Wednesday, 2 December 2009

Day 82/99: Tea and eclipses

First, a few criticisms of American tea, particularly in the Princeton dining halls. The photos below are of the basic tea-making essentials:

Two things will be immediately obvious: the mug is ridiculously small (though I do own, back home, a litre-sized Godfather-themed tea mug which I love, so my judgement of mug sizes may be flawed). Secondly, the only teabags provided in the dining hall are Lipton's, which - even if they weren't tainted by the fact that they produce "iced tea" - isn't a great brand. This isn't the case everywhere - other cafes have better brands like Tazo, Rishi and even Twining's - but they're expensive whereas dining hall tea is included in my meal plan.

A better photo of the 'milk' shows the third problem:

Rather than being proper milk, this is some kind of bizarre mix of milk and cream (and strange chemicals, but let's ignore those). I didn't even notice this until someone expressed surprise that I had cream in my tea - I've now switched to using their milk machines, so my tea tastes slightly less funny.

Speaking of machines, the fourth and most important problem is that tea comes from here:

It's the hot water tap of a coffee machine, which obviously is primed at the ideal temperature for coffee (205F, 96C) rather than boiling like you need for tea. It's logical, but still, it's wrong. I can't really have a good cup of tea in my room either (my kettle lacks an off switch, which scares me, and I have no way to wash my mug up), so I'm definitely looking forward to a nice English cup of tea when I get home in two and a half weeks.

In other news, I went to a public lecture on Monday titled "Is an eclipse described in the Odyssey?". It was a really interesting combination of science with Classics. Basically, in the Odyssey, there's one passage where a total eclipse of the sun seems to be described, another where Odysseus navigates by the stars (and it tells you where the stars are) and a few where the gods travel to places, which we can reasonably assume relate to the planets moving around in the sky. If you do the maths and the astronomy, then there's only one solar eclipse that would cover that region in that rough time period (on April 16th, 1178BC) and if you work out the star charts around that date, you do get Venus appearing before sunrise when the Odyssey says that it did, you do get Mercury popping up briefly in the east when Hermes travelled east, the constellations are all as Odysseus sees them when he navigates, and so on. This is all fantastically unlikely to be a coincidence - but on the other hand, everyone basically agrees that Homer only wrote down this oral tradition five centuries later, so it's even more unlikely that all these astronomical signs were just passed down to him, and they couldn't have had the technology to work out the date of eclipses like that. It's a complete mystery why all these dates should match up, but they do. I guess this is what I love about ancient history - trying to figure out what happened 3,000 years ago, getting a really good answer, but then having many more questions which are even harder to answer. I wonder if people will be going to lectures about us in 5,000AD, and I wonder if they'll be as confused as we are now.

Anyway, a couple of photos from around campus to finish off (I'm thinking of starting a Flickr account and putting all my photos there, given how much I use my new camera - good idea?):

I liked the novel, and one of the people running the show is in one of my seminars, so this might be fun to see sometime (especially as I missed getting tickets for My Fair Lady).

It's a rock that got donated by Switzerland in memory of a Princeton professor. What more can I say?

Witherspoons, the cafe in the Frist Campus Center which I visit when I want some Earl Grey ($1.25 for a reasonable amount, so not bad).

Finally, evidence from a Princeton student magazine that they do know who Gordon Brown is.

Expect a slightly more interesting post tomorrow - in ten minutes' time, I'm off to an eating club (Charter) for dinner with a friend. I'll take photos!

1 comment:

  1. I'm telling you, it's all about the electric kettle and the U-Store PG Tips! That's what I'm drinking even as I type.

    You should come up-campus for dinner at Rocky sometime before you leave.