Thursday, November 19, 2009

Bullyproofing my 16 year old self

Listening to: Radio 1

I've been tagged by Scrumpy and Whacko in the latest blogging tag, and 1720GMT today is the big moment for BBC's anti-bullying campaign, I've combined the two into one mega post...
Hello chuti[1] PR,

What?! Don't tell me I'm disrupting your precious O/L revision...we both know you were napping. Ammi[2] doesn't know yet...but as usual, she will soon. No, I'm not the Ghost of Christmas Future...this is November, fool. And can you please stop trying to explain this in your usual painstakingly logical manner and shut up so I can impart you with a few pearls of wisdom? Not that you'd listen to me anyway, you stubborn little...ah, thank you.

OK...since you're supposedly studying, let's start with that. O/Ls will be fine (yes, even your 3 month crash course in Lit.). Ignore the self-righteous bigots who love to trash international schools, you'll survive. You'll love your A/L subjects...except Physics, which you'll just 'like'. A/Ls will seem easier than O/Ls. Yeah you're weird like that...accept it. Embrace it even! More on that later.

FFS don't worry about all those people trying to turn you into a mini Thaththi[3] (you look like him, that's enough)! Do what appeals to you. Remember when you were 7, you told Ammi you'd study at Oxford? Screw that, you're going some place far better ;-)...don't let that horrendous mock interview faze you. At university, your grades will be marginally above average, which'll take some getting used to. But do your best, that's what counts. Oh and you know that desire to help others understand stuff? Keep that at the foremost of your'll be motivation for some serious shit you put yourself through. Your PhD (yes, you do a PhD) will be one heck of a rollercoaster ride...better toughen up your stomach!

Hmm what next? Ah yes. The PMS will more puking and fainting...oh except for this one time when you faint at freshers' fair and the ambulance crew have to escort you out of the hall with loads of people watching. But yeah, the worst is over. You'll lose about 5kg over the next decade. People will continue to give you dagger looks and say you're anorexic...meh. Don't bother with the high protein/high calorie diets, they won't work for you. And I admire your resolve but not eating chocolate won't reduce your pimples, so just get back to the good stuff, k? Oh and LOOK AFTER YOUR TEETH!!!

Now the personal stuff. The easy bits first: your love life will be pretty uneventful for the next 10 years...unless unrequited infatuations count as 'events' (please don't waste your time). You will make some amazing friends, but you'll still keep in touch with the gang. You'll be two continents away from SS but you'll still be as close as ever.

Lastly, the most important part. How can I put this gently...all the times people said nasty things about your accent, your skin colour, your country, your weight, your opinions, your preferred language, your hobbies, your social class (I know you remember every instance)...the bullying has affected you. I know you think it hasn't, and you (and a lot of other people) think I'm being a dramaqueen...but it has. Greater people have turned to alcohol, drugs, self-harming etc., but you've channelled all the negative energy into your studies and you're doing ok. You're doing the right thing, and I'm very proud of you! The bullying won't stop though. People will continue to judge you by your social class (albeit from a different perspective)...they'll also be hurtful about your career choices, your gender, your life choices, your body, your race...and more. We both know that these things don't really matter, and you're principled/stubborn enough not to change simply because you're in a minority of one. But it will hurt. A lot. You will cry. A lot. And when the studies get difficult, when you get stuck and realise you can't do everything on your own...your world will fall apart. The wall you built to protect yourself from the bullies will crumble, and every ugly insecurity you can imagine will surface. You'll hate your body, your mind, your work, your personality, your'll hate every aspect of your life.

Now dry your eyes for the good news - you turn things around. You start writing a public journal (that's this thing) and vent your thoughts. You find people you can confide in. You take the extremely brave step of opening up to your parents. Slowly, but surely, you make your way back. Clichés aside, it really is a voyage of discovery. But remember this...every part of you, the good, the bad and the ugly...they're all you. And you are perfect in your imperfections. You are a good person and you live your life by the Dhamma[4]...with that, you can't go wrong. You'll be bruised and battered by people's harsh words, but you must nurse yourself back to health. Don't let anyone belittle you, your hopes or your fears. Love and accept yourself unconditionally. Please. If not you, then who?

OK I'm outta here. Know that I'm very proud of you, and you don't turn out so bad ;-).

With Blessings of the Noble Trip Gem, and the biggest, warmest hug ever,

Loku[5] PR

Sorry for the long and unfunny read; it's stuff I've been wanting to blog about for a while. One person's bullying is another person's banter and sometimes it's hard to tell them apart, but please try. A little sensitivity goes a long way.

Tagged: Sabby and Lady Divine

1 - little; 2 - Mother; 3 - Father; 4 - Buddhist teachings; 5 - big

Have you met Phil the badger?

Listening to: Radio 1

I couldn't not blog about this. So there's this awesome drum n bass track by J Majik & Wickaman called Feel About You. Chris Moyles seems to think that it sounds like they're singing 'Phil the Badger'...and now every time I hear the song, I have this urge to sing "Phil the badger, Phil the badger"! Some people are saying 'feel the badger' but I think 'Phil the badger' sounds a lot better.

Isn't it funny how we sometimes think we know the words to songs and we sing along, only to find that we're singing something completely different?

Sunday, November 15, 2009

X Factor fever

Listening to: 'Try Sleeping with a Broken Heart' by Alicia Keys [The Element of Freedom]

So Jamie Afro's been booted off X Factor in Week 6. I can't say I'm unhappy...the whole 'one arm up in the air' rock anthem stance was way too clichéd for my liking. But JEdward's still there...WTF. It's ridiculous. There are some serious idiots in this country...I mean imagine JEdward releasing a single? An ALBUM?! Geez...and I thought Mr. Blobby was bad.

The thing about X Factor is, unlike Big Brother, you can't forcibly evict people. You just have to hope that more people vote for your favourite. And when the anti-JEdward votes get split amongst all the other contestants, getting rid of the twins becomes quite difficult. Simon passed up a perfect opportunity to weed them out last week, but being the businessman that he is, he kept the crowd-pullers in. Let's face it, half the people who voted this week wouldn't have even watched the show if not for JEdward. And as for those who complained to Ofcom, are you guys for real?! The act that got the least amount of votes got kicked can that be a violation of the code of conduct? I wouldn't be surprised if most of the people who complained were those who hadn't even voted.

Anyway JEdward aside, we've filtered down to pretty much the best of the lot. I'd say Lucie was better than Lloyd, but I guess teenage girls are more likely to vote than boys, and Lloyd definitely gets the teenage girl vote. So Cheryl's got him and Joe, Dannii's got Stacey and Simon's got Olly and Danyl. So what happens next? There's one more 'bottom two' scenario next week, and from then on it's a simple eviction process. So here are my predictions:
  • Week 7: Lloyd and JEdward in the bottom two; Lloyd to be evicted
  • Week 8: JEdward
  • Week 9: Danyl
  • Week 10 Round 1: Stacey
Which leaves Joe and Olly to fight for the top spot in Round 2. Joe's probably my favourite, but I think Olly has a better chance of winning, and I'd be happy if he does.

The whole JEdward thing does beg the question though: how important is the Northern Irish vote? There's definitely regional voting going on, everyone knows that. There's no other way to explain how Eoghan Quigg made it into last year's finals. It'd be interesting to see how the voting numbers change in the absence of an Irish (northern or republic) contestant. Oh well, makes for good tv I suppose.

All in all, I think X Factor continues to be the most entertaining reality tv show out there. Strictly is nice, but the whole C-list celebrity thing makes it a bit boring for me - either have properly famous people or don't have it at all. I mean more people know Phil Tufnell as a reality tv regular than a former England cricketer! This is the show that had Darren Gough, Kelly Brook and Alesha Dixon! C'mon BBC, sort it out.

Anyway I think that's enough about reality tv for one post. We shall see how X Factor pans out. Till then, I'm gonna continue listening to Alicia Keys' absoflippinlutely amazing new single.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Why do I even bother?!

Listening to: 'Brick by Boring Brick' by Paramore [Brand New Eyes]

You haul your lazy ass into the lab, with a plan to steadily chip away at that mountain of work that needs to be done before you go home.
You stare mind-numbingly at your computer screen while the hours crawl by, waiting for the 7-hr reaction to be completed, so that you can do the last bit of your experiment and go home for a late dinner.
You go back into the lab as the end time approaches, hungry, bored and tired...only to find that the bottle of solvent you need to complete the experiment is empty. Now there are two possibilities: either someone finished the solvent and put an empty bottle back in the cupboard, or someone didn't close the bottle properly and the solvent evaporated. Either way, it's bad news. You go on a hunt around every lab you have access to, but you can't find what you need.
You scold yourself for not checking the actual contents of the bottle when you checked on it earlier, and curse whoever caused the stuff to disappear. Tomorrow's Friday, which means it'll be Monday by the time you get a new bottle, which means you've now lost 3 days of potential experimental work.
You shrug your shoulders and put your rain-gear on, and step outside to start your journey home. You cycle through the river that was once a main road, all the while feeling the wind push you sideways, and squinting to clear the rain from your eyes.
You get home and try and find space for your soaking wet rain-gear, shoes, socks and jeans on the two radiators, and have a long bath.
You put some Paramore on ('cos nothing else is angsty and melodic enough) and heat up the microwaveable Sainsburys bacon and leek pasta bake (well it was either that or the microwaveable spaghetti bolognese), and sit down to type up a blog post (at least then the day wouldn't have been a complete waste).
And now you will dry your hair (which will no doubt take ages), take a dose of fukitol and get into bed with a good book, only to fall asleep before getting to the end of the first page.


Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Journal entry

Listening to: 'Rain On Me' by Cheryl Cole [3 Words]

In exactly 4 weeks' time (pretty much down to the hour) I will be touching down at Bandaranaike International Airport. Can I get a wooooooooo hooooooooo?! Thank you. One or two of you will know that I was rather apprehensive about telling my supervisor. This was partly due to my own guilt of taking a break so close to the end of my PhD, and partly due to the fact that the last time I was faced with this situation, the response I got was...
Well I'm not going to tell you not to go, but you know how much work needs to be done...
See why I was scared? Well today's conversation went rather differently...
Me: Could you have a look at my experimental plan for the next few weeks? I'm going home for Christmas and I'd like to make sure I'm on track to finish soon...
Sup: Hmm yup that looks ok...when are you leaving?
Me: Erm...*gulp*...the 8th
Sup: OK let's meet on the 7th morning then
Huh? That's it? Just like that? No disappointed face? No guilt trip? Are you sure you're feeling ok?! Hmm maybe I should just smile and leave before he changes his mind. That was a lot easier than I'd planned.

So anyway, now I'm letting myself get slightly excited about the trip. Two weddings (one family, one friend), one school reunion, a few days out of Colombo (I'm pushing for Galle, need to work on Daddy Dearest), some sari shopping, SS and her sis visiting, fish curry! And of course time to spend with friends and family. I'm sure as hell not gonna let this tiny issue of a wisdom tooth extraction get in the way of my enjoyment. Although I am wondering when I'm actually gonna get a chance to sleep, get cuddles from my parents and watch TV! Hmm...

Now the flipside of all this is, I have a ton of work to get done before I go home. But I'm lazy. It's grey, wet and cold, and I'm sneezing. Not a good combination, I tell you. But I have to motivate myself somehow. The sooner I get this done, the sooner I can finish my PhD. I'll get through this! I can do thi...*achchooooo*!!! Sigh.

In the meantime, I've got Cheryl Cole's album on repeat. Now all you self-appointed music connoisseurs can pipe down: this is manufactured pop at its best. Cheryl is the Nation's Sweetheart, and no matter what the cynics say about it all being a PR stunt, I'm well and truly under the spell of those dimples, and I'm happier for it. In fact, with the absolute disaster that is JEdward, Cheryl's becoming the only reason to watch X Factor on the weekend (although Joe is incredibly sweet and Olly is quite charming...surprisingly sexy even, in an unassuming's those moves, man *swoon*). Danyl and Jamie just get on my nerves. Lloyd is fit (he's 16 so it's not illegal to say that) but he can't sing well enough. And Stacey can sing, and she's decent-looking...but OMG is she ditzy or what?! Last year we had Alexandra, JLS (I swear Marvin is hawwwt), Diana, Laura...this year is such a disappointment in comparison.

But back to Cheryl's album. I didn't really like 'Fight For This Love' when it first came out, but now I adore it. As for the rest of the album...well the stand-out track for me is '3 Words'. I can just picture it being played (remixed by someone like Calvin Harris, probably) in some sweaty club in Ibiza. The bass line is so heavy...just perfect.'s thumbprint is all over the album, but that's not such a bad thing. The lyrics are cringeworthy, and yeah there's a fair bit of autotune, but who cares? The songs make me feel good. That's what matters to me.

Right I better get ready for bed if I wanna wake up on time tomorrow.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Hell hath no fury like...a politician criticised?

Listening to: 'Kings and Queens' by 30 Seconds to Mars [This is War]

Over the past week, there's been a furore regarding the sacking of Prof. David Nutt, and it's got me thinking about the role of science in politics, the purpose of advisory boards, freedom of speech etc. etc. For the uninitiated among you, here's what went down.
Prof. Nutt was the head of the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs, which (most notably) advises the government on the classification of harmful substances. The council members are actively engaged in the study of harmful substances (research, and presumably treatment of addiction) and are therefore experts in the field. The council presents scientific data to the government regarding the impact of substance use and abuse.
Now I haven't read the paper myself, but apparently Prof. Nutt's recent research shows that alcohol and tobacco are statistically more problematic than cannabis and ecstasy (in terms of dependence and physical harm). To this effect, he was a fierce proponent of a re-evaluation of their classification. He indicated in a lecture that he believed the high (in his mind unnecessarily so) classification of cannabis was more 'politically motivated than scientifically justified'...for which he was fired by the Home Secretary, Alan Johnson (a more detailed account can be found on Wikipedia, as usual).
It's sad that less than a month after the BBC (a government-related organisation) allowed BNP representation on Question Time (seen as a classic display of 'freedom of speech'), someone has lost his government-related position because he publicly disagreed with government policy. The Home Secretary's argument was that Nutt cannot sit on an advisory board and criticise government policy...but surely as a citizen of this country he's allowed to point out what he sees as wrong? Presumably the lecture was used to express his personal and professional opinion. If he was a parliamentarian and therefore a representative of the government, then yes I'll accept that he shouldn't be openly criticising his employer (he should resign, and then criticise them). But this brings me to the next point: do advisers represent the government?

I'm gonna Advisers represent the community from which they were selected for their advisory positions. So in this case, Prof. Nutt represents the scientific community. So what is the role of these advisers? Well, they respond to the government's request for advice. The government is at liberty to either accept or reject that advice. In the interest of transparency, the government is encouraged to explain their decision...but as far as I'm aware, there's no official requirement to do so. If the government chooses not to be transparent, people will speculate...and that's exactly what Nutt did.

Now in my opinion, Alan Johnson could've done the slimy politician diplomatic thing and fudged a reason for disregarding scientific evidence. Having lost family members to both alcohol and tobacco abuse, I wouldn't be surprised if Prof. Nutt's research is solid, but I can also understand if there were some non-scientific factors (such as crime statistics or cultural influences) that contributed to the government's position. I mean, there must be some reason that the government decided to ignore the facts, right? Johnson could've risen to the challenge and pointed out these reasons, thereby highlighting the complexity of policy-making...instead, he resorted to the thuggish option. Such a knee-jerk reaction merely gave Prof. Nutt's opinion more weight, and considering the public's current view of politicians, did the government no favours.

My personal views on alcohol, tobacco and cannabis are the same as they are on all stimulants (except chocolate and coffee, now those are sacred :P ), so I have no vested interest in the relevant government policy. I'll accept whatever policy is employed, as long as it is justifiable. As a member of the scientific community, I have a lot of respect for sound scientific research, but I accept that there are situations in which other factors take precedence. What irks me is the government's inability to accept constructive criticism...a flaw that's becoming more apparent with every crisis that NuLabour faces (and there have been many in recent times). With an election coming up, you'd think they'd try and get their house in order...or maybe they've accepted defeat already? Tick tock NuLabour, your time's running out.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

The Cover Session #7

Listening to: 'Help Yourself' by Amy Winehouse [Frank]

One of my favourite genres of music is soul. I don't mind if it's Motown, Chicago or blue-eyed soul, I love it all. I'm not sure when I got into it...but I have a feeling my neighbour playing The Commodores full blast every Sunday morning when I was growing up had something to do with it!

The song I've chosen to cover this time was co-written by Carole King, and originally performed by The Shirelles. It's been covered gazillions of times from the '60s up until this year - the Wikipedia entry for the song has a list. I've heard a few of them - notably those by Dusty Springfield and Carole King herself...but the original and the Dusty version are too fast for my liking, and the Carole King version I find a bit frilly (for lack of a better word). The only version I've heard that manages to capture the vulnerability depicted in the lyrics is, unsurprisingly, by Amy Winehouse.

I love Amy Winehouse. I think she's an amazingly gifted musician. Her Back to Black album is possibly my favourite out of all the albums I own. I remember playing it in the car for my parents when I was home last year (after the "careful, the language and themes aren't very family-friendly" warning)...they loved it, and my mother said she could hear the sadness in Amy's voice. I really really hope the next album (scheduled for release next year) lives upto expectations...goodness knows she's had enough of drama in the past two years to get some lyrical inspiration!

Anyway, back to the song. I knew I wouldn't be able to do Amy's version justice, so I kinda made it a bit more '60s-esque (I hope) with the harmony and the tempo...along the lines of this version by Brenda Lee. So here is my rendition of 'Will You Love Me Tomorrow' by The Shirelles (and Amy Winehouse, amongst others). Enjoy!

If you want to listen to it offline, you can download it here. I can't believe it's taken me this long to get another cover done! Ah well, better late than never :-). There's a bit of distortion in places and you might need to turn the volume up a bit...hopefully all these technical hitches will be sorted out for the next cover, whenever that is.

Right, now it's time for bed. Or rather, it was time for bed a while back. Sigh.