Monday, August 23, 2010

First Day of School (Tomorrow)

And now for the subject at hand.  Despite the appeal of never having obligations, I did not just move here to be a tourist.  I did, in fact, come for school.  My program starts tomorrow and many of you have asked about what classes I am taking.  Each semester is divided into two eight-week sessions (so basically quarters I suppose).  Each session we take two classes (only four hours of class time for each one each week so that's awesome!).

Fall Session 1:
Introduction to International Relations: "Students are introduced to the discipline of international relations through an overview of international security, foreign policy, international organizations, international law and international political economy.  Students Examine the basic structure, processes and issues relating to international affairs."

Area Studies (Latin America Focus): "The student examines the history, culture, politics, and economic systems of regions and countries that play an important role in world politics.  Specific content varies from term to term and includes regions such as Africa, the Middle East, Latin America, Eastern and Western Europe, the Commonwealth of Independent States, and North America."

And for Fall 2:
Research Methods and Perspectives: "You will be introduced to skills, methodological issues and bibliographic resources, which enhance your ability to evaluate critically and to conduct research in the field of international relations."

Area Studies again but with a focus on the Middle East

And now for a tour of the school...

The bathrooms.  Oh wait, sorry.  The library.

The atrium and seating area

From the other side

The lovely ivy

The back entrance to the school cuts through a beautiful park area.  I found the entrance to this hidden little side garden today when I was roaming around.  I will definitely be studying here when the weather is nice.  The moment I walked through the gates I felt that amazing feeling of relaxation that only a sea of green can provide.  

Dibs!!!!  I licked it so it's mine.

Dan McGrew

Yesterday I listened to a guy in the park spontaneously recite this ENTIRE poem from memory for our pure entertainment.  It was awesome!!!
A bunch of the boys were whooping it up in the Malamute saloon;
The kid that handles the music-box was hitting a jag-time tune;
Back of the bar, in a solo game, sat Dangerous Dan McGrew,
And watching his luck was his light-o'-love, the lady that's known as Lou.
When out of the night, which was fifty below, and into the din and the glare,
There stumbled a miner fresh from the creeks, dog-dirty, and loaded for bear.
He looked like a man with a foot in the grave and scarcely the strength of a louse,
Yet he tilted a poke of dust on the bar, and he called for drinks for the house.
There was none could place the stranger's face, though we searched ourselves for a clue;
But we drank his health, and the last to drink was Dangerous Dan McGrew.
There's men that somehow just grip your eyes, and hold them hard like a spell;
And such was he, and he looked to me like a man who had lived in hell;
With a face most hair, and the dreary stare of a dog whose day is done,
As he watered the green stuff in his glass, and the drops fell one by one.
Then I got to figgering who he was, and wondering what he'd do,
And I turned my head -- and there watching him was the lady that's known as Lou.
His eyes went rubbering round the room, and he seemed in a kind of daze,
Till at last that old piano fell in the way of his wandering gaze.
The rag-time kid was having a drink; there was no one else on the stool,
So the stranger stumbles across the room, and flops down there like a fool.
In a buckskin shirt that was glazed with dirt he sat, and I saw him sway;
Then he clutched the keys with his talon hands -- my God! but that man could play.
Were you ever out in the Great Alone, when the moon was awful clear,
And the icy mountains hemmed you in with a silence you most could HEAR;
With only the howl of a timber wolf, and you camped there in the cold,
A half-dead thing in a stark, dead world, clean mad for the muck called gold;
While high overhead, green, yellow and red, the North Lights swept in bars? --
Then you've a haunch what the music meant . . . hunger and night and the stars.
And hunger not of the belly kind, that's banished with bacon and beans,
But the gnawing hunger of lonely men for a home and all that it means;
For a fireside far from the cares that are, four walls and a roof above;
But oh! so cramful of cosy joy, and crowned with a woman's love --
A woman dearer than all the world, and true as Heaven is true --
(God! how ghastly she looks through her rouge, -- the lady that's known as Lou.)
Then on a sudden the music changed, so soft that you scarce could hear;
But you felt that your life had been looted clean of all that it once held dear;
That someone had stolen the woman you loved; that her love was a devil's lie;
That your guts were gone, and the best for you was to crawl away and die.
'Twas the crowning cry of a heart's despair, and it thrilled you through and through --
"I guess I'll make it a spread misere," said Dangerous Dan McGrew.
The music almost died away . . . then it burst like a pent-up flood;
And it seemed to say, "Repay, repay," and my eyes were blind with blood.
The thought came back of an ancient wrong, and it stung like a frozen lash,
And the lust awoke to kill, to kill . . . then the music stopped with a crash,
And the stranger turned, and his eyes they burned in a most peculiar way;
In a buckskin shirt that was glazed with dirt he sat, and I saw him sway;
Then his lips went in in a kind of grin, and he spoke, and his voice was calm,
And "Boys," says he, "you don't know me, and none of you care a damn;
But I want to state, and my words are straight, and I'll bet my poke they're true,
That one of you is a hound of hell . . . and that one is Dan McGrew."
Then I ducked my head, and the lights went out, and two guns blazed in the dark,
And a woman screamed, and the lights went up, and two men lay stiff and stark.
Pitched on his head, and pumped full of lead, was Dangerous Dan McGrew,
While the man from the creeks lay clutched to the breast of the lady that's known as Lou.
These are the simple facts of the case, and I guess I ought to know.
They say that the stranger was crazed with "hooch", and I'm not denying it's so.
I'm not so wise as the lawyer guys, but strictly between us two --
The woman that kissed him and -- pinched his poke -- was the lady that's known as Lou.

The illustration above is  by Marilen Van Nimwegen- Courtesy of  Hancock House Publishers

Friday, August 20, 2010

Unpredictable Predictive Search Choices

Adverse Camber

I feel sometimes that even the street signs here are out of my league. At home I am pretty sure the most technically advanced sign is Steep Grade.  We would get in a crash doing double takes on a sign like this.  

What Car? Q&A - What does 'adverse camber' mean?

Thursday, April 13, 2006
Porsche 911 GT3 RS
Q: Driving through road works on my way to work I saw a sign that read 'adverse camber'. Can you tell me what this was?
Nigel Owen

A: Camber is how a road slopes from the centre to the sides. When approaching a right hand bend, for instance, it would normally tilts down from the left hand side of the road towards the centre. This 'crossfall camber' assists safe cornering, because it provides some compensation for the degree of left-lean that a vehicle experiences as it negotiates the right-hand bend.                                                                                                                    

At road works, it is not always practical to maintain this desirable road camber. So the term adverse camber can be applied to any road that tilts on the same side that the car leans in a given bend. Taken at an appropriately low speed, adverse cambers are at worst a little uncomfortable, but if your speed is too high, or you're in a high-sided vehicle, they can prove more dangerous.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Ramblin' through Regent's

Yesterday I had a lovely afternoon.  I was missing E so I decided to do the few things I know she enjoys in the city.  First I had a cup of hot chocolate and a pan aux raisins at the Maison Blanc. The pastry was so authentic and delectable.  The raisins were absolutely perfect; not thrown on the top at the last minute and left to burn (though crispy raisins have their place in life) and not too mushy either but just that delicious amount of plumpness surrounded by layer upon layer of crispy, buttery pastry.  The hot chocolate was mild enough to leave me wanting more but in the good way.  Often I will drink chocolate and be overwhelmed by the flavor before the end of the cup.  And most annoying is when the last couple of sips are all thick with the chocolate that settled out.  Ok ok, Alex, I hear you "The super concentrated stuff is the sweetest and most delicious.  Like the powder at the bottom of Fruity Pebbles," but here our opinions differ.

After my treat, I walked down to the west-side entrance of the park.  I hadn't been so far up that side of the park yet so I immediately saw new gardens, ponds, and secluded seating areas.  I meandered over the hidden bridges-taking pictures of flora and fauna along the way-and found myself in the huge open field north of the Inner Circle.  The weather was gorgeous so I found a spot in the middle grass near no trees or benches and laid down to watch the clouds. Perfectly peaceful.  I took a minute to just soak in the surroundings and really let myself believe that this is my new home.  I get incredibly excited when I think that I can wander through that park every day if I want.  Eventually that feeling morphed into one of sweet contentment which I basked in for a moment.  

Apparently this leg thing is a thing that swans do....

From there I cut through to the Inner Circle and into the Queen Mary's Garden.  Prior to this trip I tended to walk through the southeast part so I turned due North to see what new things I could find (after snapping some shots of a beautiful orange and pink rose of course).  The rose garden is in between blooms at the moment.  The first phase has mostly died off but the buds are in place for a brilliant second wave.  I'll send you pics as soon as it happens.  On my left was a finely manicured garden full of pink and purple flowers which surrounded a statue.  The area was roped off to prevent damage but it was open enough I could see the whole area.  The amount of work that goes into this park astounds me and even though the weather has been hot and dry it was clear that someone spent hours of time keeping it watered and loved.

At the top of the north-heading pathway was a really cool fountain.  In the middle is a well built guy, I am presuming a god, probably Poseidon as it was sea themed, who was blowing into a horn out of which the water sprayed.  He wore a towel that was hanging just two inches below the falling off phase which seemed to me to be a waste of extra bronze.  Why put a towel there at all, I ask?  Two topless beauties clung to his sides with expressions somewhere between fear/awe and sexual arousal (the look men are probably always hoping for in reality).

To the left of this area is the entrance to the open air amphitheater. The current production is Into the Woods. I was hoping to be able to watch rehearsals or see the set at least but it was locked up.  So I walked across the path to what seemed a lovely little hidden garden area.  The flowers were in their prime and the bees were going nuts about it.  I took some close-ups of the blossoms and some came out really well.  The new camera really is carrying it's weight when it comes to doing what I hope for it to do.

This garden led into another more open garden cram packed with hundreds of species of flowers.  A couple was there having engagement photos taken so I didn't spend much time lingering before I moved on.  I did manage to get a picture of the buds on one of the flowers so i can go back in a couple of days and show you the before and after.  The flower was so full of buds starting to hint at their pink potential.

The last section of the park covered some ground I had seen before until I got to the tiny island in the middle of the pond.  I had seen people on there but wasn't sure exactly how to get there so I spent some time finding the way in.  It's mostly just an island for the birds and other wildlife to spend the day on but it is also well-maintained and quite artsy and cute. The bridge out of the park is just across the path from there so I walked across and took some shots of the flowers along the way.

Reasonably, the only place that made sense for dinner at this point was The Volunteer.  This pub is close to the park and is one that Erin has been telling me about for years.  I was meant to go and have dinner along with a Fruli to top off the day.  Sadly, the Fruli was not working yesterday so I had to settle for a cider.  Sad day indeed.  For dinner I ate the spinach, lentil and potato burger.  I had the same burger at the Sun in Splendor last week and was quite excited about it. The patty is massive and then they dress it with salsa and sour cream (one of the worlds most amazing combinations).  A lovely end to a lovely day!!!!

Oh Deary Me

We left for Cathy's a week ago today and I've still not posted the pics up.  Let's see a few, shall we?

The closest shot I could get of the plane dancer people.  The next pic is farther away but you can see them more clearly.
See the little people on top? At one point one of the planes turned upside down parallel to the other and those people touched hands.  Crazy, no? 
Mom, Cathy, and Ali
Doug and Freddie watching the planes together.  It was one of the few times Freddie was actually interested but a cute father/son moment nevertheless.  :)
Freddie living it up on the big monkey slide.  He looked incredibly tiny on that thing but he LOVED every minute of the eight he was allowed to play on it. 
The crowd.  Note to self: maybe don't bring Cami here. 
CANDY!  And yes.  I did.
The Red Arrows.  Absolutely entrancing -and at times terrifying- to watch!!!
In formation
Frank rocking the Pimm's
Frank and Frank sharing a drink at last :)
One of my favorite pubs in England!
The official sign for The Six Bells