July 24, 2007

Youngsters Show Weakness for Weed

Writing about web page http://www.newscientist.com/channel/being-human/drugs-alcohol/mg19526135.100-adolescent-rats-enjoy-cannabis-more-than-adult-rats.html


[The parts of this article in bold are absolutely accurate and taken from New Scientist. The rest is my own.]

Youngsters show weakness for weed

Adolescent rats are more likely than adults to be attracted by cannabis – and seem more susceptible to the drug’s effects on memory.

Professor Sharle Laton at Warwick University has been growing control samples of the cannabis leaf in his laboratory in response to ministerial calls to review cannabis classifications in the U.K. He himself was unavailable for comment, but e-mailed Inarticulations with the following statement:

"Argor [sic]…grjeio…[sic]…basically you inject some rodents with tetrametraspetrahydradodecahedroncannabinol [sic] and then it really %&$£s their minds, and then some*.”

While Laton’s methods may be seen by some as unorthodox – indeed, reprehensible, findings have proven to be telling. He claims that most law-abiding adult rats shunned the injection chamber while adolescent rats positively queued up for their tetrametraspetrahydradodecahedroncannabinol dosage. He added that there were, of course some exceptions – social rodent outcasts and ex-convict rats also showed no aversion to the injection chamber.

If Laton’s surmises are correct, this is groundbreaking news in the field of narcotic research – that youths are more attracted by drugs than adults.

Inarticulations attempted to find these dissident adolescents for comments, but none were capable of speech. One co-habiting pair of nest-fellows preferred to nibble on proffered copies of Inarticulations. This co-habitation is in itself, adds Laton in his statement, an added phenomenon. The kinds of rats willing to brave the injection chamber are more inclined to breed prolifically with more than one rodent partner.

Whether this has a profound effect on the laboratorial population remains to be seen. One adult rat observed disapprovingly that it had led to a rising demand of straw nests, but his more free-thinking son shrugged off this criticism, ‘What can I say? We’re experimental animals by nature’.


*Some text censored due to offensive content.

Jumping off the property ladder

Gordon Brown’s pre-Queen’s speech proposals this week provoked a sceptical chuckle from me this morning.

When the coughing fit provoked by my sceptical chuckle had worn off, I continued musing over the proposals. Because the prospect of housing – specifically owning one – is for the likes of such student oiks as us going to impossible before we hit our 30s. Mid-30’s. Isn’t that a mind-crushingly depressing thought?

The coughing fit, incidentally, was caused by my year-long co-habitation with Albert. Albert is the mould on my wall. He was the fungal equivalent of a greedy bed-partner – sprawling. Albert came about as a result of several years of nurturing care in the damp atmosphere of the basement in

one 20 Rosefield Street in Leamington Spa. Sadly, this basement was also my room for 12 months. Renting your student house is a necessary evil and a trial that was initially designed by the housing god as a test of your youthful mettle. To make you appreciate the merits of eventually owning your own pad. The housing god entirely failed to take into account, however, that renting for some of us is going to remain a reality for a while to come.

Brown has merrily promised x thousand new homes to cater for the increased demand in housing. Particularly for the socially disadvantaged (the poor, for those who are not au fait with their PC terminology) and young people. That’s us. With our goodtoaverage 2,1’s and mortar boards clutched in sweaty fists, we’ll be spat into the abattoir that is job markets and property ladders. But while some of us flounder onto graduate schemes that see us earning £25k plus, none can even think about owning a property for a good decade. And even that’s with careful saving – for anyone saddled with children or the desire to own something slightly better than a Skoda may well be waiting longer.

Housing figures released by various government brass hats indicate house pricing will be 10 times average earnings for the next generation unless Brown really does fulfil his promises.* The average earnings of the next generation of Warwick students will not be £25k. More like £15k. This year will see the biggest grapple for jobs following the Blairite push for more students across the social demographic – meaning more graduates with better wages. You can thus look at a property being in the vicinity of £150,000.

And that’s your first house. Admittedly there are regional variations and if you wish to set up camp by the Humber then you can do so relatively cheaply. There might be more Humber inside your house than out, however. So for those of you that feel that renting is a waste of money, think again. Renting a student house costs approximately £4000 per annum for the individual, including bills. Even paying more for something slightly less hovel-like over 10 years would cost you considerably less than the financial equivalent of tying bricks around your neck and jumping into a river, i.e. taking out a mortgage.

On the downside, it’s all irrational landlords only semi-fluent in English, and antique draining systems from here on. And, of course, the added health benefits of Albert.


*Hell freezes over

July 21, 2007

[Guardian] Every little helps

Writing about web page http://money.guardian.co.uk/weekly/story/0,,2125905,00.html

All you need to know when you're going away

With the summer we're having, everyone is keen to get away. Yet going on holiday can bring more problems than it solves. Our guide will help you avoid the pitfalls

Reports by Miles Brignall, Rupert Jones, Jill Papworth and Shona Ghosh
Saturday July 14, 2007
The Guardian

Next week sees the start of the great holiday getaway as Brits look to escape this year's "summer" of flash floods and torrential rain. Teletext, which specialises in last-minute deals, reported its busiest day of the year earlier this week.

But be warned: Guardian Money gets more complaints from readers about problems incurred on holidays than any other single issue.

With this in mind, we have put together a guide to everything from buying your holiday money before you go to ensuring you are not fleeced by your mobile phone company while you are out there.

In the following articles we have highlighted some of the best deals on holiday insurance - whether you have a young family or you're an older person heading out on their own.

We name the places where you can get the most euros or US dollars for your holiday pounds, look at whether travellers' cheques are still worth considering, and pick the best of the new breed of pre-paid travel money cards.

We also offer some tips on how to bring down the cost of booking a car hire, and highlight your rights if your holiday goes pear-shaped, plus we give an update on what is happening with mobile phone roaming charges.

This week we were contacted by a family who have just received a £280 mobile bill after their son spent a few days in Morocco. His phone bill may have cost more than the holiday.

You don't need to wait until you reach your destination to withdraw euros from cash machines.

Tesco has been trialling ATMs that dispense euro notes in four of its stores - one near the Ashford international rail terminal in Kent; one close to Gatwick airport; Long Eaton in Derbyshire, near East Midlands airport; and Altrincham, near Manchester airport.

This week the supermarket giant announced it will be unveiling another 16 in locations including Dover, Chester, Andover, Aylesbury, Hemel Hempstead, Hatfield, Newton Abbot, Bury, Glasgow (Silverburn), Port Glasgow, and Finchley in north London. A further five will be opened across Northern Ireland.

You don't need to wait until you reach your destination to withdraw euros from cash machines.

Tesco has been trialling ATMs that dispense euro notes in four of its stores - one near the Ashford international rail terminal in Kent; one close to Gatwick airport; Long Eaton in Derbyshire, near East Midlands airport; and Altrincham, near Manchester airport.

This week the supermarket giant announced it will be unveiling another 16 in locations including Dover, Chester, Andover, Aylesbury, Hemel Hempstead, Hatfield, Newton Abbot, Bury, Glasgow (Silverburn), Port Glasgow, and Finchley in north London. A further five will be opened across Northern Ireland.

The ATMs are free to use, and Tesco says the exchange rate offered is competitive. They are predominantly located close to transport hubs.

"We want to make travel money accessible for our customers. Initial customer feedback has been really positive," says a spokesman.

It means shoppers can stock up on euros while they are in the supermarket picking up their suntan lotion and other holiday items instead of having to call in at a bureau de change or their bank.

Royal Bank of Scotland/NatWest is also trialling euro-dispensing cash machines at a handful of locations, though it seems to want to keep the pilot low-key.

Link, the cash machine network, has set the rules so that the equivalent sterling value and the exchange rate are clearly displayed to the ATM user. "The rate will have to be competitive with the other channels that will be available to them," it says.

July 20, 2007

[Guardian] New York pipe blast sparks terrorist fears

Writing about web page http://blogs.guardian.co.uk/news/archives/2007/07/19/new_york_pipe_blast_sparks_terrorist_fears.html#more

New York pipe blast sparks terrorist fears

As the New York Times reported: Steam pipe explosion unnerves Manhattan. Bloggers were unnerved too, writes Shona Ghosh.

The steam pipe explosion took place near 41st Street and Lexington Avenue, killed one and affected thousands of commuters trying to make their way home from Grand Central Station.

The chaos triggered fear of a terrorist attack among New Yorkers. Many have commented online that the air of panic was reminiscent of the 9/11 attacks. Sue Geller comments:

"These are definitely scary times, in NYC today, the fear that another terrorist attack was upon us had folks running through the streets covered with debris, tears running down their faces. In fact it was a steam explosion in the streets of Manhattan, but how close these feelings are to all of us and how frightening these times truly are."

Rebecca, posting on Pixels from the Edge

"New Yorkers are always hypersensitive to this kind of disturbance. I am very grateful that everyone I know that was near the disaster site is safe."

Some bloggers themselves witnessed the explosion, posting pictures and videos. Stuntbox watched it rising from afar, while p2guy documents the fire services in action.

Most, however, were concerned with the welfare of their nearest and dearest as panicked families attempted to get in touch with commuters near the blast. The Garance was one such sister, while silver_chipmunk was an alarmed wife:

"I have been growing more and more frantic as the evening has been going on, because I never heard anything from The Husband, and Grand Central is right where he goes through on the subway. I thought at the very least he was trapped in the subway, and at worst, well ... It got later and later and later and I couldn't get through to his cell phone ... And then finally he called..."

Commuter blindsquirrels was on the spot:

"I managed to leave a message in my parents' home voicemail saying I was all right. Then the cell phone service shut down. The streets were packed with people and no one knew what had happened. I heard that a building had come down and that an electrical turbine had exploded - but nobody knew anything."

Some New Yorkers took a more cynical view of events, commenting that if terrorist blasts were not a threat, (maintenance company) Con Edison certainly was.

Anxious commentators voiced their concern over the presence of asbestos in the atmosphere leaving little blue pd wondering why the blast had taken place:

"It happened right around the corner from one of the biggest creators of traffic congestion in NYC. Will Mayor Bloomberg do anything about this?"

Other internet journalists, such as Daily Barf took a more humorous view of the consequences at Grand Central Station:

"The suspension of service on the 4,5,6, and 7 left thousands trapped in Manhattan with only one choice, to get awkwardly hammered with co-workers they'd never hang out with otherwise."

[Guardian] Guardian photographer's Iraq film aired in US

Guardian photographer's Iraq film aired in US

Shona Ghosh
Friday July 20, 2007

Inside the Surge
Inside the Surge: sparked debate after it was aired by US network ABC on Monday. Photograph: Sean Smith

Guardian photographer and film-maker Sean Smith's documentary on the Iraq conflict, Inside the Surge, has been aired by US network ABC.

The network's news channel showed chunks of Smith's documentary in a longer film of its own about the conflict on Monday, prompting a flood of positive responses from the public to the broadcaster.

Smith spent two weeks with the US military's Apache Company and filmed them as they went on daily routine investigations. At one point an explosion wounded an Iraqi soldier and several civilians.

ABC news has also posted Smith's accompanying photographs on its website. These include images which depict US soldiers shooting a taxi driver because he failed to respond to commands to stop his car.

Almost 300,000 people viewed the footage or have read about it online, with links available across hundreds of blogs. Public commentary on the footage and photographs has been effusive, with some posters claiming to be related to the soldiers depicted.

One mother wrote: "I am the mother of the driver of that tank that burned upside down. Six soldiers and one interpreter died May 19. My son was 19 years old and knew this war will never be won."

Many others expressed gratitude at ABC's decision to air Smith's footage, with one wife commenting: "It's about time that the media started to report the struggles our soldiers face over there every day. The mental and physical toll this is taking on our troops and their families cannot be measured."

Another commentator was equally unpatriotic: "The ABC report stands out because, sadly, it is so unusual. Most of the time, what we see on our TV news programmes are feelgood stories about heroic soldiers, whether defeating a group of outgunned Iraqi fighters or engaging in some kind of do-good activity for the cameras. Rarely do we get to glimpse the daily, routine atrocities that are the real face of American power in Iraq."

The reaction to Smith's footage has received coverage on several news websites, with bloggers similarly joining the fray. Viewers have regarded ABC's report as a first in US media in portraying negative images of the war in Iraq.

One commentator, analysing Republican senator John Thune's speech, used the footage as a criticism of US military tactics:

"One of [Thune's] talking points was that those in the military with whom he spoke supported the Republicans' approach and he expressed doubt that anyone in the military was opposed to the war and was not in agreement with the president's policies. He was challenged for a few seconds by Sen Jim Webb from Virginia. I then happened upon this photo gallery at ABC News who has a story on the newest and apparently greatest of all military tactics - the surge."

ABC news described the footage as "an unfiltered look at the front lines of the surge".

Smith himself said: "I just intended it be seen. I'm pleased that a lot of people in America have seen it, I'm pleased the soldiers could speak openly."

July 09, 2007

Undergrad by day, pole–dancer by night

Writing about web page http://www.donowdo.com/articles/Undergraduate-by-Day-Pole-Dancer-by-Night.htm

Yes, this is exactly what you think it is. It is not, as perhaps the media-cynical reader might suppose, a provocative title heading an article which in fact transpires to be a badly-disguised pun on the latest expedition to the Arctic Circle.

Up and down the country, a small but significant revolution in exercise is occurring. Pole-dancing may not rival the celebrity-starred popularity of yoga just yet, but it’s certainly making its mark.

I took lessons with Liz Dixon of Pole-Positions to find out why. Leather boots (to prevent friction on your legs) in hand, I sidled furtively to a room advertised on a leaflet posted through my door. Like some clandestine, arcane witchcraft society, therein stood a small circle of nervous women. And in the middle of this gathering? The shiny necessity to this unusual sport – a pole.

Sexy walk

Liz herself, a stoic, experienced and motivating instructor, assured us that her pole-dancing classes were popular with students and housewives alike, both of whom wished to boost their own confidence, as well as tone their physiques. The First Lesson First things first – the Sexy Walk. To build self-confidence and put those high heeled boots to good use, we started off learning to walk in an exaggeratedly seductive fashion.

Exaggeration is the key word here. Envisaging you were Kate Moss in that White Stripes video also helped (although the mirror opposite gave something of a reality check). The right walk, though it initially made us feel slightly silly, was essential – there was no point approaching the pole as though it had teeth.

Once we had the walk conquered, the next stage was the Fireman, so-called for self-explanatory reasons. It was a simple move which required us to Sexy Walk (oh yes) around the pole to gather momentum, before jumping onto the pole and sliding down with both knees. And so began pole-dancing… The Image Pole-dancing is breaking away from its image of sleazy strip-joints in the city. Men and women alike are finding out that it is a fun and sensual form of exercise available to them in a safe and welcoming environment.


Companies, such as Pole Positions, are springing up with the express purpose of offering pole-dancing as a keep-fit alternative for everyone – students, housewives and even men! Pole dancing takes endurance and co-ordination, as well as the sensuality which comes chiefly with practice and growing assurance within the environment. The pole itself is constructed of a lightweight metal and held in place by threading – meaning that much of the pressure of a pole-dancer’s weight is put on the ceiling and floor, and not on the pole itself. Just for Fun As the course moved on, there grew a feeling of camaraderie within the class as we all encouraged and complimented each other.

A course such as this is perfect for those who are shy and wish to boost their self-confidence – whether on the dance floor or for themselves. Whether you choose to let the information slip is up to you entirely… Courses with Pole Positions are available in Leamington Spa, Coventry and, more recently, Hemel Hempstead. Each one hour lesson costs £15, and the course runs over six weeks; more details can be found on http://www.polepositionsuk.com/index.html .

[January 2006]

July 06, 2007

Homeward bound

There is a perversely determined pathetic fallacy about my sinus unbunging and the coincidental celestial spewage all over my house. That’s Shakespearian for ‘It’s raining, and I have a cold’. I arrived home yesterday to my mother’s perkily cheery observation ‘You know, you don’t look eighteen any more’. Beleaguered as I have been with a fortnight’s worth of rainwater stagnating in my student room, this could only provoke the darkest of existential observations.

Why is the end of term always so crap?

Post-June 18th, the ‘My Events’ Facebook page looked pretty damn promising. Somewhere in between all the desperately fluorescent nu-raving and unconvincing barbeques - an incomprehensible British phenomenon, to be fully discussed/eviscerated at some future date...in fact sod it, let’s discuss it now:

A smidgen of sunshine appearing from yonder cloud on the horizon for a mere millisecond and you pale folk can’t wait to don your humorous ‘naked person’ aprons, can you?You stride out onto the patio with a grim expression of fixed cheeriness. In your absolute determination to Have Fun, you pull out some particularly slab-like horrors and line them up on the grill like so many slaughtered pigs. Semi-blinded by smoke, you mistakenly and myopically assume that the charred results will serve as acceptable fare for your guests, who will have drowned themselves in Pimms. They will thereby have leapt headfirst into Fun mode with this communal tastebud massacre in British gardens across the country. A sad national flaw which, ever to your bemusement, contributes to continued mockery of your gastronomic tastes. Chiefly by the French.

Let’s assume then, on ‘My Events’, all barbeques are getting ignored. It was all fine to feign vegetarianism until all these quorn/pretend meat concoctions put in an appearance. Now vegetarians have to suffer with the rest of us. A shame, as barbeque avoidance was the only upside I can think of for renouncing bacon on a permanent basis.

So, then, in between all the desperately fluorescent nu-raving and...other events which collaboratively intend to contribute to the deterioration of one’s liver, one must collate a year’s build-up of possessions into a few small boxes. If you a) are a student who goes to the Universityof Warwickand b) have eyes, you will have noticed the floods which have taken over our jolly county in biblical proportions. I hope not everyone spent their final week devising various methods of manoeuvring about their rooms without getting trench foot, but the latter activity deprived me of most of my electronic distractions. This gave me lots of time to ponder my original question. The foundations of my house, meanwhile, crumbled chalkily around me. At least five people, on various nights of debauchery, collapsed on my very undrunk shoulder and bewailed their crappy end-of-terms.

I think it boils down to packing.

Packing is inherently joyless. There’s something nihilistic in its unwelcome reminder of your own rampant materialism. The transferral of Necessary Stuff also leaves a vacuum, namely the room which has formulated your most seminal experiences over the last year. In my case, said hollow was swiftly occupied by 3 inches of standing water, but not everyone can be so fortunate. The thought that that aforementioned space will be occupied and personalised by someone entirely different is not a cheering one. Your room is not imbued with any kind of permanent reminder of your presence. Etching the table is cheating, and results in irate landlords.

A few small swigs of whisky of an evening to dull the pain of packing, and it is a short mental jump to the depressing consideration of your university social network. Tenuous attachments formulated over 10 weeks can feel like life-forged bonds until the approach of that three month yawning gap. Suddenly it’s all awkward foot-shuffling and you realise you haven’t exchanged phone numbers with half of your new acquaintances. And they don’t ask. Despite having gone out on the lash on multiple occasions with these people, you can’t remember any particular time when you had a profound conversation in complete sobriety that didn’t involve the following:

1)    Your department. Gripe, moan, whinge about (in)efficiency of aforementioned.

2)    Student living, and how you could probably christen the various organic things on your walls.

3)    Student loans. We all have them.

4)    Money. No one has any of that.

5)    Jobs. May induce eye-clawing and should be restricted to conversational emergencies.

A few more substantial swigs later, and you’re on the floor in a gibbering, wailing heap convinced in your belief that you have no realfriends at uni. This isn’t actually true, but it’s the sentiment which generally characterises the final week.

Consider the first time – take heed Freshers – you bounced into your student house. The experience bears an uncanny resemblance to the student social network. The sparkling establishment you return to every holiday somehow bears no comparison to the unlovely Victorian cesspit dumped amongst civilian-owned terraced homes. It’s the best thing you’ve ever seen. 3cm2 of living space is, you conclude, perfectly adequate for house parties.

By the end of the year you’ve held perhaps one. You spent much of the next morning cleaning up something unmentionable some passing reveller donated in the flower patch.

If you are capable of holding a rational conversation with every member of your corridor/student hovel by the end of the year, then congratulations, you have been living on an alternate plane of existence, and I would like to know your secret. Because, in much the same way, your new housemates line themselves up for inspection, and it all looks so promising. You’re distracted by gleaming chocolate leather sofas and space, but really, it’s a little weak at the foundations. It starts off small – the symbolism of the banister disengaging itself from the wall in your hands. A melted toaster. I pigeonhole relationships with the housemates into two categories. Either a fuse box blows with alarming regularity at the end of each term, or there’s a mysterious sewage leak which appears in the main toilet. No one knows where it came from, but everyone ignores it.

Sadly, there is no Mr Muscle equivalent for your friends. Rejoice in the end of term and its ensuing crappiness. It means you are ready to appreciate the joys of being swallowed back into the parental nest. Three months of that, and that 3cm2 of living space will regain a surprising amount of its former appeal. Trust me.

June 09, 2007

Sanctuary issue 3 – Heating the Coconut

The word "coconut" is used as a mild derogatory slang word referring to a person of Latino, Filipino, or Indian subcontinent descent who emulates a white person (brown on the outside, white on the inside).

When even Wikipedia, that bastion of hastily assorted knowledge, picks up on a cultural in-joke around since the 80s, one wonders why there seems to be so little comment on the subject.

I have never heard either term applied to anyone other than someone of British Asian descent but, being a Coconut, clearly I don’t hang around with enough Latino and Filipino students. Warwick is full of coconuts. We’re everywhere. We scorned London, Leicester and Coventry for being too Indian. We’re a little intimidated by Cambridge, and we’ve learnt to accept that goddammit, there are no decent curry houses in Leamington Spa. We go to Millennium Balti, with its endearing Eurotrash music, in the knowledge that it’s like a scene from Goodness Gracious Me and eye the waiters with a mixture of sympathy and scorn. We even think up Westernized nicknames for ourselves for our caucasion fellows apparently incapable of coping with polysyllables (viz: ‘Dave’ for Devanand, ‘Dippy’ for Dipankar, and my own personal favourite, ‘Dan’ for Dhananjay).

Rather cruelly, we shun the company of Indian soc; a society chiefly run by what we snootily term freshies. Wikipedia again comes to my rescue: The term is commonly used when immigrants from a foreign nation have not yet assimilated the host nation's culture, language, and behaviour. [They] tend to be identified by their fashion, social preferences, behaviour towards others, and — perhaps most commonly and distinctively — their accents.

Yes, to say the least. Goodness Gracious Me picked up on and hyperbolised the ridiculous habits of our parents, instilling us second generation coconuts with the fear of becoming anything like them. What simple, harmless entertainment it is to imitate the Bombay accent and paint it as an indication of stupidity. Unfortunately, we rather shot ourselves in the foot by portraying ourselves and our parents in this fashion to the Western side of the world, because it results in arrant tripe like Bride and Prejudice. Oh dear God. No one really dances around in synchronisation at Indian weddings in belly-revealing outfits. The less said about Lloyd Webber’s Bollywood Dreams, the better.

In spite of this, there is one event – hosted by our Union – which does much to combine these two breeds at Warwick. It is called Heat and takes place on arbitrary Fridays. Laughingly, it describes itself an ‘international’ music event. Lies. I’ve never heard them play anything but bhangra past 11 o’ clock. Whatever the coconuts might pretend, a very small bit of them longs to be part of that noisy melee of Asian people smoking sheesha. Thus they sidle along to Heat, hidden under a hat, cast off their skinny jeans and admit that they know the words to every song from Dil Se. Albeit in a horrendous accent. So lost are the coconuts in their pretence that they perpetrate their own clichés. Indiansoc ought to set up a charity: Heating the Coconut – helping coconuts become a little browner on the inside. All donations to be given in rupees.

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