Entering Alligator River

At two in the morning, those three words don’t inspire confidence. Especially when you’re convinced that you made a wrong turning a few miles back. However, we managed to make it to the beach house without being savaged by alligators, bears, or deer. And we only got stopped by the police once (this was a friendlier officer, in case you’re some sort of freak who reads entries backwards. You should probably seek help).

The weekend alternated between the standard "I'm having a good time here" and the sadly usual "Oh God, I'm a social misfit — I should probably just throw myself off the top of the building and do everybody a favour." This is why I'm so much fun to be around, people. Smiles and existential crises, all for $37.

We arrived in two groups; nine of us on Thursday night, and the French contingent of five arriving late on Friday. It turns out that there's not a lot to do in the Outer Banks. But! But! They do have the largest lighthouse in America. We visited that on Friday, to discover that a) tickets to climb the building were $4, and more importantly b) the lighthouse had only reopening yesterday after a year of renovations, so all the tickets had sold out. Rishi was undaunted by this, and sweet-talked one of the wardens into letting us in for free ("We're international students from Chapel Hill. We've come all this way just to see the lighthouse" and so on).

For those reading at home: yes, I did climb up the lighthouse. All 208 feet. None of the others knew I was scared of heights, but soon found out as I started to fall apart. They were very supportive and helpful, and so I managed to take this picture:

That was probably the high point of the weekend, actually. That was followed by the extremely uncomfortable part of the day where the girls cooked the evening meal (I helped wash up, set the table, and take things out of the oven, but I felt very guilty).

And then the French people came. Which was the signal for me to retreat back into the shell; Sona and I were the only two there who didn't speak multiple languages, so we were left out of a lot of the conversation (me moreso, due to the normal situation) until later on in the night, when Rishi and Shafaq took pity on us. Shafaq got quite drunk that night, and treated us to some authentic Bhangra dancing. Yes, I know how that sounds, but it was amazing to actually see somebody do it in person

Saturday was a very short day. Due to people not going to sleep until about 5/6am, we didn't get out of the house until three in the afternoon. At this point I suppose I should mention something about the weather. It's only traditional of course. Three words: English Bank Holiday.

We're now going to take a break while I get control of my breathing back. And, as I've already written the final paragraph, I'd just like to point out that the first item cannot be emphasised enough. Oh, have a look at the house that we stayed in.

Anyway, yes, the weather. That's what the English talk about, when we're not enslaving half of the known world (yes, just to add the weekend's woes — English White Guilt. Did I mention that I'm a hopeless case? I did? Good. So, we'll move on then?). It started out fairly sunny, but as soon as stepped onto the beach, the sun went away, and the rest of the trip was spent under a gray cloud. Of course, as soon as we left, the sun came out again.

Rishi decided that Saturday, therefore, would be the best day to visit the sand dunes. Admittedly, they were impressive, but with the gale-force winds, it was like someone had transported the Sahara to the North Pole. Have a look at a picture:

Saturday night itself was fairly low-key, as supplies of alcohol had been drained to dangerously low levels. As I said, not being able to speak French, Portuguese, or Spanish was just one of a myriad of reasons why I felt slightly isolated (This is possibly the worst travelogue in the history of Man, but I want to point out that I don't actually regret going, as spending Easter alone in Chapel Hill didn't sound like an intriguing prospect. And hey, I seem to be able to touch-type. Now, back to the story, wherein Ian doesn't do a lot and goes to bed at 2am. Oh, that is the rest of the story. Erm. I think I should probably close the bracket sometime soon. Okay, here it comes).

The journey home started off nicely, as the sun decided to make a welcome reappearance, but this soon changed. About two hours into the trip back, we were pulled over by a police car. Remember, we're in the South, Sona (who was driving) is Amercian-born, but is of Indian decent, and we're all students, who are obviously no-good liberal communist-supporting drug-abusing hippies. It was not pleasant. Especially because he kept avoiding Sona's questions; it took him three attempts of asking to find out what speed he was going at, and he refused to be identified beyond "Trooper Williams". Sometimes, it seems, stereotypes can be true. Not the best way to end a holiday.

Things to remember from the weekend: no matter how bad you're feeling about yourself, there's always a way to feel worse; "over there" is possibly the worst thing you can say to a person who is legally blind; trust your clothing labels over Rishi's advice on trouser length; North Carolina police officers are not people you want to trifle with; if someone can't see, youwill be invisible if you don't speak, and never, never attempt to buy pizza if the group is six or larger.

Final group shot:

currently playing: Saturday Looks Good To Me - Typing

The Easter Bunny Did This?

I know it’s childish, but I really had to fight the urge to jump the bunny at the mall today.

All packed and ready to go. See you again on Sunday.

currently playing: Blur - Popscene

So, when is the US invading?

Security forces ‘aided’ loyalist murders

A Confession

This needs to be addressed now, before I come back home: last Saturday, I accidentally called a football a soccer ball. I’m so sorry. I am willing to be sent to the English Re-Education Tea Camp as punishment.

New crazy guy in the Pit today. A proper crazy person; not somebody who was willing to have a theological argument. No, this was a man clutching a Bible, decrying the "homosexuals and lesbians that are teaching our children that we're descended from apes!" It was like watching a real-life Usenet troll in action. Including the part that I never understand about this type of person — he's been coming here since 1979. Surely, at some point, they must realise that people aren't listening to them? Couldn't they go and something more productive instead? Like construct a machine intelligence that can only be defeated with Shake'n'Vac?

There's probably only five people on the planet who understand that last sentence. And I'm not sure that I'm one of them.

I love the Internet. There's always someone ready to take things a little too far. Filthy nostalgia aside, there's nothing inherently scary about a site about the BBC Education show Look And Read When you see that they have a page dedicated to the precise transmission schedules (from the 1960s onwards), it's a little creepy. On the other hand, it's nice to know that someone is cataloging this type of history.

There might not be anymore entries on this site for the rest of the week; I'm apparently going to the Outer Banks for the weekend. I'll be leaving on either Thursday or Friday (I'm still a little hazy on the details), and come back on Easter Sunday. So if I don't have a chance beforehand, I hope everybody has a happy Easter weekend. But watch out for those bunnies.

currently playing: Low - Canada

Balloon In A Box

I may have to spend the first month of coming back home doing nothing but watching DVDs. Thanks to everyone for wishing me a happy birthday, and special thanks to my family for sending me a helium balloon. In a box. GENIUS.

Surprisingly, this is my first birthday away from home; when I was at Manchester, it was always in the Easter break. Which makes today a little weird, but I'm sure I'll get used to it.

I didn't mention this yesterday, but the professor was very impressed with the slides I made for last week's lecture. Nice to know I did something right.


Updating, because I can: Oh dear. So that's why they're changing me $800 for a flight home. And for those of you fretting about me not celebrating, Rishi is seeing to that tomorrow, so worry no longer.

I've just finished watching the Three Colours Trilogy. The ending was cute. I did, however, get a similar feeling as when I re-read the Pirate sections in Watchmen — stop hitting me over the head with the colour symbolism! Please!

currently playing: Altered Images - Happy Birthday

Fair And Balanced

Did you know that during the run-up to the November 2000 Presidential Election, over 50,000 people were excluded from the Florida electoral roll, due to having a criminal record? And that not only were these names never checked to see if the exclusion was correct, some 500 people were disenfranchised for committing crimes supposedly in 2007?

Greg Palast is an American investigative reporter who currently writes for the Guardian and the Observer newspapers back in Britain (plus some Newsnight reports on the BBC). He can't get a job in the USA, because of the stories he writes. Over the past few years, he's exposed corporate involvement in the death of Tanzanian workers in gold mines, Enron's finances and manipulation of the Californian energy crisis, and the 2000 election. Katherine Harris calls him "tyrannical and a maniac".

He's got a book out, The Best Democracy Money Can Buy, which is a collection of his writing for the Guardian/Observer (with some extra material which was subject to D-Notices or removed for libel law reasons in the UK), and today he visited Chapel Hill as part of a book tour.

As you can imagine, he's not particularly enthused with the current Administration. He brought a raft of letters and papers, from the closed FBI file on the bin Laden family (re-opened on 13th September 2001, fact fans), to the letter that Katherine Harris received from Jeb Bush about the 'scrubbing' of suspected felons from the Florida vote. Plus lots of jokes. It was an interesting way to spend an afternoon; full of strange connections and fun stories of interviewees suddenly realising that they've going to be asked awkward questions, and calling state troopers to remove the interview crew.

One question though. Palast kept mentioning that in British law, truth is not a defence for libel. Now, my knowledge of libel law is limited to things I've read about Ian Hislop, but I thought that British law gave two exceptions - one for truth, and the other for 'fair comment'. Care to explain (or is it that the burden of proof is on the defendant in the UK, while US law places burden on the prosecuting side)?

currently playing: Dexy’s Midnight Runners - I’ll Show You

Wanted: Something

Hrm. Something ate today’s original entry. Probably for the best. Imagine some pointless mumbling and apologising for not answering email. And a predictable joke involving Saddam Hussein and Mötorhead. You didn’t miss much, honest.

currently playing: Sleater-Kinney - The Remainder

The Rules of Four Squares

Something to remember if you’re ever planning to stage a picnic in a national park: if it has been raining heavily for the past week, it’s probably a good idea to phone ahead to see if, say, the park is completely flooded and they won’t be allowing visitors for some time. Still, the car ride was nice…

Anyway, after not finding any open entrances to the park, we went back to the hall and had the "cook-out" there (yes, it's much the same as back home, except there's no alcohol anywhere). Then I was introduced to a popular playground game, Four Squares.

It's a fantastic game; like French Cricket, it has no concept of scoring, or really any point at all, except to start playtime arguments. It goes like this: The game is played inside a large square subdivided into four smaller squares. Each square contains a player, with everybody else lining up by the side of the court. One square is called the "King" square, and that person gets to serve (oh, by the way, it's played with a football). The idea is that the ball has to bounce once in your square, and then you have to get the ball inside another person's square before it bounces or goes out of the court. If you fail to do this, or your shot goes out of the court before bouncing, you go to the back of the line. The rest of the players on the court move anti-clockwise to fill up the empty space, and the person at the front of the line enters in the free space. And so on.

Simple. Pointless. And we spent over two hours playing it.

currently playing: Mint Royale - From Rusholme With Love

Rage Against The Coming Light


currently playing: Godspeed You Black Emperor! - The Dead Flag Blues

It's Jackanory Time!

At least, it was at 1am this morning, when Kavi was reading her current book assignment to me. I’m still not entirely sure why she thought that was the best use of her time, but anyway…

I have presents! But they're wrapped. Boo. And some hiss. They're just sitting underneath my bed, saying "Unwrap us! No-one will ever know!" Of course, we all know that that's not true, so they'll just have to stay wrapped up until Tuesday.

Also, I'm going to write this down here so I remember it in the future: when the forecast says it's going to rain, it probably will, so it's your own fault if you get caught in flood conditions while walking to Carrboro. Silly.

Get Your Syria On. I'm really hoping that someone, just someone in the Bush Administration has their head screwed on. Or are they simply going to conquer the entire Middle East?

Yesterday's fun juxtaposition: the Iraqis being freed from their oppressive leader, while back in Congress the groundwork begins to make the PATRIOT Act permanent. And here's the Secretary For Education, who obviously needs a good kicking. IS THERE ANYBODY IN POWER HERE WHO ISN'T INSANE? ANYONE? BUELLER?

You know, I was fairly happy when I started writing this entry...

currently playing: Echobelly - Give Her A Gun