28 November 2010

On some days I dress up as an officer in the Royal Navy just for fun.

THIS is the best invention ever created, hands down. It is from the 1970s and is not only an alarm clock but...wait for it...a tea maker as well! It wakes you up AND brews you a nice cuppa. There is absolutely nothing more than one can ask for in life. Brilliant. Amazing.
Countdown: 19 days until I come home; 27 days until Christmas
Items separating me from the holidays: 2 Theories classes/seminars, 1 Theories paper (3000 words), 3 Middle East classes/seminars, 1 Middle East presentation, 2 OSINT classes, 1 OSINT paper (1500 words), 1 XC race
Current Temperature: 32°F/0°C (Feels like (according to the Weather Channel: 32°F); Feels like (according to me): FROZEN HELL)

It's cold outside. Really, really cold. In fact, it is so cold that the water bottle that I frequently keep on the window sill next to my bed actually formed ice in it during the night. I typically like ice in my beverages, but only when this ice is formed inside a freezer and not, say, the area around my bedside. Call me crazy...

Of course, it is not nearly as cold here in London as it is elsewhere in the UK. Scotland is really being hammered with snow and sleet; Edinburgh airport has completely shut down as a result. I remember the one time it snowed when I was in Edinburgh. It was the day that I had to walk 3 miles outside of town to the Lothian & Borders police headquarters so that I could be fingerprinted for my DoS internship. It had snowed enough the night before to make the sidewalks icy, but not enough to cancel classes at the University. And so, after making my appointment at the HQ at 10am, I had to hightail it across town to George Square for my 11:10am seminar on James VI/I. I arrived completely soaked (due to falling snow and having slipped on the ice a few times) and quite miserable. My feet were numb for hours afterward. I believe that is probably one of the first moments that I realized I would never be adding 'conquered Mount Everest' to my list of life achievements. (Climbing Ben Nevis this summer reconfirmed that realization.)

It is not snowing in London, at least not right now. The weather websites offer conflicting information as to what the rest of the week holds. Weather.co.uk says that it will snow on Tuesday night/Wednesday - I definitely do not want this as my last XC race of 2010 is on Wednesday at Hackney Marshes! BBC Weather says that it will just be devilishly cold. Although neither scenario is particularly appealing to me, I believe that I will ignore Weather.co.uk as a source and continue reading BBC Weather for the rest of the week.

In light of it being absolutely miserable outside, I spent most of today in my room engaged in an epic battle with first the monstrous pile of laundry and then my OSINT essay. I was successful in regards to the first (after all, it is not that difficult to launder clothing), but rather less so in terms of the second. See, I have a nasty habit of engaging in productive procrastination. 'But Rebecca,' you might say, 'these two terms are contradictory.' Precisely. I procrastinate by being productive. Case in point: I have a 1500-word paper due on Friday on the topic 'OSINT is not a substitute for traditional intelligence disciplines. Discuss.' This is quite a simple topic as the answer is 'no, it is not'. Open source information is an integral component in the production of all-source intelligence...but it can never completely replace information obtained by clandestine and technical intelligence collection methods. There is always going to be some piece of information that cannot be found via open sources, and thus must be collected covertly. And thus open sources in relation to traditional intelligence disciplines are like a camera lens and focus. The lens (OSINT) captures the overall image, but it is the focus (traditional INTs) that provides the detail. (I came up with that all on my own. Unfortunately, I don't think I will be able to use that analogy now in my paper since turnitin.com will say that I've plagiarized it. Ah well...)

Anyways...did I finish the paper today? No. Because despite having a detailed outline and knowing precisely what and where I will write things...I engaged in 'productive procrastination' by actively looking up more articles on open sources. After all, what if there is a critical piece of the argument that I am missing? What if reading one more article will provide me with a hitherto unknown (to me at least) argument for the benefits of open sources in all-source intelligence production? The likelihood of this happening is low, of course, but it is relatively easy to convince myself otherwise. And so I spent most of the afternoon going through the unread articles on my reading list and examining them for further evidence to support my argument. I gained a few good quotes, but nothing that will dramatically impact the content of my paper. The result of this is that I will now have to make a dreaded trip to the library on Chancery Lane and lock myself in the postgraduate tower until the essay is finished. 1500 words is nothing to write, of course. I can pound that out in three or four hours. Motivating myself to do it, on the other hand, is quite a challenging task indeed. It will get done though! I will finish the essay tomorrow and then, in the words of Jay-Z, "I'm on to the next one."

In other news: I had a race at Wimbledon Common on the 17th and Dad came to visit me on the 20th (until the 26th).

First, the race. It was freezing that day. It was so cold, in fact, that I ran wearing leggings, gloves, and two shirts (my KCL running tank top and a Nike base layer long sleeve), which is quite unusual for me as I tend to find too many layers constricting. As it so happened, the gloves did not survive the race and are now lost somewhere in Wimbledon woods. The course was incredibly muddy and people were falling down right, left, and sideways. On one downhill, a girl skidded into me, which caused me to drop one of my gloves (I had taken them off since my hands had gotten too warm). One glove is of no use, so I had to drop the other one later on. It doesn't matter too much since they were only 2GBP and losing them gives me an excuse to visit H&M. :) Despite the mud and the hills, the race was a success for me. I came in 12th place with a time of 20:29. Not too shabby. This week's race is at Hackney Marshes and is flat (blah). It is also the London Colleges League championships, so I am hoping that some hitherto undisplayed speed will somehow manifest in my person, thus allowing me to perform well. We shall see.

Dad came to visit three days later. We had a grand time, although I don't think he fully appreciated how much walking I do on a daily basis until he actually came to visit me. (Hope your feet have recovered, Dad!) We did a lot during the week: we saw the South Bank Christmas Market, St. Paul's Cathedral, the Cabinet War Rooms & Churchill Museum, the British Museum, the Museum of London, and even visited the City of Westminster archives, which forced me to get reacquainted with using a microfilm machine, but allowed me to buy a book called 'Graveyard London' that talks about plague burials in the city. (Only morbid me, right? Hey! I haven't completely given up the option of being a plague historian, you know. It can't hurt to keep reading up on the topic just in case.) The piece de resistance was my big surprise for my father on Wednesday. I had dropped him a few clues (and by a few I really mean one since I forgot about the others) to build his anticipation, and then told him what was occurring while we were at lunch on Wednesday afternoon. So what was it? What was my big surprise that, as earlier stated, would win me 'best daughter' award?
Dad at the Jersey Boys

 I took my Dad to see 'Jersey Boys' on London's West End for his 60th birthday present. We enjoyed a 3-course meal at Med Kitchen in Cambridge Circus prior to the showing, and then headed to the Prince Edward Theatre for the main event. 'Jersey Boys' is a Tony award-winning musical about the formation and success of the famed 60s group 'The Four Seasons'. I had seen them perform at the Regent Street Christmas Light turn-on and then revelation struck: I would take Dad to see the show. He loves musicals. He loves the 60s. It was an immediate win in my mind (further confirmed the next day when I casually inquired if he had heard of the Four Seasons and, upon finding out that he had, awkwardly said 'ok, that doesn't mean anything. That statement is of no importance at all') and apparently was a big hit with him as well. It is not often in my life that I can honestly say I am pleased with a decision I have made. This is one of those rare times.

Notable events this week:
Mon, 11/29: Library all day. Absolutely must happen. MUST!
Wed, 12/1: XC race at Hackney Marshes

Thrilling, no?

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