Saturday, March 27, 2010


I think that I would be happy to go to school forever (if someone took care of the bills), so perhaps I'm a little biased. But it makes me SO ANGRY (so angry it's hard to speak about it) to hear a number of the discussions going around at the moment on the supposed 'uselessness' of higher education. Because it makes me angry and I've spent too long thinking about it, this may not be a very logically argued post. Just sayin'.

I entirely agree with those who point out that higher education, both in the US and the UK, needs a lot of work. If Universities aren't paying for themselves, then the government either needs to make funding a priority (duh...I argue that degrees trump the Olympics, Mr. AHRC), or find ways to make them more efficient. Efficiency is a Good Thing anyway, but the way to achieve it is not closing Classics departments or leaving professors to founder. Nor is it churning out thousands of PhDs who will never find jobs in academia, although I very strongly disagree with those like Thomas Benton, who argues in the Chronicle for Higher Education that graduate degrees in the Humanities are virtually worthless (Master's degree in English because you thought it would get you a job and now all you have is debt? Bad Idea. Master's degree because you loved every minute of it and all you ever want to do is talk about English even if it means you have to work in a shop? Debt, schmet.). There are problems in the system, in the divide between professional studies and liberal arts studies, in the funding issues - so fix the problem - don't discount the system, please.

Education ROCKS. And I struggle to see why a rising number of degrees raises so much anger here in the UK. Is it a class thing? I think it's partially an educational structure thing - here in the UK, you don't get a liberal arts education; you study One Thing. In my opinion, that's stupid, unless that one thing can still teach you how to think. And how to write. And research. And speak. And read. And all sorts of things that may not be part of a plumbing course, but can still help you make an incredible plumber. Or baker. Or scientist. Or teacher. Those who argue against degrees forget that major employers more often than not leap at the chance to hire someone with more education. And it's not because they've studied Media, or whatever - it's because they have a more mature mind, not in the 'no longer things about fart jokes' sense, but in the 'able to think abstractly and work with others' sense (well. they should anyway).

The Times Higher Education Supplement has begun a campaign, based in Twitter, called #loveHE. Part of the problem, it claims, is that Universities have an 'image problem'. The campaign ' is an all-embracing and unashamed way to champion higher education in all its multifaceted glory, from inside and outside the sector. ' Woohoo!!!! Plus Patrick Stewart is one of their supporters. Double woohoo!

But seriously. We need more of this. Let's stop saying why education is useless (please) and begin talking about why our society rests on a foundation of learning. Stop railing on education, because it's one of the most important things civilization really has going for it.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Blog It Forward: Sources of Inspiration

Some readers may know about the extra-special Blog It Forward project that sfgirlbybay is running. It features over 300 (!!!) bloggers in an interconnected mashup extravaganza of inspiration. Yesterday, Out and About Africa talked about sources of inspiration (and there are a lot to choose from when you blog about such a beautiful continent!); tomorrow, Paislee Press will wrap up our section of the event.

So. What is Blog It Forward about? Things that inspire! Although I care way to much about staying on time and getting things done, there are quite a few things that manage to sweep me away/leave me awestruck and full of a desire to DO things - whether that do-ing is printing, reading, writing, starting projects, or just thinking or loving. Some of the many include:

books. libraries. people who love books. reading. words.
Bookshelf art by Timothy Taylor, found on librarynotebook. Isn't it cool?

I've written far to many essays on how enthralled I am by the fact that tiny scribbles on a page can change the world. Seriously. When you think about it, it's awe-inspiring. Entire civilizations and many of the things that make me laugh or cry rest on the power of a few scratches and some sounds. And its all in libraries. You can go and TOUCH what changed the world. How amazing is that?

dancing. Photo by Dean McCarthy

I am a dancer. Before I started 'real' classes (which led to daily Irish dancing and world travel), I made my parents' dinner guests sit down and watch my performances. Dancing, really dancing, is incredibly freeing. And a truly gifted dancer almost always makes me cry from sheer...I'm not even sure. Emotion? Power? Sometimes it just that it makes me want to get up and dance with my whole entire being.

people who think. and are curious. and wonder at things.
image via Apartment 34

Because they constantly make me question my own ideas and values. Because they let me love them (some of them at least). Because they create our world.

These are only a small few of the many things that inspire me. Others might include Dean (um that's a huge one. Dean is always pushing me to be a better person) Or daffodils. Or pie. Or my dearest friends. Or TYPOGRAPHY (that's also a pretty big one, actually). Or smiles. I could go on...

Monday, March 22, 2010

Oh dear.

When you've given up chocolate for Lent, Vosges' Easter line is enough to make you weak in the knees. And drool. Hickory smoked almonds, grey sea salt, and deep milk chocolate? Yes please!

Plus they're like the cutest chocolate bunnies EVER.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Best. Video. Ever.

Happy Friday! This made me smile (and cry a little - it was so joyful)!

Found on Wide Open Spaces, who found it on A Tribe Called Treese

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

War of the

A certain Dr. Zeus has painstakingly collected images of all (or at least very many of) the book covers of War of the Worlds and put them online here. The book has been in print for over 100 years (since 1898), and there are at 378 covers in this online collection. Brilliant browsing time, whether you're a bibliographical afficionado and get all misty-eyed at the eras they represent, or whether you just think they're cool (or both).

Some of the worst (I
What does Tintin have to do with War of the Worlds?

Or this Tin Can Alien?

Or, um, the USS Enterprise?

Friday, March 12, 2010

That Old Book smell...

Sometime sniffers of the Radcliffe Camera air vents may be interested to know that scientists have developed a technique for dating old books that relies on what all you know and adore - that 'old book' smell.

Apparently, the scientists described the smell as “a combination of grassy notes with a tang of acids and a hint of vanilla over an underlying mustiness.”

Visit the original Los Angeles Times article for (slightly) more info, or treat yourself to the original article in Analytical Chemistry - entitled 'On the Smell of Old Books' and full of tasty tidbits on 'material degradomics.'

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Wedding photos done right

Some words of wisdom from A Los Angeles Love (discovered via East Side Bride)...

(with the added point that I do believe that wedding photos themselves are lovely and that not stressing over the perfect look etc. doesn't have to mean eschewing them entirely - keeping in mind the oh-so-reasonable concept that your wedding is NOT a production and you are not a Hollywood star)

"[People say]...Wedding season is around the corner and you "need" to look bikini-ready for that dress. And even worse than the how-do-I-lose-ten-pounds-fast-and-entirely-unhealthily panic is the oh-[crap]-I-have-to-take-pictures despair...

Turn away from those blogs right now and reclaim your wedding. For yourself. Because your love isn't ordinary. It's rooted in your unique how-we-met story and your own we-snorted-soda-out-of-our-noses stories and your individual how-the-hell-would-I-have-made-it-here-without-this-partner stories. Your love is gorgeous and obvious and entirely personal. And it will shine through in the pictures. And it will illuminate your faces with complete and utterly stunning joy."

Photograph of sheer joy from Lillian and Leonard

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Little things...

I'm well known for killing plants, but I'm quite proud of the first bloom on this....

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

I'm lame....

...Because I haven't posted in days and days. You might think that means that I have such a glamourous lifestyle that I am too busy enjoying champagne at midnight and meeting famous people (you would be forgiven for thinking this - I know I give that impression sometimes). Actually, I have just been working A LOT and applying for MANY scholarships and trying to learn THOUSANDS of dance steps that are all the same but called different things (seriously. WHO wrote the TCRG book?).

That said, exciting things have actually happened to me. Dean and I found Atomic Burger and have now been twice in a week (that's impressive for us, but they have peanut butter milkshakes and play Star Wars clips, so we're kinda hooked). Zoe and I went to look at some wedding dresses - and got some serious attitude from the woman at The Bridal Room at House of Fraser (don't go there) - but also enjoyed a night out in Brick Lane, some amazing chicken, and Olympic curling. We then ventured into the UK's first Anthropologie (I know, I know, I can't afford anything there, but they have card catalogues. Card Catalogues. Why do they get to use them to display unaffordable pretty things when I have ACTUAL stuff I could put in them. Like pretty things? Or maybe spoons?). Anthropologie has...dun dun dun...the most amazing 'wallpaper' ever. A beautiful growing green wall:

Ok, most random post ever. Sorry.
Image courtesy of Biotecture, creator of the wall