What a shower

If you’ve finished your data project and have nothing else left to live for – why not put your email address into the box on the right?

Some of you may recall how, in November, my flat was left without hot water and heating for four days because the Sussex Housing Office forgot to use a competent plumber. The Rt. Hon. Residential Services Manager eventually agreed to compensate us when I pointed out how ridiculous her refusal letter was.

Since then, however, I’m pleased to report that the boiler has worked perfectly – with the negligible exceptions of Saturday 3 December, Tuesday 28 February, Monday 7 May, Tuesday 8 May, Wednesday 9 May (lunchtime), Wednesday 9 May (early evening), Wednesday 9 May (late evening), Thursday 10 May (morning), Thursday 10 May (afternoon) and Friday 11 May (morning).

Here be dragons…

Eagle-eyed readers may notice a burgeoning pattern here, for in recent days the hot water supply has lasted a maximum of 7 hours at a time without needing the Duty Porter to come and tinker aimlessly with it, often accompanied by a long and incomprehensible lecture on the finer points of central heating. Apparently the system’s been losing pressure: and coincidentally, all the residents have been feeling pressure.

On Wednesday evening, during the fifth outage, the Duty Porter remarked to me, “You know, a proper plumber really should look at this.” Pity no-one’s told the Residential Services department that!

Finally, light began to show at the end of the tunnel on Thursday afternoon. You know the saying: you wait ages for a plumber’s van…

…and then two come at once!

The building manager emailed us to say, “Works to your boiler will continue tomorrow. Unfortunately I’m not able to explain what the problem is as I have not been told. I have asked that you be left with heating and hot water overnight.”

Let me get this straight: these potty plumbers had to be specifically told that we wanted hot water? I’d say that the whole Estates Management Unit is ripe for being privatised…

If you don’t want the time…

Detached 1,277 bedroom house in a much sought-after area. Double glazing and bars on all windows.

I’ve had my attention drawn to the true joy of Inside Time magazine – “the national newspaper for prisoners.” Most of it is utterly hysterical, and in particular, its ‘mailbag’ is incredibly similar to the letter pages of The Badger*; people whining about noise in the library, the price of campus/canteen food etc.

One missive (from HMP Wakefield) complains about a lack of tissues: “I am one of the lucky ones having brought 3 handkerchiefs with me from my last prison.” Well that’s fortunate.

Somebody else made an entirely reasonable and well-thought-through point about the nature of British justice: “Poeple [sic] are locked up irrespective of whether they commited a crime or no [sic].”

However, my absolute favourite is this letter from an anonymous inmate of HMP Frankland. I think it really illustrates just how tough life can be:

Could be. Could be.

*In other news, I’ve acquired the position of Badger Comment & Debate Editor from September, and am thus dangerously close to a media monopoly.

‘The Adventure of the Privatised Porter’— or, Thatcherism sweeps Sussex

Late last week, the University announced that, from 2013, she will be privatising a number of departments “including Portering Services and Maintenence Services,” and advertised this in the Official Journal of the European Union for good measure! So future inmates will have a Porter provided by a commercial organisation: they might even pre-print signage for them. What a terrible blow to traditional Sussex handicrafts.

The Registrar & Secretary, John Duffy, says that the change is to ensure that things are run “efficiently and effectively” – but how could the Duffmeister possibly know that the current system is inadequate unless he’s been reading m’blog?

The Students’ Union, meanwhile, is concerned that “external providers may not be as responsive to the ethics-related concerns of students.” And it’s true, the Porter may take six-hour coffee breaks but I’m sure he only uses Fairtrade coffee.

However, there was one other entry on the departmental death-list which caught my eye. And I really love the fact that a cash-strapped 21st-century University is still clinging onto a Banqueting & Dining Unit! Banqueting? Seriously?

Drives me up the wall…

Google, not satisfied with propping up the Chinese government and invading the world’s privacy, has decided to market software which automatically drives cars. More disturbingly, the government of Nevada has agreed to this plan, according to this uniquely meaningless passage from BBC News:

I’m so glad that people will be driving these “driverless cars.”

Some loony state Senator has justified the scheme by pointing out, “The vast majority of vehicle accidents are due to human error.” However, Alex Padilla has forgotten two important facts: (1) there are currently no computer-driven cars to cause accidents, and (2) computers aren’t renowned for being error-free, especially those run by Google. And the idea of a computer-crash and a car-crash joining forces is not an appealing one:

Obviously, since this is a Google product, the profit comes from targeted advertising. But how would this work in practice…?

Careless conceptualisation

One lecturer has pointed out that research can often “carelessly conceptualise” concepts such as ‘democracy’, ie. examine them without defining them. So I’ve decided to examine a few different views of democracy.

Wikipedia: “Democracy is an egalitarian form of government in which all the citizens tw*t b*llocks LOOK I CAN EDIT THIS.”

Nick Clegg: “I don’t think we should subcontract decisions to the British people.”

Rupert Murdoch: [asked at the Leveson Inquiry, “David Cameron took quite significant steps to meet you, a detour from his private holiday to Turkey. What is your view on that?”] “I think that’s part of the democratic process.”

So that’s all good.

Sussex University campus: what a CATastrophe!

And by the way…
In tonight’s episode, residential services was run by the Residential Services Manager (HMP Bramber House). The campus was privatised by University Viceroy Professor Michael Farthing (HMP Sussex). Google Cars were developed by Sebastian Thrun (HMP Silicon Valley). The chair of News International was played by Rupert Murdoch (hopefully soon to be HMP…). This was an Gabrielquotes production.

In the beginning there was Sussex…

…and the spirit of the Vice-Chancellor hovered over the face of the water. Then He took the days of the week and He changed them: Thursday, He called Monday. Wednesday, He called Friday. And He saw the new structure of the academic year, and it was good. And there was evening and there was morning: and even so, Sussex dropped two places in a league table.

“…contrary to the Pointless Innovations (Rolling Out) Act 1961.”

Yes, this is the news that, from September, our teaching weeks will start on a Thursday and end on a Wednesday, because that is a system much more sensible and intuitive than the current one whereby they run from Monday to Friday.

At a meeting of the University Senate (or, at any rate, according to the “full extract” [er what?] which was released from the minutes), the impressively titled “Pro-Vice-Chancellor” for Teaching & Learning decided that the principle of the weekend coming at the end of the week was rather outdated and not suitable for Sussex’s unique position.

Professor Clare Mackie has also announced plans to abolish November, adopt the ancient Mayan calendar and start spelling ‘Sussex’ Psussex.

Meanwhile, this Monday (Wednesday in new money) was of course the May bank holiday, and the Library was closed because of what the University calls – with refreshing honesty – a “minimum service day.” Although various services seem pretty minimal during the rest of the year too. And on that point…

The Porter’s dairy*

*[sic] as found last week in a Lewes Court wheelie-bin by Gabriel Webber

My place of ‘work’

MONDAY
Regret going through calendar and marking every Monday ‘bank holiday’ becouse it made me late for work again. When I got in at 11:30 my kettle was broken and when I called the Estates Office to send over a new one they had the nerve to say they were on a coffee break and I’d have to wait!! I hate it when that happens. When I got back from lunch at 4, I made a new yellow sign to put up when I go to have my teabreak in the afternoon. I was drawing each each letter in a different colour but then I had to stop when Parcelforce turned up. Bastards.

TUESDAY
Worked off my arse all day, barely managed to find 3 hours for lunch. Some girl wandered in at 11 because a lightbulb in her room had gone and apparantly the tenancy ‘agreement’ says it’s my job to do something about it. I told her I’d stand up to get one off the top shelf later in the day but she wanted me to screw it (wahheyy!!) in as well. Boys never ask me to fit there lightbulbs for them and even when they do ask I don’t do it. Its only girls who can’t do it for themselves.

WEDNESDAY
Day off! Doesn’t actually say in my contract I can not bother coming in today but someone wrote it on my calendar in my handwriting so it must be OK.

THURSDAY
Took the morning off so when I arrived it was immedietly time for my lunch. I left the metal hatch up with the DO NOT DISTURB sign when I came back because there was no need to take it down but it didn’t stop some student from banging on it and asking for the thing Parcelforce left on Tuesday. Can’t he read???

FRIDAY
Some w***er used a vacum cleaner to prop open their door today!! They might think I’m quite a layed-back sort of person but I will not put up with my equipment being abused like that. I began sending them a memo but got distracted and started on my rubber band ball project, which is basicly a project to make  a ball of rubber bands. I’d made my ball of rubber bands at least 8 inches wide but then that boy from Block 4 with the cameraphone came in so I quickly hid it out of site. I don’t think he noticed it.

Oh, and while we’re on the subject…

Porter:“So I said, what do you want his ’phone number for? And he said, ’cos I want to ’phone him […] And then as he walked out the door, I said, I didn’t want to f***ing help you anyway!”

Dinner with the stars

The Ambassador’s place is at the head of the table…

Our wee JSoc committee has just successfully survived our second Shabbat dinner, shopping, cooking and serving 20 people in the Brighton Hillel Centre (the precise location of which, obviously, although for less-than-obvious reasons, cannot be disclosed).

Anyway, just to highlight some of the less tedious aspects of this process, I’ve shamelessly plagiarised the Sherman brothers and present, below, a new version of that well-known hit The Roses of Sussex – lyrix here.

Houses under the hammer

As m’learned lecturers have taught me, quantitative and qualitative analysis are both important research methods. To put my skills to the test, I’ve done some comparative research focussing on Lewes Court (where students live) and the UN Detention Centre (where convicted war criminals and genocide-mongers live). Here are my results:

Qualitative analsysis – click to enlarge
Quantitative analysis – click to enlarge

Gabriel of Arabia

Very original setting for a synagogue portrait

As a loyal teacher of Hebrew at Brighton & Hove Reform Synagogue, I was asked to pose for a photograph wearing a kippah in the library (sounds vaguely like Cluedo…) for the brochure. More worryingly, I was asked to provide “a biography.”

I sent them a copy of my dairy from when I was in India – in the tradition of that epic Memoirs of my Indian Career – but apparently they were looking for something briefer and with less focus on Tamil politics.

Sussexballs: £9000 per annum paid for contributionsNo-one should talk in absolutes.”

“We’re all so over-determined to be alive. If we don’t eat, we’re going to die. If we didn’t have chairs in here, we’re probably going to lie down.”

“They’re European or German or French or something like that.”

[Very well-prepared seminar tutor…] “Can anyone sum up the important things you think I need to know about this topic?”

“Globalisation is about a worldwide phenomenon in one sense.”

“I’m sure that at least some of you will have heard of Marxism…”

“There is a pyramid of things rather than a basket of things.”

“Your research report is to be submitted in week 4 of the summer term to the school office by 4pm.” [By 4pm of week 4. Right.]

“There is a coincidence here which isn’t entirely unconnected.”

Keynote speech
In tonight’s episode, tradition was broken with by Professor Clare Mackie. The people in the kippot having their photos taken in libraries are various stereotypical rabbis. The Porter’s dairy wasn’t, strictly speaking, found in a wheelie-bin. My last Badger article of this year, on the Brighton human rights conference, can be found here. This was an Gabrielquotes production.