Like A King

Well… now that was a nice little break.  It feels like ages since I’ve put pen to pap- er… fingers to the keyboard.  It feels even more strange that I have less than a month here in Europe.  These last few months have been moving at a million miles an hour, yet it still feels like walking off the plane for the first time was years ago.  The sheer volume of experiences that I have gone during this time could satisfy one individual for years at a time, and I’ve managed to cram so much into so little a period – and I still have plans for the future!  It’s damn exciting, especially since I am [as of this posting] done with the “Study” part of Studying Abroad.  Here we go.

Class Update

At this point, classes have been over for over 3(!) weeks.  If you ask me the fact that we have so much time off between courses and finals is proper b.s.  Why?  Well, people forget things during that time, especially a lot of the little redundancies that most courses expect you to regurgitate for your final exams.  Fantastic.  Thankfully mine were scheduled quite early, and I will be/have been done by this past Thursday [As of this writing sesh it’s Wednesday night … hmm … I should be studying].  Let’s talk about how they went.

IPDA – Technically considered a “Take home assignment”, the course I had to take for my major back home came before the examination period even started.  We were given 72 hours to complete ANOVA tables by hand, analyse and critique some measures/experiments, define some terms, and work with SPSS to produce some graphs and statistical tests.  In total, it took me 9 hours to complete this exam.  Woof…  I’ll admit it now: I was not prepared.  But, I took my time and felt pretty good about my final product when I finally turned it in.  It doesn’t help my confidence that my research paper I wrote earlier in the semester came back with a 52 (B-/C+), which I honestly call shenanigans on.  I worked so damn hard on that paper.  Hell, I followed the format of the sample paper which got a 74 close enough.  I don’t really understand what I did wrong, as the feedback on my returned paper was not particularly enlightening.  I was and am still pissed at myself for it, but I am also seriously disenfranchised with the system of education here at Uni Edinburgh.  But that’s a topic for a later post.  Get in touch with me if you want my full opinion, but otherwise the gist is that I’ve been pretty dissatisfied with how much I’ve felt like I’ve learned here.  Granted, a large chunk of that falls on my shoulders, but not all.  In any event, IPDA, for better or worse, is over with.  Boom.

Gaelic – Coming on the 2nd of May, my Gaelic final gave me the most stress in preparation.  I essentially had to study for two courses: the language one and the culture one.  This type of course also highlights how the ridiculous amount of time between courses and finals can seriously impact the confidence and readiness of a student.  After all, between my final Gaelic tutorial and the exam I had nearly a month in which I went to Spain for 10 days and had a trip to Amsterdam just a few days before the final itself.  With all the intricacies of language, does anyone really expect the students to remember all of them or be as ready as they were on the last day of classes?  If they do then I think something is seriously wrong with the system.  In any event, I grinded through studying on both fronts for hours on end, pouring over verbs and tenses and historical documents.  Come exam time I had no idea what to expect, but I will say this: my exam was substantially harder than those that came before in previous years.  I know this because I looked them up on the Uni Edi website to study from and practice on.  In short, I think my class got screwed over a little – at least on the language part.  Translating “How many legs are on a spider?” is just about damn near impossible – at least it was for someone of my familiarity with the language.  That being said I do actually feel pretty good about the language portion, but If I’m being honest with myself I probably only got roughly 70% on that section.  I’ll take it though, as I feel like I definitely picked up some marks on the culture bit.  Here, I had to pick three excerpts from a selection of eight or so, state their significance, their context, and note some important things from within them.  Time will tell how I graded out here, but I, at least, feel very good about my answers.  Hopefully I’ll earn some marks back to compensate for my language skills.  Either way, I think my final grade should make me happy, which is a positive if nothing else.

Poli Thinkers – The fact that I’m writing this blog the night before my exam should show how good I feel going into this, my last final.  We’ll see how it goes, but I’ll also have a few hours to study in the morning as the exam runs from 2:30-4:30.  The past few days I have been spending my hours pouring over documents from Simone de Beauvior, Gandhi, and MLK/Malcom X.  I need only answer a question for 2 thinkers, but I felt like studying for 3 (MLK/Malcolm X are linked into one) was a more productive way of going about it.  After all, what if I don’t like the questions for one of the thinkers?  Best to have a backup plan.  So here we go, once more, and lastly, unto the breach.

AFTER THE EXAM

Damn I feel good about that!  I ended up writing on Simone de Beauvoir and the concept of woman as the “Absolute Other” to man and Gandhi and his ideas on how civil disobedience should be non-violent in nature.  It took me approximately an hour and forty minutes to write about 6-7 full pages.  My hand hates me as I have a tendency to write small, so carpal tunnel is an issue.  But, it doesn’t matter now, for I am done!  Done with the “Study” in Study Abroad!  The rest of the time between now and May 24th and my flight home is completely at my disposal – Aw. Hell. Yes.

AMSTERDAM

I spent two days in Amsterdam, and during those days I saw two very different faces of the city.  As such, I think it’s best to split them up.

King’s Day

“When do you think the next time you’ll be in Amsterdam on King’s Day?” Allison asked me as her, Bridie and I sat in Levels lounge a few weeks ago.  At this moment in time I was booking the remnants of my trip to Spain, and here were my friends already looking ahead to the future.  I had my reservations, as I had my IPDA take-home from the 24th-27th, and King’s Day was on the 27th, my next final being on the 2nd.  Was it going to be a smart decision to head to Amsterdam for the biggest party this side of Europe DURING my finals week?  Absolutely not.  Yet, Allison was completely right.  When would I ever have this opportunity again – to go to such an event with so many of my friends?  A month later I had busted out my IPDA final in 9 hours over the course of the 24th and 25th, and early in the morning on the 27th I was on my way to Amsterdam to experience something incredible.  I had no idea what to expect.

Allison, Bridie, and Sarah were kind enough to wait for me in the airport.  It was cheaper for me to book separate flights than the others as a few of them were going to Poland following our visit to the Netherlands.  Once we were all together we hopped on the speeder train to Amsterdam Centraal.  Twenty minutes later we disembarked into the throngs of people who were in town for the King’s birthday celebration

A vlogger/filmmaker who I watch, Casey Neistat, just so happened to be in Amsterdam a day before I arrived.  His vlog shows a bit more of the city, as well as how easy it is to get into the city.  It’s interesting that celebrities I follow seem to be following me, so to speak.  Trevor Noah was in Madrid on the same day I was; Danny Shelton (Browns) and Steve Smith Sr. (Retired) were in Edinburgh not too long ago as well.  Shame I haven’t met any of them yet!

It was all-orange everywhere.  The people, the cars, the dogs, the buildings; everything was coated in the colors of Holland pride.  Bass from massive loudspeakers reverberated throughout the city.  Truly, it was a town-wide extravaganza of celebration.  My friends and I could not have been more stoked to arrive right in the thick of it all.  The atmosphere was palpable as the city had exploded into a sea of good vibes: dancing in the street, laughter all around, and decorative getups as far as the eye could see.  I was hooked.

First thing’s first though, we had to get to our hostel.  Since we booked later than the others Bridie, Emily, and I were in a different hostel than the rest of the group.  We stayed at ClinkNOORD across the river, and as such had to take a ferry every time we wanted to get into town.  On the upside the ride was always free and took literally five minutes.  It was an extremely convenient way to get around!  Moreover, the hostel was awesome, and aside from the guy who was snoring loudly at my feet the 10 person bedroom sufficed for the couple of nights that we stayed there.  Also, Clink was selling some King’s Day merch, so of course I had to pick up an orange shirt.  Money well spent!  If you’re ever in Amsterdam this is a great place to stay.

Once we were settled in we headed back to Centraal station to meet up with the rest of the squad.  My flatmate(s?) and API comrades Saskia and Danny were also in town so in total there were 7 of us in our King’s Day squad.  It took a moment to find everyone but once we were together we painted our faces and set off into town.

It was a riot.

I’d never experienced a party on this magnitude before.  The air was cool and the day was nice enough for everyone to cut loose and enjoy what the city had to offer.  My friends and I explored, stopping at a bar to fuel our merriment with drinks of a festive nature.  We wandered up and down the canals without any knowing of where we were going.  We passed the famous canals and the notorious coffee shops, making our way to the Red Light District.  Here the party was unhinged, and I got my first taste of the most liberal (I guess is the right word) street in the world.  I tried not to make eye contact with the women in the windows so as not to give them the wrong idea, but it’s hard not to keep your eyes trained on something that would have generations of conservative voters in the States rolling in their graves.  The following day our tour guide would make the case that this is just a way of life for these women.  They have health insurance, open the windows at their own discretion, and have security buttons on hand.  It’s merely a life choice for them, just another job really.  I can respect that, and I think it’s a refreshing idea that the city, instead of outlawing something, works to make it a safe and sustainable practice.  I don’t think it’s necessary to provide my personal opinion on the subject, but from what I observed there didn’t seem to be any social discord over the mass of red neon lit windows and signs advertising “Live Porno Shows”.

Along the same lines, the use of marijuana in Amsterdam seemed to be a bit tempered to what I expected.  Though I am still not quite sure if it even is legal in the country, that didn’t stop multitudes of people from smoking it in public.  The city was LOUD [loud is a slang term for the potent smell of cannabis].  Again, it’s not necessary for my personal opinion to be shared, but if you wish to hear my thoughts shoot me an email.  The same tour guide from the next day put the usage of the stuff like this: “People who drink are more likely to get aggressive and be assholes.  People who smoke, if provoked, will stand up, forget where they are, laugh it off, and everyone goes back to having a good time.”  Plenty of people were having a good time on King’s Day, I’ll tell you that much.

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The view from across the river.
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Centraal Station
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The view from Centraal Station
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My first glimpse of the Amsterdam canals.
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Into the party we go.
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It’s on!
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Feeling like a King!
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It was a riot.
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Party on the boats; party on the bridges; party everywhere!
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Leggo!
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Dam Square
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King’s Day Squad
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Royal Palace
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Just a cool building.

There really isn’t much to describe about this day other than we had a blast integrating ourselves into the local vibe of things.  We had no distinct plan for the day other than to show up and have some fun.  We did just that.

Later that night we had a big group dinner at an Italian restaurant and hit the town.  Surprisingly the city had quieted down a good bit.  But, after wandering aimlessly for a while we ended up at a club where we hung out for a bit.  It was soon clear we were in over our heads.  Not that we felt unsafe or anything, but the sheer volume of drunken people and the haze of unknown smoke over the crowd was just a bit much for our system-shocked psyches to take in.  So, a little after midnight we wandered back to our hostels under the city lights.  The highlight of the night came here, as a guy on a bicycle rode right by us with a handle in one hand and, well, a handle in the other (it was more like a glass).  In his attempt to converse with us we saw him lean his bike to the right, right into a wall that is.  Props to him for keeping his drink upright, but man this guy smoked the wall.  We laughed; he wasn’t bleeding; all was good in the world.

My nerves were still on edge as the NFL draft was set to commence at 2:30 my time, but after retreating to bed at 1, I succumbed to sleep.  I would have to wake up to the results.

The Amsterdam Experience

I slept poorly due to the heavy and consistent snoring of the dude on the bunk at my feet, paired with my anxiousness about the Browns.  I managed to get maybe 2 solid hours, but it was enough to keep me at attention for the next day.

Bridie and I had breakfast at Clink before meeting our friends at Centraal to make our way to Dam Square for a free walking tour.  Danny and Saskia had headed home, so our group was down to 5.  Our day was to be divided into three parts, so I will divide them as such: the walking tour, the Heineken Experience, and the canal cruise.

Walking Tour

Robbert, our tour guide, was excellent.  In around 3 hours he led us around the city, giving us a taste of the daily lives of the people of Amsterdam as well as explaining some of the history of the city, the controversies surrounding the Red Light District and Marijuana, and pointing out some landmarks like the Anne Frank house, among others.  He was a true storyteller.  I cannot remember the name of the tour company, but they do “free” walking tours in just about every city.  I think the neatest bit of info he shared was on why many of the buildings are crooked: the city was made on a swamp, and the foundations of many buildings lay on top of long wooden poles.  Over time these poles erode which causes the buildings to slant a bit.  It gives Amsterdam a bit more of that fairytale charm that people expect.  I was also impressed on just how clean the city was hours removed from King’s Day.  The street sweepers were hard at work all night, and the city was near spotless because of it.  Great job to the city council of Amsterdam!  Much of the tour is in the vlog, so I recommend you check it out at the end of the story!

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This building was used for anatomy research.
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The edge of ChinaTown
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A small example of crooked buildings.
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Again, the streets were clean and I was very impressed!
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The city is something spectacular, for sure!
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The old church (right next to the Red Light District).
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These stones once marked occupation.
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Probably my favorite shot I took all weekend.
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The Anne Frank House is the one with the reflected windows on the end of the line here.
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Cars, boats, it all works here.
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Just. Wow.
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Always find the guy with a canon around his neck to take a picture of your squad.
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Amster-DAM!

The Heineken Experience

Our group had to get tickets for at least one thing while we were in Amsterdam, and since the Anne Frank House was all booked up we instead opted to do the Heineken Experience.  A walk across town led us to the factory, and after a few moments of waiting we got into the tour.  While we did not tour the factory itself the whole experience was, well, an experience.  We got a low-down on the history of Heineken and were presented with exhibits on the contents of the beer, how it is made, a “ride” detailing the process, and fun interactive sections detailing how Heineken is relevant in the modern world.  We learned how to properly taste it, saw the Heineken Horses (I didn’t know they were a thing), tasted wort, and played around with the various interactive bits.  It was honestly a very fun time.  Heineken knows how to put on a show, and they very much convinced me that they not only had a story to tell, but wanted to incorporate themselves into the future as well.  The ads they ran, while obviously trying to influence us, showed a company realizing its place within and around the state of the world.  Plus, they were determined to portray an active interest in sports, which did not hurt my opinion of them.

At the end of the tour we were given tokens for 2 free glasses of Heineken.  A nice lady gave me a third beer since she couldn’t finish it.  Paired with the quarter pint which we learned how to taste with earlier I had successfully downed about 4 glasses of beer in 25 minutes.  It shows a little bit in the vlog.  Whoops.  Totally worth it though.  I ended up buying a shirt and a deck of cards, and they gave us free bottle openers on the way out of the shop.

Not just because they gave us free beer and bottle openers, I would highly recommend the Heineken Experience to anyone.  It’s thoughtful, entertaining, interesting, and surprisingly refreshing.  If you have a few hours to kill I can’t think of a better way to spend an afternoon.

Following the Experience we sought out the iAMsterdam sign, a tourist hotspot.  It was mobbed.  So much for our touristy photos.  Ah well, all’s well that ends well.

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Love the old style signage!

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It’s a shame my shutter speed was too high…
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Rembrant building?
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Behind iAMsterdam
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iAmsterdam… yeah, hotspot indeed.

Canal Cruise

I took no photos for the rest of the day, so you’ll have to check out the vlog.  Trust me, it’s worth it.

Our group headed to Chinatown and had a nice meal before making our way back to Centraal Station to catch an evening canal cruise.  Our guide was a friendly chap who discussed the relevancy of the sights we glided by.  At this point in the day though lack of sleep was catching up with all of us, and the smooth ride under the darkness were perfect conditions for us to fall into dreamland.  We rallied though to witness the glorious sight of the lights under the bridges illuminating the still water; the melancholy lights outside of the Anne Frank house; the distinct tilts of the dancing buildings of Amsterdam.  It was beautiful; picturesque; serene.  A fine way to bring the night to a close.  It felt good to cross that one off of the bucket list, but I had not the strength to celebrate – for I was exhausted, and upon our departure around 10 from the cruise I came to the sad realization that I had to be up in 5 hours to catch my flight at 7 the next morning.

I managed to get a few more hours of sleep, my exhaustion helping to pull me into unconsciousness for a few hours.  At 3:45 I awoke, got dressed, and headed to Centraal.  The early morning air was cold but helped to keep my eyes open.  As I waited for my 4:46 train to Schiphol Airport I watched energy-sapped revelers stumbling home from a night of merrymaking.  Having gone to bed at 4:45 some nights in Edinburgh I could only help but chuckle at the fact that I was waking up at a time that I had surpassed in going to bed at one point.

I arrived at the airport at 5:04.  I was through security and customs by 5:25.  I love European airports.

After a satisfying but expensive breakfast I found my gate and reviewed the Browns draft haul from the night before.  Good stuff.  I was the first to board my flight which took off at 7:10 or so.  After basically teleporting to Edinburgh (we landed at 7:35, thank you time zones!) I zoomed through customs and was getting off the Airlink bus at Waverley by 8:30.  At roughly 9 in the morning I walked into HC feeling significantly older than I did 72 hours before.

There wasn’t any rest for me though as I began to upload photos, edit the vlogs, and study for my Gaelic test which was coming in a few days.  After 5 hours of sleep in the last 3 days I slept for 12 hours straight the following night.

So, in review:

On a whim I went to Amsterdam in between my finals for a quick getaway with some of my friends.  We witnessed two sides to the city, and both had a blast on King’s Day and explored a wonderful city the following afternoon.  I saw things that challenged my perception of liberal and experienced a society and way of life completely different that what I am used to.

I had the Amsterdam Experience, at it was one of the best of my life.

“When do you think the next time you’ll be in Amsterdam on King’s Day?” Allison asked me.

Well, I don’t know when the next time will be, but I certainly made the most of the time that I did.  Until next time Amsterdam.

Reviewing the NFL Draft

As mentioned above, the NFL Draft was going on in the wee hours of the morning while I was in Amsterdam, so every day I woke with an anxious curiosity that overwhelmed my tiredness.  This post is my thoughts on the Browns 10(!) draft picks and some of their UDFA’s.

  • Myles Garrett – A+++ – While it was basically given that Garrett would be the pick, it doesn’t happen until it happens.  The Browns being the Browns I would not have put it past them to pick Trubisky at 1.  He fell to the Bears at two, who could have had him at three… Sorry Bears fans, you blew it, badly.  Anyway, Garrett is a generational talent, a physical freak who will be a day one impact player in Cleveland.  Teams will have to account for him, which should alleviate pressure on Ogbah on the opposite side.  A true rookie of the year candidate already, I am beyond excited to see this man in action come Fall.  Just take a look at this analysis video of Cam Robinson.  Yes it may be for a different player but just listen to how the analyst gushes over Garrett’s ability!
  • Jabrill Peppers – B+ – This would be an A grade, but the Browns selected Peppers instead of Malik Hooker or Deshaun Watson, both available at 12, who could turn into All-Pros.  However, I still love the pick as Peppers is a sparkplug, a fantastic locker room guy, and we now own the Texan’s First AND Second round picks next year.  He should immediately slide into the SS role and play a factor on Special Teams as a returner and maybe a little offense.  I get the reservation that he is a Jack of all Trades, Master of None, but like Garrett he is an athletic freak and has an astronomical ceiling.  What’s not to like?
  • David Njoku – A – I was surprised that the Browns traded back into the First round to take a third player, but definitely not disappointed.  At only 20, Njoku is another athletic prototype who had the best YAC that I have seen for a TE in a long, long time.  I’m a little sad that we cut Gary Barnidge, as he was a consummate professional, but now Njoku is plugged opposite Seth DeValve, who I am a big fan of.  While he is very raw, Njoku’s ceiling is off the charts.  He will be a fantastic addition to a struggling receiving core and play a dominate presence down the seam.  Love it love it love this pick!
  • Deshone Kizer – A – Would Kizer have fallen to 52 had Brian Kelly not played eenie-meanie-miney-moe with the QB position at Notre Dame last year?  I dunno, but I love how the Browns didn’t force the QB position for once and instead let the draft play out.  Originally projected to go in the First round, Kizer has the height and weight to survive in the AFC North.  His inconsistency is glaring, but Hue Jackson is great with QB’s, hell he went 8-8 in Oakland with SENECA WALLACE.  That being said I think Kizer should sit this year, unless of course he is ready to play.  It’s extremely encouraging to hear that the day after being drafted he was in the Browns’ headquarters nose-deep into the playbook.  That’s infinitely better than inflatable swans and money phones.  I will admit though that I am a Cody Kessler fan.  He reminds me of Brian Drew from Draft Day.  Supposedly he spent the entire off-season in the gym 5 days a week getting his arm stronger and working with the Cleveland recievers.  I love that the front office has some guys in the building hungry to get better, and with Njoku added to a reinforced O-Line I don’t think that the QB situation on the edge of Lake Erie will be as dire as it has been.  It definitely isn’t solved, but Kessler should be improved and Kizer has the potential to be great.  I originally wasn’t sold on the kid during the pre-draft process, then I saw this video showing his football IQ.  Compare it to Mitchell Trubisky’s.  See the difference?  Immediately I felt better about Kizer and am happy that he fell to us.  He may not be the answer now, but he damn well could be.
  • Larry Ogunjobi – B – A small school prospect, Ogunjobi’s story of weight loss and falling in love with football is awesome.  I just feel like the Browns had bigger needs in the secondary at this point in time.  However, his tape is fun to watch and he should compete for the 3-tec next to Danny Shelton.  The Browns are smart in wanting to bulk up their front four, and it’s clear Sashi Brown wants to give new DC Gregg Williams some impact players to utilize.  He’s a smart kid as well, and a guy anyone can root for.  I certainly am.
  • Howard Wilson – C+ – Again, the reason this grade is lower is because I think the Browns needed more secondary help earlier in the draft, but as a prospect I think Wilson is a great pick.  I did not know much about him when his name was called, but he had one stat that jumped off the board for me.  He averaged an interception for every 15(!) targets.  That’s ABSURD.  That, and he tested at the top of his class at the combine.  Make no mistake, the Browns are building athletic talent, and I’m loving every minute of it.
  • Roderick Johnson – C – At first I thought Johnson was brought in to compete for the RT spot.  Sashi Brown claims they took him as a LT prospect.  Joe Thomas hasn’t missed a snap in his NFL career (praise be to Joesus) so Johnson could be his future (way in the future) successor.  Considering Johnson is as raw a player as he is, I suppose it makes sense to have one of the best teach him up.  A true depth pick, it’s not sexy, but it makes some sense.  The theme for the Browns’ draft seems to be development for the long haul, and Johnson is the epitome of that concept.
  • Caleb Brantley – A+/F – Once a 2nd round prospect, many believed Brantley to go undrafted due to allegations that he assaulted a woman and knocked her unconscious at a club, causing her to lose a tooth.  Immediately after the pick the Browns held a press conference stating that they may not even keep Brantley if he is found guilty.  For that reason, this pick will be an F.  However, if Brantley is cleared, and it’s starting to look like he will be, then this will be the steal of the draft.  Brantley is a tremendous talent at 3-tec, and compares to Aaron Donald.  If he stays on the team he will likely earn the DT spot next to Danny Shelton, and paired with Ogbah, Garrett, Shelton, Ogunjobi, and Nassib, the Browns have an obscene amount of young talent on their D-Line.  Make no mistake about it, if Brantley plays up to his potential, the Browns defense just got immensely better.  If that does happen, then this pick is Sashi Brown seizing a fantastic opportunity by taking a risk.  If the worst should happen and he is cut, then, well, 6th round picks are cut every year.  A true boom or bust opportunity.
  • Zane Gonzalez – A – Taking the best kicker in the draft, who is money from 50+, who can challenge Cody Parkey, is regarded as better than Roberto Aguayo, and could be the Browns kicker for the next decade?  Hell, freaking, yes.
  • Matthew Dayes – C – The pick before being Mr. Irrelevant, I don’t really see Dayes being a major factor other than a camp body.  I guess it speaks volumes that the team drafted him though, as they rather would not have risked him being a free agent.  Still, behind Crow, Duke, and Darius Jackson I just don’t see him making an impact.  Fun highlight reel though!
  • UDFA’s – B – I can see three players that will be on the 53 man roster come the regular season.  Kai Nacua will compete for the starting FS spot, and I’m really surprised he didn’t get drafted.  Channing Stribling will reunite with Jabrill Peppers and look to hold a CB spot.  Najee Murray will also look to fight his way into the secondary.  33% of NFL rosters are UDFA’s.  The Browns look like they found a couple of keepers in this years crop.

Final Grade – A – I absolutely loved what the Browns did this year.  They didn’t force the draft, they let it fall to them.  In the process they gained an immense amount of athletic talent and geared up for the 2018 draft in the process (2 Firsts, 3 Seconds).  Finally, the Browns are doing the right thing and being patient with the team.  Their oldest player is Joe Thomas (32) and they have a bevy of young talent that will hold down the roster for years to come.  I predict that they will jump to the 4-5 win range this year, as they still have a long way to go.  The biggest question is still at QB, but if Kessler has developed, if Kizer comes in and balls out, or hell, if Osweiler salvages his trainwreck of talent then maybe the Browns surprise a lot of people this year.  In any event, it is an exciting time to be a Browns fan, and I’m salivating at what the future will look like for this team which finally seems to be heading in the right direction.

Free Fire Festival Flabergasts For Future Fooling

The title doesn’t really mean anything, but this is the BELTANE FIRE FESTIVAL STORY!

On a whim, I decided to try my luck on getting into the 30th Beltane Fire Festival held on Calton Hill.  I did not buy my ticket in advance, and was at the mercy of the limited supply.  If I could not get it, so be it.  I had a final in two days that I needed to study for anyway.  Luckily, I was able to get a ticket, and before long I found myself atop Calton amongst thousands of other people.  I knew Beltane was a big deal but I had no idea what to expect.  It began to dawn on me as I saw the plethora of costumed individuals begin to act with the crowd.  Truly, I was in for a treat.

Night fell, and the crowd hushed as the first flame was lit on the National Monument.  The crowds were buzzing as the procession of the May Queen made it’s way around the hill.  I dare not try to explain the story as I will not do it justice, but I did film most of the event.  It was nice to see that there was performers at many of the stations throughout the night in case one did not want to follow the main event.  I certainly did not, as weaving around the crowds was near impossible in the dark.

My favorite sections of the night had to be the fire dancers though, there’s just something so satisfying about seeing a flame whirl through the air.  Come midnight the biggest bonfire I had ever seen was lit and illuminated the thousands of people atop the hill.  After standing for four hours in the cold my joints were shot, and I headed home quickly before the masses cleared out.

I realize that this was not a very good description of the event, but the visuals are better, so this tale is primarily told by sight and sound than by words on a page.  The vlog I made has quickly turned into my most successful yet, and I have even gotten positive responses from the performers and a request to share it from the Beltane PR folks themselves!  Now that makes me feel really good about what I do. 🙂  So yes, sit back, relax, and enjoy the spectacle that is the Beltane Fire Festival!

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It’s amazing how fast thousands of people can hush up.
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FIYA!
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I loved how intimate (however crowded) the setting was.
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I had to work to get close.
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I think this was the gateway to the underworld.
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The May Queen and Green Man.
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I may have slipped into the main procession.
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North Edinburgh was beautiful at night.
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Gotta love fire dancers!
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Just a cool shot.
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I was thoroughly hypnotized at this point.
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So. Many. PEOPLE!
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The transformation of the Green Man.
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More transformations.
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THE BIGGEST DAMN BONFIRE!  This shot was taken a hundred yards away or so.

Arabian Revelations

Traveling so much has afforded me many an opportunity to pick up Seven Pillars of Wisdom and make some headway on the near 700 page triumph.  It’s slow going though, as each page is filled with names, places, and descriptions that my mind cannot simply keep track of.  However, that is not to say that it is boring.  No – it’s just a heck of a lot to take in.  Consider this passage – there is much to analyze behind Lawrence’s words.

“Today was the fourth of July.  Time pressed us, for we were hungry, and Akaba was still far ahead behind two defences.  The nearer post, Kethira, stubbornly refused to parlay with our flags.  Their cliff commanded the valley – a strong place which it might be costly to take.  We assigned the honour, in irony, to ibn Jad and his unwearied men, advising him to try it after dark.  He shrank, made difficulties, pleaded the full moon: but we cut hardly into his excuse, promising that tonight there should be no moon.  By my diary there was an eclipse.  Duly it came, and the Arabs forced the post without loss, while the superstitious soldiers were firing rifles and clanging copper pots to rescue the threatened satellite.”  (p. 316)

Parting Thoughts

Damn it feels good to be done with schoolwork!  This was by far my hardest semester that I have ever grinded through, which is ironic considering that I only had three courses.  I just don’t like the U.K. educational system.  In any case it’s over now, and I have 19 days (as of 5/5) until I go home.  I already have my final trip planned into Europe!  More on that soon. 🙂  My folks are coming up in a couple days too, and I am excited to see some family.  It’s been almost 4 months since I left home, and I feel years older than when I left.  It feels like every day exciting things can happen, whether it be spontaneous trips to Amsterdam or fire festivals.  At the very least I am making the most of every opportunity, and because of my increased quality of vlogs, blogs, and Instagram photos I will have so much to look back on.

Now that I think about it there may only be a few more blog posts left!  Now that feels weird to me.  If you haven’t noticed, the domain name is now theworldbetweenblog.com and not theworldbetweenblog.wordpress.com.  This is because I ran out of picture storage space and had to upgrade my account.  Ah well, it’s totally worth it.

I won’t keep you folks any longer though, for I have a lot left to do and not a lot of time left to do it.

Remember: All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us.

See you next time.

 

One thought on “Like A King

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