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dog-days

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  1. Funny! Though now I think about it, I'd really like to watch a short film where Eddie Marsan as himself goes for a speed awareness course, only to find that the course leader is his character from Happy Go Lucky.
  2. This article from Fortune.com about the huge loans China has issued to developing countries (Zambia and Sri Lanka among many others) on secretive terms sounds blood-curdling, and my grasp of economics/economic history isn't solid enough to do a dispassionate assessment. I assume that for the poor countries it's more or less business as usual. They're broke and in debt and corrupt politicians have spent the loans on white elephant projects. Hopefully at least some of the infrastructure created will be of us. But for them it probably doesn't matter that much if you owe a tranche of your GPD to China or the West; if China wants you to pay its engineers to build you a high-speed railway or if the USA wants you to accept huge imports of food aid from its own farmers. For China, I guess it knows it can use the debt as leverage to acquire more power. If Chinese companies build a port with Chinese money in Sri Lanka, at that point de facto national sovereignty in the port must get rather fuzzy.
  3. A number of times you've described your mother belittling you and undermining your confidence in your ability to function as an independent human being, and it's sounded very much as though this is not something new, but something she has been doing for many years. Imagine if you had a female friend with a father that regularly put her down and acted in emotionally abusive ways. She talks about saving up her money for several years, possibly neglecting opportunities and support that could help her, in order to buy a larger house that she and her father could live in together. How would you react?
  4. I can't say I recognise the critical-thinking-driven Platonic ideal of a workplace that some have been describing. The ones I've seen have often contained nice, smart people, sometimes in management positions, but with decisions driven by budgetary constraints, office politics and rivalries, personal ambition, organisational hierarchies (grade xx wants z, better give it to him) government regulation, local culture, and by what everyone else in the sector is doing. None of which you need a degree for. Possibly the critical thinking bubbles arise only once your salary passes the £50/60,000 mark. I don't doubt that the modern economy needs highly-skilled people. In the way that the 1870 Education Act helped create a literate population, the UK needs to give its population the means to fill the type of jobs that are now available. The stuff about degrees not being for work but for an individual's moral and social edification sounds very nice on paper, but in practice for anyone that would like to be building a life for themselves in their twenties rather than taking more top-up qualifications to try and get an entry-level position paying peanuts, reality can mar the high aspirations. This applies especially to women who think they might want children, but aren't prepared to risk it until they know they have a solid career and salary to count on. I would discourage any daughter of mine from taking a humanities, languages or arts degree. Not because I don't believe they're worthwhile, but because they aren't enough on their own in the modern economy. Confidence, charisma, connections are necessary to get anywhere with them. In the UK, following the fading-out of the polytechnics and specialist colleges, the universities seem to have fallen into the roll of providing all kinds of HE-level training along with some support from further education colleges, which often work in partnerships with universities, doing the teaching and letting the university approve the award. In my experience, having done a postgraduate qualification aimed at a particular career that was once provided by a specialist body which got merged into a university a number of years before I started, the dominance of universities isn't necessarily a good thing. A group of lecturers who've spent the last decade focused on their REF results aren't necessarily the best people to teach about trends in the modern-day profession, even if some of the theory they covered wasn't without value. Just over-represented. But that was just one course, and UK universities are diverse. The 'Russell Group' band are what people generally mean when they talk about universities, offering full-time courses running on the traditional academic calendar for eighteen-year-olds with A-Levels. e.g. University of Manchester course list. Compare that to the offerings of somewhere like Newman University (ex teaching college), serving a principally local population, and offering three-year BAs, yes, but also various Foundation courses, top-up degrees, and 'accelerated' i.e. short degrees. Degree apprenticeships at Aston. Are these valuable? It could vary hugely from location to location and subject to subject. And from student to student. If you can sell yourself, the certificate is a useful key to open the doors to interviews. If not, maybe you should have chosen to study an area that would have made employers chase after you. That's before getting onto the topic of marketisation in the UK HE sector, which means that in many cases a degree proves fuck-all about the graduate except that the university awarding it needed money. I've seen an undergraduate dissertation that was only one-third complete given a passing mark because that's just how things rolled. Ever since then, I've been pretty suspicious about what happens on a lot of degree courses. Also: essay mills, AI assignments, and who has money and is willing to spend it... So it goes. But it's probably always been that way. This is perhaps more of a return to the status quo than anything else, thinking of the days when universities were largely a finishing school for the upper classes.
  5. I'd be worried that starting with the first book could put them off the rest of the series...
  6. I found the earliest Discworld books weaker than the later ones, so wouldn't recommend Colour of Magic/Light Fantastic as a starting point. TBH, I never liked the Rincewind books as much as the rest. I think reading the first couple of books in each sub-group could be a good idea, then catching up on the standalones and continuing to the very good but slightly darker/more serious later Discworld books. Later on (especially in Lords and Ladies, one of my favourites) the characters tend to crossover more, even if it's just in cameos. So: Mort and Reaper Man (Death books. Though Death might say: EVENTUALLY, YOU KNOW, I CROSSOVER WITH EVERYONE ) Guards! Guards! and Men at Arms (the Watch books) Wyrd Sisters and Witches Abroad (the Witches books)
  7. No experience dealing with anxious children, but I was an anxious child. My dad tended to either reinforce my worries (he was an anxious adult; it runs in his side of the family) or try to distract me from them. I still rely on distraction methods a lot, and it does work, but tends to work in quite a superficial way, going round a problem rather than addressing it. One option: talk with her about what she's worried about and imagine that it happens, that the thing she's afraid of comes to pass. Then help her to see that it wouldn't be that bad, could be manageable, might even be something good seen from different angles. As with Terry Pratchett in Hogfather, you don't tell the kid that there's no monster hiding under the bed, you tell them that it's there and give them a cricket bat. If your daughter tends to spiral over everyday problems, the above could be useful. If she worries about nightmare catastrophic events like her family dying in a car-crash, less so. @Toth, I really hope you try therapy before buying a house for you and your mother. Otherwise to me it sounds as if you're planning to go to prison, lock yourself in and throw the key out of the window.
  8. I thought the female characters were pretty disappointing in the Alex Verus series, and have a bit of an ick reaction to some of the author's comments on his blog. The books were fun reads when I went through them in lockdown, starting on them as audio-book then jumping to Kindle when they ran out. At the same time, I find that I like them less and less in retrospect. (And having said all that, I'll still be buying the first instalment in Jacka's next series when it appears this autumn.) Re: Aaronovitch. I enjoy the collaborative nature of the books, though I do think the author's conscientiousness about checking in on the regulars has been causing plot bloat. I liked the What Abigail Did That Summer spin-off novella more than a lot of the most recent Peter books since it felt like more of a real adventure. Fingers crossed Aaronovitch will engineer some ways to put our hero in situations of more than just very mild hazard in future. ETA: Terry Pratchett managed it with Vimes. Re: the Met. I imagine that the reality of it is very patchy with a few teams being almost as good as the RoL ones, others being nests of snakes and most in-between. No evidence, just based on my experience of moving through a lot of different jobs and seeing how different the atmosphere/organisational culture of places within the same sector could be. I don't think the RoL books go in for realist depictions of the non-fantastical aspects of London, or are interested in being driven by social issues. (Or more of the characters would be sharing poky flats and working as cycle couriers on top of their full-time jobs). For me, the books always feel like a comfort read. Peter lives in a fantastic apartment and free feasts are laid on at his job every day, then he lives in a fantastic house with a beautiful river goddess lover. So it makes sense that the version of the Met he works with is the best version, not the lousy one we've all been reading about recently. Lesley's character is at least a nod towards the dark side.
  9. I'm thinking about making potato salad for dinner. Dunno why, but it's been on my mind lately.
  10. Who knew that potato salad would be so important to so many on the board? We need to create the Brotherhoods With and Without Mayo.* *One of these groups will be an evil heretical death cult.
  11. Looks like Erdogan's back in. I can't see him losing the run-off. In Thailand the opposition parties have won big at the ballot box, but the establishment may block them from forming a government.
  12. Remember at my last place the day after I broke up with my partner there was a sudden plague of houseflies. They were all over the place in the kitchen and living room. It was alarming to start with, like suddenly finding yourself caught up in a B-horror movie. To my relief, they were quite willing to fly out of the window without much encouragement. Some good news: actress Siân Phillips turns 90 today. I think of her as the Empress Livia in I Claudius ("There is nothing in this world that occurs to you that does not occur to me first. That is the affliction I live with"), as the Second Voice in the BBC's 2003 radio adaptation of Under Milk Wood, and as Gwyn's Nain in the TV version of The Snow Spider. Her voice is one of the most beautiful I've heard – up there with the late Alan Rickman imo. Siân Phillips on Wikipedia.
  13. Just another of those small-scale stories of incompetence and probable corruption that regularly emerge from local government. Pembrokeshire Council gives £1.9 million to holiday resort; gets fuck-all back. I felt that there was already a cloud hanging over this particular council, and yes, it's the one from which Andrew "all white men should have a black slave" Edwards was recently suspended. The Pembrokeshire Herald came to his defence by blaming AI deep fakes for that one, so I guess that's something else to look forward to. Now when a politician or celebrity comes out with something so malignant that even they won't try and justify it in public, they can say that it was the AI that did it.
  14. Cornflakes with whiskey sounds like a terrible waste of whiskey and cornflakes. However, around ten years ago staying on a Scottish island, I was served porridge with cream, brown sugar and whiskey. That kind of breakfast might even help a police commissioner get through his day and bugger the headlines.
  15. It's early and my brain isn't working. In what scenarios is it a good idea to taser someone standing on the edge of a balcony? I'm struggling to imagine a positive outcome.
  16. I think you did the right thing by taking her aside to talk to her, and it sounds really good that she trusted you enough to admit that she's worried about her beliefs causing a rift between her and her friends. If it helps, I think the refusal to engage is quite a natural response from a young person in her position feeling a strong loyalty to her family and struggling to reconcile that with her current context and classroom demands. As well as feeling perhaps defensive and insecure? I'm not sure how old exactly your students are, but the lessons sound quite high-concept. If she doesn't come from the background where exposure to that kind of discussion is normal, she could not have the instinct for how to engage or the ability to recognise what a more dispassionate kind of engagement looks like. I wonder what her interests are outside of class, and if any of them could tie in with the subject of a future lesson?
  17. I was fond of that aspect of BG1 – I liked walking my gang through the big meadow and forest areas. The atmosphere created by the music and isometric art was really relaxing. To me that aspect of it wasn't worse than BG2, but it was offering a different kind of experience. Haven't played either game now for around sixteen years; I played them both to death when I was young. ETA: And yes, BG bards suck. The ones in NWN2 were underpowered as well, though not as badly. Playing Witcher 3 at the moment every day for weeks after picking it up for a song from a GoG sale. At the moment it's fine, but also feels like more of a cheap time sink than something I necessarily look forward to bar a couple of good quests. The writing often seems quite blah or irritating, the bosom camera feels skeevy, and the two old friends who are meant to be loveable rogues come across more as eternal child-men. So far I just like Dijkstra and Vernon Roche. Still, Geralt is level 21 and hasn't sailed to the Skellige Isles yet. There is a lot of game and world to go.
  18. For the full classic experience, you need to make sure your Charname gets eaten by a wolf in the first ten minutes of post-Candlekeep play.
  19. Beating up a Tory increasingly feels as if it should be prescribed by the NHS.
  20. Not a fan? I've heard of him, never read him.
  21. Re Turkey. At this point, thinking that anyone who's not Erdogan could get elected seems like a very distant hope. Still, 44% inflation sounds brutal. 10% has been bad enough in the UK. Perhaps if that united more of the public against him... And then then there's the military. Not sure how much they're under his thumb following the 2016 coup.
  22. I'm sorry you've been going through that – anxiety is awful. I know I got very frustrated with myself about it when it was bad for me last year because in theory, I was healthy and yet at the same time I was physically ill. Hope it sods off to wherever anxiety goes when it's not taking any excuse to mess things up for people. The primrose retirement home for arsehole mind-body encumbrances.
  23. I'd be surprised if there were any serious challenges to Sunak now. The drubbing the Tory party took in the local elections was so bad, and even if the MPs won't say so openly, they'll know it's because they've reached the end of the line in this electoral cycle; the public is sick of them and changing the PM won't change that. Sunak will at least bring things to a close with a modicum of style and a slight aroma of thousand-pound-a-bottle aftershave; a good-mannered Charon. Mordaunt is unlikely to want to be PM for a few months just so that she can oversee her party losing power. However, she's well placed to be the next Tory Leader of the Opposition. For now, I'd guess there'll be some more corruption scandals as MPs stuff their pockets while they can.
  24. Sometimes plodding along is the best we can do. I hope things improve for you anon. I enjoy seeing your name pop up on the board because it's always attached to a post worth reading!
  25. There are a lot of rough sleepers and people with obvious drug and/or alcohol problems where I live. On the main street on Friday, someone approached me to ask for change for a sandwich. I didn't have any change, but did offer to buy him a sandwich. So he led me to Costa and I got him a blueberry shake thing (blergh – his request), toasted sandwich and protein bar. He also asked me for money to help him get space for a B&B that night, and I said I was sorry, I couldn't. Awkwardly, I had already mentioned that I was saving for a deposit, which I know is a really stupid and in some ways mean thing to do. In my defence, I was in a low mood and had lost whatever ability I had to compartmentalise or make polite small talk, so what slipped out was my monomania of the last couple of years. Just one of those endless selfish decisions that have to be made when you want something badly for yourself. Guess if you scale it up large enough, you get to be a Tory MP. @Poobah, I haven't seen you around much on the forum recently. Are things going alright?
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