7QT: Twas the Week Before Christmas…

…And not much was stirring. That’s the problem with being on break from the usual routine; one loses the rhythm that once inspired blogging. 7 Quick Takes Friday is hosted by This Ain’t the Lyceum.

~1~

Well, it was my partner’s birthday on Sunday. A week before Christmas, poor lad, but at least we got to celebrate with a relaxing time at home after Mass, and then went for a meal with his dad and siblings.

~2~

The remainder of the days I spent with him consisted of the usual if one’s usual is playing video games (Lego Dimensions, Slime Rancher) 😉 and reading. I hate to admit it, but the holiday is, in some cases, for relaxing – even when I would honestly rather be working.

~3~

I’ve also been working on my assignments for January – a four-part Phonetics assignment which in each of its parts uses the Praat acoustic phonetic programme.

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An example of a spectrogram one can analyse in Praat.

~4~

Of course, though, the persistent winter cold has returned with a vengeance – and I can only hope that any form of ‘refreshers’’ (meaning the second term of new-to-uni activities) flu will be short lived if lived at all. I have had rather enough of being illed. It gets in the way of my studies, my games, and my mind, like a fog across the frontal lobe, infecting every inch of my spirit until it is no more than a mush.

~5~

I look forward to when the Christmas kerfluffle is out of the way and we can all just get back to the winter as it was without the needless commercialism. Even the togetherness can be stifling, can it not? Some of us are not used to it.

~6~

Editing has been slow – big surprise there, eh? 😛 – though rewriting has been somewhat of a success. I finally finished chapter and ramped up the tension and, most importantly, the plot. The extract below follows Cathy and Petite Victoria as they argue over the bartering of freedom for the crew.

~7~

So, this was it. This was Victoria’s deal?

“So you planned to steal me away from my comrades to keep me captive from them?” She was surprised how calm her voice sounded. “What next, push me off a cliff?”

“I offer you asylum,” Victoria said simply.

“Asylum from what exactly?”

She spread her hands wide. The bands of heat above the plateau rippled in response. In front of them, the sea thrashed against the rocks like the orchestra pit of a play-house; behind them, a wasteland trawled until it hit the settlement, the only signs of life and survival for miles.

“Without my help, your crew have no way home.” She paused, and Cathy heard all the meaning in her silence. “Unless they plan to walk to Roma with no food or water.”

She was right, damn all heavens!

“Unless you plan to sacrifice them and their little guild for your own freedom.”

“So, you use me as the bartering chip,” muttered Cathy.

Quick Takes: Two Weeks

I fully meant to be part of the blog-hop last week, but, somehow, it escaped me, and this I guess this is a culmination of last week’s and this week’s adventures.

Seven Quick Takes

~1~

I must say it every week, but my time is being swept away from me now, though not necessarily in a bad way. This week, I mostly focused on my schooling. Plus, I’ve not done that much.

~2~

Though, of course, it was the obligatory All Saints Day on Tuesday (1st) and Newman House, the university Chaplaincy in London held a beautiful Mass with the Bishop presiding. It was all very exciting.

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The Bishop also blessed the new cross out the front of Newman House.

~3~

As it was, I chose not to do anything for Hallowe’en. I’m not much into deliberate drinking when there’s nothing to do or no point, and I have never been into asking for gifts door-to-door. Besides, getting a costume together is something I don’t have the time for, nowadays. Everything is just too complicated at the moment.

~4~

I’ve had experimental participant credit to gather, and it recalls to me my days as a first and second year undergrad. There’s a certain vulnerability at being a participant or other people’s research, particularly if it counts towards a mark or their degree. Nevertheless, within that vulnerability of stepping into something created by someone else, for all that we are ignorant, is an inspiration for my own work. I’ve always been fascinated by the potential experiments one could create to test for all sorts of unique aspects of humanity.

~5~

Tomorrow sees me for the third year at Steampunks in Space, the unique convivial in Leicester Space Centre. With astronomy and space having always been one of my favourite sciences, I love that we get to explore this museum and its exhibits whilst also in some of our best garments.

~6~

Have I been editing? Well, yes, I have. Cathy’s now in Italia, which I suppose is progress, even if I can echo the sentiments I made on Monday about NaNoWriMo.

~ 7~

Cathy opened her eyes one at a time. Dull afternoon clouds, grey-tinged, yet exhausted now of their rain, lay above her. A second passed before she realised that the world looked sickly due to certain goggles pinching the bridge of her nose.

She willed herself to whip them off, but her arms ached. A thousand bruises pinned them to her sides.

7 Quick Takes: A Recap of the Vanished

I know I’ve been absent from 7 Quick Takes Friday for a while now. Some of it has been out of my control – moving and all that jazz – but some of it, I must admit, has been laziness on my part. So, of all the things, this is a Friday catch-up, I suppose.

Seven Quick Takes

~1~

Oh, September, how you are a tricksy month, particularly for someone like me who took a rather distended break from blogging and writing et al, and whose mind now is struggling to settle back into routine.

~2~

I think I will relish returning to the normal routine of student work getting in the way of writing work, though. Giving myself a reason to get out of bed will surely aid my brain into inspiration during the day.

~3~

Speaking of which, that’s coming up soon. I get enrolled soon, and then lectures after that, though it still feels like a lifetime away. I know it will pass so quickly; and part of me wishes so, whilst the other is perfectly happy to freeze time in the here and now.

~4~

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What am I reading? Oh, wow, what a question, since, if one goes by my Kindle app, I am reading quite a number of things at once. For my own amusement, I recently stumbled back into reading THE SECRETS OF GHOSTS by Sarah Painter and published by Carina, a small press that has impressed (!) me with its selections of titles and way with voices.

~5~

Image result for heart of brassThere are a few books I’m reading for writing style inspiration:

THE DARK DAYS CLUB by Alison Goodman; HEART OF BRASS by Kate Cross; A GATHERING OF SHADOWS by VE Schwab.

A theme, right? Well, I have to read up in my fields. 🙂

~6~

On the writing front, I’m slowly rewriting my novel H, a historical fantasy that floats about from New York to Italy. Here, our plucky young heroine, Cathleen ‘Cathy’ Cattoway, returns to New York in the dead of night to question the man who last saw her betrothed.

~7~

When they docked unceremoniously in New York—Cathy’s boots slid her across the moisture-sleeked deck like untethered weights—the morning hung dark and heavy over Ellis Island, mist-less yet crammed with whispers of forbidden conversations out of their reach. Even the residue of last night’s Passing made Cathy’s hair stand on end. Out here the air was a mixture of gaslight fumes, the smell of bitterly cold air, and fouler scents, too…

7 Quick Takes: Prayer, Trust, and All the Choices

I’m back for the Friday 7 Quick Takes today. Hosted, as usual, by This Ain’t the Lyceum. Check ‘em out!

Seven Quick Takes

~1~

Choices, Choices, and More Choices. I’ve been trying to make a few *big* choices, difficult choices. Retrospectively, they’re not things that would seem that important to other people, but making choices is something I struggle to do definitely. I’m a maybe person; I like things in the middle. And, so, making a singular yes is difficult.

~2~

Inviting God into the Everyday. After going to World Youth Day, I have been trying to put God first (or, being honest, more first) in my daily life, even in just waking up and thinking about my day. That was one thing that helped me during exam revision. God and I working together.

~3~

Prayer is Enough. I will admit, however, that I’m not one of the best people to stick to a daily prayer schedule. I am trying, though.

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~4~

Thankfully… I am definitely doing a Masters in London. I have officially finished my pre-enrolment, so all that is left to do is wait the days out until my new term.

~5~

There Are Always Options. I’ve got to remember the mind-set that whatever happens and comes to be is part of God’s ultimate plan for me. Things go wrong, as they always seem to do around me, but in the end, they were always meant to go wrong; or, rather, they were always meant to happen differently to what I might have expected or even hoped for.

~6~

How is life, though? It’s good. I am enjoying the company of the three cats with which I am now living. Thus, the photo below. That’s Bovril, and she’s a sweetie.

~7~

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Quick Takes Monday: Being Thankful

I missed Quick Takes Friday, but there’s always room for a Quick Takes Monday, seeing as I had half a post written. I thought today I’d do something different for the 7 Quick Takes blog hop, and take a moment in prayer to think about things for which I am thankful in the type of life I lead.

Seven Quick Takes

~1~

Temperature controlled showers. Yes, yes, I know how material that is. But temperature controlled showers – and I’m not talking about turning up the temperature all the time – are so good to have in the morning to wake one’s self up. Without being able to control the shower in the way I have done, I wouldn’t be able proceed with my day in the way I want.

So, for that, I am thankful for good showers, and I always will be.

~2~

The Internet – whether it be working or not. I am glad I came to age in a time after the internet became as popular as it is now. Sure, the internet is made for trolls and people hiding everywhere who want to corrupt the goodness of society, but it is also an amazing place for genuine people who, a 100 years ago, would not have had the opportunity to be as successful as they are now, thanks to job and career opportunities they happen upon thanks to the internet.

~3~

Companionship. From friends to family to acquaintances, everybody I meet influences the path I walk and the choices I make. Just a little bit. Just by joy and conversation and care. I am so so thankful for God bringing these people into my life.

~4~

Outerwear. Like, working gloves. Those to me are bliss when my fingers do not turn to blocks of ice. I have naturally cold hands – low circulation – which leaves me, even in a mild April day, tucked hands in pockets or under fleecy protection. I don’t mind – it’s a fate I have endured for many years, and I have my ways of dealing with it. Like gloves.

~5~

Discovery. Every day, even in the minutest of ways, we – as people and as scientists in this big, wide world of ours – are learning more and more about the world we are stewarding. We may never eradicate all human-killing diseases or we may never create the technology of our dreams or find every creature in every crevice of the planet, but what we do find, however small, helps to patch together an interpretation of life. To me, that is wonderful.

~6~

Contemplation. Another thing that I myself could not live without. The world would be a dull place if we could not think. For starters, there were not be this post. In extension of that, I am thankful for philosophy in terms of considering the world around me. So very often we get told not to take our gifts for granted; this is true, but the gift of being able to contemplate is not one so easily defined.

Even so, I pray that others will experience contemplation and knowing when to do the right thing.

~7~

Fiction. Namely, the act of being able to generate fictitious ideas. I often wonder what the world would be like without imagination and without fiction. Without the ability to weave a story to tell others. And, indeed, where would we be as readers? Reading is amazing and so often overlooked. But the fact that we somehow encode the orthographic squiggles on paper with a pre-taught corresponding phoneme is both highly unlikely and amazing.

Well, that’s the work of The Lord for you. Amen!

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Have a peaceful and blessed week. 🙂

Quick Takes: 7 Good Friday Thoughts

Although the days passed quickly this year, we are approaching the end of Lent with Easter Sunday and the Resurrection of Christ. This year especially, I have noticed that, even though I’ve been busy with my dissertation and still more essays this year, I have drawn closer to Christ. Not through prayer or alms-giving or abstinence, as I would have expected and have tried to utilise, but through my thoughts and observations.

So, for 7 Quick Takes Friday, I’d share some of the realisations and feelings this Lent has delivered to me.

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  1. Giving

Something I wish I’d been truly aware (instead of just knowing it, but feeling it too) of before this year is how much God is always there, always permeating our lives. I’ve been following the CATHOD blog since the genesis of this little blog, and I am enjoying their series at the moment about the challenges their volunteers have been doing as part of Lent, including things like cutting down the amount of water they use per day as solidarity for those in low income countries who have to walk miles daily just to get dirty water.

Only the last couple of days has it hit me that giving during isn’t just involving others; giving can be giving one’s self challenges to make one conscious of how much luxury the first world situation is. Maybe I can try and do something challenging, like cut down the amount of washing I do. I am sure I can live more cost-effective and world-aware.

  1. Fasting

Today has been one of my best days fasting that I have had. I don’t tend to fast except on days of obligation, but to focus the mind on God, it might be good to fast more often. I think I could do it tomorrow as well. I put on a nice dress, had a shower – I even walked 3 miles! What’s wrong with not eating? 🙂

3. Abstinence

I am definitely considering trying to make my Fridays permanently meat-free (as well as my usual Thursdays and Wednesdays). I mean, I can’t afford much meat as a student anyway, but limiting the amount of meat I buy can be beneficial for the environment and my giving up something I like on a long-term basis will help me to think of those who have no choice with their diets.

The only complications are when visiting friends and my tendency to have pizza on Fridays (and pizza is just bland without meat 😉 ).

4. Respect

Having not been to a proper Triduum before, I was surprised by the feet-washing part of the liturgy for the Celebration of the and the little note in today’s Mass saying “If you would like, like may follow the ancient tradition of removing your shoes before the Cross.” Surprised, but delighted, though. One of the reasons I was drawn to the Catholic Church is because I have always been naturally traditionally-minded.

I took off my shoes. Not just because it’s something different, but because of how it made me feel in relation to the Cross. Taking my shoes off meant respecting the ground on which Christ walked, setting God apart from mortals. It meant showing belief with my whole body, not just my voice and my mind.

  1. Community

    What’s more, this Lent has brought me closer to the Church community. Not just with those I know from Sunday Mass and the musicians and readers there, but also the strangers I have sat next to these last couple of days. They’re not the people I would normally spend time with – or even see in daily life – but we know we are united through Christ, and that can bring a sense of community to anyone.

  2. Peace

    With each service, reading, performance I am part of, I feel closer and closer to God this time of the year. With it is a sense of Peace, that post-Eucharist floatiness, a mix of prayerfulness and quiet. Of all the emotions, this is the one that hits me the greatest after Mass, but I honestly could not wish for more.

  3. Sorrow

Why sorrow? Well, this is Good Friday. Really this year have I felt the genuine sorrow of Christ’s sacrifice. No one should have to go through anything as tortuous as what He went through. Yet…indeed we still have prisoners and modern martyrs of faith, and people who suffer just for what they believe. Almost worse is it to not be able to openly practise one’s faith.

We are the lucky ones – who can go to Triduum and not find a seat because the church is so full – and we celebrate with very little prejudice. But there are so many around who cannot practise safely. Nevertheless, in Christ’s sacrifice today, He has saved us from sin.

God bless for the remainder of your Easter. 🙂

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7 Quick Takes – 6 Types of Assessment

Since it’s been a hectic couple of weeks for me in my third year of uni (at the fabulous University of Reading in the UK), what with this being my dissertation* term and having deadlines Friday, Monday, and Thursday, I thought I’d take the opportunity of the Quick Takes list to describe a bit about the types of assessments I’ve had to do, particularly over this year**.

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7 Quick Takes is hosted at This Ain’t the Lyceum.

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The straight-up essay

This is the assessment I get the most – it covers both Psychology and Philosophy modules, and I suppose, is a good way to tell if someone has done the required reading. There is a difference between Psychology and Philosophy essays – namely, the amount of research reading one does for the essay. Because Psychology encourages the scientific use of background studies, we are required to at least provide one original source.

~2~

The presentation

Leading a seminar and teaching one topic of the module is a type of assessment. Some may think that this is one of the hardest types of assessment to do, but, actually, I’m a big fan of presentations – I seem to have a knack for them, at least. They’re less stressful than essays, and take less time, though still involve the same level of research and interpretation of facts. I enjoy educating others, so this style of assessment helps me do just that.

~3~

The alternative assignment

This is a tricky one to describe, as it depends on the seminar leader or lecturer themselves as to what we end up doing. Most are of working on developing independent research ideas. For instance, the most recent alternative assignment I did required me to raise a project proposal/report – just like that of my dissertation, though with less stress! – on one of the many topics we went through during the term.

~4~

The lab practicals

Psychology all the way! Practicals can range from white-lab-coat conical flask awesomeness (!) to puzzling over statistics for hours on computerised systems. (This has happened to me.) University is a prime for the ‘real world’ – apparently, in some eyes – and practicals help students to expand from the theoretical side of what they’re learning to the working side side.

~5~

The Online Quizzes

These are marked, too, often as a first- and second-year assessment level to encourage background reading for modules that cannot be fully explained in lectures. They consolidate knowledge and prime for exams.

~6~

The non-marked

Often, these are essay plans or little one-page to test for writing skills. Practise, so to speak. So, technically, I’m cheating with this being a type of assessment, but these types of work, called by some ‘formative’, are as crucial to build skills and knowledge towards other assessments. Not as often given out, but as necessary as any other assessment.

~7~

I pray for those with work to or who feel overwhelmed, particularly students. May God’s light guide them to knowledge.

*Of which there is only four weeks left.

**This also counts as a type of assessment, but is ongoing and far more complicated and layered than a simple paragraph will do justice.