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new blog smell

31 January 2006
An old friend of mine, from high school no less, has started up a blog. So pop on over to Midwestern TA and welcome her to the blogsphere!


From the Department of Amusing Theological Prose

Quoth Diarmaid MacCulloch in The Reformation: A History:

The liturgy of which the Mass was the centerpiece was not only good for the soul, it was fun. German Christians, for instance, looked forward on Easter morning to a good time celebrating Christ's harrowing of hell - his cosmic hooliganism when he triumphantly descended to the Devil's kingdom after dying on the Cross.

Emphasis mine.

bad blogger, no biscuit

30 January 2006
Mea culpa. Mea culpa. Mea maxima culpa.

Sorry for not posting in ages, ya'll. Course work hit like a ton of proverbial bricks. Except they weren't brick. They were books. And they weren't proverbial. So, yeah.

But, in a lame-ass attempt to make up for absolutely no content for over a week, I'll give you some links that should make you happy.

For starters, I can't tell you how many times I've wished for the information on this page! God bless these people.

Secondly, remember Cute Overload? Well, after I'd introduced a few folks to the wonders of teh Cute, I was introduced to Stuff On My Cat. Last week, I stumbled across its corollary site: My Cat Hates You.

Lastly, in case you feel the need to tie your brain in knots, have a puzzle with lasers!

P.S. If you didn't click on the "happy" link above, do so. It's the creepiest damn thing I've seen all day.


24 January 2006
From the "Let's Try This Again" Department

Some of this is going to be a bit of a rehash, but you get pictures this time!

After an all night flight from John F. Kennedy Airport, we landed at Heathrow, met our driver and went on to the hotel. Because we couldn't check in until 2:00, we opted to spend some time at the British Museum as it was only a block and a half from where we were staying. We wandered around there for a good while, generally marveling at things like stumbling across Discobolos in a stairwell. It was also more than a little strange to explore the famous frieze from the Parthenon while in London.

The picture you're looking at was taken from a hill overlooking the ground of the Abbey. In the foreground is

We were finally able to check into the hotel and took much needed showers. Deo gratias! Having divested ourselves of the general feeling of scuzziness one acquires after an all night transatlantic flight, we made our way to dinner and a pub. Thus ended our first day in London.

Our plan for Tuesday was to explore the National Gallery and Westminster Abbey. The National Gallery was absolutely exquisite. Every time I turned around, I found myself staring at some painting or another that I'd studied for hours on end in an art history class. But it wasn't the known paintings that I already knew about that really made the visit to the National Gallery special, it was the ones I discovered while I was there. I must have spent at least forty-five minutes in front of this piece by Barnaba de Modena. Specifically, I found myself captivated by the top right quadrant of the painting. The depiction of the Trinity is not all that uncommon, but the configuration used in this particular painting is really quite striking. It was while I was standing in front of the painting that the significance of our time in England as a pilgrimage really began to sink in.

After we'd saturated ourselves with as much art as we could handle, we crossed the Themes and went to the London Aquarium on a whim. It was really kind of a rip off for £10.75, though watching them feed the sharks was really kinda cool and I did enjoy the jellyfish tanks. I can't believe I'm saying this but, the aquarium in Texas is bigger and better. E'en so, it was nice to let the brain go slack for a while after being on art overdrive for hours on end.

At about 3:00, we made our way from the Aquarium to Westminster. In truth, Westminster was something of a disappointment. It felt far more like a political space than a holy place. The architecture was beautiful, but it didn't feel like a much of a church. On the other hand, visiting Chaucer's grave was pretty special and choral evensong with the Men and Boys' Choir is everything it's cracked up to be.

We got up fairly early and made for the train to Canterbury. Frankly, we hadn't the foggiest idea about how to get from the train station to the Cathedral, but we soon discovered that the Cathedral is rather hard to miss.

First on our agenda was to attend Mass in the Jesus Chapel in the Crypt. I was quite surprised after Mass when the celebrant greeted us by saying, "You're not from around here." Apparently, it's not all that common for pilgrims to attend liturgy. Along with countless statues, I suppose that went out with the Reformation. Thank you Mr. Cromwell. Nevertheless, there was a palpable sense of holiness and of tradition about that place. Unlike Westminster, Canterbury prayed well.

After the praying our way through the Cathedral, we found our way to a Tapas bar behind the Cathedral grounds. The food was nice, the sangria was better.

Feeling somewhat more fortified, we wandered towards the ruins of St. Augustine's Abbey. It was humbling to stand in the place where things began. Standing at St. Augustine's grave was equally powerful.

After the Abbey, we found our way to High Street and the Eastbridge Pilgrim's Hospital.

Perhaps the most amusing part of our time in Canterbury came in being mistaken for native folk! A local actually stopped us to ask for directions. Fortunately, we had picked up the business card of the Tapas bar we ate lunch at because it had a map on the back, so we weren't utterly useless.

While it wouldn't prove to be the best day for travel karma, Thursday did wind up being a great deal of fun. We just barely made our train that morning, but managed to make it to the Cathedral in time for the 1662 Liturgy. Again, we didn't exactly blend in with the locals (probably because we were the only two under age 70 in the small congregation), so we found ourselves chatting with the celebrant after the Eucharist. It turns out that the Canon Treasurer of the Cathedral was grabbed at the last minute to celebrate that morning. We had a lovely and rather long chat with the good Canon and then ambled around the Cathedral for a good long while.

In all truth, the architecture of the Chapter House is infinitely more interesting than the copy of the Magna Carta housed there in. Running all the way around the room in a medieval frieze is the story of the giving of the law in the Old Testament. When you think about what took place in the chapter house, namely, the daily reading from the Rule of the community, you begin to get a stronger sense of the power of Gothic architecture. These buildings teach and pray.

After lunch in the Cathedral's refectory, we ambled about on High Street in search of the information center with plans of catching a bus to go look at some rocks. Unfortunately, my guide book was wrong about bus times and we missed the last one by an hour. Nerts. So, we thought we'd opt for the tour of the Cathedral's tower. I, incorrectly, had it in my head that the tour was at a quarter to the hour. Lamentably, it was at a quarter past. Double nerts.

All was not lost, however. We managed to find our way back to London with little difficulty and ate some fantastic Thai food. After Thai food, we found our way to a groovy little bar in Soho and availed ourselves to some absinthe. For the life of me, I can't figure out why it's still illegal in the US. Stööpid Puritans.

Friday was great fun, not in the least wise because we got to sleep in a bit since there wasn't a scheduled liturgy at Ely that we could attend. The train ride out was quiet enough and Ely itself really is a sleepy, little town. The Cathedral, however, is spectacular. It houses a labyrinth and a stunning stained glass museum. As for the building itself, the ceiling alone will make your socks go up and down.

The choir at Ely absolutely floored me. Running down the Gospel side above the stalls was a wooden frieze narrating the story of the birth, life and death of Our Lord. On the Epistle side were scenes from the Old Testament that typologically mirrored the scenes from the Gospels. Just as the monks and priests who filled the stalls would call back and forth to each other in antiphonal recitation of the Psalter, so the choir itself called back and forth in telling the story of salvation.

After exploring the Cathedral, we found our way to the Minster Tavern for some fish & chips and a pint. It turns out that the pub claims to be haunted by a former monk of the Cathedral chapter. While we never encountered the ghostly gyrovague, the claim to haunting at least made lunch a little more interesting.

I had, erroneously, thought that a town surrounded by fields full of sheep would be a wonderful place to find local yarn for myself and roving for my friends who spin. While we did find a local yarn store, their stock of natural fiber yarn was all of three bins wide and six high (and all from Scotland). When I asked the shopkeep about roving, she swore she'd never even heard of it! Alas.

Defeated but not defeatist, we wandered back to the train station and to London. We did manage one last, great picture while at Kings Cross before getting on the Tube to go back to the Hotel. This one is for all the Potterphiles out there:

It was more Thai food for dinner and an early bed since we had to meet the car at 6:00 am for the airport the next morning.

All told, a great trip and I really didn't want to come home. But hey, I'm already planning my next trip to Europe for this summer... Germany, here I come.

well, nerts

22 January 2006

I had a really long post about 3/4 written with pictures and commentary about England, then Firefox crapped out on me and Blogger lost the draft I'd saved.

I have other stuff I have to do tonight, so England post is going to have to wait yet one more day.



21 January 2006
I'm home and in one piece. England was superb, but having awoken at 5 am London time (12 am Jersey time), I'm more less a complete pumpkin, so coherent blogging is not in the cards tonight. About all I'm up to is staying up just late enough to beat the jet lag.

I promise a lengthy post and pictures tomorrow!


18 January 2006
Time for a more substantial post...

First of all, apologies for the lack of pictures. Somehow I managed to remove iPhoto from my laptop and am therefore unable to extract pics from the camera. So, you're just going to have to wait a while for the pics. Alas, because I've got some great ones I really want to share.

So, to the narrative.

We left Sunday night after a considerable delay before getting onto the plane and a further delay on the tarmac. That said, the flight wasn't bad at all and we got in Monday morning without incident and largely without sleep. But hey, what's the point of sleeping more than three hours sleep on a trans-Atlantic flight?

We got here Monday morning and were picked up by our driver. On our way to the hotel, we had quite the running tour of London and long string of quotations from the Immortal Bard. London, where even the cabbies know more Shakespeare than you do. As the gent was turning down the road to the hotel, he dropped quite the conversational bomb telling us, quite matter of factually, "Oh! About three years ago, there was a bombing on this street." *Gulp* Thus far, no incident and being a block and a half from the British Museum is a major bonus.

We got to the hotel a few hours before we could check in, so we dropped the bags and opted to wander the museum. Without looking at the photos I took, I can't quite remember everything we saw, but it included: statues from the Mausoleum at Halicarnassus, the frieze from the Parthenon and stunning medieval pieces. Oh, yeah, and tucked in a stair well, Discobolus.

Once we could get into the hotel, we checked in, showered (cleanliness is a good, good thing), and then went for dinner at a spectacular Indian food joint, Red Fort on 77 Dean Street in Soho. This is a restaurant that is not to be missed! Mega props and huge thanks for Laura for the Time Out restaurant guide.

Tuesday, we got up at a rather leisurely hour and made our way to the National Gallery. It was absolutely to die for - just about every time we turned around there was a painting we'd studied in art history class. We bopped our way around Trafalgar Square for a bit and had lunch in the cafe in the crypt of Saint Martin-in-the-Fields. Who knew having lunch atop a bunch of dead folk could be so much fun?

Following lunch, we dropped in on the British Aquarium and watched them feed the sharks. After watching the sharks, we wandered over to Westminster Abbey. Unfortunately, photography was verboten, so we have naught but pictures from the outside. Visiting Chaucer's grave was a trip, and choral evensong was mind-boggeling. It's at this point that I should give major props to Matt for recommending visiting the churches with binoculars in hands. Not only did we get to see some really cool stuff, but apparently, as soon as docents see you with binoculars in hand, they decide you're a serious church nerd and get real helpful and real friendly. Bonus.

Tuesday dinner was at Zizzi - pizza, pasta and that ilk - because it was down near Westminster and we were walking around and hungry. Nothing to write home about, really, so this paragraph is pretty much over.

This morning, we got up at 6:30 to make the train to Canterbury. The train ride out was quite beautiful and the city of Canterbury is a great deal of fun. We made it to the Cathedral in time for the 11:00 Eucharist held in the Jesus Chapel in the Crypt. Much of Canterbury was also a no photography zone, but we did come away with some great shots of the exterior. One the other side of things, while Westminster struck us as being more of a political space than a place of worship. Canterbury was the exact opposite. It very much felt like place of pilgrimage and worship. It was positively spectacular.

We took a very late lunch at a cute little Tapas joint behind the Cathedral on Palace Street. After lunch, we found our way to St. Augustine's Abbey and the tomb of St Augustine of Canterbury. Walking around the Abbey was a very humbling experience, both in terms of the age of the ruins and being in the place where one could well argue that the Church of England began. After St. Augustine's Abbey, we found our way to the Pilgrim's Hospice on High Street in Canterbury (more or less across the road from the SPCK bookstore). While the docent at the Hospice couldn't seem to process that we in fact did know that Beckett was martyred in 1170, the small chapel on the second floor of the Hospice was charming, and it was interesting to be in a place that's been in continuous business for over a millennium, as it still serves as extremely-low rent housing for the elderly.

We wandered around Canterbury for a bit and then back to the train station to return to London. Tonight was comfort food - burgers and beers (Jason opted for a lamb curry burger and I for a portabello sammich) and back to the hotel to catch up on the blog and relax a bit before an early start tomorrow to get to Salisbury.

Of course, we'll be wearing blue shirts for that visit.

to canterbury they wende

From the Department of Soon to be Realized Chaucer References.

Well, I'm getting some really fun pictures (like a few of statues from the Mosoleaum at Helikarnassus) and have been eating fabulous food. Yesterday was choral evensong at Westminster Abbey and a visit to Chaucer's grave.

Among the greater ironies of Westminster, two things struk me: Mary I and Elizabeth I are burried together, but only Elizabeth gets a statue. And, there's a bust of Longfellow in the poet's corner, but Cromwell gets merely a tile in the floor in front of the RAF Chapel in the apse all the way at the (liturgical) east end of the Abby.

This one's going to be short because we're off to Kent & Canterbury on an early train. (It's currently 7:08 GMT.)

Well, talley ho!

to canterbury they wende

15 January 2006
After a week of butt-numbing writing (i.e. writing with such intensity and for such duration yer backside goes numb), little sleep, a lot of stress and too many errands, punctuated with short fits of sleep and packing, it's all done. Gallus has been all hierarchied out for the time being. Ramòn Llull has been put to bed. Bibliograhies for Historical Method are handed in. French exams have been taken. Fellowship interviews have been compleated. The end of semester filtering through 6,000 stacks of paper has been completed. Last night, beer was drunk. Church was attended this morning and I've caught up on all the blogs I've not read in the past two weeks.

In 45 minutes, I leave for the airport and then it's off to London.

Sometime tomorrow morning, I'll wake up over the Atlantic Ocean, be served airplane food and then land at Heathrow. Then, the adventure begins. Cathedrals and pubs for a week and a hotel that's a block and a half from the British Museum.

Hizell Yizeah.

It is my intent to blog a bit from across the Pond, so do check back for updates with pictures.

Here's one to get you started (and a promise that the next picture of Canterbury Cathedral that gets posted will have been taken by yours truly...):

c'est fin

11 January 2006
From the Department of Bouncing.

Well, seminar paper number one of semester one of year one of the PhD is done. PDFed, emailed, printed, envelopéd and sealed. T'ain't nuthin' what to be done fer it now. *Deep sigh of relief* ... and it's back to another paper.

The good news is, having completed two of my first three doctoral seminars (one of which did not require a research project), my membership card from the organization should be arriving soon.

morning has broken (me)

From the Department of Surly Household Appliances.

I've not posted in a while and this one's going to be short, so apologies for that. I've been a bit on the busy end what with wrapping up two seminar papers, preparing for a French exam on Friday and stressing about a fellowship interview on Thursday. *Meep!* Oh, yeah, and there's that whole leaving the country thing on Sunday... (On that note, as long as my traveling companion doesn't go running up and down the El-Al terminal at Heathrow shouting "Shadayim!" I'm sure we'll have a lovely trip. Super extra credit if you didn't graduate from PTS and know from whence that reference came.)

So of course what did I do last night? Had a friend over for drinks! The only excess that was taken was talking until 01:00 and indulging in pop music nostalgia. Sadly, the Sloane had to get up 07:00 for work.

Would somebody please pass me a can of magic awake juice?

schadenfreude (reprise)

08 January 2006
From the There's Never Good Help When You Need It Department

Would somebody please explain to me how an institution with an endowment larger than the operating budget of your average third world nation can manage to have four change machines, all of which are out of friggin' order?

In other news, a thousand blessings upon my neighbor and her progeny unto the 33 1/3rd generation for having change for a dollar so that I can have clean sheets and towels before the bank opens tomorrow morning.

well, shit

05 January 2006
From the Timing is Everything Department (Co-sponsored by the undersecretary of the Jokes That Only Scott Will Get Sub-Department in partnership with Ralph the Wonder Llama, Se Llama and 142 Mexican Whooping Llamas who have forbidden any more Avenue Q jokes, lest the titles of the posts really go down hill.)

Okay, Dies Drycthelmi MMVI is in t-minus 10 days and I'm getting sick.

Buggar! Bollocks! Bloody hell! (And every other bit of British profanity I can muster.)

What the hell people?!! I'm missing a conference and feeling like crap. I so don't have time for this. And I am so going to nuke this bastard bug before I leave.

Vitamin C - Check.
Echinacea - Check.
Zinc lozenges - Check.
Throat Comfort Tea - Check.
Orange Juice - Check.
Hot soup - Check.
Whining to the whole damn internet (because that makes it all better) - Check and check.

it sucks to be me

04 January 2006
From the Repetitive References to the Same Damn Musical Department

Sorry Gary, while I'm sure that it does indeed suck to be you, human hamster definitely sucks more:

With so much work in the building trade, you know that this is the career for you.

A vacancy has arrived following the tragic collapse of the crane at your local cathedral. Now a new one has been made, taking all the design faults of the original into account.

To operate this latest technological marvel, you'll be expected to walk the treadmill to provide the power for lifting blocks of stone weighing up to two tons. Preference will be given to the blind as they have proved great treadmill walkers in the past due to their lack of fear of heights.

Of course, it could be much worse. You could have been a Tudor Groom of the Stool.


03 January 2006
From the It's About Damn Time Department

For quite some time, I've wanted Apple to make a significant change in the iTunes store. Namely, I wanted them to add a function that would allow the customer to buy music for someone else. I really can't count the number of times I would have paid 99¢ for someone to be able to hear some song or another while I was talking to them about it. Well, while using an iTunes gift card to purchase the musical from which the title of this post comes, I noticed that said change had been made! O frabjous day!


Ain't that just somethin'?

sur-prise, sur-prise, sur-prise

01 January 2006
Given that almost every time I go on a trip, the TSA decides to open up my luggage and leave me a little love note (you know the ones, "We searched your bag, you filthy hippy/terrorist!"), I'm pretty certain I'm already on a list somewhere or another. Because I'm sure as a homosexual, vegetarian, pacifist, Christian with an obsessive compulsive impulse for recycling, I pose an incredible threat to the status quo... Anywho, I came across this little (fairly dated) gem and was most amused:

What threat to the Bush administration are you?

Threat rating: High. The Bush administration is concerned that it may not get a second term. Therefore, we are going to change the rules so that each Democrat vote only counts as 0.2 votes because Democrat is a shorter word than Republican.

Take this quiz!