Life Update: Luxembourg, birthday, work, court

It’s been a very busy few weeks here, with no sign that work is going to ease off before Xmas (or before the arrival of Garklet #2), but I ought to make an effort to at least record what’s been going on with my life.

After the failed trip to Stornoway last month, the candidate and his supervisor came down to Southampton (they were in London for a meeting) for a second attempt at a viva, and I’m delighted to say that he defended his PhD well.

On the 6th, I headed off to Luxembourg for the kick-off meeting for a new EU-funded project that I’m involved with. Travelling on a Sunday wasn’t quite the way I’d wanted to support UCU’s work-to-contract, but this was unavoidable. Still made to feel guilty by check-in at Heathrow; when told that I was travelling on business, they wanted to know why I was travelling on a Sunday. Well, quite.

The hotel I’d booked turned out to be reasonable, but the area was less so (by the railway station). My keen colleague N had booked his hotel a few weeks before I had, and had managed to choose a hotel that was given an average score of 2/5 on TripAdvisor (most frequent comment: “I would never stay here again”). I picked the hotel over the road (average score of 3/5), and was generally pleased, but the proximity to three strip clubs was less than desirable.

Had a good time on my birthday the following weekend. Didn’t get a pub lunch (due to trip to the big B&Q), but ended up seeing The Ides of March (v. good, much recommended) and Chris Addison’s warm-up gig in New Milton. Now have boxed sets of The Prisoner and Twin Peaks to work through in my spare time, ha ha.

Work is still busy, but highlights have included my teaching on the hypertext module and my two new PhD students. Hypertext was what attracted me to Southampton back in the mid-90s, so it’s been fun teaching this. This is my second year teaching this module, and I took the opportunity to radically revamp the material from that I’d inherited. The lecture on hypertext narrative went down particularly well, as did that on the history of hypertext.

As part of the Web Science doctoral training centre, I have two new PhD students, neither of them traditional computer scientists. One is a teacher who is studying the myth of the digital native, and the other is a cuneiform paleographer. Yes, I’ve spent part of the last month looking at tablets and familiarising myself with Sumerian grammar and orthography – not the usual.

In other news, I didn’t have to appear at Westminster Magistrate’s Court on Wednesday. As some of you may know, , the and I went on the TUC protest march on the 26th March, and ended up in Fortnum and Mason (for a post-march ice cream for the youngster to reward him for putting up with us) at the time that UKUncut occupied the building. We were there when the fighting kicked off outside, but left by the back door (the front door having been closed by the police) before the non-UKUncut lot outside broke in. When we found out that the police had arrested the UKUncut protesters (who were being “non-violent and sensible”, to quote the senior police officer on the scene, and who were doing nothing more than chanting “pay your taxes”) but not the lot who were smashing things up outside, we were more than a little disappointed, to say the least.

Over the summer, I found out that the son of one of my colleagues was one of the protesters who had been arrested on a charge of aggravated trespass, and so I offered to make a statement in his defence. The case came to trial a week and a half ago, and I was originally to have appeared as a defence witness, but the defence considered that the prosecution case had been so poorly made (see the quote from the police officer above, called as a prosecution witness) that it wasn’t worth calling witnesses of their own. Unfortunately, DJ Snow found against the ten defendents, so it looks like I may be called when the case goes to appeal (and possibly for the trial of the remaining twenty protesters).

In other news, I’m getting really rather depressed by the state of the nation; having screwed over the Universities, targetted the most vulnerable in society with their welfare reforms, and initiated the privatisation of the NHS and the school system, the coalition is now killing off publicly-owned social housing by reviving and accelerating the madness of right-to-buy. “Lower than vermin”, as Aneurin Bevan rightly put it (and I very much doubt whether he would have distinguished between today’s Tories and Lib Dems in this estimation).

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