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Underwater December 2, 2011

Posted by Fiona in Breaking the fourth wall, Craftiness, Edinburgh, Knitting, Lovely people, NaNoWriMo, Sheer bloody-mindedness, Small things.
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…That’s a comment on how wet it is up here, by the way.  It’s been raining horizontally on and off for about a week.

I was walking down to the library about ten past eight this morning.  You know, when it’s got to the point where you’re just following your feet, and you’ve stopped noticing things around you?  I’ve been trying to fend it off of late, because Edinburgh is such a beautiful city and I don’t have very long to enjoy it – only this year – but it’s caught up with me recently.  And, as I was walking past Bristo Square, I spotted something on the railings.

It was World AIDS day yesterday, which I assume accounts for it.

Yarn bombing is one of my favourite things in the world, and I’ll tell you for why.  I always seem to see it when there’s a lot going on around me, when I’m up to my eyeballs in late nights and my head is spinning with all the things I should have done and I haven’t yet.  And then, suddenly, out of nowhere, there are knitters.  If I didn’t knit, it would still say to me that someone’s taken a bit of time out of their day to brighten things up.  That would just be fabulous all by itself.  But as a knitter myself, it feels like a reminder that even though it’s getting dark at 4 o’clock, even though I’ve barely seen the outside for quite a while and I haven’t had an evening in to myself where I haven’t had to work in weeks… some things are constant.  There are people out there who take a bit of time to knit red ribbons and tie them on railings.  There are people who still think that’s a worthwhile use of their time – which, of course, I have to wholeheartedly agree with.

It’s like someone’s taken a bit of time out of their day to just reach across and say hey, hang on a minute – how are you?

…All the way down the road.  I don’t know if you can see it.

I won NaNoWriMo the other day.  It’s been good to take a bit of time out – I’ve met some fantastic people and learned a lot about myself.  It was a lot easier to keep going than this time last year.  I discovered, though, that it’s a bad idea to force myself to research about wartime mental illness when the nights are drawing in.  That on top of work – my first essay went in this morning, one down, two to go.  I’ve had to be pretty careful – yet another reason that seeing knitting just made it all a bit better.

My camera’s playing up at the moment – sometimes it’ll work and sometimes it won’t.  But I have FOs to show you, and I’m determined to find the time soon!  Maybe I should instate WIP Wednesday, or whatever it is that the other bloggers are doing these days.  Something to think about.

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The Satanic Verses November 7, 2011

Posted by Fiona in Big things, Bwargh, Edinburgh, Law, Sheer bloody-mindedness, University.
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I’ve just gone onto Wikipedia, and found out the plot of Salman Rusdie’s The Satanic Verses.  It was interesting.

Of course, I’ve heard of the book before – who hasn’t?  It’s practically synonymous with Rushdie’s name, with controversy, with all kinds of things – for the last few months, there’s been an exhibition about banned books at the National Library of Scotland, and I’ve gone round at least three times since August.  The Satanic Verses was all over it, that and Lady Chatterley’s Lover.

The last time I went round the exhibition, I went with my mother.

“Do you know what it’s about?”  She didn’t.  She remembered the controversy, the protests, the fatwah, but she had no idea what the book was about, and neither did I.  The exhibition wasn’t particularly enlightening on that front, although if I hadn’t known the plot of Lady Chatterley before I went in, I certainly did when I came out.

On Saturday, I went to Leeds, to see DV8’s new performance, ‘Can We Talk About This?’  I had no idea what I was going in to see – I didn’t look it up in advance – but it was one of the most thought-provoking pieces of theatre I’ve ever seen.  It’s based around interviews with all kinds of people, and has the basic premise of comment on how British attachment to multiculturalism means that it is failing to protect people who need to be protected.  It focuses on radical Islam.  There’s discussion of forced marriage, vigilantes, the murder or intimidation of writers and artists and film-makers accused of committing blasphemy, allegations of racism against people suggesting integration, or one law for everyone to abide by, or that Sharia might not be the right legal system for Britain.

I don’t know where I sit about this: it was more partisan than I was expecting.  I think I need to read more about it.

And yes, there was a bit about Salman Rushdie, and The Satanic Verses, and how dreadfully controversial it was and how some people took it as a religious insult.  And yet, until today, I had no idea what the plot of it was.

Other things I have found out in the last month: the workings of an international arrest warrant, what Idi Amin did, the geographic whereabouts of the Central African Republic and Nicaragua, who was in charge in South Africa when they implemented Apartheid, and that there is no actual treaty giving explicit state immunity to national Foreign Ministers.

What do you know?  The more about the world I find out, the more ignorant I am of it.  The more I feel like I’m swayed by anyone I meet telling me what the facts are and saying hey, well, you could look at it like this.  The greater the divide I feel there is between what I think about something, and what I happen to be arguing for this week.  (On the question of “Are human rights universal?”, in the last few weeks I have successfully argued both ways, in two different seminars, and in both I’ve succeeded in swaying several other members of the class.  It’s difficult not to feel manipulative, sometimes, even if it is in the safe confines of a seminar room.)

Having said which, I still don’t think I’ll bother reading any Rushdie any time soon.

LLM October 20, 2011

Posted by Fiona in Edinburgh, Law, Sheer bloody-mindedness, University.
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It’s hard work, this LLM business.

First of all, I have no lectures (well, one lecture, but the politics department are weird like that).  It’s all two hour seminars, once a week for each of three subjects, the result of which is that I don’t have a lot of contact time, but what I do have is very intense, and requires I reckon in the region of 300 pages of reading for every seminar.  Yes, you read that right.  Come to think of it, chances are I probably didn’t.  Read it right, that is.  Sometimes it’s more, sometimes it’s less.  Most of the time I do as much as I can without smoke coming out of my ears and call it a day.

The content is highly technical, and assumes a good deal of prior knowledge.  For my politics module, International Relations Theory, I started off not understanding any of the technical language and having to sit down with a dictionary and try and work out what this means: “The anti-foundationalism of post-modernism so undermines the discipline… that it often provokes anger and despair among those it attacks.  It calls into question the very possibility of non-normative theory; to charge post-modernists with relativism does, of course, rely on the assumption that it is possible to be non-relativistic!”

For the other modules, the law ones, I (nominally) know what they’re talking about, so it’s just a case of processing the ideas.  Undergraduate law is child’s play.  Well, it’s not.  But it feels like it at the moment.

I am getting through an ink cartridge every six days, on average.  It’s taking me longer to get to sleep, because I have to shut the thought processes down, and longer to wake up in the morning, because I have to start them all back up again and these days it takes a few warm-up exercises.  It’s very strange, to get to the grand old age of twenty-one and be very, very aware of your own intellectual limits, in the sense that at times, I feel like I can’t make my mind go any faster.  I genuinely can’t figure concepts out in my own head fast enough to have time to process them, and that’s something I’ve never really dealt with before.

Oh, but it’s such good fun, though.  In the last five weeks, I’ve dredged the depths of GCSE History (League of Nations, self-determination, post-war social movements), Year Nine Geography (who knew half of these places were countries, never mind where they are and who they border!), Politics-By-Osmosis (I spent an entire afternoon last week looking at Central African dictators in the 1970s on Wikipedia – which, by the way, is an absolute godsend – I really have no recollection of international current affairs pre-2006, which is a bit scary).  It’s like the world’s biggest pub quiz has gone crashing into a newspaper archive, and expected you to have something useful to say out of the end of it.  The remembering, and rediscovering things I used to know about, is just as much fun as the finding out new stuff.  I love it to pieces.

The trouble, then, is working out where to stop.  Historically speaking, I am not very good at this.  It is very difficult to put the brakes on.  But I’m trying to remind myself that if I want to keep going, I have to pause occasionally.  Sometimes your brain freezes up, or grinds to a halt and there’s nothing you can do, and you just have to accept that and take a break.  So it’s taking a bit of practice, at the moment.  We’ll see.

Dreich October 14, 2011

Posted by Fiona in Big things, Breaking the fourth wall, Edinburgh, University.
8 comments

Wow.

Well, I thought it was about time I got this up and going again.

A lot has changed since the end of July, and I’ve not been on the internet for a lot of it.  I mentioned before that I was heading off to do a Masters in Edinburgh – well, I’m here now, and I’m completely snowed under a lot of the time.  I’ve been mostly absent from Ravelry for the last few months as well – which is another thing I’m going to have to rectify in the next few weeks.  Frankly, I’ve not really been on the internet so much.  But there’s been a lot going on and I think I’ve been able to cope with it, and adjust to it, a lot better for just keeping out of the way for a while.  I hope you haven’t minded.

Anyway, I’m back now.  I miss blogging and I’ve missed the blogging community as well – I’m sure a lot of changes have happened where you are, too!  So over the next few weeks I’m going to instate a rule of making sure to post at least once a week.  I want to get back into this, and I miss the dialogue of it too.  There’ll probably be a fairly high proportion of knitting posts for a while, partly because I have some absolutely smashing FOs and WIPs to show you, and partly because unless you’ve developed a sudden interest in the law of the sea, you really don’t want to know the gory details of my degree right now.

Also, my god, but Edinburgh is beautiful.  I’m going to have to show you a few bits, you’ll absolutely adore the place.  It’s stunning.

This new adventure July 7, 2011

Posted by Fiona in Big things, Edinburgh, Look what I did, University.
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After months of agonising, worrying and trying not to think about things, I’ve finally heard today from Edinburgh University – they’re offering me a place, starting in September, to study a one-year Masters course in International Law.  I am unbelievably excited.  I’ve been not daring to hope for this for most of this year: the course, and the city, look like the best thing I could possibly have wished for and I’m really looking forward to getting stuck into both of them.

The course is amazing.  It looks like I’ll have ample opportunity to get stuck into my twin loves of humanitarian law and the European Convention of Human Rights (you know I can’t get enough of it!) and I’m really hoping the seminar format is going to help me get over my main problem of the last few years’ study – that I really don’t like giving presentations or speaking in front of people.  Looks like it’s unavoidable here, though, so fingers crossed I’ll get used to it.  That aside, there’s opportunity for a lot of discussion, and a lot of independent research, and they’re two of my favourite things.

As for the city, well, it’s beautiful.  I’m going to be spending all of August there (if you’re going to the Fringe festival, come and see us!  They’re giving me a lighting desk to play with and everything!) and I gather it’s a good place for everything I love – coffee shops, a vibrant crafting community, a lot of local history and folklore, beautiful walks, it’s going to be such an adventure and I can’t wait.

I almost wonder if a year is going to be long enough.