The Evolution of the Coffee

I miss the good ol’ days when a coffee was a coffee, and the only question faced with ordering one was, “Black or white?”

During the summer my mum and I went to our favourite little café in Blackpool and I ordered a coffee. Or at least I tried to.
“What kind of coffee?” I was asked.
“What?” I asked dumbly.
“What kind of coffee would you like?” the lady repeated. “Would you like an Americano, a Latte, a Cappuccino, an Espresso…?”
Quite frankly, I felt like a deer in headlights. Where the hell did all this come from? I knew that the ‘posh’ coffee shops were like this – and thus steered clear of them – but this was just a café; place to eat and a place to not have to deal with what seemed like a seriously complex way to get a caffeine fix.
This process was repeated several times at several different cafés, and I approached it either one of two ways. Option 1: freak out like I did that first occasion. Option 2: get someone else to order for me…only for them to come back and ask me what kind of goddamn coffee I wanted.
“I just want a normal coffee!” I would end up exclaiming. “It has ground coffee beans, and it has hot water and milk in it. And it’s strong and it wakes me up!”
“Oh, so you want an Americano,” was the response. Since when did my simple coffee identify as an American?
Anyway, the situation got me thinking about life as a whole, and the following question came to mind:

Is there such thing as too much choice?

I’m not talking about coffee or anything trivial like that now (although those kinds of decisions are still stressful as hell!). I’m talking about life paths. When I was in high school there were so many opportunities that I wanted to grab, so many paths I wanted to go down, and the number has just continued to increase as I have progressed in life. I want to be an engineer…yet I also want to be a writer…and help with different charities…and own a farm…the list goes on. And these paths then branch out into more paths, and more, and MORE! It’s never ending!

Think back to when you were at high school and you had to consider what you wanted to do for the rest of your life. Once you’ve figured that out, you have to then decide upon the several ways you can get to that point in life. Now if you want to be a vet or a doctor or something, this is an easy choice: you have to go to university. But then you have to choose what university, whether you want this course or that, whether you’re going to do a year in industry or a year abroad, or a Masters or a PhD.

And then there are other options for other careers like apprenticeships and traineeships and the list of opportunities just keep growing and growing and growing. It’s enough of a pain in the arse deciding what you want for tea, let alone making all these choices that are actually going to affect the rest of your life. And studieseven show that too much choice can lead to riskier – and often bad – decisions.

I get really stressed out about choosing stuff, as are a lot of my friends. This leads to really frustrating conversations that all go the same…and all last for what seems an eternity:

“You choose.”

“I don’t mind. You choose.”

“I don’t mind either. Just choose one.”

“No, you choose.”

“No, you choose!”

Then again, maybe there isn’t enough choice either.

Taking my earlier example of what a person may want to do for a career, maybe there needs to be more choice because not everyone is the same, and thus not everyone suits the same path. University isn’t right for me since I am a more kinaesthetic learner, so I learn better by applying knowledge to a situation where I’m actually doing something, not by sitting in a lecture theatre trying to soak up the notes and what the lecturer is saying. An apprenticeship would’ve been better for me, but if you don’t get an apprenticeship, all that’s left is university, right? Which is then a series of visuals and audios.

And then there are those who just aren’t right for the typical education system, yet what else is there? Home schooling is a choice, but this isn’t the right choice for families with low income or two working parents, so what then?

It’s an interesting paradox to consider. What do you guys think? Is there too much choice in the world? Is there too little? Share your thoughts.

In the meantime I think I might go order a green tea instead. There’s only one kind of green tea that this café can offer me, surely!

Lest we forget

My friend Ken put together a couple of beautiful pictures in time for Remembrance Sunday today. Let us remember those who fought for their countries and the many people and animals who died at the hands of war.

Without them, the sun would’ve set, never again to rise for another tomorrow.

Photo credits: @Aviationprints.
Check out his beautiful photography and digital art on photo4me.com/ken

 

Look what the cat threw up!

Ladies and gentlemen! I have returned!

After all this time I’ve finally come round to writing again. Unfortunately I’ve been suppressed in a cage of depression, and only now have I had the strength to stand up and start moving again (albeit very wobbly steps!). My apologies to you all.

And so my blog will once again become active. But what’s in store for you?

I have a few ideas at the moment for blog posts, including my Halloween costume, my opinions on feminism, and which anime I choose between Code Geass and Death Note. Of course, there will also be some stories. However I will also be wanting some requests from you guys. Give me writing prompts or subjects you want my opinions on, and hopefully I will be back on my fingertips in no time.

I’ve also been doing a bit of art as of late, which I have thoroughly missed doing. Again, if you have anything you want me to try and draw, feel free to let me know and I’ll see what I can do. I’m currently working on drawing a platypus, which is driving me insane!

Plants and insects in the style of Salvador Dali

Eye see you!

“Anime bullshit” as one housemate describes it

I’m hoping that this time I will be able to keep this blog up to date and just stay motivated and productive. So watch this space, and bear with me.

In the meantime, keep smiling!

Claire

Black and Blue

The door slams.

You open your eyes.


Your trembling hands are covered in blood.


Looking in the mirror: a huge gash above your left brow.


You ease into the shower.


The water burns.


Your ribs are black and blue.


You relive the hitting.


The spitting.


The name calling.


You cry.


Pause.


Deep breath.


You get dressed.


You dry your hair.


You pick up the phone.


Dial:


“999, what’s your emergency?”


“Police, please. My wife attacked me.”




How many of you first thought that this was a woman being assaulted?

A lot of us forget that men can also be victims of domestic abuse; in fact 40% of domestic violence victims in the UK are men.

Male domestic violence charity ManKind posted a new #ViolenceIsViolence campaign video on YouTube which has over 4.5million views since being uploaded last week. We all need to remember that violence works both ways: if a man cannot hit a woman, a woman should not be allowed to hit a man.

I have now ManKind‘s membership, donating £20 every year at the very least. If you can give any sort of donation or publicity to this charity, I would be eternally grateful to you.

#ViolenceIsViolence

Struggling doesn’t make you a failure

I’m suspending my course at uni, and instead I will be sitting my second year exams this time next year. I guess you can say I’m having a gap year.

The reason for this is because I’ve been feeling less and less like me, more like a shadow. I miss the old Claire – always so bubbly and motivated – and I’m going to spend the next year finding her.

It’s something I’ve been thinking about for a long time, and I know it’s the right decision for me. I just need the time to find me and fall back in love in engineering again. Lately I’ve been in a dark place with no light at the end of the tunnel; it’s time to get out.

Ever since I got my first C during A levels (it was a huge shock to me since I’m usually a straight A student), I’ve been going down a deep, dark hole which I’m finding impossible to get out of. I’ve always had really bad anxiety when it comes to exams, but it’s only gotten worse, and my friends and family – and members of staff I’ve spoken to at university – all agree that I am not well enough to sit these exams.

I have thought about this long and hard for months. I’ve not been enjoying uni at all; in fact I’ve hated it since the middle of first year. What was stopping me from deciding this earlier was the daft idea that quitting uni or suspending my studies would mean I would fail in life – and the one thing I fear more than anything else is failure.

It’s something that is implied at school from a very young age. If you don’t go to university and get a degree, you will never get anywhere in life. And it infuriates me that we are made to feel like that, because university isn’t for everyone. Some people learn better doing a more practical vocational course. Others are more suited to doing an apprenticeship or internship. Some don’t even know what they want to do with their lives yet. So what’s the point in spending £9000 a year on some random course just for the sake of making the education system happy that they have another number to add to their statistics?

Schools need to start teaching pupils that taking a year out to have a break from education or to figure out what they actually want to do in life is okay, and it doesn’t mean you’re going to fail in life. I wish I’d taken a year out before going to university just so I could take a breather and get myself back on track because I was a mess during A levels. I was starting to doubt myself a lot, and a 12 months’ break then maybe would have benefited me.

Then again, I can look upon this situation in a more positive light. If I had taken a year out then, I probably wouldn’t be friends with the amazing people I know today. I probably wouldn’t have a job at the hotel I wait on, and thus I would never have had an internship at Vulcan To The Sky Trust, which I absolutely love doing.

I guess this was the path that I had to stumble upon. But I want my generation and future generations to learn that it’s okay to take a break. You’ve been in some form of education from the age of four or five. That is a heck of a long time meeting deadlines and cramming for exams. Is it really any wonder that some of us forget that life is supposed to be fun?

A lot of people don’t need to take a year out. They graduate from university at 21 or 22 and perhaps even go on to do a PhD. Good for them, I say. But not everyone is suited for that path, and that needs to be understood by us – and by the schools that try to force us to follow the crowd.

I can tell you that I will get my degree…just not next year as we had planned. But I’m okay with that, because it’s right for me.

Poem: Days of Laughter

I remember those days of laughter
And I wonder if they were real
I remember how I admired you
And the sadness I now feel.

For now you’re in the winter
There are layers of lead between
The blizzard has only just begun…
The end is nowhere to be seen.

A pair of silver tongues entwined;
Eyes have added details.
Crayon scribbles upon oil paintings;
A friendship built now fails.

I reach for those days of laughter
Only to touch a cold hard wall
I wonder what I did so wrong
I wonder if you knew me at all.

Eastsiders Season 2!!!

Remember last year when I posted about the Eastsiders Kickstarter campaign so that brilliant writer Kit Williamson could make his script a web series? Well Season 1 was such a success that I’m happy to announce that a second season has been written and the clan are back on Kickstarter!

EastSiders is a dark comedy about a gay couple facing consequences in their relationship as they try to overcome infidelity and deception in Silverlake, California. Drunken outbursts galore, and with the hilarity that is Krazy Kathy over-complicating her relationship with her nice guy boyfriend Ian, the first season was a huge hit. The show was picked up by Logo to air on LogoTV.com, and later it was broadcast on WolfeOnDemand.com as a movie for international viewers to watch.


The series also won the LA Weekly Web Award for Best Web Drama, Best Ensemble at the Indie Series Awards and was nominated for a Satellite Award from the International Press Academy, among numerous other accolades.


Now every penny made from Season 1 is being thrown back in for Season 2, and you can be sure that it’s going to be even bigger and better than before if they can raise the money.


Kit Williamson is nothing less than incredible, and has become something of an inspiration to me since I came across EastSiders. Watching as Kit’s own creation became a success, I’ve realised that you can’t just wait around for a great opportunity; instead of waiting for success to come to you, go get it yourself.


Click here to pledge to the EastSiders Season 2 Kickstarter!

Something kind of personal…

I haven’t really spoken about my family much on here, and I’ve never intended to. But something happened today that I want to talk about. Maybe someone is going through something similar, and maybe someone can help me see some sort of light. Because I have these odd unfamiliar feelings about the topic and I don’t know how to address them.

Before today I hadn’t spoken to my father in over six years, by a matter of choice. I changed my surname and I’ve torn up every single Christmas and birthday card he has ever sent me. I used to really hate him, because he made mine, my mum’s, and my brother’s lives a misery. When I still called him my dad, he was a selfish, bullying drunk who was able to afford cigarettes and booze and football season tickets, but was too skint to pay for days out or meals out. He had enough energy to bully my brother and strangle him with a washing line, but he was too tired to spend actual quality time with us. He was cruel, and the final straw was when he attacked my mum because she had someone other than him fixing her car.

Today was my birthday and I answered the door to see him standing there. He looked awfully old. His teeth are even yellower than I remember and he’s lost one of his front incisors. I expected to feel the hate I’d let go of a couple of years back, but all I felt was pity for the mess I saw before me. Not the sympathy he tried to gain from me, just pity. The big bad dad that I’d feared for a large portion of my life was now nothing more than a short pitiful old man, and although the fear is well and truly gone, it’s been replaced by another emotion that right now I can’t place my finger on.

I know that I’m never going to be able to forgive him for all the hurt that he caused, nor am I interested in keeping in contact with him, as I have told him. But it’s kind of hit me hard in a way that I can’t describe, and it just makes me cry to think of those five or ten awkward minutes facing the man who I had feared more than anything else in my life.

Wind Turbines, Costa Coffee & Imbesullens (an update from Yours Truly)

Well hello there!

Yeah yeah, I know it’s been a while, and I’m super sorry about that. Second year is a lot more hectic than first year…which sounds like I’m pointing out the obvious, but I really didn’t realise exactly how bad my schedule was going to be at the beginning of the year. And alas, I haven’t had much time to keep you guys in the loop.

So first thing’s first: design project. As I’m sure I’ve mentioned in a previous post (aha – here we go!), our group project was to design and manufacture a wind turbine out of a 1.0m x 0.5m x 0.7mm thick crappy aluminium sheet. Well, last week we finally had a finished prototype and got to see it in action during the performance test:

Our baby in the wind tunnel!

Although the braking system didn’t work (we’re still baffled as to why since it worked in the practice test), I was a proud mama watching as it generated 10.4W of power at wind speeds of 15m/s. If you consider the fact that the other groups that day got 8mW, 0.45W, 9.7W and 10.6W, we didn’t do too shabbily. Still, damn that group that pipped us!

Now all the rest of the groups have been. Out of 24 groups we generated the second highest power at 15m/s (again, damn that group that pipped us!), and only four groups managed to get their braking system to work (and two of those were manually done). To those four groups, I say bravo.

Tomorrow is the final loading test, where a 10kg load will be applied to our structures in the direction of the wind. Fingers crossed our structure won’t be one of many to buckle. Our simulations and calculations say that it’ll withstand the load, but you just never know.

Speaking of Engineering, guess who’s secretary of the Engineering Society nowwww? Yeah, I got back to my room after being voted into the committee and thought, “Shit, what have I done?” I ALWAYS do this to myself! When I feel like I’ve got a lot on my plate, what do I do? Add more to it! Yeah, like there’s any logic in that! But what’s done is done now, and there’s nothing I can do about it. I’m also directing a short play that I’ve written for Friday’s Proteus, and it’s the first time I’m directing, and then I’ve also got my lab report and design portfolio due on the Friday as well…gahhh! Why do I do this to myselffff?!

And to top it all off, I’ve got a terrible case of Lazyitis! I’m procrastinating like never before. I’ve watched a good number of the films that I’ve been wanting to see for ages: Limitless (I want that drug!), Rise of the Guardians (I want Jack Frost!…without the cold), Good Will Hunting (I want his brain! (no zombie-ness intended)), Frozen (I want…yeah, nothing from that film…maybe the ability to sing…).

But guys! His mischievous, fun, yet caring personality just ironically warms my heart!
Does it help that I found that attractive before I considered he’s actually quite a good-looking animated character?

And then I’ve made my life even worse by finding these ridiculous YouTube videos that fans of Rise of the Guardians have put up:

//www.youtube.com/get_player
Comedian Brian Regan – Stupid at School
//www.youtube.com/get_player
Comedian Brian Regan – Loitering and Manslaughter
Comedian Dane Cook – Speak & Spell and Simon

It might just be me who’s nearly crying with laughter, sorry I’m not sorry. They’re helping me cope with life! MOOSEN!!!!

And then I also found the Reid Oliver Cartoons (remember I’m lamely in love with the character Dr Reid Oliver from As The World Turns even 4 years after the show was cancelled?) made by a girl in Manchester – not too far away from my home! Ahh, those have had me chuckling too!

I think I might’ve lost the plot…though my mum and my friends say that I never had it.

Eight days ago, a man shouted at me as he drove past in his car, “You’re gonna die in seven days!”. I don’t care if I just drop dead now; at least I’ll be able to come back as a ghost, find him, and rub it in his face that he was about 24 hours out. True story.

I’m sorry, I’m going a little off topic with this post. But then again, this is an update, so I guess I can write whatever the hell I want. Sorry.

Can you tell I’ve had a lot of caffeine? I’ve been going coffee crazy lately so that I can meet all my deadlines, but it was today in Costa when I really got a caffeine hit. I’ve never been in Costa before until today. I’ve been stuck in the Library basement all day every day for so long that I just hate the Library, so one of my housemates suggested meeting her at Costa to get work done – at least I’d be able to eat and drink coffee openly there. After three hours and two cups of coffee I’d gotten a fair bit done and I decided to go back to the house when all of a sudden…WHAM! All of a sudden my pulse was racing and I wasn’t quite myself. It was kind of how I’d expect to feel if I was on drugs; it was weird. I must’ve looked a complete and utter idiot walking back to the house:

Naughty naughty Costa coffee…

     
That’s probably the last time I’m having Costa coffee.

Oh yeah! I’ve also dyed my hair purple! I felt like a change, so change happened. It’s quite subtle. In fact, I haven’t managed to take a picture where you can actually tell that it’s purple yet.

Attempt #1
Attempt #63

Trust me, it’s purple. I should know.

So yeah, that’s pretty much my life so far. I might be able to post a bit more after Friday since I will have finished my second semester! Although I will be powering on with my internship at Vulcan To The Sky Trust, so maybe not. That’s going pretty well, and now that it’s nearing the summer air shows it’s gonna be a lot busier; I can’t wait to get stuck in! University has been taking over, but as long as I keep time for revision I’m sure I’ll be able to juggle the both of them during these hols. Unfortunately it means I’m not going to be home much, which sucks since I really miss my family, but they understand, and my mum especially is 100% behind me on this. Yeah, my mum’s pretty darn amazing. She’s getting so spoiled this Mother’s Day!

Anyway, I think that’s all from me. I’m going to get on with some of my lab report now: Twin Rotor MIMO Systems. Interesting, but complex and often confusing.

What have you been up to lately? Let me know in the comments section or something. Oh, and keep smiling!

Claire

A Change of Lent

In Britain, Lent is a big deal that the majority of people – Christian or otherwise – still do before Easter. I don’t know if other countries do Lent (I only just found out today that a lot of Christian countries don’t), but for us it’s still very much a tradition.

For years I have given up indulgences such as chocolate and alcohol for Lent, but this year I wanted a new challenge. So I was going to give up forks and spoons and use chopsticks instead.

I know, I’m crazy.

Then a friend told me that that was dumb and suggested that I give up hugs instead (I am very much a hugger). But then I felt like I was offending other friends by denying them hugs, and it’s pretty darn awkward just shaking hands with them!

Which is when one genius friend told me today that instead of losing something for Lent, he tries to gain something from it instead, and every day of Lent he will try something new.

So that’s it. From now on, every Lent I am going to try to learn – or start to learn – something new. And this year it’s going to be my British Sign Language Level 1. I started learning BSL Level 1 back in Sixth Form until my teacher had to leave, so this will make sure that all those lunch times don’t go to waste. I’ve signed up for the BSL online course, and considering it’s costing me £19.99, it will give me that extra motivation to stick to it.

I haven’t properly looked at how much content Level 1 covers, but for now I’m going to either be realistic or really unrealistic when I say that I hope to have covered two of the three modules by the end of Lent. Wish me luck!

Do you guys do Lent? What are you giving up this year? Or are you doing things a little differently too?

Keep smiling!

Claire