30 January 2008

The Result of Too Much Time on my Hands

I was thinking about how some words in English have lots of meanings and uses. Some that came to mind were "bridge," "field," and "head," so here's a story using as many as I could work in there. All in all, 9.2% of the words in this story are one of the three!

A Field Trip

Hello there– I’m Miss Fields. Let me tell you about the field trip I took the school on today… what an adventure! I usually have a good head for child management, which is why I got promoted. I used to be just an office assistant for the head of the school, I’d mostly field phone calls and talk with troublemakers to try to bridge a gap. Now I’m head of the field trip programs. We do creative trips-- such as visiting the bridge of a ship and talking with an expert in the field. Today’s trip was simply to a soccer field to play some ball.

I gathered the kids at the head of the stairs to do a safety talk before we headed out. I hadn’t prepared much to say, I figured I would say whatever came to my head and then field questions. The most important thing for them to get their heads around was to stay within the field of view of the teachers. Last time they couldn’t make heads or tails of that concept, and ran all over the place. However, I assured them that if they didn’t stay in our field of vision, heads would roll. I was sure something would go wrong, but we’d cross that bridge when we came to it.

We headed over to the sports fields. One of the teachers had gone ahead to set up, and to give her a bit more of a head start I paused the kids every so often to make the journey educational. When we crossed a bridge over the stream I had them look at the structure, and by poking their heads around a fence they saw a squirrels’ nest. That sort of field observation is very useful for children. I asked them to describe the American flag we saw waving at the head of the school flagpole, and they remembered about the thirteen stripes and the fifty stars on a blue field.

On the other side of the bridge, we walked past right field of the baseball diamond and reached the soccer field. I asked the two children who would head their teams as captain to call a coin toss. “heads or tails?” John chose heads, and won the toss. “Players, take the field!” I called. Each team huddled for a moment, putting their heads together to decide positions. Play went well for only a few minutes, then it started to look like a battle field out there. John started to yell at his team, the power obviously having gone to his head. Everybody wanted to head the ball, the captains constantly biting the heads off of their teams… it was horrible. The problem came to a head when little Marcus, a head shorter than the rest of the class, got knocked over. The poor kid got a ball in the back of the head and fell flat on his face, breaking the bridge of his glasses and getting covered in dirt from head to toe in the process.

We took a break to talk about teamwork and respect, and when the game restarted it went much better. Marcus wasn’t really hurt (he’s got a tough skull under that head of bright red hair!) and everybody enjoyed the game in the end. We headed back across the bridge to the school, another successful field trip accomplished.

28 January 2008

Create a Schedule?? You try it...

Short version of blog post: "Picking classes is a nightmare and it's annoying."
Long version of blog post:

Subjects I'm looking for:
- linguistics
- translation
- languages
- education-related things
- things that I wouldn't have to study for
- math, if possible

Schedules I therefore have to look at:
- 2nd year English
- 3rd year English
- 3rd year Spanish (for linguistics)
- 3rd year German (for linguistics)
- 1st year Math
- 2nd year Math
- 3rd year Math
- 2nd year education
- 3rd year education

In an ideal situation...
- I wouldn't have any courses that begin before 10 a.m. I have to get up two hours before the class starts, after all.
- I wouldn't have classes on Friday, since I'd like to be able to travel on weekends.

Now filter through to find courses I'd like to take, and find ones that don't conflict. Hopefully, come up with thirty ECTS credits, about eight courses. Make sure that, if one class begins exactly when the previous one ended, they're not too far apart. Make sure that, if a course is part of a "set" (like translation and English composition, or a lecture and a discussion) I can go to both. Pay attention to mysterious codes like "L2," "LV1," and "NN" but ignore ones like "LS" and "LQ." Don't pay too much attention to things like "Gr. 1," unless they're part of a set of courses. Note the classrooms indicated, but remember that they'll probably change.

Ready? It doesn't sound too difficult? Here's an example of what these schedules look like:

Because of all this frustration, I've put together a schedule that draws only from the languages, and mostly from the English department. Except that the third year schedule hasn't been decided yet, so I don't have any of those classes yet. Here is my list of courses plus commentary about why the schedule is so annoying.
- translation from French to English (2nd year)
- English written communication (I'm hoping to not have to continue this one... it's pretty dull. Plus it's taught in French. I think it would be impossible for me to get anything out of it, but I should do well on the exam anyway. Part of a set with the aforementioned translation class.)
- translation from English to French (2nd year) (this one, called version is the literary version of the course called "translation English-French."
- Dutch (still Monday and Thursday evenings)
- Russian (this one turned out to be a nightmare: it starts 15 minutes after Dutch ends (how's 8-10 pm for a class?) and is in the mysterious classroom of IM104. IM I had never heard of. Of all the departments, you have: IPLV, IPSA, IALH, IMA, ESSCEA, and a few others. IMA sounds the closest, so I headed over the math building to look for room 104. There's an office 104, there's a B104, and there's a room 104 near the IRFEA (or something like that) office, which was locked and seemed like it was a closet. So I asked everybody I could find if they had any ideas, and nobody did. I decided to check the language building one last time, and on my way over I had a revelation: Institut Municipal. That's the city-run education center downtown where you can go to take free language classes. That's far away. There are almost no buses. Many of those courses are computer-based, and you have to sign up in September. Lovely. So I won't be taking Russian. At least that means that I'll be able to take the bus home when I'm done with classes-- except today, of course, since I had missed while searching for the elusive I.M.)
- Teaching French as a foreign language: didactics and civilization (I'll see how this is tomorrow. I don't really know what it'll be like.)
- Choir (woohoo!)
- French as a Foreign Language (same as last semester)
- More Dutch
- General Linguistics (I'm planning to drop this one. Getting up at 7am!? Plus it's on a Friday.)

- French to English translation (3rd year) and Enunciation and Pragmatics (also 3rd year), so I might not be able to take either. And the latter might not be any good, anyway.

This is why being an exchange student has turned me into a slacker: it's just too hard to get a good, full course load. With luck I'll have my schedule fixed by the time 3rd year classes start on February 18th.

27 January 2008

Differences in French Catholicism

[Today I did laundry, and boy did I wish I'd procrastinated another day! I put my laundry, and soap, in a machine, and it turned out to be broken so I had to switch. Buh-bye, soap. The machine I ended up using broke before the last spin cycle, so I had the lovely experience of wringing out all of my clothes by hand before putting them in the dryer. There were about five inches of water at the bottom of the machine. For some reason all of Angers's drunks had decided to hang out in the square, and they kept walking by yelling obscenities. (Why they were drunk at noon on a Sunday, I don't know.) Luckily everything dried in my usual 45-minutes, because I didn't have enough change to give it another fifteen. After I hurriedly folded everything, I rushed back home to change to go to the cathedral. The cathedral choirs were singing a farewell Mass for our Bishop. He is, as the choir puts it, getting exiled. Formally though, he's been promoted to Apostolic Administrator and is going to work in Rome.]

I've noticed several little differences (beyond translation) in the way the French Catholic church works, and today during a really long ceremonial Mass I got to notice several more. So here are some peculiarities. Non-Catholics might not find this too interesting, so I've included some jokes at the end of the post to make up for it.
• Gestures
- The kiss of peace is a handshake only with strangers. If you know the people it actually as a kiss.
- The priests' kiss of peace looks like they're butting heads.
- During the confiteor and the "I am not worthy to receive you" bits, the French still whack themselves (gently) on the chest with their right fist.
- No one bows during the bit of the creed about Jesus' conception. (And by the way: they say the Apostles' Creed, not the Nicene.)
- Everyone bows when the priest genuflects after consecrating the hosts and the wine.
- Kneeling is (this is my favorite part about church in France) totally optional. That's because the kneelers, if existent, are significantly more uncomfortable than American kneelers.
• Organization
- The choir is put behind the altar. There's a cantor in front of the altar. There are TVs so that the choir director can watch the cantor to keep everyone in time. I don't know what they did before electricity...
- There are two organs: the little organ accompanies the choir and priests. The big organ accompanies the congregation.
- They almost never open the big doors (which are about thirty feet high and twenty feet wide) at the end of Mass, just the normal-sized door built in to the big door. This means that it takes a really long time to get out the door. However, everyone stays until the end.
• Music
- No closing hymn, ever.
- The Sanctus is always sung, but the Benedictus is usually dropped.
- The French are 378% worse than English-speakers at leaving off ending consonants when singing in Latin.
- According to the choir school's director, "It won't really matter if you sing in unison, or in four parts, or something else. Henri-Franck will be playing so loudly that no one will hear you anyway."
- The more modern the music, the less people like it. A French choir would hate music in American churches.
• Clothing
- Since this was a very ceremonial Mass, there were about 160 priests and deacons there (including all of the Anjou diocese and a whole lot of priests and bishops from other parts of France), a lot of monks and nuns, some priests in fancy black robes with nice embroidery called the Ordre du Malte (?), some priests in gold robes, some priests with fancy long white capes, and a lot of priests with interesting hats.
- For the procession, the choirs (all 100 of us) processed out first, then we moved to the sides of the aisle and the priests processed out "through" us. This is typical, but usually it only takes a couple minutes. Out of all of these scores of priests, I saw five wearing the "Roman collar," the black/gray and white collar that most people think of when they think of priests. Apparently it's a personal choice here, and is seen as a really traditional thing.
• Secrets Behind the Altar
- There were 41 priests sitting behind the altar, and it was interesting to watch them as part of a congregation rather than celebrating the Mass. Most paid good attention during the second reading and the Gospel, but all seemed distracted during the first reading.
- Only two (who were both very old) fell asleep during the homily)
- All watched and enjoyed our singing.
- About 25% had to read along on their little Gregorian sheets during the consecration, the rest knew the chant by heart.
- The altar boys sometimes push each other.
- The little altar boys always stare at St. Maurice's skull as they pass it.
- The choir director often makes faces in the direction of the cantor when he does something stupid.
- The altos (in the choir school) get yelled at for whispering more often than the sopranos. The adults are usually well-behaved.

Jokes: (I found this buried in the Stuff folder on my computer.)
Old accountants never die, they just lose their balance.

Old actors never die, they just drop apart.

Old archers never die, they just bow and quiver.

Old architects never die, they just lose their structures.

Old beekeepers never die, they just buzz off.

Old bookkeepers never die, they just lose their figures.

Old bosses never die, much as you want them to. 

Old cashiers never die, they just check out.

Old chauffeurs never die, they just lose their drive.

Old chemists never die, they just fail to react.

Old cleaning people never die, they just kick the bucket.

Old cooks never die, they just get deranged.

Old daredevils never die, they just get discouraged. 

Old deans never die, they just lose their faculties.

Old doctors never die, they just lose their patience.

Old electricians never die, they just lose contact. 

Old farmers never die, they just go to seed. 

Old garagemen never die, they just retire.

Old hackers never die, they just go to bits.

Old hardware engineers never die, they just cache in their chips.

Old hippies never die, they just smell that way.

Old horticulturists never die, they just go to pot. 

Old hypochondriacs never die, they just lose their grippe.

Old investors never die, they just roll over.

Old journalists never die, they just get de-pressed. 

Old laser physicists never die, they just become incoherent.

Old lawyers never die, they just lose their appeal.

Old limbo dancers never die, they just go under. 

Old mathematicians never die, they just disintegrate.

Old milkmaids never die, they just lose their whey.

Old ministers never die, they just get put out to pastor.

Old musicians never die, they just get played out. 

Old number theorists never die, they just get past their prime. 

Old numerical analysts never die, they just get disarrayed.

Old owls never die, they just don't give a hoot. 

Old pacifists never die, they just go to peaces. 

Old photographers never die, they just stop developing.

Old pilots never die, they just go to a higher plane.

Old policemen never die, they just cop out. 

Old professors never die, they just lose their class.

Old programmers never die, they just branch to a new address. 

Old sailors never die, they just get a little dingy. 

Old schools never die, they just lose their principals. 

Old sculptors never die, they just lose their marbles.

Old seers never die, they just lose their vision.

Old sewage workers never die, they just waste away. 

Old soldiers never die. Young ones do.

Old steelmakers never die, they just lose their temper.

Old students never die, they just get degraded. 

Old tanners never die, they just go into hiding. 

Old typists never die, they just lose their justification. 

Old white water rafters never die, they just get disgorged. 

Old wrestlers never die, they just lose their grip.

There is no conclusive evidence about what happens to old skeptics, but their future is doubtful.

Walt Disney didn't die. He's in suspended animation.

Wasn't that optimistic :)

26 January 2008

Since Thursday...

Thursday was somewhat eventful. There was a language department meeting, during which I learned, well, nothing. But I got to see people I hadn't seen since before break, which was nice, and see two other Trumanites who're studying in Angers this semester. Kelsey lived across the hall from me last year, but I'd never met Samantha.

Turns out that I was far from being the only one who missed Dutch on Monday, and a handful missed it Thursday evening too. Our class has five (sometimes six) students: on Monday two were there, and three came on Thursday. After class I went to see "No Country for Old Men," which was very weird. I honestly don't agree with it being nominated for best picture... it lacked all of my "good movie" characteristics. A basic-level movie will have a decent script, decent acting, decent sets, decent filming, decent music, and so on. A good movie will have a gripping script, excellent acting, convincing sets, impressive filming, and captivating music. Or whatever adjectives you like. This movie, therefore, fits very well into the category of "movies I don't regret seeing but don't want to see again." The plot was okay, but depressing. The sets and costumes were good. There was no music; literally no soundtrack. The acting was fine, but not amazing. Visually the film was normal. Honestly, the part I liked best was the French subtitles, and you don't even get to see those in the States. Was this such a bad year for movies? So far I've seen two of the best picture nominees (the other is Atonement) and neither was a Spectacular Film with capital letters.

Friday I had my first new class, another general linguistics course, but two years lower than the one I had first semester. It wasn't bad: the professor's good, I of course love the subject, but I honestly don't think I'll learn much of anything new. If I find another course I'd like to take (especially if it's not on a Friday morning) I'm very willing to drop this one. Friday evening was choir practice, which was fun as usual.

Today (Saturday) I've found a myriad of things to do, probably because I really should go do laundry. I have so many ways to occupy myself when I'm putting off laundry. Better not do laundry, because I really should read the news. Better not do laundry, because I haven't done the dishes from breakfast yet. Better not do laundry, because I need to read a novel. Better not do laundry because I'd need to go get change, and I do so at the bakery by buying something, but I'm not hungry. Putting it off until tomorrow won't hurt though... it should be in the upper 50°s so it won't matter that I'm out of socks, and I can wear a sweater so it won't matter that I'm out of t-shirts...

In other news (like this is newsworthy!) my electronic chia pet, Pasha IV, has been alive for almost two weeks, and my real live flower has been alive in my care for over a week. It was a bit unhappy on Tuesday, so I overwatered it and now it's a bit perky. Since it seems like the thing will survive, it'll need a name. Any suggestions?
I also calculated that I've been in France for 152 days, and I leave in 145. So I'm past the half-way point. Wow. Le temps vole lorsqu'on s'amuse!

23 January 2008

Bored... Bored... Bored... Crêpes

Twiddling my thumbs actually sounds like an interesting activity at the moment.
Exams finished last week, we start choosing classes tomorrow, and it seems that I must be the only one with virtually nothing to do, since I haven't been able to convince anyone to go on a daytrip with me. I don't do well when I have an empty schedule, I really don't. I've done everything I can think of to keep myself occupied:
- I have made and compared three crêpe recipes. My favorite is below.
- I've watched the first two seasons of Lost, plus two movies.
- I cleaned my apartment.
- I made a purse (see my last post) and wrote a long letter to a kid I don't know.
- My "morning exercise program" that I usually only do a few days a month (most of the time I forget) has been done every day.
- I walked back up to the monastery to remind myself what time their masses are.
- I arranged some music.
- I read two books in French.
- I reorganized my desk.
- I gave myself a pedicure.
- Followed that with a manicure.
- Made fun shapes with my plastic rope, and melted them with matches.
- I colored with my new markers.
- Read a couple newspapers.
- Walked around aimlessly.
- Reorganized my digital photo library.
- Figured out if several large numbers are prime.
- And more things...

Essentially, once I finish reading and writing e-mails around ten in the morning, I search for things to do and end up bored. I am SO looking forward to choosing classes tomorrow and Friday and FINALLY getting back into some semblance of a "busy" schedule.

In other news, I've become nocturnal and I need to fix that by tomorrow. And I'm looking forward to Lent because it's a good motivator to force myself to do stuff. And here's that crêpe recipe:

• Metric System Ingredients: Beat three eggs with a tablespoon of oil and half a liter of milk. Gradually incorporate 250g. of flour and a pinch of salt. If you're making sweet crêpes, you can add some sugar and a flavoring thingie (vanilla, orange zest, rhum).
• Much Easier to Use System Ingredients: Beat three eggs with a tablespoon of oil and two cups of milk. Gradually incorporate a coffee-cup-full of flour (a bit more than a cup) and a pinch of salt. Add flavor if you want.

• Now that you've made the batter, heat the biggest non-stick frying pan you have. Put some oil on it if you think you need to. Put a ladleful of batter into the center of the pan, and spread it out so that it covers the whole pan. Let it cook two minutes on fairly low heat, then stick a spatula under the crêpe and flip it. This takes practice, but you'll improve. Besides, broken crêpes taste just as good as whole ones.
• While the other side of the crêpe is cooking (one minute on your medium heat or two on the lowest) you can put stuff on it. Good sweet crêpe fillings include jam, Nutella, chocolate, sliced fruit... be creative. Regular fillings include ham, cheese, spinach, browned ground beef, tomato sauce... mix and match as you like. Fold up some stuff in the crêpe, make sure it's warmed through, and eat. Yum. Extra batter? Cover your bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate it. Extra crêpes? Put them in the refrigerator and heat them up in the microwave when you're hungry.

• My sweet crêpe variant: add about a third of a cup of sugar to the batter and use a bit of extra flour. Flavor with a dash of orange juice, vanilla, cinnamon and ginger.

20 January 2008

Thoughts on Religious Translation and a Brief Description of Angers

Three Comments on Translation in Religious Circumstances.
When you go to Mass in a foreign language, the first thing you pick up is the "And also with you" bit, since it's said about ten times throughout the mass. A better translation of the Latin is "And with your spirit." All fine and dandy until you've got a language with more than one way to say "you." Russian chose the informal "И с духим твоим," and French chose the formal "Et avec votre esprit." Weird. Latin uses (I think) the informal. Why did French formalize it?

Another interesting translation issue is that pesky Greek logos which can mean word or idea or verb or logic or any other number of things. English has "In the beginning there was the Word," and Jesus is referred to as the Word a lot. Russian does the same. French (and Italian and Spanish, and possibly lots more languages that I can't read at all) call Him the Verb. Which makes sense, given that God's name is Yahweh, "I am." He's a Verb, which is more powerful than a general Word.

And my favorite "translator's choice" related to religion is Joseph's coat. Either "many-colored" or "long-sleeved" or any other impressive adjective. Interesting, huh? Of the two French versions I found on the internet, one was vague with "splendide" and the other called it multicolored.
I really like Andrew Lloyd Webber's musical, especially the song with that memory-testing melodically-boring passage "It was red and yellow and green and brown and scarlet and black and ochre and peach and ruby and olive and violet and fawn and lilac and gold and chocolate and mauve and cream and crimson and silver and rose and azure and lemon and russet and gray and purple and white and pink and orange and blue." (I typed that from memory, by the way) But imagine if that song instead went, "It had really really really really really really really really really really really really really really really really really really really really really really really really really really really really long sleeves." Wouldn't be quite as fun.

Making Stuff and A Brief Description of Angers
This weekend I felt like making stuff. Yesterday I went to Carrefour (like Wal-Mart without the craft supplies section) to search for craft-supply substitutes. I wanted to make a fairly sturdy soccer-bag-style backpack. No fabric section means no canvas, so I found some thick blue placemats in the size I needed. No thread, so I got some beading nylon. No ribbon, but I found some polypropylene rope in a nice shade of blue. Incidentally, I figured out that the easiest way to keep the stuff from fraying at the ends is to melt the outer plastic with a lit match. Works like a charm. My new bag is pretty awesome, if I do say so myself, even though it's made of unique materials and I did all the sewing by hand. My rather perforated right middle finger is the proof. Here's a picture:

Ta da!
The other thing I made was a somewhat decorated letter to blogger Dawn's son Austin (see this link). If you live someplace interesting, send the kid a postcard. My resulting letter + postcard is actually a pretty good description of everything that's cool about Angers, historically, architecturally and so on. So I took pictures of it, which I am posting here.

Another week with nothing too specific to do, so hopefully there'll be at least one adventure. I'll post once it happens!

17 January 2008

Various News and Some Funny Stuff

I've been thinking of starting another blog specifically for things like this. I meant for this blog to be the travel stories and educational adventures and the occasional (okay, frequent) recipe, but I keep posting random songs in Swedish and comedian videos and such. Which is all fine and good, but perhaps I should put it somewhere else. So, if you think it would be a good idea for me to have a blog for internet-things-that-make-me-laugh, comment and tell me so.
Anyway, the website is a collection of Dave Barry's "Ask Mister Language Person" columns, and they are all hilarious. Incredibly sarcastic, and very well written. You will enjoy them. I promise.

In academic news, I had my anthropology exam on Wednesday and it wasn't too bad. I had successfully predicted the exam question: the one question that I would least like to answer. However, that meant that I'd spent some extra time thinking about it, so I was able to throw together a halfway decent essay. It wasn't particularly eloquent, but I have the benefit of being a foreigner so that shouldn't matter too much. Second semester starts the week after next, so it's time to choose classes. I have a decent idea of what I want to take, I'm just hoping that things won't conflict too much!

In social news, I went to see a movie with Katie (from Ireland) and Tobias (who's still from Germany). It's called "Atonement" in English, and they call it "Reviens-moi" in French. Good movie, though I wouldn't have given it the best picture Golden Globe. In my opinion, the best movies are the ones that you can watch over and over again, like "the Importance of Being Earnest" and "the Emperor's New Groove" and "Doctor No." Those depressing historical dramas that win best picture every year can be watched an appreciated once. I prefer the other kind.

In culinary news, I made two batches of hamburger, rice and cabbage (cook rice, cabbage and ground beef and mix them together. Eat with ketchup.), some more zucchini soup, and an omelette. It wasn't bad, but I think I'd prefer it without the egg. I'm still searching for decent pickles. I'm almost done with the current jar, which has way too much vinegar and about ten times as many mustard seeds as a good brine should have. There's only one more brand of sour pickles to try, so I'm hoping that they'll be good.

In musical news, the cathedral choir is going to sing mass at the prison in February. I'm pretty excited, I think that'll be a neat cultural experience. I also finished arranging some stuff for a cappella, and it's nice to get those songs off my mental to do list.

In botanical news, I bought a potted flowering plant at the grocery store. Seeing as how I can barely keep my electronic chia pet alive, this should be an interesting experience. I'm just not good with live plants. It has rather thick leaves and tiny red flowers, and the only word on the price tag is the name of a region. No idea how to care for the thing, but I'm hoping that it'll like sitting on the windowsill and being watered every other day.

In adjective news, I'm sure some other stuff has happened recently, but I just finished my exams and therefore my brain function isn't at its peak. More news when it comes to mind!

15 January 2008

And the rain rain rain came down down down...

Two exams down, one to go. Today I had translation, and it was easy as rice pudding (pie is actually quite difficult to make, you know). I was slightly worried about the applied grammar section, since I found out about it a month or so ago and never went to a single class, but that was easy. I thought the sentences were very well chosen: all of them seemed simple but needed rather complex translation. Word by word would not work. The text translation (the half of the exam for the class I actually went to) wasn't bad either. There were only about three words I didn't know, and from context I think I guessed pretty well.

Happy as all that is, it's still raining. Almost every day we've gotten a speck of sun, but today there hasn't been any yet. It was raining when I walked to my exam this morning (a bit more than a mile away, but much faster to walk then to take buses in this case), it was raining when I walked back, it rained all morning, it rained at lunchtime, it's still raining. And I normally wouldn't mind, because I like rain. But there's NO THUNDER. I just realized that, although it's rained about 80% of the days since October and before that 30%, there hasn't been a thunderstorm. No lightning. No hard rain, usually-- just constant drizzle or light rain. And that gets boring.

But the rain got a certain Winnie the Pooh song stuck in my head, and I decided to look for it on YouTube. And I found it... in Swedish!! It's amazing fun.

One of the links on the side for a related video was a Winnie the Pooh theme in Dutch. Also fun, and I understand about half.

And that led me to find these:

See how much fun being a linguist can be? Watching cartoons is an educational experience. Face it, not just anybody can go searching for a specific song they want and then be thrilled when they can only find it in a language they don't understand.
Last exam tomorrow morning, which should be fine if I can get myself to study some more instead of cooking and watching Lost!

12 January 2008

Hair Photo, Movie Report, and Recipe

Here's a photo of my hair. My three style choices are:
1) headband
2) barrettes
3) neither
This is the first. It's not so bad... I'll get used to it. It just doesn't seem very "me." And if I wear anything remotely boyish (like jeans and a t-shirt) it makes me feel too tomboyish, which means that my hair is making me feel the need to dress more femininely. Not too easy in the winter.

Tonight I went to see "Into the Wild" with Tobi. It was a powerful movie: happy in a way, enlightening in a way, inspiring in a way, and depressing in a way. Type of movie that makes you think.

I attempted to make a puree soup today, since my freezer has absolutely no room in it and therefore I wanted to use about a kilogram of frozen zucchini. Basically I boiled it in broth and spices and then forced the resulting squishy zucchini through my sieve until it was a lovely puree. It would be significantly easier if I had an immersible blender, but I don't. If I did, I would probably make this type of soup more often. It tasted good, but it wasn't quite worth the effort. It's weird that French soups are almost always purees, though. I wonder when they stopped eating soup with chunks of stuff in it...

Friday Summary, and a List of Interesting Idioms

Yesterday I apparently used a number of idioms that I hadn't heard before. I didn't know any of these phrases existed. So here's a useful French-French guide to getting a haircut (translated into English):

"About five centimeters. Or a bit less."
Means: "At least ten centimeters. Actually, just cut off all my hair, please."

"My hair is curly."
Means: "Make my hair so short that it won't be curly any more."

"Yes, that picture is the right length."
Means: "No, make it significantly shorter."

"Something that styles itself? Yes, that's what I want."
Means: "Something that styles itself? No, just make it so that I can no longer style it."

"No, you don't need to style it."
Means: "Please. I'd love to pay you for something I'm going to go home and change anyway."

I've never before gotten a haircut that made me cry. This one did. It'll take about four months for my hair to get to the length I asked for. One benefit (?) though: haircuts are expensive in France, but this one will save me money: it cost twice what I usually pay, but I won't need a haircut until October.
Now I'm on day 2, and it certainly does not style itself. My curls look ridiculous this short (since my hair is naturally just wavy in the back and very curly in the front), so it takes a couple minutes with a straightener to fix them. It's barely long enough to put barrettes in. But at least I don't have to think about it unless I come across a mirror.

There were good parts of yesterday too, though. I met up with Judit downtown to explore the January sales a bit. I wasn't looking for anything in particular, but... uh... accidentally bought three more books. The first is Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (in French), which is great because I already had found the Quidditch book. Also from the kids' section is La chasse aux sorciers which is called Witch Week in English and is one of my favorite kids' books. I was surprised to find it, because last time I had looked they didn't have anything by the author. Why? They'd put her in alphabetically under W for her middle name rather than J for her last name. Good to know. Last is Stardust, which is the book the movie was based on. I didn't get a chance to see the movie, although lots of people recommended it to me. I'm glad it was a book first!

After our shopping we went to see the film "Le Renard et l'enfant," (The Fox and the Child is a literal translation) a nature/coming of age film. It's a gorgeous film: every moment is beautiful to look at. The music complements it very well. The story is good, though not brilliant. I'd recommend the film if you can find it, but I'm not sure if you'll be able to...

And finally we went to choir practice, which was lots of fun. I admit that I spent the first half putting together an awesome puzzle Christmas ornament (only when the altos weren't singing, I'm a good choir member). We're starting to put together our next concert, which is English music from the past couple centuries. Overall the choir does very well with English pronunciation, but they just can't get the word "the." Which is unfortunate because it's so common. It's pronounced "theuh" instead of "thaaa" like it should be sung. I'm going to have to figure out a way to cure them of that, as a whole. I've gotten some people to do it right.
[By the way-- Mom and Dad, most of the choir says hi and hopes you enjoyed France.]

Today I'm going to another movie, and I might see one tomorrow too. It's weird how the theaters either have lots of good things to see or absolutely nothing worth considering.

11 January 2008

Dear France,

Dear France,
I just wanted to drop a note and say thanks-- Tuesday and Wednesday the weather was absolutely beautiful. I definitely wasn't expecting fifty-degree days in January, much less a warm sun, but boy was I glad to have them! I felt like I could enjoy you so much more since I was comfortable outside without my coat, even if all I was able to do were errands.
So what I'm wondering is, why the change? Now it's been raining non-stop for two days, and the weather forecast says six more. In a way I can understand, but I certainly wouldn't mind some more sunny days instead.
Just think about it.
Yours truly,

10 January 2008

Exam Over!

I probably could have done better in English, and I know that I strayed slightly from the topic, but I didn't do a bad job. I feel that I definitely would have gotten an A for this exam in the states. So probably a C or D here. We'll see :)
The topic was: "Any language is political." Discuss, especially with reference to when one languages borrows substantially from another.
So basically I talked about why we borrow (and how those reasons were political in root) and how we borrow (and why it's dangerous) and what this means about our language and politics changing. I think it was well-written by my standards, so I hope the professor agrees :)

09 January 2008

[Geek Alert] A Song I Wrote:

I admit to being thoroughly uncool in this matter. But I um... spent the last 45 minutes composing lyrics and writing a song. I could say that it's heartfelt, and metaphorical, and is a piece of my soul, but that wouldn't be true because it's a setting of the nine types of linguistic borrowings in French, with examples.
If writing it and putting it into Finale didn't teach them to me well enough then I'll just learn the song and hum it to myself during the exam tomorrow.
Here it is, in three pictures that you can click on to see them big enough to read the music. Don't be thrown off by the key changes; it's a familiar "melody" and just goes up a half step every four measures. It's written in a mezzo-soprano range.
And now the disclaimer: I wrote it, but you can have it. Do anything you want with it. Perform it. But if you do so (which nobody will), tell me so that I can know what a geek you are too!

My comparative linguistics exam is tomorrow morning (I have to get up at 5:30... grumble) and I feel relatively prepared for it. I just hope I understand the question fully, because if I don't I'm in big trouble. It should be fine though. And I finished my general linguistics dossier, and am quite proud of it. I whipped together a huge amount of smart-sounding French in a relatively short period of time. Go me. And today it was more than 50° out, and sunny, and a sweater with no jacket was warm enough. So all in all, life is peachy.
I just hope that tomorrow around noon my opinion won't have changed...

08 January 2008

In the course of procrastinating...

... I learned some interesting things!
What you must understand is that writing a 7-8 page dossier (that's 7-8 pages single-spaced, by the by) in French on a scientific topic (linguistics) is rather draining intellectually. I spent much of Saturday brainstorming, and Sunday and Monday writing. Today is editing as well as starting to study for the comparative linguistics exam on Thursday.
In order to retain my sanity, I've been alternating writing a section of the paper with fun things, which gives me time to reboot and to think a bit more about what comes next. As a result, I've now watched the whole first season of Lois and Clark, beaten 100,000 in Tetris, and learned a lot on Wikipedia.
One of those things is about a writer named Antoine Rivarol, whom I hadn't heard of. I figured I should learn a little about him, since I quote him in my paper (I got the quote from one of those "Dictionary of Quotations" type books, where you find useful quotes topically).
He was a pretty interesting guy: he pretended his name was Count Antoine de Rivarol, and that he was of the Italian nobility. Maybe this helped him sell his Dante translations? He wrote a variety of essays (incidentally, I had to retype the word "variety" because my fingers first automatically typed "variété") and things I'd never heard of, my favorite of which was titled Petit dictionnaire des grands hommes de la révolution, par un citoyen actif, ci-devant rien, which basically means "Little dictionary of the great Revolutionary men, written by an active citizen WHO HAD NOTHING TO DO WITH IT." As in, "They revolted, not me. I'll tell you about them, but don't hurt me." Plus, he had an awesome hairdo!

...I also did something really stupid.
I had some leftover ground beef, which was going to turn into hamburgers for lunch Monday, just like I had on Sunday. Brilliant. So I pulled out my ingredients, turned on the stove, found the pan (which I had not washed yet), heated it, and made my two dinner-roll-sized burgers. Squirted ketchup on the said dinner-rolls, ate a burger. Then I remembered that I had a still-hot pan on the stove that would be hard to clean if I didn't do anything about it. So I filled it with a quarter inch of water, then squirted in a generous amount of dishwashing liquid. At which point I remembered that... wait a second, I'd done the same thing yesterday! Which means that, since the pan hadn't been washed, it still had plenty of soap in it when I cooked lunch.
Seeing as the other burger no longer seemed very appetizing, I had a yoghurt.

My next post will probably be after my first exam, when I crash into a pile of discarded brain matter and nonexistent thoughts and sleep for two days before I am again capable of using two-syllable words, and I have to start studying for my anthropology exam.

05 January 2008

Bad French and Good Soup

Bad French
I was watching an episode of "Lois and Clark: the New Adventures of Superman" (which I enjoy for its "impressive" special effects and repetitive story-lines, which can be easily followed even if you're writing a dissertation in French at the same time.)
Anyway, during an episode I came across this gem of bad French, and took a screenshot. And then I fully appreciated just how bad it was... nothing is right about this image. With all the money they put into making the show, you'd think they'd have someone to fix this. The image is from one of those classic "look at the headlines from far-spread newspapers" montages.

So we have:
- C'EST MANIFIQUE as the headline, though the word is spelled "magnifique."
- The paper's called "The Paris Bulletin." Sure sounds French, huh?
- The corner says "Dernieré Edition." The words are spelled "dernière" and "édition" if we're going to be picky, but since it's in all-caps the accents should be omitted anyway.
- The headline we can read on the side bar is very clever: "L'art d'accommoder les bas morceaux." Roughly translated? "The art of preparing [as in preparing food to be cooked or grilled] the low/unworthy pieces." Kudos for getting the grammar right on that though...
My name is Kel Miller, and I'm highly qualified to write little bits of French (and Russian, for that matter) to go on newspaper-montages. If someone wants to pay me large amounts of money (or anything, really) to do so, please contact me. :)

Good Soup
I have a little cookbook called Le petit livre des soupes and this recipe was inspired by it, so you can claim the soup is French. My version has soy sauce, ginger, and lime juice, so it's not very French-tasting. But boy is this soup entertaining to make! Plus, it takes about five minutes to prepare. Multiply what I provide here for as many bowls as you need:

For one person:
Heat up about 1.5-2 cups of broth (enough to fill your bowl).
Add whatever spices you like: fresh garlic, parsley, and cognac if you follow the book's recipe; ginger, cayenne, soy sauce, and lime juice if you follow mine; or whatever you're in the mood for.
Let the broth come to a boil. While you're waiting, crack an egg into your bowl.
When the broth reaches a boil, pour it (right away) into the bowl with the egg. Stir a bit, and it's ready to serve!

Here's the fun bit: if your stirring breaks the yolk, it'll cook and is ready to eat pretty much right away. If you don't break the yolk, it's like the best part of a poached egg floating around in egg drop soup. Just wait a couple minutes before you eat the yolk, so it will be cooked.

03 January 2008

Incredibly Long Post with Lots of Pictures

That pretty much describes it! I'll try to keep text to a minimum.

Friday, December 21: I met my parents at the airport in Paris, we went to the vacation apartment, got stereotypical French food for a cold dinner (paté, cheese, and a baguette), and went to sleep pretty early.

Saturday, December 22: We got up relatively early, I went to get pastries and bananas for breakfast, and then we went to Notre Dame (giant Gothic cathedral) and Versailles (giant palace with giant gardens). Here are some select pictures:

Here are some of the windows and art inside Notre Dame. The carved and gilded wood shows the life of Christ as you walk around the back of the altar and the choir.

This is a model showing what the work site would have looked like while they were building the cathedral. You can pick out bakers, someone designing the windows, and a man walking in a wheel to operate a pulley system.

These two are outside Notre Dame on the river side.

Here's Versailles! We didn't go into the palace, but did peek through some windows and spent some time walking around the gardens. The fountains were frozen over. We walked down to the little “hamlet” Marie Antoinette had built for herself so that she could enjoy the benefits of “humble” life in a “hut.” Ha.

When we were leaving Versailles the sun began to set beautifully. We were really lucky with weather the whole trip.

I love this picture for its bizarre combination of symbols: the moon over the palace of the Sun King.

Sunday, December 23: First destination was my favorite museum, the Musée du Moyen Âge (Musée Cluny). Here's a picture of my parents in front of the old well in the courtyard, and one of a beautiful piece of sheet music.

We finished off the day by walking over to the Panthéon and exploring the Saint Etienne church, and then went to Vespers and Mass at Notre Dame.

Monday, December 24: We left Paris very early in the morning to head to Angers. We got to my apartment around 9:30, and Mom took a nap while Dad and I went grocery shopping. He made me cook though :) We had duck, ratatouille (à la Kel), and poached eggs. After lunch we took the bus back downtown to visit the castle and the cathedral. Here are some pictures:
Mom and Dad at the castle:

One of the Apocalypse tapestries (the set is about 300 feet long):

The recently restored royal residences and chapel (too bad "chapel" doesn't start with an r!):

The moat garden:

Mom and Dad on the drawbridge by the gate:

We walked from the castle to the cathedral (Cathédrale Saint-Maurice), so that we'd have a chance to see it in daylight before the Midnight Masses. Here's a view of the cathedral:

This is a particularly intricately carved bishop inside:

This is a carving on one of the side pulpit things. It was carved in the 19th century.

Here's the altar, all decked out for Christmas. They hung a nativity scene tapestry which was particularly beautiful.

This is that pulpit, viewed from the other side of the church. I've never seen it used.

We went back to my apartment to have coffee with my landlord Anne, and then set off for the cathedral for two Masses. The first didn't go perfectly (the choir messed up a few times), but the readings and introduction were done very well and the homily was good. There was a good atmosphere, even if the choir did mess up two entrances. The introduction was a set of questions asked by a child, and answered very well. Some of the questions were "Why was Jesus born in Israel?" "Was Jesus happy as a child?" and "Did Jesus look like his mother?"
In between the masses there was a little party back at our rehearsal space for those staying at both masses. Lots of good food and good conversation, and Mom got by quite well with the remainders of her high school French.
The second mass went better, since at that point we had sung everything at least once and weren't sightsinging anything :) I had a solo, and it went quite well. Especially considering that I had a cold. I was even told that my pronunciation was perfect, which is great because I was singing in French :)
After the second Mass (which ended around 12:30), we went back home and had a snack before going to bed very late.

Tuesday, December 25: My parents were obviously over jet lag, since they came into my room and inadvertently woke me up after only seven hours of sleep. We had our traditional lox Christmas brunch (though with a baguette instead of bagels). We walked through my campus on the way to the train station, and arrived back in Paris mid-afternoon. Perfect timing to take the metro to the Eiffel Tower and see the lights turn on! We got there about four minutes before the lights started up, which was perfect.
Here are pictures of my parents and of me in front of the Eiffel Tower. Pretty good considering that my camera screen still didn't work and we couldn't aim!

And here's that classic picture that you have to take if you go to the Eiffel Tower and bring along someone you can kiss:

Wednesday, December 26: We started off the day at the Champs Elysées, looking at the Arc de Triomphe before walking past the shopping district. We took the metro next to the Wine Museum, a perfect destination for my Dad. Don't believe me? He chose two bottles of wine to drink with every meal we ate at the apartment. The museum is in an ancient quarry/monastery, and although I don't like wine I still found the museum interesting. Lots of vocabulary I didn't know how to translate though, so I had to rely on explanations like "this is a tool they used to poke something around the bottom of the young vines on the things they grow 'em on." Here's Dad at the exhibit about wine bottles, and both Mom and Dad in one of the tunnels before our tasting.

Here's the Eiffel Tower, which will give you an idea of the weather that day:

For lunch, we went to the rue Mouffetard, which is in the Latin Quarter and is one of the oldest streets in Paris, built by the Romans. We went to a crêperie that had a good lunch menu. Unfortunately, this is when my cold started to definitely turn into stomach flu. Oh well.
After lunch, we went to Sacré Coeur, and admired the wonderful mosaics. I had never paid much attention to the depictions of saints in the dome, but they're fascinating. But you're not allowed to take pictures.
Sacré Coeur:

Thursday, December 27: We first headed to the Catacombes, but they're closed until February. So Mom and Dad will have to come back to Paris, I suppose.
Sainte Chapelle was open though! A "sainte chapelle" ("holy chapel") is a chapel built to house a relic from the Passion, and the one in Paris was built for the crown of thorns-- though this extravagant purchase was most likely a very polite way of making amends after a bloody war. What's remarkable about the chapel are the approximately 1,100 stained glass windows which tell the main stories of the Bible, from Genesis to the Apocalypse. Here are a bunch of pictures of the chapel and its windows:

After lunch in a fairly typical restaurant we went to the Musée Rodin, housed in the hotel/house itself where the famous sculptor lived and worked. His most famous work is this guy:

You might also recognize these lovely hands or the Kiss. The first time I saw the latter, the room was totally empty when I entered and the statue was so realistic that when I walked in on them I felt a profound feeling of embarrassment. Not so this time, when the museum was packed to the rafters with tourists.

After leaving the Musée Rodin we walked over to the Chapel of the Miraculous Medal in the Rue du Bac, to see St. Catherine Labouré's incorrupt body. She's been dead for over a century, but she looks like she died yesterday. Back to the apartment for a last Parisian dinner (and in my case, a restless, chilly night of nausea before I finally threw up at four in the morning, getting rid of the last of whatever was bothering me. Something always goes awry on my vacations...).

Friday, December 28: Au revoir, Paris... 'Ello, London!
I really like British Airways. They didn't lose my bag. We arrived in London without mishap, and successfully navigated the Tube to Clapham, where we found our hotel. Chosen because it cost half as much as any other hotel, ours wasn't the height of luxury but was comfortable and close to a Tube stop. We checked in and then headed back to the center, planning to find a restaurant for dinner in Chinatown. I love Chinese food, so it was heaven. I hadn't been hungry and had barely eaten anything since Wednesday, so everything on the menu looked appetizing.
We stopped at Tesco on the way back to the hotel to have a look around and for Dad to pick out some interesting beer (when in Paris, drink inexpensive but good wine, and when in London try as many unusual kinds of beer as possible). I don't like beer either, but England has pickles (France has only those icky sweet ones), so I got a jar.

Saturday, December 29: We started off the day visiting St. Paul's, the enormous cathedral which was rebuilt right after the Great Fire in 1666. It's well known for its dome, which is very tall. It's nifty though, because there's a big outer dome which supports the inner dome, so that you don't see any support from the inside. We took a guided tour around the cathedral, choir and crypt (including taking us places where most people can't go, like to see the big spiral staircase to the Dean’s private library, which appears to float since it supports itself rather than needing arched supports to hold itself up).
After the guided tour I convinced my parents to climb up about 160 stairs to the Whispering Gallery, which is around the base of the dome at the level where most of the ceiling is. Supposedly if you whisper against the wall on one side of the dome someone sitting a hundred feet away on the other side can hear you. We didn't get it to work.
After that I convinced them to climb another 120 steps to the Stone Gallery. That turned out to be outside at the base of the dome outside, with a nice panoramic view of London.

We were two thirds of the way there, so it wasn't too difficult to convince Mom that she could go another 150 steps to the Golden Gallery, and it was WELL worth the effort. We had such a beautiful view of the city, and the sky was particularly photogenic, so I took a lot of pictures. (In case you're wondering, there was barely room for the twenty or so people up there, of which Mom and Dad were the oldest, and the three of us were the only Americans)

Climbing down wasn't difficult at all, and we explored a little bit more before heading out. Here are Mom and Dad in front of the cathedral, and one of the cathedral alone. If you click on the picture to enlarge it, look for the golden cross on top. Just below that is a little dome on top of the big dome. That's where we climbed!

We ate lunch at a pub, and then walked across the wibbly-wobbly bridge (more formally known as the Millenium Bridge) to the Tate Modern, the biggest and most ridiculous art museum in the world. (The first qualifier is a fact, the second is my opinion.) This was on my must-see list, since the Tate is the temporary home of a work called Shibboleth, which is a 167-meter long (547 feet) crack in the floor of the main hall. Wikipedia says that when the work was only a month or so old (in November) fifteen people had already been hurt by the piece. There are signs up to prevent this.
Anyway, Shibboleth is supposedly about racism and the colonial upheaval and pretentious things like that. It really is well-done though, the crack is lined with wire and was installed quite artistically.
Here are some pictures of the crack, including Mom at a fork asking punnily "Y?!" and me dangling my legs into the art. The view from above only shows about a third of the piece. It would be impossible to photograph the whole thing.

We walked around the rest of the museum, which has a Monet or two and several Picassos to give it points, as well as a speckled canvas entitled "Dirt" (part of the Texturology series), cubes made of mirrors, and a nifty pavillon made of woven wire that only eight people can look at at once because it's fragile. It's a great museum, and it has a great book store, and although I love it, I'm glad it's free because I'm not sure I'd pay to go inside. Except to see the big crack.

Sunday, December 30: Sunday we went to Mass at Brompton Oratory, which is gorgeous. The Anglicans filled their churches with the tombs and memorials of impressive dead people (writers, war heros, kings, composers, scientists...) as a way of rejecting the "excessive" paintings and statues of Catholic churches. I'm not sure who's more excessive in this battle, anyway. Bromptom Oratory took revenge by being more painting- and statue-filled than any Catholic church I'd ever been in. We went to a sung Latin Mass, which was beautiful. However, I'm generally not a fan of Masses where I'm not in the choir. There was a lot more ritual than at a typical Mass, such as the priests taking off their [silly-looking] hats and bowing every time anybody said or sang the word "Jesus."
After Mass we went to the British Library, stopping briefly near platforms nine and ten at King's Cross on the way:

The British Library has an enormous collection, including many famous manuscripts and first editions and autographs and originals that they display museum-style for all of us bibliophiles. Check out their website for the "Turning the Pages" feature which lets you look inside some of the manuscripts. For example, you can compare the printed versions of some of Shakespeares plays to see how much changed between the first edition of Hamlet in 1603 (dictated from memory by an actor who played a minor character) and the edition from 1642 (or somewhere around there) which was printed from Shakespeare's rough draft. Huge differences! What we know may be nothing like what was performed then.
Some of the things we saw: the original handwritten manuscript of Jane Eyre; the original handwritten Alice in Wonderland; original scores by Mozart, Bach, and Handel, including the original copy of the Hallelujah chorus (he scratched out a lot); Beatles lyrics jotted down on whatever paper was handy; a letter written in the hand of Elizabeth I telling her council of Lords to shove it, that she would marry only if she wanted and that they could leave her alone; the Magna Carta; some of the first things ever printed (in Korea); illuminated religious manuscripts from various religions; very old maps of Europe... so many amazing things.

We were all pretty much overloaded with information when we arrived at the British Museum, which is way too enormous to see in a day, let alone the hour we had before it closed. We made it to the highlights though, including the head of the giant statue of Ramasses II, some Assyrian lions, the Rosetta Stone (!!!), and the Mildenhall Treasure (a huge find of Roman silver stuff they dug up about fifty years ago, which I had heard of because Roald Dahl wrote a short story with that title).

After the museums we went to a restaurant that I highly recommend to anyone going to London-- it's a Thai restaurant in the back of a Churchill-themed pub (Churchill Pub, near the South Kensington Tube stop). Everything's really good, really cheap, and big portioned. Best meal we ate, in my opinion.

Monday, December 31: Monday we went on a bus tour by Evan Evans, the same tour I did a year and a half ago. It's a really good tour, and it's nice to have a guide for these highlights of London:
Westminster Abbey:

Changing of the Horse Guard (since the regular guard has holidays now):

Driving around central London, including seeing the Houses of Parliment and the clock-tower housing the bell Big Ben:

The Tower of London and the Crown Jewels (which we reached by Thames cruise):

The Tower is particularly interesting. The Crown Jewels are impressive, and White Tower (fortress built by Guillaume de Normandie, a.k.a. William the Conqueror) is amazing. Dad sometimes is a very typical boy, and enjoyed seeing all the painful-looking weapons and the armor. Henry VIII's armor is particularly... unique. See for yourself:

We also stopped by Bloody Tower, and the tower where prisoners carved very elaborate graffiti into the walls during their "residence" at the Tower. I have a photo here to correct whatever preconceived notions you will have. This was impressive stonework: many carved verses of scripture or their family crest into the stone. This one carved his crest particularly deeply into the wall:

Tuesday, January 1, 2008: New Year's Day we'd saved some places that we knew would be open. We started off the day at the recreation of Shakespeare's Globe theatre, which is fascinating and very impressive. The tour of the theatre is great, and the museum is really interesting as well. Here is a picture of the stage and one of the seats of the theatre:

The theater is made almost completely of oak, and has the first thatched roof in England since they were outlawed after the fire in 1666. It has sprinklers on top though, so it's not a danger. Even the "marble" columns on stage are painted wood.
Outside the theatre I caught a magnificent view of St. Pauls through the Globe's gates, which have about a hundred iron animals and plants mentioned in Shakespeare's plays. What a photo :)

Here's a poster that hangs in the museum, which I took a picture of instead of buying a copy at the gift shop:

After lunch in Soho (interesting fried fish) we went to the V&A, the Victoria and Albert Museum. Queen Victoria started it about a hundred years ago to make art accessible to whoever wanted to see it. It's a free museum, and it's enormous. Among its exhibits are a collection of dresses and suits from the past three hundred years, a silver gallery that about as big as a football field (and much more interesting to look at), a huge colorful glass chandelier, sculptures, and so on and so on. We had less than two hours to see as much as possible, so we walked fast and didn't stay to look at anything for too long. One room that amazed us all was full of casts of famous sculptures from around the world. Huge casts. Like the doors and arches from a cathedral, or a forty foot high tabernacle. Victoria's philosophy was that if they couldn't bring the real thing, they'd make an identical cast so that the English could see the world's art even if they didn't have the means to travel.

Wednesday, January 2: We window-shopped a bit in Picadilly, then ate a traditional English breakfast (meats and eggs and toast and such) around lunchtime before heading back to the hotel to get our bags and set off for the airport. London is one of my favorite cities, and I know I will go back. And I'll see my parents again in six months. The past two weeks were such a wonderful vacation, and I've gotten my parents addicted to Europe as well :)
The adventure of the day was that I found out five minutes before the gate closed that my gate had been changed, so I speed-walked about a kilometer (no exaggeration) to the new gate, barely making it in time. Then my train from Paris to Angers was running late, so I had to pay for a taxi to get home rather than taking the bus. But it's good to relax and get back to normal speed.

Thursday, January 3: I suppose I'm still on travel mode, since after sitting for about five minutes with "nothing" to do I was ready to leave the house. I headed downtown to shop for a new digital camera, since I definitively killed mine in London. The broken screen should be covered under the warranty. Whatever I did to it when I dropped it onto a cobblestone street will not be. It turns on and off, but does no more tricks. My new camera (recommended by the salesdude) is a Nikon camera that's comparable to the one I'm replacing. Amazing how six months difference can get you the same/better features for a lower price! Didn't do much else today, just went to buy eggs and milk, made egg drop soup with some of the eggs and drank some of the milk to go with ginger cookies brought back from London (I got seven boxes. They don't make them in France.) and then spent the afternoon writing this post. In the future, I'll try to travel to places with internet access so I can blog more frequently and less loquaciously.
Happy New Year to all!