Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Hydro-Hegemony Workshop

I realise I haven’t been posted nearly as often as I used to on these blogs…consider it a sign that I’m having way too much fun.
However, here’s a chance to see what I’ve been doing on the professional stage:
Visit the website of the Sixth International Workshop on Hydro-Hegemony here.
My course director Mark Zeitoun is the major organiser for this event, and I got willingly suckered into helping with it in addition to taking frantic notes for personal use.
The idea of my dissertation topic came out of this meeting…I’m sure you’ll hear an obnoxious amount about this in time; in a nutshell, I’ll be exploring how international law does or doesn’t have anything to say regarding virtual water (water traded between states that’s embedded in food, manufactured goods, etc. through production processes). It’s going to be grand fun and pretty new academic thought…I know you’re all on the edge of your seats already.
Anywho, I got to have some fun writing up a 15,000-word proceedings document for the HH6 event. That, along with several other documents prepared by my and other delightful people, are available online (well, the Proceedings document may not be up till Friday or so) for your learning pleasure.
: )

Monday, January 28, 2013

Dinner Party!

Audrey and I decided to have some fun with "simple" cooking on Saturday and invited a lot of folks over for a pasta bar.
Audrey made a homemade tomato sauce (read with British pronunciation, please! ;) ) and really good homemade meatballs.
I sauteed and spiced a number of various vegetables in different ways: carrots in brown sugar, sweet peppers in rosemary, spinach in lemon and garlic, broccoli in chilli pepper, mushrooms in garlic.
We had red pesto, green pesto, dried sweet peppers, sun-dried tomatoes, feta cheese, mozzarella, and a hard parmesan-like cheese as well.
Kurt made a big salad; Kay helped with garlic bread and Cynthia with punch; Merey made a desert best described as "Reese's baklava."

It was delightful.

: )

Monday, January 21, 2013

Clarification on my Reasoning

I know there has been some confusion...I listed all of these lovely things about Aberdeen and then totally dismissed it.
The reason being the relative weight of factors.
The list you see in the post a few days prior is a list of randomly observed characteristics.  Some were lovely; others were not.  (Most were.)
However...they were primarily things I noticed about the cities as a tourist rather than about the universities and programmes as an actual student.
With the identity of an academic at the forefront, the University of Edinburgh seems to be winning hands-down.  The major reason being the flexibility of its programme...I can get an LLM in International Law by taking four courses: environmental law, climate change law, human rights law, and humanitarian law.  These are the four areas of law I'm most interested in.  When I talked about doing/being interested in both at the Universities of Glasgow and Aberdeen, I got more skeptical looks, encouragement to choose one or the other, and programme structures that do not allow for nearly the same level of flexibility/Becca's favourite things.
Thus Edinburgh.
Hope that clears that up.
In my mind, if nowhere else.
Because obviously the decision wasn't easy, and at the end of the day, I know I'd be happily thrilled at any of the three.  So there's some randomness involved here, let's be honest.
By all means, make comments and suggestions if you think I should be considering other things.
: )

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Friday, January 18, 2013

And the winner is...

Alrighty, folks.  I have now visited the Universities of Aberdeen, Edinburgh, and Glasgow to look at international, environmental, and human rights programmes.  The points currently stand thus:

Friendliest bus drivers: Aberdeen
Most UEA alumni on faculty: Edinburgh
Cutest city centre: Glasgow
Prettiest countryside: Aberdeen
Most enticing LLM programme name: Glasgow
Strongest environmental studies as a uni: Aberdeen
Most flexible LLM programme: Edinburgh
Most swag given: Edinburgh
Underdog town: Aberdeen
Best community culture: Glasgow
Easiest transport to London, etc.: Edinburgh
Friendliest students: Aberdeen
Greatest number of ready-made/preexisting friends: Edinburgh
Thickest accents: Aberdeen
Rudest to poor lil' Norwich: Glasgow
Oldest university: Aberdeen
Class size: Glasgow and Aberdeen
"Course shopping": Glasgow and Edinburgh
Best library: Aberdeen
Strongest academic reputation: Edinburgh
International students: All, but Aberdeen has greatest number from Africa, and there are a lot (an obnoxious number?) of Americans at Edinburgh

I'm not sure which of the aboves are positives.  Haha.
As things stand, it's looking: Edinburgh or Glasgow.
I really did come into this weekend with a rather strong anti-Edinburgh bias.  Because everyone goes to Edinburgh.  Everyone loves Edinburgh.  Everyone else was voting for Edinburgh.
Turns out that might be because it's the best.
Well, fine then.
Sorry, Aberdeen.  I tried.  Really hard.  But I definitely meshed best with the academics at Edinburgh and Glasgow.
I'll be poring over minute detail regarding the academic programmes at Glasgow and Edinburgh to determine which gets first place.  I think, based on memory, that Glasgow's LLM title and programme are slightly more exciting for me.  But Edinburgh has a warmer feel and I really loved the people I met.  So...we shall see.  I'm leaning Edinburgh right now, but I spent much more time here than at Glasgow.  So trying to wait until I'm off the high and back in Norwich, calmly reviewing course catalogues, to make the final decision.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013


My family unfortunately only got rain while they were here...but it has at last done a good snow in Norwich, and it is absolutely beautiful!
I've started listening to Christmas music again. This is potentially going to be a problem...though we still haven't done the full present exchange among my flatmates, so perhaps we will "resurrect" Christmas (just to really confuse the Christian significance of all these days).

This isn't the best picture; snow is really hard to capture well. But life is definitely white, and we got a good couple inches in several places!

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Hydro-Hegemony 6

I'm sitting in a workshop on issues of transboundary water justice, held at UEA's London Campus.  Yesterday was a long ten hours of intensity during which I took 25 pages of single-spaced typed notes.  This morning, either I'm more energized, the topics are more in line with me, or there's something in the air, because I'm incredibly intellectually excited right now.  May have had someone's presentation highlight a possibility for my dissertation, which is making me want to hide in a library typing frantic ideas for hours.  I've also found a wonderful PhD student at King's College London - Oxford is losing the battle!

Friday, January 11, 2013

Smallholder Farm

My "Tools and Skills in Environment and Development" module started off with quite a bang this week.  We traveled to a local smallholder organic farm in Aylesham.  A couple have a regularly renewed one-year tenancy in 4.5 acres that used to be the kitchen garden for a major Norfolk estate. The estate still has a lord attached, so they very much are "peasant farmers" and claim that title.  Given their plot's history, the place has been a "farm" in a way since 1726 or thereabouts, though it hasn't been in used the whole time.  The wall and fencing is still there, though.  I've visited a lot of really old stuff in the UK, of course, but it was a new experience to think about standing in a human-cultivated garden that's older than my country!
The couple have been farmers for 27 years or so, but not always in that same plot.  Their entire income is based off selling their organic produce at a farmers' market in London.  Because of prices, they can't make enough selling wholesale; because of the lesser demand, they can't sell enough at Norfolk farmers' markets to sell locally, much as they'd like to.  They tried a local box scheme (where people pay year round to have fresh organic produce delivered to their door), but the organizational, etc. costs got too high for it to work.  Wonderful as cheap food is for a myriad of reasons, the policies and expectations of cheap food in the UK make it hard for smallholder farmers to get by, so they are often in the red.  They've hard some hard seasons with periods of drought and then regular rain.  Unlike with commercial farming focused on pesticides, this couple isn't too concerned with drought.  Because they're organic, they focus on keeping the soil healthy rather than the plants ("We don't feed the plants; we feed the soil").  The soil is good enough to retain a lot of moisture; even in drought conditions, they don't have to irrigate at all.  But the lack of sunshine when the summer is completely rainy is a major problem for them.
I have a lot of notes sorted into a "rural livelihoods framework" focusing on the kind of assets, capitals, and incomes they have.  Next week in class, we'll be trying to sort out everything they told us about how they stay afloat and manage to make a living from this.  For now, though, it was nice to hear from someone who still really enjoys just getting his hands dirty and pays more attention to the earth than his pocketbook as much as possible.

Bye-bye Kevin

Yesterday morning, I dropped Kevin off at the Norwich Rail Station.  I had classes and a field trip (which you'll hear about shortly) that day, so I couldn't travel with him to Heathrow.  Lucky boy got a two-hour train ride, one-hour Tube ride, Heathrow flight to Toronto, Toronto flight to La Guardia, shuttle bus to New York rail station, and then train ride to New Haven all by himself.  But he has made it home safely!  (I myself was hoping the UK Border Authority would tell him he was not allowed to leave the country and had to go back to Norwich.  Alas.)
We had a delightful visit while he was here.  You saw some pictures of the London New Years' fireworks at the Eye.  In Norwich, Kevin explored the Norman Castle, several local bookshops, and multiple local restaurants.  We went to the oldest pub in Norwich, visited with my coursemates and advisor, and met my pastor.  Luckiest of all, he got to help baby-sit Iorwerth twice (naturally, he was incredibly ecstatic about both of these.  Haha).
We had an absolutely delightful visit.  Already counting the days till we get to be on the same continent for a bit again!

Saturday, January 5, 2013


A rather selection of nearly 300 pictures fom the live show at the London Eye:

Guess who's in England?

PS - We also saw "The Hobbit."  We managed to forget about that, even though we had the wall reminding us the entire time we were talking...