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Starting up the (school) year again

I've been working on drafts of my dissertation chapters all summer at my parents', since I didn't have anywhere to come back to after London, and now I'm moving back into town with a new flatmate and getting ready for TAing two classes in the fall and teaching one in the spring. I had a three-day drive back from Kansas, and now I'm very nearly finished unpacking!

I'm on a medieval list-serv, so I get lots of conference calls for papers, and I just got a pretty fascinating one for next year's International Congress in Kalamazoo: the Societas Daemonetica is having a "Hell Studies" session, and the theme this year is "Jailbreaking Hell," and it's going to be about hell's boundaries, hellmouths, and "figures who pass through (and around) its gates." Nothing to do with my topic, but hellmouths are pretty interesting in medieval art, so it would be fascinating session to attend if I have a good reason to attend Kalamazoo next year.

Florida being Florida, it just started pouring outside, while simultaneously being brightly sunny. I think I had gotten myself to forget what the humidity here is really like. I am enjoying seeing everyone again, though.
Wow, I haven't updated this in a long time.

1. I made it back to the States and am visiting my parents for the greater part of the summer, in between traveling to see family and weddings. My parents' town is not London with all its entertaining distraction, so I should get a lot of writing on my dissertation done, in theory.

2. Kalamazoo & the International Congress on Medieval Studies happened! My paper went really well, and I might get to publish it! Also, I got kidnapped periodically by my professor to meet people, and also to discuss what I have been doing for the past year (I'm on target, apparently, hurrah!). And scholars that I quoted in my paper attended my session and liked my talk, so that was really exciting.

3. After returning from the conference, I got to actually unpack, because my dad's intern who had been staying with my parents moved into her own apartment, in preparation for her upcoming marriage at the end of the month. I suspect the next week and a half are going to be busy, since my parents are both involved.

4. We had friends with adorable 14-month-old twin boys who like to get into everything visiting this past (extended) weekend! I think everything breakable has been returned to its original location.

5. My parents and I went to see Star Trek tonight! We've been watching the series(es) since I was 5, apparently. I didn't realize the tradition went back that far, but Saturday night was always pizza and Star Trek night. We enjoyed the movie very much! And Mickey Smith joined Star Fleet in Future-London! One more excellent bingo connection!

art fairs, meerkats, and prayers

My mother reminded me that I should actually write down and keep track of interesting things I notice around London, in addition to telling them to her. SO here we go:

It rained all day and felt very British. That's not a real observation, but this is- the flats at the study centre have central heating, but, as was the case in Ukraine and Russia, you don't get the benefit of that until the building turns the heat on. We don't get heat until October, and it's in the 50s. I live in a flat that's in what used to be the Mews, and I'm on a corner, so I don't have windows, just skylights. So there's never much sun, and what does make it into the flat doesn't help with the heating. As a result, everyone is freezing.

I went to Covent Garden yesterday to wander around the market stalls. There's an arts and crafts fair every weekend, and I'm thinking I may end up buying a pendant with dried flowers in it next time I go. There are also a bunch of street performers, and I saw one in front of St. Paul's Covent Garden who started off on the ground, managed to get a lace-less tennis racket up around his waist, and then got onto a 7-ft unicycle to pull it the rest of the way up and over his head, purposefully partially dislocating one of his shoulders in the process. Ick.

Speaking of entertainment, I don't understand British commercials at all. However, I do like the adverts with a bizarre Russian meerkat. I think it's for some sort of insurance company, and if you use their service, you collect meerkat dolls? It's strangely endearing. I do like this advert, though - the program assistants do as well.

I've been to church here twice so far, and both times, they've prayed for the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, specifically regarding the invasion of their privacy. What interests me is that they haven't prayed for the Queen, the rest of the royal family, or the rest of the government. However it is rather nice that everyone seems to think the invasion of privacy is unacceptable - my mother thinks American audiences would expect something like that, rather than censure it.

The PAs and I have been watching London movies the last few days- Sherlock Holmes, because we knew we'd been to a few places where it was filmed - we didn't have any luck picking them out though. We decided we need to have a Sherlock Holmes tour now. Then The Mummy for fun, but also to get to The Mummy Returns, which we watched today, because they have to fight mummies in the British Museum and on a double-decker bus, which is all in our neighbourhood.

Speaking of the British Museum, I went there (again) on Friday afternoon and looked at the Egyptian and Chinese wings, and then looked around the Enlightenment room, which is set up like a kunstkammer. I found a fake mermaid from Japan on display: half dried monkey and half dried fish put together. Now S has decided she needs to go look at it. I also ran into the Lindow Man corner in the Roman Britain rooms. I went to find the Anglo-Saxon wing, and they'd moved it since the last time I was there - apparently it's being expanded, so only the highlights like the best of the Sutton Hoo hoard are on display.

Surprise!

Yesterday I went to my friend J's flat for what I understood to be a belated Independence Day party where a group was going to watch the musical "1776." When J opened her door and let me in, a bunch of my friends, sitting on the various couches, all yelled, "SURPRISE!"

me: I- wait- I'm... not surprised that you're all here?
J: We have English food!
me: Okay...
E: I was afraid I wasn't going to make it here before you!
me: But- I saw you- I was right behind you in the parking lot...
E: I know!
me: I'm so confused. What am I surprised about?
K: You're going away!
me: Oh. OH! Thank you!...?
J: We're still watching "1776."
me: Okay.

Then the group all continued to look at me as I awkwardly took my sandals off so I could come in properly, so I decided I needed a cup of tea, which broke things up and then we could all start eating the "English" food. I'm not sure where they came up with the menu, but there were open faced sandwiches with cucumbers and shrimp and some sort of sauce, lemon bars, crackers with egg salad, and snickerdoodles. J had bought English breakfast tea and pulled out all the other types she had, so I guess that was legitimizing English factor.

I was surprised that J had managed to invite art historians and people from my church small group, since she goes to a different church - our overlap is swing dancing. But she had met J (a guy from art history) at a party last week, and she already knew B (a guy who goes to my small group and also swing dances). So she was resourceful.

We also discussed the relative inappropriateness of the party theme.
me: So... we're having tea and "English food," and we're watching "1776"?
J: Yeah, I couldn't find another time, so I figured we should just combine the parties! I got J to invite the art historians, and B invited your church people, but then he's not coming because he has to go to the beach. I think.
me: Doesn't he hate the beach?
J: That's what I thought too.

And then F played the song "No Place Like London" from "Sweeney Todd" in an effort to deter me from leaving.

So then at church this evening, H and C (a married couple from my small group) wanted to know how the party was, since they hadn't been able to come. H at first thought it was my birthday, but knew that was wrong, while C thought the party meant that I was leaving immediately. I had to explain that no, J decided that she just needed to have the party now because she wouldn't be around when I actually left.

I also saw B, who wanted to know how the party was, discuss the irony of combining a going-away-to-London-for-a-year party with watching "1776," and explain his beach trip.
B: My co-advisor is back in town, and decided we should have a barbecue. At the beach.
me: And you hate the beach.
B: I do hate the beach! Also, I feel like I've lost 18 hours since he's been back in town! It may not actually be related to the fact that he's back- things may just be getting busier, but I'm going to blame it on him, because now I have to go to weekly meetings. Which are good. But still meetings. And he made us go to the beach.

I'm actually pretty well packed. This whole process is just being somewhat complicated by the fact that I'm going to visit family in Oregon for ten days, starting at the end of the week. In getting ready for the trip, I've been looking at the e-books available from the library, since then I could just take my nook along. I've come to the conclusion that at least half of the sci-fi/fantasy books available electronically are about vampires.

Which wizard was it, again?

I talked to my parents yesterday. Near the end of the conversation, they told me that they were going to be watching this week's "Masterpiece" on PBS.

Dad: It looks really good.
Mom: Bill Nighy is in it, and Ralph Fiennes, and Rachel Weisz, and Gandalf. Or is it Dumbledore?
Dad: I can't remember.
Mom: Neither can I. Gandalf or Dumbledore is in it.
me: Sounds fun.

I love how everyone else gets their proper name, but not those two.

For your edification: I checked this morning, it's Dumbledore (in "Page Eight"). My mother said it was really good, and the PBS website has it up online, so I'll probably watch that this evening.

birthdays, brunch, and David Bowie

Tonight at small group we had cake for Erin and Bryan, who have birthdays this weekend. We started clapping after we sang for them, but Bryan started waving his hands around. "Wait! Hold your applause! There's more! That is, it's on Sunday, there's brunch at the cafe, and it's going to happen at 10:30!"
"What is, brunch?"
"Yes! And also, the chef looks like David Bowie, so maybe there'll be some singing."
Erin got a word in- "Like, Labyrinth singing?"
"No, no."
"So it's not Labyrinth David Bowie?" Jessica asked.
"No, it's like... It's like Prestige David Bowie, who no one recognizes as David Bowie."
"Ah, Tesla David Bowie," I clarified.
"Exactly," answered Bryan. "Although he doesn't sing in that. Hopefully he will on Sunday. So, 10:30. Be there."
"Also," Erin interjected, "I was hoping for a St. George trip... So, get up early, go to the first church service, brunch, apparently with David Bowie, then the beach...?"

Most of us go to the 5pm service and several people are involved in it in one way or another, so the beach part might need rescheduling. Anyway, brunch ought to be interesting. All of this reminded me that when I had been on campus for a teaching conference earlier today, I saw a guy doing the ball rolling trick from Labyrinth with what appeared to be a red stress ball.

Dueling musical mixes

A while back, my father told me that he wanted me to make a mixed cd for him. "I want it to be about evil women! And how they're always tricking men!" So he brainstormed a bit, and I tried to think of a few songs he could use too.

So far the list looks like this:
"Witchy Woman," the Eagles
"Spooky," Classics IV
"She's a Man Eater," Hall & Oats
"Poison Ivy," The Coasters
"Maneater," Nelly Furtado (my contribution)
"Long Cool Woman in a Black Dress," The Hollies (also mine)
"The Female of the Species," Space (mine again)
"Black Magic Woman," Santana

I think I need to add "Lemon Tree," by Peter, Paul, and Mary. The mix is still a work in progress.

Naturally my mother heard about this, and now she wants a mix about evil men. Dad's reaction was "No! You shouldn't make it for her! She might start singing the songs around the house!"

I could think of a lot more songs about evil men, especially folk songs, but her list looks like this so far:
"The Red Corvette," John McCutcheon
"Mercy," Duffy
"It's My Party," Lesley Gore (Mom: "The boyfriend in that song is so bad!")
"Lipstick on Your Collar," Connie Francis
"Perhaps, Perhaps, Perhaps," Doris Day (mine)
"Goodbye Earl," the Dixie Chicks (also mine)
"Did You Ever Have to Make Up Your Mind?," The Lovin' Spoonful

I think Mom is still brainstorming. Dad doesn't really listen to music unless he's doing something around the house like taking apart the dish washer, which he apparently did yesterday, or cleaning. So Mom has the advantage in that respect, since she likes it when my brother and I recommend new music.
My brother's girlfriend won airline tickets at some sort of work function, so they decided to go to Portland for a week. One of their activities today (and probably tomorrow, and possibly the next day at various points) was to go to Powell's City of Books. Which he texted me about.

brother: In the rare book room...
me: Ooh, how rare? What does that mean? And is Portland sushi different? Don't buy pages that have been taken out of manuscripts! That's immoral!
brother: This was a many-star sushi restaurant, so it was great. And I am in this room looking exclusively for individual manuscript pages.
me: Yum yum! Nooo! That is like upper-level super-villany!
brother: I am even buying complete manuscripts and then tearing them up to resell in pieces.
me: Zomg, I may have to disown you.
brother: LOL, you can't; you're not the paterfamilias.
me: That's what you think - older sisters have special powers.
brother: Sorry- I missed this because I was relishing the sound of carefully ripped paper.

Skyping with Mom and Dad

I generally call my parents on Sundays, and occasionally we use skype so we can do the video chat thing. That was what we did today (until the thunderstorm knocked my power out). When the video came up today, they were sitting in front of a window, so all I could see was their back-lit sillhouettes.

Mom: Oh, we need to move!
Dad: No! We can be mysterious shadow people!
Mom: Let's move to the other side of the table.
Dad: NO! Sarah likes us being mysterious!
Mom: Come on!

Dad then picked up the computer, and I had a dramatic view up at his face while he was walking around.

Dad: I'm going outside (with the computer)!
Mom: Get back here!

Then he started adjusting the computer so it was edging Mom out of the picture.

Mom: Hey!
Dad: What!
Mom: I see what you're doing!
Dad: Sarah wants to look at me more.
Mom: He's been like this all day.

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