This is for you.

Glancing around furtively, she proceeded along the corridor, pausing briefly to listen intently for the sounds of her pursuers. Her escape from the cell had been detected within minutes, and the guards were hot on her heels, but those few minutes had given her a reasonable head start on her captors. However, she was already lost in the network of tunnels that riddled the lower levels of the castle. In her desperation, she had resorted to choosing passageways at random in the hope that she might be able to find her way out to the higher levels by luck alone.

Ten minutes later, she was still hopelessly lost. She thought she had shaken off the guards, but the tunnel walls kept hiving her a false sense of distance, and she had nearly ran into one group, barely escaping their clutches. Years of malnutrition and lack of exercise cooped in her cell had reduced her fitness levels, and she was beginning to flag dangerously.
Pausing to catch her breath at an intersection, she noticed that one of the passageways leading away from her was slightly better maintained, and was totally devoid of any of the green moss that covered the walls in mottled patches nearer the cells. With the sound of her pursuers close behind her, voices echoing menacingly, she decided to risk the passageway. Hope renewed slightly, she sprinted headlong into it.
It twisted left and right, until she was completely disorientated and was beginning to despair. She rounded another sharp corner, and she saw the bright light of day ahead of her. Pausing in the shadows, she pondered her next action. Her escape planned hadn’t been formulated past getting out of her cell and fleeing, as she had judged her chances of making it this far as exceptionally slim. She looked out at the assembled masses who where passing back and forth in front of her, and began to formulate a plan.

Maen was sat on an upturned beer barrel, smoking his pipe, a steady rock in the swirling masses of people who were busily hurrying back and forth, laden with goods or herding animals back and forth between the palace and the town nestled in it’s shadow. Many of the peasants were trying to avoid the glares of the palace guards, who were studying the crowd with suspicious eyes, darting from figure to figure. He unconcerned with the guards, as he had been coming here for the past few months now, and the fact that he knew most of them by name helped his passage considerably.
He was considering heading home when he saw a bedraggled figure emerge from one of the passageways, squinting in the bright sunlight. She was dressed in a non-descript tunic, obviously well-worn and old. She had the air of someone trying to remain calm, with shifting eyes trying to absorb as much detail as possible. He watched her meld with the crowd, and vanish from sight amongst the throng.
A couple of seconds later, a group of harassed looking guards burst from the same passageway and began to systematically comb the crowd.
Maen stretched, put away his pipe, and headed towards the palace gates.

She was almost there.

The palace gates loomed oppressively above her, towers of brick work studded with gargoyles and windows that seemed to reach to the very heavens above her. She bought her gaze back down, and inspected her route to freedom. The crowd was flocking towards the main gates, the press of bodies being channelled through the gates, with the occasional person being picked out and being questioned.
Nearly all of the crowd were flashing bits of well-worn parchment at the guards as they passed, and the guards were dutifully checking a few, although not all. She was being slowly pushed towards the gates by the press of the crowd, and she decided to allow the force of the crowd to push her slowly towards the gates. The last thing she wanted was one of the guards to notice her reluctance and come and question her, especially as she didn’t have any paperwork.
Slowly, she neared the gates, freedom beckoning.

Only ten paces.


“Papers please”
She froze. The request had been directed to her. For a split second, she was tempted to try and make a run for it, one last bid for freedom, but she knew she wouldn’t get very far. She was exhausted, and the guard looked like he could easily catch her in her fatigued condition.

“Didn’t you hear me miss? I asked for your papers”
Smiling sweetly, she turned to the guard. “I’m sorry, I appear to have lost them.”

“A likely story I’m sure. Step over here please”

To be continued

Last year, I wrote Adventures in veterinary school: Year One and tried to detail my very hectic and weird and wonderful life up until that point. This year, I have been working slowly but painfully on Year Two. It was going to say this was the hardest year. This was the longest year. This was the most painful year.

But it was going to say we got new friends, we got through it, we got out, we are now D\.

I was going to say I was in a short film, we got screened, it was amazing.

But it turns out, this was the most painful year.

The film is here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nki1nEVHcSY

I don't know if you saw Twilight. I haven't. I've heard it's not a great film, but it is a cult hit. So was this. So was the Powerspring video. I think we did a great job. Josh, the film's star, my classmate, was killed in a car accident this morning. That's his real accent, his real smile. Sweet guy, silly, funny, willing to joke around and be a friend to anyone.

You don't have to like the film. You can pick on the editing and the acting and whatever. This is just my little tribute to a great kid and his memory.

Josh, UGA CVM Class of 2011, we will be missing you.

Given the sheer amount of brainpower that's built into every single complex system, I can't help but wonder if there's any room for me to make a significant contribution.


my writing is sparse

I need you to feel this fire

words can not suffice




you play stranger games

yet I feel you're as anchored

as my rescue plane




when I reach slumber

your hair is strewn all over

solitary dawns





for a boy like me to cringe

in check-out aisles




I've only white lies

to explain why I just stare

over all their heads




did you always know

that when the wind starts to blow

I'd feel it here too?



Over in the United Kingdom, Thursday the 18th June 2009 was the Big Day for the nation's newspapers, as this was the day that the House of Commons published details of the expense claims by members of Parliament. Or at least it was a Big Day for all those newspapers that were not members of the Telegraph Group, since of course the Telegraph was already in possession of a hard disk drive containing all that information and more. But at least it allowed everyone else to finally get in on the act.

However, since the information released related to three different expense allowances, in respect of 646 MPs, and for four different accounting years, there was rather a substantial amount of documentation to plough through. Fortunately in the Age of the Internet, 'publishing' meant no more than making the documents accessible on the Parliamentary website, which meant that anyone could access the informat


'Join the MP expense claim hunt' said The Guardian as it therefore invited its readers to join in the fun and help scrutinise the 19,000 or so documents that the House of Commons had provided, each of which contained hundreds of scanned images of expense claims and supporting documents. Throughout the course of the day its website also featured a live blog featuring minute by minute coverage of this exercise in citizen journalism. The Times had the same idea, as it boasted, 'Live: MPs' expense claims - all the latest news as it happens', whilst the BBC also had a 'What you've spotted on expenses' post on its website.

Many did indeed take up the challenge, although one suspects that many might have eventually sympathised with Damian Whitworth, a Times journalist working on their minute-by-minute commentary of the action, who described the experience as "mesmerising, if mind-numbing" as he realised he had just wasted two hours of his life "lost in the world of James Purnell". Nevertheless highlights from this wide-ranging search included the revelation that the aforementioned James Purnell claimed £247 for the cost of purchasing 3,000 promotional fridge magnets, presumably to promote himself, as well as a 3kg jar of mint imperials for £16.64 plus VAT. Other items of note included the fact that Jeremy Hunt submitted a phone bill which listed a single twelve second mobile phone call for the total amount of one penny, that Alistair Darling once claimed the cost of a thirty pence bus ticket, that Lembit Öpik had claimed £19.99 for the "Mother of All Wigs", a cost apparently "incurred while supporting a Charitable Event", and that Ben Bradshaw had claimed the £30 for an engineer to attend his office and connect a scart lead to a television set. But then Bradshaw was only the Secretary of State for the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, so why would he be aware of such things.

However the publication of this information by the Commons was not without its detractors. The one constant complaint was of an 'Expenses blackout' (as The Sun Put it), as the information provided by the House of Commons had been heavily redacted, which was to say that much of the supporting documentation featured large black blocks which had been superimposed in order to ensure that such things as addresses and other 'sensitive' information where complexly obliterated. Indeed the House of Commons had even previously amended the Freedom of Information Act to specifically remove residential addresses from the scope of the Act. The House claimed that all this was necessary to "protect the privacy and safety of MPs".

Not that the press was impressed by this line of reasoning, with headlines such as; 'Blackout: the great MPs' expenses cover-up' (Daily Telegraph), 'MPs accused of censorship over edited claims' (The Guardian), The blackout: Another dark day and that's just the half of it (The Independent), 'Freedom of Information drowned in sea of black ink' (The Times), and 'Shameless: Mps Censor Their Expenses' (Daily Express). The Daily Mail even felt it necessary to put it even more plainly as it proclaimed, 'Just how stupid do they think we are? Fury as MPs finally publish their expenses - with swathes of evidence blacked out'.

As The Sun pointed out, "Had the expenses details not already been leaked to newspapers, many of the shocking abuses would not have been revealed." For once the rest of the press agreed with The Sun, as they all pointed out that most of the worst abuses, including the actions of the phantom mortgage trio, would have remained undectable under this regime. Indeed there appeared to be little logic behind much of this censorship; as the Telegraph noted, the word 'chauffeur' had been blacked out on certain receipts submitted by the soon-to-be former Speaker Michael Martin. It wasn't clear how this contributed to the protection of Martin's privacy or safety. What was more, it was also reported that a number of backbench MPs were complaining that they had been 'warned off' by the Commons authorities from publishing their own uncensored versions of their own expenses.

Of course since the expenses details had already been 'leaked' to the Telegraph, and that paper had already spent the past five weeks scouring the records for dirt, there never was that much chance that anyone else would succeed in uncovering a really choice scandal during the course of the day. Much of the press was therefore reduced to running the news that David Cameron would be repaying a sum close to a £1,000. He had already pledged to repay one £680 bill for repairs to his second home, but had now increased this to £947.29 having been through his expenses with the finest of fine toothcombs.

The Daily Telegraph and the Daily Mail also felt obliged to report that former Prime Minister Tony Blair had submitted a claim for £6,990 of "roof repairs" on his designated second home on the 25th June 2007 just two days before stepping down as Prime Minister and announcing his intention to leave Parliament. Blair let it be known that work had actually been carried out in January 2007, which of course made everything all right, since at least it meant the taxpayer had the benefit of this expenditure for six months rather that only one.

Of course, now that all this information, albeit slightly censored, had been unleashed on the British public, one can perhaps understand why Gordon Brown decided to set up a helpline offering legal advice and support for 'distressed' Labour members. It was only likely to get worse, as the Daily Telegraph announced that it would shortly be publishing a "comprehensive 68-page supplement setting out a summary of the claims of every sitting MP", whilst it also promised to release its own version of an online database of expense claims in the coming weeks, with substantially less in the way of a blackout imposed on the evidence.

The House of Commons released information regarding a) the Additional Costs Allowance, which reimbursed MPs for the cost of maintaining a second home; b) the Incidental Expenses Provision, which covered the cost of running a constituency office; and c) the Communications Allowance, which covered the cost members incurred in informing their constituents of their activities.

See: http://mpsallowances.parliament.uk/mpslordsandoffices/hocallowances/allowances-by-mp/ for details.


  • See the British press for the 18th and 19th June 2009.
  • MPs' expenses – live coverage, The Guardian, 18 June 2009
  • Live: MPs' expense claims - all the latest news as it happens, The Times, 18 June 2009
  • What you've spotted on expenses, BBC News, 18 June 2009

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