The Roommate Triplication.

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In the beginning was the First Roommate, and the Housing Gods looked upon her and they saw that she was good and they were not a little pleased with themselves for their cleverness.

Things of interest about the First Roommate.

1) She was French.

2) She was studying World History.

3) She was the weirdest person I have ever met. Weird how? I hear you ask. Well, there was the great Incendiary Brussels Sprout Incident of 2013. And there were the sparkly blue tights. She used to come home with things – vegetables, items of clothing, stray social recluses – and enthusiastically parade them around the apartment monologuing about how interesting they were. This made everyone very uncomfortable.

4) She once severely triggered my emetophobia (fear of people vomiting) by barfing her hangover all over the bathroom, with the door wide open, before I had brushed my teeth. This put a considerable dampener on my day as I had to flee the apartment in such haste I forgot half my stuff. I was afraid to go back until well into the afternoon.

5) She moved 45 minutes away from college to Brooklyn, so she could be “where all the cool, kooky people are.” I am very sure she felt at home among the kooky people and I wish her well there.

Here endeth the tale of the First Roommate. And the housing god’s looked down at the empty room in the apartment and they decided to fill it. And so was wrought the Second Roommate.

Things of interest about the Second Roommate.

1) She was Spanish. From the Canary Islands to be exact, although she has lived in Barcelona for a while.

2) She was 32.

3) She lived on a strange diet of juice cleanses, and swiss cheese on gluten free bread with apricot jam.

4) She gave herself enemas, which was something I could have gone my whole life and probably my afterlife as well without ever having needed to know. Three cheers for sharing a bathroom with a health nut.

5) She did not like American men, and generally only had bad luck with them, as evidenced by a strange encounter with a guy who said he felt “gay” when she caressed his hair and wouldn’t let her carry his jacket, when he had is arms full, for fear of subjugating her. She gave up dating Americans after that.

6) She moved back to Spain in the spring.

Here endeth the tale of the Second Roommate. There followed after a blissful period of rommate-free living characterized by mid-day showers, unabashed frequency of unhealthy take-out food, and loud Bob Marley music. But the Housing Gods were not happy with such hedonism, and punished me soundly with the Third Roommate.

Things of interest about the Third Roommate.

1) Her parents came to inspect the apartment before she moved in. They took a photo of me to show her. I know right then that the Third Roommate would be bad news.

2) She owns every single item of home furnishing it is possible to own. She brought her own double bed with her, as well as a mirror with lights around it. She must have been Marilyn Monroe in a previous life. Either that or Elvis.

3) Her prodigious shedding of hair clogged our shower within a week of moving in and caused the plumbing so much misery that it decided to spew water up through the shower drain whenever the tap in the sink was running. It took three plumbers an entire day to fix, and I had to go round the corner to starbucks to pee. She never apologized or even mentioned it.

4) Her mother buys her groceries. Every sunday her mother comes round with a cool-box on wheels and packs the fridge with lettuce, cold brew coffee, Canadian bacon, iced tea and chipotle mayo. Every. Sunday. I do not like the Third Roommate’s mother: she leaves me no space in the fridge.

5) The Third Roommate doesn’t actually eat these groceries. She orders take-out. The only things she cooks are pancakes.

6) She left me a passive-aggressive post-it note about making room for her in the cupboards. She is lucky I didn’t simply burn the cupboards down. I do not like passive-aggressive post-it notes.

7) She bought a rack for shoes by the door and keeps all her shoes in it so as not to get mud on the floors. She has a lot of shoes.

8) She has a lot of boyfriends too. As of this morning I have identified at least two boys that stay the night. One of them microwaves foul-smelling dumplings whenever Third Roommate isn’t here to feed him. I do not like this boyfriend. I don’t know much about the other boyfriend. All we have ever exchanged is a wave. I prefer Other Boyfriend.

9) She told me off about not leaving the kitchen clean enough.

10) I may or may not have borrowed some of her grape jelly for PB& J once… alright, twice… as retaliation for Annoyances rendered. It seems I have not completely finished growing up and I take no small amount of pleasure in being a bad roommate, as payback. >_<

11) She replaced my shower curtain without asking… and has a “memory foam bath mat.” Who has ever needed memory foam under their feet? Ever?

12) She is from New Jersey, which means she isn’t going to move out any time soon and I am stuck with her until I move out. The horror. The horror.

13) She is a 24 year old woman that packs her lunchbox (yup, she has a lunchbox, complete with matching plastic collapsible cutlery in fact) with animal crackers as a treat.

14) She leaves the lights on in the kitchen and the hallway ALL NIGHT. Whenever I turn them off, they are always mysteriously back on when I get up in the morning.

15) She showers twice a day. Which is just unnecessary.

16) I genuinely believe she is a minion of Satan sent to test my patience.

17) She is defeating my patience.

Bye for now, I’m going to go listen to calming music and light a lavender candle before my head explodes and ruins the clean kitchen.

xxxx

 

Waiter, Waiter, There’s A Nihilist In My Soup!

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I picked up a hitchhiker on the way to the library this morning. True, I wasn’t cruising down a curve of highway when I stopped for the upraised thumb of a dusty stranger who later turns out to be a chainsaw-wielding maniac…. This was much worse.

I picked up a Thief of Time.

I met him in The Class That Is Technically Useful But Is As Much Fun As Having Sandpaper Rubbed Over Your Eyeballs, which I absolutely should have taken as an omen since that class was the most efficient time-thieving mechanism since that Silicon Valley crowd invented Candy Crush and “borrowed” a fistful of years from our lives.

Things you might enjoy knowing about the Time Thief.

1) He likes his iced coffee Venti in size. But my acute caffeine addiction detects that it’s usually more creamer than coffee, so he could totally just get a tall and drink it straight like a real person to create the same effect.

2) He is studying Law, I think at Master’s level, but he already has a couple of Bachelor’s degrees.

3) He likes to mention his degreeS, emphasis on the plural. He keeps them in his pocket, curled up in a bill-fold with Lady Justice carved on it. Every now and then he brings them out to unfurl them in front of you, like a Wolf of Wall Street might a fat roll of 100’s.

4) He’s from the west coast, which makes him unpopular with his professors: too laid back for them apparently.

5) This is it, right here. Here is where the minutes begin to flood by into a vortex of uselessness. His nonchalance is definitely nihilism, that affected, oily carelessness that usually leads people to lean against the bar at parties and unctuously announce that “regarding life, the wisest men of all ages have judged alike: it is worthless” – That’s Nietzsche, by the by, ain’t libraries grand ;). And boy can the Time Thief expound on his themes at length. He’s the original “too cool for school” character. Too cool to care about anything, it seems. He doesn’t read for his classes, he doesn’t care about grades or impressing his professors, he has no real plan for his life but will probably just “get another degree” because he can. He’s discovered a dark, clammy niche of law that only one and a half people even know exists, apparently in order to make ironic performance-art out of his studies by focussing on something that effects no one at all and has no practical application.

So there I was, trapped, spending most of the best hours of today fielding questions about how little time I’d devoted to my set reading so far this semester, or how many of my seminars had caused the feckless “I don’t know why I’m here but it’s better than a social sciences degree” existential fluttering that seems to be the intellectual nirvana of being too cool for my life to have meaning. Somewhere around his fiftieth laconic smile I should have jumped in. I should have yelled that I wasn’t the humungous twat paying $5,000 a class to sit in the back and pretentiously deride the entire pantheon of knowledge and that, yeah, I love reading about long-dead geniuses and their adventures in trying to get girls to like them (which actually seems to be the central point to almost all the classics). Yougotaproblemwi’that? Do ya? Do ya?! DO YA?! I could have thumped my chest for emphasis, maybe threateningly brandished my copy of Image, Music, Text.

But I didn’t. I just smiled and nodded and quipped about the superiority complexes of the Comparative Lit. crowd, and my mind’s eye rolled in its socket, while all the time I’m thinking that the Time Thief was taking me away from the quest for a holy grail seat. It’s midterm season, and it seems like the entire city wants a spot in the graduate reading room! – near enough to the heating vent to be warm but not too far from a window, so you can still see freedom and please god not too near the ever-dinging elevator, or anyone with a runny nose.

But really the upshot is only that I’m sitting here munching a Chilean apple and feeling erroneously sorry for myself because I didn’t get up on my little soap box. #firstworldproblems. Soooo, on with number 6.

6) His feet smell.

7) He thinks we should grab a drink some time.

8) We will, funnily enough, not be grabbing a drink some time.

Bye for now, and whatever you do, avoid Californian nihilists with old shoes and fetishes for not valuing life, they will steal hours from you and you will get nothing done.

xxx

Ghost in the Machine

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The guy that used to own my phone number has definitely run away from home. My last post was about ghosts, and that turns out to be prophetic, since I do interact with the phantom figure that is the old owner of my “digits.” He haunts me, he’s the ghost in my answering machine. Either that or I’ve picked up the American Halloween fetish and I’ve got specters on the brain.

Things I know about the Phone Ghost:

1) His name is Marcus.

2) Some of his friends call him Mdot. I may refer to him as Mdot in this post, I feel like our cellular connection makes us friends.

3) He is black, I have inferred this through the number of people who call him the n-word, and the fact that they seem to be using it in a friendly way, not in a way that would get them a punch in the gonads.

4) On the 14th of July he nearly won a pair of free trainers. I say “nearly” because two things happened in quick succession. First, I got a text telling Mdot that he’d been selected as “Player of the week” in the Gersh Park game (he had 31 off the bench – alas, this info didn’t tell me what sport the Phone Ghost plays, since I know almost nothing about sports), and that the sponsor was going to send him a free pair of “kicks”. Second, a text popped up mere moments later, shouting “DISREGARD.” I figure in this instance my being the new owner of this number served Marcus pretty well, saving him disappointment. #Silverlining.

5) There is a young lady that fancies the Phone Ghost, she jokes that he has “pretty boy swag” …a lot. I feel a little sad for her, since she’s barking up the wrong cell tower.

6) He knows someone named Jigga, who in turn knows someone called Tiana, who was hoping to buy tickets from Mdot. I guess she never made it to the gig.

7) Jigga calls the Phone Ghost “Brother”… but doesn’t seem to know where he lives.

8) Most of Mdot’s friends greet him with either “Yo” or “What’s good?” I guess Mdot would know what that means.

9) A friend of his called Shalaya had a baby boy. #Congratulations.

10) He has graduated from some kind of education program, his Grandmother left a voicemail congratulating him.

11) He may, on occasion, be rumored to be holding drugs. (His Grandmother does not call to congratulate him on this.)

12) Angelo wants to know his email address.

At first, learning all these things was pretty amusing. Catching glimpses of Mdot’s “swag,” etc. was just a weird, funny annoyance. It’s an odd, human crossing of wavelengths that could well be read into as a celestial message about connecting with people, but that reality just means I check my phone only to be disappointed that the sender doest want to talk to ME at all… Sigh.

However, here is why I think he is missing:

13) HE DOESN’T SEEM TO HAVE TOLD ANY OF HIS FRIENDS THAT HE HAS A NEW PHONE NUMBER.

14) His Nana calls and leaves messages asking him to call her and let her know where he’s living and what he’s doing with his life. So, it seems he hasn’t even told his Nana he has a new phone number, and he never calls her. He also seems to have moved house without telling anyone.

So please, Marcus, if you’re reading this: CALL YOUR GRANDMOTHER, she’s worried about you.

xxx

Dear Diary,

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There’s a poltergeist in my apartment. I think the doormen feed it Pumpkin Spiced Lattes because it only comes out in the fall. It lives in the pipes and thinks it’s a musician. I think it’s a he, a hip young guy no doubt, maybe with a hint of the hipster about him, who once dreamed of being a drummer before some kind of untimely and traumatic demise lead him to haunt my building and its plumbing. He likes to play me his latest compositions all night and he hasn’t quite got the hang of rhythm. Sometimes he fiddles around in the low, pulsing clang of the musical spectrum, sometimes it’s the tinny high-pitched ding, like the chiming of a broken bell. Sometimes, and I especially love these because they make me feel like someone’s trying to kill me, he throws in an airy rushing sound like gas being pumped through a vent.

At least, that is what I fantasize when the wretched, 200 hundred year old central heating wakes me up at 6 in the morning. I find it’s less sanity-eviscerating to be angry at some kind of sentient entity, rather than a dull and unresponsive victorian-style, wall-mounted, cast-iron radiator that just squats there behind its cover, wildly infuriating and poignantly superior to you in its ability to drive you round the twist without actually being cognizant. How weak and feeble must you be, if an inanimate object can put a kink in your whole day?

Or maybe I’ve just been reading too much Ezra Pound and I’ve taken to making Mount Olympus out of every molehill. (That’s a little literary joke by the way, haw haw, because Ezra’s a big fan of the ol’ Greeks… he essentially thinks he’s Odysseus. If I were him I’d be more concerned with the fact that I was a raging fascist sympathizer and fetid bigot, but hey, who am I to judge… I’m angry at a central heating system.)

Bye for now, got to go mainline a couple of espressos.

xxx

Open Letter to Tea-Breakers

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Dear Cake Enthusiasts,

My friend told me the other day, via the intercontinental conversational miracle that is social media, that he was sat in John Lewis eating the world’s biggest slice of Victoria Sponge and drinking a “crap latte.” I didn’t really comment at the time, but since then a few encounters with Americans have left me feeling very British so I thought I’d comment now. (Apparently being an English girl with a quiet voice just means Americans don’t even have to try to understand you, they’re allowed to just let their jaws hang low and say things like “huh, speak American won’t you?” Sigh.)

Back to my friend, and how he was doing it ALL WRONG.

a) Victoria sponge is the dowager aunt of English cake. Right under Battenburg in the line of succession, it is a dried up, ancient institution that really should be left behind in the march toward Progress (chocolate cake). Any cake that gave up on the idea of icing in exchange for anaemic dustings of sugar should be excommunicated anyway, but add to that the use of jam for a filling and I think it should have been these that The Sons of Liberty tossed in Boston harbor that day. If anything is worthy of protest its this wizened homage to crumbly flavorlessness. If you’re so into jam and cream, have a scone for goodness’ sake. Everyone will be much happier.

b) If you really must have a slice of disappointment… why would you have it with a latte?? Obviously Victoria sponge should be suffered with a cup of tea to redeem it! What kind of mongoloid Englishness is that… Victoria sponge and coffee? See what I mean? If you’re going to clag-up your coffee with a glug of milk then you’re going to need something to cut through it. At least go for something that has a little heft to it. I’d suggest a loaf cake, probably a jaunty lemon or a robust hazelnut-chocolate combo.

Trust me, I know how to eat sweets. 😉

Yours, on the way to get a muffin,

xxx

Almost as American as Apple Pie

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So have I told you the one about the Dean of Studies that casually and completely punctures a student’s sense of je ne sais quoi?

Not to humble-brag but I’ve travelled a fair bit: you may have heard about the time I lived in Cambodia. When the opportunity came to move to New York I figured nothing could be easier. An English-speaking destination, a metropolis: how different from London could it really be? I would move there, be the exotic English rose, and the Big Apple would part before me like the Red Sea. International Woman of Mystery here, culture shock is not in my vocabulary!!

Oh, how little I knew.

Metrocards. The Metro itself. The tragic transition to a $1 note instead of my trusty 1 quid coin (did you see that; nifty navigation of the absent pound sign or what?). Chicken sausage. Talkative homeless people.  Talkative strangers in general. Potent air-conditioning. Potent heating. Drawls. Unbeatably changeable weather. Cabs that turn on red. Cab drivers that ask for directions. Sorority girls. Frat guys. Chili fries. The national obsession with pumpkin. The Sales Tax Bitchslap phenomenon. How much money does a dime actually represent???

But I’m cool, I can handle this, I can adapt and look good doing it. IknowwhatI’mdoingIknowwhatI’mdoingIknowwhatI’mdoing. Think suave thoughts. Try not to let your mouth fall open. You’re doing great. Stand up straight, chin up, chest out, ignore the cussing hobo, smile and think about eagles and the Yankees and General Custer, and explain to a self-confessed Francophile that his ideological choices don’t actually mean you can’t be friends. You’re doing great.

Cue the Dean of Studies. “Oh, Lauren. You’re looking much better!” *Blank stare* “Well, you looked a little shell shocked at first.”

Damnit!

So it is with great, if wry, symmetry that it occurs to me that I’ll just have truly found my feet, really settled into my American life, when I have to pack up my star spangled baggage and leg it for the homeland.

How do I know this? Because I did the most American thing ever, and I loved it… Baby’s first Yankee’s game!!!

Night has fallen outside but you’d struggle to notice without looking straight up; floodlights fill Yankee Stadium with ersatz daylight. To be so brightly lit and so excited so late on a Sunday night, a day synonymous with rest and idleness, puts the whole evening into a strange hinterland, a twilight zone, where the rules don’t seem to apply quite as they should. Everything about the game is bright: the huge screens, the saturated green of the grass and orange of the diamond. The sea of navy Yankee’s fans ebbs and surges during the game, wandering off in search of hotdogs or jumping to its feet for home runs; one living being with sportsmanship for blood. It seems like the life force of a whole city is concentrated right here for one night. High up, almost in the eaves of the stadium, looking down on it all, who wouldn’t get a little drunk on America’s pride?!

Ok, so I could have gone about it in a more American way. I made Liam have his picture taken by himself instead of awakening my inner #fomo whore (which, by the way, he appreciated not. one. bit.) I didn’t eat any sliders or peanuts and I didn’t chug any Bud Lite… BUT there were people chanting USA! USA! USA! There were big screens with eerily tired-looking graphics of disembodied clapping hands to generate noise at totally random parts of the game, and even better graphics of tap-dancing baseballs. There was a “Vet of the Game” – a veteran and his family stood awkwardly in the public eye and received applause for embodying American-ness. There was racial stereotyping, when one of the Yankees’ Japanese players painfully taught a word to the rest of his team. There was someone selling Crackerjack. I practically had little statues of liberty circling my head! And the Yankees won, so not only did I go to a ballgame and legitimately enjoy it (non of that phony eyelash-fluttering, hair flipping sports fan fakery to win the attentions of some jock, thank you) but my city’s team (well, the better of my city’s teams) won!

In an aside – Liam told me that Derek Jeter leaves Yankee memorabilia for the women he sleeps with after the deed and got found out because he did it to the same woman twice. Isn’t that just the most amazingly, hilariously sleazy thing you’ve heard in a while?! I love America!

Other things that tell me I’m settling into life in the old USofA:

1) I ate a pizza that had southern fried chicken on it, and I didn’t think it was excessive. (I also finished it: fully adjusted to American portion [lack of]control.)

2) I converse freely with strangers in elevators about the weather and my plans for the day.

3) I do not obey the walk/don’t walk sign. (Plus, when I came back from my last trip home and the little walk man wasn’t green, I didn’t think I was colorblind.)

4) I no longer bother to re-correct the American auto-correct on my laptop (see above).

5) I instinctively know which way is uptown and which downtown when I leave the metro about 80% of the time.

6) People have stopped introducing themselves to me with “oh my god! you’re English.” What this means for my accent I’m afraid to ask.

7) I have a fully-fledged diner coffee addiction.

8) When a cab driver asks if I want to take the West Side Highway downtown, I actually know what he means.

9) A genuine New Yorker said she “liked my look.”

And, last but by absolutely no means least *drum roll please*

10) People ask me for directions and I CAN GIVE THEM ACCURATE DIRECTIONS.

So, if anyone reading this happens to have a handy visa lying around, can they please send it to me posthaste? I would quite like to stay.

Bye for now

xxx

Things I learned in Advertising Class That Are Not About Advertising.

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In the spirit of what I am supposed to be doing, I will approach this post as I would an annotated bibliography.

  • The girl two to the right of me had an emotional valentine’s day. Her and her boyfriend made a contest out of dates… and then had a fight about it.

This is actually a compound lesson, since I first heard about this madcap scheme the week before. The scene played out like something from Mean Girls as the protagonist’s excited voice twanged into the pre-class quiet of the room.  She had giggled and boasted about how even though her boyfriend couldn’t be in town for actual valentine’s day, they were going to have a valentine’s weekend the week after with each of them planning a day and the best day “winning.” And it was going to be “super awesome! especially because my idea *tension building pause, deep thrilling-inducing intake of breath* my idea… kicks. ass.” Anyone else immediately see the glaring and painful error in this idea? Competitive romance has got to be the worst idea since the Kardashian matriarch was given her own talk show, or people started putting kale in their fruit juice. Imagine my weary smugness then, upon hearing that the planned smorgasbord of valentine’s love had dissolved into competitive mean-spiritedness and name-calling. When will undergrads learn. *Wisdom-filled sigh*

In an aside: extra smug bonus points were awarded because, for the first time ever, my own valentine’s day had been something to write home about. Shiny New Boyfriend – who I won’t be talking about that much here because if we stay together for any length of time (finger’s crossed) I might have to start calling him Rusty Old Boyfriend, and he might see that.. and then I would be Yesterday’s Girlfriend, and that would be sad – Back on point, SNB done good. Dinner and Jazz has always been a way to my heart but steak, pecan pie and Jazz at The Village Vanguard has made it into the record books as the way to my heart. 😉

  • The TA finally asked out this girl he’s previously just been casually lunching with.

Now, apparently in America it is customary to be congratulated on having the cojones to ask a girl to dinner… when she’s already been going to lunch with you. Because apparently in America it takes cojones to ask a girl to dinner… when she’s already been going to lunch with you. In my opinion the only situation in which asking someone out requires cojones is when they’re in the habit of crying blood at the very sight of you and running screaming from the room whenever you walk in. But hey, if a girl wants to announce to a TA’s entire class that he finally asked out a girl who was already spending quite a bit of time with him as if its the biggest achievement since inventing the airplane then hey, you go girl. What I really could have done without hearing was “yeah, thanks, it’s been a really great ride so far.” See, this is a great example of when the term “roller coaster” is an essential ingredient in not making you sound like a skeeze. Describing an experience with a woman as “a really great ride”… dating no-no #1. Also, the TA in question happens to be one of those really pompous specimens of the human animal who says everything that comes into their mind like it’s the formula for the cure to cancer. And his eyes are really close together.

  • If you change seats in the 5th week, you cause uproar.

This one’s my fault. I sat in a different seat, and for a brief moment… it seemed like I’d tilted the world on its axis. Several people gave me the stink-eye. If only they knew my excuse – the guy who usually sits in what would be the seat next to me if I were a mindless habit-forming droid who must always park my rear in the same place… has yet to discover deodorant.*

* This is connected to a lesson learned, not specifically in Advertising class, but rather very early in my time at Columbia… American undergrads smell REALLY bad in large numbers. Walking into a classroom here is a little bit like olfactory Russian roulette, except 5 out of the 6 chambers in your revolver are loaded… with bullets coated in skunk pheromones. I caveat that it’s American undergrads because I don’t remember encountering this hormone-body-odor-dirty-sock smog at Oxford.

  • The girl to the left of me has poor coffee wrangling skills, and has two separate anecdotes about times she has gone to pay for her drink and spilled boiling caffeinated beverages down herself.

Neither one of which is interesting in the most technical sense of the term… and yet both of which elicited enraptured giggles from fellow coffee-spillers. I personally have never tipped a coffee on myself because I forgot I was holding it. But then again, perhaps I’m from an alien species that actually develops motor skills as they grow into adulthood?

  • One of the guys in the class is giving up all modern technology for 3 months. And everyone looked at him like he was holding a dead baby.

Now this, this was interesting. The professor got very gleeful and asked the student in question to explain to the class what he was doing. The student then claimed to be giving up all modern technology. There was silence for a moment. Then people’s hands went up and a torrent of variations on the theme of “but… what? But… how? But… won’t you, like, die?” began. Mixed in with comments on how he just wouldn’t be able to do it were observations that he’d fail all his classes, since Columbia is right up there in the 21st century’s grill and we both receive and submit almost everything through an online portal. He claims to have been responsible for the death of a small forest and printed out all his readings ahead of time. He has recruited a slave to scan and submit all his handwritten papers for him. He has bought a typewriter. Then began the “what about your phone?… what about your iPad?… what about your tamagochi?” part of the program. And here is where the great big storming fallacy of his project came to light…. TV is allowed. Apparently, and perhaps a little conveniently, modern technology is herein defined as anything that allows him to control the flow of information in his direction. Meaning that as long as he doesn’t use TEVO (Sky+ to us Brits) he can watch as many hours of telly as his little hypocritical heart desires. Colour me underwhelmed.

Also

  • My professor is 47 and likes Italian food.

Can’t really say much about this last one. It is what it is what it is.

Bye for now.

xxx