Monday, December 27, 2010

Back in the Land of Blogging

Phew.  It's been a while.  In the time since I last posted anything real the following events occurred: Thanksgiving, finals, and Christmas.  That list comes out looking rather short in all honesty.  I am sure there were some nights at the Rocket, garden strolls, days at the British Library, and hours at the cafe that may have also distracted me from blogging.  But I'm back nonetheless.  And I have all kinds of exciting stories and sights to tell/show you respectively.

Firstly, let's just celebrate that I am done with class!!!!  That means more time to wander the city which has been lovely.  Over the course of yesterday and today, Y and I walked six miles or so through the back streets (also known as dark and slightly-intimidating alleyways) and saw some pretty off-the-beaten-path places.  Here are some pics for your viewing pleasure along with a link to the map of our walk if you want to do it yourself.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Cafe Fiction

Some people said the house was haunted and I believed them that she had been dead for seven years. So he started looking for her grave and started dancing on his tomb. Then the ground broke open and a cold withered hand grabbed his ankle. He looked down and said "what a lovely hand." They lived happily ever after.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Wikipedia Knows Everything


Bacon

Arun Gupta of The Indypendent has pointed out how bacon in particular possesses six ingredient types of umami, which elicits an addictive neurochemical response.[13] According to Gupta "the chain lards on bacon in particular" give foods a "high flavor profile" creating a "one-of-a-kind product that has no taste substitute."[14] This led Dr. David Kessler, author ofThe End of Overeating, to note how the standard joke in the restaurant chain industry goes, "When in doubt, throw cheese and bacon on it."[14]

Friday, November 26, 2010

New Song on Repeat

Ok it's not a NEW song or even a new-to-me song but it's being played on a loop for at least the next five years.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

How Silly Putty Saved my Skin and Primark Saved Thanksgiving

Bad Habits

Both lines of my ancestry boast several generations of self-declared and unapologetic pickers.  My plight was inevitable.  I can't go a day (or an hour even) without scratching a new constellation in my skin somewhere.  My fingers are constantly feeling for imperfections and, on finding them, show a determination, normally unseen outside the realm of a child seeking ice cream, to pick and scratch and dig until their craving is satisfied.  Which is never.  Enter Silly Putty.  I noticed that my skin looked the worst at times when my hands were bored (ie, reading books, researching online, or any other activity which requires my eyes more than my fingers).  Finals week preparation is the absolute worst time for my face as the added stress causes my fingers to seek their targets with more aggression and tenacity.  Last term I thought of a possible solution.  For the last four weeks I have carried a blue egg of Silly Putty with me everywhere I go.  And I mean EVERYwhere.  I use it in class during lectures, while studying in the cafe or when reading a book at home.  I can't believe the difference.  Because it can only be in one hand at a time, I still manage to pick a place here and there before I thrust the putty into the offending digits, but all in all it's been a brilliant solution if I do say so myself. :)  The real challenge will be finals week this term.  I hope the putty remains intact until then! 

Thanksgiving

Everyone knows the secret to a good turkey is a paper bag.  Clearly the English don't cook turkey; not one grocery store here provides paper bags to customers (some of them not providing any bags at all).  My mom would be so upset.  I found myself stressing over this fact several times in the last few weeks, unsure of what to do next.  Luckily I had a brilliant realization.  Primark!  For those of you who haven't been to Primark in general or the Oxford Street location specifically I will try my best to describe it.  Imagine you live in a city of 12 million people.  Everything is expensive (ok, really truly that's not fair because yellow peppers are super duper cheap and it makes me incredibly happy).  Then comes the wal-mart of clothes and accessories with its two story building in the heart of one of the world's busiest shopping districts.  Now can you see that when you walk in it looks like Black Friday every day of the year?  Shelves are upturned, people are pushing, kids are crying, the line for the fitting rooms is so long that patrons resort to undressing in public to try on clothes near anything with a vaguely reflective surface.  It is madness, chaos, and confusion defined.  But for the best turkey ever I will venture to this black-hole and hopefully surface with two (intact) paper bags.  Wish me luck!


Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Dear Karma~

How did this just happen???? I don't remember saving a kitten from a coyote or a small child from drowning recently. I think you may have overpaid me. I don't want your books to come up short so please tell me how to pay for this so you don't take it away any time soon

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Am I Being Brainwashed???

Texts I wanted to send from the concert we attended tonight:

1. A bit new agey and hippie but I burn a little nag champa now and then so I can get with it.
2. Kind of cool
3. Pretty cool!
4. He can shred that sitar like no one's business
5. Catchy
6. Interesting violin/cello duet, not at all eastern sounding but a nice classical piece
7. American 90's sitcom theme song
8. Why are so many middle aged British women wearing saris? Clearly they knew about this before the advert in the free Metro newspaper.
9. Ok that was a little cult-y and weird...
10. Slow and boring!
11. This is weird
12. What do I need to do next week? Let's write out a lovely little schedule to kill the time while this goes on.
13. Can we be done now?
14. Is this going to pick up at any point?
15. Why is she playing the cello and the drums? Could they not have two people?
16. I may not speak a foreign language but I know that this is just the same verse over and over and over and over and over.
17. The sari's are growing in number and beginning to surround me!
18. Everywhere I look there are more of them watching me!
19. I am sure they think I am unrefined and out of reach for writing while this "amazing" performance is happening.
20. What time is it?
21. Someone just ripped a big snore that resonated through the audience as photos of children's fingerpaint drawings flash before our eyes.
22. Am I being brainwashed?
23. The first half was SUCH a con to get us to stay for this weird shit.
24. Am I expected to participate in a mass suicide at the end of this???
25. Why are there no indians in the group?
26. God I wish Alex and Erin were on either side of me passing notes (GREATER THAN!)
27. Someone is really truly proud of this production.
28. What is the deal?
29. Who are these secret society people scattered throughout the crowd?
30. Are they going to burn down the theater at the end al la Inglorious Basterds?
31. OH GOD! The lady behind us is sitting with legs folded with her hands in the prayer position on her chair! That shit is happening!
32. This is some weird shit!
33. Lucky! (the lady who got up and left)
34. Please be done, please be done, please be done!
35. It's not done.
36. Seriously, what is the secret?
37. "Where is the eternal father? I am dying to see him." This is not working for me.
38. This feels like a giant recruitment tool for some really weird shit led by a guy who's voice really fits better as a giant tortoise on a cartoon.
39. wow

Of course when I got home I googled this situation. Here's what I found. I might highlight some of the more interesting bits...  What the fuck, I say?!  If these people had been in street clothes they would have seemed completely normal and that, my friends, is frightening.


Teachings

Sri Chinmoy taught that rapid spiritual progress could be made with divine love, divine devotion and divine surrender. He described divine love as self-offering and self-expansion; divine devotion as an expression of divine love as dedicated action; and divine surrender as a merging of the finite self with the infinite.[31] His path is not one of earthly renunciation or asceticism, but a middle path where the seeker has the opportunity to renounce, or transform, the negative qualities which stand in the way of union with the Divine. Sri Chinmoy taught that meditation on the heart brings the light of the soul forward to reach the highest reality as soon as possible.[32] Chinmoy states: “We are all seekers, and our goal is the same: to achieve inner peace, light and joy, to become inseparably one with our Source, and to lead lives full of true satisfaction.”[33] Chinmoy built up a world-wide following of disciples and taught them that he was an avatar or incarnation of God.[34]
He asked his disciples to adopt a vegetarian diet, abstain from recreational drugs including alcohol,[35] and lead a pure, celibate life,[2][36] though followers who were married at the time they joined are allowed an exemption from celibacy.
At bi-weekly meetings, the men wear white clothing, while the women wear colourful Indian saris.[37] The focus of meditation at these meetings is a black-and-white copy of a photograph of Ghose's face taken in 1967 while he was in what he described as a transcendental state of consciousness. It was sometimes referred to by Ghose and his disciples as "The Transcendental Picture" or "The Transcendental Photograph", but more often simply as "The Transcendental". Sri Chinmoy advised his disciples when meditating on his picture to feel that they are entering into their own highest part, that the picture does not represent a human being, but a state of consciousness.[38] The picture is considered by his disciples to carry an immense spiritual charge and is by far the most important image in Ghose's organization, the Sri Chinmoy Centre Church.
Sri Chinmoy recommended meditation during the quiet atmosphere of the early morning, before starting daily activities. As the traditional Hour of God, between three and four a.m., known as the 'Brahma Muhurta', may not suit the western lifestyle of keeping late hours, Sri Chinmoy requested that his disciples meditate at six a.m. every morning. Reading Sri Chinmoy's writings, singing his songs and performing dedicated service were also considered forms of meditation for his disciples.[39] Sri Chinmoy believed that running and physical fitness were a help to the inner spiritual life as well as to the outer life of activity, and encouraged his followers to run daily.[40] Although influenced by Hinduism, his path catered to an international community of seekers from diverse backgrounds.[41] He also encouraged his followers to offer free meditation classes.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

The 11th Hour of the 11th Day of the 11th Month

Every year at this time the British Commonwealth observes a two minute silence in honor of the sacrifices of soldiers and civilians in times of war. Remembrance Day, as it is known here, was formerly Armistice Day and in the US is known as Veterans Day. Now I don't know about you but in my home state Veterans Day was something recognized mostly by the military. Perhaps we might notice more movement at Fort Douglas that day, unsure of what they are up to. Or we might see on the news that night that a moment of silence had been observed while we listened to our ipod or ordered our hot chocolate in a bustling cafe earlier that morning. I know there are some of you who remember this holiday, but of those I know the observance is usually driven by a military link. Perhaps your brother served in the Coast Guard (cheers to you bro!), your grandpa fought in a world war, or you know someone currently deployed. In England, however, there is a three week build up to this day when poppies start blooming on lapels all over the city. Politicians are wearing them on the tv, professors in school, and little old ladies out for their morning walks. But it isn't just those who obviously lived through wars or have a professional desire to show solidarity. Everyone wears them. And at 11am everyone will sit in silence to reflect on those who suffer in war. The moment will be broadcast live from Whitehall and observances will take place in several major public locations such as Westminster.

I began writing the previous paragraph to tell you a little about the activities today but as I typed "Westminster" I started feeling ridiculous for being so close to them and not actually participating. At 10:20 I packed up my laptop and made my way to Westminster. As I approached Parliament Square, the poppies proliferated. Hundreds of people were trekking through the drizzle to find their spot. I wasn’t really sure what to expect and had no idea if whatever was going to happen would be in a central location or if it was just near the cathedral in general. I followed the flowers and ended up outside the gates of the Abbey. Within the gates of Westminster, a group of military men and women (along with a few tiers of press) waited patiently until the prince arrived. “You only ever get Phillip” the gentleman behind me told his wife with a sneer. Nonetheless, it felt valuable to be participating in something of enough importance to require the presence of at least a token royal. A trumpet solo of what I assume is The Last Post, based on some of my internet readings, was played and ended at the commencement of the bells of Big Ben. Up until this point I was being josteled a bit on all sides as people made their way past me on the sidewalk, and I could barely hear the speeches that were given because of all the double-decker busses two feet behind me. But as the bells began everything stopped. I looked over my shoulder to see that the entire square had been mysteriously closed to traffic what could only have been one minute prior. The whole square was still. I wish I were a writer so I could explain the calm that came over me at that moment. There was something so safe in that space.

As the bell echoed through the square and the rain sprinkled our faces, I thought about the lives of those I know and love who have been impacted by wars. Without expecting it I became overwhelmed by emotion. There is a reason that citizens demand to have this moment every year. In that two minutes I moved through sadness, anger, bitterness, love, and hope and I saw that it is necessary to take time, even if just two minutes a year, to reflect on what we have experienced, where we have come from, and where I can only hope we are going. I recommend you do it sometime. It will make your day. At the end of the two minutes another trumpet quietly played Reveille to bring us back to the present moment. A few lingered to watch a bit of pomp and circumstance but most of us filed our way back to whatever tube station we came from and resumed the course of our day, hopefully a little more aware of why we have the chance to live them.


Monday, November 8, 2010

I Have Some Damn Cool Women in my Life

This is written by a friend of mine who puts it better than I ever could

"i am SO SICK AND TIRED of people wanting me to take their nephews, their brothers, their cousins, their bro-in-laws, their grandsons, their friends, their WHOEVER!!! off their hands so that i can drag them around for the rest of my life to give them the "kick in the pants they need" (yes. it has been told to me in exactly those words). I have NOT worked my entire life to be where i am in order to pull and kick and shove and force and bribe and WHATEVER, some man around for the rest of eternity."  



Adam Rex

I found Adam Rex's blog a while ago through a series of tubes.  I can't remember the exact pathway but it somehow involved THISTHIS, and THIS.  I have blog stalked (blogked? stalged?) since then.  His illustrations are wonderful so you should check them out.  And by the way, not having kids doesn't mean you can't enjoy some great kids books!  Hey, my sister credits her GRE score of 800 in Verbal Reasoning to children and young adult books.

Also, watch this video cause it makes me giggle and I think you will too.

Hey It's About Balloons, maybe you could have an Adam Rex book week?

Sunday, November 7, 2010

And Though You're Gone

I posted THIS a few days ago because I am going through my regular, cyclical obsession with The Kinks are the Village Green Preservation Society.  I love this album.  I discovered through Spotify, however, that I was completely jipped with my version of it.  Apparently there are two bonus tracks I was not privy to:  Mr. Songbird and Days.  The first is as catchy and happy as Picture Book.  The second is in a league of its own.  Days is one of those songs that captures so much emotion with such elegant simplicity.  I can't listen to it without thinking of my Gram.  I won't bring down the mood by describing just how much I miss her and how often she crosses my mind.  This song captures that sense of loss but, more importantly, honors the times that people had together.  Were it not for the times we shared with people, we would have nothing to miss, right?  Ray just says it much more poetically.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Remember, Remember

The 5th of November

The evening began with a race: four boys dressed in black and white stripes and red bandanas pulling burning barrels. Then the reading of the bonfire prayers... (here are some video clips for you too).

Bonfire Prayers

Remember, remember the Fifth of November
The Gunpowder Treason and plot
I see no reason why Gunpowder Treason
Should ever be forgot

Guy Fawkes, Guy Fawkes 'twas his intent
To blow up the King and the Parliament
Three score barrels of powder below
Poor old England to overthrow

By God's providence he was catch'd
With a dark lantern and burning match
Holler boys, holler boys, ring bells ring
Holler boys, holler boys, God Save the King!

A penny loaf to feed the Pope
A farthing o'cheese to choke him
A pint of beer to rinse it down
A faggot of sticks to burn him

Burn him in a tub of tar
Burn him like a blazing star
Burn his body from his head
Then we'll say old Pope is dead

Hip Hip Hoorah!
Hip Hip Hoorah!
Hip Hip Hoorah!



video


video

This is likely the most quiet event of the evening.  After the prayers the processions begin!  I can't explain so I will just show you.  There are far too many pics to post up here so I put a video of one of the cooler moments and I'll give you a link to the rest of the pics.  Enjoy!

video

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Curly Cue has Flowers!

The first week I lived here I added a new plant to my life.  Meet Curly Cue (he goes by Cue for short).  As it turns out he is a Chlorophytum, not just a curly grass as I originally assumed.  So imagine my surprise when he started growing an expected appendage (don't be dirty here people).  Even more exciting was the day that the shoot opened it's first tiny, delicate blossom (the one on the left in the photo).  I thought, "cool!  I'll take a pic in the morning and show it off to everyone."  But Cue was one step ahead of me again, and by the time I woke it had shriveled to nothing.  I waited four days for the next blossom to open so i could share it with you.  This one also lasted a short time but I was able to capture the moment.  



Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Three Month Anniversary

Tonight I will fall asleep spooning a stack of research books, as I do most nights these days.  They don't exactly hug the curves.  I am exhausted but I feel the need to share a bit before drooling onto those dogeared, highlighted pages.  The day I read about the IR program at Regent's I began crying.  I couldn't help it and I couldn't stop.  For that brief moment, time seemed to rip open just wide enough for me to see my future-self walking around the streets of London; absorbing the culture, the sights, the sounds, the (often unfortunate) smells.  I watched myself splash through puddles in my Wellies, cuddle up in a coffee shop, and beam in awe and gratitude at every person I met because surely they were part of the mysterious fabric of life that ultimately allowed me to live out my dream and move to this fabulous city.  I knew with no hesitation or doubt that I was looking at my future and yet I couldn't fathom the thought of being so incredibly lucky.  And lo the tears did come.  I cried many times between then and the move as well out of frustation, fear, anxiety, excitement, anticipation, loneliness, nostalgia, and love.  Yet every moment of panic and dismay was worth it.  I still find myself hoping that this is not all a complete mind trip.  That I am not, in fact, moments away from a 5am wake-up call reminding me that I am three snooze buttons and ten minutes away from a long, snowy walk to Trax, which I will take to a job where I quite literally plug myself in to the corporate machine to make money for the rich and apologize to the poor for their bad luck.

Because of the wonder that is the universe, I met amazing people who linked me with incredible opportunities (you deny this but you know who you are).  As I sat in class today I found myself unable to express just how much I love what I am doing.  Not to say that I know how to do it most of the time.  I feel overwhelmed by how much I need to catch up on to get where I feel I should be at this point in my life.  But ultimately I know that I have found what it is that makes me tick, makes me think, makes me happy.  Looking back I don't know how I didn't figure out sooner that I was born with a bent toward sociology and anthropology.  Perhaps it is because I am good at math and I do have a math mind (I like real, solid, true, knowable answers) that I found myself drawn to numbers all those years.  I should have taken a hint when I came across my elementary school report cards a few years ago.  Every single teacher, and I mean EVERY one in EVERY term said what I good student, sweet kid, insert complimentary comment here, I was but that I was "too social," "too talkative," "overly chatty," and the like.  Couple that with the fact that EVERY job I have ever worked at or applied for has been in customer service and you would think I would get the picture before now.  But no.  This morning was the first time that I really acknowledged the fact that I am made to be social and study the social aspects of life.  It is simply who I am.

With the short duration of this course I know I will inevitably lack the time to fully delve into every class with the rigor and depth I wish for.  However, in just ten weeks I have learned so much about areas of research that tackle questions I have had all my life.  I am suddenly in this incredible community of professors, researchers, and fellow students where I feel I truly belong.  I am no longer listening to rich, young things discussing the ways in which we can rebrand a company to appeal to a new demographic or calculate the future value of a company to determine whether an investment is profitable.  I can now discuss the the importance of water rights in terms of power and politics, and theories of identity development in post-colonial nations and it's impact on ethnic conflicts.  And that makes all the difference.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Another Classic

We are the Village Green Preservation Society
God save Donald Duck, Vaudeville and Variety
We are the Desperate Dan Appreciation Society
God save strawberry jam and all the different varieties
Preserving the old ways from being abused
Protecting the new ways for me and for you
What more can we do
We are the Draught Beer Preservation Society
God save Mrs. Mopp and good Old Mother Riley
We are the Custard Pie Appreciation Consortium
God save the George Cross and all those who were awarded them
We are the Sherlock Holmes English Speaking Vernacular
Help save Fu Manchu, Moriarty and Dracula
We are the Office Block Persecution Affinity
God save little shops, china cups and virginity
We are the Skyscraper Condemnation Affiliate
God save tudor houses, antique tables and billiards
Preserving the old ways from being abused
Protecting the new ways for me and for you
What more can we do
God save the Village Green.

Taco Night!

When we were in Rome, Lindsey and I decided we wanted a day where we did absolutely, positively nothing at all whatsoever.  We were so incredibly tired of being tired and dirty (FILTHY actually, I don't know that a city has ever made me feel quite so gritty) and wanted a whole day of just vegging out and being lazy.  This Sunday was that day and it was spectacular!!!  I would like to report that we slept in but that would be quite the overstatement.  The previous night ended at 2:30 am Sunday and we woke around 7am (for those of you paying attention that was the same day).  Our first task was to make a big American hangover breakfast: biscuits, scrambled eggs with cheese and peppers, hashbrowns (that refused to cooperate which was sad), "bacon" or as close as we could find, and fresh-squeezed OJ.  




After our wonderful breakfast we spent a long time on the couch just chatting and planning our November challenge.  Last month was No Jeans October and laid the foundation for many ideas about what we could do this month.  The result: 5 hours of workouts a week.  Eventually we made our way off the couch and to the grocery store to get fixins for dinner.  We made veggie tacos that rocked my world. I quite literally lived in the taco afterglow all day today.  A.Maze.Ing!!!!!! 










Mind the closing Doors, Please. Mind the Doors.

I chose to reserve my judgements and refrain from posting on the British interpretations of Halloween until I experienced the holiday fully.  As it turns out, I was right from the beginning.  They haven't quite figured out the point.  I saw about 87 cats, 52 devils, and probably 156 dirty ho's but I think some of those might have just been people going out for the normal weekend.  We were the Underground lines: Circle, Northern, Waterloo, Hammersmith & City, and Victoria.  :)

From Left to Right: Waterloo, Victoria, Hammersmith & City, Circle, and Northern


Addendum Nov. 6th, 2010: The reason they suck at Halloween may be linked to the relationship they have with the 5th of November.  I'll let you decide. 

Flashback

I used to listen to these A LOT!  A chat today brought them back to mind and I can't get enough.  Enjoy!

Taco Bell Song

Ultimate Showdown 

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Success!

On the last evening of No Jeans October, I have to say we rocked it pretty hard!  The hardest weeks for me were the first and last.  During our preparatory phase I really had no idea how to focus on the challenge.  I bought a couple pairs of leggings and some long shirts (the basic London uniform) but was really unsure about how to branch out from there.  Were I to do the shopping trip again I would get a couple pairs of non-jean pants to round out the wardrobe.  Because I had such a limited supply of leg coverings I felt as if I was wearing the same thing over and over for a while.  Adding a simple pair of black pants made a huge difference.  The first week frustrations also revolved around getting more comfortable with my body and with having it on public display.  One can just hide soooo much with jeans!  Now, I have to say, I feel much more confident in much more form-fitting outfits and am more confident in my ability to successfully branch out into new fashion territory (I'll probably never get as out there and funky as I would like to think I could but it's all about baby steps, right?)  The only real struggle the last week was in the lack of variety again.  I am really glad I did the challenge.  I now see myself as more fashionably flexible and less jean-centric.  Jeans will definitely no longer be part of my outfit every day (skirts and leggings are far too comfortable for that!!!)

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Materialistic

When I was wandering around Rome last week (I know I should be literary and say roaming around Rome but that's too predictable), I came across the book Tony Cragg: Nothing But Material.  The main reason it caught my eye was that it was the only English title in a sea of Italian.  He's a native of Liverpool so I was accidentally getting some British culture while abroad.  Being an especially tactile person (I have an egg of silly putty in my bag all the time these days) I appreciate the concept of sculpture that begs to be touched.  At the back of the book was an interview with the artist.  Here's a part I thought was interesting:

Q: Do you believe that the material also has a spiritual dimension? 

A: In a certain sense.  Although man tends to consider it only in its utilitarian dimension.  Utilitarianism is the greatest censor of our reality because only useful things survive.  Only science and art can test new materials without submitting to the tyranny of function and consider them what they are, aside from their possible functions.  (Italics added by me. I liked the way he put that and the notion of experimenting with material strictly for the purpose of experimentation, not to try and discover a possible use.  The underlining also added by me, I liked the phrase a lot.  To me it emphasized the fact that every artist faces a potential trap when they begin with a material because it is already associated with a certain function; potentially with a preconceived form.  Tyranny just felt like a great way to emphasize that.  Hey, I like words and get excited about small things such as this.  I warned you from the beginning!) 

In another section he says: "I consider the material to be an extension of ourselves, something surrounding us and taking form through the function given it by man: furniture, clothes, cars."

Check out some of these pics and tell me if you would be able to resist the urge to touch the sculptures.  I certainly wouldn't be able to.  (Click on the pics for bigger images)







(As a weird and interesting side-note, likely of little interest to you but quite exciting to me...he moved to Wuppertal, Germany at one point, a place I wouldn't know except that it was used in the filming of the Princess and the Warrior - a German film I love.  The train they ride in it is an overground but one that hangs from a beam rather than rides on rails and I was so fascinated by it in the movie.  I spent a lot of time trying to figure out where that train was.  That was years ago!  I was really happy to see Wuppertal in this artist's biography.  Now I have a renewed interset in visiting that city as his sculptures are all over the place there!)  

Monday, October 25, 2010

So Much to Do, So Much to See, So What's Wrong with Taking the Back Streets?

And back streets I did take (thanks Smashmouth).  I am full of tales to tell from my week and a half in Spain and Italy.  I think you may have a lot of posts to wade through between now and Wednesday (tomorrow probably not so much as I am busy from 6am to 10pm.  yeah, it'll be a long one).  The biggest problem I have is trying to figure out how to get everything organized.  I kept my cupcake book with me at all times and wrote down pretty much anything that seemed remotely interesting or that I wanted to look into when I returned.  Needless to say there are quite a few pages.  Ok ok, the pages are only about 10 square inches but still.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

One Post to Rule Them All

Please be advised that the lack of posts is not due to me neglecting my commitment but due to lack of internet access. I took my final final on Wednesday and from there went straight to Gatwick airport to catch my flight to Barcelona. Yesterday my parents and I wandered around the city-a HUGE city, might I add. We were here in 2001 but only for an afternoon/evening. That short span of time was full of excitement though. As it was December we came upon dozens of Christmas markets selling every style of nativity set you can imagine and witnessed the strange tradition of kids hitting a log with a stick. That fateful night was also the one during which my mom's purse was stolen at an internet cafe. Don't worry though, I stole it back from the perpetrator before he knew what had happened. One of my prouder moments.

As promised, here are the posts I haven't been able to get online until now:

~We Specialized in Pencils~

My parents arrived in London on Monday. Being fed up with studies, I decided to meet them at the airport. The ride isn't exactly riveting but it was nice to turn my brain off for a bit and just kick back doing absolutely nothing. Once they arrived we dropped their bags off at a friend's house (thanks L!) and caught the train up north to Highgate Cemetery (link). The two sides -east and west- are separated by a narrow, steep road. On the west is the more overgrown, dark, gothic-foresty area which boasts a lot of creative headstones as well as some famous people; Karl Marx likely being the most well-known. Wandering around is not allowed on the west side, visitors must go on guided tours (I guess it might be to prevent tourists from stealing bits of things? Who knows). The east side, however, is open to meander through. We spent an hour or so enjoying a stroll through the forest. The cemetery is absolutely massive! Many of the graves were really not that old (I expected some ancient relics for some reason) but the vines had overgrown the majority of the markers which gave it a warm, earthy feel. Recently I have grown to enjoy cemeteries a lot. They used to really freak me out when I was young. The thought of treading the ground over someone's body seemed incredibly disrespectful and, well, just plain rude. I don't know what changed my feelings about it but I find them really peaceful now. That doesn't change the fact that I refuse (as much as any dead person can) to ever be buried in one. I don't want my remains to be stuck in one place. I want them to be scattered to the earth and seas so they are in thousands of places at once. I want my ashes to become part of growing plants and animals. I want to be in the flowers in the mountains and in an octopus in the sea. Being at this cemetery though I can see why some people would want their bodies there for eternity. It really is gorgeous.

During one of our train rides my dad and I were discussing pickpockets. We both admitted that we really wish we could be a good pickpocket. It seems not only cool but also pretty handy. A recession-proof skill. Apparently my dad went one step farther than I in his career. He and a friend actually attempted to become pickers of pockets during his school days. They “specialized in pencils” as he put it. Each week they would take as many pencils from people's pockets as possible and the person with the most at the end of the week was the winner. He didn't say what the reward would be, other than a huge pile of pencils, but he did say they were quite successful. That is, they were until his friend stole from the school bully and things got a little more dangerous.


~Bad Habits~

Not much to write about as I studied most of the day. We did have a good drink though that is worth mentioning. Mom and Dad met me at school in the evening to get a tour and we ended up having dinner there in the bar downstairs. Yes, all you Utahns and state-school kids, I said bar. At school. Things are different in wonderful ways here in London! Dad ordered a Bad Habit shot which, though he didn't share, looked delicious. So whip out your double shot glass and give this a go. First pour in a shot of Peach Schnapps (if you know me AT ALL you know that I firmly believe this to be the best way to start any drink). Next, take a spoon and flip so the curve side is up and slowly pour a shot of vodka over that. The aim being to allow it to float on top of the schnapps. Ok. So now you have two shots of clear stuff and, while you can see a line where the two meet, it isn't very sexy. For the final touch put a tiny bit of a berry juice in the spoon -curved side down this time, of course (our bartender used black currant but that's a lot more prevalent here than at home so use whatever berry juice you can come up with). Really lightly, barely touch the spoon to the side of the glass above the vodka so that the juice makes contact and seeps down between the layers. The result is a beautiful shot; clear all the way through with a magical hint of color in the middle. Well, what are you doing still reading? Off to the liquor closet with you!

~Barcelona~

The sun can never be far from the nearest palm tree and Barcelona is full of them. It is also full of tall, dark, handsome Spanish men so that's an extra bonus. I decided I am going to contribute to the hot guys reading books blog so I am always on the prowl for a suitable subject. While we were on our tour bus yesterday I also resolved to create a Hot Guys Riding Bikes blog. Dad and I began discussing the possibilities of new sites and came up with: “Trashy Chicks Throwing Up” and “Get a Room” (dedicated to pictures of unabashed and socially inappropriate PDA; inspired by a couple in the park that were going at it so fiercely we were worried someone might get hurt).

Also of note is my habit of now looking right when I cross streets instead of left. I did not anticipate getting programmed so quickly for the backwards-driving ways of the Brits but I have almost stepped in front of several cars here in Spain and am trying to rewire my mind again. Oh! And I saw a t-shirt I really liked. The essence of it is this: the usual evolution tee with various stages of man's existence. First, the chimp, predictably. Second, a man standing upright. Third, a man bent over with the weight of carrying a cross. Fourth, a man standing upright with the Pi symbol above his head. I'm not sure how to google that to find a picture but I will give it a shot.

Funny line of the day: Mom offered Dad a bite of her sandwich and when he took it from her he asked,”Can I pick my zone?” I laughed so hard! I mean everyone does that when they are offered a taste of someone else's food, right? If someone hands me Ben & Jerry's I always scout out the chunkiest bite or if it's, say, a pizza I look for the most satisfying section. It just made me laugh that Dad actually put words to it.

Things Barcelona does better than London: Sun. Sangria. Spanish. Strollers. Nachos!!!




No L s

As I type, I am sitting on a train to our next destination. I can't get inspired to read a book or even take a nap. What I want to do is run around. My body was dedicated to studying for so many days that it is craving a good hearty burst of exercise. I want to hike a mountain, or ride a bike for hours, or go swimming, or run. Not even yoga sounds enticing. I want something that exhausts my entire body so much that I can't move my arms for the next two days. Perhaps if the doors didn't prevent me from doing so, I might exercise up and down the cabin. That may seem odd to the other passengers but at this point I am not sure that I care.



Things I Miss from Utah (besides all my lovely friends :)

Decaf Chai Tea from the Tea Grotto

Nachos from D'Edge

Brewvies

Brewvies with Kristen

Briewvies with Kristen & Alex

Book Club

BBQ's

Parties at the condo

My bike

The mountains

The way it smells when it rains in Utah

Real Milkshakes

Walks at Liberty Park

Park Cafe

Barbacoa

Andrea, the girl who cuts my hair

Being excited when it rains because it has been soooo long

24-hour Smith's right across the street

Tank top weather

Ruth's Diner Biscuits

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Um, Yes Please!

I must confess I like to be purposefully vague and cryptic in my blog posts and facebook updates.  As it turns out that leaves a lot of room for questions and interpretation (kind of the point I suppose).  Here's clarification about this post as it has been questioned...I spent far too much time this day looking at far too many blogs and time-suck websites.  These are the things I liked best :) 


Let us dissect: On a train in a remote place: check.  Reading in a language foreign to mine: check.  Perfect dark hair, dark stubble, and dark-framed glasses: check, check, and check.    

Yeah, this puppy loves him hard and there's just no way a puppy would love a person who isn't awesome.  Plus again, the hot and the reading just make this fantastic. 




You know when you LOVE a song?  As in REALLY LOVE a song?  You play it over and over and over and over and over hoping to absorb every last drop, every note, every fluctuation?  This is my new one of those songs...Who Says by John Mayer (I never promised it would be a respectable song, musically, or lyrically, or even this-guy-has-got-to-be-the-biggest-asshole-ely speaking but I love it).  Also, you may get in a bad habit of watching the video over and over and over because he is BEEEEautiful!  (see minute 2:45 in the video as proof of this statement.  As I explained to a friend, you will want to rip off his wife beater, clasp his tattooed bicep and jump in the pool.  Seek help immediately if you do not feel this way)

Notes on a Scandal

"Are not our lives too short for that full utterance which through all our stammerings is of course our only abiding intention?"  Joseph Conrad, Lord Jim


Question:  Does the book make them hotter than they would normally be?  Either way, possibly the best blog ever :) 


Challenge:  Use this in a conversation (I'm assuming it might be best suited to a verbal altercation) "He was not nurtured with the delicate milk of a woman but the blood of tigers and the furies of hell.  He was the wrath of heaven which hurled its lightning against the patria, a demon in human flesh which drowned Venezuela in blood." 

Observation:  A backwards ladybug landed on my arm yesterday; all black with red spots.  He left too fast to snap a photo but here's someone else's.

Note to self:  Go here.

Doppelgangers seen since arriving:  Erin, Alex, Cute Brett, Bjet, Chris, Dan. 

Doppelgangers of the day (Oct 8th): Tim Burton and Helena Bonham Carter

British Library muffin of the day: Blueberry Raspberry Coconut (I personally challenge Ms. Mallon to make this straight away). 

UN moment: Eating dinner with girls from South Africa, Australia, France/Senegal, Israel, Belgium and the US.  

Personal Victory: Using my brain to beat the guy with the iPhone :)  

One of these things is not like the other: Cisco, Emilio, Cesar, Jose, Ed.


.   

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Pilates, Presentations, and Popping Zits

Not much exciting news to share today.  I went to my first studio class at the school gym.  Today was pilates.  Starting the day with lots of stretches just makes a gal feel good.  My abs are starting to feel the workout now which is awesome.  :)  Presented my case study on Costa Rica today in class so that's out the way, now just studying for the final which is a week from today.  I can't wait to be done but I feel that there is just so much to do.  I also have to find a way to get about 8 hours of work in at the school for my scholarship requirement.  Blah.  Too many things.  Hopefully next semester won't be as busy right up front so I can get the 20 hours out of the way from the beginning.  After school I went with Lindsey to get some delicious nachos for dinner and fabulous flan for dessert.  We had an entertaining and enlightening conversation about many things that won't be repeated here but needless to say it was a great way to unwind after a long couple of days.  Lastly, for your entertainment, here's a link to the new OK go video.  I happened to like this line in particular...Nothing ever doesn't change but nothing changes much.








Tuesday, October 5, 2010

A Quickie

A quickie post that is.  Sorry to disappoint if you were expecting a good juicy story of a romp in London.  I have approximately two minutes before I have to get back to reading today's 50 remaining pages of The History of Latin America by Marshall Eakin.  The plan, of course, was to read this book throughout the course of our term and finish it a week ago so that I could digest it and focus on my final.  As with all good procrastination, however, I found all kinds of reasons not to read (namely everything).  The book is great, mind you, well written and easy to follow.  The stories are interesting and, after having discussed the events of Latin American history for the past seven weeks, it provides a really good review of the key points, players, and countries involved in the continent's past and present.  I may buy it to read again in the future when I am not working on five million other things.  And by five million I, of course, mean one.  Tomorrow we present our case study on a Latin American country of our choosing.  I picked Costa Rica A) because it is beautiful and I had an amazing trip there in 2006 with my awesome friend during which I may or may not have gone skinny dipping with a beautiful English boy in the incredibly warm ocean under the full moon which, if it happened, would be one of the better stories of my life so far and B) it has a really unique history when it comes to politics compared to many Latin American nations.  I spent nearly seven hours today preparing the slideshow (after about nine hours yesterday reading the material and three or four hours on Sunday doing research).  I think I have it together now but its one of those situations where I could always feel more prepared.  Our class only has four students and three of us have another class together so the public speaking part isn't too bad.  The fear comes from being informed enough to back up my thoughts and also to survive any questions my teacher has about it.  She is incredibly smart, well read and educated about this topic (sounds basic as she is teaching it but I have had many professors who did not meet this expectation) and she is also really kind but discerning, honest, and straightforward.  As a result I am scared of sounding like a complete idiot when she sees something in my presentation that makes my whole argument crumble.  Oh well, can't do much more at this point.

And now for your daily cupcake:
  • More on yesterday's theme of Harry Potter.  My school is Hogwarts.  No, it wasn't filmed there but it has to be based on it.  There are staircases going nowhere; doors that look like they would take you to the right place but somehow open to a completely different wing; buildings that are linked and yet through which you can find no passage (clearly this is hiding a room of requirement), and I am pretty sure these things all move around on a regular basis.  
  • No Jeans October is now completing its fifth day.  So far so good.  I was going to rock a dress today but didn't quite get there.  I think tomorrow might work but we'll see how things feel in the morning.  As I sat in class today I chose to brainstorm about the next monthly challenge instead of taking notes on war, crisis and revolution.  I came to the conclusion that it would have been more fitting, name-wise, to do No Jeans November and maybe something like Yogtober where I do yoga every day in October but I guess it's too late now (this is how boring my class was).  I am enjoying the thought of having a theme from month to month so I made a list of things that I want to change, work on, learn about, etc.  November will be here really soon (especially since I will be on break for almost two weeks of it!!!).   Here are some ideas I had for upcoming months.  If you have any other suggestions or would like to participate with me that would rock!!!  Ok, ideas of things to do every day for a month:
    • No eating out at restaurants
    • Write a letter/postcard 
    • Keep my room completely clean every single day for a whole month (probably the hardest challenge ever)
    • Take and post a new picture
    • Walk 3-5 miles
  • Two cultural notes on London:
    • The word "jaywalking" does not exist here.  I do not say this sarcastically but with true sincerity.  Everyone does it every day at every intersection but there isn't a word to describe it.  It's just crossing the street.  I heard an American try to explain to an English person that there is a word for crossing the street "illegally," but as it's not illegal here there is really no need for the verb.  
    • Also interesting, in the UK there is no law that says you have to be able to furnish identification at any given moment.  It's your right to remain anonymous.  If you are pulled over without a license you have to provide proof to the court within five days but you don't have to have it on you.  These two facts combined are what lead to people having their peppermints confiscated when the visit places like the US.    
  • If you hop on a bus or train here and someone has their bag on empty chair, it is perfectly acceptable to pick it up and hand it to them politely as you take the seat (If they don't move it first that is.  They are really quite aware of these things).  This eliminates the need to stand up for the duration of your journey, angrily sneering at the offender and lusting after the seat while simultaneously texting your friends about how much it pisses you off when people take up a chair with their bag (you know who you are).    
Well, that two minutes turned into about forty (see what I said about the procrastinating?) so I best be off to read now.  Sleep would be my first choice but I suppose it's always beneficial to read a bedtime story about imperialism and cultural destruction to give me lovely dreams.  Night night!  

Monday, October 4, 2010

Cupcake Shmupcake, Give Me Summer Pudding!


For the last three weeks I have been carrying around an adorable, cupcake-themed notebook to record any funny/interesting/ridiculous things that may cross my path. I used to do this at home to remind myself about the little things that made me laugh/think/smirk respectively. As with the blog, I haven't been very good at documenting these things because, well I really can't give a good excuse. In the vein of my renewed dedication to y'all, however, I kept it handy today. I will share what I have so far:
  • "If you are going to visit London, do it in September" (obviously this note was written before today...). The weather in August, while lovely, was temperamental and in it we experienced a week as cold and wet as would be expected in January (London January, not Utah January but still). As with all British systems, the weather is highly regulated and works in strict accordance to the established rules, most specifically the calendar. The moment I flipped the page from August to September, the clouds lifted and the temperatures rose. Throughout the month we had gorgeous sunny days and very limited rain. As planned, this all changed on October 1st. Grey skies and rain have dominated the agenda. The sun is still popping out now and again to remind us that it can and to make us appreciate it more (falling in line with another established English norm...passive aggressivity - Ok, being fair, that really is a stereotype. All things considered, they are much less passive aggressive than Americans. You will know if you have upset an English person. They will tell you. Directly. And using smart vocabulary. I highly recommend it just for the experience).
  • Enroll is spelled Enrol. That's just wrong.
  • You must try Summer Pudding. I ate this at my relative's house a couple of weekends ago and my life hasn't been the same since. Perhaps it is due to my mild obsession with berries and perhaps it was the atmosphere but I could not get enough of this. Apparently it is really easy to make too. Take some bread and line a pan, overload the middle with tons of berries (blue, black, rasp, straw, whatever you fancy), put in a little sugar water, put something heavy on top to smush down all the berries and make them get all juicy, then cook it for a bit on a low temperature. Simple enough. I can't seem to load a picture but here's two links for you to check out.
  • Harry Potter- The more time I spend in the city the more I realize JK is a keen observer of its people, its habits, its annoyances, and its charm.  I thought about her while I was waiting for the bus this morning...cue the Wayne's World flashback segue.  On Saturday I worked my first shift for my new job (and earned my first hay pennies!).  I had to take the bus from my house to the home of a chef who was throwing a dinner party for some friends.  Not only did I wait ages for the bus but when it did come we moved all of ten feet before stopping for another three minutes.  It took FOREVER to get just a mile or so down the street.  On the way home, however, it was close to midnight and we flew past all the stops, unhindered by pesky patrons slowing down our progress and unimpeded by loads of cars blocking our path.  It was beautiful!  This morning I waited patiently for my bus but as it came into view I realized it would still be a good five minutes before I would be free to sit down and enjoy the slow ride.  This feeling of being so close and yet so far made me appreciate the true magic of the Knight Bus.  It gets you places!!! And FAST!!!  It weaves in and out of traffic, forcing itself through nooks and crannies, with the sole purpose of seeing you to your destination as quickly as possible.  That is beyond magical.  That is miraculous! 




Sunday, October 3, 2010

The British Library

Today I am at the British Library.  As I type, I am sitting in an atrium, the center of which is filled with four stories of books.  These are not the books any of us (apart from bjet perhaps) have on our shelves at home.  They are leather bound (red, green, brown, white, black) with gold writing, each sporting a delicate ribbon to hold your place while you fetch your next cup of tea.  This explains the quote outside the front gates: "You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me" C.S. Lewis.  Within the first minutes of being here I had tears in my eyes (and that's without even being able to go into the stacks).  This place exudes freedom and enlightenment.  It makes you know you that anyone can sit down, read a book, and find themselves more connected to the world, more aware of the beautiful simplicity and astounding complexity of it all.  The power of the written word is undeniable and to be surrounded by such a wealth of knowledge is exhilarating and overwhelming.  I love the way my brain feels when I read a book that alters my reality.  It's not always the same sensation; sometimes its a loud click that reverberates through my body giving me goosebumps, sometimes it a gentle shift as the world I know rotates slightly to align with the new truths I discovered.  No matter how it occurs, this feeling is inevitably rewarding and incredibly addictive.  I feel lucky to have such a haven half an hour from my door.




Hello All (Especially Yoshi)

A sad and wonderful fact of my life is that I don't post frequently because I have soooo much going on.  That's the wonderful part (streets to wander, cafes to discover, homework to do, "celebrity" events to attend...) I get home and fall into bed every night with no energy to type a few words on the day.  The sad part is that there is soooo much I want to tell you all about and I keep not doing it.  This place is incredibly amazing and makes me smile on a daily basis.  The hard part for me is figuring out a way to actually get that across to you on this blog.  I know there are a  couple of you who actually read this and I feel that I am letting you down.  Therefore, I hereby decree that I am determined to write something, anything, at least five days a week.  You are all now getting a slot in my schedule daily that I will not put off.  The posts may be short and I can't promise they will be exciting but I am hoping that if i write more regularly you will start to get a feel for the city and its charm.  Here we go... 

Thursday, September 23, 2010

An Idiot Abroad

I hope you can watch this in its full version.  It's fantastically wonderful in so many ways.  I just want to be friends with him!