Almost there...

Saturday, March 29, 2003

It's our last day in London and we just picked up half priced tickets to see The Reduced Shakespeare Company do The Complete Works of Shakespeare (abridged) for half price on Leicster Square. After that, it's back to the hotel to do a bit of laundry at the laundromat down the street.

Things have been really great so far. London is just a fabulous town. Rick and I have been mistaken for locals twice now, once by a tourist looking for a tube stop, and then just now by a Londoner taking a survey. She said, ''Wait, are you tourists?'' Um, yeah....

London has a company that offers really great walking tours. We took a London Panorama walk on Monday afternoon, which was a lovely overview of downtown London and Westminister including a boat ride down the Thames. Last night we took an 'Along the Thames' pub walk. Also, just lovely. At the first pub stop, we followed our tour guide down the the banks of the Thames for some beach combing. He pointed out the medieval roof tiles and bits of clay tobacco pipes. I picked up a few for souvenirs.

Thursday we drove out to Bath, with the intention of stopping at Salisbury and Stonehenge on the way. We kind of missed, but did get to see Silbury Hill and Avebury instead where you can actually walk up and touch the henge. Then we headed on the rest of the way to Bath. Driving on the other side of the road is pretty easy, but the roundabouts are really stressful for a rookie. Not only was I struggling with orientation, I was also trying to figure out how gutsy I could stand being. They just don't believe in stop signs here though. Every intersection is a roundabout in the country. But the country is beautiful. In Bath we wandered through town and drooled madly at the costume museum (and the costume museum bookshop). Then we went to the Roman Baths and drank the water - warm and sulfery, kind of like drinking Davis water on a hot summer day. Not exactly tasty, but good for you they say. Getting back to London, we got wicked lost trying to get back to the airport. Between poor maps, lack of reading the directions, and missing signs, we ended up two hours later than planned. Oh well. Should've taken the train, but it was an experience driving on the left, so whatever.

Wednesday we did theater. First, The Lion King, which was good, but I already knew the story of course, so I actually enjoyed our second show, Ragtime, much more. Ragtime is as good as John told me it was when he tried to get me to go see it while it and I were in L.A.. I should've done it then, but now was just perfect too.

Well, gotta run to the theater. We'll see if internet access is as easy in Paris.

Tuesday, March 25, 2003

Well, I'm in London and it's great. The weather couldn't be better. It's even surprising the locals with how beautiful it's been for the last week or so. Generally it's about 65-70 degrees and sunny all day. This brought all the Londoners out in force on Sunday for some impromptu football games in Kensington Park on Sunday.

Meanwhile we've spent time in the Tower of London, took a walking tour, bummed around Leicster Square and Picadilly Square, bumped into my Roman Art and Archaeology professor in the British Museum as he was regaling a group of folks on tour with him about the Portland Vase, had yummy yummy bangers and mash at a pub called The Plough, got sucked into a game store far too close to closing time, and joined a casual Morris class for a bit of longsword and Beansetting. I walked into the Morris class late, but they immediately handed me a sword and threw me in. The instructor, John Russell, was an enthusaistic and forgiving instructor.

We're still a little overwhelmed by all the smoking, but heck, with such cool things as the tube and the Cecil Sharp House, I'd still be willing to move here tomorrow. Meanwhile, I'll keep this short since it's by the minute. Ta for now!

Wednesday, March 19, 2003

It has begun.

There's a petition going around online to return the Statue of Liberty. The people trying to return it are doing it because they don't like the French standing up to us. Me, I think we should return it because we don't understand the meaning of the word liberty here anymore. We were a model to the world at one time. Now we are nothing more than a holier than thou bully.

War is scheduled to start at 5pm my time.

British Airways has given me an out if I want to cancel my vacation.

I hate this. We're getting into a war we can't win. We're pissing off the world. We're making ourselves a bigger target for terrorism. We can't afford to staff the schools as it is, but we're going to spend $80 billion trying to kill one man in another country. Then we're going to take over that country, put in a leader of our choosing, and pay for reconstruction. Iraq will be the first U.S. colony. Oh, and by then, Iran will be getting pissy, so we'll just march next door and kick their ass too. Heck, we'll kick the ass of any Islamic country we want to. 'Cause we're Americans. Meanwhile, America will crumble. Our kids will be (more) undereducated. Other nations will surpass as in technology and productivity because all of our resources will go to the war machine.

Yes, this is a bit alarmist, but not too much. All of this just makes me ill. My sole comfort is that this time next week I'll be sitting in a theater watching The Lion King on stage in London. But my heart is so heavy. And I fear that when I come home from my vacation, the world will never be the same. 9/11 has got nothing on how this will change America's relationship to the world.

Tuesday, March 18, 2003

A few weeks ago, Eric Schlosser came to speak on campus. I'm in the middle of reading Fast Food Nation, so I decided to go to the lecture.

The thing that struck me is that most people don't know any other reality than that of a fast food nation. It was less than 50 years ago that the concept of fast food was even invented, but it's become so ubiquitous that I can't imagine things any other way. And I started thinking about how other industries have followed the model.

Take for example supermarkets. Most people go to Safeway or Albertson's because that's what's in their neighborhood and they may never know the difference. I had the wonderful good fortune to live walking distance from Cosentino's and learn the difference. They have fruit that's selected for its flavor rather than durability. They have butchers who wrap your one sausage for you rather than forcing you to buy a pound and a half of sausage in pre-wrapped styrofoam containers. They sell two different brands of milk, both BGH free, instead of the store brand with no such promise. I'd say 90% of shoppers don't know what they're missing. Certainly the first time I was in Paris, I was amazed at how much better the fruit tasted there than in California, where some of that fruit was almost certainly grown. I thought it was just a matter of French sensibility at the time, but it used to be more of a priority for local markets when they bought their produce individually rather than got whatever the Safeway corporation negotiated for and delivered.

So the lesson of Fast Food Nation needs to be more broadly applied. Buy from local markets, local independently run restaurants, and local service providers whenever you can. If you don't, what they offer may be lost to the nation forever. And the nation will be a poorer place for it.

Okay, so last night was sort of a bizzarre mental disconnect. It was Monday night. Time for Irish dancing. It was St. Patrick's day. Time for Irish dancing. No classes or session at the Plough because it was St. Patrick's day. No other St. Patrick's day dancing plan. Not time for Irish dancing. So very wrong.

I wonder if Tivo was surprised to see me at home on a Monday?

Friday, March 14, 2003

The Director of Administrative Systems Implementation just popped in. Her first words were, "How good is your sense of humor today?" After a bit of banter, she handed me my 1 year service award. Yes, I've been at Stanford for over 2 years. Yes, she knows. That's just kind of the way things are around here.

Now I've got a pretty little award and leather ID holder with a Stanford logo embossed on it. I think I'll make it my lunch money holder. Fill it up each month, and when it's used up, I don't get to go out and eat more. It's a good theory anyway.

Thursday, March 13, 2003

So I was thinking about war stuff this morning while listening to NPR. There's an actual reason why W is getting all huffy and angsty about getting the war underway - Iraqi summers. We can't win a war against 130 degree summer heat in the desert. So on some level, I see why he's rushing into this. Either he gets the war underway in the next couple of weeks, or he has to put it off until next fall. And the world is just not cooperating with his project timeline.

There's a good chance that W needs to be slapped around. War doesn't happen on a tidy time schedule. It's messy. And destroying diplomatic relations with almost every country in the world does not help things. Even his dad sees that.

But there W is, stomping his feet and whining, "But I want to do this now! I hate waiting!" Poor baby.

Wednesday, March 12, 2003

Finished my taxes. For the first year ever, I owed the Feds ($109) and got a refund from the state ($12). That never happens. I always get a refund from the Feds and have to pay the state. Weird. But it's done done done! God bless TurboTax Online. (psst... Follow that link for a 20% discount)

Okay, so it's been a long while since I've posted, and that's due in large part to a software problem with Blogger and my general busy-ness, but today, I decided to rebel a bit against my busy-ness.

The weather here in the Bay has been amazing for days and days. I rode over to a meeting across campus with a co-worker who left for home from there. Walking back across campus with the squirrels and the sunshine and the fountain and everything, I thought, "God what a gorgeous day. I shouldn't go right back to the office. I should do something. I should..." And I looked up and saw Hoover Tower.

Two years I've been working here at Stanford, but today was the first time I've ever been to the top of Hoover Tower. I couldn't have picked a better day. The sky was blue and clear and I could see all the way to downtown San Francisco, where the clouds wrapped the buildings in the financial district with little white wisps. Cars scurried across the bridges. The grass below was green and lush. The hills to the West were green and rolling. Everything was just sublimely beautiful.