Saturday, 13 March 2010

Wax on, wax off...

I started practicing Karate in 1996, I guess, but I'm not really sure about it... My parents signed me up for Karate classes because I was always being beaten in school and they thought Karate would make me more self-confident and able to defend myself. Although it did improve a little bit of my self-confidence and surely helped me break some heads and noses to the school bullies that used to beat me everyday, I only practiced for two years and then just quit, because I didn't have any interest in getting hurt or being forced by my Sensei to run and do push-ups. I'd rather prefer staying home reading my books on astronomy which was, at the time, my big passion.
In 2002 I got back to Karate. The reason was not as noble as the first one; in the summer of 2002 I was watching a movie with Chuck Norris and the thought came to my mind: "Hey! I should go back to Karate again!" - and so I did. I was liking it, I was no longer so introvert as in 96, and that surely allowed me to enjoy Karate a lot more, without feeling it was a boring, tiring, dangerous obligation. I graded to orange belt a few months after starting again.
Less than one year later, when the next grading was coming closer and I had already been told I'd be allowed to grade to green belt, I was really happy with what I was doing: grading at a steady pace, developing a strong and stable technique, getting faster in my punches, kicks and moves, etc. The negative aspect: more serious training means more serious physical contact. And although I never broke a bone or chipped a tooth, I came home bruised after every training. Sometimes only a hint of red, other days with my arms and shins swollen, all black and blue. But it didn't hurt: for me, it was the evidence of having a demanding and rigorous Sensei and good and competent classmates. But it wasn't so for my parents, especially my mother: one week before grading to green belt, I got home on a Wednesday night and heard "Look at your arms! Say goodbye to Karate, you're not going back never again." - and so I did. I think that, at the time, I hadn't yet tell anyone I would be grading to green belt, as I wanted to surprise my parents, and I didn't tell them that afterwards - I don't know why, I just prefered to do what I had been told and not even arguing that I would be grading to green only a week later. But it was something I never forgot.
Now that I'm here in Aberystwyth, away from parents to check my 22-year-old arms and legs after training, I got back to Karate. At first it didn't seem to be as demanding as it used to be back in Portugal, although 8 years have passed and maybe it's my perception that changed, but we do get to get a lot more physical contact, with freefighting trainings to prepare us for competitions. When I started, in October, I was warned that I would be starting as a white belt because not only was I from a different country (with a different Karate union...), I was also from a different style: here in Aber, the style practiced is Shotokan, while I was trained in Shotokai. And so I started as a white belt. In fact, I really did need to go over lots of stuff again, as I had forgotten most of the katas and my technique was really lousy. So I started with the white belts. Gradually, as I caught up with what I had forgotten, I started to join the more graded guys. I did not grade in December because, besides having missed trainings for two weeks during the essay period and hence not having the minimum required number of sessions to grade, I still had lots of stuff to improve. Plus, as I had practiced Karate before, I didn't want to grade to the belt right next to white - I wanted to double or triple-grade, to match my belt in Portugal. So, my training was aimed at jumping from white to red or yellow belt - triple-grading, that's risky stuff...
So, in March, there would be another grading. I had already learned and practiced thoroughly all my katas up to the green belt kata - because you can never learn too much... On the last week of February, my Sensei came up to me during training and told me "João, we're obviously going to let you grade... And you're going to grade up to green belt, ok?", "Ok!" - and I was really, really happy that I would grade 4 belts above white! So I started focusing on the yellow-to-green belt syllabus and started training with the only yellow belt in the class.
On the 3rd of March the grading took place. Before the grading, we had the honour of having a one-hour training with Sensei Bob Poynton, a 7th-degree black belt. He is 60, although I thought he was older, and he studied Karate with Hirokazu Kanazawa, a famous former world champion and, himself, disciple of Gichin Funakoshi, the father of Karate. So, with that one-hour training with Sensei Poynton, my degrees of separation to the founder of modern Karate and the purity of his technique are now only three!
During the grading ceremony, as I was sitting in the Dojo watching the lower grades perform their syllabi, I was shivering. I was not sure of my own syllabus and I was afraid I would not grade. I had brought, as my Sensei told me, my British licence and my Portuguese licence. When I was called, I performed my techniques the best I could. I didn't get away, however, from being corrected three times by Sensei Bob Poynton... During my grading examination, I was called up to the the jury. Bob Poynton asked me about the time I had practiced in Portugal, and I told him about my 2 years + 2-year break + 2 years. He nodded his head and told me to go perform the yellow belt kata. After the kata, I was called to the jury again. He then asked me, out of nowhere, if I knew Heian Yondan, the purple belt kata. I said that I had done it before but I wasn't sure about it. He asked me again: Do you know Heian Yondan? And, once again, I answered that yes, I had practiced it before, but I wasn't sure about it and wouldn't risk performing it in grading... He smiled and asked my Sensei if he had seen me perform Heian Yondan before. My Sensei told the truth: "Yes, I have seen him practicing it with other people" - with this, he didn't say I could perform it correctly, but also didn't say I could not do it at all. Bob Poynton looked at me again, smiled and said "Go and line up with the green belts", who were grading for purple belt, and I did. We performed Heian Yondan. It was a total disaster, because I started it very fast, forgetting that the beginning is very slow, I always had to look over my shoulder to check what the other guys were doing and I totally forgot three steps of the kata, which I totally had to make up! Following the kata, the examination proceeded to the sparring. I was asked to perform it with the green belts as well. But, unlike the kata, I had never practiced the green belt sparring before! Luckily enough, my partner was a brown belt who saw my face of sheer panic and, very discreetly, whispered the name of the techniques in japanese. He just forgot to mention that those were the techniques that I should block, as he would be the one attacking, and not the techniques I should use. So as soon as Bob Poynton told us to start, I just packed a punch in the brown belt's face who, being a brown belt, was able to defend it instantly, but not without a very confused expression. And I heard a voice yelling: "JOÃO!!! YOU SHOULD BE BLOCKING, NOT ATTACKING!", said Bob Poynton. And, in that precise moment, I knew I had blew it...
In the end of the grading ceremony, Bob Poynton told us to get around and started calling one by one, informing us if we had passed or not. When he called my name, he told me he had liked my attitude and my technique, although I had to improve some things, especially my kata. He finished with "I'm giving you the 5th Kyu.", and I thought "Uff! I graded to something, at least...", and turned to one my colleagues and asked what belt the 5th Kyu was.
"It's the purple belt.", he answered...


And so I finally graded. Not to the yellow belt I had expected, not to the green belt they told me I would grade to in the week before, but to the purple belt that I had no idea I'd be grading to! I had to keep my white belt, though, as they had bought me a green belt and didn't expect me to grade straight to purple... In the end, I didn't double-grade or triple-grade. I five-times-graded, which is, according to one of the black belts, "basically unheard of!". Although my grading from white straight to purple prompted lots of talk and cheering and some funny Facebook comments such as "MOTHERFUCKING ACE RIGHT THERE! EPIC!" (came from a shy girl who never speaks to me) or "That belt looks good on you!" (to which I replied that it matched my arms' colour after that day's training...), I feel that I have been given this belt more because of the time that I had practiced Karate before than because of my ability. I am very happy with it and very proud of wearing a purple belt and being half way to the black belt, but I honestly feel I did not deserve it entirely. But now I'm a purple belt and there's nothing that I or anyone else can do about it, so the only thing that's left is for me to honour this belt and put all my effort in achieving the standard that is expected of a true purple belt.

Saturday, 20 February 2010

Rites

Tonight I went to my friend's place again to watch Hitchcock's "The Birds" and we then went to grab some indian food for dinner. We agreed on doing this every weekend, having started last Sunday. And I think it's a really great idea!
Contrary to my expectations, I have found very few truly interesting people in Aberystwyth. It's not that they are not nice, they're just uninteresting people, whose main aims in life seem to always be related to getting drunk and goofing around. And one of the things I hate the most is futility... But, fortunately, my friend is definitely an exception to those people. Tonight, after watching the movie and while waiting for dinner, we talked, for example, about the "tension vs. gore" approach between old and modern horror movies, the broadening of the concept of art in modern times and the culture of imediacy around which the world seems to revolve nowadays... What could be better? And if this happens every weekend (or, sometimes, maybe even more than once a week), my social life in Aberystwyth will not be considered a total waste of time.
My friend told me, a few days ago, that "we should do this every weekend. This way, I would have something to wait for during the week!", and this reminded me of "The Little Prince", when he meets the fox and they talk about friendship and rites. I'll leave you with this excerpt from "The Little Prince", then...

"Come and play with me," proposed the little prince. "I am so unhappy."
"I cannot play with you," the fox said. "I am not tamed."
"Ah! Please excuse me," said the little prince.
But, after some thought, he added:
"What does that mean — 'tame'?"
"You do not live here," said the fox. "What is it that you are looking for?"
"I am looking for men," said the little prince. "What does that mean — 'tame'?"
"Men," said the fox. "They have guns, and they hunt. It is very disturbing. They also raise chickens. These are their only interests. Are you looking for chickens?"
"No," said the little prince. "I am looking for friends. What does that mean — 'tame'?"
"It is an act too often neglected," said the fox. "It means to establish ties."
"'To establish ties'?"
"Just that," said the fox. "To me, you are still nothing more than a little boy who is just like a hundred thousand other little boys. And I have no need of you. And you, on your part, have no need of me. To you, I am nothing more than a fox like a hundred thousand other foxes. But if you tame me, then we shall need each other. To me, you will be unique in all the world. To you, I shall be unique in all the world..."
"I am beginning to understand," said the little prince. "There is a flower... I think that she has tamed me..."
"It is possible," said the fox. "On the Earth one sees all sorts of things."
"Oh, but this is not on the Earth!" said the little prince.
The fox seemed perplexed, and very curious.
"On another planet?"
"Yes."
"Are there hunters on that planet?"
"No."
"Ah, that is interesting! Are there chickens?"
"No."
"Nothing is perfect," sighed the fox.
But he came back to his idea.
"My life is very monotonous," the fox said. "I hunt chickens; men hunt me. All the chickens are just alike, and all the men are just alike. And, in consequence, I am a little bored. But if you tame me, it will be as if the sun came to shine on my life. I shall know the sound of a step that will be different from all the others. Other steps send me hurrying back underneath the ground. Yours will call me, like music, out of my burrow. And then look: you see the grain-fields down yonder? I do not eat bread. Wheat is of no use to me. The wheat fields have nothing to say to me. And that is sad. But you have hair that is the color of gold. Think how wonderful that will be when you have tamed me! The grain, which is also golden, will bring me back the thought of you. And I shall love to listen to the wind in the wheat..."
The fox gazed at the little prince, for a long time.
"Please — tame me!" he said.
"I want to, very much," the little prince replied. "But I have not much time. I have friends to discover, and a great many things to understand."
"One only understands the things that one tames," said the fox. "Men have no more time to understand anything. They buy things all ready made at the shops. But there is no shop anywhere where one can buy friendship, and so men have no friends any more. If you want a friend, tame me..."
"What must I do, to tame you?" asked the little prince.
"You must be very patient," replied the fox. "First you will sit down at a little distance from me — like that — in the grass. I shall look at you out of the corner of my eye, and you will say nothing. Words are the source of misunderstandings. But you will sit a little closer to me, every day..."
The next day the little prince came back.
"It would have been better to come back at the same hour," said the fox. "If, for example, you come at four o'clock in the afternoon, then at three o'clock I shall begin to be happy. I shall feel happier and happier as the hour advances. At four o'clock, I shall already be worrying and jumping about. I shall show you how happy I am! But if you come at just any time, I shall never know at what hour my heart is to be ready to greet you... One must observe the proper rites..."
"What is a rite?" asked the little prince.
"Those also are actions too often neglected," said the fox. "They are what make one day different from other days, one hour from other hours. There is a rite, for example, among my hunters. Every Thursday they dance with the village girls. So Thursday is a wonderful day for me! I can take a walk as far as the vineyards. But if the hunters danced at just any time, every day would be like every other day, and I should never have any vacation at all."
So the little prince tamed the fox. And when the hour of his departure drew near —
"Ah," said the fox, "I shall cry."
"It is your own fault," said the little prince. "I never wished you any sort of harm; but you wanted me to tame you..."
"Yes, that is so," said the fox.
"But now you are going to cry!" said the little prince.
"Yes, that is so," said the fox.
"Then it has done you no good at all!"
"It has done me good," said the fox, "because of the color of the wheat fields."

Wednesday, 17 February 2010

Nothing suits me like a suit!

I have taken a decision: next year, I'll wear a suit every day. Why? Because suits are just great.
I like to wear suits and it's a pitty I don't get more opportunities to use one. I like the millions of possible combinations you actually have with a suit, from the most stupid and awkward ones (that usually denote a clear lack of the most basic taste, such as bright green suits with orange shirts...) to the most classic (but still stylish!) ones, like a grey suit with a black turtle neck... I don't want to sound cocky, but I honestly think I look better in a suit rather than in jeans and sneakers... So, next year, I want to wear a suit every single day!


Monday, 15 February 2010

What a SAD day!

Can't really complain about my Valentine's Day, after all... In fact, my Singles' Awareness Day was brilliant! I watched my first movie starring Audrey Hepburne, ate chinese food, shared a giant Cadbury's chocolate egg, danced the waltz and even attempted to learn how to squaredance!
The movie was great (although I thought she wouldn't get the guy in the end, but she did... And the poor cat had to put up with all the snogging while being squeezed between them! - by the way, I'm talking about "Breakfast at Tiffany's") and Mickey Rooney played a japanese landlord called Mr. Yunioshi. So we then headed up for chinese food; Japan, China, it's all the same - they're all yellow, practice Kung-Fu, wear conical straw hats and eat rice. The chinese food came with something I insisted on calling cookie, although it was clearly a chip - but I'm stuck on the cookie, and no one will talk me out of the cookie! Me love cookie!
After the cookie, we went to get the big chocolate egg. Not as big as some I used to see when I was little, but those are long gone... This was a Cadbury's Creme Egg, in a big box that made us drool just by looking at it. The look of happiness on my friend's face when she was holding the chocolate egg on our way home was truly priceless and seeing that big smile of an almost childish joy was definitely one of the highlights of the evening! We walked back home dreaming of the fondant inside the giant egg... But, when we broke the egg, it was empty! Instead, six small creme eggs came in a separate box... Yummy as well, but in a smaller scale. Besides, if the giant egg was filled with creme, we would probably spend 2 or 3 unhappy days - and the double in toilet paper rolls...
I came home with a big chunk of the chocolate egg in the pocket and two small creme eggs. I'm saving those for tomorrow, but I've already devoured the rest of the giant one.
Valentine's Day will be on a Monday, in 2011. I can barely wait!

Monday, 8 February 2010

I can barely wait...

...to break both my legs in five different places!
I've been invited (through a Facebook group, so take it as face value...) to the Interpol Rugby 7s Team. Honestly, I've always said that rugby is a stupid and dangerous sport but, deep inside, I've wanted to play it since I was 10 or 11, when my P.E. teacher was a former player of the national rugby team. And also because I know it's probably the one sport I'd have a chance of being good at... I'm not athletic enough to be a good football player, I don't have the flexibility a good karateka needs, I'm way too fat to be a good swimmer and I don't see darts or snooker as sports. But I'm 'large', I can run and push people and kick guts with relative efficiency and I can make those aggressive, animalesque roaring sounds - and it's even more scary if I don't shave and bathe for two weeks, after which I can start finger-drawing in my bedroom walls in a pretty convincing way. Because my drawing skills are even worse than cavemen's paintings.
Basically, I'm not good at anything. Well, at least at anything that matters! People admire a good pianist even if they don't like classical music. People love a guy that is a good painter even if they don't know how to appreciate art. People admire a guy who can play football, a guy who is a good dancer, a guy who knows how to tell jokes, a guy who sings well, a guy who is funny and extrovert, a guy who is a good poet, a guy who speaks many foreign languages, a guy who can repair a watch, a guy who can make small penis out of paper napkins... I can't do anything of this. I'm a mediocre pianist, my drawing skills are the same as the ones from a 6-year-old, I never played football in my life, I don't know how to dance properly, my jokes take ages and you can guess how the end while I'm still telling them because I get confused and start telling them again, I only sing in the shower (and very silently, so my flatmates won't hear me...), I'm only funny when I trip and fall, I have no talent to write poetry whatsoever, I'm only truly fluent in Portuguese and English, I have a hard time trying to replace a dead battery in a watch and the only thing I can build are LEGO sets. And only if I'm looking at the instructions.
But I can recite at least 50 composers born between 1400 and 1900! And I know a couple of national anthems by heart! And I'm able to tell you the reasons that led to the outbreak of the First World War!
- Oh, that's great! It really is! *geek*
And that's why I can barely wait to try playing rugby. Maybe that's something I'm good at! Or maybe not, and I'll have to keep looking for something else.

Another SAD day is coming...

The exams are over and the second semester has started. Appart from a couple of nights out, there hasn't been much fun, as I've promised myself to start preparing my essays earlier this semester - two weeks before seminar classes even start, does that look like it's early enough?
But the lack of seminars and things to do in the beginning of the semester gives me time to think that something's missing. And I end up thinking of the SAD day that is coming this weekend.
SAD stands for Singles' Awareness Day, also known as Valentine's Day in some smaller, obscure circles. Quoting a friend of mine after I told her about this, "Oh, João... I can't believe you've just said that! Do you pay any attention to Valentine's Day??? That's so cheesy...", to what I replied that no, I don't, but the day reminds me of how single I am (and, believe me, I am VERY single... Lots of single... Lots of much of very of big enormous grotesquely titanic and gigantic amounts of WOOOOOAHHH singleness... Now, do you get how single I am?). So, basically, once again, I'm not celebrating Valentine's Day, but the Singles' Awareness Day. The single (oh dear, this word is really starting to affect me...) idea of a day that represents all the love and affection between couples is, by itself, plainly stupid. If you're in a relationship, every day should be a "Valentine's Day", right? I don't mean offering roses and chocolates every single (here we go.....) time you meet, but why having a specific a day for it? A single (D'OH!!!) day out of 365 others? Why?? And the things people do... There are SO many choices, why does everyone pick that single (MORPHINE, MORPHINE!!!!!) heart-shaped red-satin-wrapped box of chocolates? There are lots of great stuff to do, if you really are into that thing of Valentine's Day: instead of giving her the same box of chocolates her friends will get as well, sneak up into her place and cook a surprise dinner (if you have the keys, of course... If you don't, Amazon sells great lockpicking kits and illustrated guides) - and don't forget the candles... Instead of taking her to the movies, go down to the beach and sit in the sand with a cup of coffee watching the sunset - cheesy, isn't it? But have you ever done it? So you tried to be original and bought her a CD instead of chocolates? Well, why don't you open up the lid of your old piano, or grab a guitar, or even the maracas your friend brought you from Jamaica and, instead of buying a CD, just play something to her! If you don't know how to play the piano or the violin and you don't even know how to hold the maracas, just write her a poem. And if you still insist on offering chocolates, write several poems. Write some, copy a few other famous ones, then wrap the box of chocolates with the handwritten poems! It'll take her a long but great time to unwrap that cheesy chocolate box...
But I'm wasting my time writing what I would think of doing if I had someone, in a blog that nobody reads! (if there's someone reading this, please leave a comment, even if it's an anonymous one, just saying "Hi!")
But the fault is all mine. "Nice guys finish last", and I definitely fit into the description of the typical nice guy. It's not that I can't be a macho, insensible jerk, because every man can, I just don't feel comfortable doing it. Do girls tend to despise guys like this until they're looking for a stable relationship? Yes. Do we stay in the 'friend zone' while the biker guy in the leather jacket and the football player get all the girls? Yes. Do I get laid less often by being like this? Definitely yes. Do I mind? Yeah... Sometimes I wish I could be a insensitive, intensely promiscuous, cheating, lying son of a bitch. And I can. I just don't like it! So I'll just sit and wait until the Earth starts spinning the other way round.
Meanwhile, I'm going to buy a big box of chocolates for Sunday. The positive thing about being single on Valentine's Day? I don't have to share the chocolates...

Thursday, 14 January 2010

Back to Aberystwyth

So I came back on last Saturday evening. It was a nice trip, although a bit tiring, but I got to see snow almost everywhere, which was kind of a novelty for me. Furthermore, the first few days were an exhilarating experience, as I saw a few snowflakes falling from the sky - after almost 22 years of life, I finally know what snowing is like! Everyone tells me that snow is not that great, as you tend to slip on the icy pathways and you do get wet, but I don't care: it's beautiful!
I must confess I did miss Aberystwyth. Not that being at home was not great, and I would go back right now if I could, but I've learned to love my new home. It's my space, now. My own bedroom and my own kitchen, my own stuff and my own cleaning duties, my own view from the bedroom and kitchen windows (just a teaser: I can see snow from one window and the sea from the other one. Isn't that great or what?), my own neighbours... My life is here, now. Just like it was written in some postcards that showed up in Uni a few months ago, "I love Aber"!


Wednesday, 2 December 2009

Xmas is all around me...

It sure is!
People in every block started to put Christmas decorations in their kitchen and bedroom windows. Small plastic Christmas trees and fairy lights can be seen everywhere. There's even a super-dimensional Budweiser in the kitchen opposite to ours which, although not celebrating Christmas, celebrates a different thing you usually do during the holidays and that those guys do every single night - PARTY!!!
I find no interest in spending money to have Christmas decorations in my bedroom, as I won't be here during Christmas. But I do have my own decorations: lots or Red Bull and Coca Cola cans hung by a string in my bedroom's board - my very own shrine to all nighters. And heart attacks...
Anyway, Christmas time is close and you can already feel it in the air, so...

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Let's play "Charity"!

I don't know if this happens to you as well, but I always remember some weird song when I'm taking a shower, and that song sticks with me throughout the day. And they're the most awkward songs you could think of, as I find myself singing the brazilian, soviet and american anthems (I only discovered I knew the three of them by heart WHILE taking a shower! - until then, I hadn't even realized I knew the melody...) - the former being far better than the latter, musically speaking (I know my russian friends would love me if they read this and my american friends would hate me forever - if I had any, as I have only met one american person in my whole life). Cheesy pop portuguese songs and church songs are also in my repertoire, as well as an extensive range of arias from Mozart and Verdi. I do weddings, funerals and bubblebaths - for more information, call 0-800-STFU.
It turns out that, today, the song was one by a portuguese "political singer" (sorry, you don't have the expression in English, but it would be something like "Interventionist singing", whose songs contain strong political messages against the dictatorial regime and, after the transition to democracy, complaining about the ways of society in general), who was the Dean of the University of Lisbon's Faculty of Letters, José Barata-Moura. The song is called "Vamos brincar à caridadezinha", "Let's play 'Charity'"... (see lyrics below)




Vamos brincar à caridadezinha
Festa, canasta e boa comidinha
Vamos brincar à caridadezinha

A senhora de não sei quem
Que é de todos e de mais alguém
Passa a tarde descansada
Mastigando a torrada
Com muita pena do pobre,
Coitada

Vamos brincar à caridadezinha
Festa, canasta e boa comidinha
Vamos brincar à caridadezinha

Neste mundo de instituição
Cataloga-se até o coração
Paga botas e merenda
Rouba muito mas dá prenda
E ao peito terá
Uma comenda

Vamos brincar à caridadezinha
Festa, canasta e boa comidinha
Vamos brincar à caridadezinha

O pobre no seu penar
Habitua-se a rastejar
E no campo ou na cidade
Faz da sua infelicidade
Alvo para os desportistas
Da caridade

Não vamos brincar à caridadezinha
Festa, canasta e a falsa intençãozinha
Não vamos brincar à caridadezinha.
Let's play "Charity",
Party, canasta and good food,
Let's play "Charity".

The wife of I-don't-know-who
Who is everybody's and someone more's,
Spends the afternoon in peace
Chewing on her toast
Extremely worried about the poors,
Poor thing.

Let's play "Charity",
Party, canasta and good food,
Let's play "Charity".

In this world of institution
Even the heart is catalogued.
Offers boots and tea,
Steals a lot but offers gifts,
And on his chest he shall have
A comenda.

Let's play "Charity",
Party, canasta and good food,
Let's play "Charity".

The poor, in his sorrow,
Gets used to crawl.
And in the country or in the city
He makes his misfortune
A target for sportsmen
Of "Charity".

Let's not play "Charity",

Party, canasta and false little intentions,

Let's not play "Charity".

You talkin' to me?

Today I woke up pretty early. It was 4 AM. I just didn't feel like sleeping any longer, so I just sat on the bed for a couple of hours reading. When it was around 7 AM I went out for my morning jogging, then I came back, had my breakfast and took a shower. After coming out of the shower, I looked in the foggy mirror and said outloud "Man, you need a haircut!"
I was getting dressed when one of my nightmares came true: I thought no one would be in the kitchen at 8 AM, so I didn't bother closing the curtains... And while I was putting my pants on, I noticed a human figure with blonde hair peeking through the kitchen windows in the opposite block. That was really embarrassing...
It was about 8.45 when I got to the barbershop. I had been thinking of getting my hair cut for a few days, so what I did was to search on Wikipedia (Wikipedia, always Wikipedia...) for the haircuts I usually have, so I would know what to ask for when I got there. I usually have a buzz cut, really really short, and then I leave it to grow for a month or so and have another really short buzz cut. And that's what I wanted to have. But, I don't know why, I just confused all the hair styles I had read about on Wikipedia and, instead of a buzz cut, I asked for a crew cut, because I thought it was the name for what I wanted. Fortunately, I asked the barber not to cut it too short, as it is a bit cold and I don't want to look like a skinhead. When the guy finished I gave it a quick look and I looked ok, although a bit bigger than I wanted to, but I'll get it cut again when I go home for Christmas anyway.
I only realized how I looked like when I got home and looked at myself in the mirror. My hair almost looks like one of those haircuts used by those Marines you see in the movies, or one of those nightclub door guards you see when you enter and you double-see (or triple-see...) when you exit... And so I decided to have a bit of fun and spent a couple of minutes in the bathroom, in front of the mirror, having my own "Taxi Driver" moment by knitting my eyebrows and repeating "You talkin' to me?" over and over again.
Now my eyebrows' muscles ache...
And no, that's not THAT stupid! I bet you've done worse in front of the mirror...
Huh? You talkin' to me?

Sunday, 22 November 2009

Saturday, 21 November 2009

You know you're in college when...

Taken from http://mistupid.com/people/page087.htm. It's good to know that I'm not alone...

You know you're in college when...

  1. High school started before 8am, but now anything before noon is considered "early".

  2. You have more beer than food in your fridge.

  3. Weekends start on Thursday.

  4. 6am is when you go to sleep, not when you wake up.

  5. You know many different ways to cook ramen noodles or macaroni and cheese.

  6. The health center gives out free condoms, and people take them… just in case.

  7. Instead of falling asleep in class, you stay in bed.

  8. You know how late McDonald’s, Taco Bell, White Castle, etc. are open.

  9. You think it’s the weekend on a Wednesday and you don’t know what month it is.

  10. You can't remember the last time you washed your car.

  11. Your underwear/sock supply dictates your laundry schedule.

  12. You check Facebook/Myspace more than once a day.

  13. You get drunk dialed on any night of the week.

  14. You wash dishes in the bathroom sink.

  15. You’ve fallen off a loft bed.

  16. You talk about beer pong like it’s a sport.

  17. Finding random people in your house is perfectly normal, and you even sympathize with them... sometimes when you wake up you have no idea where you are.

  18. Your primary news sources are the Daily Show and the Colbert Report.

  19. You open a beer at 10 am and your roommate asks you if there’s more.

  20. The standard of meals per day falls to two, sometimes just one.

  21. Your trash is overflowing and your bank account isn’t.

  22. You go to Target or Wal-Mart more than 3 times a week.

  23. You wear the same jeans for 13 days without washing them.

  24. Your breakfast consists of a coke or cereal bar on the way to class... anything with caffeine will do.

  25. Quarters are like gold.

  26. Your idea of feeding the poor is buying yourself some ramen noodles.

  27. You live in a house with three couches, none of which match.

  28. You try to study but seem to procrastinate by eating, going to study breaks, talking to people, etc...

  29. You talk to your roommate on instant messenger when you’re both home.

  30. You ask people what YOU did last night.

  31. Certain things are now deemed "Facebook worthy." When friends take pictures of you, you wonder how long it will take them to post them.

  32. You’ve seen a hit and run involving a bicyclist/pedestrian.

  33. You see people you know you’ve met but can never remember their names or how you know them.

  34. You sleep more in class than in your room

  35. Your idea of a square meal is a box of Pop-Tarts.

  36. You've traveled with bags of dirty clothes.

  37. You go home to do your laundry because you're too poor to pay the $2... or too lazy to go to a change machine.

  38. You pay $100 for a book you don't read once, return it four months later, and get $7.

  39. More than 20% of your household furnishings are made from milk crates.

  40. You recognize the meat in the dorm soup as yesterday's meatloaf, and thus decide to eat a nice bowl of cereal - a safe bet for any meal.

  41. You use words like "thus" (see #40).

  42. You throw out bowls and plates because you don't feel like washing them.

  43. Your beer pong table is nicer than all your other tables.

  44. It takes preparation... and 3 people... to take out your garbage.

  45. Going to the library is a social event.

  46. You wear flip flops in the shower your freshman year... you know why.

  47. You start joining clubs because of the free food.

  48. Visits home depend on how much money you have for gas.

  49. You skip one class to write a paper for another.

  50. You have no idea where your tuition money is going... technology fees? I think not.

  51. Bicycles don't seem as lame as they did in high school.

  52. You stay up late to finish homework then sleep through the class in which it was due.

  53. Girls: You've balanced your foot on a shampoo bottle to shave.

  54. Your backpack is giving you scoliosis.

  55. You've written a check for 45 cents or stopped to get $2.00 of gas.

  56. Your bill in the bookstore will be comparable to tuition.

  57. Going to the mailbox becomes an ego booster/breaker.

  58. Most of your T.A.'s are foreign...what's the deal?

  59. You never realized so many people are smarter than you.

  60. You never realized so many people are dumber than you.

  61. Western Europe could be wiped out by a terrible plague and you'd never know, but you can recite the last episode of your favorite show verbatim.

  62. Care packages rank right up there with birthdays.

  63. You craft ways to make any game into a drinking/stripping game.

  64. You meet the type of people you thought only existed in movies.

  65. Printers break down only when you desperately need them.

  66. Anything can be cooked in a microwave.

  67. Two words: bike cops.

  68. You have Safe Ride programmed into your phone.

  69. Old school Nintendo... and guitar hero... are pretty much the best things ever.

  70. Going to the grocery at midnight is completely normal.

  71. You call restaurants that deliver more than you call your own family.

  72. You've paid bills over $5... in coins.

  73. You can't imagine life without your computer/cell phone/ i-pod.

  74. Hoodies and sweatpants become the norm - jeans are considered "dressy" at certain occasions... like school.

  75. A canceled class is almost as exciting as Christmas.

  76. Taking a nap in the library is perfectly acceptable.

  77. Your professors speak English... as a second language.

  78. Your teachers swear in class and no one cares.

  79. Candles in your dorm room are considered contraband, but cigarettes are OK.

  80. You take condiment packets and napkins from fast food restaurants - hey, they're free.

  81. Betta fish are like your family.

  82. You bring back socks from the laundry room that may or may not be yours.

  83. You know what people carrying suspiciously heavy backpacks after dark are doing...

  84. The elevators take forever but you'll wait 10 minutes just so you don't have to climb stairs.

  85. Your roommate asks you to check the weather on your computer when they're standing 5 feet away from the door.

  86. Showers become more of an issue.

  87. You press the automatic door opener instead of simply grabbing the handle when you approach a door.

  88. Christmas lights seem to be acceptable all year round.

  89. Class size doubles on exam days.

  90. You donate plasma even though you know it's pretty sketchy.

  91. You are no longer thankful that fire alarms are here to protect you.

  92. You've bought Christmas presents from the book store and charged it to your student account so your parents pay for the gifts because you're too broke.

  93. You begin to include ketchup on your list of acceptable vegetables.

  94. You stay on campus for hours in between classes when it's too cold to walk home.

  95. People have to help you kick the vending machine just so you can get your 50 cent bag of chips.

  96. There's always a "question kid" in at least one of your classes, and you really wish someone would just tell him/her to shut the hell up.

  97. You steal dishes from the cafeteria so you don't have to wash your own.

  98. Laundry is an all-day event.

  99. You no longer find it uncool to take naps. In fact, you quite enjoy them.

  100. It's illegal to drink in the dorms yet they sell an assortment of shot glasses, beer mugs, tankards, etc. in the bookstore.

  101. You find your list of acceptable napping places expanding daily to increasingly uncomfortable locations.

  102. You fill out credit card applications for the free food.

  103. You've eaten cereal out of a cup... with a fork.

  104. Dressing up for Halloween becomes cool again.

  105. You know at least one person who has dropped his/her cell phone into a toilet.

  106. You hang multiple shirts on the same hanger to save space/money.

  107. You become increasingly annoyed with the "old" people in class - props to them for going back to college but they generally ask really, really annoying questions.

  108. You admire people's alcohol bottle shrines.

  109. You set your clock 5-10 minutes ahead so you can potentially make it to class on time.

  110. You check ratemyprofessor.com (or something of the like) before choosing your class schedule.

  111. You text faster than you type.

  112. You only find out a class is cancelled after you get there and sit for about ten minutes.

  113. You actually start using coupons, especially those school coupon books.

  114. You open canned food and eat it... out of the can.

  115. You run out of black ink and, instead of buying a new ink cartridge, decide blue is a nice substitute... adds a little flair.

  116. You have numbers in your phone with labels like “Sketchy Steve” and “Alcohol Guy.”

  117. The food in your fridge may or may not be older than your little brother.

  118. You finish reading this and wonder how you can procrastinate next.

Thursday, 19 November 2009

The best things in life are simple...

So... The complicated ones are the worst? Probably yes.
Much of my time is spent in the library. Doing what, exactly?, you may ask. Not reading, I assure you. Probably 1/10 of the time is spent on Voyager, the on-line catalogue, searching for books and taking notes of the classmarks. 4/5 of the time are spent actually looking for the books, and the remaining 1/10 will be spent on Voyager again, trying to figure out why the book is marked as available but isn't in the shelf. So if I spend two hours in the library, the first 15 minutes will be spent browsing the catalogue, just as the last 15 minutes. The 1h30 in between will be spent squatting, bending, stretching up and jumping, trying to find the books in the shelves.
Why so much time spent looking for books?
Because you have to go through shelves and shelves of books until you can locate more or less the place where a certain book might be. Instead of having simple and easy-to-find classmarks like D 511 L4, one of the thousands of books with the title "The Outbreak of the First World War", you are most likely to find books with classmarks such as:
PQ4627.M2.Z6.G9,
JC143.M4.M1(M8.90)
or STOREPQ4627.M2.Z6.S2(P8.10)...
I understand the use of a library classification system, but don't you sometimes think that it would be so much easier if the books were all in alphabetical order?

Sunday, 15 November 2009

How I learned to stop worrying and love the stress

I have less than 24 hours to write an essay on the puzzling idea of an anarchical society of states and the lack of international order in world politics. In fact, I have exactly 20 hours to do it. When I refered to someone that I was really falling behind with my essay, and that I had to hand it over on Monday, the answer was something like "HOLY SHIT! I would totally be freaking out if I were in your place!", but I was a bit relaxed at the moment. Now I'm thinking "HOLY SHIT!", and I am definitely freaking out. Not to say that I have this heap of books to read in these less-than-20 hours and my essay is, supposedly, based on them:


But, as a good Portuguese that I am, I will make it. We're used to it: leaving it all for the last minute. And that's how I work the best, under pressure. I'm far more productive than if I start doing things a month before. Even if I always get dangerously close to a nervous breakdown...
I guess it was a good idea to buy lots of instant coffee, as a night like this was bound to happen sooner or later.

Saturday, 14 November 2009

Lost for Words

Last Thursday I went to see a play. Shakespeare's "Antony and Cleopatra", performed by undergrads from the Theatre Department. Finally, a bit of culture! The play was nice... Not the best I've seen, but reasonably good for undergraduate students. And I got company! I sent an e-mail to A. asking her if she wanted to go and, to my surprise, she did! And so we went.
I wanted to go see another play as well, "Lost for Words", the story of a Eastern European family forced to seek asylum in Britain and the language barriers and the cultural shock they experience. It turns out I'm not going to see this one for several reasons, including my time schedule which is REALLY tight right now, with three essays to write in just a bit more than a week... But yeah, sometimes that's how I feel: lost for words...
I don't usually notice that, as the English I tend to use is mostly concerned with academical purposes or simple interactions, like buying stuff or asking for something... But I realized how my English totally fails when I want to keep a conversation with another person, especially if that person is a native speaker... A. is American, so the advantage is not having to worry about the accent, as I'm far more used to it than the Welsh accent (thanks, Hollywood!). But the problem is the fluency... It's easy to read and write in English, as I have as much time as I need to think, but speaking is a whole different thing. I feel deeply frustrated for not being able to express myself as clearly as I want to, and I end up saying things which aren't exactly what I want to say, but the rush to answer the other person makes me give some good kicks in grammar and sentence construction, and sometimes even to change words inadvertently!
On the interval of the play, for instance, A. told me she wasn't liking it that much. And I wanted to ask her "And why don't you like it?" but, I don't know why, I just said "And why don't you like me?"... Which can be a bit of an embarrassing question... Fortunately, I think she didn't notice it, as we kept talking about the play. Add this small slip to a whole night of trying to talk about theatre and wanting to go beyond that in the conversation, wanting to talk about lots of things and just not being able to. The words are here, inside my mind, but they just don't come out when they should and I just stay there in silence, looking at her, trying to figure out what to say - and, preferably, doing it the correct way... And, as soon as I open my mouth, I realize I should have kept it shut. After being with A., I always have the impression that she got disappointed and feels she has wasted her time with a dork. I don't blame her, or anyone else that I speak with, as I really DO look like a complete dork when I try to have a conversation that has more in it than just "Hi! How're you?" - I guess not having spoken a word of English for the last 5 years doesn't help much as well... If I'm like this today, I can't even imagine what she thought when she talked to me on the first day I got here!
It really gets much easier with L., a classmate who lives in the block opposite to mine: I never meet her anywhere, we always sit on opposite sides of the classroom and the only "conversation" we have is through the windows, when we see each other and clumsily wave our arms as if we were shouting "HELLO!!!!!"...
This happens to me when talking to many other people, I guess, but right now I'm still thinking of how I looked like an idiot last Thursday. I know it's not a great deal, but it really gets me frustrated! A. is quite an interesting person and I really enjoy talking with her and I always have so much to talk about, so much to say, and that just adds up to my frustration...
The odds that A. will be reading this post are almost nonexistent, but if you are (or any other person who, for the same reasons, also thinks I'm an idiot)... I'm sorry!

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Don't stop me now

My academic path is everything but normal. Having started in applied mathematics, I turned to music. Leaving the dream of a career as concert pianist behind, I then tried to focus on musicology. Now, after realizing that musicology is the perfect course to climb up to CEO of "Unemployed Inc.", I have turned to International Politics. But the music still lives within...
Being away from home, as I have said earlier, is never easy. But being away from my piano seems like it's even tougher. The desire of playing is almost uncontrollable and I'm longing for those keys of ebony and ivory almost since the day I got here. But I can't do much about that, as I don't have a piano here...
I can still sing! Well, not now because I'm still recovering from a small cold, but in a normal day I can sing. I simply don't do it. I would, if I were at home, where I don't care about what people think about my musical (dis)abilities (hey, they've put up with 13 years of me playing the piano - and the first 12 were a nightmare, I can assure you...), but I won't even think of trying to do it here and risk being known for the next three years as "the showering Pavarotti wanna-be"... But, I confess, sometimes I want to sing very, very badly...
I miss the stage. I haven't performed on a stage for one and a half years now, and I really miss it... I was able to cope with that during the last year because, in one way or another, I was still in contact with music, I could still open the lid and play the piano for as long as I wanted - although I rarely did... But now I've been for almost two months without seeing one single musical instrument! The craving is such that I have bursted singing once or twice, in some more musical moments, and that was enough for one of my malaysian flatmates to say, with that malaysian accent, "Ooooohhh!!! You sing so goooood!" - I didn't care about explaining the difference between quality of timbre or pitch accuracy and brute, raw, untrained vocal power to her, I just took the compliment as if it were true.
That said, if any generous, merciful soul out there knows of a place in Aber where there's karaoke (except Cwrt Mawr Bar, where half the people there are my flatmates or classmates...), one of those places where you can sing at your own will and no one will give a damn, please, PLEASE let me know...
Even better - if you know any place with a piano... =)