25 March 2010

March Update

It's been a while since my last appearance on the blogosphere. Loads of stuff happened in the meantime, some of which I will reveal here now in case you have been wondering which quadrant of the universe I have warped myself to.

Take this week for example. You know when you think things can't get worse? It all started with a household dispute which left me seeking shower exile at the gym, squatting for a night (in a relatively safe place) and crashing at some friends' on another. Given my busy schedule in the past weeks, it was this very same weekend of course to which I had allocated my window to prepare my (graded) presentation for today Thursday. For Monday, I had also wanted to explore a thematic issue of increasing interest to me with an enthusiastic professor who had forwarded me really interesting readings to all the questions I wanted them for. However, due to the distress of the weekend, I went to uni in a despicable hygienic state for a few days and could not concentrate on any of my readings (essential and personal interest). Also, my phone wasn't working, my laptop (self-fulfilling prophecy?) had broken down (zap! and gone it was); I had left my Oyster card in the library and had to travel for really expensive money for a weekend. With the Oyster card, I had also left all my library cards, so for most of the weekend, I did not have access to the internet. Since it is a film class for which I have done the presentation, most of the research for the presentation was internet-based.

On Monday then, I went to my appointment with my professor about the voluntary interest readings in a completely hideous state (unshowered, wearing the only clothes i could find which were the same ones i had found a few days ago, no readings to discuss and completely knackered from lack of sleep). Luckily, she had an open ear for my troubles and asked me if I was alright. Luckily, an entirely different and engaging conversation topic came up and in the end, that half an hour saved my week! I wish I would have expressed that there and then but it only came to me after.

Anyway, so I finally was able to focus again on my presentation later this week - about "Code 46" by Michael Winterbottom, a not so well-known movie it turns out with very very mixed reviews. Since I had little time left, I needed to find a copy of this DVD and mail-order was not an option (for several reasons). I went to three HMVs (two in Oxford Street and one in Piccadilly) but none had it in stock (and their phones are internal only), zavvi had gone into administration last year, Waterstones flagship store in Piccadilly didn't have it, neither did Forbidden Planet in Covent Garden, Fopp in Shaftesbury Avenue; Blackwells, Foyles and half the independent shops in Charing Cross Road but none of them had it and it wasn't until that last leg of my journey that an able bookseller was able to tell me that it had been out of production in the UK entirely. Having run around Central London for two hours, I thought, I might as well replenish with a cup of tea and a snack in Foyles' jazz cafe (I had never been in that flagship branch before and it is HUGE and well-sorted in a very very amazing way with very enthusiastic and knowledgeable staff! The only weird thing were the four consecutive shelves of "Mediaeval Literature" [sic!] which a person too lazy to use a spell-checker had printed in Pt 30 four times...). Before that, I really needed the loo. I would have thought there is one in the cafe but I didn't see one and the lift had said toilets were located on another floor (highlighted in bright orange). Of course, once I got there, I found a sign that the toilet was out of order and that there are additional toilets in the cafe. I walked back to the cafe but no food was left, so I decided to answer nature's call back at uni. Tried to return a book which had been requested by another library user but of course the machine would advise me to bring it to the desk - which was already closed at 10pm. I tried to see if the library had the DVD of the movie to be discussed as a group for this week ("Dune") and of course, we had it but only as VHS (probably original from 1984 too).

In the end, I fixed my phone, did an allnighter at a friend's place to work on her PC last night. I finalised my notes at SOAS in OpenOffice, saved it at 12.45pm with pictures and all formatting because of course I yet had to top up printing credit (and had to go to the ATM first, then change into £1 coins at the shop...), had a ton of stuff to carry and did not want to be late for my own presentation. I did however print it and my typed up and hence more legible notes to guide me in my presentation. I tried to save my notes, got a couple of error messages about unavailable drives but it would still give me the dialogue box and show me My Documents and accept my title and created an icon in the folder. Sounds all good right? I printed it off, just in case it didn't save the file, it would already be on the printing server. I logged out of the PC, went to take a lift to my class. Of course, one has just broken down and people came back out of it again and the other was of course over-used. The third lift was used to compensate as well. The fourth is permanently broken, what I last heard. And only the fourth on the opposite side of the building was working. So typical. The lift issue is a running gag at SOAS, the two main lifts are being repaired at least four times a year and every time they say it is the last time. Eventually, I did my presentation, without the printed notes. The lecturer agreed that I could submit the handout later as long as it's on the same day. After the lecture, I went to get money, top up my printing credit, logged into the printer and - the print jobs had been deleted.

EVERY YEAR, the IT department has to update and install PC/network/printing software/roll out new printers around the time people write their essays, instead of the summer!!! Of course, as is to be expected, there are ALWAYS bugs and printers break down, are temporarily put on a different server (which you have to select when you select "Print" instead of using default server), one time they had also unplugged the landline cable for the internal extension to call their helpdesk and inform them if sth is not working, of course telephone outlet not visible anywhere! So the files were there but their content was an empty document! So I type the same stuff up again, find the same pictures, print and this time it works! Since it's the last class this year, I thought I'd email everyone the handout, for that I had to Save and close the window. I re-opened the file to check if everything was in order and the whole format as well as all the pictures had gone lost!!!

And during Easter Break, the whole library is going to close for a whole TWO WEEKS because of the Library Transformation Project (due to finish 2012) and students have been advised to use study spaces and resources in other libraries!!!

Now that I am free from this presentation pressure and have finally submitted the handout, I can finally reflect on the past weeks and give you an insight into some of the things you might be reading about separately soon:

- Elizabeth Pisani, epidemiologist and author of the "Wisdom of Whores" gave a guest lecture in my HIV/AIDS in Development class

- I spoke to the former head of BBC Asia-Pacific World Service in the last week and listened to a woman who had been working for the Asian Civilizations Museum in Singapore (which by the way is amazing!)

- I listened to the former deputy-prime minister of Malaysia, Anwar Ibrahim at the LSE

- I intended to go to a Balinese Gamelan concert at the London Symphonic Orchestra but it was the night before my presentation! :(

- There's a Georg Friedrich Handel Festival happening at the moment; London Burlesque Week and an annual biggish Science Fiction Festival coming up in a few weeks :)

- I went to see Avatar in 3D - very interesting film to analyse in anthropology - IMAX tickets were booked out for the whole two months or so they were showing it in advance (!) except for the midnight screenings (which finish at 3am in the morning)

- I have become great-aunt! :) Why does that make me sound old?? :P

- I had an interesting Sunday earlier this year in February which made me muse about how a resident can still be overcome by how diverse London can be: Walking from LSE Library (which is packed on most weekends early 'til late) to Chinatown, I passed a demonstration in Aldwych apparently demonstrating (loudly) against "linguistic genocide in Iran", then turned into the West End and literally walked straight into the BAFTA awards. Half the little back streets behind the market were closed and I assume that the stars were heading towards the back entrance of the Royal Opera House. Didn't see anyone though, was in a hurry and you're gonna see so much more in the news next day anyway. Walked into the market plaza, where one huge satellite van after the other was lining up, the most impressive with a gigantic mast surely reaching at least into the second floor of the buildings around it. The elderly Chinese windpipe player (who usually waves at people to not take his picture) had taken his traditional instrument and his crowd to claim pole position in front of the opera house and next to the super-van! The other half of the West End was cordoned off for Chinese New Year parades and celebrations which is what I was heading for. Saw the probably biggest golden peanut ever (decoration) - it was as big as my face! The British Museum sponsored a stall where a famous Chinese dish was shown (dragon string?) - It's kind of a rice dough which is stretched like noodle dough, then put into flour and when it comes back out of the dough it has amazingly turned into strings. Can anybody help with the name of that dish? I took pictures but can't upload them on school PCs...

Right, so much for an update on what's roughly been going on so far. Most of the time of course, I spent between the books of course so these perhaps boring-sounding events really were my highlights.

So stay tuned and don't forget to comment!

24 March 2010

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