Something new to collect, via [ profile] ann1962:

Metros of the world! )
After much searching, I finally found something to do in London that isn't at all fun. [ profile] rahael and I were eating breakfast this morning -- cereal with blueberries and bananas -- when I felt something in my mouth that might have been an unripened blueberry, were blueberries just a tad more metallic. I fished around and pulled out a small silver-pewter object -- I had lost a filling. Joy. So now I have an appointment with a dentist on the Kensington High Street tomorrow, and until then I'll be eating with a ginger touch. And since we're having Thai tonight, what I eat will have a touch of ginger.

[ profile] rahael has updated about our journey through the Cotswolds, but she's left her readers where I left her, in the Spa Station at Bath. After seeing her off, my father and I drove out of town, where we quickly came upon a sign for a "Canal Visitors' Centre." On a whim we checked it out: there was no sign of the "Visitors' Centre" I had feared, with its dioramas of 19th Century canal construction and earnest display cases featuring artifacts of the lives of the digging classes; instead there was a little cafe and, lo!, a canoe rental. So we paddled between the narrowboats for a bit. The canals of high-rent Amsterdam had prepared me for the adaptations people would make to the narrowboats to make them liveable (though I saw only one with a satellite dish), but nothing prepared me for our right turn onto the aqueduct.

Apparently, the engineer decided that he could build a nine-mile stretch of the Kennet & Avon Canal without a single lock, an impressive feat, but only if he took the canal from one side of the valley to the other. Twice. So he built aqueducts. (There was apparently a bit of local politics in the building -- the architect was convinced that only brick would be sturdy enough a material for the aqueducts, but the local industry was based on limestone, so the architect was overruled.)

There we were, canoeing over not only a river, but a road and the railway. The canal on the other side of the valley was peaceful, nearly empty of the narrowboats that had crowded the canal before, and well-populated with ducks. At one point, I looked to my left and realized that I was seeing the tops of trees. In my (admittedly very limited) experience, when I've been paddling and could see ground below me, I'm generally trying to figure out how to run the whitewater at the bottom, but the water in the canal was perfectly flat.

After returning the canoe to the rental shop, we drove to Stonehenge. We had been warned that it would be overrun with tourists, but at six-thirty in the evening it's nearly empty, almost idyllic. The National Trust won't let visitors anywhere near the monument, though, and it closes well before I could attempt to line up the sunset with anything, so no archaeoastronomy for me.

The next day we visited Bournemouth (which is much the Jersey Shore were the boardwalk tarmacked) and Winchester (where I did not dance on Jane Austen's grave). Then it was on to London where I was reunited with [ profile] rahael. And now I sit in Leytonstone, trying to munch cakes with only the right side of my mouth.

Another photo from the total solar eclipse of August 11, 1999, this one showing not only the inner corona but that I underestimate the speed with which the Earth rotates.

It is probably only due to Thomas Pynchon's Mason & Dixon that I am intrigued by the upcoming transit of the Sun by Venus. Those who have read the book may remember that the titular astronomers were dispatched to view the two transits made by Venus in the 18th Century from separate locations in an attempt to measure the parallax and estimate the distance from the Earth to the Sun. As I recall, they were sent to first Cape Town and then (ahistorically) St. Helena. Cape Town was more fun.

The transit occurs on June 8, when I'll be in England, where I'll be in a position to watch the whole thing, though I am unsure of whether [ profile] rahael will be thrilled to have me sitting around staring at the sun for a few hours. Then there is the question of with what to view the transit. I'll bring a few pairs of mylar glasses, but considering that the difference in the apparent sizes of the Sun and Venus is considerable, I can't imagine that I'll be able to make out anything of the transit -- and I really do not want to cart my telescope overseas.

Then there is the slight possibility that London might be hazy or overcast; I can probably put that out of my mind right now. In any case, I will have to check whether anyone will be celebrating the transit with public telescope parties. And if I don't manage to see it, there'll be another one in eight years. I'll put it on my calendar.
Ok, how about this: we meet at Euston Station at about 1:15 PM, and take it from there. If someone could suggest a landmark, I would appreciate it. A big clock perhaps?
So, are we meeting tomorrow or what?
[ profile] londonkds, [ profile] atpotch, [ profile] yabyumpan, anyone else who's interested: Saturday's good for me. Is Saturday good for you? Let me know. I'd also appreciate suggestions for something to do.

Thank you.
If everything proceeds according to plans, twenty-four hours from now I will be in London!

Actually, considering the sheer abundance of plans right now, I expect that quite a few expectations can be missed without hindering my travel at all.

However, knowing that I won't be able to do everything on my list, but that there are some things I absolutely have to do, leaves me in a state of anxious catatonia. I need to leave in about ten hours (I just woke up, deciding to get a jump on the time change -- plus, E.R. wasn't much with the anti-soporific), so I have more than enough time to, for example, do some laundry, and yet I haven't collected up so much as one loose sock.

What can I say? I procrastinate.

Updating over the next two weeks may be light. In other words, you probably won't notice any change at all.

I'm going to London!
I have promised myself that I will write a real, substantial, LJ entry before Friday. It will pull no punches and speak truth to power. It will change your life, give you renewed purpose, and blow the lid off the military-hiphopdustrial complex.

In the meantime, please excuse the following blather.

Item the first: should I ever be in the mood to scare my cats, I now know exactly what to do. I just need to get them on edge by carting them off to the vets for some yearly boosters, then bring them home, let them get snug and warm and comfortable, almost to the point where they trust me again, then slip on my headphones and dance (if one can call a semi-epileptic crossbreed between the Watusi and a torn anterior cruciate ligament "dancing") around the kitchen to O{+>'s "Billy Jack Bitch."

Item the second: it crosses my mind that I'd like to see whether or not my spawn, my scion, the sole heir to all my worldly widely webly possessions, [ profile] atpotch will be able to get down to London around the weekend of the 22nd. I assume that my meeting [ profile] londonkds and [ profile] yabyumpan is, as we say in O{+> speak, a 4gone conclusion. But I would be willing to expend an especial effort to meet the one I sired; though, obviously, it would be all the more convenient if I could get him to be the one who goes through all the hassle of UK travel.

Item the third: it's amazing how a not-that-flattering picture can, with the judicious application of just a little Photoshopping, be turned into an absolute nightmare of blotchiness and bignosiness. Errr, I mean, GIP.
I don't usually gakk stuff -- but then, when you come right down to it, I don't usually post -- but this bit of [ profile] ponygirl2000's is too good to pass up. Though I tend to denigrate the conspiratorial mindset, I have to admit that the possibilities of historical figures having met under strange circumstances sends my mind to some interesting spaces. The fact that Jimi Hendrix, Miles Davis and Sly Stone were all in London soon after the 1970 Isle of Wight festival makes me wonder about secret recordings of late-night jam sessions. (In fact, Jimi had made tentative plans to jam with Sly on the night of September 17, but he didn't feel like going and instead died.) That the Unabomber studied math at Harvard at around the same time as Tom Lehrer was teaching there makes me reflect on the different manners in which one can release one's cynical and anti-social impulses.

Indeed, I'm not sure that Alan Moore has done anything that exotic in The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. Philip Jose Farmer's Riverworld series takes a similar idea of a group of figures from history and literature banding together for adventures. From various television cartoons, I remember Al Gore's Action Rangers and Leonardo Da Vinci's Fightin' Genius Time Commandos (all good things ultimately spring from The Tick). In any case, this game of Moore and ponygirl is one I have played before. I remember wandering among the tombs in the Basilica of Santa Croce in Florence thinking to myself, "Those interred here would, should the resurrection occur, make a kick-ass A-Team." Galileo would be the MacGuyver of the team; Michaelangelo (whom all the women go crazy for but he has his eyes squarely on the mission) would be the artful one; Dante (admittedly buried in Ravenna despite having one of the largest tombs in the church) would have the inside track to the post-apocalyptic landscape; and the conniving Macchiavelli (who has a bit of a complex over everyone else having such wonderful monuments while he got chucked into the floor) would be the team's wheeler and dealer. But this is not the team I want to outline today.

I once had the idea of writing a novel based on the idea that Francis Bacon, still seeking a return to royal favor, faked his death in 1626 so to be available to serve on missions for the British Crown, which he undertook with the assistance of his recent secretary, Thomas Hobbes. This would be its sequel, sort of its Forty Years After. I have decided to eschew the parameter that I can choose figures from anywhere along the space-time continuum and have focussed on Restoration Britain, though I have fudged some ages. In any case, I present the Order of the Squared Circle, Defenders of the Crown and Anti-Papist League!

The Leader: Thomas Hobbes, philosopher, traveller, garrulous arguer, suspected atheist, possibly the worst mathematician ever known. His loyalties to both the crown and to the Cromwellians were suspect; his loyalties to himself never needed any such scrutiny.

The Team: Aphra Behn, playwright and actual spy in the service of Charles II. In another age, one might say that anything a man could do she could do better, but considering the men with which I've surrounded her, one can see that that is faint praise indeed.

Peter Blood, physician and swordsman. A fictional creation of Rafael Sabatini's, made famous as the debut starring role of Errol Flynn. Might be, technically, a little young for inclusion. He distrusts the Catholic tendencies of Charles II, but is willing to defend the rights of free Englishmen up to slavery and death.

John Wilmot, The Earl of Rochester, poet, nobleman, favorite of the King. Famously dissolute. Not afraid to wield his blade, but is more cutting with his verse. Might be considered a little young for inclusion, but Dumas includes a young but clearly adult Rochester in Charles's court in 1660 in Le Vicomte.

The Recruiter: Oh, I don't know, Monk or Clarendon or someone.

Minor Villain: Christopher Wren, whose dastardly and insane plan to put London to the torch so that he can have the space to erect large buildings must be averted at great peril to our heroes.

Subsidiary Villain: Marco da Cola, from An Instance of the Fingerpost, an Italian gentleman and adventurer, curious about all things scientific. Or, just maybe, a Jesuit agent secretly trying to suborn Charles into the Catholic faith. Not easily disposed of, but really just a front for the true villain of the age, the General of the Jesuits, a man with the determination and the resources to rechart the course of history itself.

Major Villain: do I really have to say?

Hmmm. I'd have to read Pepys to really pull this off. Is it any wonder that I started dating someone whose speciality is 17th-Century English History? Saves me all that research.
Happy Independence Day to that small fraction of my small readership that celebrates it. I'm still not sure why the British don't take the day off to shoot off some fireworks and yell, "We're right rid of those bloody wankers!" (In my mind, all British people talk exactly like Spike in lackluster fanfic.) The Canadians could all go cook outdoors and raise a toast to not being in an even larger country.

Anyway, I'm not feeling particularly independent. While my immediate family (those providing approximately 50% of my genetic material) has decamped from Cleveland for various locales, the 25% crew seems to be breathing down my neck. My prodigal uncle is visiting my grandmother. I did not meet this uncle until my Grandfather's funeral, when I was twenty-five; we didn't really hit it off. Now, I don't really get along with very many among my extended family, but at least I know they're family. I figure that if you skip the first quarter-century of my life, I'm not obligated by "family" to sit around and pretend that you're not one of the most boring people ever. But all of this is really just an excuse to avoid my Grandmother's cooking. (You know, when you come right down to it, I'm just a little tiny ball of resentment and bitterness.)

So I'm considering escaping. Going for a long drive. Getting away from it all. Hey, Scroll! Doing anything for lunch tomorrow?

In the meantime, I'm going to celebrate this July 4th by catching X Men 2 at the local dollar theater (all shows before 6 Pm 50 cents!); reading some more Goblet of Fire; maybe, just maybe, seeing a firework or two; and finishing it all off with my annually planned but rarely executed viewing of 1776. I've got an hour before X Men.



April 2009

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