Tuesday, October 29, 2002

So I'm about two-thirds of the way through the letters of Abelard and Heloise. I am finding it a cracking good read, really. It sort of eases you into the philosophical stuff by way of a medieval soap opera. Man meets girl, man tutors girl, man sleeps with girl, girl gets pregnant, and then they run away together so as not to risk her uncle's wrath. --Or rather so as not to have to deal with her uncle's wrath. She has the baby, they come back, get married in secret and with uncle's consent (but against girl's wishes--she wouldn't want to spoil her lover's career, after all), but uncle betrays them; man puts girl in nunnery, and while she's there her uncle sends thugs to castrate her husband. They do. Whereupon he joins a monastery and she doesn't see or hear from him for ten years. Stuff happens; he has lots of followers but powerful enemies, and in the end he winds up being the sort of overseer of the...priory? she's in charge of. --And all that's just the first letter! (The second letter being a very bitter and angry one from Heloise--"Write to me, you bastard! I could be sleeping with MEN now, dammit, but you spoiled it, I'm stuck serving God now. I don't even LIKE God! I just did it because you wanted me to. Dammit, write me a stupid LETTER, why don't you! You used to write to me. You write to other people. Here I've been suffering and suffering for TEN YEARS, all for you, and not a word...you don't love me any more, do you? I'll bet you never loved me at all--you were just after my body, I know it! ...God I hate men.")

And since I do still have 1/3 of it to finish plus oodles more to do, I should get back to it.

Monday, October 28, 2002

...But I am too sleepy to rewrite everything again.
Will it let me post now?
Yess!

Thursday, October 24, 2002

Wow. So I haven't updated this thing in a little while...going through kind of a disorderly period, trying to keep my ass in gear. I'd be just dandy, except I keep getting the wrong start to days. The problem, however, is easily fixable--I will simply (1) get to bed earlier, and (2) get a new alarm clock. (The one I brought, I have discovered, goes off for about 30 seconds before shutting itself off. In my world, this is just enough time for me to half-open my eyes, go "Mmmph?" and slump back into my pillow, asleep once more.) But ack--class calls! Will return later.

Thursday, October 17, 2002

Bit of a rocky day today--dragged myself out of bed just in time to get to class by means of a vigorous walk. But when I got there, sweating and gasping for breath with 5 minutes to spare, not only was there no one there, but the door was locked. Had class been cancelled? Well, there was no note, but I hadn't checked my e-mail the day before...so I trekked over to a computer lab as speedily as I could, checked e-mail, and...nothing. So I trekked speedily back, looked for notes again, and was about to go up to the main English dept office to see if they knew anything, when I thought to double-check the schedule. Wow. I was an hour early. Well, hells. So I went into a little lounge area and read until it was close to time to go, got some hot chocolate from this vending machine where they dispense it in little cups, packed up, and headed to class. Only to trip on the doorstep and scald myself. So, in order to avoid getting chocolate all over the prof's desk, I popped into a bathroom to clean up a bit, as a result of which I arrived after they'd already started discussions, and felt very silly indeed. After that, things went better, fortunately. Classes went smoothly, I had enough time in between to get a lunch of sorts--and found some IRN-BRU!!!--and after that was all done with I went to a lecture on St. Kevin by a guy who's just written a novel starring that tree-dwelling saint. Ran into a gal from one of my classes there, and we chatted for a bit, then I went with her to the tail end of a meeting of archaeologists (who had also just listened to a lecture, only theirs was about trade in the ancient Roman world.) That was actually pretty fun--she introduced me to some people and we stood around telling souped-up stories of our lecture-listening adventures.
Yeah, so I've tried posting about three times now, and each time either the browser crashes or my computer does. Possibly this is some sort of obscure computerized Sign and I was not meant to blog today. Well, I have outsmarted the thing--it is now tomorrow! So hah!

Well anyway, it's been a goodish day, I'd say. I got up super early (2 hours before class), had a lovely breakfast, accompanied by cheerful tunes, and then I happily tackled the dishes. With half a dozen people sharing one kitchen, they mount up at a phenomenal rate, and I hadn't done them in a few days, so I figured it was my turn. Besides, over the weekend they'd mounted up to such an extent that it was impossible to find clean silverware--or wash any up in the dish-piled sink. I did a lovely job of it, too--I even re-washed some of the "clean" dishes that had been carelessly seen to. Then came class, then I decided to go and explore the big lovely park I found a few days ago. It was quite lovely, I must say--I shall have to return there with homework and headphones. There are benches everywhere, and some are in quite secluded nooks. At the center of the park there is a large hill, at the top of which stands a tall tower, erected by the Victorians to commemorate something-or-other to do with the Americas. Its sole purpose is for people to climb to the top and go "wow." The view is fairly impressive--the hill itself is tall enough that you can see for quite a ways before you even get to the tower. And the tower is, though perhaps not the absolute highest point in Bristol, certainly in the top five, judging by the view. It's pretty amazing, really--you can see the whole city, and for quite a ways into the countryside. Alas, my digital camera, with its small square viewing area, was not up to the task; I shall have to return later with a *real* camera.

And wearing the right shoes. I didn't today because, after having gotten pretty thoroughly rained on yesterday, my good walking shoes were still damp. Today I opted for more water-proof hiking boots. My mistake. Halfway to class I remembered why I haven't worn them in months: they kill my shins, especially on hills. They don't have enough of the right kind of support, or something, I don't know. So anyway, on the way back down the big hill from the tower, I decided I'd be rather better off without them, and so shed the clunky things. I picked exactly the wrong moment to do it, of course--some sort of park official happened by just as I removed the first sock, but he just gave me an odd look and moved on.

There is, I find, something wonderfully exhilarating about going without shoes. It reminds me, for one thing, of my carefree (well, not really, but isn't it nice to think so?) four-year-old self, running unshod along the secret ways of our apartment complex, somersaulting down hills, climbing trees, making mud pies, playing with worms. For another...well, there's just something wonderful about being able to feel the grass between your toes or the texture of the pavement beneath you. It's a whole new dimension of sensation, I tell ya!

Then again, there is something to be said for not freezing your toes off. Today, the dew on the grass between my toes was numbingly cold, the pavement similarly so. Having descended the great hill at last, I gladly (and in defiance of idiom) jumped back into my shoes.

Time to go and finish up a few pages of reading for tomorrow. I would be finished by now, but I found that I couldn't concentrate sufficiently to take in any of what I was reading, so I took a break to regroup the ol' mental faculties. I hope that it worked; in any event, I'm going to bed very soon indeed.

Monday, October 14, 2002

Looky looky! Got comments! Probably nobody will (comment, I mean), but at least the capacity's there. They look a little silly just now, but I don't really know how to fix them. Eh, I'll figure it out one of these days.
Uneventful day, except I apparently remotely broke the computer Emily was working on by trying to send her pictures. [Sighs.] I do love the ethernet, but the network here has so many restrictions on it--and they're not at all consistent, either--that it is really quite aggravating sometimes. For example, rather than being able to create a web page for the pics by ftp-ing back to my home university (an option that, till now, has been much easier than it sounds), I had to create one on Geocities. It was extremely hastily constructed and is very bare-bones; very likely it will stay that way, at least for a while. Still, I will be periodically posting pictures extracted from my digital camera--plus comments--so the content should somewhat make up for the lack of visual sophistication.

Saturday, October 12, 2002

So after a fairly lazy morning and early afternoon, I went out for a walk. I actually wound up being out for quite some time--didn't get back until almost 7. I was exploring, you see--trying to get more of a feel for the area, and looking at all the nifty sights. Of course, I didn't pick the best time to do it, as not too many shops and museums and things are open for long on a Saturday afternoon. But ah, well. I had fun, in any case.

I find it so interesting, seeing the way the old and the new are so closely interwoven here. At times it seems rather absurd--opposite the College Green, for example, there is this old, pretty church-looking building that's gotten sandwiched in between large, modern shops. It reminds me of nothing so much as The Little House. And as I was walking today I found this old church that was a less extreme case of the same thing. It was sort of hidden away behind a row of pubs, with only a narrow alleyway separating it from them. The entry gate was open, so I went in, and almost immediately I came upon a large, green sign announcing that I was now entering Temple Gardens, "in the heart of the Forest of Avon." Now, this struck me as just a little absurd. Though there is quite a nice little park to one side of the temple, it boasts maybe a couple dozen trees; on all other sides, Temple Church is closely bordered by various modern buildings. So unless this "Forest of Avon" is a clever reference to the urban jungle...

Thursday, October 10, 2002

The phone in my room is frustrating me--I can recieve calls but I cannot make them unless I use this special phone card that won't let me charge it and tells me I have to call the customer service number (which of course I can't do until the card is charged up), and when I finally broke down and went to a pay phone to do so, the customer service number did not work. It really pretty much sucks. I have sent them an irate e-mail (well, not irate; more like coldly reasonable), but I've no idea if they actually check the thing. I really need to look into this mobile phone thing, or something. Tomorrow is spoken for, however--I am going shopping! I have heard tell of wondrous bookstores just a short bus-ride away, so I am going to find a bus that goes there and bloody well hop on it. I desperately need to hunt up books for my renaissance class, for one thing. After that I need to go grocery shopping--I am out of milk, bread, fruit, and juice. I really need to start planning meals better--at the moment I mostly have quick-fix stuff, like pasta and soup and assorted frozen foods (eggrolls, fake sausages, etc.) I plan to spend part of Saturday recipe-hunting, though.

My schedule has finally (mostly) stabilized. I had to wait until today to get my seminar time for medieval history, and it could theoretically still change, but...

Had a slight close call this morning--my alarm failed to go off, and I woke up with just an hour before class. Back home this would be enough time to roll over and catch another 20 minutes' shut-eye if I so desired, but here takes me 20 min to get to class in the first place, and that's no leisurely stroll. I also didn't know where in the maze of offices and classrooms I needed to be, so I wanted a few extra minutes. I made it in plenty of time, of course, but gosh! I hope that doesn't happen again. If I'd been tireder, I would have slept right through class.

Must shower and get some sleep.

Wednesday, October 09, 2002

Got a library card for the public library today--woohoo! I'm quite thrilled. The library is superclose and in a big old building and they've got lots and lots of books (including comics, though I haven't yet found where they hide them) and will also let you check out CDs and DVDs. (And tapes and records and things, but I wouldn't be able to play any of those.) Unfortunately, by the time I got done with exploring and signing up for the card, it was closing time, so I basically grabbed a couple CDs and ran for the checkout counter. (Except they call it something else here, of course. I forget what.) I had originally planned to just pop in for 10 minutes and then go looking for used bookstores, but at 5:00 all such things close up around here, so I decided to give it up for the day and just went randomly walking around instead. Quite lovely.

I had my first lecture today. Actually it's sort of a combination lecture and seminar, a history class on religion in Renaissance Italy. The prof is so funny--very professorial. He is very soft-spoken and repeats every other word, testing each one to make sure it'll hold before trusting his full weight to it, as it were. "So so today I I thought we'd we'd start by by discussiing what what the Renaissance...[pauses, trying to think of a grand finish, gives up]...is. Um. Or or what you you guys think of when you you hear that that word." He knows his stuff, though, and as one would expect he gets more confident-sounding when he's talking about the subjects he knows best. And he does that thing where he gets all excited about academic stuff--at one point in the discussion somebody reminded him of something, and he immediately leapt up to fetch a book, saying, "I have to to tell you guys a story!" The story turned out to be "How I Found This Neat Book in a Really Awesome Little Used Bookstore." And what was so neat about this book, which he had several other copies of already? Well. This was the only edition which had--get this--pedantic notes! Oh, a couple other editions had notes, all right, and to the layman's eye those notes might indeed appear pedantic, but their pedanticity was insignificant compared to the half-page monsters that appeared on many pages of this particularly hard-to-find volume.

Ah, how I love professors!

Time to make dinner--I think maybe some rice tonight.

Tuesday, October 08, 2002

A good day--slept in till 10, ate breakfast, read King Lear, then got stuff together and went out exploring. Popped into a bunch o' different shops, discovered an artsy theater and an imax, and, most importantly, FOUND AN OXFORD COMPLETE SHAKESPEARE! For only 12 pounds! Hoorayyyyy--now I can do my homework!!! Also picked up some nifty postcards and a cheap CD--also hooray!

Went to the library yesterday--I can check out books now! So I did, though they were all for classes. Tomorrow I'm going to see about getting a card for the public library, the local branch of which is (1) huge, (2) lovely, and (3) next door. Well, practically next door. Like a block away. Not bad atall.

Also went grocery shopping yesterday (will definitely have to look into this bus thing), and on the way back saw something fairly amusing. At the intersection of about 3 different roads there's this sort of triangular grassy island which has been made into a memorial for British soldiers who died fighting colonial battles in South Africa lo those many (though not that many) years ago. And in the middle of the island there's this 8-foot high statue of a gallant British soldier, complete with bayonetted rifle and dashing mustache, looking noble and alert. Well, some practical jokers had added a construction cone--nice and tall, with orange and white stripes--which sat at a jaunty angle atop the soldier's head. It was so awesome--worked perfectly! If it is still there tomorrow, I must take a picture.

Sunday, October 06, 2002

OK day today--slept too much, and highly irregulary, having made the mistake of letting myself take a small nap yesterday afternoon. Lovely dinner with the flatmates--Liam, who is all over this cooking thing, prepared us all a wonderful meal, and didn't forget the vegetarian options. Hooray! I think we're going to try for fancy dinners on Sundays from here on out, depending on how people's schedules are, of course. After that we went to this pub quiz thingy, which would have been grand if we'd been able to hear the questions at all.

Started reading King Lear today. I've never actually read it before, though I know the general plot and have seen a couple of film versions. Whoever winds up with my copy of the play after I sell it back at the end of the term should have an entertaining read; in addition to underlinings and various Significant Comments scribbled in the margins, I've also taken the opportunity to shout a bit at the characters. "Senile old git!" "Gag me with a spoon," "Hooray Cordelia!" "You go Kent!" and "You leave her alone! You guys suck! Yay Cordelia, you're awesome!" are a few of the shorter comments.

Bedtime.

Saturday, October 05, 2002

Just got back from an afternoon's shopping--books, you understand. And things to drink--what with all the walking, I get thirsty pretty quickly. One of these days I'm gonna break down and buy some bottled water--the kind in the fancy squeeze bottle--so I can keep refilling the container and carry it around with me. I still haven't been able to bring myself to do it, though. It just seems a little...much to go up and plunk down a whole pound (`s like a buck and a half!) to buy something I could just as easily get for free. Still, I suppose I should--I've made juice stops almost every day I've gone out, and when I get home I guzzle my milk. Not particularly cost-effective, is it?

Ah, well. Book-shopping was nice, though I didn't find much of what I was looking for. I'm taking a Shakespearean Tragedy class, which I got the program (like a syllabus, but more tentative and with less official weight--no sections threatening to hang you by your pinky toes if you're absent too often, just what's actually going to be covered in the course) for yesterday. The reading list is massive, and there doesn't seem to be such a thing as a student bookstore--you know, the sort where they carry all the textbooks you could possibly need, conveniently organized by course number and instructor. But maybe I just haven't found it yet. I'm hoping that on Monday, armed with a library card (which I still have to get) and some coins, I can just raid the library and viciously photocopy some of the stuff I need, and thus avoid having to hunt down and buy large books I'll only use one article out of. Well, we'll see.

In other news, I joined 2 clubs (well, "societies") yesterday--German and Sci Fi/Fantasy--and will probably go to some of the lectures sponsored by the Archaeology Society. The first one is in a couple of weeks, and it's called "The Buried Soul: How Humans Invented Death." Fun. I thought about joining the French Society and/or something wild like tae kwon do or mountainclimbing, but decided I'd better see how things are going with classes and everything before I go paying dues to clubs I won't have time for.

Let's see, what else. Last night I went out to this Greek bar/club with my Cyprian flatmate and one of her friends. We were there rather too long for my tastes. The music was too loud (I could actually feel my eardrums vibrating at one point--ow!) to endure for sustained periods of time; given that I'd been on my feet all afternoon and there was noplace to sit, my knees were cramping madly; the clouds of cigarette smoke grew ever thicker; but mostly there were just wayyyy too many people. I tell ya, I'm not claustrophobic, but after an hour or two in such deafeningly loud, smoky environs with no more than 6 inches of personal space on any side, I was gettin' there! [sighs] Definitely not my scene. There were some pretty hot guys there, though, I must admit. And the music was fun--especially once I'd makeshifted some toilet paper earplugs so as to prevent massive hearing loss. If only they offered such a thing in a much lower-key environment--nice tables, not too many people, out in the open or no smoking at all, music not so loud that people have to scream in each other's ears to be heard...

I still can't get the phone in my room to work. You apparently have to use this special phone card they give you (it won't LET you dial 800 numbers, so you CAN'T use other cards), but it won't let me put minutes on it. I'll try again in a little bit, but this cel phone thing is starting to look more and more appealing.

Thursday, October 03, 2002

Alloalloallo! So I've just switched over from bits_n_bobs because for some reason my newly set up ethernet doesn't want to deal with underscory things. A bit of a pain, but oh well. Better this than nothing, eh?

So here I am in Bristol, doing the study abroad thing. I'm lovin' it so far, though today has been the first day I've had much breathing room, what with getting fees and paperwork and ethernet and classes and bank accounts and everything all sorted out. My mom came over with me to help with all that, which was pretty great (aside from intermittent times when she drove me slightly batty.) She just left this morning. There's still more to sort out, of course--in a few minutes I have to go and pick up my ID card, get an important form faxed back to the States, and register with the health people--but the bulk of it has been taken care of. Tomorrow I have to go meet with my English professor so we can figure out when the class will meet. Or something. I don't really know what's going on there--the so-called "British system" is, it seems, only a system in the very broadest sense. Each department does things differently. Some have timetables, some don't. The term "master schedule" is, needless to say, utterly meaningless here. Even the most up-to-date course catalogs are nowhere near complete or accurate, and several of the courses I was planning to take (and filled out the paperwork for back home!) are no longer offered. Still, I am quite happy with how my schedule is shaping up, and can't wait for classes to start. I wish I knew what books I needed, so I could go and buy them and salivate.

This morning, I must say, was quite grand--I woke up at 8:30 and lounged around in bed for two hours, then took a wonnnnderful shower, lounged for a few more minutes, booted up the computer, jumped for joy to find that the ethernet people had finished setting things up on their end, fiddled about with settings for a bit, and connected. Hooray!

And now that I've finally connected, I've gotta go run more errands. Back on later, though!