The difference, generally, is that the other pictures don’t include nipples, or naked breasts at all. And yet everybody remains so polite that they can’t bring themselves to say anything about why they’ve been driven to leave a comment. Most comments are of the standard “nice shot” or “one of my favs” variety, with the odd “I think that…” or “love the necklace” thrown in for good measure. It’s been “nominated” three times for various user-generated awards, although two of those were by the one poor guy who didn’t have the balls to say what it was he actually liked about the image. I’d be interested in seeing how he’s distributed his other award nominations.

The comments attached to this image amused me further. Perhaps this guy didn’t read her profile long enough to find out that she’s taken. Fortunately, she shot him down in the most polite way she could have done.

Clearly the people who comment on Flickr are the middle-classes of the Web-2.0 world. The lower classes would have been more open about their reason for posting; “nice tits!!”, they would have cried. En-masse. Not so with the middle class. The citizens in the middle classes are intelligent enough to know that they must restrain themselves, for the creator of the image would clearly not appreciate anything so brash as to state outright why you like the image. Indeed, to do so might make her stop creating new images at all.

In other words, the middle classes use their superior intellect to acquire more images of breasts by encouraging the creators to make more, while not talking about breasts at all. Smart.

But at the end of the day, it’s still boob-hunting.

I’m not denying that we’re all sexual creatures. We are, and we should embrace it. But I hope that some day we do progress just a little.

Fight.

February 25, 2007

The night is peaceful enough. The pub has been busy, though not too busy. There are still some seats available, unusual for a Friday night. The TVs have been focussing on tonight’s train crash. Nothing seems amiss. One woman’s clearly had too much, and is sitting head-in-hands in the corner while her friends pass her cautionary glances. People are crowded around the pool table, been playing for a few hours. One guy sits alone, proudly wearing a t-shirt which announces he’s from Canada. He receives a text message, takes a last look at the TV screen, then leaves.

Suddenly, a glass goes flying; I duck, instinctively. No need to worry; what looked like shards of glass heading for me was actually ice. I look over to the origin. I can’t easily tell what’s happening. It looks like one of the guys from another table was getting a bit too touchy-feely with one of the girls, at which point she retalliated. Quite right. Good on her.

He steps back, startled. Swears quietly under his breath and heads out of my line of site. In any sane world, that would have been the end of things. The girl is staring in his direction defiantly. It’s the “don’t mess with me” look. The look that, by all rights, should put any man in his place. Drunk or not.

Moments later he marches back into my field of vision, screams “throw a fucking drink o’er me, will ye?”, before throwing half a pint of lager over the girls hair. He’s done this quickly enough and turned back that she’s so startled as to not be able to immediately fight back.

Looks of surprise and shock all round at her table. Again, the guy has walked out of my line of sight. I figure that’s the story over, when suddenly a glass flies through the air. It hits one of the air conditioners before shattering into hundreds of tiny bits, spraying both glass and liquid over a good portion of the clientele.

Time to make a sharp exit, I think to myself. The sound of a bar about to turn nasty is one we should all learn as young things, certainly before we go out to the pub for the first time.

People stand, people shout. People look fucking angry. Nobody wants glass landing on them on a quiet night out. I can’t see where the guy is now, but from where everybody else is looking, he’s still there. Wives and girlfriends urge their partners to calm down, and most obey.

The rest obey when two security staff arrive. Security kicks out both parties involved in throwing glasses. Standard procedure, and god-damned common sense, states that they kick the two parties out with a good few minutes gap between them. This way, there’s less chance of having to call the police.

We leave also. That’s enough excitement for us for one night.

Code-switching.

February 23, 2007

Working at a university means I get to meet people from all sorts of cultures and backgrounds. It also means that I have to spend most of my time speaking in something resembling a more proper English, so that people understand me.

We Scots are so used to code-switching that we barely notice ourselves doing it. The ability to transparently switch between a well-rounded, well-pronounced English when talking to a colleague, and the more fluid local accent when not, is astoundingly interesting to me. It’s surprising just how much I might vary my chosen words based on my current audience, rarely ever having to concentrate on doing so, and certainly never having to think about the basic meaning of what I’m talking about.

There are simple things, such as choosing whether to pronounce t‘s; “Butter” is the prime example of this, though there are obviously many others. There are entire word substitutions: “aye” vs. “yes,” though perhaps the former slips out more often than I’m aware. There are sentences which might be worded differently: “head up Byres Road” instead of “drive along Byres Road.” These little differences quickly build up, so something as simple as “Yes, that’s correct, then drive to the end of the street, and turn right, please.” turns into something more like “Aye that’s right, an’ ahm on your right at the end of the road, cheers.” when talking to a local taxi driver.

Working in this multicultural environment makes me feel intensely proud of being Scottish. I buy right into the modern Scottish identity, knowing perfectly well that some of this identity was crafted in part by the then British Monarch at a time in the Union when it became okay to embrace the history of the nation. I love haggis, Burns’ night, Highland bagpipes, kilts, tartan, Highland dress, whisky, etc. I love the history. I love the colour of the Saltire, even though there’s no officially agreed blue for it. I love the people. Central Scotland is, and always will be, my home. This is despite aspirations to work elsewhere for at least part of my lifetime.

Unusually, however, I sometimes spend so much time talking in a more proper English than a more proper Glaswegian that I actually find myself surprisingly tired by it all. I begin to notice how I’m talking, as if my brain is crying to me “why can’t you just talk normally?” Perhaps I should teach my colleagues some of the local Glasgonian vernacular. Ken?

Hungover.

February 23, 2007

The children scream in the playground. I cringe as the high-pitched screams of innocent happiness run through me.

Cars roll past on the street. Horns honk, startling my fragile body.

The security man at the train station stomps ominously back and forth, his footsteps like a kick-drum in my mind.

The train crawls along. It’s cramped. It’s warm. Claustraphobic.

The white office light and the brightness of my screen make my eyes bleed.

The janitor whistles his way around the building. I plug in my earphones and turn the music up.

I wait for the paracetamol and fruit juice combo to kick in. I’m not as young as I once was.

Having a life.

February 22, 2007

Having a life is difficult. Some things are easy. Things like going to work; choosing your mode of transport to work; what to eat for lunch; what to eat for dinner; when to do washing. These things demand your attention, and so are easier to do than ignore. After all, what else are you going to do? Starve to death? Wear last week’s underwear?

I work in an environment which offers total flexibility with my hours. I don’t mean flexitime, I mean I work as many hours as it takes to get the job done. Nobody but my own conscience watches the clock. I have no working hours stated in my contract. In calmer times, this is okay. It’s not too difficult to dictate an 8-hour day to myself and stick to it. But sometimes the work takes over.

You might think you want 100% flexible hours, but believe me, you probably don’t. I’m not naturally an early riser. That means I tend to arrive at work around 10am, still wishing for another half hour in bed. When I leave work is often an open question.

To build a life around this is often difficult. It’s easy to declare Saturday and Sundays as days off, but for the rest of the week it’s all too easy to take work home. This way, work easily spills over into the evenings.

It’s difficult to construct “hobbies” or “interests” around this sort of schedule. It’s difficult to meet new people when you’re working all the time.

Fatigue.

February 21, 2007

I woke up late. I glance over at the clock; my radio alarm had been playing for an hour. I force my eyes fully open, crawl out of bed, and head for the shower. I’m not an early riser, and it’s now positively mid-morning — why is this such a hassle?

I take the train to work. On the platform, I’ve caught the eye of a tall, slim brunette. She’s probably 5’11, perhaps slightly taller. Her height might make man-hunting tricky; I’ve known so many tall women who do find it difficult. On any other day I might have spoken to her. The initial “Hi” could easily have been followed by a compliment about her hair (which was genuinely nice) or a question about the book she was reading. Instead, I buried myself back into my own book.

She gets off the train at the same stop as me. We walk in the same direction for a minute or so, before heading off down different streets. I don’t feel too bothered about today’s missed opportunity.

On arrival at the office, it becomes clear to me that I’m really tired. Not the kind of tired where you long for bed. The kind of tired where you long to be relaxing. My working days have been too long lately. I’m not tired. I’m fatigued.