Saturday, April 30, 2005

Pictoral Running Commentary

I suggest you use these pictures as a visual commentary on BK's latest blog (one of his best, excluding the Langston pics of course).
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Okay, that last one is not "technically" related to his story, but I'd of liked to have seen him work it in somehow.

Friday, April 29, 2005

Bits and bobs

It's an English expression... but immediately intelligble to us Americans.

First, I've been reading alot by/about Austin Farrer today... brilliant. Though his work is more far reaching, he is probably best known for his solution to the synoptic problem - The Farrer Theory, or Markan priority without Q, etc. He was a major influence on Michael Goulder, who was in turn a major influence on my supervisor, Mark Goodacre. I'll post more about Farrer soon.

Second, I should mention another British favorite of mine from my college days: The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, a book by the late Douglas Adams. The book has been made into a movie which has recently come out over here and in the US (I think). IMHO, it is probably the best example of the absurd and hilarious British art of understatement. When my parents arrive in a week we plan to leave Helen with them for a while and go see it.

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Third, Mary, Helen, and I went to Cadbury World today (about 4 1/2 miles from our house). Nice tour, but I ate too much chocolate. Mary thinks that Spanish imperialism at least got one thing right - bringing chocolate to the Western world. Interesting facts about the Cadbury's: because they were Quakers they refused to drink or make alcohol, but they made a killing off of the chocolate that was allowed as a substitute among the rich... the Cadbury's were way ahead of their time in seeking decent working and living conditions for their employees... they pioneered 'milk chocolate' and thus most of the chocolate candies we now enjoy. Here's a picture of Helen from the playground.

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Fourth, have I mentioned that we have the creakiest house in the entire Western Hemisphere? Last night, when Mary was attempting to sneak upstairs, Helen was awakened. Normally, when she wakes up in the night she cries until one of us comes to get her and last night was no exception. Her hair was the wildest we've ever seen it, so we took this picture:
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Fifth, I must acknowledge the comment from Wil from way over there (or up there for most of my readers) in Maine. Many thanks for allowing me to keep my 1 pound 45p, however I'm left in that difficult position of not knowing whether you simply made a believable guess or know what the map represents. I'll have to get an Asian friend to render the verdict. BTW, the Tube is in London, but I promise to use the money on the Centro.

Thursday, April 28, 2005


Why is it that, whenever you move somewhere new, you're always comparing it to other places where you've lived? While in England, I find myself constantly saying "this is worse than in America" or "this is better than in America," and I sometimes get on my own nerves with it. Why can't I just appreciate a place for what it is? But since I'm doing all this comparing, I might as well let the cat out of the bag about my opinions of the US vs. UK education systems.

When we flew back last Thursday, there was a 17 year old girl in front of us from the UK who'd been attending high school in the US for quite a while. The lady beside her, an American, asked, "Which system is harder?". I was surprised when she said that the US was. It required her to know more about more things and she had to attend school for an extra year. But, before you Americans get puffed up, I suspect that she was on a non-college track. They are big proponents over here of tracking and in continental Europe, so at an early age students are placed in various ability level groups. Most of the students over here do not go to college (they'd say university). I was told that the percentage is now 40%, as opposed to around 33% just a few years ago. If the girl on the plane had been on a more difficult track in the UK, I suspect she would say that the American system was easier. In America, schools tend to do very little tracking and a higher percentage of students enroll in college courses (the last I saw was around 65% -- this article says it was 63% in 2002).

I have a difficult time comparing the US and UK systems at the university level. The students who do attend here are better prepared and thus require less remediation than the average American students. However, students here only attend three years for an undergraduate degree and have shorter school terms. And I'm still puzzled by this summer term of no (new) classes... classes do meet for half the term to review old material for finals in June. My guess is that the average American college grad might come out a little ahead of the average Brit, but I have no data on which to base this. Its like comparing apples and limes (sorry).

Since I'm picking on my British friends again, I'll note two further things I noticed:
1. We were watching "Who Wants to be a Millionaire" (original British version) the other day and a man had the question, "In Charles Dickens' 'A Christmas Carol', who was Tiny Tim's father. He knew the answer was Bob Cratchit, but the funny part is why he knew it. It wasn't because he'd read one of the most influential English writers of the Victorian era, but because he remembered it from 'A Muppet Christmas Carol'. How's that for some reverse influence! Creeping Amerinization indeed!

2. I caught a few minutes of a special on the women who brought about modern country music. Of course, Loretta Lynn was included... all the stuff about growing up in the coalmining parts of Kentucky. When they got to Dolly Parton, they said that she was from the same area of Kentucky. Now, anybody worth his spit knows that Dolly is from Tennessee. The funny thing was how they then went ahead to explain all about her building Dollywood in her hometown in Tennessee.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Just for JT

This post is devoted solely to the Wizard of Coventry... or do you spell it Wisard?:-)... Jon Taylor.

1) Glad to see that we have mutual tastes in fine entertainment.
2) So Thames is pronounced Tems, not Tims, huh? If you were from where I'm from you'd know where my misunderstanding originates. All over the South we have a tendency to pronounce short i's and e's in the same way... out ten and tin come out the same... and it would sound like tea-un to y'all. This habit can really get in the way when speaking a foreign language... it drove my Greek profs batty. I'm sure I never noticed the difference between Tems and Tims because of this habit.
3) Maybe the next prank will be on the English JT.
4) Had to look up what you meant by "Blighty".
5) Would it offend you if I called you a limey?
6) Would it offend you if I called you a slimey?
7) I've got to warn you about the commenter who calls himself "whatusay" (I call him fat gorilla). I'm sure he misspelled "nomenclature" on purpose. In fact, I don't know if anything he says is comprehensible. He is a prof at the University of Tennessee (and, yes, we say it Tea-un-us-see).

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8) I'll give £1.45 to anyone who can tell me what this map shows.

Now back to my research...

Monday, April 25, 2005

Let's hear it for AU

I can't help but mention the incredible draft day on Saturday. Auburn had 3 players in the top 9 and 4 in the first round. Much of this is unprecedented.
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The early anglophile in me

As I sat reading from Origen's First Principles, I noticed that one of the new Dr. Who episodes was on BBC 1 tonight. I was immediately whisked back to my early teenage years when I used to watch Dr. Who on PBS. Though I'd never thought about it before, I was a big fan of two pieces of great British television production before I could drive: Dr. Who and Dangermouse. I didn't actually know much about Monty Python until college (but I can tell you exactly what the Knights Who Say "Ni" changed their name to).

I can't describe all of the intricacies of Dr. Who here, so read this if you are interested. The episodes I am familiar with had Tom Baker as the Doctor. PBS has for a long time been wont to air British programs -- they still show "The Vicar of Dibley" and some others.

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Dangermouse came on daily on Nicolodeon during much of my teens, and I still find myself exclaiming from time to time, "Oh Crumbs!". And it was from this cartoon that I learned two important facts: 1) The Thames River is pronounced "Tims", 2) the older telephone booths (I think they call them boxes here, but I'm not sure) are red and look like this. Sadly, I haven't seen any DM on any of the 5 channels we get, though I have seen plenty of red phone boxes. BTW, Dangermouse is now why London is important. And I can't tell you how many times I've wanted to use this line.

So, here I was, a lover of British character before I knew anything about the Mother Country.

On to less important things... because there are no classes offered this term, I'll be spending many hours in the library on my research... 4-5 per weekday is my goal. Someone has tried to explain to me the reasoning behind the lack of classes in summer term, but I have yet to grasp exactly why. I'll have more to say on the comparison on British and American education later.