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» Helicopter Parents

After graduating
I spent a year sabbatical running the Students' Union. One of the regular bits of our week was spending every monday doing disciplinaries. These were almost all people who ahd their union cards taken off them on the Wednesday or Friday nights after either a fight, getting so drunk they'd thrown up over themselves or someone else, and every now and again getting caught with drugs.

To protect the license and keep the local plod happy we basically had a zero tolerance policy; fighting got you a minimum 8 week ban, any drugs offense got a life ban.

One memorable week this guy comes into my office for his disciplinary and it turns out he'd got plastered, then did enough coke to turn a whale into a cocky gobshite for a week, then - completely unprovoked - walked up to one of security girls and whacked her in the face.

He was absolutely furious that we gave him a life ban. Couldn't understand why he couldn't just pay a fine and be back in the union that week. Tells us we're going to hear from his lawyer (fat chance that would do anything - private members clubs can pretty much do what they like).

So a week later we haven't heard anything from any lawyers. What does happen, however, is the guy makes an appointment to come in and see us. The next day he rocks up with - yes, you've guessed it - his mum.

What follows is an hour of him sobbing, and his mum trying to justify drug taking and assault as minor infractions that we were being completely unreasonable about.

The *really* tragic thing was that this was a 21 year old who was going to graduate in 4 months.
(Wed 16th Sep 2009, 16:35, More)

» Conversation Killers

A lazy sunday afternoon
While at university there were a group of us who worked in and around the Students' Union - either as student staff, recent graduates, or just permanent staff - who had a regular Sunday afternoon appointment with the SU bar. Nice chilled afternoons, we were inevitably the only business that the 1 or 2 bar staff had to deal with until about 5pm when students started filtering in for another night of boozing. As a result, the girls (for that is what they mostly were) behind the bar tended to finish the line cleaning and general tidying pretty quickly, and the afternoon would turn to the serious business of talking bollocks.

One memorable afternoon the question of what embarrassing childhood hobbies we all had came up for discussion. There was a slew of answers, often involving Games Workshop, and occasionally probing the depths of stamp collecting and, in one case, 'inventing my own language'. As we went around and asked everyone, we finally reached Alison - the young and pretty barmaid - and she wouldn't tell us. After some probing she muttered something about collecting mugs. However, we sensed that this was just to fob us off.

It quickly degenerated into a game of us guessing ridiculous activities, and her getting increasingly exasperated/red/flustered, collapsing occaisionally into laughter, but point blank refusing to tell us.

This carried on intermittently all afternoon. No joy.

The evening dragged on, she finished her shift, came round to the front of the bar and pulled up a stool to join us. She started drinking.

Some hours later there were a couple of us that started throwing increasingly obscene guesses as to what her hobby had been. Eventually she cracked. She muttered something under her breath.
'Eh?' say I. 'say it again...'

She said something louder; audible, but somehow nonsensical. As her designated tormentors we looked confused at each other, trying to decipher in out heads what she'd said. She now had the attention of the rest of the group.

'Say it again' I ask

A slightly more confident sentence, but it sounds the same as the last one and she's still rushing the words out in such a way that we can't understand them. Other people in the increasingly busy bar are beginning to take interest in the 8 people all staring at the apparently incoherent red-head. All of us had that really special Neanderthal look which everyone assumes when trying to decipher something in their head. Seconds pass and still no one has it.

'Again?' I say, an edge of nervous laughter creeping into my voice

"I COLLECTED RAISINS IN THE SHAPE OF FAMOUS PEOPLE" she yells across the now silent bar, her last attempt at subtlety being shattered by hours of hounding, evasion, and Vodka and Orange.

For months afterwards people were turning up with peculiarly shaped dried fruit asking her if it was any good for her collection.
(Tue 17th May 2011, 15:59, More)

» Banks

Not mine
but my girlfriends. A few months ago she got a phone call from Shat West.

'Hello Mrs OP, can we check your recent transaction please?'
'Yes certainly'
'On Monday we have a transaction in [local town supermarket] £20 quid ish'
'Yep, definitely me'
'Then Tuesday afternoon [corner shop]£5 quid ish'
'Then a couple of hours later a cash withdrawal in Vancouver, £600'
'Er... vancouver?'
'Yes, in Canada'.
'2 hours after I was in the UK?'
'Does seem a little odd doesn't it' How about the withdrawal at 9pm Tuesday night at [local pub]?'
'That was me.'
'And at 3am wednesday morning £750 in Vancouver?'
'Canada again?'
'I think I'd remember the 3 10 hour flights squeezed into a 12 hour period'.
'So just to confirm the two cash withdrawals weren't you?'

So not only does it take them 2 days to have finally contacted her about this but they're not even sure it's suspicious.
(Fri 17th Jul 2009, 13:35, More)

» DIY Techno-hacks

Naughty electricity
I'm very good friends with the entertainments manager at a Students' Union. Whilst I was doing my undergrad degree I used to quite often get roped into helping with some of the special projects his technical crew could not cover on their own. This included things like the summer ball, large tours, and in this particular instance - the annual hiring out of our entire PA and lighting grid to a local college for a one day festival.

This festival was always a bit of a bind; we were always shorthanded (usually only about 4 of us) moving a 20 cab Turbosound (and associated amps, desks, multicore etc) alongside a venues worth of lighting, dimmers and cabling in the morning, being set up by 11am, hang around for the day, then strike it at 10pm.

The other problem was a distinct lack of available power. It was an outdoor gig, and we basically had one 32A three phase supply and a bunch of outdoor 13A sockets to play with. This would be fine except we rarely had all the jumpers you'd need, and there's a certain amount of naughtyness about jumping up from low current sockets to larger currents in case you start blowing things up, setting fire to under-rated cables and so forth.

On one memorable occaision we had to Macguyver something together which, 10 years later, remains in my friends office; locked away in a 'break in case of emergencies' case, although he swears he will never be that depserate again; using it only as a cautionary tale for each generation of student crew that come through.

Amps and dimmers all run on 32A supplies. The dimmers (which control all the lights) will easily get up to this draw. For that reason, they were allowed to use the 3 phase supply. Unfortunately, that then left us with the sound kit and no remaining sensible power. Four amplifier racks, each looking for nice big 32A of love. Unless you're driving them particularly hard, however, they don't actually draw too much power. So we set around looking for jumpers so we could feed them from the 13A sockets.

The first work of genius was realising that we had a pair of Y splits which went from a single 63A supply to a pair of 32A sockets. Brilliant. Our only remaining problem now is we needed to get from 13A socket up to two 63A plugs...

The reasoning went something along the lines of one nasty bit of cable is better than two. So as a result we connected our two 63A jumpers to a single length of 63A three phase cable, ran it to the socket then spliced the ends into 13A plugs. Yes ladies and gentlemen, a 3 phase 63A cable with three 13A plugs dangling off the end.

Length? About 20m with strategic sand buckets at either end.
(Fri 21st Aug 2009, 12:30, More)

» Stupid Colleagues

A very blonde friend of mine whom we shall call 'Blonde Claire' (for that is what we have always called her) has a track record of brilliantly blonde moments, accentuated by a broad Essex accent. These incidental facts are tempered by the fact she's also an internationally respected scientist with a PhD in Geology.

On starting our undergraduate degrees together some 10+ years ago we had to get together our standard field kit; water bottle, compass clinometer, hand lens, geological hammer etc.

Blonde Claire was somewhat daunted by the amount of things she had to carry around with her; as well as being blonde she is also very slight of frame. She therefore undertook a very simple rationilisation project.

Rather than carry around a big bulky couple of kilos of steel hammer, she went down to the local DIY shop and got herself a tack hammer. The most pathetic little thing you've ever seen, which immediately became named Measly. 8 inches long, narrow wooden handle, easily fitted into a pocket. The stump left in the closing scenes of Shawshank was more substantial than this thing.

Measly the hammer came with us on a great number of field trips, and was tested at hundreds of outcrops, on hundreds of rock types, at every stage of weathering, in a number of countries, with varying amounts of enthusiasm, by a number of people.

Not once did we find a rock it could break.
(Tue 8th Mar 2011, 17:31, More)
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