Monday, January 31, 2005 

Two Days Is Industry Standard

My own interpretive reading (as is the only way I can find to express myself properly at this moment):


Mike: You think we are going to get there by midnight?
Trent: Baby, we are going to be up five hundy by midnight. [Paris] baby!
Mike and Trent: [PARIS!!!]

Wednesday, January 26, 2005 

Pad Prik Prow

Went out to dinner with my new friend Howard the other night. We went to a traditional pub around the corner from my lab, which lo and behold had a Thai restaurant was built into the back. The food was not so great, but I did feel like I was in a pub circa 1900, and it had especially a very dungeon-y feel to it. Kinda cool.

Tuesday, January 25, 2005 

Reefer Roadtrip

Ever have one of those days? Where you think you are just headed to work as usual, but then end up two hours by van out of the city, spending the day with a fellow postgrad who happens to be the Director of Botany at what is probably the world's largest legal marijuana growing facility?

Yea, me too....

(Don't worry, the pictures were allowed, as long as I did not shoot anything that would reveal the company or the location, or even any of the employees, for safety concerns obviously.)

Being developed for relief of symptoms of people with MS. Clinical trials are going excellently.

So that was my day yesterday. Living in a foreign country can be bizarre. Living in a big city can be bizarre. Being a postgrad student can be bizarre. And when those three things decussate, you can really get some most atypical and interesting experiences.

Friday, January 21, 2005 

Andale, Andale, Ariba, Ariba!

I was going to do a bit of blogging to commemorate my four month anniversary of moving to London yesterday, but the damn site was done. Bastards.

Strange Thing #25: Serious lack of decent Mexican food.

And people here may protest that and claim that they do in fact have loads of acceptable TexMex but really either they: 1) know they don't and are just trying to save face, or 2) have no bloody idea what good Meixcan food actually tastes like. I vote for the latter.

Trying to find it in the grocery stores is a nightmare, and what I have bought so far is disgusting. To be fair, I haven't eaten out at the two Mexican restaurants I've seen in the last four months. Maybe it's better there. Maybe someone out there in webland could recommend a good one in zone one, because MAN, am I jonesing for some.

And kisses to all my lovely friends that have sent care packages full of Taco Bell hot sauce. The value of friendship has never meant more to me...

Wednesday, January 19, 2005 

Get out and vote!

This has got me all kinds of excited (I'm not sure why):

Another PhD student who's just started is an Iraqi, I knew that much before (but he is NOT the one who told me on the elevator that he was from Iraq, that's a different guy) but he came in today all smart, and turns out he's working on campaigning for the election! How cool is that! So he showed me the group he's campaigning for, The United Iraqi Alliance, which is #169 on the ballot, and even showed us a sample ballot (which was absolute madness. Trust me, Florida could not handle this bad boy.)

So then we sat down and had a long chat about Iraq, because up till now I hadn't met anyone from there who was friendly to me. He said he went there five years ago and then again last July. I asked him if it was better and he said it was "way better" except for the buildings, which I apologized for, oddly enough. (I will not apologize for my country as a whole, but I will express condolences for our choice to structurally demolish just about every town in the whole country, just so us Americans could get Shocked and Awed.) He said he thought a lot of people would vote, and he's working to get the 200,000 or so Iraqis in this country to vote, and also to explain the ballot to them, as there is not an English version available.

Apparently, they won't just be voting for one individual like we do in the states. They'll be voting for groups of people, hence his United Alliance title. This group includes people from over 23 political parties with 50% of the candidates being independent. Whew! I'm glad I don't have to make that kind of choice. And I'm not sure how that overlaps with tribes either.

It was just so interesting to have someone explain this whole mess to me, and for the very first time I saw and felt somewhat relieved about the War, like maybe somehow it will work out not totally awful. He was really excited too, "I mean, none of these people thought they would ever get to vote in their lives!" Wow.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005 

I would have come into The Lab anyway....

Strange Thing #24: No Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

I guess he was purely an American phenomenon? I know that England had slaves (slavery ended officially here decades before it did in America) but was there no civil rights activity afterwards? Maybe all the British were too busy being super polite to one another to pursue segregation....


Culture Secretary

Strange Thing #23: I've just discovered they have a Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport in the British Cabinet.

According to Wikipedia, the Department for Culture, Media and Sport heads up stuff like:
alcohol & entertainment
architecture & design
creative industries
cultural property
education & social policy
gambling & racing
historic environment
libraries & communities
museums & galleries
the National Lottery
public appointments

We don't have something like this in the USA, at least not at that level. But then, a lot of these things aren't important to Americans as much (arts, architecture, history, libraries) and some aren't really legal (gambling!) and stuff like education gets it's own department. But how cool is that? I don't think something like this would work in the States, there would be quite the public outcry if tax dollars were spent regulating alcohol and sports in such a blatant manner.

Monday, January 17, 2005 

Dropkick this!

Today The Incredibly Racist German was listening to a cover of "Dixie" in the lab. Why am I even surprised anymore? But I don't care, I invited him to see Dropkick Murphys at Brixton Academy in March anyway, because I know he's the only one who'd want to see it with me. All the guys (who are all gay) in the office just seem to listen to techno and emo. And they snarl when IRG plays rockabilly in the lab, which I actually like when I'm in the mood for it

But then the concert is sold out, so none of it matters. Is there scalping in England?

While the worst week I've had since I've been in here gradually morphs into the two worst weeks I've had since I've been here, I did get a reprieve this afternoon. The head of the department came into the office to speak with Gay Irish Guy, and GIG went to show him a website, But he accidently typed in, and up popped a barrage of revolting and horribly graphic porn images!! And naturally, when he tried to close the window as quickly as possible, ten more pages of similar material popped up.

GIG: Uhh, I don't know what this is all about.
Dept Head: Well, ah.... ahem.
Me: *silently giggling and refusing to turn round and look at them for fear of seriously guffawing*
GIG: Oh. Wow. They just keep appearing, don't they? *awkward pause*
Dept Head: Right... *awkward pause* Lesbians, huh?
GIG: Uhhh. *awkward pause* About that thesis....

He was pretty cool about it, especially since GIG is out to everyone, so you know it has to be an accident. But, God, was it hilariously embarrassing. Terrific. Made my day. We haven't stopped laughing about it since.

Saturday, January 15, 2005 

New Schedule

This week was really interesting, as I didn't go to the lab like normal, but invigilated exams for King's College at the Royal Horticulture Hall in SW1. I took the tube every morning (like a real Londoner!) to the Westminster stop, and then walked along Millbank which runs parallel to Parliament. It was very cool to see such different and famous parts of the city for a few days: walking behind Westminster Abbey, having Big Ben remind me how late I was, getting bumped into by tourists backing up to fit the towers into their shots... It was amazing!

(Parliament guards carry AK-47s now. I guess they didn't use to before. It's a little unnerving, if you haven't seen a gun for months.)

It was overwhelming too, to be in such a tourist-y part of town. While everything is gorgeous to look at, it's insanity as well, and it made me appreciate that I had carved out my own little space and routine that isn't on any map, that doesn't have any attraction you'd want to go to.... I'm not exactly a tourist anymore, I know where to grab the free copies of the Metro, exactly how the tube ticket machines work, when to cross the street without pissing off drivers... I know I'm not a Londoner either, but guess I'm starting to fall somewhere in between... And that's a really nice feeling.


Big Ben

Big Ben and St. Marge

Westminster Abbey

Westminster Abbey

Lambeth Bridge

Wednesday, January 12, 2005 

I suck

I think I've now been labeled a "bad PhD student." I'm behind in my work, I've been out for a month (back to USA and then proctoring exams for money all week) and I'm just rubbish at everything I do. I don't think it's technically my fault since it's not like there's anyone to tell you how to be a good PhD student. Either you are one or you aren't. Maybe being in the actual workforce/real world has ruined me. Hopefully I'll morph into a good student over time, once I figure out what the hell I'm doing. Until then... I think I'm getting a pretty good lashing from my adviser tomorrow. Maybe that'll whip me into shape.

Sunday, January 09, 2005 

Christmas in D.C.

Tree and White House. Not too shabby a place to live near, huh?


It's Allllll Good

I'm as happy as a pig in mud to be back. Things have been really really good.

I saw some awesome people I wasn't expecting to see this week. First was my Uncle Bob and his wife, Ann. Man, what a trip those two are! We had a lot of fun, even though they are super duper wine experts and managed to get me all kinds of drunk. I didn't even go to the lab the next day I was so hungover. They live in California but were here for business, so what a neat surprise! And it was the same with my friend Josh, a high school mate that I haven't seen in a while. He was in Scotland for New Year and stopped by London to see me. We didn't get to see that much of each other but it was great to see him. He's lived in England before and understands me and the whole culture shock deal (I'm still going though, I swear.) So it was great to talk to him.

The best news I got when I was home was about that guy, H, I wrote about before I left. He was an American getting a PhD at KCL and through a friend of a friend we got in touch so that he could give me a head's up about coming to London. Instead he turned out to be the world's biggest asshole and sent me an email about how much everything here sucks: London, England, KCL, the people, the exchange rate, the transportation, the food, the TV, the weather, and if it was at all possible, to back out if I still could. I'll never forget receiving that email, because it scared the Hell out of me and made me burst into tears right there at my desk!!

The bastard graduated and moved back to America. People I know met him and confirmed his asshole status, and I moved here and have realized he couldn't have been more wrong. The news about him? He can't find a job in the states!! The only place he can find a job? London!! He has to move back here!! Ahahahaha!

Poor H. He doesn't understand that stuff always works out for me. I swear. I was walking over here right now, wearing my new pink scarf, and those massive winds were finally dying down, and I was practically walking on air because things are so amazing here and I'm so happy, and what's become of H? The bastard was mean to me for no reason and the gods are punishing him. Ha.

Thursday, January 06, 2005 

Arrived Safe and Sound

Wow, you guys are great with the Paris info, keep it coming!!

Made it safe and sound to London. My flight over was interesting, but I
didn't sleep AT ALL. One woman in our row had Alzheimer's (or so was
the theory of the nurse who sat next to me) so she managed to keep us
up in a variety of ways. I did try to sleep but at one point the nurse next to me
was sleeping facing me and I was facing her and she sneezed and
actually sneezed ON MY FACE, that was so gross I couldn't sleep after
that. But towards the end of the flight I was talking to her and
turns out she's a nurse at Johns Hopkins (we bonded over that for a while) and she and a team of doctors
and nurses were flying to Indonesia to work on the tsunami victims for
four weeks. Wow. She only found out 48 hours before then that she
was leaving and hadn't slept in over 24 hours, and had like another 15
hour flight to go. She was really cool and I am wishing her the best.

So yesterday, after getting back to my hall around 11 and suffering from renewed homesickness, I got Chinese food (sorely missed the high quality of Chinese food when I was in the states) and slept from 1pm to 4pm, 5pm to 6pm, 9pm to 3am, and 5am to 10am. It was awful. Not to mention I kept having vampire dreams again. I keep a dream journal actually, and looking back I realized all my dreams the last few months have been vampire/zombie nightmares. Sucks.

I finally turned in my literature review, only about a month late. It's a document all the PhD students have to write when they first arrive. It's basically just a review of everything that's going on in the field. Trust me, it's harder than it sounds and I have been sweating over it. I'm not looking forward to my advisor's comments, but at least the damn thing's done with. I was procrastinating like mad on that one.

Tonight I'm having dinner with family I didn't even know I had here. Who knew?

Happy New Year all!

Tuesday, January 04, 2005 

Multiple Destinations

Maybe I'm wrong about the dryer sheets....

I'm leaving for the airport in a little over an hour. Back to London I go. I feel culture shocked all over the place; the states were weird, and now I know when I go back London will be weird too. I'm also having deja vu, saying goodbye to people all over again. My brain seems to think my first couple days in London will be just like the first time yet again: wandering around in the wrong neighborhood, completely alone and lonely. But that doesn't make sense, as I have friends there now....

The exciting part is that I've been planning two really cool trips the past couple of days! The second one is to Scotland with my folks and sister, to see the British Open among other things.

The first I need your help with. My friend, Heather, and her mom and I are having a weekend in Paris, the first weekend in February. Does anyone know a place to stay, or which part of town we should stay in?? I have no idea...

Cool chick

Torrid Travels

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