4 March [I meant April] 2014

I’m back.

Where did two days go?

This is my catch-up post. It serves the ostentatious purpose of explaining my absence, but really it’s to help me make peace with myself over my manifest lack of organisational skills.

I mean, how difficult can it be to set aside 30, 40 minutes each day to write a daily blog? Not to mention a blog about myself.

Overwhelmed with guilt and disappointment with said lacking organisational skills, I had originally planned to write two posts today. I had even titled the post ‘4 March 2014 (1)’, thereby implying a (2) to follow over the course of the day. Then I changed my mind.

Better not count the eggs before they hatch. Events may yet unfold in such a way as to deprive me of my quality laptop time this evening. Was that a correct application of that saying? Somehow I don’t think so.

To return to the ostentatious objective of this post, let me attempt to explain my two-day absence without it sounding like an excuse. It’s a narrow rope to walk, but a girl can try.

It has been a whirlwind two days. Actually, this whole week has been a flurry of events. Monday was crazy revision day, as some of you might remember (ah, good old times). You don’t know much about my Tuesday, though you may actually know more than you think (despite the disclaimer, the post did reflect some of the events that transpired on that April Fools’ Day).

In fact, two things that happened on Tuesday account almost entirely for my undue absence:

  1. UCL published my exam timetable which at first solicited a huge sigh of relief, but then launched me into a fit of panic anyways. (More on that in a bit)
  2. The British Embassy announced in great fanfare that they have “made a decision” on my visa. And I was to wait two working days before collecting my passport and other returned documents at the visa application centre.

Both announcements caught me by surprise. As the old adage would have it, a watched kettle never boils. For differing reasons (too mundane and detailed to recount to you in full), I was not expecting either the timetable or the visa decision on that particular Tuesday. And yet, there they both were, in black and white, staring at me from my laptop screen.

This was always going to be a busy week. Extraordinarily, I had two social engagements planned for the evenings of Wednesday and Thursday. This was to take away at least 6 hours of revision time, the realisation of which had already put me on a bit of an edge going into Tuesday. Then came the timetable plus ensuing panic and visa business which always stresses me out (I really don’t like the possibility that someone may decide not to allow me into the country, just because they can).

First the timetable. I don’t want to bore you with details, but I’m going to do it anyways. So I have 5 exams: 2 French, 3 Econ (as I’m sure I’ve mentioned in a previous post). My worst fears were that the 3 Econ exams would fall in the same week. In which case I am utterly [insert rude word of choice].

As it turns out, they don’t. UCL was kind enough to give me a space of two weeks between my fourth and fifth exams. And two weeks to revise for that particular Econ module will do just fine. Hence the relief.

As I noted down my various exam dates, I began to calculate how much time I had left to revise for each module. My first exam is on May 1st. The second on 6th. Both are French. Then I have two Econ exams the following week. I’m flying to London next Saturday. Going off to Lake District for four days over Easter weekend. Subtract some days for jet-lag recovery, settling into flat, seeing friends, seeing boyfriend. I suddenly realised: I don’t really have that much time left.

Especially for my French exams which require skills you need to build up gradually (translation, redaction, synthesis – if you were wondering). One does not, cannot, cram for French. And considering I haven’t touched my French folder in almost a week, which – trust me – is a really long time in revision universe, this realisation was somewhat disconcerting.

That’s when I panicked. And imposed a golden rule: every day between now and 1st of May, I will do French. And doing French does not include reading my French fiction which, albeit altogether enjoyable and useful in terms of vocabulary acquisition, doesn’t really help with the skills requisite for the exam. Not if I’m honest with myself. And at this late stage in exam preparation, dishonesty comes at a high cost. So it was resolved: at least one French exercise, translation, or oral preparation per day. Every day.

Jeez that was long. Are you still with me?

Now for the visa business. The Embassy said my visa would be ready to collect at the application centre after two working days. The centre itself offers an online tracking service which would supposedly notify me when my documents have been delivered back at the centre.

And here’s the situation as it stood on Tuesday. Last time I applied for a UK visa, they managed to spell my name wrong and I had to send my passport back to the Embassy for them to correct it, which took a few days. This time, I was applying for a visa category I had never applied for before. And I was applying under rather extraordinary circumstances: in short, I had interrupted my studies the previous year and was flying back just for the exams. My flight was on the following Saturday, which gave me a margin of exactly 8 working days for whatever it was that might go horribly wrong.

And I could think of plenty of things that could go wrong. The application centre had moved while my visa was being processed (I almost went to the wrong place to collect it yesterday). Maybe they’d lose my passport, deliver it to the old office, lose it in the old office, lose it in the new office, spell my name wrong – I mean, it wouldn’t be the first time. Plenty of things.

Also, the centre had a new website which wasn’t completely glitch-free. So at times I couldn’t access the tracking page. How else am I supposed to know if I can go collect my documents if I can’t access the only place that gives me that information? Oh, did I mention they don’t have a phone number for the new office? And when I called the old ‘call centre’ number, I was greeted with a recorded message in English and Thai that they no longer offered this service.

I mean, one would think a phone line is a pretty basic service to offer for the amount of money they’re charging for their ‘services’.

Needless to mention, passport-collection-related anxieties made me rather nervy the whole of Wednesday. I couldn’t focus very well on revision, so I decided to channel my anxiety into more gym time (which turned out, as always, to be a good decision). It’s a good thing I had social engagements planned. I wouldn’t have been capable of much otherwise.

Finally, after checking the tracking website a gazillion times, a different message popped up on Thursday, late in the morning, informing me that my documents were ready for collection. And by the time I got myself to the new centre, waited (45 minutes) for my queue and for the extremely bored-looking staff to dig up my documents from the back room, checked that everything was in order, and squeezed myself into the packed sky train (it just had to be rush hour); I only had two hours left before my dinner engagement.

Two hours I could have spent blogging. But the disciplined (read: panicked) student that I am, I spent the time on a French translation and some practice phrases.

A small aside, in the two days post-golden rule, I have spent more time on French than in the whole of the preceding week. It’s always a question of time allocation, isn’t it? You’re never too busy for something; you’re just choosing not to make time for it. All those days where I thought ‘I could do some French now’ but didn’t actually open the folder. Well, better late than never, as they say.

To sum up, the French golden rule and the visa, plus the social engagements which fell into my prime time blogging slot, are why you didn’t hear from me for two days.

Sounded a bit like an essay there.

It’s 9.30am right now and I am extremely tired (a combination of too little sleep last night and the 10% Belgian beer – why did I not take my Tylenol before I went to bed? WHY!?!). This really does not bode well for today’s revision. Maybe I’ll go to the gym now to wake myself up. I probably should.

I’ll try revising for a bit, see if it works. If not, I’ll get myself over to the elliptical. Listen to French radio while I ellipticalise my way through yesterday’s fries, and the beer. Oh God the beer. And then there was the spaghetti… and the…

I’d better stop myself there.

Have a good day everyone.

Until tomorrow,

Val

p.s. There’s not going to be a second post after all. Given how long this post was, I don’t think you’d mind too much. I can probably just cut it in half and publish it in two posts. But that’s overcomplicating things.

p.p.s. Having gone through the post once to make final adjustments, I’ve decided to go to the gym after publishing this. The amount and silliness level of typos and other mistakes were horrendous. I don’t think my current brain state lends itself to productive revision. See how I’m rocking time management? (Excuses, excuses)

p.p.p.s. I just realised I thought today was 4 March. Out of wishful thinking for my revision time possibly, but more likely because I’m really tired/hungover. I can feel my head throb. Why do I do this to my revision? NO MORE BEER.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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28 March 2014

Oops. Someone forgot to write a post yesterday.

Well, I did and I didn’t.

Allow me to explain.

As you may know, I write these posts at the end of the day. Usually after 5pm. Often much later.

Yesterday, I had a work appointment at 5pm.

Arises the question: do I blog before? Or do I blog after?

(Two questions?)

In my blissful ignorance of what the evening held in store, I decided to leave it until after. After all, I didn’t have many hours to spare before my 5 o’clock. And if there are two things I don’t like, they’re 1) writing a post in a hurry and 2) going to a meeting in a hurry.

So it was settled. I would come back and write the post in perfect tranquillity. Free from worries and time constraints.

I went to my meeting. By 5.30pm everything was done. Then, realising how much time there was left, I decided on a little detour. I went to a department store to run some personal errands and do some off-location revision.

So far, my revision has taken place a) at home and b) at my sports club. I thought a little change of locale would spice it up a little.

So I happily installed myself in a café in the department store. Having walked around the floor twice to make sure I didn’t miss a hidden spot (I can be neurotic like that. Especially with cafés. Don’t ask.)

And started on my French exercise.

Then I thought I’d check in with the outside world. (Thought always occurs while revising. Hmm. Interesting.) So I went on my messaging app. And realised that some of my friends were headed to the very same department store.

I think you know where this is going.

No regrets though. Do you know what’s better than a meal with friends? An unplanned meal with friends.

I had the best time.

So, that’s why I didn’t forget to write the post. I simply misallocated time due to an unforeseen event – an information asymmetry, if you will.

The dinner lasted a good long while. By the time I got back to my sports club (my base for yesterday), it was late and all the facilities were closed.

I thought to myself: ah well, I can always write it at home.

So I drove home, with the intention of getting down to blogging before I go to bed.

I got home. And forgot.

Turns out my brain isn’t perfect after all. *exaggerated gasp*

Anyways, here I am today. Using today’s allotment of post to explain my failure to produce yesterday’s post.

I call that creative substitution.

(Yes, I’m throwing Economic vocab in here and there for no good reason. I’ve been reading so much dry Economics stuff today. I am adamant that I be allowed this indulgence.)

Creative and convenient, given that I haven’t done much worthy of reporting today. Unless you find European unemployment and protective labour market institutions particularly sexy.

Not a fan of Economics? How about hierarchical and political incommensurability of values? (My studies do take me to weird and random places…)

Nope. Didn’t think so.

I can actually feel a slight vibration in my eyeballs. I take that as a sign that I should stop staring at the laptop. (I’ve been reading on Mendeley all day.)

So I shall retire to my comfy bed.

Have a good evening,

Val

 

26 March 2014

I think I’ve figured the printer out.

Some of you may remember my rant from 21 March, in which I pour out my exasperation with modern technology in a broken and over-long narrative.

(How’s that for self promotion?)

Anyways, I woke up today to the mammoth task of, you guessed it, more printing. Having downloaded all the past papers yesterday for my revision, I thought I’d take advantage of being at home today to print them all out.

Knowing printing always takes longer than you expect, I wanted to get it out of the way. So, first thing I did after waking up was firmly implanting myself, laptop in hand, next to the damned printer.

I tried to print the first document. Silence.

Box pops up on laptop screen: “Printer failing to load multiple paper.”

Uh-oh. Not the most auspicious start to the envisaged morning of printing fun.

I tried a few different printing options. Then bingo!

It’s the two-sided printing that’s confusing the printer. Turns out my printer is not a friend of the environment. It cannot do two-sided printing.

It could, two weeks ago, when I did my last printing batch in the pre-failure-to-load-multiple-paper era. But apparently not anymore.

In a mixture of disgruntlement (at not being able to print two-sided) and euphoria (at getting the printer to more or less work), I continued with the task. Which lasted two hours.

But now everything’s printed.

I even got round to printing the articles I wanted to print 5 days ago but couldn’t. Not all of them though. I don’t want to carry around 30 sheets of paper for a 76-page article. So those will have to stay on Mendeley, which I have no issue with. *knock wood*

Now I’m hungry. So I’m going to stop writing and go devour my dinner.

I know. I’m always either tired or hungry. This is what happens when you post at the end of the day.

Think of it as a good thing. If I weren’t in such a rush to go eat, or sleep, you’d have to endure more of my writing.

Until tomorrow,

Val

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

17 March 2014

Note: as a result of WordPress unceremoniously ceasing to work mid-post yesterday (17 March), I am obliged to continue the rest of the post today (18 March).

I don’t know if it’s just me or if it’s the case for everybody, but every day spent at home feels the same to me.

Today was one of those days.

Knowing that I have at least two 5am mornings coming up this week, I permitted myself a lie-in. Which means I got up at 9am which, for me, is a real treat.

A lot of my day hangs on when I get up. And to me, any time between 7 and 9am is just right. When I wake up after 9am, I get the feeling that I’ve wasted half my day. It’s completely irrational. And this irritation with myself (for having wasted half the day) then stops me from enjoying the other half of the day I’m actually awake to enjoy. I know. I should really do something about that.

And if I wake up before 7? Well, that usually means I’m low on sleep, given that I hardly ever go to sleep before 11pm.

How many hours of sleep do you need? My magic number is 7. Which is why I have a real issue with 5am mornings. Let’s do the maths. Getting up at 5am means I must be in bed well before 10pm (accounting for staring-at-phone-on-bed time). The thing is, I never am.

And for a reason completely out of my control: traffic.

(OK. Sometimes it’s just me being glued to the pages of a particularly gripping book or the screen of my not-so-gripping-yet-addictive phone, but that doesn’t throw a good light on my self-control, so yes. Traffic.)

I know. It sucks.

So yes, knowing that I have to wake up at 5am tomorrow (and the day after), I decided to get up at 9am – not so early as to prematurely deprive myself of sleep, not so late as to prevent me from getting sleepy at a suitable hour.

It is now 8.39pm. So, ideally, I should be in bed in less than 90 minutes. To get my 7 hours.

Will I be in bed in 90 minutes? I highly doubt it.

First, I haven’t had my dinner. Now that I think of it, I bought too much food, but that’s too late now. Wait, I can just ration off a portion and… throw it away? Nah. That’s no good. Must be considerate to those with no food to eat. (Though I’m not sure how what I do with my food surplus affects them… better not get into that.)

I’m not going to go straight to bed after eating this excessively large portion of food, right, so I’m going to be doing stuff. Most likely continuing to watch an episode of HIMYM (that will accompany my dinner). And what usually happens (when I watch an episode of something) is that I start wanting to watch an episode of other things (maybe New Girl). So on and so forth.

You get the picture.

And this is where WordPress decided to bail on me. How rude.

On the bright side, writing this ex post allows me to tell you what happened last night, and to remind myself to never, ever underestimate the power of a book.

So, this is what happened:

– I discovered that the latest episode of HIMYM was actually due to air yesterday, in the US, which meant – of course – that it was not yet available to watch on the GMT++ side of the world.

– So I watched New Girl over dinner. Just one episode. Because the Internet was really slow and attempting to download another would have just reduced me to a pile of frustration.

– Without blog or series to distract myself, I decided to go to bed, with a book. This was probably about 10pm.

– Lo and behold, I couldn’t stop reading the book. Ended up finishing it. And went to bed well after midnight.

– Woke up at 5am this morning extremely undecided about whether to wake up or lie in.

In the end, the better me won and here I am, awake and writing. I even managed to throw in a 5.7k outdoor run this morning. I’m extremely proud of myself. As you can probably tell.

Now, I’d better go. Revision calls.

Until later,

in this case, tonight,

Val