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London 2010–Days 5 and 6
Dec 16th, 2010 by Dr Karma

Day Five started with the boy and I doing a quick tour through the Natural History Museum, one of the most beautiful buildings in the world. Alexander wanted to look at the giant sloths and the dinosaur exhibit. They have an animatronic t-rex that looks really good. When he looks you in the eye, you start to worry for just a second that his legs will move toward you. Alexander was getting video of him and asked me to get him to turn his head and roar. I explained that he wasn’t real, but when I moved, he moved his head to follow me and I got the silliest feeling in my stomach.
We also looked at the Darwin exhibit, which I love because it does not feel the need to mention that one country would find it “controversial.”
Then we had Chinese food, which was good, but took too long, before going to the Petrie. The Petrie museum is a small collection of Egyptian artifacts housed on the University College of London campus. Most things were unearthed in the Victorian era by the Petries. Lots of beads and potteries and two linen dresses that were 5000 years old!
Afzal, who teaches on that campus, then showed us around and bought us coffee.
Then off to Wagamama, the noodle place, before heading into The Rivals. The Rivals is big here because the leads are a famous couple from Of The Manor Born–it’s fun to watch them fight the younger generation and to attempt to placate each other. As it was a Restoration comedy, it was silly in all the right ways, and predictable, but this was an excellent show.
Yesterday, the boy and I were up early to get in line at the National Theatre to get day tickets for Hamlet. It worked (and they were only 10 a piece)! Then we wandered Covent Garden and had lunch so we could go into the afternoon Hamlet full and ready. It was by far the best Hamlet I’ve seen. There was one moment where I felt the timing was off, but the acting and directing was strong. Hamlet’s madness was not annoying, etc.
Then it was off to Pizza Express with Liam and Courtney and then back to their flat to open presents and watch short films.
Today I’m coming down with something, which will taint our last day here a bit, but that’s why it’s important to close this out now, so I can go brace my immune system with a few pints of something.

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London 2010–Day Four
Dec 13th, 2010 by Dr Karma

Neither the boy or I slept particularly well last night, but we dragged ourselves up and went down to have our British breakfast and then headed over to the British Museum, where we actually live when we’re in London. He copied down Japanese symbols while I waited for headache medicine to kick in.

Which it did–just in time for Afzal to join us for the special exhibit on The Book of the Dead. Beautiful examples of the book–including the longest ever found (at 37 metres). We also learned many spells, including ones for chasing away beetles, crocodiles, and snakes. My favorite, though, is the spell that keeps you from having to subsist only on feces and urine in the afterlife. I’m glad someone thought of that. There are 42 deity names to memorize–you explain to each deity that you haven’t committed a particular sin–“Oh, X, please note that I haven’t poked a badger with a spoon and thus should live on.” You have to memorize the names of six cows to get to eat them in the afterlife, etc. etc.

Life, apparently, was just prepping for this really really big exam. The Book of the Dead was your cheat sheet, which is why you wanted to pay a lot to have it done well (and on new and not recycled papyrus). Many rich people had additional spells inserted from the standard ones–for extra perks I guess.

I’ve been thinking all day about what I would put in the book of the dead. I mean, I would like to not eat feces and urine, but what would I eat in paradise? What animals would I chase away and which ones would I draw near? What games would I take with me? Whom would I want buried with me?

After all these uplifting things, we headed out for Turkish food. Then the boy and I skulked around for a bit before heading over to the other end of town for a play. Alex was turning his nose up at the food offerings, but luckily I saw a certain Portuguese rooster and thus Nando’s saved us from despair.

The play was Joseph K, a revised Kafka piece. It was dark and funny and terribly surreal at the end. The theatre was small, but the audience was engaged. The acting was superb and I’m still thinking about some of the choices–like the use of between scene music and radio clips–so I’m happy.

Back at the hotel before another big day tomorrow.

It was colder today and only promises to become more so. I don’t like this aspect of things, especially since it’s so warm inside all the buildings that I have to strip off (almost) all the layers and then carry them around. Still, I’d rather be cold here than warm in most other places.

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London 2010–Day Three
Dec 12th, 2010 by Dr Karma

The boy has had to borrow a coat from Liam because he’s shivering so much. If there were an ounce on his body and if it were warmer than a 3 degree celsius high, he might be okay.

He slept for about twelve hours last night and then woke up all weird. He turned down tea at breakfast, but then drank all of mine.

We met Courtney and Liam and had a wonderful Sunday roast at the Adam and Eve. Then we went to the conference, where I gave my paper. Note to presenters: time your presentation. 20 minutes means 20 minutes, not being cut off at 40. Don’t count on the computer working. Proofread your damn powerpoint or else you look like an idiot.

After the conference, we went to Courtney and Liam’s neighborhood to have drinks at The Camel. Alexander and I have come back to our place to have Indian and to do some work before we turn in.

Have just checked my email and found a message from a student who thinks she’s going to get kicked out because of the C I’m giving her (which is overly generous of me already). Of course, that means that her grades in her other courses are worse. She admitted that she hadn’t studied and said she didn’t want to get kicked out. My understanding is that since this is her first quarter, she would only get on probation for a D average. I would like to pass on this bit of advice to everyone, though. If asking for a grade change, don’t have a message littered with grammar errors. It only reinforces that you really should have gotten an even lower grade. How will this turn out? Well, the grades are turned in. The math is done. The grade will stay the same, no matter what impulse I have to change it for the worse now.

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London 2010–Day Two
Dec 11th, 2010 by Dr Karma

Did you see the oldest copy of Beowulf, from circa 1000 today?
Did you help Liam pick out a porno magazine for a secret Santa gift?
Did you see the oldest book ever printed in English?
Did you have Indian food behind a locked door guarded by two police officers because the student protestors were rumored to be nearby?
Did you see the oldest recorded version of the verb “to fart”?
Did you get caught in a Santa Claus flash mob?
Did the boy fall asleep beside you before 9 p.m. because he was up at 3 this morning?
Did you hear someone say “sublime” too many times?
Did you have a sip of extraordinarily good mulled wine?
No? That’s weird, cause I did all that today. 😉

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London 2010–Day One
Dec 10th, 2010 by Dr Karma

I’m in my hotel in London, sated by a perfect chicken dinner from Nando’s, followed by a nice g&t from a pub down the block. It’s so good to be home!
Colin Firth’s face was almost the first thing I saw at the airport, in an ad for his new movie–he’s welcome to greet me any time. Then Alexander and I made our way slowly here (seventeen hours door to door, Davis to London). Although British train and tube stations need to have lifts and escalators instead of just making me lug suitcases up stairs, things went smoothly.
We checked in and headed straight over to the British Museum so we could see our good friends in the Egyptian Hall, the Parthenon Gallery (Alex likes the fighting centaur pieces), and the enlightenment library room. We didn’t have time to see the new special exhibit on The Book of the Dead, but we’ll be hitting it soon.
Liam and Courtney met us for dinner and then bought us drinks. We shall see them again tomorrow when Courtney talks about World War Z at the conference.
Everything is familiar, except that I’ve never seen London all dressed up for Christmas before (except for in movies). I was exceptionally worried about it being really cold. It’s cold, but not so cold that I’m severely uncomfortable yet. I hope I don’t have to take that back before the week is out. However, if the weather does turn nasty, I at least have the shoes my boyfriend bought for me just a few hours ago. Because, yes, I had absolutely no appropriate shoes for rain/snow, nor the time to get any. (Nor the will–I hate shoes and shoe shopping.) Luckily, although my boyfriend hates shoe shopping as well, he loves me enough to make sure my feet are protected.

Sorry for the short, disjointed blog–when I started traveling, it was yesterday and I’m knackered. I’m going to work on my Shaun of the Dead paper a bit and fall asleep.

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