29 October, 2010

F10 Scavenger Hunt #6: Wise words to live your life by...

As I sat in Purity Ice Cream last Sunday, myself and 3 friends came up with a motto that I think we should all start living our lives by.  Be Awesome, Be Funny, Get Bunk Beds.

Be Awesome:
A friend of mine recently applied for a graduate program that she was really excited about, but she had this fear that kept tapping her on the shoulder as she wrote her personal statement saying, 'This isn't your background.  Can you actually get into this program?'  Sometimes we are our own worst enemies, but having a will of iron, she muscled through her statement.  What was her trick?  She wrote the words, 'Be Awesome' at the top of the page she was typing.  In those moments of doubt she referred to the top of the page and kept going.

Be Funny:
Another friend of mine is an actor in New York.  He has a great sense of comic timing.  He said that he often thought of Michael Richards talking about his time on Seinfeld, and the fact that he wrote himself a message above the doorway that he used to make his entrances on the show.  He had written, 'Be Funny' over the door frame, off stage.  It was a simple message, but we commented that this carried the same obvious strength of the 'Be Awesome' message.

Get Bunk Beds:
This weekend, my reasons for being in Ithaca were two-fold.  I was there to help out at orientation for the Spring '11 ICLC students and to attend the Ithaca College All Theatre Reunion, as I am an alum of that program.  Having graduated in 2004, I have been out of college for less than 10 years.  Though I'm not always in amazing touch with my friends from college, most of us have a pretty good sense of where we have all gone with our lives and catching up with one another wasn't that difficult.  It made us feel nice and young.  On the other hand, we were staying in a house that is rented by current theatre undergraduates, and has been the venue for many opening night parties.  Being in that atmosphere, I felt nice and old.  We discussed this fact over our ice cream and kept referring to the film Big, not sure if we fell into the young or old category.  Because we ourselves had somewhat curious and rotating sleeping arrangements in the house over the weekend, someone was reminded of the bunk beds that Tom Hanks had in the movie, and how he invited a woman to stay over and then called the top bunk.  The four of us eating ice cream decided that to really complete our weekend, would should all get bunk beds (ultimately we didn't).

Anyway, we stuck these statements together and came up with an entire motto to live our lives by.  I think this sums up my return to Ithaca this past week, though.  It was awesome, and I laughed a lot, and even though there weren't bunk beds, maturity sunk to a new low when one of my friends was tricked into eating a dog biscuit.  And if this motto fails, there is always old faithful, 'It it's not Scottish, it's crap'.  I would like to thank Mike Myers, Patrick Stewart and the writers working on SNL in 1994 for that one.

Many people have asked Bill and me how our trip to Ithaca was.  For my part, it was great.  I hope everyone else had a good time over Fall Break, too.  To tie this to the scavenger hunt, your challenge now is to find either bunk beds or an oversize piano like the one in Big that Tom Hanks played on in FAO Schwartz (or something like that).

20 October, 2010

I saw Elsie! (Pretty much)

This is a completely true story:

This morning Sarah was in my office with me.  We were the only two in the building, as it's Fall Break and most people are enjoying some time away from the London Centre.  Weren't we surprised, then, when my phone started beeping to let me know that I had an internal call coming in!  There is the normal phone ring that you get when an external call comes into the building, but that wasn't what I heard.  The internal ring is more like a beep.  It's a repeating monotone and the caller's extension appears on the phone's screen.  The extension that appeared was 200, which is the phone on the Work Study desk across from mine.  No one was sitting there.  Last night when we were closing Sarah went through the building to make sure it was empty and to lock it up.  This is what happens every night.  I set the alarm when we left, and I am sure there was no one else in the building with us.  I was the first one here this morning, and when I opened the door, the alarm was set as I had done it the night before.  There was no one else in the building!
Elsie left her mark in push pins.  I may have helped her.  This was back when I thought she was a figment of Bill's imagination.
As I said, Sarah was in my office when this happened, and we were the only ones here, so we know that it could only be Elsie calling.  Sarah said that this reminded her of the first time she was alone in the building.  Bill, Heather and the students were away on a trip, and Sarah was working hard, when the lights of the 6 phone lines coming into the building started flashing for her own personal light show.  Only slightly unnerved, she checked with Heather and Bill when they returned to find out if this was something they had ever seen.  Heather said she had seen it plenty of times before.  So perhaps Heather has more in-depth knowledge of Elsie than the rest of us guessed?

This is what my phone looks like when I get an internal call, though I wasn't fast enough to capture it with Line 1 lit up.
Not that I'm trying to spook anyone as Halloween gets closer, but I had always thought of Elsie as the creature that would reach through the balustrade for my ankles as I ran up the stairs from locking up the basement in the dark (the light switch is at the bottom of the stairs, so it's a dim trip up).  Or perhaps she would be the one banging on the radiator behind the closed door of room 8.  I guess I just didn't expect her on the phone.  I think that one has been used for the plot of more than one horror film.  Come on Elsie, show us a bit of creativity!

I guess the moral of the story is that Elsie doesn't make outgoing calls, because if she did, it might be a worry to us all that she is going around the ICLC to phone her friends, and she might be giving the alarm code away.  But the alarm was untouched this morning, so she probably doesn't know how to work it.  On the other hand, she may not know how to dial out of the building either, so she keeps it to internal calls, which is fine since Bill, Sarah, Heather and I all know the alarm code already, so she wouldn't be divulging confidential information to us that we don't already know.  Or maybe Elsie just forgot to dial 9.  Luckily this happened when we were both in.  Tomorrow I leave for Ithaca and it will just be Sarah.  If Elsie grabs her ankle on the stairs, who will hear her scream?

And these are the things that happen in the ICLC when the students aren't in.

14 October, 2010

New Math

As students come into my office to staple their mid term essays and ask where the faculty pigeon holes are, and as I hound students for their fall break travel detail forms, I think we are all feeling the middle of this term.  That strain is only allayed by the sense of relief that comes after an exam is finished and an essay is printed.  It is one of the most pleasant feelings this world can offer us, but how did mid terms creep up on us all?
Interrelationships journals due?
I remember learning in school that Distance = Rate x Time, so I asked Google maps the distance between London and Ithaca, but they wouldn't calculate that for me, so I have had to extrapolate that one.  Wiki Answers says that the distance between London and New York City is 2,983 miles and the distance from NYC to Ithaca is 223 miles according to Google maps, so the total distance is 3,206 miles.  The time that you are here is 4 months, which is 17 weeks or 119 days.  The only variable that leaves is Rate, and since you are about to leave for fall break and Bill and I will be meeting the Spring 2011 students in a week, I am keen to calculate the rate at which this term seems to be flying by.

To find that variable therefore we must divide the Distance, 3,206, by the Time.  3,206 divided by 4 is 801.5, divided 17 is 188.588 and divided by 119 is 26.941.  Now that we have these Rates, we have to clarify the increments they represent.  Perhaps we could measure in MPH.  That means that in the 2,856 hours between your arrival in August and departure in December this semester will have sped by at a rate of 1.119 MPH.  Even in your sleeping hours you have been going just over a mile an hour.  We aren't cars and we aren't training for marathons, so I would just like to ask, where is it all going?  Where are you all going?

I can answer that with a look at the map on the board outside my office! 
There are going to be so many more initials around this map one you're back from break!
-Claire (and Elsie)

06 October, 2010

F '10 Scavenger Hunt #5: The best traits of human nature

Birthdays only come once a year (for most of us), and they are such a good excuse to spoil ourselves just a little.  Whether you are having three celebratory breakfasts or treating yourself to a lie-in, this is a day that stands out from the other 364.  If you are having your birthday while on your semester abroad you may find it a strange and exhilarating experience.  One of the best parts has to be getting packages and presents and cards from home.  Others make a special point of being out of their home country for their birthdays.  Perhaps it has become a tradition, or perhaps it is a clever ploy to ask for money to take traveling for your birthday.  Either way, there are infinite ways to celebrate birthdays.
A horse and a snake after the birthday brownies are eaten
This scavenger hunt installment therefore deals with years.  Here in the ICLC, Bill likes to keep abreast of the where his faculty and staff fall in the Chinese calendar to see which animals are represented.  Bill himself is a dog and amongst our staff the dogs grossly outnumber any other animal, so I think we all know where this bias in his hiring policy comes from.  It may also have to do with the fact that people born in the year of the dog possess the best traits of human nature.  When including the faculty into the mix I thought that the dogs topped the leader board with six of us, but much to my surprise we have seven snakes!  Snakes are deep.  They say little and posses great wisdom.  It makes sense that a college would employ people who possess great wisdom.  We also have four rabbits, three rats, two horses, one dragon and one boar.  Unrepresented are rams, monkeys, roosters, tigers and oxen.  Your job is to find any one of these last five animals.  Extra points if they are living, breathing animals.
3 horses, 2 tigers and a snake
On a personal note, when I was born I think my doctor was very excited on the occasion.  My evidence for this is that she dated my birth certificate with the wrong year.  As a result, I have quite a unique certificate which says that I was born a decade after my birth certificate was signed and dated.  My parents were there, that's not how it happened.  I don’t think she is a psychic as well as a doctor, but I don’t really have an explanation for this one.  She’s a very good doctor, so she probably just put in a better effort studying medicine than the calendar.  Birth certificates, being part of public records, can involve a lot of bureaucratic effort to change.  So my parents never did it when I was a kid, and I think it’s such a weird quirk that I have no interest in changing it myself.  When I was a kid I hoped this would help me get a driver’s license ten years early.  My dad, with more of a mind towards forward planning, thinks I should apply for social security ten years early.  Needless to say, I had to wait until I was actually 16 years old to drive, because no one would believe that a child who looks six years old should be behind the wheel of a car.  And I have no intention of trying to scam the social security system.  In honour of my wonky birth certificate, your second mission is to find something made in 1972, the year I wasn’t born.
A horse and a snake
-Elsie (as well as one of the ICLC’s many dogs)

04 October, 2010

F '10 Scavenger Hunt #4: Mind the gap created by stations that aren't used anymore

As you well know, each semester we choose a Book of the Term.  This term the book is Mortal Causes by Ian Rankin.  It is set is Edinburgh in the early 1990’s and deals with violence and the IRA, as the books we choose are meant to introduce the students to different aspects of British culture.  Now we are thinking of the book of the next term, and Sarah and I are leaning toward Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere.   Whereas we live in London Above, much of this book is set in London Below.  What is London Below, you ask?  I’m about halfway through the book and I don’t really know myself.

Speaking of the things that happen below London, the London Underground is one of the oldest continuously running subway systems in the world.  It has a fascinating history from acting as a shelter for Londoners during the Blitz to surprising pedestrians as they pass by disused stations on the street that have been closed for decades.  Because they are often not lit up at all, they can be easy to miss.  Who has seen Aldwych Station on the Strand right in the middle of London?  It’s staring you in the face just after you pass Somerset House.  Keep an eye out for this one.  Your first mission this week is to find a disused Tube Station, but not Aldwych, since I have just pointed that one out.  Here is a link to a great website that has images of out of date Tube maps to help you along with this one: http://homepage.ntlworld.com/clivebillson/tube/tube.html.  Don’t be deceived by stations that are still there but have changed names.  Have a look at the outside of Gloucester Road Tube station the next time you pass by and notice that the top of the building says that the Metropolitan and District Railways go to this station.  A lot has changed since this station appeared on one of the earliest Tube maps (1889) as Brompton Gloucester Road Station.  Also, excitingly, there were plans on the 1949 version of the map to extend the Bakerloo line down as far as Camberwell!  Alas, this would only have added to the paradise that Camberwell is!
Also, if you go to the northbound Piccadilly line platform, you can see the tiled sign on the wall saying that these trains go to Finsbury Park, as that is where the Piccadilly line once terminated
You may have also gathered by now, if you have been checking out the TfL website to plan your journeys or to figure out alternative routes during the Tube strike, that as well as the Tube there are also buses, trams, boats and bicycles on offer as public transportation options.  During the last Tube strike there were photos in the paper of the queues of people lined up to take the boats across the Thames.  So, speaking of photos and boats, your second mission is to capture the underside of a bridge.  Obviously you don’t need to be on a boat to see underneath a bridge, but taking a boat across London offers a new perspective to modern eyes and a view of London from what has traditionally been one of its busiest thoroughfares.

Good luck!

-Elsie (who loves Camberwell!)