Wednesday, 28 November 2007


Yes, so even though it is completely descended into darkness and all the streetlights are on, this does not automatically mean you are a dedicated employee worthy of commendation and Christmas bonuses extraordinaire. But should people want to praise, you, well... they can buy you a lovely Hendricks.

It does, however, make you want to come home and scarf down some lovely chili which you happened to cook for yourself yesterday, since noone was able to provide you with any on your recent trip home (although I hardly went hungry). In Britain, they spell chilli with 2 ls -- I do not approve of this, as it makes it look like a dessert product from Wendy's... That's Right.

Anyone who has not watched Top Gear really ought to make an effort to watch an episode. Surely there are some on YouTube. At the moment, am watching repeat of Sunday's show and am again laughing aloud. Thank goodness, I am by myself. So, this week's test challenge involves them testing several oldish cars of British manufacture; they compete against each other (the hosts, that is) and it is just hysterically funny.

The current test is the last one and is where they have taken each car and filled it to the brim with firehoses. There is a snorkle through the roof for the driver who dressed in a dry-suit sees how far he can drive around a racetrack before the water leaks out to the level of the bottom of the steering wheel. They are awarded 20-pence for each yard they drive or something like that. One of the cars wouldn't even fill up with two fire engines full of water, so they had to just let him start only part full. Then his door fell off. :)

Previously, they drove 30km/h across this really bumpy cobbled section, with a collander filled with raw eggs attached to the roof over the driver's head. They gained points for each gram of egg left at the end and lost points for each piece of the car which dislodged during the experience. titter

Things like this help relieve some of the madness (and the resulting fury in rational people) going on in other parts of the world, such as:

Sudan -- where an Englishwoman has been charged with blasphemy for allowing her classroom of 7-year-olds to name a teddy bear mohamed. Yes, 40 lashes is absolutely an appropriate reaction such an act of 'religious hatred'.

France -- where riots have been going on protesting the fact that two helmet-less (and obviously brainless) teenagers died when they drove their motorcycle into the side of a police car on a routine patrol and going in a perpendicular direction.

and, oh, just Pretty Much Everywhere...

I think it is time to knit and sit by my nice, normal self in my nice, normal little abode.
Why is it so hot?
And what are we doing in this handbasket?

Monday, 26 November 2007

Roighty Ho.

Now that I have rested for a day and periodically gorged self (because I just didn't get enough to eat at Thanksgiving [loud snort]), ought to be working on getting back to 'normal' schedule which will involve being on 8.30a.m. bus -- but not until Wednesday morning! Instead, however, I foolishly drank a large 4-strength cup of Ethiopian java at approx. 4pm and now will probably be up until 3.30am again if I can decide upon a movie or a knitting project to focus on for longer than 27 seconds.

Today, was forced to 'take the air, because it will be good for you', and am mightily glad to have done so, as this improved my attitude in general which has been fairly consumed with violent and vengeful animosity towards Lloyd's bank since yesterday. (This shall no doubt be ranted upon at some later and more amusing time)

Since located camera lead about 30 minutes ago, am happy to provide some winter scenery from Touring Loons Expeditions (aka, Eamonn and Amrie).

After being plied with tea, managed to make it to car and SatNav (evil woman) assisted us in navigating to Cromer (which we know perfectly weli how to locate by ourselves), at which point, we went in search of seafood sustenance (mmmm!). It has become very windy during my absence. It is also quite cold. Darkness is good and descended by 4.02pm as well. The promenades in Cromer are closed, and this is probably for good reason as seafront would, no doubt, be littered not with Ribena cartons but with bodies wearied by hypothermia.

I negated suggestion that we find nosh and sit on the beach and eat it -- mushy peas which do not warm you with their smooshed goodness are not worth choking down :) Did have lovely fish and chips and mushy peas lunch however, in cosy diner (or 'caff' as referred to in the Vote for Your Favourite Caff competition. Forgive me for being slightly pedantic, but is there a second 'f' in 'cafeteria'? I thought not.). On walk back to car, realised the alarming, and entirely new-experience, effect of one's teeth being so cold they hurt. Who knew?

Moved on down coast, through Sheringham, to Weybourne, which is next to the Muckleburgh Collection (believe have mentioned tanks before and the surprise they can cause when you are not expecting to have entered war zone during your walk on the seaside). This is one of the pebble beaches, where the rocks scream as they are forced back out with the tide. There were a surprising number of people out walking dogs and surf fishing and such. Did I mention the cold North Sea wind?

Tall dirt cliffs slope up to the right at part of top of beach hill and this is good vantage point. From below, layers of different soils start out with this soft chalky rock layer with chunks of flint embedded and move up through sandier soil, dark dirt and something that looks like it has high iron composition. There is a construction of some sort of bricks up there in shape of solid box, but I have no idea what it is. Did I mention the wind? It was a little scary to stand to close to the side because of a) wind and b) fear of edge falling out from under you. But I am a brave child. Found a black bone of some sort and brought it home despite protests of hygiene and disgust. What would make a bone black?

Due to wind, waves were quite large and boistrous, causing the water to be all foamy and white for about 20-30 yards out from the shore (although actually am really rubbish at judging distance -- it was just really far). Rowdy waves make the pebbles scream louder; really, this is quite eerie. Waves are breaking really far out beyond the white section if you look carefully. In foreground, you can see foam left on the rocks from retreating tide. This foam makes large piles and then blows around like fluff or medium-sized tumbleweeds in the most bizarre way (Has the wind been commented upon?). As well, spray from the waves makes your lips taste like salt and from a sideways vantage, you can see a sort of fog that the mist makes.

Driving back, stopped at St. Mary's (in village of Roughton on Cromer Road), lovely round tower church which has always been hidden behind greenery before and not really easily sighted from road. It is quite interesting all that you can see when leaves are not on the trees. Thought would get some nice pictures of sunset in windows and churchyard, and lo and behold, the church itself was completely open and empty!

[There are still some simple niceties (if that is the right word) in Britain and simple aspects of humanity and trusting that are just perfectly wonderful and (sadly) quaint. Another trusting thing that always amazes me is when people have eggs or vegetables of seedlings on a table at the front of their property (both in town and in the countryside) and there is a little sign saying how much they are and which is sat next to a little box for you to put your money in. This makes one want to weep for the fact that society as a whole cannot be like this.]

So, we went into the church, and it was so peaceful. One of the windows has really unusual colors with a fleur de lis motif (above). Note the intricate beams over the sanctuary area below(Eamonn so cleverly located the light switches). This church is apparently one of the Top 20 round tower churches to visit.

Finally, this is the windmill right as you drive into Weybourne. The sea is just outside the picture to the right and over a field. I want to live in this windmill.

Wednesday, 14 November 2007


It has been my observation today that Virginia highway signs are pinnacle of civilised understatement. While this is attractive approach and does not distract from the loveliness of the scenery, it can cause extreme navigational distress. If, however, you keep your head and follow your nose, you can regain the original path you were on before you were rudely jutted off on a left fork toward the Roaches Run Waterfowl Sanctuary (that name just makes me laugh, although am sure it is an interesting and informative Park Service property).

Have had two conversations today encouraging the use of GPS, but it is against my principles to do so. In my opinion, GPS ruins perfectly sensible minds, becomes a crutch, and renders people unable to find their own posteriors with either or both hands. Am quite capable of finding my way with my excellent nose and problem-solving skills, thank you very much. One amusing note, however, was that there was an article in the NYTimes addressing the fact that women were not as fond of GPS as men, because men will follow directions given by the sexy woman's voice on GPS, when they would NOT listen to their own partner/wife giving precisely the same information (titter).

Have at this point made it to DC metro, and while this will distress several Extreme Shoppers with whom I am aquainted, I really like DC and Alexandria, Virginia better than NYC. There is just too much concrete and grime and too few trees there. Washington is really lovely, and the leaves are so pretty. One note about leaves: when you watch them go by out the train window, they are so vibrant, it is like seeing a river of Skittles flying past (not the purple and blue ones, of course. don't be nonsensical.)! Am staying in Alexandria and it is very cute and quaint; sadly will not have time to toodle about aimlessly, so will have to come back.

Speaking of return trip, shall take special care if car is ordered from Thrifty's UK website: despite a reservation printout having the address at the bottom of the page, the company logo at the top left, and every sentence save one referring to Thrifty corporate hospitality and identity, my reservation was apparently a great comic trick, since my car was listed on the Dollar computer system (this discovered after unhelpful counter person had me call the 800# and spend 20 mins on hold). One will notice that the mention of 'every sentence save one' -- this is because that one informed the extremely careful reader how much Dollar RentACar appreciates their business. This is just assine, esp. after a particularly strenuous cardiovascular workout on the Washington Metro system and then across half of Reagan International Airport (including a surprise tour of an entire floor of a parking garage) with one's luggage. Arms now beginning to show muscular development in manner of Lenda Murray.

Car this time is a Dodge Avenger. Much better than the absurd HHR (with its blind spots and ridiculous sunvisor that only covers 1/3 of the side window). The Avenger has a hood kind of like a wannabe Bentley, very square and is large and black. My persona while driving is secret agent.

Amusing radio witticism yesterday: radio talk show was discussing NYC pigeon problem and a possible new proposal that would outlaw feeding the pigeons. A man called in and asked if the outcome of such a law would be to make pigeons 'illegal avians' -- tee hee hee.

I think it will be a good idea to turn the sound on my phone alarm tonight, so that I won't have to depend on the construction works outside to wake me up late tomorrow.


Just as I am extremely suspicious of alien intervention in our food supply based on the universality of the Subway restaurant smell, I am beginning to harbour doubts about the sliced fruit at Hampton Inns (at breakfast). Grapes, melon, pineapple and oranges cannot taste the same in Texas as in Virginia as in Georgia as in Pennsylvania. And there is this slight counter-top cleanser tang that hits you at the back of the roof of your mouth.

As I say, all quite suspicious. (although perhaps not as disturbing as the congealed plastic they pass off as 'egg patties' -- I do not eat those)

Monday, 12 November 2007

7.30 a.m.

What genius decided that this would be a good hour for the exhibit hall at a conference to open? Who exactly is going to be there? No one; that is who. But Region X seems to be a little more emphatic that exhibitors be present during all exhibit hours than Region VIII since I have now been 'reminded' 14 times that I am to be downstairs at 7.30 tomorrow morning. The fact of the reminders is a little more annoying than the early hour; after all, I am on a rather earlyish body clock schedule. Am I 4 years old (no comments necessary here)? What are they going to do if I am not there -- tattle on me?

And I have missed all but about 24 film minutes of The Wizard of Oz since the dessert reception (at which exhibitors were to exhibit -- not themselves but their wares) lasted far past it's end time of 9.00 p.m. It is already to the part where they are going down the long hall to meet the wizard and the Cowardly Lion is covering his eyes...

And now, we have our alliterative section -- it makes me laugh when the Wizard says:
'You clinking clanking clacking collection of colligenous junk!' to the Tin Man
'You billowing bale of bovine fodder!' to the Scarecrow :)

Contacts now need to be removed from the eyeballs...

Saturday, 10 November 2007

Trains and Things

Have now ridden on my first inter-city Amtrak train (Amtrak is kind of a joke in much of the US). It was okay, really, although with a couple of odd notes (which of course I would like to complain about and mock). However, it would be more genteel perhaps to start with some compliments to the train:
* firstly, the seats in coach class have a heckuva lot of leg room;
* there are also these nifty little footrest things that swing down and can be adjusted to different heights;
* Americans seem to be quite pleasantly conscientious about picking up their rubbish on the train.

Now the mockery:
* Ummm, I had to sign my ticket before the ticket collector on the train would take it. Exactly what is the point of this? To show that I know which end of the pen the ink comes out of?
* There is a luggage limit. For both number of bags and weight and size of said bags. What?!?!?! I mean, it is a train; it doesn't need to be balanced like FoxNews (their slogan is 'Fair and Balanced', fyi). For the record, I was over the luggage limit -- way over, with my three bags and the fact that one of them weighed 173.9 lbs (just kidding) -- and was scolded by the ticket man, but then he said, 'Well, you just remember the 2-bag limit for next time...' Upon my expression of concern for getting back to DC on train next week, he said, 'Ahhh. Well, just tell them you travelled with these bags before.' Ooookay -- I guess we will just hope for nice people on Tuesday, too. It seems that although the loudspeaker announcements broadcast that you will not be allowed on the train with anything over the limits, it is not impossible to do so. My bags were eventually stored in the handicapped section, since luggage storage racks for an entire train car (not counting the overhead bins) measure approx. 18 inches wide and 6 feet tall, with no shelves in this completely inadequate space. Am glad that no one handicapped needed the space, although am not sure how they would have gotten a wheelchair through the train doors since they, and the connecting passageways, are about the width of my shoulders.

Now the comedy which almost was... but it wasn't:
Made very sensible decision to not attempt subway navigation, exited train station (only got stuck in elevator door once, and not at all on escalators!), and took taxi to Brooklyn with my obscene amount of luggage (not really obscene, just obscenely awkward since one piece is a large display box for a table display and frequently gets me stuck at comical angles in various doorways and at the occasional corner. Navigation is really not that outlandish -- it involves hauling large suitcase with one arm, whilst balancing display board on top of tiny rolling laptop case. A kickstart is required for both sides, though, with a sharp jab at the space right above the wheels to get bag into angle for wheeling. All very scientific.). Amtrak car hop called me Xena when he loaded my luggage in the taxi trunk :)

By this point, my forearms are impressively strong. It is too bad that I have been doing nothing else to improve muscle tone in the rest of my body.

However, today am going to walk on the Brooklyn Bridge, which is about three blocks away, I think -- although it looks as though the bridge goes overland for about the eqivalent of 7 blocks or so. Was not aware that bridge was oldest suspension bridge in US. Bear may go, but he might not be able to have his portrait taken as it would be traumatic if he blew into the East River.

Yesterday evening (evening was pretty much when I got here at 4.00pm, and it was pitch dark by 5.15), saw Statue of Liberty for first time and took picture of her from erratically-moving taxi. There is much hope to take a better one today, although do not think have time to go on SoL tour, which is a bit of a shame.

Am staying at Marriott Brooklyn Bridge, which is very nice (except for their $12.95/day +tax internet heist). My 36" flat screen HD tv is amazing, except that the twisty pedestal makes extremely loud and horrifying squeal when turned. Am surprisingly impressed by HD. And they have some lovely lotion from Bath and Body works called Orange Ginger (social identity and hotel chain aspirations of such by complimentary hotel bath items sounds like an interesting study). Now, I smell like an accompaniment to sushi :)

Xena out.

Friday, 9 November 2007

Fast Walkers

It is my observation that one (well, Fast Walkers at least) moderates one's steps when coming up behind a Slow-Walker. Reason for this would be so as not to lower SW's Walking Esteem by making them feel silly for walking so blastedly slow in fashion of meanderer on Sunday Drive in Countryside (or on Thursday evening walk to hotel room to order three pieces of cheesecake and a milkshake from room service), and also so as not to appear like stalker following them to their room (although you would be so tired when you finally got there... since it will have taken 9 years).

Note: am speaking in reference to people walking slowly because they are lazy, not because they are not able to walk faster -- FWs of high moral character will not loom behind people in ASBO (anti-social behaviour order) manner.

Am currently v. pleased with my heritage as a descendent of a Fast Walker and Generally Bustly Person (aka, Oma; Ruthie; Cute Little Lady) and think that eventually we shall take over the world by Natural Selection. (As many readers are aware, plans for the Dictatorship are already being drawn up.)

Walk like you mean it.
Move with a Purpose!

Thursday, 8 November 2007


Hundreds of people had to evacuate the Renaissance hotel, conference centre and attached shopping mall today due to a rogue fire alarm. It was really unnerving, and makes one aware of the sensibility of the Boy Scout motto: Always be prepared. As it was, I was able to gather my computer, mobile phones and inquiry cards (and one P.G. Wodehouse library book -- again, always be prepared) into my rolley bag in less than 10 seconds. Unfortunately, had there been a real fire, my knitting and Bear would have perished and I would have had no socks.

As well, I am not really supposed to be here at the NAFSA Region VIII conference; the good news being that they are not going to make me pack up and leave. It is fairly unclear whatever happened to the registration and cheque which were sent mid-August. The funny thing is that Region X (NYC, next week) appears to expect me and presumably has my registration (should prob. check that tomorrow) since they have been emailing me details of conference -- however, since both cheques were sent to Region VIII, it is a bit puzzling how the Region X payment got forwarded on... dodgy, I must say.

About to sit at my table during dessert reception this evening, whilst aroma de chocolate brownies and freshly baked cookies (which are the size of my face) wafts past my nosy. Not sure if am up to venturing forth with groups doing restaurant hops tonight or if I want some take-away (yes, you Americans get on with your snickering) and Law and Order, or $10 Maryland Clam Bisque. Prob. not actually gonna go with the $10 soup... it was okay last night but not $10-good.

'Hugs lead to other things...'

This quote was on a CNN report just now and is the 'logic' given by the superintendent of schools in Illinois where a student (not the first this year, just the first on the news) was suspended for... HUGGING. Not any sort of full frontal body-pressing hug, just a casual hug (or two, actually -- ooooh!) over the shoulders sideways as a goodbye for the weekend.

And, here is another -- this one is a 4-year-old...

(in talking to my Cousine S. just now, she has informed me of the newest name in her experience in the OB unit. THIS IS ABSOL. TRUE.)


(yes, indeedy. And now we know what hugs lead to...)

I think I need to go and beat my head against something now.

Wednesday, 7 November 2007


... and Scratchy. This is what your brain makes your skin do when you read an article in the McPaper (oops. i mean, the USAToday) about the increasing problem of bedbugs in the US, esp. in those pestilential havens known as hotel rooms. Alarmist writing informs one that these creatures can infest you and your belongings, hitch a ride (incl. trans-nationally), and become a permanent fixture in your own home. Redness and itching are caused by an accumulation of buggy fecal matter. This is most disruptive to one's mental state of being. I have already checked under the mattress (which was rather heavy), but I do not have a pen-light to check behind the headboard, which is attached to the wall. These are supposedly the best locales for them to colonise. (scratch, scratch, scratch)

Price hiking and gouging have extended in the US hotel industry to charging for internet access. Where are we -- Australia? However, with my just-paid $9.95 for Day One, it seems that I have unlimited local and domestic calls and I feel the need to get some headphones and just freaking call everyone I know to gouge Marriott back in its chinchy little paunch.
Downtown Baltimore is kind of stinky today. It smells like rotten crab (even though I do not know exactly what eau de rotten crab smells like -- this is my assumption based upon the popular phrase 'Baltimore crab cakes', which describes a yummy concoction of friedness.). This smelliness, combined with my temporary insanity from fear of bedbug infestation, and the fact that I am pooped is preventing me from excursing for crab cakes tonight -- instead, am going to get Maryland crab bisque and a salad and milk from room service, watch Murder, She Wrote, and work up the energy to phone people :)

Today I saw a bumper sticker supporting Voldemort for President. (snicker)

Tuesday, 6 November 2007

Loot, Employment, and Weenie Dogs

Firstly, the loot report from the past three days (so that I can put it all back in a bag and hide it from myself):

3 bottles water (not to be hidden)
1 peanut butter granola bar (already eaten during 5 hour college fair on a Sunday)
1 KitKat
1 Reese's peanut butter cup
1 sm. Baby Ruth candy bar
1 sm. Snicker (already eaten)
1 sm. Almond Joy candy bar
1 sm. Take5 candy bar
1 sm. box Junior Mints
1 packet Extra spearmint gum
1 Quaker Chewy Granola Bar (chocolate chip flavor)
1 snack pack Rice Krispie Treats
1 snack pack Zoo Animal Fruit Flavored Snacks
1 packet mini pretzels
1 snack pack Sour Patch Kids
1 sm. bag Welch's Fruit Snacks
1 pack snack crackers (Cheese Crackers with Peanut Butter -- you British people can all gasp and be appalled, but they are GOOD!)
1 pack BreathSavers mints
2 Twizzlers (ick)
1 bizarre robotic light that looks like a cell phone
1 highlighter marker that is shaped like a little person with fluff coming out the top as his hair
AND a Starbucks gift card (much the most sensible part of the loot)!

It is a good thing that I turned down a side road and went to an orchard yesterday and bought some fresh apples from a cute little lady at the end of a windy road up a hill outside Colora, Maryland. (Am not exactly sure how to pronounce this place name, but it seems unfortunate any way you try. And it makes you want to cough.)

Reason for being out in orchard country was after visit to West Nottingham Academy, which is also in the difficult-to-say town. It happens to be the oldest boarding school in the United States, and the counselor told me that should I decide to return to my hope to teach ESL, I should come and work there! I am pretty sure that his housing is provided free of charge, as he and his wife are house parents in one of the halls and he can see his house from his office window -- how cool would that be?! (she drums her fingers thoughtfully on chin)

Today, I visited some great schools in northern Baltimore (mostly 'outside the loop' -- am happy to be 'in the loop' with understanding geographical designations now), and my first visit was the most helpful and kind counselor (plus, he gave me the Starbucks card) -- this is a really great quality since one can sometimes feel like a social pariah, prob. similar to how pharmaceutical reps feel if they do not have reptilian skin over their emotions. He gave me contact and date information for some great fairs to hit the Independent Schools in the Spring, and this information is quite excellent since The British Council is a complete waste of membership and money.

At my third visit, a weenie dog named Princess did not really like my accent and attacked me three times (though not really to the Amrie-quavering-with-fear point, although she did successfully nip my hand once). Am not sure if it was my gesticulating or a pitch that I reached; anyhoo, then when leaving the counseling department, I said to the counselor and her secretary in an exaggerated Southern accent, 'Well, y'all just come on over and see us in England now...' at which point Princess came yapping and charging like a mad bull out of the back office and leapt at me as fiercely as a weenie dog can. It was all a bit too much and I am afraid that she was laughed at.

An interesting thing that I noticed today was that the fundraising 'thing' here is apparently a Bull Roast -- now, I have heard of a Pork Roast (in your local store), and a Hog Roast (Loosyanna), and a Hog Roast (Britain). So, do they put a massive spit up and roast the whole bovine at once? Or is it just a fancy name for a bar-be-que?

Now, it is time for my excursion to find sushi and to visit a fun girl I met yesterday in an Irish shop. She wanted to know about Irish people and kilts, so E the Expert On All Things Irish has been consulted. His information came straight from Wikipedia :) hahahaha But it was still informative.

Monday, 5 November 2007

Weekend Tourism

Am in Wilmington, Delaware, although I seem to have missed the expected chipper WELCOME TO OUR STATE sign at the border. Perhaps they are a little more understated here in wanting outsiders to visit than in the South... Or maybe it was the brightness of the sun through the few places you can actually see out of the silly Chevrolet (there are a great many dangerous blind spots in this vehicular travesty). I was also slightly distracted by my extreme relief whilst passing the Philadelphia Eagles stadium on my way out at 4.30 -- there was a massive herd of motor homes flying American flags (this signals a great American tradition known as tailgating, which involves consumption of copious amounts of beer and charred meat -- it is definitely something that all visitors should experience.) surrounding the stadium (due to a game with the Dallas Cowboys going on inside) and had I accidentally been in exodus traffic, I might have just broken down and had a tantrum on the side of the interstate. And this is never a good idea (although I did have a dream last night about being in jail for three days for arguing with a policeman -- there is no foundation in reality for this dream, Mama, it is just a bizarre note).

Saturday was a lovely day (in the experiential way for the first half). Upon exiting the overhang of the hotel walkway a few specks of drizzle hit my face, so insignificant that it took me about a block to be decisive that it was actually precipitation and not my imagination and the cold. At this point, decision was made to press on and not wilt from the very tiny amount of rain (as well as laziness to go back to room for hat). Approx. 2 blocks later, it had turned into full frontal drizzle and this proved my choice the incorrect one. Shelter was obtained in a posh kitchen shop, but I retained enough self-control and did not purchase any double-ended melon ballers or cocktail sticks shaped in little metal twirls. There does seem to be a new fashion in little mats created from thin twigs bound together, and I would like to point out that several people mocked me when I did this about 5 years ago. Who is laughing now? (Well, not me, since I am not the person making money on this endeavour. Hmph.)

Pootled around in the Olde City area, which is full of dodgy-looking delis, clever boutiques, Starbucks, and fascinating international food choices. Britishness is in the air, in architecture and cobbled streets, so of course I like it :) Only took photo of Betsy Ross House. Pootled on.

Found Penn's Landing, which has a large sculpture monument to Irish immigrants. Memorable thing I learned was that, not only did the English have enough food for the Potato Famine victims which they instead sold to Europe, but Queen Victoria's troops actually confiscated other food crops from the Irish by gunpoint. Other crops in Ireland were fine in those years, it was just the potatoes that were affected by the blight.

Walked past Independence Hall and Liberty Bell, but did not get tickets and visit (and was later shamed and chastised by the Mama for this unpatriotic negligence), choosing to make my way to the fascinatingly named, but less overwhelmingly fascinating, Antique Row. I mean, it is okay, but it is not the visual and musty-smelling orgy of old treasures one might have hoped for.

Made way back up towards hotel up South Broad towards City Hall, which is attractive focal point but a traffic nightmare. Was slightly distracted by going into Macy's for nothing more than a browse (merely to investigate if it was worth my while getting my little Visitor's 11% discount card. It was.). After retail therapy had to go in for a rest.

Got hoagie for dinner (instead of overpriced room service again) from Carmen's Famous Italian Hoagies. This is an extremely large sammich, and I ate the whole thing.

As result of verbal chastising, was out of hotel at 8.03am yesterday, at Independence Visitor Centre by 8.23am, and on the 9.00am tour of Independence Hall. The lady who checked my bag laughed and said, 'Oh! I see we are going to take a picture of the bear??' But of course!

Tour was very interesting, and I will add some commentary when pics are uploaded. A couple of things I learned:
* after the Declaration of Independence was finally decided upon in its final form on 4 July 1776, it was read aloud to a crowd of more than 2,000 people on 8 July (i think) in the gardens attached to the building (now called Independence Square), which is actually the State House of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. After the reading, a group of particularly excitable soldiers in the crowd, ran into the building, ripped the coat of arms of King George off the wall in the Crown courtroom, took it into the front street, stamped on it and then dragged it through the streets of Philadelphia for the day. That evening, it was thrown on a bonfire and burned. As the park ranger said, 'At this point, there was kind of no turning back.'
* Benjamin Franklin was 81 when the Constitution was signed, but he was present for every meeting of the Continental Congress during the composition of it.
* Both John Adams and Thomas Jefferson died on 4 July 1826, the fiftieth anniversary of the Declaration's acceptance.
* Thomas Jefferson had red hair.
* History continues to be officially incorrectly related, as slavery is put forth by the National Park Service as the only reason for the Civil War. While, it is evident that Abraham Lincoln was morally opposed to slavery, it is a little reported fact that he only freed slaves in 'the rebelling states', not wishing to risk his political foothold by removing such a huge source of revenue from his prime supporters.

Literally ran through Liberty Bell exhibit; took picture of it (Bear missed this one).

Five hours is a bit long for a college fair (esp. on a Sunday), but at least madness was incessant, and therefore extreme length was not utterly painful. Voice is scratchety today as result of yelling over mayhem. But it was fun, and almost all of my brochures were gone! I continue to do quite a bit of mentioning of Norwich School of Art and Design, and shall hope to be added to their staff listing as honorary admission counsellor :)

Saturday, 3 November 2007

The Continuing Education of Amrie

Yesterday, I saw real Amish people in Reading Terminal Market! At least I think they were Amish (the women wear little white bonnets), but it is fascinating to think about a group of people who have been able to retain a culture (perhaps not completely intact or free from exodus) based on a system of beliefs in the midst of our 'progressive' society with our fried Macaroni and Cheese balls and our Oreo pizzas. Actually, it appears that the Amish are one of the groups comprising the Pennsylvania Dutch (and Wikipedia mentions identity in this article, Katharine!). No, these must have been Mennonites, as the Amish people in above article have blue bonnets... am just confusing self and readers now.

Reading Terminal Market is just right around the corner from my hotel, and was first noticed at the inhospitable hour of 6.45am whilst a certain person was wandering around looking for the practically invisible train station, which happens to be very large AND directly across the street from the market in a dark roadway tunnel (and which I didn't think could possibly contain an entrance and therefore walked almost around the entire block before figuring out how to get inside). It is an historic market place, which was created in the mid-nineteenth century to contain the madness and chaos resulting from street markets. I have great plans to go there for breakfast or lunch today :) (Today, am v. excited as managed to sleep until 6.30, instead of the 4.30 time my brain has decided is fun)

I have never seen anything like this market in the US before, (wait... except for Boston on a high school church trip, although for some reason, we seemed more dazzled by the 3-story Bennetton -- idiot children). So, oops -- this is not supposed to be new to me. BUT, Amish/Mennonite/P.Dutch people are definitely not in my circle of experience, even though the Steens did gift me an Amish rocking chair, which remains under my ownership :) Back to the market: there is an amazing selection of fishes, and cheeses, and meats, as well as organic produce. Another great plan of the day is to buy some Fiji Apples (as they are delectable).

Another interesting thing about the region is the Welsh influence on not only place names, but also architecture. From the 1682 to 1700, the Welsh were the largest immigrating group to the Pennsylvania colony. Article linked above is interesting, although the slight recognition that Wales was ever a strong and separate nation may rankle some of my Taffy friends (even I was slightly offended for you, as it makes it sound like Wales was just this little play-kingdom that the British thought would be fun to have.). The first groups during period above were farmers and gentry, but the second large wave from the last decade of the 18th century to the middle of the next was mostly made up of industrial workers, esp. in coal. Q.I. Today, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania (quiz question alert!) has more people of Welsh descent than any other state -- about 200,000. As well, Eisteddfods were held into the 20th century (article is dated 1937) and not just in Pennsylvania. And there is an annual festival, the Gymanfa Ganu!

Yesterday, was in Bryn Mawr and I knew this was Welsh, but did not have time or organisation to find out much beforehand. Dawny has informed me that Bryn Mawr means, 'big hill'. I do now know about the comparative landscape, although no extremely big hill was evident to me. It is, however, a lovely suburb of Philly and is quite posh. One of the schools I visited yesterday, The Baldwin School, is surprising in the Welsh-ness (or maybe Cardiff-ness) of its buildings. Exterior walls are kind of a jigsaw puzzle of rough-hewn, irregularly squared rocks, which is v.v. Cardiff. Some photos from website may demonstrate this, but did not manage to get any myself.

However, the windows and some other elements have a certain Scottish feel to them, and as C.R. Mackintosh's career was blossoming during the period that the school was being developed, it makes one wonder. Esp. if one has not done extensive research on the history of the school.

There is also the word 'Croesaw' as part of a two-word phrase carved above the fireplace in the entry hall. This evolution from 'Croeso', which means 'welcome', is interesting, but beyond that I can really say nothing else credible. I wonder if the different spelling has an evolved pronunciation as well, or if it retains the curt vowel at the end. My guess is that it does not, and that pronunciation developed a kind of Atlantic drawl, resulting in the change of spelling. Anyhoo... my idea may be complete pants.

A few other notes:
* Commuter trains here seem to pootle rather than move with a purpose.
* Customer service in places like train ticket offices (other than at the hotel) is rather British. And therefore lacking.
* However, other people are much friendlier than I expected :)
* Hurricane Noel winds may affect the city today, in v. periferal manner, though. Am not in danger of being in a hurricane.
* Roasted salmon at the Courtyard is an excellent room service choice.
* Knitting of clever gloves is finished and now they just need to be sewn up (clever buttons for finishing are, of course, in Norwich. curses.).
* Shall add photos at a later time (I hope)

Thursday, 1 November 2007

Gangstas and chiropractors

So, I am totally driving a gangster car. It is a Chevy somethingorother, and at least it is silver. (One cool girl from Temple U that I met laughed at me and said that, yes, you are completely driving a rental -- she had one in Texas and it was gold. Ick. Pimp-mobile.) There is a term that these type cars appear to be called here: crossover. This sounds like cross-dresser to me.

Ooh! I found it -- it is an HHR. Can anything be sillier-looking than me driving this? I submit that it cannot! Bear will have his photo taken with this vehicular absurdity. It shall be called the ridonkulous car of the week.

Tip of the week: Never be so unfortunate as to have your display table next to that of a Chiropractic School at a fair-type event of the recruiting nature. Because if you do, you will no doubt be assaulted and mentally molested by a Type-A annoying individual who is trying to convince you of something, although you are not exactly sure what this is. Topics that were covered in this spacial-invasion 'conversation' included: engineering, how this is not related to the body, the spine, and childhood vaccinations. I think he was trying to confund me with his extremely speedy talking and logical gymnastics by asking inane trick questions like, 'What is health?' and 'If your shoulder hurts (at which point he touched my shoulder.... grrr), is it a health problem or a parts problem?'. If I didn't answer fast enough, he would repeat the question 4 seconds later in a rapid-fire sort of way. (Some points were valid, like about healthy-eating ideas and Americans over-using medications instead of changing things, but really. SHUT UP!) Fortunately, he was fast-talking (big shock) to a poor, unsuspecting, and way-too-polite potential student, and my sneaking out with my materials at the end of the fair went unchallenged.

Horrific food item of the week: Mac and Cheese snack bites. These are comprised of macaroni and cheese, rolled into little balls, battered, and then deep fried! And it appears to be important enough to start a discussion board thread -- WHO ARE THESE IDIOTS? Well, I just can't go there... If you can't say anything nice, come and sit next to me and Dorothy Parker.

Bird of the week: the Canada goose. There are thousands of these birds grazing (or whatever it is that birds do when they are eating grass) around every pond in a grassy field that I pass. It is quite a nice sight. No birds have been shot by Herself... so far. Have taken photo of a horde in Morrisville, PA, but cannot locate camera connector to USB port.

Slacker of the week: moi. Actually, am not slacker, am great coward. Or extremely sensible person. Was to have attended college fair at Girls' High this evening; however, drive there gave distinct feeling of venturing deeper and deeper into ghetto. This, along with the fact that a 25-year police veteran died this morning after being shot in the head at a Dunkin' Donuts yesterday morning. This happened in north Philly, as is Girls' High. The perp is still on the loose and doubly armed since he stole the police officer's gun as he left the scene. And I did not feel like chancing a meeting with this person while leaving the school after 8pm this evening, it was dusky at ten to 6, when the fair was to be starting. Instead of this multi-cultural stress, have had...

Lovely meal of the day: Salmon, asparagus, carrots and salad. This, after experiencing the...

Fleecing of the day: paying $40 a day for valet parking (over the next 3 days).

Additional items of note from the day:
* have not hit any mental cyclists who are riding helter skelter through traffic sideways with no helmets.
* And managed to click locks to open car while walking across street just as traffic warden writing me a ticket since one of my visits wouldn't stop talking. (phew) Traffic warden told me I was lucky.
* Am doing well with no map. I heart grid system road planning.