Monday, 24 December 2007

Dress, Christmas


I've got a dress! I found it on Saturday. It wasn't like they say, that you try it on and you recognise it. It was more like they all agreed it was really nice but I wasn't sure. Then the more I looked at it the more I liked it so I said yes. It's really smooth and soft I kept on touching it for the all time and Giò told me off.

I think I might go to the convent (Marghe's convent) tonight for midnight mass. They are having a small reception afterwards. These nuns really enjoy eating!

Today I'll help my mum preparing food for tomorrow. I should go to confession and look out for bagpipes! They are coming to my village, I really like them, it's so Christmassy.
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Thursday, 20 December 2007


It's almost a week now that I'm back home. I'm relaxing, sleeping, seeing my friends , not studying, everything is fine. But I left Mark behind and I really miss him. He misses me too, so much that he fell ill!

It snowed last Friday. It was really cold! But it was nice to wake up and see everything covered with snow.

On Tuesday my mum, my sister, my friend Giò and I went to a bridal dress shop ( I don't know how you say it). I was really excited and positive, I was the only one. They were a bit, just a bit, skeptical about the idea of me finding the right dress just in one go. I said I was being positive. They were right. After an hour and a half the shop assistant gave up. She didn't understand what I had in mind, I said I have nothing in mind, ( many people will agree with that, especially Giò). She said it was impossible, that I had something in mind but I didn't say.

It's hard because you think that something will suit you but then you try it on and it doesn't. And that happened with all the dresses I tried ( around 15) but one. Only one was decent, in the sense that I feel I can cope with that if I can't find anything else. What was good was that Giò agreed with me. There was nothing special and she agreed on the one being the possible solution if say I can't find anything else.

We' ve got another appointment on Saturday at 3 with a shop that seems to have more range. At least I hope so.

In the meantime I had an haircut and booked the hairdresser for the wedding.

My sister is BIG! She is 7 months pregnant and she's got a big belly. I felt the baby moving twice! It's so exciting! It seems they' ve got 2 possible names: Nicola or Federico. I'm tired of waiting I want to look at his face and hold him. But I have to wait. Not fair.
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Monday, 10 December 2007

Christmas Wishes

Ah yes, Christmas. Hasn't exactly been top on my list or priorities... Have a link to my wishlist. I added a couple of things last night, will try and get round to adding some more...

Nick's Wishlist
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Wednesday, 7 November 2007

this is Mark's profile
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"When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.

"Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.'

"Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?'

"The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.' - Mt 25:31-40
R.I.P. Norris.
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Tuesday, 6 November 2007

Christmas Shopping

I may well be stating the obvious here, but never mind. Having just update my Amazon wish list, I felt I should point out that although Amazon's a useful place to list stuff, it's by no means the best place to buy stuff. I'd suggest using a price comparison website, such as Kelkoo, Pricerunner or Shopping.com to find a better price.
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Wednesday, 24 October 2007


The trip to London on Saturday went reasonably well, even if the Natural History was a little more crowded than I'd hoped for, but it wasn't too bad for a half-term Saturday. I had a few quiet day with Nan, took a walk around Hall Place. I helped Carlos transport a "table top" board, too big for a car to carry, too heavy to manage alone. Jenny and Clive arrived with Amy on Monday, all slightly under the weather but it was still very nice to see them.

The Video Games Live Concert was great, starting with a music video of actors running through a city dressed as Ms. Pac-Man and the ghosts. Purple Tentacle deservedly won the costume competition (they even made a good attempt at moving like Purple Tentacle!). There were even two gaming competitions between pieces. The person who played Space Invaders was disappointing, ignoring the crowds calls to start a the sides. Frogger was played far better, with the two players, playing rock-paper-scissors to decide who went first, which rather threw the announcer at first.

Martin Leung, the "Video Games Pianist" was performing as part of the concert, starting with the Final Fantasy Fanfare (First tune played). The only disappointment was that SquareEnix wouldn't allow game footage to be shown on screen during the concert, (Microsoft, Nintendo and Disney didn't have the same nit-picking attitude, come on, it's free publicity). The final song played was "One Winged Angel" from Final Fantasy VII, which brought cheers and applause. The announcer suggested that we raise our mobile phones, DS's, PSPs, PDAs or i-Pods, as the modern equivalent of waving cigarette lighters during a rock concert. However he didn't expect someone to be waving their laptop. I returned to Nan's house tired, but very happy. I think I'll go to the next UK concert, if I can, it would be nice to go with someone (like my dear siblings (or any other relative), maybe?)

The return trip was slightly marred by the coach being delayed by 25min with no explanation given, and because of the lateness of the delay announcement, I wasn't able to have tea before getting on the coach. The coach actually arrived earlier than I had expected, considering the delay.

I have a busy little day today, signing on (done), appointment with support worker and house group in the evening, tomorrow I'll be going bowling with the Asperger group.
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Monday, 22 October 2007


Today my sister Vanessa told me that she is pregnant with a baby boy!!!! She is 22 weeks pregnant. The baby is healthy, quite long and everything is fine. He's due for the 3rd of March. I'm so happy!!

She was hoping for a girl and she had chosen 2 girl names and none for the boy. Her husband Lorenzo wanted a boy and I know that my dad is quite happy too, having spent his whole life with 3 women!!!

This means Mark that now it's our responsibility to give the world some nice little girls!
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Saturday, 15 September 2007

Visiting People

I neglected to mention that we've managed to do a reasonable amount of visiting people over the summer. On the way back from Pembrokeshire we stayed the night with Nick and Ann in Swansea. Nice meal, courtesy of Ann, followed by a walk down Swansea beach to the cinema to see The Simpsons Movie.

Next day we headed off to Neath where we had lunch with James and Sonia (nice curry buffet type arrangement) before driving all the way back up to Manchester.

The following weekend we went to Nan's 80th birthday bash, visiting two sets of parents en route in Wolverhampton and Corby (Northamptonshire) respectively.

With a mere two weeks of summer holiday remaining to Emma, she set about preparing for the decoration of the dining room. We had a surprise visit from James Hall (formerly my housemate whilst at Sheffield uni, now resident in Cambridge, although his mum lives about half an hour away from us) during the second coat of the walls. As it was getting late, James and I got curry while Emma finished off the final wall. (I should point out that I did offer to finish the painting while Emma & James got curry!)

It's been really nice this summer to see so many people over the summer, and it was very pleasant spending some time with Emma (not teaching for a few weeks was a great help). Decorating's quite therapeutic, and I'm looking forward to trying it with a little less time pressure.
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Thursday, 6 September 2007

Long time, no blog

Long time, no blog


It appears that I've not blogged since I graduated. Since then I've managed to avoid getting soaked at outdoor theatre, but I did faint and fall in the sea, which was warmer but scarier (mostly for Emma who towed me back to shore - we were kayaking at the time).

Notable events:

Birthdays. Took Emma to Knowsley Safari Park, which was nice. She fell in love with a bunny rabbit.

Holiday. Went camping in Pembrokeshire. I slept badly, was grumpy and fell in the sea. Walking round the coastal path was nice, and we bought a picture to put up in the lounge in anticipation of decoration. Never got round to going surfing.

Cursed decorating plans. The original plan was to do the bedroom, but there was (hopefully past tense, now that a roofer's been out) a very slight leak and it seemed pointless to decorate a room that could get water damage. Then we were going to do the office (remove foul woodchip wallpaper, fix a manky alcove, replaster and paint, build new desk all down one wall, etc.). This plan got thrown out when Emma's mum decided that we should take urgent deliver of a .......

Piano. The piano which Emma learnt to play on, and has lived (unplayed) at her mum's house was intended to be given to Emma when she had a permanent residence. The imminent arrival of said piano meant that we decorated the dining room, where it now lives. Emma's learning to play "Live and Let Die", whilst I'm learning to play.

Dining room. Our first attempt at decorating was a success, and (after much sanding of skirting boards (Emma), three coats of paint on the ceiling, two on the walls, two coats of gloss on the skirting & door, one coat on the radiator (still need to do the second) and a new carpet) the room looks great. Now we just need to chuck out all the bookcases that were in there before, and get some that work in there.

Potted Potter. All seven books in one hour. Same idea as the Reduced Shakespeare Company. Brilliant. We also saw Sandi Toksvig in the bar beforehand.
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Saturday, 1 September 2007

Pope Benedict is arriving at Loreto today for The Agora' of the young Catholics. Loreto is a Holy Shrine to the Virgin Mary and is also 20 minutes by car from my village. I often go there with my mum and before coming to England my friend Marghe dragged me there to confession and mass. In the past my village organised a pilgrimage to Loreto and I went once. We left at 2 in the morning and we arrived at Loreto at around 830. It was a great experience, tiring but worth doing.

Inside the Holy house, which is believed to be the house where the Virgin Mary was born and received the annunciation, people from all Italy and from all the world come to pray and ask for help. The house is small and always crowded with people. I'm always teary when I'm in there because I can feel the presence of Mary and God very strongly, and I feel it in all those people who are there, who come from afar to bring their pains and sufferings before the Virgin. It's a great place.

My dad, being a volunteer fireman, spent the last month in Loreto to set up the camp and tents and yesterday the rain and the wind blew them out.

This is one of the moment when I really really miss Italian TV. I will miss the mass tomorrow and all the coverage. I've just read on the web that this will be the first time the Pope will answer people's questions on TV. I'll ask my sister to record the mass but it won't be the same.

In my village there are lots of young Catholics from all Europe. They are sleeping in the gym, in the convent and some families offered their houses. My mum said that it's really nice to see all these young people around, they are really cheerful, they play music and sing all the time.

I can feel the energy and the emotions of this big event. I remembered watching the Mass of the World Youth Day in Rome (my sister was there together with some friends) and it was amazing the energy, the joy, the strength, the faith of all those people. It was amazing being able to watch the event on TV, participate and being unite with the people in Rome. I was really moved and teary throughout the celebration. It was a strong moment when I felt part of this big family.
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Sunday, 26 August 2007

This is quite interesting. I'm keen on seeing what charismatic Catholicism looks like.

Bishop Chris looks wells charismatic in his picture...
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Saturday, 18 August 2007

Beer!

The annual Mumbles Beer festival was on Thursday-Saturday this week, which Ann and I went to Thursday and Friday evening. It had gotten big enough that they actually held it in the same hall I graduated in a month ago.

They had a good selection of booze, even some cider and perry alongside all sorts of exciting rarities.

I sampled over the two nights:

Last Rights (Barley Wine, 11%)
Black Sabbath (Mild, 6%)
Honey Gold (Honey Ale, 4.2%)
Nut Brown (Brown Ale, 4.5%)
Missy Sippy (Bitter, 5.5%)
Blond Witch (Wheat Beer, 4.5%)
Battle of Rhuthun (Dark Bitter, 3.8%)
Cheddar Cider (Cider from 'Cheddar')
A Scrumpy I can't remember the name of...

I'd never had a Barley Wine before, it was rather dangerous. Alongside these, I had small amounts of whatever Ann had, as well as other friends who we met there. Ann seemed to go more for the novelty name approach, while I was looking for types of beer rarely/never to be seen normally.

Among the more amusing ones were:

Son of a Bitch (Bitter, 6%)
Stairway to Heaven (Bitter, 5%)
Molly's Chocolate (Chocolate Stout, 4.2%)
Pink Panther (Speciality, 4.5%)
Dark Side of the Moose (Mild, 4.6%)
Old Slug (Porter, 4.5%)
Cheshire Cat (Golden Ale, 4%)

Perry was sampled as well and was quite nice. The whole thing was rather enjoyable and it was nice to see many people wearing 'Hobgoblin' T-shirts...

While we were there on the first day, there was a leaflet for a re-enactment society (gunpowder, so boring) but it did get me thinking it would be fun to join the Medieval re-enactment society in the university next year. We shall see...

Blackberry season is upon us and they're all over Swansea, particularly the coastal path. Ann and I went out one day and filled a litre container in the space of about 15mins. Will go out next time the weather is nice again.

Adrain and Emma popped in briefly on the way back from holiday which was nice. Went to see the Simpson's film (more and extended episode than film really) then we walked them up Wind Street and The Kingsway (Drunken hangout no.1 &2 on Friday/Saturday night).

Good news on money front, I have been given a Bursary from the university for half my tuition fees (~£1,500). Whee!
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Saturday, 11 August 2007


A few weeks ago I had a long talk with someone after the service, she asked me if I'd ever asked God to cure my Asperger's Syndrome. I thought about it and responded, "No, the Asperger's is part of who I am, would I be the same person, would I have learnt the same lessons and grown in faith in the same way?" I can't ever remember having asked for a "cure", just for God's support and strength to cope.

I mentioned my belief that I would still have Asperger's in Heaven but it wouldn't be a problem, no tiredness, headaches etc, but it could actually let me perceive God in a way that a "normal" person wouldn't. Also I thought wouldn't it be wonderful for the disabled to experience an extra joy when they meet God, the first thing that the blind see, the deaf hear would be the glory of God, the crippled leaping into His arms and so on. I believe that, even if Asperger's was intended as a curse by Satan, God can turn it into a blessing.
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Tuesday, 7 August 2007

Monica got me an iPod for my birthday, which I've really been enjoying since. I understand that Emma may have just got one, and the other day, Luke was asking me how you found podcasts. I thought I'd blog about podcasts I've been enjoying.

In answer to Luke's question, I remembered that Jeff Miller reviewed some podcasts he had listened to here, so I just tried to find those articles and see what sounded interesting. They're here and here. The only other thing I know to do is to search iTunes podcast directory - so that's all I have to say about that.

From Jeff I started listening to Rosary Army, which sounds like a cult, but is actually quite a homely sort of show about life in general with a married Catholic couple, Rock Solid from Mark Shea, which is a kind of though-for-the-day deal, Catholic Answers Live which is a call-in show whose content varies from day to day though it tends towards the apologetic, The Cardinal Arinze podcast, by one of our cardinals, though unaccountably this guy with a strange accent always talks for a bit before conducting a sort of interview with the cardinal himself, The Saintcast, which is, as its name suggests, a podcast about the saints and Praystation Portable, which is a daily selection of readings and prayers, mostly from the psalms.

So that's plenty to be getting on with, but a few of those shows are part of a network called SPQN, who cross-promote each other, so I'm already listening to another amusing married couple on a show called Catholic in a Small Town (the theme tune is pretty catchy, which is disturbing, as it's country) and I daresay I'll try out a few more in time.

Pray As You Go is another one I've tried, which is a series of brief meditations on a passage from the gospel, but it's designed for daily use, and I can't update my iPod on Monica's computer so regularly as that. I believe it's in the Ignatian tradition. I seem to recall the word Jesuit being used in association with it.

It's not going to be so easy to find links for the other ones and it's close to bed-time, so I'll sum up briefly. I've recently subscribed to a few poetry podcasts, as poetry is something which always seems worthwhile, put is oddly difficult to fit into one's schedule though small. I forget what they're called.

The Guardian has several podcasts. I've subscribed to the music one, but I'm not sure whether I'll continue with it. It's hard to take pop music so seriously as they do.

Also, much to Monica's disgust, I was subscribed to the Big Brother podcast, but I've just unsubscribed from that one. There is, I can safely say, less point in a Big Brother podcast than there is in the show.

So that's about it really. I like podcasts - they're free!




Oh, I forgot about the Chris Moyles podcast, which is how I mostly listen to him these days, and cuts out all the rubbish music. I also subscribe to some programmes on Rai so that I can hear som real Italian as regularly as possible.

Also, the Radio Times reccomends podcasts. So that's another way of finding them.
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Monday, 6 August 2007

Going to church regularly has really helped my social life, especially during the summer, yesterday I was invited to lunch and later went on to Exmouth beach for the afternoon. Sadly I got slightly sunburnt, (despite the suncream) but got the chance to paddle, which I've not been able to do for ages. I might have gone swimming, but there's a impressively strong current from the River Exe, I had to dig my feet in just to stay put, great fun

This afternoon, I'm going with the Asperger group to Exmouth beach again for a BBQ, so I'm looking forward to that, although I think I'll try to make more of an effort to stay out of the sun.

Update
I needn't have worried about the sun, we were half way down the path to the rocky part of Exmouth beach when a thunderstorm started, needless to say we all got a bit wet and it was decided that we would relocate to the Asperger group leader's house. Quite enjoyable and we all had dried out nicely before heading home.
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Sunday, 5 August 2007

One down, one to go...

Sorry to post just after you have Mark, but never mind.

Got back from a trip to Italy to go to the wedding of a former housemate of Ann. We got cheap plane tickets and flew over to Milan. Before heading to Como, where Shanti (the friend) lives, we headed for Cinque Terra, a coastal stretch containing 5 development protected towns connected by walking trails. The distance from one to the other was only 9km, but it took us about 5 hours due to all the ups and downs along the way. At the end, we rewarded ourselves with a swim in the sea, much to the relief of our feet.

In Milan, we stayed at a newly done B&B that the people living above Shanti had decided to open. Breakfast was plentiful and the people amusing. Various guests were already there, Titi from Belgium (although born in Hawaii and lived in Belgium), Karuna (Shanti's sister), Danni and Kirsten (Two girls that Shanti and Karuna grew up with in Swaziland) and some Canadians who I can't remember their names at the moment but one went to 6th Form College equivelent with Shanti.

One evening, we headed out to a village outside Como where Dominico (the groom) was born and met many of his friends at a pub there. They were an amusing bunch who 'speak very well english'. Pub was good, wide selection of beers, including many from Belgium.

Neil, you think French Ice Cream is good? Try Italian Gelato, it kicks its rear end rather fiercely.

The wedding itself was on Monday, but on the Saturday, there was another wedding at the same church (which you could see from Shanti's lounge) and so, inbetween putting Henna onto their hands and feet, the girls were trying to catch glances of what was going on.

The day itself was fortunately quite mild for an Italian summer, which I was glad of as my only particularly good smart shirt is dark red. The service itself only took about 45min, although there was a great deal of meeting and greeting before and after.

After the service and before the bride and groom had left, a heart with the couple's initials made from rice was formed outside the church doors. When the came out, friends picked them up and hurled them into the air three times (normally only the groom but the friends wanted to throw the bride afterwards).

The reception was in a villa about a kilometer down the road. Shanti and Dominico had wanted to row there but it was too windy and so rode in a car. The food was great.

At the end, all the guests were presented with some Jordan Almonds (which we had been eating the whole time there as Shanti had ordered an incredible amount of them, far, far too many).

I'd heard a lot about practical jokes which are apparently traditional. The two 'legendary' ones told to me were placing a tree trunk in front of the church doors, leaving a two person saw for the bride and groom to use to get in. The second was bricking up the front door of their house and leaving only a crowbar and a hammer for them to get in.

The jokes here were tame compared. Cups of water were placed all over the bedroom floor, water balloons in cupboards. Furniture placed together and then wrapped in clingfilm. Dominico had just lend the keys to his friends so no real damage was done due to trying to get in etc.

We headed to Milan a day early as out flight left early in the morning. We went to the Duomo, good view from up there.

I now feel prepared for next year. Mark and Monica, I warn you, the standard has be set high...
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A Lovely Day in Sidmouth

As it was our 2 years anniversary on Friday, we decided that we would like to do something in particular for a change. We thought it would be nice to get out of Exeter, and so it was that we bought day explorer tickets and rode a double-decker bus to Sidmouth. We sat on the top near the front because it's cool! It's a nice ride to Sidmouth, and you go through the fabulously named Newton Poppleford!! We saw a lot of thatched cottages and Monica made her approval clear. We got off the bus before we got to the seafront because I like to arrive at the sea on foot. When we got there there was a cliff and it looked like this:

We took a very proactive approach to entertaining ourselves; after going to sit on the rocks for almost 3 seconds Monica suggested that we find warmer environs and we parked our behinds on a bench on the seafront and began to watch people walk by. For some reason it was very busy and there were lots of people in peculiar outfits. We established, using the power of our minds and by reading posters that this was because it was the Sidmouth Folk Festival! We sat down and commented on babies, dogs and grown-ups as they walked past. This is a diverting activity.

The good thing about it being the Sidmouth Folk Festival was that at approximately 2 minute intervals there was a group of people with exciting instruments such as accordions, mandolins, violins, guitars and wooden shoes providing folkular entertainment. To the left are a couple of Monica's favourites:Had a little walk up the cliff but we didn't go very far just far enough to take a nice photo.

It was a lovely day. Much fun was had by all. It was grey at the start but it turned out sunny with blue sky.There was a Catholic Church really close to the bus stop so we got to say thank you while we waited.

Mark is drinking a beer lying on the sofa dictating me what to write. So lazy!So drunkard!It was a pint of beer it should have lasted for at least a week! Mark is raising his eyebrows he would raise one but it's too difficult ( that's because you are a drunkard!)It's too hot for drinking alcohol you should drink nice refreshing water!!
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A thing I noticed and thought I'd point out:

G.K. Chesterton, fabulous charmingly eccentric English Catholic writer, wrote a large number of stories about an unassuming little priest called Father Brown who wandered round solving crimes which had some, sometimes slight, connections to proper theological issues.
Cadfael
, recently popularised by Mr. Jacobi, is a fictional crime-solving monk.
Father Dowling Mysteries
is a TV series I've never watched, but which James made me aware of. Here, again, we have a crime-solving priest (and his nun mate, Steve). Some of the additions to the book of Daniel that we have in the Catholic version are basically detective stories. In Bel and the Dragon, Daniel exposes false gods with some holy cunning, and he defends Susanna from blackmail and rape by cross-examination.

So what's the deal with Catholicism and detective stories?
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Saturday, 14 July 2007

Graduation

Mum and Dad came up on Thursday night and off we toddled for graduation. The robes are a bit more impressive than the undergraduate ones.

Dave and Anna were both getting their PhDs in the same ceremony, and we got front row seats together.

Nice ceremony. Pretty short & sweet with an absence of honorary degrees (Adam Hart-Davies was given one at Emma & my undergrad graduation). I really didn't think the hat suited me, but the whole get-up went with the umbrella I took.

As expected it was wet, but not horribly so. Dinner at the Didsbury and Twelve Night in Fletcher Moss Park. This was very wet. Really really wet. Quite a good show though. My main quibble is that due to cutting out some scenes, Antonio (the bloke who rescues Sebastian from the sea, gives him his purse to look after, then promptly gets arrested while defending Sebastian's sister having mistaken her for Sebastian) is never released at the end. Poor bloke.
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Wednesday, 4 July 2007

This is the place of the reception. We blew the balloons, I did only 5-6 balloons because I've got small lungs and small brain. I'm so rubbish. Mark looks like a monkey when he blows balloons, but a nice one.

Norris holding Leona.






This is my favourite, Mark holding Leona. It's a sweet sweet picture.
She is a beautiful sweet baby and I'm really looking forward to see her again in August. He is a beautiful sweet baby too and I'm really looking forward to see him on Friday.
I had a good time in Hull. I even learned how to make flowers and swans with balloons! That's really exciting! Thank you Ella.
My first time uploading pictures, hope it works.
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Monday, 2 July 2007

And the results are in:







































I got a 2:1, which means I'm on the MA, no problems. That's a relief.
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Thursday, 28 June 2007

Yesterday my dad told me about something really stupid that happened in my village. In the church of St. Lucy, (the small church where during the summer we celebrate mass and where my sister got married) someone stole the gold votive things ( I don't know the word in English) that people left to ask for grace or to thank for grace received. There are 2 window cases at the side of the big crucifix which my village worships and they stole the content of one of them. I'm so angry! It's such a stupid, stupid thing!

Now I'm packing because tomorrow we are going to Hull for the baptism of baby Leona. And because of the rain I 've just bought my first pair of wellies. It's been quite hard to find them because now (being summer) you can find only flip flops and ballerina shoes. I bought them in Accessorize, I don't really like them, they've got big black dots, but I need them. I've always dreamt about buying something nice in Accesorize, like a treat, and I ended up buying these wellies. Anyway, I need them.

I've just got the results from the Uni and I've passed and I'm soooooooooooo happy!!!! I had a high mark on oral Spanish and did quite well at the written exam. My translation was good it never was so good during the year. I'm so happy!
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Wednesday, 20 June 2007

Passed!

I've given in the required hardbound copies, having recieved a grade of "Pass with no further corrections" from the second submission. I will graduate in July (Friday 13th in fact). In case you're wondering what I've been doing all this time here's the final version of my thesis.

I'm off to the pub.
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Saturday, 16 June 2007

Just logging in before flying home. In case you hadn't noticed yet, Amnesty International have changed their policy on abortion now - it was in the pipeline for some time I think.
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Friday, 15 June 2007

Habemus datam! - cough.

We're getting married on the 23rd August 2008. We looked at one nice restaurant, where Monica's sister Vane had her meal when she married Lorenzo, and it seems to have been enough, 'cos that's where we're going. After that, we checked with the priest. In Italy, the restaurants tend to be booked up pretty early - Vane booked it two years in advance, so people book the restaurant first and then the church. This is known to wind Don Giuseppe (the priest) up, so we neglected to mention it.

Besides that...

I finished reading two books while I've been here, Rough Ways in Prayer: How can I pray when I feel spiritually dead? which I'd recommend, though it's probably a bit hard to get hold of - this one was published in 1991 and came courtesy of Sacred Heart's lending library. Readable and practical. Key encouraging and helpful thing to remember - Christians are in Christ, who intercedes for us to the Father, and the Spirit prays in us. We are also one, in Christ and in his love, with the whole Church, past, present and future and have the benefit of each others' prayers.

Then there was The Orthodox Church by Timothy Ware (Bishop Kallistos of Diokleia) which was very interesting. I gather it's the standard book when one wishes to know about the church which goes by the name of Orthodox. It's divided into two sections, firstly history and then doctrine. History is first - I wonder why? They're certainly not against doctrine. Anyway, too much subject matter to review.

Went to the Corpus Christi procession, as stated, and followed a tent under which was the Blessed Sacrament, saying part of a rosary and singing, and strewing petals all over the shop. Apparently Italian Catholics aren't mad keen on singing either. I bet they used to be.

Went to the beach a couple of times. I'm a shade darker, just about.

Got an amazing analogue thingy to practise Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring on. You can hear the circuits thinking and muttering between themselves, and only one of the F#s works, which I think means you can only play it in C major really.

Umm....

Mostly been dossing really. I don't think it's done my Italian a great deal of good - I've been a bit too tired to try - not used to all this warm weather. Piano piano, as Monica always says. I'm hoping the Rai podcasts I'm subscribed to will help a bit. Rai is Italian state telly. ITV and Rai made Jesus of Nazareth together back in the day I think. And speaking of podcasts, I must give Audible's Jesus of Nazareth (Pope Benedict's one) a try when I get back.

Right, I think I'll pop off now - I'll be flying back tomorrow.
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Sunday, 10 June 2007

Catch bus, train, tube, train, plane, taxi and train to Ancona:

Well, almost. It was a pretty good journey - one of the best flights I've had with Monica. She was fine. The fly in the ointment, speaking personally, was that I missed my bus.

I know that the H buses usually leave from a stop near the Pyramids, round the corner from where Monica told me that the bus would be. I was assuming that, this latter stop being the main stop by the coach station, it would be fine.

Never assume - it makes people resort to cheesy mnemonics.

Of course it wasn't, and I missed the bus. I thought I'd be ok as I asked Monica for the times of two buses - I might make mistakes, but I do endeavour not to be a fool. Sadly, traveline.org did not agree with the bus timetable before my eyes at the bus stop. This being a matter of more than academic interest, I deemed it expedient to peg it all the way from the coach station to St. David's Station, in the hope I could get a taxi at a midpoint of Central Station. This is a course I would hesitate to recommend.


I was a trifle discomposed when I got to the station, sweating like a man who's woken at 5:30 and skipped breakfast to move as quickly as tenable with luggage for about half an hour. As I say however, the journey was fine by and large. I had a few headaches, had to wait around in numerous public spaces and Monica almost scalded my groin with hot camomile, but these are all things one learns to take in one's stride with the passage of time.

I even tried out some Italian with the train-ticket-selling-man at Pescara train station. I did ok, but he worked out I was English and told me the train left from "platform three" with a wink and a smile, both of epic proportions.

Having been in Italy for about half an hour, I saw about 5 nuns, 1 monk and a lady crossing herself as she walked through the city. Perhaps I ought to make some sort of graph. Should see a few more of those this evening, as we're off to the Corpus Christi procession this evening. Before that, mass and then we're going to hit the beach with Vane e Lorenzo.
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Thursday, 7 June 2007

I've lost your phone number

My phone died. I've bought a new one (and have just moved the sim card over meaning my number's not changed), but I'd stored everybody else's numbers on the phone, so can't get them any more.

So please let me know your number again, or I'll be very confused when you ring me, and completely unable to ring/text you.

Cheers.
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Wednesday, 6 June 2007

Saddleworth Beer Walk

Day: Saturday.
Clothing: Village People
Beer drunk: lots
Money raised for charity: quite a lot, I think

A full write up will follow (I'm off to hockey in a moment), but here are Mahinda's photos of the event: link, and a video of us after the finish: link. Unfortunately you can't hear the music in the latter.
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Sunday, 27 May 2007

Adrian 1 - Trees 0

Courtesy of half an hour's effort with a bowsaw, we suddenly have one less tree in the garden, and a significantly improved view from the kitchen window. Now I just need to dig the stump out and think of something nice to go there instead.

For those of you wondering whether I'm procastinating from reading through my thesis one last time: add a point to your score.
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Saturday, 26 May 2007

Finished

That was hard work. I've spent the last two weeks of working 9-5, while working on my thesis during lunch breaks, evenings and weekends. It's fortunate that my brain wasn't required at work. Temping isn't all bad.

Emma was off go-karting with teachers last night, so I (eventually - popped into uni on the way home to print off a copy to read over. I only had the last 7 pages to sort anyway) was set up nicely for the final battle with my thesis. Unfortunately it turned out I was too tired to get the last bit done, so I gave up, watched Have I Got News for You (nice timing, I thought) in the company of a beer. After briefly scribbling down some notes (my brain kept working regardless), I stuck Hannibal on. Having read the book, I think they wimped out a little with the ending. Despite being one of the better books, I think it made the weakest of the four films (I'm including Manhunter here but excluding the film/book of Hannibal Rising, neither of which I've seen/read). Still perfectly entertaining though.

Got up and finished my corrections this morning.
Now I've got the remains of a three day weekend with no work (well, I'm going to read through it just to make sure I've not done anything dumb) to do, and Emma's on half term, so we're both free for once! Lovely. I can start doing things like choir (not been for a month or so), hockey (not made it once this year) and badminton (missed it this week) again. I think I might give Emma a hand with marking SATS papers too.

I should mention that Emma got home towards the end of the film with a bottle of champagne, having made the highest finish of all the girls and was the only girl to win a race. They'd not let her spray it everywhere unfortunately.
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Wednesday, 23 May 2007

Today I had my Spanish oral exam which went OK I think. I'm quite ( I can never remember which quite is which!!!) happy with what I've done and I'm really happy is over. What a relief!

Tonight I've phoned my friend Marghe, her mum got a cancer. I thought it was going to be a hard phone call but it wasn't. She is serene, she feels the Holy Spirit giving her the strength to face it and the peace she needs not to go mad in the convent. She said she can see good things in what's happening and she is feeling God really close to her and to her family. I phoned so that maybe I could ease her pain a bit and she consoled me instead, she gave me such strength and faith in prayer. She said that she can feel all the prayers people are saying for her and for her mum, that's why she is so strong.

I've got good news from my uncle, my mum's brother. He and his wife where trying to have a baby for 10 years now they've got twins coming soon!!! I'm really happy! Twins run in the family Mark, you know that, but I wouldn't mind with 1 pregnancy I got 2!

Life has been a bit hard in these weeks, between exam and good and bad news. But Mark was there for me with his patience and his love. So Mark....... I think I'll keep you!!!
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Monday, 21 May 2007

Thesis Countdown

I'm just keeping track of my progress; the aim is to graduate 13th July, so if I can get done before the end of May, my chances improve.

Important dates
Planned date of submission: 30th May (Finished Saturday at 1:00 (pm, you'll be glad to know). Just need to do a final read through over the weekend, binding and submission on Tuesday 29th. Thanks to both Anna and Craig for letting me know that one of the major binding services is shut for a week soon! I have alternative plans, and have told work that I'll be in late on Tuesday)
Deadline for getting examiners' approval and two hardbound copies handed in: 22nd June

Amendments Completed?
Chapter 1: Done
Chapter 2: Done
Chapter 3: Done (13/05 pending approval of method - Method approved 15/05. Get in!)
Chapter 4: Done (14/05 + finishing touches 15/05.)
Chapter 5: Done (16/05 + Sorting out typos 17/05.)
Chapter 6: None required
Chapter 7: Done (Started 19/05, completed 21/05, with some further minor amendments as a result of emails from John and Peter 23/05.)
Chapter 8: Done (Started 21/05, completed 26/05.)

Currently it looks like I'll make it. John's happy with my approach so I've only got to worry about stuff taking too long going through university admin. My examiners are lovely and will be pretty quick once they get the stuff, but three weeks is a quick turnaround when the uni usually gives them six. In case you're wondering "three weeks to do what?":
I submit two copies (planned 30th May), which the uni send to the examiners, asking them to return their recommendations (e.g. thesis is fine / thesis needs more corrections / etc) within six weeks. Once the recommendations are back, assuming no further changes are required (there shouldn't be any - I've got nice examiners and have been running various versions past them over the last couple of months), they'll be ok'd by a committee, then I'll need to get two hardbound copies submitted. As long as this happens by 22nd June then I can graduate in July.

I've come to the conclusion that I just need to get finished. I've got a compromise approach whereby I don't throw any of my results out, but I don't state them in quite the nice succinct way I'd originally intended. I think my external examiner and I have come to the conclusion that this doesn't really matter. If getting them stated "properly" is worthwhile (it does appear to be quite a subtle task. Whether that makes it interesting, I'll let Nige (supervisor) and John (external examiner) decide), it can go in a paper.
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Saturday, 19 May 2007

Erm, ok

It's been well documented that Richard Hammond (of Brainiac and Top Gear fame) took quite a knock to the head, but even so.
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Sunday, 13 May 2007

I might get to go to France next year for free.  Hurrah.  My new boss is orgainising a trip to France to do Maths in Paris.  I think it is just an excuse to get a free holiday.  Only downside is that it will be over the summer half term rather than in school time.  But I get a free holiday and won't end up annoying Adrian who will probably be working all week anyway.  I basically get first dibs, being the only Maths teacher who is female and won't have retired by the time of the trip.  It will be with years 7 and 8 so should be good fun.  I have never been to France.  Nick you will have to tell me the best way to learn some french.  I can't speak a word and it might be a good idea to learn a little if I am responsible for small children in the country.  They can speak more than me as they study it at school.  

I am also organising the Maize maze trip that I did last year again.  Trips really are the best bit of teaching in my opinion.  We get to take year 7 to a maze and lose them for the day.  Going to be great fun.  Hopefully we will get good weather again.  Last year it was blazing hot and we had to send letters home the day before to warn about bringing lots of water and suncream etc.  Rhys laughed at me wearing shorts, but I didn't care I got a day outside, while he had to stay in school.  
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Thursday, 3 May 2007

Jobs and Things

Well. I didn't get the job in Cheltenham. The upside to this is that we don't have to move 200miles away having just bought a house. The downside is that I'm not really sure what to do with myself. I'm quite envious of Emma, in that she's found a vocation (as opposed to a career). I'm thinking that something technical and slightly geeky would be my cup of tea, preferably using some amount of maths. Actuarial careers seem a sensible way to go, although one of Anna's friends works in fraud detection for a bank: setting up proceedures to find dodgy customers. Quite stats based apparently, and maybe interesting.

I'm starting a temping job on Tuesday, which will help my (non-existant) finances no end. Corrections are going ok. I've given my notice to submit (again) for the end of the month, so I might just make July graduation. Even if I just miss it, at least I'll be finished. One interesting by-product of my visit to Leicester (giving a talk & chatting with external examiner about corrections) is that I've been given several ideas of ways in which to extend my research - just when I'm desperately trying to get out of uni. Typical, eh? I'll be making the most of this week to do corrections, then finishing off in the evenings after work. I don't think I can justify any more full-time university, as 1) I'm sick of it, and 2) it doesn't pay a penny.

Any thoughts on careers directions would be appreciated. I'll be cracking on with finding a proper job as soon as I've submitted my revised thesis.
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Tuesday, 1 May 2007

Schadenfreude Anyone?

Leeds are down.
A cynic could compare the lengthy local news coverage given to Leeds' fall to the third flight with that given to other Yorkshire clubs' achievements. It's a little surprising the reporters aren't wearing black armbands.

However it's been a good season for Wednesday. Highest league finish since we were relegated from the Premier League and narrowly missing out of the playoffs. At worst we look to be an established Championship side.
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Monday, 30 April 2007

It's been ages since I was on here and blogged. And to be honest I don't really have much to tell everyone. Other than I am fed up about not being able to go to Taekwondo at the moment as I have hurt my back. Hurt it lifting furniture over the easter holiday's and it is still not right. Got to the stage now that I forget that it is injured as it no longer hurts ALL the time and then go and bend how I should not and make it hurt again. Really annoying and a bit of a vicious circle. It is really easy to forget at school when you are constantly bending over to see what students are writing (or not writing) in their books.

Been back at school two weeks and already counting till year 11 leave and the summer holidays. More year 11 as worried about what still have left to do before the exam. You would think that 4 weeks of school left would motivate students to not mess about wouldn't you.

At least it is only 4 weeks till half term. Hurrah.

Oh and Mark - where is my purple gone. I didn't do anything, honest!
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Friday, 27 April 2007

Just a little post to say that I finally got around to doing Emma's and Monica's avatars. That only leaves the guy with the chubby wrists.
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Monday, 23 April 2007

A little cautionary tale for everyone who hasn't yet repaid their Student Loan.

A bit ago I managed to pay off the last of my student loan, or so I thought.
So a week or so ago I got a bit of a shock when checking my bank statement that a direct debit to the student loan company had taken money from my account, unfortunately the call centre had closed for the night so I couldn't find out what had happened until the next day.

I was not exactly a happy bunny to find that the forthcoming direct debit payment had not been taken into account when I asked to "repay the full amount".
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Monday, 16 April 2007

Why you shouldn't do a PhD. Ever.

Have a look at this. And this. Those should both be very familiar to anyone who's done a PhD. If they make no sense, then hopefully this post will clarify. It is a long one, you have been warned. I'd get a cup of tea first.



Having read Craig's blog, I got thinking about why it's so hard to do a PhD. Suprisingly, it's not the complexity of the material, it's not the hours of work (compounded by the view of most people, who seem to think you've managed to get another 3 years of student dossing), nor is it coming up with original ideas and exploring the boundaries of your subject.

The difficult bit is when (approximately 2 years in), you realise you hate your project. You're disillusioned, tired, and want to do anything else but continue. The problem is that you've now invested two years of your life, and can't just give up.

So why does this happen? It's not just me who's been there; the experience appears to be standard, and the timing is remarkably similar (certainly amongst pure mathematicians).

One of the hardest things about research is the complete lack of punctuation. As an undergraduate, you have lectures, exams, stop. Lectures, exams, stop. Repeat a few times then graduate. There are constant targets, goals and feedback. You know what's coming next, know what you did wrong last time, and can learn from your mistakes and improve on your performance. You have mates doing the same course who are stuck with the same things. You can get help from them, and feel good about helping others.

There's virtually none of that in research.
There's no punctuation. From your first year report to the submission on your thesis (typically 2.5 years or so), the biggest comma that gingerly rears it's head is merely the gentle drift from concentrating on research to concentrating more on typing it all up.
In terms of emotional support and goals: If you're lucky, you'll have a weekly meeting with your supervisor (who, by this stage knows less about your research than you do) who will offer suggestions on directions you could take, when you should start writing up, and go through a few specifics. If you're very lucky, you'll also have some mates working in loosely related fields who you can have a moan with, and throw ideas around with (not on the hard stuff, as you'd often be there all week (literally) explaining the background to it. Apt comparisons would be that you're the only person in the room learning calculus but you can only ask when you get stuck adding up, or that you're writing an essay, but can only ask your mates about the spelling and grammar). Your peers are distanced from you due to the huge specialisation required to get a project completed in three(ish) years.
I didn't realise how much I'd missed feedback until my examiners gave their opinions on my thesis (they were extremely complementary, in case you were wondering). Nige obviously felt the material was good, and had made this clear, but having some outside feedback is a very different thing psychologically.

This all leads to a mounting sense of uncertainly. It's difficult to keep slogging away when you're always wondering:
For some of these questions, you won't get an answer until you submit, for others you can only get an approximate answer from your supervisor. Then there are some for which you just have to do the work to find out.

I didn't realise as clearly as I could have what was happening, didn't recognise how disillusioned I was, and ground to a halt roundabout Christmas '05. I attempted to slog through by putting more work in when, with the benefit of hindsight, I can see now that I'd have been better off taking a good break for a month.

So how did I do?
  • Stuff I got right: Stuck with it, kept complaining about it to anyone who'd listen (kudos to parents here, and to everyone I've played hockey, badminton, sung or drunk beer with), and most importantly, kept on doing other things (mostly hockey, badminton, singing and drinking beer) that I enjoy. Exercise is good too: I found that I got far more work done when I was cycling to and from uni than when I got the bus.
  • One I wish I'd done more of: Given talks. I hate the idea of doing talks, but actually doing them is suprisingly ok. They're too easy to avoid doing. The highlights are giving a talk on my thesis (an exercise I'll repeat in Leicester in a couple of week's time), and a short series of teaching talks on Spectral Sequences (very complication computing machines) to the then junior topologists. Why? Feedback and interaction. Talking about my thesis generated some much needed external feedback. Teaching other postgrads some complicated material has several benefits: I learnt a lot writing the talk, I felt good about helping others, and I felt good about interacting with other students - it eased off the isolation more than I realised at the time.
  • One I got right eventually: Took time off to do something different. I had a better view of what I'd achieved after a break. Taking a month out to earn some money felt like a holiday!
  • One I wish I'd thought about much earlier: Punctuation. I'm planning on cycling to Swansea when I've finished my corrections. Purely because it'll then actually feel like I've finished.
Well done for reading this far. Hope this is helpful to someone, or at least gives you some understanding of what I've been whinging about for so long. So remember kids: just say NO to postgraduate study!



That said, in a year's time when the dust has settled and I can't remember any detail of what I've been working on for all this time, I know I'll be glad I did it.
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Thursday, 12 April 2007

Every Thursday at 11.30 for an hour there is adoration fo the Blessed Sacrament but I could never go because it's a bit of a silly time and I'm working. But today I could and I went. I really like the adoration, being silent in front of the Sacrament is good for me. It gives me peace, because I give all my worries to Him, so at the end I go out light and refreshed and the poor Sacrament is loaded with my troubles. Today was particularly good, it helped me to keep things in focus, to stop everything and think about Him, find a space for Him. I wish I could go every Thursday but it's a silly time.
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Wednesday, 11 April 2007

Good Easter, Bad Easter

Good: I have an interview for an amazing job, well paid, very interesting, which would suit me as a career.
Bad: It's 200 miles away, and we've just bought a house in Manchester.

Good: Chester Zoo. Caught the feeding of penguins, sealions, lions. The batcave thing is really cool.
Bad: Sunburn.

Good: The lounge is now tidy, and looks like a lounge ought to look like.
Bad: Tidying houses makes Adrian grumpy.

Good: Emma having a much needed holiday, since we spent last half term moving house.
Bad: Emma having two days of holiday, then deciding she's bored and phoning me at work to complain about how bad life is.

Good: Had a pleasant visit from Emma's parents: Ohn (Emma's dad) helped me put the shed up (I'm currently feeling very DIYesque), while Dawn (Emma's mum) has made the garden look nicer.
Bad: People being sniffy about our fantastic new house (which does need some work, but let's not be so bloody negative all the time, shall we?)

Bad: Biscuit (hamster) died.
Good: The poor thing had never really been well since we got her (this was about the fourth visit to the vets since buying her in November(ish)) and she was really suffering, so this was probably a good thing.

Good: Wednesday have suddenly started winning a lot.
Bad: We're never going to make the playoffs.

Good: Housewarming party on Saturday.
Bad: The dreary cycle of temping (looking for it, then doing it) begins on Monday.

Good: Corrections have been passed to examiners for approval, so I might finally get finished with uni! I've also been invited to Leicester to give a talk on my work (by the external examiner, John).
Bad: Writing the talk (work) and giving the talk (scary).

Good: Badminton tomorrow; Mum, Dad, Nick, Ann and Neil coming up on Friday, with Nick and Ann staying a few nights

I've run out of bad, so that makes it a good Easter. Huzzah!
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Tuesday, 10 April 2007

I've just finished talking with my friend Marghe, the nun. She took the temporary vows on the 25th of March at 4.00pm, at around 4.00pm of the same day Mark proposed. Being Lent I couldn't phoned her, but because of the great news I was allowed to phone for half an hour. Tonight I could finally talk to her for an hour. It was really good. We talked about my wedding, about flowers, music, reception, but not about my bridal dress because like everybody said, it will be mission impossible to find one ( this is because I'm a bit particular, just a bit). My friend Gio' doesn't want to come with me to help me. Last time I had to buy a dress was for my sister wedding. Gio' and I went to a shop and I tried several dresses but none of them met my standards. ( I wanted a simple,very simple black dress ) The shop assistant was really helpful, too much actually, according to her I was pretty in every dress I tried. After having tried all the dresses in the shop, I really tried all the dresses available, (even a horrible orange gown) she said I didn't need a dress but a psychologist. Now all I want is a simple, very simple white dress. Gio' said she won't come with me. I know she will.
Marghe told me a bit about her wedding ceremony, she said she's got a tape so I could see what happened. Now she is wearing a black veil, instead of the white one.
On the 1st of May it will be her birthday and I've got an idea about the present, but Mark I need your help. I'd like to make a CD with some pictures of me and you and of the places we 've been, so that she can see a bit of it.
On the phone she was asking me how do I look now, how long my hair is, whether I'm eating or starving, and she said "I don't know how you look now". It's so strange that we are so far away. We used to see each other every single day. I know her since I was 12. But we have never been so close like in this moment. We are close in prayer and in God, she prays for me I pray for her. Julie, a friend of mine, said to me that the most important and beautiful thing you could for a person is to pray for her and the same is knowing that someone is praying for you.
1 Last thing: I'm really happy to marry Mark, he is always nice and warm (I'm always cold), he eats everything without complaining, he speaks English, he looks good with a hat, he's got a soft facial hair and a good aftershave, he doesn't break the spine of a book while reading (I do ), he doesn't underline while reading (I do), he drinks beer (I don't) but we can work on it, on you Mark not drinking not on me drinking.
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Friday, 30 March 2007

Hi.

If you thought I wasn't blogging much before, that's nothing to the wait you'll have to endure now. No computer at home, and the internet at work is filtered to an obscene level. So basically I can blog from Monica's laptop, which doesn't sound like time well spent with my girlfriend to me, Luke's computer (Q.E.D.), and the library.

So news of my life will be circulating rather more slowly than I might wish.

That's why it's been almost a week between my proposal to Monica and the fact of it circulating on da web. She said yes.

Siamo fidanzati.

Hooraaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay.
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I've paid off my Student Loan, and still have my bank account in the black!

The Asperger social group I've started going to has been fairly enjoyable, the trip to the observatory might have gone better if it hadn't been on the first non-cloudless night of the week. Yesterday's 10-pin bowling was fun, I came in 3rd out of 6, but the other team had a fence preventing the ball going into the gutters, so I feel it was pretty close.
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Thursday, 29 March 2007

Weird

This is weird. I found it really funny, but I've no idea why.
Charlie the Unicorn goes to Candy Mountain.
Apologies for wasting five minutes of your life.


And this was sweet, I thought.



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Wednesday, 28 March 2007

LOUD

The fire alarm's knackered again. This means it's stuck on after the test - there's no fire. I've got a decent handle on my corrections, so I'll be job hunting after the (school) Easter holidays, and will finish them off in the evenings.
Easter concert coming up this Saturday, so I'll spend the morning putting a shed up, then don my dinner jacket and head off for singing. Nice. Not very keen on the music, but never mind.

Oh, and we're having a housewarming party on the 13th of April. Feel free to come round.

EDIT: Now it's on the Saturday - the 14th of April. I blame Emma.
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Wednesday, 14 March 2007

Corrections

I think I've cracked it. Still will have a chunk of typing to do, but I think I've sussed the hard maths behind the problem.

In other news we've got internet access up at home again. Managed to set it up at midnight having got back from the Owls v Colchester game. We won. Very odd atmosphere: it felt like a reserve game. There was almost no singing before the last ten minutes.
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Tuesday, 6 March 2007

Avatar Idol!

At Mahinda's suggestion, I thought it would be a good idea to pick an avatar for Emma. This could be amusing, and may prompt her to choose one.

Here are the current options:
Avatar 1
Avatar 2
Avatar 3 (courtesy of Pete)

Any suggestions, email them to me (or to Mark - I'm sure he won't mind passing them on) and I'll add them. I'll do a vote in a couple of weeks (or when we've got plenty of decent suggestions).
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Monday, 5 March 2007

Saturday was very nice, having a meal out with all the Exeter-based relatives is something I'd like to do more often.

The new more irritating, more painfully loud fire alarm system was being configured and tested today. Which meant that the alarm would be sounding at irregular intervals throughout the day, Joy! Dad's suggestion to buy a pair of ear defenders was a very good one. However I still ended up with a bit of a headache from the useless din. Why can't such systems have a quieter testing mode? Apparently it took longer (and made more noise) because someone botched programming the master control box, and had to re-do about half of the programming.

There was a talk today about the options for me moving on from my current flat, I missed most of it, but got the information that I was after.
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Telephone

BT finally made it round this morning, so we've got a landline again, with a new number. I'm not going to put it up here, so if you can't wait for me to post it out, send me a text. Broadband to follow when I've checked whether we've got an ethernet port or not.
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Viva Aftermath

Now that I'm feeling a little more levelheaded about the whole viva thingy, I suppose I ought to make a more levelheaded post about the current state of play.

The good news:
  • The examiners were very complimentary about my work, both in terms of quality and quantity.
The stuff we discussed in the viva was mostly minor typos and the odd howler which will only take five minutes to fix. There was one geometrical proof (Algebraic Topology combines algebra and geometry, but my work was largely on the algebraic side) which I'd completely made a hash of, but it's a well known result - just need to sort the proof out.
  • The viva itself went very well.
It was much more relaxed than I was expecting, even considering that I knew both my examiners were nice blokes, so I wasn't expecting too much of an interrogation. I hadn't really twigged that I was going to be the "expert" on the material.
  • I've got a much better idea of what to do next.
This will be even clearer when I get the proper list of corrections from the examiners. It's nice to finally have some certainty about the whole PhD thing. I've got a finite list of jobs to do, and when they're complete I'll pass. I think the hardest thing about pursuing research is that you're never quite sure how good the material is, how much needs doing, how much detail is required, and so on. This is after several years of trying things that don't work and wondering why you ever thought further study was a good idea.
  • I'm certain that I'll graduate in the summer
Most of the hanging around was waiting for a viva date. Once corrections are done there will be a very quick turnaround.
  • I'm sure of help from various sources
The external examiner's said he's very willing to discuss the problem with me. I'll have to pop to Leicester for that, but 'tis very nice. Similarly my supervisor has some free time at last, and the internal's already been very helpful.
  • The worst case scenario's quite good
Even if I throw away all of the results which are affected by the techincal hitch, there's still enough material to get a PhD.


The bad news:
  • I've not passed.
I think this really comes back under the certainty headline. For one thing, it's nigh on impossible to explain exactly what's going on succinctly.
Minor corrections? No problem: "I've passed, just need to do some corrections".
Me? A little trickier: "There's a technical issue affecting five chapters of my thesis. The examiners felt that a pass with minor corrections would put me under too much time pressure. There's no further oral exam, but I need to sort out the issue and resubmit. Unfortunately this could involve a fair bit of reorganisation and possibly typing. I've not passed yet, but will soon. I don't know how complicated the problem is, so don't have any idea about a timescale."
This is rubbish when you're trying to a) let people know how it went, b) trying to go out and celebrate afterwards.
  • I can't get on with it yet
I love university administration. I can't get books out of the library just yet - need a form signed. I've not yet got the list of corrections, and don't really have a precise idea of what I need to fix. I've done some preparatory thinking, but can't really get stuck in at the moment. Again there's a book that would help with this, but it's in the library.
  • I can't get on with other things
The thing I was most looking forward to was not having to do any more maths, getting a job & earning more money. I was hoping/assuming that minor corrections could be done in the evening around a job.
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Wednesday, 28 February 2007

May I make a request? Can we only use post labels if we think, at some point in the future, someone might actually want to look back at all the posts about X? I think it's a bit of a stretch of the imagination, for example, to say that in two years time someone will think "I really want to know what thoughts the Dobsons have had about boxes over the years."

Message ends.

I should post about my job at some point, but, equally, I should go to bed.
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Viva Results

The Examiners will make one of the following recommendations for a PhD:
i Award the degree of PhD with no corrections
ii Award the degree of PhD subject to minor corrections
iii Invite to revise and resubmit (on only one occasion) for the degree of PhD with possible further oral examination
iv Award the degree of MPhil
v Award the degree of MPhil subject to minor corrections
vi Invite to revise and resubmit (on only one occasion) with possible further oral
examination for the degree of MPhil
vii Reject, not permitting resubmission

The viva went very well, and my results are good.
But.
I've not passed. There's an issue with deducing the infinite results from the finite results that needs resolving, and this issue affects most chapters of my thesis. The examiners felt that a pass with minor corrections (which gives you four weeks to make the corrections) would put me under too much time pressure. There's no further oral exam, but I need to sort out the issue and resubmit, at which point I'll pass. Unfortunately this could involve a fair bit of reorganisation and possibly typing.

Bollocks.

Off to the pub now.
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I managed to mess up being on JSA already, by missing my first sign-on day because I got the date wrong, curse my numerate dyslexia. This was not helped by having new smoke detectors fitted in my flat on the same day. Or receiving my JSA letter which states I have the disabled and severely disabled bonus, the latter of which I'm not sure I should be eligible for, so I asked my support worker to check that I'm not getting money that I shouldn't be getting and get in a proper muddle.
I only discovered my blunder long after the Job centre had shut, and after going to the Job centre twice today I am waiting for an appointment tomorrow to hear what the decision will be. Plus there hasn't been a single suitable job in the paper or websites, unless I fancy moving to Bradford or Liverpool. It's really annoying how many jobs want "good communication skills", "excellent telephone manner" and "customer service". Just what I can't do

And now for the good news
My Student Loan is finally down to about £600, at my current rate I'll have repaid it by this time next year.
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Thursday, 22 February 2007

Viva

It's my viva on the 28th of Feb (Wednesday) at 2:00pm, so whenever I get out I'll be off to Kro Bar on Oxford Road for a few beers, then off to the Manchester Ceilidh at Jabez Clegg (8:00 kick off, I think, and entry's £5 or £2.50 NUS) round the corner for a few more. Not sure when I'll get to Kro, as vivas finish when they finish, but hopefully by about 5:00 or 6:00 or so.

*crosses fingers*

Come for a beer if you're in the area.
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Monday, 19 February 2007

It was really nice to have Mum and Dad around last week, even nicer that I could treat Mum to a day out at Plymouth Aquarium (her choice) as her birthday present. Like many males I'm often at a loss as what to get Mum for her birthday, and this seemed like a good idea.

It seems a little strange to me that all of my siblings have paired off, and all of them all either from another country or in Emma's case her father is from another country. But then it almost seems like a family tradition, one of my uncles was born of European immigrants, my Dad's sister emigrated to America with her husband and my Nan's sister emigrated to Australia. Personally I think it's down to good taste, Emma and Monica are both lovely people, can't really comment on Ann (Nicholas's girlfriend), since I've yet to meet her.

I'm now on Jobseeker's Allowance, things have changed a little since last time. I now have to apply for at least two jobs a week. This is both a good thing and a bad thing, the obvious flaw is that there are so few suitable jobs for someone with Asperger's Syndrome, and if there is the possibility that I will have to apply for an unsuitable job. The good thing is that I will be making much more of an effort to find a suitable job than I would otherwise. The only positive thing is that failing at the interview stage is much more likely for me even if I try, so there is less risk of getting an unsuitable job. This may sound a little unethical but given the choice between being unemployed and having a job that will exhaust and discourage me, I'd rather be unemployed.

I found one possible job, helping people with learning disabilities cope with independent living, sound like the sort of thing that might appeal to me. The other bit of good news is that even if I'm still on JSA, I would be able to help with the forthcoming parental unpacking when they move to Bushbury.

I spent the rest of the afternoon having a bake-fest. My housegroup is having a meal together before this week's meeting, I offered to bake a cake, and then decided to have a go at baking a non-gluten-free loaf for the mini-communion after the housegroup talk. Also baking a cake for the staff meeting at Mortimer House, partly to use up the leftover eggs, partly because I like baking cakes and like people to enjoy eating them.
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Thursday, 15 February 2007

Knackered

Well, we're into the new house, and out of the old one (with the exception of some cleaning at the old place). Spent Saturday cleaning the new house, Sunday doing the remaining packing at the old place (plus an amazing roast dinner at Ben and Vicky's), Monday moving (three trips with a 3.5 tonne van plus an extra one for stuff like barbecue & bikes which are a little filthy) with large amounts of valuable help from Rosy and Vicky on the first two trips. Pete helped out with the unloading of trip three. Tuesday morning was spent moving our bed (obtained from our 'ex'-landlord) upstairs via a window halfway up the stairs using a rope and a (slightly dodgily borrowed) ladder. Thanks to Dave for his assistance with the bed.

The furniture is pretty much where we want it now. The clothes are mostly unpacked (thanks to Emma), and the kitchen is useable. It's starting to look like our house now, albeit with boxes everywhere. It's nice to be back on real food - takeaway gets boring very quickly and is expensive.
Next time we move (not that I ever want to move house again) I think we'll pay someone else to do it. We're not students any more, and it's no longer just a couple of car loads to shift!

Now I've got my PhD viva in just under two weeks, so I'm back to work on maths in preparation. We should have a BT line in place in early March, and internet a couple of days (hopefully) later.

EDIT: I might be overstating this, but we've had a hell of a lot of help from quite a few people during the move. I'm not sure we would have got it done otherwise, and all the help meant that it was a tiring and stressful experience, but not a horrible one.
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Tuesday, 13 February 2007

I got a letter today which was a written job offer - a step in the right direction, but it seems I won't be starting until a week this Monday.

I think I'll stop claiming. I didn't want to pointlessly look for work for one week, let alone two. And, having contacted all the agencies to say I don't need 'em anymore, I don't want to phone them again to ask for work.
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Sunday, 11 February 2007

Bye Bye

To home internet access. Packing proceeding well.
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Saturday, 10 February 2007

We now have the keys to our new house. And why is Philip always right, yes it was an anticlimax going round to look at it. Now all the furniture is gone it is easy to see all the bad bits of the house and I think we will be decorating a few rooms in the near future. Philip right again about keeping the money I have saved to one side for a month after moving in before putting into the mortgage.

The new boiler is a combi boiler and looks good. However it is much smaller than the old one and so above the boiler is a right mess. Nice grey actual walls of the house. And its the same under the worksurface where the washing machine was when we looked round. Not very nice. Adrian would now like to do some work on the kitchen sooner than we originally thought. The fridge freezer is excellent though. Nice rack for storing bottles of wine and they have left it really clean.

The main thing that I am worried about is that we did not rush to buy a bed which we need as Alex said that he was leaving one. However the bed frame is ok but the mattress is absolutely awful. I would be much more comfortable on the floor using my camping mattress. And that is only an inch thick. We are going to get in touch with our current landlord and find out from him where he got our bed in the old house. He might even be willing to sell us it as he bought it in new for when we rented the house. Its quite a nice bed as well. Any suggestions on beds appreicated.

Anyway going to go and clean the house now. It will look better without all the cobwebs in the corners.
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