Saturday, 24 October 2009

Day 43/99: Demon squirrels

Sorry for the massive radio silence - I had a lot I wanted to say, and couldn't find the time, so put it off, so had even more to blog about, and it was all a vicious circle. Anyway, here goes.

First, photos of things I saw a while back but never had my camera around to photograph - black squirrels are really common at Princeton (they scared me when I first saw them):

Sunday, 18 October 2009

Day 37/99: Phones and deafness

So, I finally bit the bullet, braved the hour-long round trip to RadioShack and bought a US cellphone (I've adapted and instinctively say "cellphone" rather than "mobile phone", but I can still absentmindedly refer to it as a "mobile", and can't bring myself to say "cell"). It's quite nice - a fliptop phone, cost me $20, plus another $30 for 120 minutes of airtime (plus sales tax, naturally), so less than £34 in real money. It also lets me play sudoku on it. It'll be useful when Steve's here, and moreso in Washington DC.

On which note, I've now been to two of the pre-trip activities for my Deaf Education in Washington DC trip. I know the American Sign Language fingerspelling alphabet (radically different from British Sign Language), we all watched a documentary on deaf culture and cochlear implants (a lot of deaf people, especially the older generation, are violently opposed to them, because they don't view deafness as a disability - one grandmother described her deaf grandchild as having been "blessed by God" - and feel that 'treating' it destroys their culture and their language. The other side of the argument is people who claim that for a parent not to try and cure a child's deafness is abusive, and that they're being selfish rather than wanting the best for the child - it leads to social difficulties, some Deaf schools are appaling, and even the deaf-culture enthusiasts admit that it limits their job opportunities.), and a teacher at a local deaf school taught us some basic ASL words, so I can now make small talk with deaf people.

Interestingly, one of the other trip members (there are 13 of us, but no more than 7 ever seem to show up at once) is from Burma, and since that's a former British colony (I didn't know that - it's great when other people tell you "you used to rule us", and remind you where their country is) everyone's really into football and he was wearing an England shirt and jacket. It's a nice touch of home.

I'm also a Daily Princetonian columnist now! I wrote a guest op-ed opposing the proposed new Center for Abstinence and Chastity here, and it was so well-received that they've invited me to join their columnist team, even though applications closed a fortnight ago. If I write another good column next week (they have a team of columnists, so it's a fortnightly thing) they'll confirm me and I can put it on my CV. I'm quite tempted to offer to write for the OxStu or the Cherwell when I'm back...

Steve's just got here, and is reading my article and criticising my American spelling and tendency to say "elevator". Oh well...

Wednesday, 14 October 2009

Day 33/99: Book geekery

I went to the information session for the Elmer Adler Essay Prize (on book collecting) today. It was interesting - and only six students were there and there are three prizes ($2,000, $1,500 and $1,000) so I have a good chance - but the crowning moment of awesome was seeing an original Gutenberg Bible. I saw some pretty cool stuff when Merton got their archives out for the historians, including a medieval copy of Bede, but the Gutenberg is just symbolic.

I also quizzed the Scheide Librarian about how common it was for librarians to do research and write stuff - he does, but he became a librarian before Library Science MAs were common and has a History PhD, so huh. He gave me a mini-book he'd written (The Invention and Early Spread of European Printing, as represented in the Scheide Library) for free, though, so yay.

Those of you with basic maths skills will notice that I'm a third of the way into my trip - everything's going surprisingly quickly. Why have I not done more work?

Tuesday, 13 October 2009

Day 32/99: Aida very nice day

So, one of the things that made me decide to write a blog today was a not-so-fun fact I saw in The Daily Princetonian this morning. You all know that the American university admissions system puts a lot more emphasis on "well-roundedness" than pure academic ability. Apparently, when when the modern admissions test (SATs) started in 1901, they were the only deciding factor - if you had a high score (and could afford tuition) you got in. The reason they changed, it seems, was because Jews were too good at the tests - by 1922 20% of Harvard students were Jewish. As the article puts it, "the notion of a well-rounded college (sic) applicant was invented to keep Jews out of the Ivy League".

In other news, I decided to become cultured and bought a ticket to the Opera Aida next Wednesday (apologies for the appalling pun in the post title). It's a really good deal - the ticket's face value is $67.50, but I got it and transport to NYC for $25. Score.

Fencing and academics are still going well - I got 100% on my second Latin test running, so yay. I had a bout of OCD last night and not only tidied my room, but rearranged my pile of loose change:

I have $4.19 in coins. I counted.

Also, I got more information about my Washington DC trip - I'm getting a four-hour crash course in American Sign Language on Sunday and Thursday of next week (two hours/day). Should be fun!

Saturday, 10 October 2009

Day 29/99: Americans? Inappropriate? Never!

In Butler's Class of 1942 Lounge, there stands this plaque:

(Within this college from 1964 until 2007 stood Class of 1941 Hall

Given in memory of the members of the class who gave their lives in the service of their country

Glory uneroded and shining
lights them down the ages)

Reflect for a moment: what would be an appropriate tribute to the Princeton students who died in the Second World War? I guess a picture of a tiger, sitting on top of Earth, modified to look like Hitler, would be pretty inappropriate, right?

Oh, you wacky Americans. I guess it makes sense when you consider that they demolished 1941, 1942 and 1943 Halls two years ago.

Lest anyone accuse them of being ambivalent towards Hitler, there's a badge:

And, for those formal occasions where they want to be classy, a Tiger-Hitler-Globe tie:

There's also a polo shirt and a cummerbund with the logo on, but my camera's on the blink.

In other news, my new favourite hobby is telling Americans about arcane Oxford customs ("I have people who dust my room", "we take exams in gowns" and "we eat dinner in gowns and have our food served to us" being the favourites). One guy got confused between scouts and public-school fags and thought that younger students were made to empty my bins; when I introduced the "formal hall" thing by saying we had four meals a day, he also interjected with "afternoon tea?". Which got me thinking...

Sainsbury's sell six-packs of scones, and do a 2-packs-for-£1 deal (gotta love Cucumbers only cost 70p, bread, clotted cream and jam are all relatively cheap, so £5 could buy me six days' worth of cucumber sandwiches, tea and two scones. I think this may need to be an institution in 59 Holywell come my return to Oxford...

Tuesday, 6 October 2009

Day 25/99: "All good things come by three"... my Junior Seminar tutor said, having emailed us two scanned books to read and the course syllabus. Still, today was a really good day.

First things first - I got a reply from Oxford's Grocyn Lecturer, telling me it's fine if I do LAT101 at Princeton then join Elementary Latin at Oxford halfway through - the two courses even use the same textbook - so this paves the way for me to take a Latin paper for Finals, which is really good for my thesis options and for postgrad stuff.

Then I heard back from the PACE Center at Princeton - I'm accepted onto the Deaf Education in Washington DC trip. It should be a really good experience - travel, getting involved with Deaf culture, learning a bit of American Sign Language - and only $150, which still leaves me with almost $100/week for the rest of my time at Princeton.

I also went fencing tonight, learnt a new technique ('disengaging') and won a bout 5-4 which I was pretty happy with. I've paid my dues - $50 for the semester - which is pretty good value if you consider that I'm fencing six to eight hours a week for twelve weeks.

Some other stuff happened - I had half of my Junior Seminar outside because it was sunny, and I'm starting to prepare a topic for it (medieval etymology, in case you were interested) - but if I count those as real events I'll have more than three. I've just got back from the Butler Study Break, which meant free pizza and $1 off a purchase at the late-night store; I took the chance to buy some American chocolate:

I'd just like to note that in the US, Milky Ways have caramel in. A moment of silence for our collective violated childhood, please. I'm quite intrigued by the Hershey's - I haven't eaten it yet, but Verity took the drastic step of sending a bar of Dairy Milk across the Atlantic (<3) because American chocolate apparently has loads of wax in. I'm going to try it, however, in the name of anthropology; I'll let you know whether it tastes like a candle.

Saturday, 3 October 2009

Day 22/99: Bang bang bang

So, I went rifle-shooting (50ft, .22 cal bolt-action) today. It was fun. Sadly, I neglected to actually take my camera to the rifle range, but we were shooting at paper scorecard targets, and got to take them away:

You'll notice that I hit the targets quite often sometimes, and in two cases practically got a bullseye. Those of you who know me well will suspect this is more due to a fluke than any hand-eye co-ordination on my part. You would not be wrong.

I also pocketed a handful of spent cartridges as souvenirs:

That's probably legal, right?

Friday, 2 October 2009

Thursday, 1 October 2009

Day 20/99: Pieces of Oxford

Sorry about the week of radio silence - I kind of settled into the routine, so nothing very new was happening and I was fairly busy, a non-ideal combination for writing blogs. Everything's going well - I settled my course choices (doing the medieval seminar, the Greek democracy seminar, Latin and a grad course on Roman portraiture), and haven't missed a single fencing session - I even won a bout 5-2 yesterday, although my opponent was also new and hitting people with a sword scared her. Some of the trips that looked interesting - Philadelphia and Phantom of the Opera on Broadway - sold out before I got to them, but that does free my schedule up to go shooting on Saturday and work more with the art gallery (we're planning the first exhibit, a set of photos from Turkey taken by one of the committee members), so it's all good.

The Butler dedication (formally naming the halls, etc.) happened a while ago - there was nothing terribly interesting about it, except just how much free branded stuff there is. In addition to my Butler College fleece, there are Butler napkins, Butler seat cushions, Butler plastic water bottles, and Butler-iced biscuits:

I'd be lying if I said I wasn't tempted to make Merton-crested biscuits.

Also, one of the staircases in the Firestone Library (like the Bod, but confusing) has bits of Oxford architecture dotted around. Witness:

(text: "Architrave from University College
Brackets from Worcester College

(text: "From
Pembroke College Oxford
founded 1624
The College of Doctor Johnson")

I'm not sure whether to be pleased or aggrieved that they haven't stolen anything from Merton.

That's all for now - expect an exciting weekend post about rifles.