Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Quite Interesting, in fact.

Just found this site:

Through this article:


Monday, May 30, 2011

Pictures of stuff!

 Welcome to Venice

One of my favorite little islands around Venice.

 Our hotel room - we stayed one night. There's something about Venice that makes this sort of kitschy display okay - not as good as a canal view, but okay....

 Our lunch. That cheese is Parmigiano Reggiano. Wonderful stuff. Better than anything at a restaurant, and less expensive.

I never did figure out what the second toilet is for... could be urinal, but why have hot and cold taps on a urinal? Bewildering toilets the globe over!

 One of the cool things about Venice is that people do seem to be comfortable wearing unique clothing, in a way I've never seen anywhere else. Especially since the unique clothing here tends to be awesome, instead of weird.

Us! See! I didn't just steal these off flickr.... anyway, that's my favorite dome/church in Venice. They actually have a sign inside saying that no church should ever charge admission.

The view from the point of the Grand Canal.

Venice at night. It has long been an intention of mine to stay in Venice at night. Everything calms down after the 20,000 day-trippers leave.

Me, in front of my favorite Dome.

The small island, at night.

Next morning, we discovered this church (adjoining white building is a hospital.) I didn't know about it. Cool red brick gothic structure.

Hope you enjoyed.

Today's triva - Tomatoes come from South America (the word "tomato is incan...) and were brought to Europe only as recently as the 1500's.

Preview of Coming Attractions

I'm currently living in the house Ian Flemming lived in for something like six years of his childhood. I will post pictures one of these days.

This blog is becoming a strange mix of past, present and future. Past adventures, past thoughts, present hints, future hopes.

Or does that make me sound like a tosser? (which is a great English word, by the way.)

Friday, May 27, 2011

Update from the fire escape

I suppose the first thing I should say is that I'm just sitting on the fire escape because I get the wifi here, and because it's a nice perch. I love a nice perch. Sea Bass is better in sushi, admittedly...

Anyway, it's late, and the gothic-style arched windows project a yellow glow into the dark and moonless night. Kind of like this:

From Braziers' park website. (yes, this is where we are staying, by the way)
But that's not important. I want to tell you about someone I've met. I've spent the last few days mostly helping in the kitchen and reading on my own time, but that's not important. I've also been talking to Nonny.

This is Nonny (from the blog of another volunteer

Nonny is one of those people. I don't know how to do her justice in writing. I don't really know how to do anyone justice, but certain people bring that realization to the fore with all the subtlety of German erotica.

Nonny was a teacher of classics and religion.

Nonny lived through World War Two. She remembers having a sweets ration once a month. "It didn't go very far." She thinks, "It must be very odd, for your grandparents, to not have been in a war."

Nonny was married to a Classics professor at University of Bristol.

Nonny's grandfather was a teacher of French history, and went insane, convinced he was Napoleon.

Nonny loves her garden.

Nonny has the right to call African-Europeans black. She doesn't know this, but I have accorded her this right. Why? Because she spent many, many years teaching African-European kids from the poorer parts of London. She loved them. She calls them black.

She was teaching religion - teaching the nativity, and one of the boys raised his hand and said "Miss, why did the angels appear to the shepherds." She said she didn't know. After a couple of suggestions, one cockney in the back of the class tentatively raised his hand, and said "perhaps it was just that they were the only ones awake, it being the middle of the night."

Nonny worked as a decoder and translator during World War Two. She learned Military Japanese, and translated it for the English.

Nonny loves to talk about her life, and I love to listen, though I will admit it can be exhausting. One has the feeling one has lived another life, and it's tiring enough to live once.

I hope she will forgive me that I have not done her justice.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

TL/DR: Funniest sight in the universe contender: Drunk people (try to) set up a tent.

A view from the roof of the house we stayed in in Italy. That's the nearest village (Santa Brigida) - nearest bus stop, nearest grocery store, etc.

Hiking through the wooded hills of Tuscany, behind the house.

More views from the rooftops. I feel really sorry for those of you who still live in Santa Clarita, and don't get clouds, or trees.

Soon to come: France! (but maybe after Venice... we'll see...)

I will not neglect my blog. I will not neglect my blog. I will not neglect my blog. I will not neglect my blog. I will not neglect my blog...

Sorry about the neglect. Let's see... updates... (pictures will come later today, so long as the rapture holds off a few more hours...)

Security patrol went very smoothly. I did discover one of the most amusing sights in the universe: drunk and/or high people trying to set up a tent at 11:30 PM. When you can't figure out which side of your tent is the floor, you might have a problem.

There was a fair bit of litter (this being the UK's greenest festival, had to comment on that) but less than other comparable festivals, and the litter was picked up pretty quickly.

Hmmmm.... other stuff that's been going. Just finished Guns, Germs, and Steel. Fascinating book, absolutely fascinating - highly recommended reading.

Had an interesting discussion about feminism and the future of feminism, what the bra-burning movement meant, etc.

That's about it. Moved firewood and a caravan yesterday. That was fun. Day off today, which sure feels nice.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Today's Top Tip

How to get out of jury duty:
Respond to as many questions as possible with "That's what she said."
Leave the country.

The second may be a little drastic.

I will, of course, expect a full report on the results, should anyone attempt solution 1.

Anyway, last night I worked in the Thuderfrog - our little RV/Camper based food selling vehicle at the rock festival. I was selling Potato Curry and Nan. Banged my head on the overhang twice. Here are some observations I found interesting. Due to brain damage, they may not be interesting to anyone else:

I did not expect a kind of Berkley eco-rock hipster-hippie rock festival to include so many parents with children. I wonder how many people are aware of the fact that the hipsters seem to be breeding.

They didn't seem like bad parents - just interestingly hypocritical ones. The same parents that, at 5:00PM were trying to make sure their children didn't eat anything as non-vegan as yogurt, or as processed as white flour, were back by 7:30, hunting for any booth selling hot chocolate and/or cake.

That is certainly a representation of the exaggerated minority, though. Most of them were just parents as I always seem to see parents - people with small, controlling appendages attached to one or two arms, with a look in their eyes that says either:

Dear heavenly powers and angels protecting us, if I do not get this child something sweet, I will not hear the end of it, I will go insane, and throw a brick of cocaine on the bonfire.


Dear heavenly powers and angels of whatevertheheckyoube, I need something sweet, but I can't admit it. Luckily I have a kid, and can get myself some chocolate, while it just seems like I'm being a good Dad. That's what good Dads do, right? Give their kids Chocolate? Oh, who cares. Chocolate... chocolate...

I'm not sure which it is yet. I'll let you know if I figure it out.

Tonight, I have security detail, wandering around dealing with parents who have briefly misplaced their cocoa-smeared appendages. I'll report back tomorrow.

Dear heavens and angelicky powers, I hope this doesn't become a Bill-Brysonesque cynical expose.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Pictures! No, actually, my pictures!

In lieu of pictures from Britain (haven't taken the time to pull those off the camera yet) I'll try to get us a little caught up. Here are some pics of where we stayed in Italy (I haven't shown you these yet, have I?)

The view out our bedroom window. That tree seriously reminds me of the tree of Gondor.

The house we lived in. If anyone wants it, I think I have a close up of the Latin over the door frame. Anyone up for a bit of translation? Oh, by the way - that Jeep was a pain to drive. No power steering... Italian roads are the craziest I've seen yet. I'll post pictures of them sometime.

The house that we lived in from the closest town. We are the small yellowish speck in the upper left. 

This one. (taken at 10x zoom)

The nearby forest. What we were working to get in another pine stand.

Sunset from our window


Oh, and we had to chop our own wood... but no axe, so, railroad spikes and a sledgehammer... without a full handle. Yay!

That's our office, that pine stand behind the olive trees. Oh, btw, olive trees are beautiful. We hiked up that hill behind the pine stand one day. I'll post pictures of that hike sometime.

Has that satisfied some appetites? Or merely whetted them more?

Applied Asynchronous Artistic Articulation

By which I mean, a blog. Sort of.

Let's see. Today I helped set up Wood festival, which just started. Decently cool english indie rock music, so some fun there. Hmmmm.... what else...

Does anyone else hate these wristbands? I have to wear one for the festival for the next three days... at least it's cloth and not rubber or plastic...

Hmmmm... this is a short one. What do you think? Should I post some pictures? Yea, I think I should. Pictures to come.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Today's top trivial tangentia

Let's see... today I helped make dinner and clean up (20+ people, clearly a full time job.)

Last night (after posting) I participated in a group learning about/discussing  the Cathars (13th century south of France group slaughtered wholesale for heresy - helped launch the inquisition.) Discussion also shifted towards Gnosticism and the related theological/philosophical ideas. Absolutely fascinating stuff.

Rather tired though. Also, have two weeks of Dr. Who to catch up on.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

What was it Obama said right before Julian Assange publicized a more free and open journalism?

Oh yea. Be careful what you ask for...

(Mr. Obama said America's future depends on the "honest, objective, meticulous reporting" that "is so vital to our democracy and our society." ) (http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-503544_162-5297844-503544.html)

So, you have asked for more of the more "mundane" stuff in my life. Like Barney Stinson, I strive to make nothing in my life mundane, but I shall attempt to comply.

Today, I had McDonalds for lunch. Just kidding.

Feeling like we are settling in here nicely, being accepted by the natives. A bit of harsh joking going back and forth, but that's generally a good sign.

Today we helped move some wood around (gathering scraps for a bonfire - big rock-music festival here this weekend). And then helped prepare the "thunderfrog" a kind of sandwich trailer for the festival - painting, building steps for a patio, that sort of thing.

Reading: Guns, Germs, and Steel. Very interesting book. Did you know that wild Almonds are poisonous (cyanide)? And that on the rare occasion a tree mutates and looses the cyanide gene it will almost certainly not reproduce, unless people intentionally plant it, because birds figure out it's not poisonous. Fascinating. Okay, fascinating to me.

More pictures will come. I need to find the time to get things off the camera... we haven't taken a lot of pictures (there is a point at which recording an experience interferes with experiencing the experience.) but we have taken a few, so I'll try to post those.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

A quick question, and an observation

Yesterday, we took ferries and trains from the Orkney islands (59 degrees longitude) to London (51 degrees). We left at 1:05 PM and arrived at 7:35 the next morning. Quite a trip. Still love the Caledonian sleeper though.

Also, I had haggis. I actually really liked it.

We managed to get our bus and train figured out to Braziers park, we are there now. Oxfordshire is beautiful. Many, many trees and wildflowers. Braziers is fascinating, if a bit Berkley (if you know what I mean.)

Now the question: Do you want more of these "here's what we did today" updates? They won't all be as fascinating as these ones. (Because I know you just love to hear about Haggis...) but they'd make things more consistent and day-to-day.

And the observation: I always feel like bus drivers are as clueless as I am about where to stop. "I'd like to get off at Brazier's Park, could you let me know when we get close?" is met with an affirmative vocal response, but a look that says "Shoot. Um... Braziers park. Dang. I've just been driving this bus for three days. I'll have to just send him off somewhere, and hope he finds it. Maybe he'll just catch the next bus."

That said, we had no trouble finding the place.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Announcement! (Isn't that what this blog is for?)

Just to let you know, I won't be posting for about another week. Now (way) up north, on Orkney. Technology us (understandably) relatively rare.

TIL (Today I Learned): The Shetland and Orkney islands used to belong to Norway, and were important bases for Viking invasions. This was the case until Christian the I of Norway pledged Orkney as payment on the dowry of his daughter Margaret to James the III of Scotland in 1468. The money was never paid, so Orkney became Scottish.

Also, the word for Orkney in Scottish Gaelic: Archaibh

Thursday, May 5, 2011

The Farmer's Face

Of all the things I have seen on this trip, the faces remain with me most.

But what is the face of a farmer? Is it the food he grows?

Or the food he eats?

The food he eats and the food he grows are not often the same.

In Traditional Japan, is his face his fathers?

In new, metropolitan Japan, is his face his son's? His Daughter's?

After all, the question of the identity of the face is not a new one here.

Or is his face his hands?


The only picture of these that is mine is the first. I worked two days making Mochi with him, he kindly posed with me for a picture. I have edited myself out. All other pictures are creative commons, attribution, non-commercial licenses.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Things to see in the Louvre that are not the Mona Lisa: Architecture

Forgetting even the art, the Architecture of the Louvre is worth study. The sculpture gallery, for example:

Now, certainly, this is not my favorite, Gothic Architecture (more on that another day. Much, much more.) For one thing, Gothic Architecture always has vertical windows. That pyramid glass must be an absolute pain to clean... in any case, the sense of size and open courtyard feel is amazing. The ascending stairs are monumental. A fitting garden for monumental statuary. 

There is also the remains of ancient architecture. This I found particularly stunning - two thousand some year old capitals from an Iranian palace. Check the (tall) man on the right for a size comparison, and then remember, this is the capital. That means that it is only the peak of the pillar. In this palace, there would have been a hundred and fifty of these pillars, bracing the ceiling, and they would have been some fifty meters above the ground. The floor plan would have been open. Imagine that palace, which no one has seen for two thousand years.

One last shot of a sculpture dwarfing the gallery.

(Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/michela/94149475/in/photostream/ )

Also, not quite my favorite spiral staircase ever (spiral staircases are awesome). My favorite is in the Vatican (I'll show you that one sometime.) Still, this one is cool. And yes, that pillar in the middle is an elevator.