Masters degree as a mature student, a review

I’m writing this blog to help you understand what to expect from studying a masters degree later in life. Did I find it useful? I met some really interesting people that I hope to keep in my life in the future. Would I recommend it? Only if you’re super bored with your life and work but expect no easy ride. If you want a break from life, you’ll be better off spending that money travelling and taking up surfing lessons.

I have to admit I was super excited to have secured a place in one of the top universities in the world. As a senior management professional, I knew others that had tried but didn’t get in. The only thing I hadn’t realised was the amount of work it required.

On a weekly basis, I’d have four to five classes to attend in lectures, read 100 plus pages for each to discuss in small group tutorials as well as hold in-class presentations twice per term and write 2,000 – 3,000 word assignments per module/class twice a term.

Another thing I was not prepared for was academic writing. The way arguments are framed, in perspective of other arguments and how limited your own poetic license is. This is predominantly a British education system approach to teaching which hints to post colonial education, drawing out what has been laid out before.

At the university I went to, I also realised each module had its own parameters for good framing and presentation, largely set out by the lead tutor. Irrespective of how many additional classes I took for example on how to write a book review, how to write a critique etc the central student learning and development was misaligned to the individual module requirements. That left me frustrated and as a paying student, annoyed at the power game academia has over the students, and leaving its huge weaknesses unacknowledged.

This last point was a point of discussion throughout my studies. Academics thinking they got it all worked out whilst they lack real-life experience in the field of their expertise. More dangerously, they advise and often participate in political life based on what they read by someone who written something fifty years ago. Academia is a dangerous ground to walk on when seeing right through its weaknesses yet having to abide by its rules.

That transcribed to loving some classes, those mainly taught by open-minded people who not only loved their craft but they loved teaching and interacting with their student debates too. In too many cases, the majority of the academics failed to do that. They focused too much on point scoring, coming across like some sort of activists despite being solely research based, and pushing arrogance in their game.

Lastly but not least, consider and ask what practical skills a masters will provide you with. I got stuck into a situation where the theory was central to most discussions but excluded current affairs unless it was Trump or neoliberalism bashing or glorifying Marxism.

This is how anachronistic academia can be, and yet it is expected we build a future through it.

In all truth, it’s not more than another subscription service, that will get you more views and remove the ads.

It’s good for visibility, but it can also make you feel invisible at the same time.

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Discussing healthcare in the US through graffiti

So you know Portland is the weird and quirky side of the western coast of the US for being alternative and out there. Well, it is for American standards, but… There are some things so ingrained in the American culture that even Portland can’t shy.

I’ve been visiting the Portland State University library for a while, getting some quiet time to write for hours.

I don’t get to talk to folks when here much. A new friend who studied linguistics mentioned she was considering a PhD study on the linguistics of indoor graffiti to research the public debates drawn out on loo doors, library spaces, lecture theatre desks, cantines and classes amongst others.

Reading the voices in public yet privately defined spaces gives you an idea of what people really want to say. That is usually expressed in a doodle, a few words, at the end of an emotion or thought.

I saw this one in the quiet study area of Portland State University.

dsc_40943787611335575273161.jpg

What shook me was that I was in a relatively trendy and well off part of the world where people are seen as Liberal and progressive. Without assuming the voices on this graffiti represent all American voices, they do sum it up in a nutshell.

Bernie Sanders can shout as much as he wants about healthcare for all. Some may know what universal income is too. How does a population within an economy as such get to the point of believing free healthcare is brainwash? Is that an indication the writer thinks it’s impossible? Or is it inappropriate?

Will the benefits that we have not had the opportunity to experience never materialize? How does fit it in the big American dream?

I now understand that we can’t rely on the young to fight for things they don’t understand. But what happened to them that got them to a place of not believing in the state’s capability of delivering on its social contract. Was it the Republicans, or Democrats before them, the Tories or Blair before them or the disconnected wababee socialist Corbyn? They are all part of the same system, right? Taking their quick and short chances (cause that’s all they’ll ever get nowadays) in power trips and little business for their buddies whilst citizens lose the will to live, and are devalued for their contribution to society and beyond their filling the gaps in the pockets of those near and dear.

Yet the broken system is showing that’s all around us. Segmentations of data that forgot how they came to be.

To be called brainwashed is to have a compliment. A recognition of the presence of a brain that’s been open to dialogue and will continue to do so.

Don’t tell me who I am, tell me who I want to be.

 

Reno International Dance Expo 2019

Tim Weinzirl, June 2019


The Reno International Dance Expo made its inaugural debut at 
the Grand Sierra Resort in Reno, Nevada, USA over May 10-12.  
The event was hosted by the world-famous Rodney "Rodchata" 
Acquino (http://www.rodchata.com/).  
This was primarily a bachata festival, though salsa, kizomba, 
and zouk were also featured.

rdxposter

The weekend opened with a preparty on May 9.  
Early arrivals were able to mingle with each other and 
the instructors.

From Friday to Sunday, there were daily workshops taught 
by 40+ instructors from four continents. 
Attendees of the preparty met the instructors early and 
could better navigate the multiple parallel workshop tracks.

My favorite instructor was Marcela Cardenas of Sweden.  
Her Saturday class was about how to be a better leader in bachata.  
She likened the hand-hold connection between the leader and 
follower to a joystick in a video game; the position of 
the arm tells the follower what to do.  
This is useful for steering the follower forward or backward, 
as shown in the figure below.

marcela-forward-backmarcela-forward-back

Marcela also emphasized the importance of the leader's 
firm connection with the follower's shoulder blade, 
such as in circular movements.

marcela-around

One of the most popular classes was the Saturday bachata session 
by Alex and Desiree. Below is a photo from the class.

classes-alex-des

The pool party happened on Saturday afternoon at the Grand Sierra's 
large outdoor pool. Below are some pool party photos.

pool-montage

On Friday and Saturday night were performances by amateur 
and world-renowned professionals. 
Below are snapshots from my favorite performances.

perf-montage

Photo above: In clockwise order, the performers are Anthony & Carla of Spain(dancing bachata), Alex & Desiree of New York (dancing bachata), Alejandro & Erica of Los Angeles (dancing bachata), Marcela Cardenas of Sweden (dancing bachata), Alex & Kim of San Francisco (dancing salsa).

Finally, and most importantly, social dancing took place in
four separate rooms (salsa, bachata, kizomba, zouk) until 6am.
The guest instructors did a great job dancing and interacting
the social dancers throughout the night. social-montage

Photo above: A sample of the social dancing.
Bottom left: Alex and Desiree leading a late night line dance.
Bottom middle: Alejandro and Erica dancing.
Bottom right: Marcela Cardenas is dancing with a lucky guy.

 

Based on crowd reaction, this event was a huge success.
The party resumes next year, May 15-18, 2020.
Passes are already on sale at http://www.RenoDanceExpo.com.
Within 48 hours of passes for next year going on sale,
over 20% of the attendees rebooked for next year.

Seattle, chief Seattle

So I will not start from the beginning, why should I, after all, I will start from the point writing this blog post, became urgent. And that wasn’t until I got inspired.
So you know how much I love Camden Town, right? I suppose in many ways it’s the alternativeness I have come to love for decades, even if it is being polished gradually, the edginess is still here.
So what’s up Seattle?
Up University Way and I got blown away. Now this is a quiet Camden, clothes’ exchanges galore, vintage shops with vintage clothes you can actually wear i.e. check out Red Light Vintage http://www.redlightvintage.com/, Korean food that smells beyond tasting good, unintrusive cafes like Cafe Solstice https://www.cafesolsticeseattle.com/ and a second-hand multi-lingo book shop check out Magus Books https://www.magusbooksseattle.com/, all packed on and off a high street where people don’t need to prove they are cool – they kind of are and don’t know it. I loved the dress down punk 90s understated fashion on the street.
Elaborative discussions on how the homeless are better looked after in Seattle than in Portland are complimentary. 90’s vibes. A time before all that uber-conservative shit in politics took off. Where Blur and Bjork are cool to mix with all sorts and cafes don’t mind shitloads of unpretentious laptops.
Now rewind a few days.
The airport; you land in Seattle, you be sure to listen to grunge and rock on the airport speakers. Telling what the city is made off. Even the light rail is called ‘sound’.
Then off to Highline, you could call it a disgruntled neighborhood on the margins, one that will certainly change, because the people may be poorer than average, but have tolerance and are friendly. For Londoners, think of Hackney before the money moved in. In Highline, money is not here yet but I think it won’t show in the same ugly British ways, because the money in the US goes to more affluent areas, whereas money into poorer areas in Seattle means it came from poorer people yet. So you get the picture.
Next off; Gasworks Park, or rewind a few blocks up the hill behind down Sunnyside Avenue North. Probably one of the most beautiful areas in Seattle. Streets manicured pretty green and friendly unpretentious, just the houses are bigger on well thought designed picturesque bliss, but no grandeur here either please, just simply gorgeous. So back down the hill to the Gasworks park and by the Lake Union waterfront – oh my days. My waterways days chucked into the bin, deep deep into the trash bin. The chaos of sup paddleboarding, rowing, kayaking, commercial traffic, houseboats, sailing boats, and water airplanes all using the same water was like watching carnival for the first time. All it felt like, was kind of Greek chaos, only with the confidence. It was fun to watch – put a big smile on my face and gave me another good reason to add to the reasons why I am in this part of the world: it doesn’t make much sense, but it works fine.
A little later, into Fremont, oh my days you have to go, it is so cool and pretty, like an understated really green lightly academic bohemian neighborhood that reminds me of somewhere I would have loved to go before.
So yeah, go Pike Street Market, Alki Beach, the Space Needle (if you must), Westlake Shopping, check out the Fremont Troll and the gum wall (I didn’t – couldn’t bear the thought), look out the wheel from the seafront and maybe jump on the ferry to Bremerton for more really cool views. Pop in at the University of Washington grounds – huge trees bigger spaces to feel academically inspired ;-p and if you are a Harry Potter fan the Library Suzzalo and Allen Libraries is the kind of grandeur that Oxbridge would love to have (I thought my School of Oriental and African Studies university library was big haha). Out of the library look out to the incredible view of the snow-capped Mount Rainier. Whatever you do though, if you are my sort of gang, go up University Way, go down Sunnyside Avenue.

 

The only brother in a gym in Peckham, London

Written by an anonymous friend, November 2018

I have lived in Peckham from 1994 and have seen various gyms pop up in the area. However, a lot of these gyms did not really fit what I wanted. Recently, I saw an advertisement for a gym of FB and it looked like it hit all the right buttons, more cardio then weights type.

I will now tell you my experience of the gym, as it was interesting to me as I don’t really train at gyms in general.

I was going shopping one morning down Peckham Rye and saw that the F45 Training gym that I saw on FB was advertising their opening, so decided to pop in. I was greeted by a female trainer that was very friendly and was looking to sign me up straight away. The sells pitch was good for a trail membership. Now the gym is purely class based (only downside), meaning you can’t show up and do your own training thing. No big deal for me as I do my own thing with my homeboy and by myself. Goal was to do 1 or 2 hard workouts a week with this gym as it was close to home (main reason for joining.) So back to sales pitch, I would say they had all the right looks to draw people in, attractive trainers, sweet looking new equipment etc.. Now the kicker was the price 189 a month.. Damn am I still in Peckham. Commercial price for commercial gym, I guess.

So knowing it might kill my pocket, I joined as close to home, my type of training and good equipment, sleds, sledge hammers etc..

So I thought the price being what it was that most of the clients would be white as most Peckham people I know ain’t paying that price (Laughing). So attending the classes I noticed firstly more woman than men (no biggy). So I have been to a few classes since joining in August, however, every time I go, I notice that I am the only brother (meaning Dark Skin Black Man) in the class. And first few times only black person period.

Noticed some sistas showing up, but still no brothers. Only brotha I saw was a trainer. So here I am in the middle of Peckham (known to be a so called Black Area) and I am the only brother a the gym, in this day and age gotta make you smile. But this fits in with the Costa and other cafe’s popping up in the area, vape shop etc.. (Gentrification). Luckily I am not bothered about being the only brotha, but now the pressures on to represent (Laughing). So at times it does feel strange, as the only brotha, but I keep my focus, as it is about the work.

Now my theory on why I am the only brotha I have seen is that most guys in general are into the weight training side of exercise more than cardio, so hence less men in general. And most Black guys I know prefer to weight train rather than cardio. So it will be interesting to see if the membership and look of the gym changes over time.

side note- On FB a Sista was looking at the advertisement and said that there were no Black People in the promotional video(interesting). I had a laugh and put in the comment section, that there are a few of us in there including myself. She replied, how come you not in the video, but there is no way I would be in the video as I am not one of there devoted members, I am in and out, so I assume the peeps in the video would be devoted members.

Until next time, Keep on Keeping.

Our Society is under attack

If it wasn’t for the neo liberalism that is driving vacant messages with questionable ethics, the alt-right and visibly present far right are continuously on attack of the basic principles that make us human, and therefore civilized.

There is a lot of anger, and even more so the internet and free flow of information has opened Pandora’s box. Corrupt regimes and individuals have been revealed, whilst governments have their resources diminished and police and health services struggling to deliver fairness. Law maybe the only dynamic challenge to all of this.

And now art is under attack, again.

I remember when following the financial crisis local government budgets were slashed letting thousands of staff go.

Youth services and cultural activities were the first to go and the arts council was told it has to raise the funds itself and from corporations. This the sector frowned upon and questioned the viability of independence in the circumstances.

Luckily the arts sector, used its creativity, and survived.

However we now have another attack under the wider hostile environment agenda.

The Guardian newspaper reported dozen authors who were planning to attend this year’s Edinburgh international book festival have had their visas refused. The ultimate right to creativity, refused. 

How does this hostile policy justify this? For they really believe we will silence our human nature to this extend? And what next, will they shut down the Internet so we can no longer share? 

What is the cost of this to society and why they feel the need to isolate? 

The ones kept inside, as always are the ones that have the key. 

I’m pretty sure this isn’t the way. 

What I learnt from not running the marathon

On Sunday, London hosted the annual marathon event, with thousands of participants running the 26 something miles.

The weather was a sizzling 24C with clear skies posing a number of health risks even for the most experienced athletes.

I stood by in Canary Wharf, planning initially to stay only for a few minutes, which turned into hours, after seeing, and being mesmerised by the Kenyan athletes. Their energy is unfathomable, unaffected by the elements, running solidly on their feet, unstoppable towards their own personal target to a medal. Following closely a number of vehicles with cameras indicated the presence of someone important and there you had it, Sir Mo Farah powering through. I was saddened to hear nearing the end of his run that he was seeking a bottle of water, only to be ignored by bystanders wanting to take the best shots as up close as possible. The inhumane treatment of fame, in full display.

Kenya’s Elliud Kipchoge followed by camera crews during the Virgin London Marathon 2018

Wheelchairs, the visually impaired, following through continued the display of incredible strength of spirit.

Not too long after, people aiming for the 3 hour finish mark, powered through. Pouring sweat and having sustained a considerable amount of sun exposure, gradually more and more were slowing down, even stopping to a walking pace. That was the point, the energy of the crowds and their value, really shined through. At the point where really experienced runners were stopping crowds gathered to encourage on, shouting names of people they didn’t know, edging them to continue on. Strangers, flooding their energy to strangers. The effect was magic happening before our eyes. The runners’ faces lightening up, pace quickening, invaluable seconds saved.

The human endurance has layers unexplored by the majority of us. It doesn’t entertain fear or weakness as concepts. It merely facilitates strength. The psychological status is about completing the task with ease, and resourcing a little more energy for overachieving, unravelling that extra bit of energy as it replenishes itself from the invisible source of confidence.

The fear, and doubt gradually appeared in the lesser trained athletes. You didn’t need to have a discussion. Their feelings stood in front of their faces, attached like a bubble of energy, with rights restricted to the owner exclusively.The take over of these feelings, may as well had been rolled out in a banner. External conditions had made their internal challenge furthermore complex.

This in itself is a very intense experience. It places the human spirit and our conditioning, in the heart of the matter. Challenging mental energy and channelling as well.

Every year I forget… Until I stand by again to watch. And every year I read another layer, of someone running past, a different story, equally important as the very first one, let it be that of the Kenyans or Mo Farah for that matter.

The invaluable value of encouragement. One step at a time, through the stages of being and feeling.

Everything has to do with the mind, and with the limits we have put in and the fact we can overcome them to break them. And what I have done is doping of the mind.

Until the next marathon, exploring the well of our course.

Rowing along…

Boat races, the heads and the regattas...

Being in a boat, moving at a speed powered by your own movement and force, is a feeling unlike any other.

If you are not convinced, try hiring a boat on a lake, enjoy the sensations it brings about.

The water has calming qualities. It reflects all there is and for a rower it is the mirror of the investment made in training, on land or water. Rowing is the ultimate competition with oneself.

The Boat Races, River Thames, UK 2018
Docklands Head 2017, East London, UK

University rowing crews, whilst studying, instead of joining their peers at the pub, they opt in for the sound of the alarm at 5am, getting in their boats in all weather, come rain or freezing conditions. Or the bravery of the learners turning up at clubs across the country, strengthening mentally and physically so they can lift their boats, catch up with more experienced crews, fine-tune techniques that didn’t even know existed, and balancing this, with work and adult life commitments. Or the juniors, set up in a single scull, a fine balancing act on a tiny boat sliding away at the gentle stroke, at a rate, self maneuvering in windy, and tide against weather conditions. Or the adult master sculler, competing well past their forties, unlike competitors in any other sport.

Crews during an outing in the port of Pireaus, Athens, Greece 2017

Scullers opposite Greenwich, London 2015

Searching out for the ultimate experience visit a rowing competition near you. There are events held on the river, on the coast, at the docks, or a marina, in boats of all sizes. Note the community spirit and peer support.

I am a four year old rower. That’s a baby by competitive standards, yet having transfered from gymnastics, a new lease of sporting life has rolled out in front of me when every other athlete I know, let it be from NBA or Rugby, retired by the time they reached the third decade of their life.I am not simply sharing my insights of the rowing sport, but a small sample of experiences I gained in my infant years, shown through the photos here taken from a range of races, club houses and events.

Head of the Charles Regatta, Boston, USA 2015

Royal Henley Regatta, UK 2015
Blisters and all, being a rower means you have a home at a boat house on any corner of the earth.

I welcome you to some experiences, many call home.

Building health

Stop building hospitals. That is how you really do not help people to cure, but you reinforce their belief in illness.

People do not need someone to support their sick perception of things, someone who will perpetuate their erroneous thinking and ill thoughts.

Stop enhancing their view that the body is getting sick on its own or because of poor diet and abuse.

Stop casting responsibility for heredity, exonerating the choices of their thoughts. The only heredity is the perpetuation of a misconception, of an already ill-founded reasoning.

The body is diseased after the mind has already been ill.

Stop stroking the bodies, and start bothering the mind. If you really want to help, build mind schools and clinics. Build schools that teach you how to use this perfect tool, that every single one of us has; our mind.

And a hospital. Not for bodies, but for minds, to cure one who has a manifestation of an illness, by bringing his mind into balance, and in good thought.

We believe that because we are thinking, we know how to use our minds correctly, that we can pride ourselves on being more sophisticated than animals.

And yet, every single thought is full of deficiency, hatred, anger, guilt and judgment for others, and for ourselves.

Our thoughts are mainly catastrophic, and this slowly, or quickly manifests itself in our relationships, in our work, and of course in our own body.
Make or build something that is actually used for healing. And this can be anything to do with mind.

Take care of something that is actually in charge. Because the only thing that is truly in charge is the Mind.

Written by Gerasimos Pavlou

Tai Chi Instructor and Alternative Healing Practitioner

In Greek:

Σταματήστε να φτιάχνετε νοσοκομεία. Μ’ αυτόν τον τρόπο δεν βοηθάτε πραγματικά τους ανθρώπους να θεραπευτούν, αλλά τους ενισχύετε την πίστη τους στην αρρώστια. Οι άνθρωποι δεν χρειάζονται κάποιον που θα τους υποθάλπει την αρρωστημένη τους αντίληψη για τα πράγματα, κάποιον που θα διαιωνίζει το λάθος τους σκεπτικό και τις αρρωστημένες τους σκέψεις.

Σταματήστε να τους ενισχύετε την σκέψη τους ότι το σώμα αρρωσταίνει από μόνο του ή λόγω της κακής διατροφής και των καταχρήσεων. Σταματήστε να ρίχνετε την ευθύνη στην κληρονομικότητα, απενοχοποιώντας τις επιλογές των σκέψεών τους. Η μόνο κληρονομικότητα, είναι η διαιώνιση μιας λάθους αντίληψης, ενός ήδη αρρωστημένου σκεπτικού. Τίποτα άλλο.

Το σώμα νοσεί αφού έχει ήδη νοσήσει ο νους. Σταματήστε να χαϊδεύετε τα σώματα, και αρχίστε να ενοχλείτε τους νόες.

Αν θέλετε πραγματικά να βοηθήσετε, φτιάξτε σχολεία και θεραπευτήρια για νόες. Ένα σχολείο που να διδάσκει πώς να χρησιμοποιείς αυτό το τέλειο εργαλείο που έχει ο καθένας μας και όλοι μαζί. Το νου μας.

Και ένα θεραπευτήριο. Όχι για σώματα, για νόες. Για το πώς μπορεί κάποιος που εκδήλωσε κάποια αρρώστια, φέρνοντας τον νου του σε ισορροπία, σε ορθή σκέψη, να μπορέσει να θεραπευτεί.

Θεωρούμε ότι επειδή σκεφτόμαστε, ότι ξέρουμε να χρησιμοποιούμε ορθά τον νου μας, και υπερηφανευόμαστε ότι είμαστε πιο εξελιγμένοι από τα ζώα γιατί έχουμε μυαλό. Και κάθε μας σκέψη είναι γεμάτη ελλειμματικότητα, μίσος, θυμό, ενοχή και κρίση για τους άλλους και για τον ίδιο μας τον εαυτό. Οι σκέψεις μας είναι κυρίως καταστροφικές και αυτό αργά η γρήγορα εκδηλώνεται στις σχέσεις μας, στην δουλειά μας, και φυσικά στο ίδιο μας το σώμα.

Φτιάξτε κάτι που να χρησιμοποιείται πραγματικά για ίαση. Και αυτό δεν μπορεί παρά να είναι κάτι που να έχει να κάνει με τον νου. Ασχοληθείτε με κάτι που είναι αληθινό. Γιατί το μόνο που είναι πραγματικά αληθινό είναι ο Νους.