42,195m

Or 26 and a bit miles. Marathons are weird. Why do we do them? They’re inspired by a greek guy ran 13 miles one direction, turned around and ran back, then promptly died. Someone heard this story and thought, “hey, sounds fun.” (Runners; they’re truly insane)

Anyway, 3:03:46.3 of effort and I had rowed all 42,195m in a herculean effort (get it, cause Greece) of endurance and an incredibly sore arse. Who’d have thought a sport that involves sitting down would be so difficult. It was all in aid of charity, raising money for the Lafayette Urban ministries and involved great effort from everyone around the club, some of who were at the mall we did this in for a lot longer than others. That being said, no amount of goodwill or money could ever make me do a marathon again. (Blatant lie, I’d do it for £50) It’s a bucket list type thing for sure, i’m glad I ticked it off. That being said, I’m done with ergs. Get me in a boat!

2015-01-08 19.14.17-1

Indiana’s winter, it turns out, sucks. It varies between “holy hell that’s a lot of snow” and “hmmm, I think I might have frostbite everywhere” levels of cold, interspersed with two or three days of mild weather that provide false hope of the endless frigid wasteland being something other than that. I hate snow. It’s cold, it’s wet and provides a wonderful friction free surface to look like an absolute tit on. Purdue help this along by plowing the sidewalks, compacting the snow down into a wonderfully slick surface on every path that you walk on to lectures. Or by gritting with the contents of a small quarry everywhere, which sticks to your shoes and is consequently dragged everywhere throughout the halls. How is it that somewhere that’s hotter than home in the summer is literally colder than the North Pole in it’s never ending winter. It honestly feels like I’m north of the wall.

Oh how I wish these were actually loaded.

Oh how I wish these were actually loaded.

Despite temperatures more suitable for freezing meat produce than outdoor activities, the men’s team went paintballing. Inviting a coach seemed like ideal stress relief until it turned out that he was actually Canadian special forces the entire time. Also, he was a cox before and small people are hard to hit. And it turns out that he’s pretty ruthless. I sincerely wish that we could have given him the firing squad treatment, especially with “surprise workouts” being a thing.

2015-02-14 20.07.07

Crew semi-formal was a nice break from dying on an erg that didn’t involve being shot with high velocity projectiles. Dress up nice, dance, take numerous selfies with Clara’s phone after she foolishly entrusted it to you to look after (honestly Apple, silly design feature). I also didn’t mind not looking like a giraffe towering over people on a dance floor for once. Always nice.

Anyways, New York next week with the family. 24 hour train journey. Looking forward to that. In the mean time, little news report that covered our marathon. We bet Eyster he couldn’t say the word ‘community’ a hundred times in the interview, bless him he tried his hardest.

http://wlfi.com/2015/01/31/rowing-for-a-cause/

Laters y’all.

James

2015-02-21 16.23.45

All That Jazz

Get it, it’s a Chicago reference? Because I went to Chicago. Yeah.

Musicals aside, Chicago is one of the most amazing places I’ve ever visited. I got their via Greyhound Buses, which meant leaving fairly early in the morning. The winter here is ridiculously cold compared to home, despite insistences from people it’s relatively mild compared to other places. I’m not a fan of -18 degree weather. Or snow. Or ice. Or rain. Or wind. Generally anything other than sun. But not too hot.2014-12-29 08.40.39

Anyways, bus rides usually suck. I don’t fit and people talk to me. It’s no fun. This time however, no problems, thankfully, as everything is bigger in the USA. Also, it’s the first long distance bus ride I’ve ever had that stopped off at a McDonalds for refreshments halfway through. Travelling between Lafayette and Chicago gave me an opportunity to see some of the US landscape, but sadly that landscape is in Indiana, which is not the, err, prettiest of the states. The sheer amount of space though allows for the amazing site of the biggest wind farm I’ve ever seen.2014-12-29 09.39.16

I haven’t looked into it, but it felt like we were driving through this for about 25-30 miles and they stretched off further than my eyes could see. Coming back through here at night was incredibly eerie, thousands of disembodied, blinking red lights all in perfect sequence.

The first sign we had hit Chicago was going past the White Sox stadium. It’s in the South Side of Chicago, which is a touch notorious as a place that isn’t great to live. It was where Sudir Venkatesh went to find crime in the projects for his book Gang Leader For A Day (Go read it if you haven’t it’s incredibly good.) The south side was described as a third world country by one person in a class last term, despite having the University of Chicago smack dabb in the middle of it, not unlike Columbia and Harlem I suppose.2014-12-29 10.31.02 2014-12-29 11.29.25

After getting to the hostel, which was surprisingly nice, we basically slept for the rest of the day until dinner time. We found a pub which had decent food and played a bunch of pool, which I lost a lot at.

The next day, we got to explore Chicago proper. It’s a beautiful city, especially downtown. Geek highlight was just seeing where the opening shot of The Dark Knight happened. Love me some Batman.2014-12-30 11.46.09 2015-01-01 15.12.10 2014-12-30 15.51.09 2014-12-30 15.39.42 2014-12-30 15.39.39 2014-12-30 15.16.36

Highlights include (but aren’t limited too)

  • The Trump Tower being a huge, ugly eyesore of garish proportions, like the man’s hair.
  • The Chicago Museum of Modern Art. Honestly, went to the wrong one, I wanted to go to the other art museum with the Dali stuff, but this was still interesting, a lot of photography which is a bit easier to connect too than a lot of other modern art.
  • Willis Tower, formerly Sears Tower was huge. Didn’t get to do the Skydeck glass walk thing, three hours to queue for it was…excessive.
  • Lake Michigan was incredible, it’s insane that there’s just an isolated body of water in the middle of a country that could fit Britain inside of it.

The highlight though, the one that sold me on Chicago, was Giordano’s. It’s a pizza place that claims at least to be an originator of the deep dish Chicago pizza. It was incredible, I cannot emphasise just how awesome it was.2014-12-30 14.38.21

It’s just beyond incredible and actually filling. Between the two us, and we aren’t small, we were stuffed off of half each. I’m going back when I’m stuck in Chicago for a few hours on my way back from New York in February.

Back in Lafayette, winter hit like a hammer. A good foot of snow and temperatures that were in the negative teens before windchill. It’s been a balmy one or two degrees recently, shorts weather, it’s been glorious!

And that’s that, classses are back, training is back (6K PB, WOO!). New York next month, Clemson in March and hopefully a bunch of other places!

I’ll leave you with one of the best opening scenes of all time from The Dark Knight, as I mentioned, shot in Chicago. I could have gone with the Chicago song but meh, this is better.

James

2015-01-18 22.11.50

Happy Holidays You Bastards

It’s a blink-182 song. YouTube it and revel in the humour. Anyways, it’s Christmas. Woo!

Quickly, a goodbye to David. Good luck in New York, it was great meeting you, you damn loveable Swede.

Christmas in America sans familia was different, and what with campus again doing its Chernobyl ghost-town act, it was a pretty chill day. I went Jewish; went to the cinema, which actually is apparently a growing tradition among American families. Saw The Hobbit, a distinctly ok ending to what was essentially an unnecessary trilogy. Seriously, one film would have been perfect, all the Lord of The Rings set up stuff was just fluff. After that, pick up a Chinese takeaway, kicked back and watched The Interview.

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/0bc/72665590/files/2014/12/img_0780.jpg

Skyping back home was nice, although meeting your brothers girlfriend for the first time via tablet shoved in the face was odd. I did miss the dinner, and family I suppose, but I can take a day alone.

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/0bc/72665590/files/2014/12/img_0766.jpg
Winter break doesn’t preclude a break from training. I have an erg in my room, taking up the floor space usually reserved for excessive amounts of clothes. Having little else to do (seriously, if anyone wants to send a tv and a PS4, don’t delay) training has taken precedent. I even went out running of my own accord.

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/0bc/72665590/files/2014/12/img_0244.jpg
Training also provided a nice distraction from revision for finals. Studying at the boathouse was a far nicer environment than a library. I clocked up nearly 200km on the ergs thanks to my, err, studying. Tea helped as well.

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/0bc/72665590/files/2014/12/img_0245.jpg

The thing that sucks about Christmas is, I’m half done here. Which kind of sucks. Wanting the best of both worlds is natural. I’m gonna be sad to leave here, although hopefully chilling in California for a while softens the blow of having to leave.

In the mean time, Chicago is just around the corner, which will hopefully just be fun and games. I wanna go see the bean.

See you in the New Year, I’ll leave you with the more mature blink-182 song relating to the holidays. Like, ever so slightly more mature.

James

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/0bc/72665590/files/2014/12/img_0762.jpg

It’s The Final Countdown

You’re doing the melody in your head, aren’t you? It’s finals time here, a fun and whimsical time where everyone becomes stressed and depressed at the idea of their GPA falling away from them. Just in time for Christmas. Obviously this means two things;

1) Excessive amounts of time spent in my room, which has resulted in a revisiting of the angst filled music and creation of the most wonderfully emo Spotify playlist you’ll ever see.

2) Procrastination in blog form.

So here we are. I hate exams. I may have mentioned this. They are, in general, a fantastic way of undoing a significant amount of the good work that I’ve done throughout the terms. There’s no joy in exams at all. That being said, I do prefer the format over here. There’s less to cover and they tend to be less traditional in their approach. The essay heavy exams at home are less common here. The only one I have that is purely essay based is a take home exam, so it’s just a big piece of coursework with a clipped deadline. One other professor has given us all of the questions in advance, 70 multiple choice, 2 essay based of which there will be 50 and 1 respectively on the actual final. It’s strange that revision is actually just looking up answers for the first time in a long time.

Training now for some reason includes running. I hate running. Exercise is, generally, cathartic. Lifting weights is satisfactory in so many ways and even after erging, I feel accomplished and more importantly, fine, after a few minutes and a stretch. Running for me is like kicking a puppy; I don’t want to do it, I’m not going to do it unless someone forces me to and I feel bad for days afterwards. Just a side note, I’ve never actually kicked a puppy and I’m just assuming I’d feel bad. Running is torture. I’m not built for it at all, a fact my knee reminds me of quickly by sending a jab of searing pain up through my thigh every other step. The scenery of Happy Hollow park, which is quite nice, does little to relieve the monotonous plodding.

Anyway, just a brief update because technically, I am in the middle of an exam.

James

Turkey Genocide and Pie.

Honestly, it’s hard to do any form of witty title about thanksgiving without a) trolling the depths of unoriginal thoughts and puns and b) insulting the gracious hosts of this wonderful land. So, take that for what it is.

In the whole build up to thanksgiving, it’s been a touch hectic. Four bits of coursework due over a course of five days was a less than appealing way to go into the five day break that the holiday gives. Still, two weeks of writing, copious amounts of Monster and one incredibly ill advised all nighter saw that all knocked out and put to bed so I can enjoy the rest. Writing papers over here is different. It seems like I can get away without relying on nearly as many academic references, which is nice because it means far less time in the soul crushing confines of the library. IMG_0220.JPG
Why is it that academics in general have such heinous handwriting? I assume it’s a speed thing, rushing through to finish it quickly and all that, but come on. I could barely make out this feedback at all. I’m gonna assume it’s good feedback though, cause this got an A and I’m a genius. Ahem.

The weekend saw the coming of another rent-a-rower, just to earn a little extra side cash. Pulling up outside the house, there were a large number of flags, poems regarding independence etc. Slightly apprehensively, I went I . Worries misplaced, obviously, she was a wonderfully nice woman. While we were painting her house, I noticed the folded flag in a case that adorned the mantle piece. It was probably her husbands (she spoke extensively about her son coming to Thanksgiving and lived alone, bar an incredibly skittish rescue dog). It was a stark reminder of the cost of war on people back home. She was a wonderful woman, incredibly grateful for the job we did for her (which she’d been unable to herself due to a herniated disc). It’s great being out in the community and helping. Getting paid for it is a great bonus as well, I can’t deny that.

IMG_0731.JPG
Winter training continues in the most fun ways possible. Running outside in this Midwest winter is unappealing at best, downright sadistic at worse. Doing stair set runs is no fun at all, especially with the laps after, running around the basketball stadium with its incredibly up and down terrain. Being alone over the holidays however means this is far more appealing than erging alone. At least I have the weightlifting sessions to enjoy. Pick the heavy thing up, put it down again. Fun. Loads of it.

Thanksgiving day itself was great. Debbie Anderson, an overseer in the biology labs who I met on my first rent-a-rower kindly accommodated me for the day, as well as a plethora of other international students that she had met. Some of them had been coming for the last four years. Conversation flowed, it was fantastic to sit down and share cultures, food being a huge topic, as well as football, what with two other Arsenal fans sat at the table, which is a wonderful experience. The food was excellent, Debbie is a great cook and an out of this world baker. I am now fully converted to the greatness that is pie. I will, I swear, get the recipe for the choc-chip pecan pie, because it was incredible. I think I took half of it home with me. It was a beautiful gesture of them and one I will wholeheartedly remember when I leave. I think I may have got a bit gushy in my thanks though.

IMG_0728.JPG

Thanksgiving seems like Christmas back home. The family coming together element etc. It’s less about the event and celebration of that than it is the coming together without the superficial commercialism. That comes the day after however.

Black Friday is an abomination, it’s so disheartening to see British crowds make the news now. To see people whipped up into a frenzy over discounted junk that people don’t need and often don’t want is sad. There’s parts of American culture I like, but this is not one of them. From an entirely voyeuristic perspective I’d have loved to watch, which probably makes me part of the problem. What is slightly more disturbing however is the apathy with which events like Ferguson are taken in comparison too Black Friday. There’s the same amount of passion, or lack thereof, with which people reported or reacted is puzzling. From an outside perspective, and for the looks of the way people reacted in Ferguson, there’s a problem that needs fixing. But coverage is biased, to say the least. CNN led with “violence erupts” in the USA while the same article outside the U.S. led with the headline “protest erupts”. That isn’t right and neither is the reduction of a complex issue down to it being purely about race. My biggest peeve with my time here so far has been seeing issues like this come up over and over again in a governmental system designed in such a way that they never get solved. Time is a flat circle indeed.

IMG_0734.JPG

Heavyness aside, as you can see, I have plenty to be getting on with. Like watching Netflix. I’m impressed with what I’ve managed to get through in between everything else.

James

IMG_0732.JPG

Fallen Leaves On The Ground

Autumn, or as the Americans call it, leafy droppy time, is well upon us now. Each cold, grey and brown hued day is a stark reminder of the glorious summer days that now seem a distant memory. But it does mean I get to reference Billy Talent in the post title. So, swings and roundabouts.

With the changing of the seasons comes a change in the way we train at rowing. No more do we have the fun of doing actual rowing, instead relegated to the indoors and the dreaded erg. Explaining the hate for this innocuous torture machine which often lurks in the dark corners of the gym is hard to those uninitiated to the cult that is crew. For the laymen, it’s used as a brief warm up before the fun of weights or the cross trainer, technique and times unimportant, leading to flailing and grunting that to the seasoned and snobbish rower is almost unrecognisable as any form of exercise. To us, this machine is a way to fill the legs with lactic acid, making every stroke an elongated moment of painful ordeal. Breathing hurts, sweat flows freely. This weeks initial test was a six kilometre piece, around 22 minutes of holding a strong, hard pace. I felt awful during, not being in the best shape anyway due to a wonderful excursion off of my bike and onto the road (more on that later) the day before. But, eventually, 22:26.3 later, I was done. Coach was less impressed with things though, throughout the whole crew. Explaining his particular objections is hard, the result less so. A repeat of the test, immediately. It was, to say the least, harsh. But therein lies the true purpose of the erg and the reason we do these exercises. Yes, you get fitter, dropping your resting heart rate lower and lower. Yes, you get stronger and bigger, jeans get harder to buy (like that wasn’t a problem already) and your back gets comically large. But all of this would be nothing without the mental strength to finish. You can have all the size and endurance in the world, but using them to the max requires the ability to ignore the little voice in your head telling you that you can go easy on this stroke, that you’re pushing too hard. The best in the world are the guys who’s negative voice in their head is the quietest. And it never gets easier. Todays practice ended with Coach noting “it never gets easier, you just get faster”. Good words to get by on in a lot of places, but never truer than here.

Anyway, past my waxing poetic about the demons I face on a daily basis, the weeks have been oddly eventful. Riding a bike saw me being reminded that it hurts a damn sight more to hit the ground as a 6′ 6″, 230lb human being than a waif of a child. Less bounce, more solid thud. The chain decided that it didn’t like it’s current position of where it’s meant to be and jumped off, leading to me flying over the handlebars and crashing with the aforementioned thud. Being British, I hastily got up and apologised to the now stationary cars behind me for delaying them before gamely walking on to practice and tending to my wounds. I’d be less annoyed at this if a) my bike was less ruined, needs a whole new headset and b) I hadn’t ruined my god damned Jack Wills hoody and tracksuit bottoms. Literally the warmest and most comfy clothing I own. What am I meant to lounge around in while watching Netflix now?

2014-11-10 22.14.01

Saturday was awful, I was sick as a dog after training in the morning and ended up having to miss going to the Pacers game I had tickets too. This sucks, massively. I’m considering selling my soul, or perhaps something of similar value, in an attempt to get tickets to the Patriots at the Colts next week. I don’t know if I’ll have a better opportunity to see an great like Tom Brady in the flesh. At least until February when LeBron and the Cavs come to town, which I am going too come hell or high water.

Thankfully, I made a miraculous recovery (seriously, what’s that about) and made it to the second Rent-a-rower. This time the job was simple; clear leaves. I say simple, what actually followed was a war of attrition with the dead, brown bastards. The size of the garden alone made it a daunting task; you could fit nine or ten homes on this plot back home, easily. Essentially, we were tasked with raking leaves onto a giant tarp before stashing them on a pile behind the trees on the property line. For five hours. The pile of leaves by the end of it dwarfed me, although I can imagine it’d make a nice warm home for any hibernating creatures while it lasts. Job done, and as the picture below shows, it was a job well done, we buggered off home and I spent the rest of the day miserable when the news of Arsenal’s loss the the mighty Swansea filtered through.

2014-11-09 15.16.04

And that’s that. For now at least. I’ll leave you with one of my favourite songs, and videos which was the inspiration for the title here.

Peace out,

James

Sunburn In October

*Warning: contains gross topless shot of me*

If anyone is still reading considering the warning of upcoming nudity (or positively encouraged to read by the notion), cheers. As the title says, Saturday was a ridiculous day. October 25th is not supposed to be a day where someone gets sunburnt. Even on the water.

DCIM104GOPRO

Eagle Creek near Indianapolis was the venue for the first race of the season. It was a ridiculously beautiful place. Nothing against Norwich or Cambridge, but Eagle Creek was a marvel; a huge reservoir full of water sport participants. The race was a success for Purdue in general, less so for my boat (more on that later), but overall, it was a great day.

15446200189_cf3c776255_o

The parents club is great institution within the club. Dedicated parents supply food and sacrifice a day to deed an army of rowers, which is no easy task. Rowers can eat for days. Even Jesus with a fully stocked fridge would have a problem satisfying the ravenous horde that goes to these regattas.

2014-10-25 12.58.26

Sadly, no Head of The Hooch for me this weekend, stupid mix up of Varsity and Novices mean I’m left behind. Silver lining is that Halloween should at least make it up as well as the fact I can sit down and watch Arsenal hopefully rout Burnley from the comfort of my bed.

On campus this week, there were a few days of protests, perhaps. Not protests, more demonstrations I suppose. What this meant was that while I was riding along near the Class of 1950 lecture hall, I was suddenly confronted with numerous pictures of dead fetuses (I just had to google the plural of fetus. This truly is a year of firsts) and people handing out flyers about why abortion is bad. It’s a stark reminder of the cultural difference between Purdue and Essex. Personal politics aside, I suppose it’s good to see an active political mindset form people. Personal politics included, I’d bet that the people protesting would be far more inclined to be against government intervention in health matters less biblical. Just my two cents. It’s at this point that libertarianism begins to fight an uphill battle against hypocrisy, the whole “government bad, god good” adherence doesn’t marry itself to any sort of coherent or consistent manifesto in a lot of cases.

That got heavy quickly. I apologise. Next week, so much more saccharine. And if there are request, further topless pics.

James

DCIM104GOPRO