Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Photo Contest

This morning, I sent in my entry for the Bing Overseas Programs Photo Contest. Basically, there are a bunch of categories, and you can enter about as many photos as you like. The prize is kind of lame - just a t-shirt and a waterbottle, I think. I'm pretty sure I posted most of these to the blog already, but here they are anyway. The last one is a smaller version of the background of this blog.

I actually submitted slightly different photos than the ones above and below. These are the edited ones I meant to submit, but I was tired when I emailed them in. Oh well.

Too much work

I finished my History of London paper yesterday. I have a History and Architecture of Oxford paper due tomorrow. I have a History of London presentation and my physics problem set due in the beginning of next week. I feel like I've been working pretty much every day since the middle of last week. I have a break on Friday and part of Saturday, but then I will be working probably straight through Tuesday or Wednesday. Yesterday Heidi told me she didn't know where my room was or who my roommate is. She said I just live in the computer cluster. I understood why.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Blog Makeover!

THANKS TO MERISSA REN!!! She helped me reface my blog with her HTML editing skillzzz.

The impetus was a picture I took from the top of the Sheldonian library. Before, the background was just some random photo I got off of a Google search back in April or March. I figured, since I had a nice photo of dreaming spires, it would be more appropriate to use that as my background.


Just finished another paper

I feel like the last few days were essentially gobbled up. I copied the result below. It's answering the question (paraphrased), "How was the growth of London influenced by public tranport from 1800 to 1939?" I wish I could write right now that I have my life back, but I just looked at my tutorial assignment for this week. It might be the biggest problem set of the quarter. The topic (my choosing) is molecular physics.

The Impact of Public Transport on the Growth of London, 1800-1939

 The stories of public transport and the growth of London from 1800 to 1939 are wound together so intricately that they cannot be wholly untangled. In this period, the two grew together, both at ferocious rates.  The city was growing also in concert with the burgeoning British Empire. At the time it was the premier city in the premier empire of the world. People were flocking from near and far to live in the world’s economic center. The industrial revolution was bringing economic success to Britain and London while completely transforming transport. Organized public transport began with horses. Omnibuses became a cheaper alternative to carriages that caught on quickly with the middle classes. Mechanization of public transport may have had a slow start in penetrating the British capital, but it did not take long before the impact of the steam engine could be seen. Soon after its introduction, the landscape was physically transformed to allow for the rail routes. The tracks swept through areas of cheap housing, destroying homes and dislocating families, in order to open up commuting routes to the middle class suburbs away from the City. Electrification brought further possibilities for transport. The electric tram replaced the horses and many trains moved into underground tubes. All the while, London pushed ever farther outward in all directions. Wealth increased, and people’s lives generally improved. London’s growth, particularly demographically and economically, was strongly determined, and sometimes dictated, by the concurrent growth of public transport. The relationship between the city and the transport was symbiotic, complex, and dynamic, each continually affecting the other.

The Early Nineteenth Century

The earlier part of the nineteenth century saw neither the explosion of growth nor of public transport that London would see later, but the foundations were being laid and the effects felt. It was as London approached the half-century that public transport and population booms began feeding off of each other. The first public railroad, the Surrey Iron Railway, came to London in 1803[1], but for decades the populace generally saw railways as conveyances for inter-city transport[2]. However, a few decades in to the century, steamboats, railways, and horse-drawn omnibuses could all be found in the English capital.

The Omnibus

Francis Sheppard calls the omnibus the “first important manifestation of the [transport] revolution”[3]. Roy Porter concurs, saying that it “began the commuter revolution”[4]. George Shillibeer started the first service in London in 1829. He used “long, three-horse vehicles with benches for twenty passengers”[5]. Crucially, the omnibus, by carrying more passengers than a stagecoach, charged lower fares. Shillibeer’s business went bankrupt in 1831, but the Stage Carriages Act of 1832, which allowed omnibuses into London’s central area, guaranteed long-term growth of the omnibus companies[6]. Omnibuses were primarily for the middle class, allowing them suburban living without the expense of a private carriage. They provided a “crucial boost”[7] for the inner suburbs.

The Railway

 London met both the positive and the negative events of the passenger-carrying railway starting in 1836[8], and it was both downhill and uphill after then. By the early 1850s, “the framework of a national railway system had been built”[9], London was its hub, and, thereafter London could not avoid its effects. In the 1830s, railway cuttings carved into the northern suburban areas. Across London, “A staggering quantity of working-class housing was destroyed”[10] to bring in the railways. In 1836 alone, “2,850 homes were flattened by the building of the London and Blackwall railway”[11]. The 1840s saw the “mushroom growth of a commuter area”[12] with stations built five to ten miles from the center of London, largely in the north. At first, these brought “middle-class villas and respectable terraces”[13]. However, “this was followed in due course by smaller, cheaper properties for petty clerks and shop assistants”, and, in some cases, a “slide into slumdom”[14]. The negative effects were not to stop the railroads nor the population from continuing expansion during the subsequent decades. For “the coming of rail transport, overground and underground, was critical in keeping the metropolis moving and in permitting the city to expand”[15].

The Late Nineteenth Century

In the second half of the nineteenth century, London grew at a stupendous rate, and public transport kept pace; the growth of one drove the other. In 1875, people went on around 275 million journeys by train, tram, and bus in London; around 1895, the number tripled to one billion journeys per year[16]. The city suffered a new plague – the “insufferable congestion” of streets[17]. This brought about the first underground railway in the world, the Metropolitan Railway, in 1864[18]. The people looked to railway companies to help them alleviate the problem with suburbanization. In the 1850s, London’s suburban development was still mostly in the northwest[19], but later in the century it would spread all around London. Railroad companies escalated the rate of expansion with the implementation of “workmen’s fares” in 1864, opening trains up to the lower classes. Even as people moved into the suburbs and the official population of central London fell, its day-time population continued to climb[20]. Wherever people moved, transport into the city followed, and, wherever transport into the city was available, people also moved.

The Omnibus and the Horse Tram

The omnibus and horse tram companies did not dictate the growth of London in the way the railroad companies did, but they still grew rapidly and provided essential services. By 1900, the omnibus was serving 500 million passengers a year[21]. The introduction of the horse tram came in 1869, thirty years after the omnibus[22]. The trams had twice the capacity of the bus, allowing them to offer even lower fares[23]. This made them a lower-class institution, and, in 1972, Parliament barred trams from operating in central London because they lowered the “character of the thoroughfare”[24]. By 1875, the tramways were carrying almost as many passengers, over 48 million, as the London General Omnibus Company[25], and, by 1898 there were 1,451 trams with 14,000 horses[26]. The cheap trams “made inner-suburb living easier for those lower on the social ladder”[27].

Railways – Overground and Underground

 When they came to London, railway companies did not originally anticipate the commuter traffic that would be demanded of them, so they were not overly bothered when the aristocratic landlords kept them out of the central area of London. In the 1850s, when romantics rediscovered the country, the railways followed the residential out-migration of the middle class to the suburbs[28].
The commuting lifestyle was opened to the working classes with the 1864 Cheap Trains Act. The London, Chatham and Dover Railway, and later the South Eastern and the Great Eastern Railways were required to offer “workmen’s fares,” tickets for as low as 1d for trips before and after commute hours[29]. By the early 1880s over 25,000 workmen were traveling daily with these tickets[30]. In the same decade, “the four places with the highest rates of population increase in the whole nation were new working- and lower-middle class railway suburbs”[31].
The imposition of these fares by the government was, however, a kind of demand for reparations for the damage the railways were doing to laboring class neighborhoods. The railroads built their lines by buying cheap land in cheap neighborhoods and clearing it. According to Porter, “between 1850 and 1900 about 100,000 people in central and inner suburbia had their homes destroyed by the railways”[32].
Originally, the public welcomed the railroads clearing out blighted areas, thinking that the poor and impoverished would disappear with their homes[33]. The 680,000 workers targeted, however, depended too heavily on daily or hourly employment[34]. Instead of leaving, they relocated to nearby housing, and “pockets of overcrowding were merely transplanted from one place to another, more intense than ever”[35].
As the public realized this, they denounced the action. In 1874, the companies were mandated to provide alternative accommodations. Still, “the railways were…reluctant housebuilders”[36], and, in 1884-5, “The Royal Commissioners on the Housing of the Working Classes showed that no rehousing scheme had yet been carried out”[37]. Many places and people were permanently scarred as a result of this railway development.
At this stage, the railroads were generally responding to the demands of the people in a laissez-faire system. Nevertheless, in this period, railways became the “chief agents” in determining land use and in the sharp increase of land values[38]. This made it hard to tell where the growth of the city began and the growth of the railways ended.

Pre-World War II Twentieth Century

 While the nineteenth century had seen the coupling of London’s growth and its transport system, their relationship was only tightened in the twentieth century. Electrification electrified the relationship.  It brought electric trams and deep tube railways to London. Electrification and, later, the internal combustion engine, made transportation faster, allowing for long-distance commuting and for suburbs to spread even farther out[39]. Travel continued to increase. In 1911, the average Londoner was riding tubes, buses, and trams 210 times a year. In 1938-9, the average increased to 388 rides per year. Including railways, these numbers rise to 250 and 443, respectively[40]. For the first time, analysts and planners were called in to anticipate commuter needs and direct transport policy[41]. The 1930s became considered the heyday of London’s public transport.

Trams and Buses

As people kept moving farther out, buses and trams followed, linking the suburbs with the industrial zones and retail centers[42]. The first electric tramway came to London in 1901[43]. The electric trams were both cheaper than buses and faster than horse-drawn trams[44]. By around 1928, “almost every community of any significance in the outskirts of London had achieved some sort of bus service”[45]. In some areas of outer London, buses and trams were “determining to some extent the type of properties”[46] found there. In “tramway suburbia” it was the network of “branching and linking lines” that shaped the localities more than radial lines into central London[47]. Trips on buses were also showing people the attractions of life at the edge of the country, “inculcating many youngsters…Couples cuddling in the back upstairs seat of the Sunday bus…would survey the semi-rural landscape and dream of settling down”[48].


Electrification was also a boon to the railways. The first lines of the Underground were electrified at the end of the nineteenth century and opened in 1900[49]. The ‘Twopenny Tube,’ so called for its 2d fare, required international finance from Germany, France, and America[50]. The project brought together £3.7 million[51]. Afterwards, Charles Yerkes came in from America, raising the funds for more electrification and extensions, laying the “foundations for the underground system we know today”[52].
As in the nineteenth centuries, extensions to the railway system were paired with growth of the suburbs. The railways were accommodating commuters from five to twenty miles out of town[53] Yerkes extended the railway into the fields of Golders Green, at the time essentially unpopulated[54]. The suburban developers followed his lead. At this time, the railroad had enormous power in driving growth of the suburbs. The railway came to Ruislip-Northwood, and the population rose from 9,112 in 1921 to 47,760 in 1939, a 524% increase[55]. As in the nineteenth century, the proximity or even “any promise of new railway facilites would cause land values to rise rapidly and substantially”[56]. The exchange between London and the railways was healthily varied. “Some of the new lines preceded the major residential construction…others proceeded simultaneously…and in a few cases the railway arrived after it had solidified…”[57]
The mobility provided by railways was a boon to the economy many times over. Housing publicists used the phrase, “Station on the Estate,” prolifically, sometimes stretching the truth[58]. Charing Cross, Kings Cross, and Waterloo stations all became hot spots to set up show houses[59]. Railways would also make deals with businesses, offering free rides to select destinations to customers.
Metroland and Wembley

The most keen of many examples of the railways having a hand in the mushrooming growth of London during this period was the development of “Metroland” at Wembley. The Metropolitan Railway was the lone railway company able to both build railway stations and develop the land around them. The Railway leased a large area of land at Wembley and set up Metropolitan Country Estates Ltd, developing “Metroland” in the early twentieth century[60]. The Railway promoted an amusement park from the 1880s to the 1920s, when it was demolished to build Wembley Stadium[61]. As a result, Wembley grew by 552%[62].


The London public transport system in place by 1939 was mature and quite similar to the system seen today. Remnants of the early twentieth century have become icons of London public transport. The Art Deco buildings, topological maps, and circle-and-bar logo may lead many people to believe that the transport system originated in the early twentieth century. The truth is that the city did much of its development very quickly in the century that led up to World War II, and that development presents itself perhaps best in the public transport system. The transport system walked sometimes in front, sometimes behind, and sometimes side-by-side, but always in lockstep, with the evolution of the city. This shows itself in suburbs like Wembley and in scarred areas to the north and east. Some institutions have faded away, like the tram and the steamboat, while others have evolved, like the underground and the omnibus. The transport system today is comparatively static, mainly because London is not growing as rapidly demographically and economically as it was before. However, it used to be the case that London could also grow in response to transportation changes. As can be seen, transportation-driven growth was not necessarily desirable. The railways were physically damaging, and the life of the suburbs did not appeal to everyone. For better or worse, these were the results of many private transportation companies developing their businesses, working with the technology of their day, serving the people of their times.  That is the legacy of almost one and half centuries of transportation history.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Mid-term thoughts about Oxford

On Victor's genius suggestion, I will write this email-induced post on the above topic. I don't have much time, so I'll do it in list form.

1) I've been here six weeks?!?!
2) I haven't done enough traveling.
3) I haven't done enough schoolwork.
4) I haven't done enough socializing.
5) I haven't slept enough.
6) Yup. This is pretty much how every quarter at Stanford feels...
7) I'm going to turn everything around in these next few weeks!
8) I kind of miss home.
9) I kind of miss Stanford.
10) Oxford has been/is/will be awesome.

Challah for Hunger Disappointment

A couple weeks ago, I got really excited when I was invited to the Challah for Hunger bake here in Oxford. Challah for Hunger is such a fun organization at Stanford, I figured it would be a good way to spend some time with some Jews and meet a few new friends. So I responded to the Facebook event page, telling them that I was coming. The Facebook page didn't give many details. It said that the baking/cleaning/selling would be at the Rabbi's house, where I've been before, on Wednesday from 11am to 11pm. I figured that this couldn't actually be right, but the page said, "More information coming soon." I waited for more information. Eventually, Wednesday rolled around and there wasn't any more information. So I posted a question on the event page and sent the girl in charge a message asking when it was beginning. The Rabbi sent me a message telling me to ask the girl, which I already had. And I got no reply from her. So, not knowing what the deal was, I didn't go at all. I still haven't gotten any sort of message back from this girl explaining what happened. Maybe they really were working on challah for 12 hours straight, and maybe not. Either way, I was really bummed that I didn't get to bake challah with them, and really frustrated that their organization isn't very well organized.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

On Escalators and Energy

This makes four? or five? posts written today. This could get old. But I guess that's how good blogging feels.

My next good (bad) idea for the day: escalators and elevators.

Currently, escalators and elevators are a sizeable drain on our energy resources. I'm not sure it has to be that way. While riding the London Underground a week or so ago, I realised that there is no net difference in potential energy from when a person goes into one Underground station and comes out another. The way escalators are today, energy gets used going down and coming up, which is just silly.

What if we started harvesting energy from people going down escalators and elevators? People (like myself) have talked about crowd farming energy in densely packed areas like train stations. What's more densely packed than an escalator during the day? or a tightly packed elevator? Every time a person descends, we could be using the energy of that person falling to generate electric or mechanical power. Ideally, the people going down the escalator could almost lift the people up on the other escalator. The same could be true with elevators. Instead of using mechanical brakes in escalators and elevators, we could be using magnetic breaks that generate electrical power when they brake. Just a thought. I doubt it would even be that hard to implement.

On Olives

Yes. I checked email again.

I figure that my favorite sandwich shop deserves a brief post, since it has supplied me with, give or take, a dozen meals.

10 simple facts and comments:

1) Their baguettes are delicious.
2) Their onion marmalade (which I get on every single sandwich) is superb.
3) I usually order my sandwiches with cornichons. Because they are also delicious.
4) I've tried their mayo chicken, pesto chicken, smoked salmon, and smoked salmon with cream cheese baguettes. All are wonderful.
5) The price for one of the best sandwiches of all time is 2.50 to 3.50 pounds. Pretty cheap by Oxford standards.
6) Once I got their chicken and peppers panini. Not surprisingly, delicious.
7) I had one of their smoked salmon and cream cheese baguettes for breakfast/lunch today.
8) The guy, who I think runs the place, is the most generous with ingredients, but I don't think he's ever made one of my sandwiches. The other girls, all French or Italian I think, are still pretty generous.
9) My only complaint: Olives is closed on Sundays. :-)
10) The only day I go to Taylor's is Sunday. (Taylor's is the deli franchise across the street from Stanford House).

On Writing History Papers

I needlessly checked email again, so here is another post.

I just went down to the Stanford House Library to check books out for my second History of London research paper. This paper's topic will answer the question, "In what ways was the growth of London over the period 1800-1939 influenced by changes in public transport?" I just checked out seven fat books, so I have my next couple days cut out for me. You (or I at a later date) may be wondering, "why would you pick that?" Well, we had eight choices, and, mostly by process of elimination, I narrowed them down to this one. I've always thought that public transportation has been a pretty interesting topic. None of the other topics were really any more interesting. The one other one that looked interesting was the question, "How seriously was London affected by the Second World War?" but everyone's going to be doing that one. Also, the question is so open ended that it could go anywhere.

My last paper actually went quite well, in the end. I worked really hard on it, devoting several full days to research and writing. And it paid off. I am proud to say that I got a solid A on it. Being surrounded by English, History, International Relations, and other types of humanities and social science majors here in Oxford, I think I felt like I had something to prove, not directly to them but more to myself. The program, like most study abroad programs, attracts "fuzzy" types. I'm the only physics major. There's also Anthony, a math major, Heming, an earth systems major (which is a sort of mixture of science and social science), and a couple biology majors. And then there's 40+ of everyone else. I want to feel like I belong here, at Oxford, and in this history class just as much as they do, and I figured I could do that by researching and writing history papers just as well as they could. I doubt anyone else really cares (or is going to read this), but it felt reassuring to know that just because I'm labeled "the physics major" here doesn't mean I can't also be a student of history or whatever else I want.

On Hexagons

Shoot. Without even thinking, I checked my email again. So you get another post.

This past Tuesday, during History of London lecture, I could barely focus on what Geoffrey Tyack was saying. His classes are usually really interesting, but this time he just wasn't doing it for me. The whole lecture focused a lot on urban planning ideas for nineteenth- century London. Woo-hoo. It reminded me about the time I almost took Intro to Urban Studies but dropped it after two lectures.

What I started thinking about instead of listening to lecture were hexagons. I think they would make for a very interesting shape for urban planning. They are one of the three regular polygons you can tessellate (the others are equilateral triangles and squares). Cities tend to be laid out in rectangular grids. This may be the most logical layout in some respects, but it is very inefficient and ugly in others. The hexagon, on the other hand, is closer to a circle, which is sort of a more attractive shape than a square, and offers some practical advantages as well.

The main cool thing about a hexagonal grid is that every hexagon, or plot of land in the case of urban planning, shares a whole side with its neighbors. In a rectangular grid, every rectangle has four adjacent neighbors connected only by corners. Another four are connected by sides. Hexagons have only six neighbors, all connected along sides. For this reason, there are my strategy games built using hexagonal tiling. This is also sort of why it's a shape that occurs in nature fairly often. Think about honeycombs, graphene molecules, and all sorts of molecular rings.

Another cool thing about hexagonal urban planning is that intersections would all be three-way intersections. At first, the thought of a 3-way, 120-degree, triangular intersection may be strange. It has, however, some key advantages. First, it's easier to see people coming at 120 degree angles than at right angles. Second, there are only three places for cars to crash. Only two turns are possible - a slight right or slight left. The slight right is totally safe. If you make a slight left, you may hit someone else making a slight left from a different direction. If there are three intersecting streets, A, B, and C, you can have A-B left turn crashes, A-C left turn crashes, and B-C left turn crashes. Compare this to your common 4-way intersection, where there are 10 places for cars to crash. I won't get into analyzing that, but it's simply a more dangerous intersection.

With 120-degree turns, trips that go on diagonals will, I think, be shorter than traveling on a rectangular grid. People may get carsick more often, though, because paths would usually be zig-zags. There are good ways to avoid this, however, where main thoroughfares could crisscross neighborhoods at 120-degree angles. This would keep the advantage of making trips that weren't straight north or south shorter while maintaining the main features of a hexagonal grid.

I could keep going on about the advantages of the hexagonal grid. There are a lot of aesthetic ones. Of course, there are also distinct disadvantages to hexagonal grids, like how it would be really hard to name streets. It would be easier to recognize rows of land plots than streets. I got a lot more ideas about hexagons after class, when I read this paper (http://web.mit.edu/ebj/www/Hexagonal.pdf). It detailed the interest in hexagonal urban planning around 1920 and 1930, and gave historical reasons why the plans were never really implemented. It's not purely that it's such a bad idea, just that it never caught on the way the gridiron and the neighborhood unit of cul-de-sacs and loops did. For the cities, the gridiron was more logical, and in suburbs, the garden-city ideal was better fitted with cul-de-sacs and loops.

Anyway, I don't think the hexagon ever got it's fair share of attention. I think, if I am ever to do any sort of urban planning, I may give hexagonal planning the shot it never got.

Much Ado About Nothing

I saw my first real Shakespeare play! You can guess which one it was from the title of this post. The Stanford Program took all of us into London for the night to the recreation of Shakespeare's Globe Theater. The play, almost needless to say, was fantastic!

Everything about it was golden. The play itself, one of Shakespeare's most loved comedies. The basic plot, which I think earns it its title, is basically about two men and two women in Italy. They fall in love and, to spoil the ending, get married! There are some bumps along the way, however. The lead man and lead woman, Benedick and Beatrice, vow in the beginning that they can't tolerate each other. Furthermore, the man wants never to marry, likening it to putting a yolk on an ox, and the woman vows similarly, saying she finds most men intolerable. Claudio and Hero, however, fall quickly in love and are engaged in the first act. The second act flips everything. Benedick and Beatrice are tricked into confessing their love for each other, which was almost surely deep down all along. Claudio's and Hero's wedding is spoiled when the Prince's evil bastard brother tricks Claudio into thinking that Hero has been seeing other men at night. Feeling shamed and rejected, Hero feigns death, and Claudio blames himself for it. Benedick and Beatrice become frustrated with each other again. Just when everything seems like it had fallen irreparably apart, the evil brother's mischief is exposed, everything is explained to everyone, and everyone is happy again. Beatrice and Benedick truly confess their love, and, in the end, everyone dances. 

It's a pretty timeless tale, which I guess is that defines Shakespeare. Even though the script was Shakespeare's, the actors were masters of making the play just as accessible to today's audiences as they were to the commoners of Shakespearean London. The script and the costume were old-fashioned, but the inflection and the body language were completely understandable. There was a lot communicated non-verbally between lines that allowed everyone to understand what was going on. 

In any case, summary and analysis aside, I had a great time. I hadn't seen or read the play before, but it's such a classic story line that I feel like I had. It was hilarious, dramatic, witty, sad, and touching, everything I could hope for in a play. It was really predictable too, but somehow that didn't matter. 

During the play, Maricarmen commented on how I hadn't posted anything in a while. It's good to be reminded that people actually read this (when I post). So, I'm going to try a new posting system. I'll try to post something short each time I check my email (which I do compulsively all too often). Hopefully, I will post more and check email less. 

Also, I'm wearing contacts today for the first time in a couple months. I've been wearing glasses most of the time since I got new glasses last quarter. I figured I'd switch things up.

(June 10, 2010 - I'm adding the photos late)

The stage before the play started. Those are musicians there playing some period music.


L to R: Maricarmen, Aileen, Mori


Aileen! (looking like a mean grandma in my glasses)

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Restaurants and Emails

Yesterday, I went to two restaurants in the same day. I mention this because this is not typical for me at all. In fact, I don't think this has happened in Oxford before.

First, Merissa invited me, along with Victor and Molly, to Edamame, a Japanese restaurant, for lunch. I had the best miso soup I have ever had. It was a giant bowl of miso broth with chicken, noodles, and veggies. Sometimes these Asian soups are really bland, but this was delicious.

Then, for dinner, I went out with Victor, Molly, and Heidi to a Thai restaurant on High Street. It was decent, but they were all in a rush to get back to the house for the 6:45 episode of Dr. Who. I had chicken pad thai. It was fine.

For a while I felt bad about eating out twice in one day, but today I realized that I still have plenty of my meal allowance money from two weeks ago. And we're getting more money tomorrow. Considering we traveled to Edinburgh last weekend, I'm wondering how I managed to spend so little over the past two weeks.

The other thing I did yesterday was answer a bunch of emails, many of which were from AEPi pledges. It came to the end of their pledge period, and, as every year, they scrambled to get their meals with all of us. (If you didn't know, every pledge is expected to get a meal with every active AEPi brother. There are penalties for each meal missed.) In my case, a "meal" is basically an email exchange where we introduce ourselves to each other. After several weeks of pledge and several weeks of hardly hearing from any pledges, I got half a dozen emails over a few days and responded to them all yesterday. That took up a bunch of time.

Other than that, I watched Dr. Who, and, as you might have noticed, also spent a sizable amount of time catching up on some blogging. I'm in the process of writing several more necessary posts about my last couple weeks of life. They are not yet ready for posting, though.

Oh. And I did some [academic] work.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

2nd Trip to London

On our second tour of London, we looked at parks and public spaces, mainly in Westminster and the West End. London was behind much of Europe at planning public spaces for the people of London. The 17th and 18th centuries saw the construction of many squares around London, especially in the more affluent areas. Westminster, which used to be a separate city farther west on the Thames, and the West End were areas inhabited mainly by the wealthy in those centuries, which is why they got some of the best building and planning. The idea of city parks came a bit later. London was essentially the first city to put parks in the middle of the city. A couple centuries ago, England was really into landscape architecture, and those ideas migrated from the countryside estates to London. New York, San Francisco, and pretty much every other city with public parks can thank London for that idea.

After the tour, Elizabeth, Kendra, Aileen, and I went to the British Museum for about 25 minutes before we had to head back to Oxford. I will be back soon and spend more time there.

View of the Buckingham Palace from St. James's Park

View of the Horse Guards at St James's Park (view is 180 degrees from the view above)

Lawn chairs to rent at St. James's Park

Aileen petting a pelican

Carleton House Terrace

The Royal Arcade - the first covered market in London

221 Baker Street - where Sherlock Holmes lived in the books

Regent's Park

Regent's Park. Note how it's really really big. To the right you can see the group, with Geoffrey Tyack about to explain something awesome.

Outside the British Museum. L to R: Elizabeth, Kendra, Aileen, Me

The Rosetta Stone! I had actually seen this before.

Aileen, Kendra, and I spent 25 minutes quickly running through the Egypt and Assyrian sections of the museum.

3rd History & Architecture of Oxford Tour

The third tour of Oxford focussed on the influence of the Renaissance on Oxford architecture. The Renaissance was basically a return to the architectural ideas of ancient Greece and Rome. They incorporated Roman-style arches and columns among other things into a new sort of architecture. My whole History of London paper from a couple weeks ago, which I put in an earlier post, was on this topic. Examples in Oxford of Renaissance influence came from St. John's Canterbury Quad, Wadham College, and the Bodleian Library.

The Divinity School. This room served as the sanatorium in the Harry Potter movies. It has some of the most elaborate ceilings I have ever seen. The work is done in the Perpendicular Gothic (not Classical) style. Note the elaborate fan-vaulted ceiling.

An unauthorized photograph of the Bodleian Library. That guy sitting in the box yelled at us for taking photographs afterwards.

The Tower of the Five Orders. 
The five orders the name of the building refers to are the five orders of Classical architecture. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Classical_order) You can see examples of all five styles in the five stories of the buildings. The columns framing the tower show the orders in order of elegance, from bottom to top: Tuscan, Doric, Ionic, Corinthian, and Composite. The three basic Greek orders are Doric, Ionic, and Corinthian. Tuscan is similar to Doric, but even plainer. Composite combines the ornaments of the Ionic and Corinthian orders to produce the most elaborate order. 

The quad of Wadham College. You can see a tower very similar to the one above.

 St. John's Canterbury Quad. Again, you can see circular Roman arches and plenty of Roman columns. Above the statue of the college's founder, you also see a pediment in the rounded French style. England got many of its Renaissance ideas through France.

This is at Wadham College, but it could be at any other. Nearly every college has a bunch of lawns that nobody is allowed to walk on. Sometimes there are even lawns where only college fellows can walk on them. Sometimes there are specific hours during which you can walk on the lawns. Sometimes you can walk on the lawns only if you are within a set distance of a fellow of the college.

Fluxus Tour

Below are photos I took during the "Fluxus Tour." This was a tour around Oxford put on by the students in Mark Applebaum's Trans-Idiomatic Arts Practicum class. The students were tour guides, but most, if not all, of what they said was spurious. They made up histories, stories, and facts about various locations that were very entertaining. It was kind of like a spoof of a tour.

This is Chase


L to R: Chelsea, Alex, Heming, Aileen, Alexis, Brittany, Laura (with the face), Christine


Heidi Sigua

Professor Mark "Mapplebaum" Applebaum.
A few words on Professor Applebaum: This man is really really cool. He is a music professor at Stanford, but has produced art of all shapes and sizes in his time. He really cares about his students and is really passionate about the things he teaches. He has a tendency to talk at long length about anything, because he has a tendency to be really interested in everything. I don't think we could have gotten a better visiting professor.

Heidi Thorsen


2nd History & Architecture of Oxford Tour

This post is a bit late. We did this 10 days ago, on May 11. This class visited Merton College, the first of the Oxford colleges, and New College, which set a sort of standard for collegiate architecture in the centuries to come.

 The quad at Merton College.

The chapel at Merton College.

The outside of New College. The wall next to the parked cars is part of the original city walls. That means it dates back almost 1000 years.

The quad at New College.

Our tour this week was led by David, our TA. Around him are Eric (looking up), Libby (in the back), Anthony (can't see his face), Minsuk (looking down), and Lily (looking away).

The dining hall at New College.

The chapel at New College.

Ceiling of the chapel. Note the winged angels.

Particularly nice stained glass in the chapel.

Cloister of New Chapel.

In the quad, looking towards the library of New College.

From left to right: Lisa, Minsuk, Lily, Tara, Eric.

The storefront of my favorite deli.