Very Short Introductions

The power of acceptance

by Gary Hayden
Straits Times 30th May 2017

We can learn from monks to remain calm, untroubled and focused, whether things go well or badly

Sometimes, when the pressures of work pile up, I think about monks.

In his book, Buddha: A Very Short Introduction, anthropology professor Michael Carrithers from the University of Durham in England recounts his experiences of doing fieldwork with forest monks in Sri Lanka.

He recalls that some of the monks poured enormous amounts of time and energy into long-term projects, such as founding forest hermitages, and were very successful in these endeavours.

Yet they remained relaxed about their work and even “relatively indifferent to the results of their efforts”.

I often think about those monks. Their attitude is one to which I aspire.

They were committed to their work. Wholeheartedly so. But they understood that even their best efforts may not guarantee success. And so, whether things went well or badly, they remained calm and untroubled.

They understood the power of acceptance.

Acceptance, in the Buddhist sense of the word, is not passivity. It is not accepting what happens without an active response, merely shrugging one’s shoulders and declining to engage.

Rather, it is looking clearly and calmly at a situation, seeing it for what it is and working with it as it is.

The Buddhist writer and teacher Jack Kornfield, in Bringing Home The Dharma, Awakening Right Where You Are, puts it nicely.

He says: “Acceptance allows us to relax and open up to the facts before us. It does not mean that we cannot work to improve things. But just now, this is what is so.”

This non-passive acceptance of tough circumstances is not an easy trait to acquire.

It is far easier, when things go wrong, to allow oneself to become frustrated and discouraged than it is to remain focused and engaged.

I know this from experience.

Like many people, I take my work seriously. Whatever I do, whether it is teaching English, working on a new book or writing this column, I try to do it well.

But, of course, I do not always succeed as well as I would wish. And so I live with a nagging sense of anxiety; a mild but constant fear of failure.

I used to think that these negative emotions were necessary, that I needed them in order to stay motivated.

But I no longer think that way.

Now, when I look inside myself, I see that if the anxiety were to disappear, the motivation would remain. I would still regard my work as worthwhile and would still try to do it well.

In fact, I now view those negative emotions as counterproductive. Because, at the very times when I most need focus, energy and enthusiasm - for example, when a lesson is not going well or a piece of writing refuses to come together - they distract, de-energise and deflate me.

There is more power in focused acceptance than there is in panic.

One of my favourite ancient philosophers, Epictetus, preached the virtues of acceptance.

He says: “Some things are in our control and others not.”

The trick to life, he says, is to focus our energies on the things we can control and accept patiently the things we cannot.

Despite our best efforts, things can and sometimes will go wrong. We need to accept that, and press on calmly and cheerfully anyway.

anonymous asked:

Hey, could you recommend any books/Essays etc for "beginners" in the movement. Especially concerning how communist/ anarchist societies work and were the difference is. I understand and agree when people tell me about anarchocommunism but I just dont seem to be able to explain it myself to others.. so i hope through reading i will be able to process and express it better. Thanks in advance!

Hi anon!

For general “beginners” reading I’d suggest the following:

For material focusing on anarcho-/libertarian communism I’d suggest:

“We are communists. But our communism is not that of the authoritarian school: it is anarchist communism, communism without government, free communism. It is a synthesis of the two chief aims pursued by humanity since the dawn of its history—economic freedom and political freedom.“ - Peter Kropotkin, Anarchist Communism: Its Basis and Principles

If others have more reading suggestions please contribute!

- J.


Consciousness: A Very Short Introduction
(Susan Blackmore, 2005)

“When people come close to death, they sometimes report a whole series of strange experiences, collectively known as a near-death experience (NDE).

Although the order varies slightly, and few people experience them all, the most common features are: going down a dark tunnel or through a dark space towards a bright white or golden light; watching one’s own body being resuscitated or operated on (an OBE);

emotions of joy, acceptance, or deep contentment; flashbacks or a panoramic review of events in one’s life; seeing another world with people who are already dead or a ‘being of light’; and finally deciding to return to life rather than enter that other world.

After such experiences people are often changed, claiming to be less selfish or materialistic, and less afraid of death.

NDEs have been reported from many different cultures and ages, and seem to be remarkably similar in outline.

The main cultural differences are in the details; for example, Christians tend to see Jesus or pearly gates, while Hindus meet ramdoots or see their name written in a great book.

Religious believers often claim that the consistency of the experiences proves their own religion’s version of life after death.

However, the consistency is far better explained by the fact that people of all ages and cultures have similar brains, and those brains react in similar ways to stress, fear, lack of oxygen, or the many other triggers for NDEs. (…)

There is no doubt that many people really are changed by having an NDE, usually for the better, but this may be because of the dramatic brain changes, and because they have had to confront the idea of their own death, rather than because their soul has briefly left their body.”

We tend to assume that where there is a problem there must be a solution, just as we tend rather oddly to imagine that things which are in fragments should always be put back together again. But there are plenty of problems to which we will probably never discover solutions, along with questions which will go eternally unanswered. There is no record of how many hairs adorned Napoleon’s head when he died, and now we shall never know. Perhaps the human brain is simply not up to resolving certain questions, such as the origins of intelligence. Perhaps this is because there is no evolutionary need for us to do so, though there is no evolutionary need for us to understand Finnegans Wake or the laws of physics either.
—  Terry Eagleton, The Meaning of Life: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford University Press, 2007)

veganvenom  asked:

Prompt: Courfeyrac leaves his bag in the Musain after a meeting. Combeferre picks it up, intending to return it to his friend later, but it's unzipped and a load of books tumble out. They include "A Very Short Introduction to Butterflies and Moths", "Philosophy for Dummies" and "How Scientists Think".

“Yeah, I think that should work. I’ll make a facebook event and email Planned Parenthood when I get home.” Combeferre places the minutes from today’s meeting in a folder and slips it into his messenger bag, alongside his laptop.

“Sounds good!” Enjolras’s glance strays from Combeferre’s face for a moment and Ferre turns to see Grantaire leaving the cafe.

“Why don’t you head home now? I can tidy up,” he says, a knowing smile tugging at his lips.

“What? Oh–thanks, yeah, I think I’ll just–R! Hey, about what you said earlier…” Enjolras is gone in about three seconds, and Combeferre shakes his head in amusement as he turns to examine the back room of the Musaine. A few chairs need to be pushed in still, and he throws away a stray napkin before coming across a bright yellow backpack. He reaches down to pick it up, intending to drop it by Courf and Marius’s apartment.

The moment he lifts it up, the bag’s contents scatter across the floor, several loud thumps startling Ferre and making him start. Dammit…he really should have remembered that Courf’s zipper is broken, Combeferre thinks as he kneels down to gather the contents. There are a few pamphlets on HIV prevention form their last meeting, a truly ridiculous number of vanilla chapsticks, a spare pair of socks, and more books than should reaonably have fit in a bag this size.

Placing the smaller items back in the bag, Combeferre gathers the books and examines their titles with interest. Encyclopedia Insectae, Philosophy for Dummies, A Brief History of Time…Combeferre has turned off the light and sprinted down the street, backpack clutched in his arms, before he can see the rest of the covers.

“You stole my books!”

“Ferre? What are you doing here?” Courfeyrac, clad only in an oversized t shirt and boxers, looks at Ferre in confusion as he stands in his doorway.

“You stole my books!” Ferre repeats, holding the yellow backpack out. “I’ve been looking for these for weeks; I needed the Encyclopedia for one of my essays.”

“Oh.” Courfeyrac’s face is flushed as he stands there, holding his bag awkwardly. “I’m sorry, I just–um–I wanted to–have a conversation. With you.” He can’t meet Ferre’s gaze, and shifts back and forth in his stocking feet.


“I wanted to have a conversation!” Courf finally looks up, biting his lip nervously before he continues. “Ever since we started college, it seems like we’re talking less and less…you’ve got Joly to talk about biology and astronomy and stuff and there’s no time for all our little adventures. We haven’t had one of our midnight picnics in the park since we graduated high school…I know it’s silly and of course you’re going to make new friends and that’s ok, obviously, but I just thought if I understood some of what you’re studying, maybe you’d talk to me more…”


“I just. Miss you.” Combeferre’s heart breaks a little at those words, as he gazes down on the face of one of his two oldest friends. 

“I miss you too.” Ferre steps forward and wraps his arms around Courfeyrac. “You know you’re one of the most important people in my life, though, right? And I honestly love that we can talk about things other than my classes, talking to you is like…” like a breath of fresh air, like my heart turns into a giant moth that’s fluttering in my chest, like… “It’s a relief.”

Courfeyrac pulls back a little at that, blinking in surprise. “It is?”

“Yes!” Combeferre exclaims. “I love talking to you more than anyone, Courf.”

“Oh.” The word falls out softly, and that beautiful, sunny smile Ferre loves so much slowly appears on Courf’s face. “I feel the same way…do you want to come in, Ferre? It’s kind of cold out.” He steps aside and Combeferre enters the small apartment, watching him set his bag near the door and turn back around.

“I’m sorry if you’ve felt left out, Courf, I know I’ve been busy. Do you want to do one of our Disney marathons tonight maybe?” As he says it, Ferre notices the constellation print on Courf’s shirt, which is several sizes too large.

“That would be great,” Courf says brightly.

“Oh, and one more thing, Courf.”


“Is that my shirt?”

“Oh! Um, yes. I–uh–it was because–” The sight of a thoroughly flustered Courfeyrac stirs something deep inside Combeferre, and he finds himself laughing out loud.

“I…think I know why,” he says softly. He steps forward and suddenly their lips are pressed together, his arms around the smaller man as they both shake with silent, giddy, relieved laughter. 

The books are forgotten and the next time Ferre sees them, he is placing them on the shelf he and Courf just built together.

anonymous asked:

What books or resources would you recommend for a highschooler getting into literary criticism and theory?

I would recommend starting chronologically to get a solid grasp of the major movements and periods—structuralism, formalism, psychoanalysis, feminism, Marxism, New Criticism, deconstruction, poststructuralism, etc.—that theory and criticism are “divided into.” As you read, you’ll get a better sense of how texts respond to and critique each other, as well as the political, social, and historical backdrop of each text. Once you have a sense as to which figures/movements/concepts interest you most, you’ll be able to focus on those rather than just a broad overview.


The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism is a text that tries to capture all the major voices and schools of thought, but it can be an expensive book for someone outside the university library system.

Literary Theory: A Very Short Introduction by Jonathan Culler is accessible and concise. Instead of structuring the book around the major schools of literary theory, Culler focuses on the shared claims and questions that underpin those schools. Culler’s other books, The Pursuit of Signs: Semiotics, Literature, and Deconstruction and On Deconstruction: Theory and Criticism after Structuralism, are good primers to semiotics, deconstruction, and poststructuralism.


This lecture series from Yale Open Course provides a good overview of the major movements of theory and criticism in an accessible, clear way.

true-reichenbach  asked:

Hello Duke! I have a friend who's interested in learning about philosophy but quite literally has no idea where to begin. I don't have much experience beyond Plato's Republic, so I was wondering if you had any suggestions. I asked her what kind and she said anything introductory. I yield to your knowledge now.

Well, philosophy is an incredibly broad field so I’d start with with an overview and try to find out what she’s interested in pursuing further. The OUP Very Short Introductions might be a good place to start (there’s a general one for philosophy and then more specific ones for different thinkers or schools or thought), because they’ll give you not only a manageable overview of ideas, but they’ll give you a list of resources to chase up when she finds something that looks especially interesting.

Jung: A Very Short Introduction
(Anthony Stevens, 1994)

“Just as every building has a façade so every personality has a persona (literally a mask, as worn by actors in ancient Greece).

Through the persona we codify ourselves in a form which we hope will prove acceptable to others.

It has sometimes been referred to as the social archetype or the conformity archetype, for on it depends the success or failure of one’s adaptation to society.

There is always some element of pretence about the persona, for it is a kind of shop window in which we like to display our best wares; or one might think of it as a public relations expert employed by the ego to ensure that people will think well of us.

‘One could say, with a little exaggeration, that the persona is that which in reality one is not, but which oneself as well as others think one is’ (CW IX. i, para. 221).

The persona begins to form early in childhood out of a need to conform to the wishes and expectations of parents, peers, and teachers. 

Children quickly learn that certain attitudes and behaviours are acceptable and may be rewarded with approval while others are unacceptable and may result in punishment or the withdrawal of love.

The tendency is to build acceptable traits into the persona and to keep unacceptable traits hidden or repressed.

These socially undesirable aspects of the maturing personality are usually relegated to the personal unconscious, where they coalesce to form another complex, or part personality, that Jung called the shadow. (…)

The dread prospect of being rejected on account of some ‘bad’ aspect of the Self seems to be at the bottom of all feelings of guilt, all desire for punishment, and all longings for atonement and reconciliation.

The moral complex forms on the basis of an archetypal imperative to learn and maintain the values of the culture into which we happen to have been born.

If no such imperative existed, anarchy would be the natural human condition: we should all be psychopaths, incapable of co-operation or mutual trust, and the species could not conceivably exist.”

See also:

My First Day of Japanese High School!


{Warning- this is an extremely long post. I apologize for the giant text wall!}

Today was my first day of school here in Japan! Well, almost first day- today I was just there for a few hours to take a tour and give my self introduction. But I still count it as my first day because I am now officially a student of Fujimigaoka.

I woke up at 5:30 (which is the same time I woke up in America) and went upstairs to eat breakfast. After eating I went to get ready. Right now all the students are still wearing their summer uniforms. I will make a video all about my uniforms, but I don’t have everything yet so I will wait until I have all the pieces to make the video. The belt was too big for me, so I didn’t wear that. In the summer you can either wear long-sleeve or short-sleeve blouses, so I chose the short-sleeve one for today (Japan is so humid!). On top of the shirt is the sweater vest, and although it’s cute I don’t understand why it’s necessary in summer! Everything seemed to fit, but the vest was a little baggy around the arms- at the fitting they kept giving me bigger sizes even though I told them that the medium was fine. But the story about my uniform fitting is for another time (^ u ^)

At around 9:10, my host mom and I left the house; but first we took some pictures. I look so awkward (> u <) Of course on my first day it happened to be raining- only lightly, but I was hoping for some sun. Just as we stepped out of the house and onto the sidewalk, my host Rotary counselor pulled up in his car. Even though the train station is only a three minute walk, he offered to drive us there; we were all going to meet up at the station anyways, so we thought that we might as well go together. At the station my host mom charged one of the older train cards my host family had so I didn’t have to buy a ticket every time. This is what the card looks like (it’s a popular train pass brand here):

As you can see, mine’s a little beat up! Oh well, it still works and that’s all that really matters. Tokyo train stations are so busy and crowded, especially in the morning rush. The previous night my host dad explained to me my train route to school. I have to take two trains, but the entire journey only takes about ten minutes. The maps of the train lines are a little confusing, even though all of the stations and routes have the names printed in English. I guess it’s difficult because there are just so many train lines. At the station I also met my counselor’s assistant- she is such a sweet lady. Everyone was commenting how cute I looked in my uniform (I disagree- I don’t think it looks good on me!). The route to my school is so confusing, even my counselors and host mom struggled a bit to navigate the stations. But somehow we finally made it to the right area. From the last station it’s about a five minute walk to my school. My host mom held the umbrella over me so I could film the walk there (I filmed it not only for YouTube but for me to watch it and memorize the route). Everyone here has been so supportive of my YouTube channel- I’m so happy!

When we entered the school, one of the ladies at the desk showed us the cubby slots to place our shoes in. We had to change into these really attractive (can you feel my sarcasm?) indoor slippers which had the school name printed on them. The front mat had the school crest on it (almost everything at Fujimigaoka seems to have the school crest!).

We were all led into a conference room, and in a few minutes the school principle and vice principle came in to go over the basic formalities. They had my Rotary application and proceeded to ask me questions about myself. Some of the questions I could have answered in Japanese, but I was so nervous that my mind blanked and English came out of my mouth before I could stop myself. The principle asked me what I like to do, what my parents do, and if I knew Japanese. When I said my mom is a doctor, he looked stunned. He said I come from a very respectable family. I told them I’ve been studying for six years, and took one Japanese course at school; he almost rolled off his chair in surprise. They told me that I didn’t have to worry about the self-intro speech, and that I could do it in English or a mix of Japanese in English. I surprised everyone, including my counselors, when I said that I was going to do the entire thing in Japanese. The principles said they looked forward to hearing it, and then they took their leave to prepare for the opening ceremony. My counselor asked me if I wrote my speech in romaji (Japanese wrtitten with the english alphabet), and my host mom stepped in and said it was all in Kana and Kanji. I passed them my notebook, and my counselor’s jaw hit the table.

I was getting a little more nervous as I heard the all the chatter of the other students on their way to the auditorium. Soon I would be in that auditorium, in front of everyone, giving my speech. Everyone kept telling me to relax, and I did my best but I was still on edge. When one of the teachers came to escort us to the auditorium, I almost tripped because my feet were unsteady. This was going to be the largest crowd I have ever spoken in front of. The building itself is huge, and it’s six stories high- I barely saw even a quarter of the entire campus. I had seen pictures of the auditorium online, but it was even bigger in person. The bleachers were almost entirely filled; all of the girls were chatting and sharing stories of what they did over the summer. Many of them noticed me standing awkwardly in the doorway. I sat down off to the side with my host mom and counselors; my moment was approaching quickly. But first the principle said his opening words. After him, the two new English language teachers from the UK gave their self introductions. It didn’t sound like they knew Japanese that well; my host mom leaned over and said my speech was much more advanced.

One of the teachers is from London, and the other is from Scotland. They both seem really nice and energetic- I hope I get to meet them in person later. The Scottish teacher had spent a year of university in New York, so maybe I can ask him about that later. They both went through powerpoint presentations about themselves, and the students seemed pretty enthusiastic about it. Finally, after all of that was done it was finally my turn. I gave my camera to my host mom so she could film, and I waited to go up on stage while the principle introduced me. He said a little about me, and the second he mentioned I was from America I heard a squeal from the girls. But the the thing that surprised me the most was the reaction I got when he mentioned my mom is a doctor. There was a loud gasp of awe from the entire auditorium- I think being a doctor is a pretty big deal here in Japan. I was ushered onto the stage and told to go to the podium. Because the indoor slippers had no grip, my sock-covered feet kept sliding out of them, so I had to concentrate really hard on not losing a slipper as I made my way up the stage stairs.

The lights felt way too bright, but as I looked out at the crowd, everyone looked really friendly and eager to hear what I had to say. I took a deep breath and began. There were a few parts I stumbled over, but the crowd was hanging onto my every word. When I said my Japanese isn’t very good, everyone started making sounds of disagreement. I think they thought I was joking, because there was a little laughter too. There was a huge roar of applause when I finished, but when the principle mentioned that I would be studying here for a year one group in the crowd started clapping and bouncing in their seats- they looked really excited and happy that I am going to stay for so long. I bowed to everyone and returned to my seat. Everyone congratulated me on my speech, and I left the auditorium feeling a little lighter. But I wasn’t done quite yet. Later I would go to my class and make another self-intro speech.

We went back to the same meeting room to leave our things, and then I went with the teacher, my host mom, and my counselor’s assistant to a room where I would be fitted for my gym uniforms. There are so many pieces to a Japanese school uniform; I have so much Fujimigaoka merchandise now! I had to change into the uniforms to try them on. Again, no one believes me when I said I needed a size medium, and they gave all larges. But once I emerged from the dressing room looking like an oompa-loompa in the oversized clothes they immediately gave me the right sizes. I have a summer and winter gym uniform, and a separate gym skirt for dance class. Ugh, I hate gym class because I am terrible at sports. Back in America I wouldn’t have to take gym anymore, but it looks like I will never escape PE! I also got fitted for my cleaning apron- in Japan the children clean the schools; there are no janitors. Finally I was allowed to change back into my regular uniform. I hope we have a lot of time to change, because it takes forever to button and unbutton my shirt!

After I changed back we went to my classroom. The room itself is pretty small. All of my classmates were there, and they started squealing as soon as I came in. I gave a very short introduction, because they just heard my long one, and then I said goodbye (I won’t be going to school again until Monday, September 7th- that will be my first full day). In the next class over, there is a girl who will be coming with me on the train every day and helping me out for the first few months. I am so grateful for that- she is so nice! I hope we become good friends. For the next hour or so we were talking with my teacher in the meeting room. My host mom and counselor were asking different question, and because it was all in really fast Japanese I kind of zoned out. I know I should have been more attentive, but I was exhausted and I felt a headache coming on. I knew my host mom would explain everything to me later. I also got my school schedule- I will explain it in another post once my classes are finalized. I was asked what clubs I want to join, and I said calligraphy, flower arranging, or tea ceremony. Because I said I like art, sensei (teacher) asked me to help paint things for the upcoming school festival.

Finally around 1:00 PM we were ready to return home. I bid my teachers farewell, and my host mom and I started our journey back. My host mom got me a nice new train card, and she said we have to find a cute train card pouch for me to keep it in.

 On the way we stopped at the store and picked up some bento meals for lunch; I chose オムライス (omuraisu- omelette rice). Its an omelette on top of a bed of rice with sauce drizzled on it. It is so yummy!

We got home around 1:30 PM, I ate, and I fell asleep on the couch. It was a long, tiring day- but it was a great first day of school. I’m excited to see how the rest of the year goes!

(Video of my first day will be posted soon!)

atthemomentofsurrender  asked:

Hi Jess! After reblogging your absolutely amazing posts about Da Vinci and the artists of the Renaissance, I was wondering whether you had any books to recommend which discuss these facts? Do you have any favourite ones? Thanks!


The West won the world not by the superiority of its ideas or values or religion but rather by its superiority in applying organized violence. Westerners often forget this fact, non-Westerners never do.

Samuel P. Huntington, cited on the ‘Where is Raed?’ website, a day-to-day journal of everyday life in Baghdad under bombardment.

Extract in Robert J. C. Young, Postcolonialism, A Very Short Introduction (UK: Oxford University Press, 2003), p. 32.

anonymous asked:

Hello :) in three months I'll be starting my degree in Philosophy, Politics and Law and I just wanted to ask you, if you could give me a reading list. Like a list of the books which you deem to be necessary for a prospective philosophy student. Thank you :)

Hmm… I would say wait because you might need someone to help you through things (like I’m not going to tell you to read Kant by yourself cos you would kill me for putting you through that pain haha), and I think three months isn’t enough time to do EVERYTHING haha. Usually you aren’t expected to have any previous knowledge before you start uni, so don’t worry too much. Maybe read an overview of the history of philosophy? That might help you get a big timeline of the main figures and themes which would give you a good background? This is a website about that (it is like the first thing that comes up when you google “history of philosophy” haha) – The author also published an overview of Classical Phil

This one is good for medieval. Or if you want a shorter version (by the same author – he is really good), try this. That series by the way (”very short introductions”) is really good if you want a quick overview of anything. There is one on pretty much every area of phil and every main figure so I would really suggest picking up a few of those and reading through them. 

Hope that helps! Let me know if you have any other questions! :) 

Tea across Tamriel - Master post

So I am done with my serie of headcanons/worldcanons on various teas in Tamriel, be it actual tea, imaginary fantasy tea, herbal tea, various infusions, and habits regarding tea drinking. Here’s the list to the various parts, along with very short descriptions for each :


[Introduction] A brief overview and some gushing about tea;

[Elsweyr] Or strong sugary, spicy and fruity teas consumed like it’s water;

[Alinor] Or delicate flower teas carefully made by afficionados and snobs;

[Valenwood] Or The Biggest Waste of tea and tea necromancy;

[Cyrodiil] Simple blends of tea and lots of trading;

[Morrowind] About native tea that’s not actually tea, social privileges, and mockery of N'Wahs;

[Argonia] ?????????? Is this tea? Is this poison? We’ll never know;

[Hammerfell] Of refreshing teas and cacti juices;

[High Rock Bretons and regular tea, nobles being crazy and gross, and Orcs not giving a flying butterfly;

[Skyrim] Tea hell and old medicinal concoctions.


This was a lot of fun to come up with, and I certainly hope it was/is/will be just as fun for you to read my thoughts on the subject. =)

Now, I say my thoughts, but it would be unfair to take all the credit. I have to thank a few people here on tumblr with whom I had very pleasant conversations about fictional beverages, who have listened to my dumb ideas and contributed a lot to maturing them. Here they are, in no particular order :

Tatyana, Vonlyth, Lleran, Adelein Gardinier, BloodOfTheAncients and Astarill.

I leave you now to enjoy it all for yourself. Feel free to reblog, comment, or contact me about it if you want to discuss tea in The Elder Scrolls universe. =)

A Level Tips


Maths is a disgusting subject and why anyone would choose to torture themselves with it is beyond me. I cried through GCSE maths and I cried even more through A level. I’m not a natural at maths by any means so I did a lot of revision and my main points for advice are these:

  1. Exam questions
  2. Practice throughout the year - don’t leave a topic without being good at it
  3. Get visuals - some stuff is really hard to visualise so find graphics for stuff like trig and geometry
  4. Exam questions
  5. Get someone to go through processes with you - a friend, teacher, tutor
  6. Exam questions
  7. Don’t get behind
  8. Have I mentioned exam questions? Exam questions are recycled year after year. I did a question for practice and the exact same question came up on the actual exam except one number was different and the example animal was different. They’re the best way to know what you’re up against.

German (and languages in general I suppose?)

Languages can be so fun! Just think, you can speak to a whole 70 million ish new people who you wouldn’t otherwise have been to speak to! You can go and live in a different country!


  1. Don’t be intimidated by grammar - it’s just about patterns and processes.
  2. Use tables, charts, grids to display things
  3. Colour code - I found using different colours for genders, tenses, parts of the sentence was a really good memory aid.
  4. Do exercises - they can be boring but it’s so great when you get it right. just suck it up and work through them.
  5. Read everything! Newspapers, magazines, silly kids websites, everything! you’ll start to spot which bits of grammar have been used and that’s really exciting (if you’re a grammar nerd like me anyway)


  1. Stick post it notes around the house
  2. Make lists
  3. Copy out lists
  4. Learn as many genders for nouns as you can. This makes grammar a lot easier too.
  5. Make rhymes
  6. Read!
  7. Speak! Find some people to talk to in the language, they can help you, you can help them.


Biology is the best subject and everyone should do it because it’s amazing and fascinating and gah it’s just great.

  1. Details. find a way to remember the little details, they can get you a mark. Ooh also any exam question with ‘oxygen’ and ‘respiration’ in it you can almost definitely get a mark for writing “oxygen is the final electron acceptor”.
  2. Links. I feel like this isn’t essential but it’s really useful to know how everything interconnects, like how ATP from respiration enables muscle contraction etc
  3. Real world context. this just makes it interesting and also gives you a way to remember stuff. for example, rigor mortis happens because the muscles are permanently contracted when you die because you can’t make ATP and ATP is needed for muscle relaxation.
  4. Exam questions. exams are worded ridiculously and often just spotting what information they’re actually asking for is the most difficult bit. doing exam questions and going through them with the mark scheme is really useful to get used to the style of questions.
  5. Read everything. you’ve probably heard everyone say “read around your subject!” but what does that actually mean?!?! I didn’t get it until half way through year 13 really. So here’s a list of some books I found really useful anyway:
  • How We Live and Why We Die by Lewis Wolpert (really useful for cell function and cancer modules)
  • The Selfish Gene by Richard Dawkins
  • A Very Short Introduction to The Animal Kingdom by Peter Holland

Things like New Scientist are interesting and always a good read but they’re not always relevant to the course.

Forensic Psychology

The term forensic originally meant something along the lines of “of service to the courts”. When coupled with the field of psychology, the term forensic psychology is used to cover all aspects of psychology that are relevant to the entire legal and criminal process.

Forensic psychology can provide explanations of why a person may contemplate committing a crime and the manner of their doing so. It can contribute to investigating the crime, but also be of relevance in court proceedings that require expert testimony about the psyche and wellbeing of the offender. Furthermore, it can be of help in prisons and other forms of treatment and rehabilitation. It may even include aiding law enforcement personnel in dealing with the stresses of their job.

A number of carefully researched and debated things lie at the heart of forensic psychology, including:

  • explanations of the psychological basis of many different forms of offending behaviour and criminality
  • explorations of decision-making and its relevance to the processes of investigating crime
  • studies of the psychology of memory and its bearing on the interviewing of witnesses and suspects
  • consideration of the behavioural and social aspects of court proceedings
  • the construction of plausible narratives
  • how juries reach their verdicts
  • the assessment of risks, particularly re-offending, and the management of those risks
  • consideration of the viability and effectiveness of rehabilitation processes
  • the assessment of the role of drug and alcohol abuse as well as mental illness in crime
  • what leads people to desist from crime

There is also a notable distinction between a forensic psychologist and a forensic psychiatrist. The latter are fundamentally medical doctors, with the right to prescribe medication, while the former derive their central contributions to the field from the social and behavioural sciences.

[post based on David Canter’s “Forensic Psychology: A Very Short Introduction”]


The Laudatio Tauriae is an inscription by a Roman husband about his wife, ‘So great was her sense of duty that, when the marriage proved childless, she offered divorce to allow her husband to seek a more fertile partner. His response speaks volumes: “…What desire, what need to have children could I have had that was so great that I should have broken faith for that reason and changed certainty for uncertainty”’ - Gwynn, David M. The Roman Republic A Very Short Introduction (Oxford: OUP, 2012)

Yeah, Doctor Who has parallels with Ancient Rome

Jung: A Very Short Introduction
(Anthony Stevens, 1994)

“To a limited extent Jung’s archetypes resemble Plato’s Ideas. For Plato, ‘Ideas’ were pure mental forms existing in the minds of the gods before human life began and were consequently above and beyond the ordinary world of phenomena.

They were collective in the sense that they embodied the general characteristics of a thing, but they were also implicit in its specific manifestations.

The human fingerprint, for example, is instantly recognizable for what it is on account of its unmistakable configuration of contours and whorls.

Yet every fingerprint has a configuration unique to its owner, which is why those who turn their hands to burglary must remember to wear gloves if they wish to escape detection and arrest.

Archetypes similarly combine the universal with the individual, the general with the unique, in that they are common to all humanity, yet nevertheless manifest themselves in every human being in a way peculiar to him or to her. (…)

An archetype, he said, is not ‘an inherited idea’ but rather ‘an inherited mode of functioning, corresponding to the inborn way in which the chick emerges from the egg, the bird builds its nest, a certain kind of wasp stings the motor ganglion of the caterpillar, and eels find their way to the Bermudas. In other words, it is a “pattern of behaviour”.”


A quick look at: the early Christian catacombs of Rome.

Christianity began in Rome as a prohibited, and therefore underground religion -which is why most of our earliest examples of christian art appear in the catacombs and on sarcophagi. 

Literally an underground religion, Christianity had to hide in the corners of the Roman Empire to escape harsh persecutions. Under the city of Rome rests a hundred miles of catacombs, sometimes five stories deep, with millions of interred bodied. Finding the Roman practice of cremation repugnant, Christians preferred burial because it symbolized Jesus’s, as well as their own, rising from the dead -body and soul. (Nici 2008)

The famous Christian catacombs along the roads extending from Rome became steadily extensive into immense networks that bear witness to the burgeoning Christian community there. The Christian catacombs provided for modest but dignified burials in rectangular niches (loculi) dug into the walls of long corridors in horizontal rows, though wealthier families used small connecting chambers (cubicula) for their burials. (Dunstan 2010)

The catacombs were extensively decorated with frescos, rather poor in quality. In the earliest times the subjects of frescos and sculpture were very vague, and could easily be interpreted in a pagan sense, doubtless as a measure of self protection. (Jones et al. 2013)

The image of the shepherd [see photo 2] is a particularly popular one in early Christian art, occurring over 100 times in the catacombs as a whole. The shepherd symbolizes care and protection, as prefigured in the 23rd Psalm. Pagan imagery of Hermes in this aspect was adapted by Christians to form the image of Christ the Good Shepherd. (Williamson 2004)

The example shown is the Catacomb of San Callisto, built after AD 150. Shown in the centre of the final photo is one of the earliest forms of christogram -the Chi Rho, which represents Christ. Also, note the fish to the right of the final photo. The image of the fish was used as a secret symbol for early Christians to identify themselves as followers of Jesus Christ. Again, like most of the early Christian catacomb art, the average non-Christian Roman would not have recognized the image's association to Christianity.


-Barron’s AP Art History, John Nici, 2008

-Ancient Rome, William Dunstan, 2010

-The Oxford Dictionary of Christian Art and Architecture, Tom Jones, Linda Murray, Peter Murray, 2013

-Christian Art: A Very Short Introduction, Beth Williamson, 2004

Photos courtesy & taken by Jim Forest.