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Preludes for Prepared Piano 7 )

Older son is home from Boston, along with numerous loads of laundry. Apparently he had a great time: got to tour the nanotech lab at M.I.T., study sea life at Woods Hole, go on a dinner cruise past Bunker Hill and the Constitution, buy a baseball cap at Faneuil Hall, work on Plimoth Plantation, visit the Mayflower (I am highly amused that he was in Plymouth on both sides of the Atlantic in the same month), visit the science center and aquarium and have donuts one morning for breakfast provided by his science teacher. He took several hundred photos and I may post some of them, as he did some awesome stuff and I am envious, as I have never been to M.I.T. or Woods Hole!

My day was not as exciting, though I did write a more-positive-than-expected review of Star Trek: The Next Generation's "The Battle" -- the one with the Ferengi who makes Picard hallucinate being on the Stargazer, which I sat through the first time wondering why in heck they hadn't made Riker the captain of the Enterprise. We had California Tortilla for dinner after the kids rejected our initial plan to take them to Red Lobster, because they had several days of catching up on video games to do (older son had not yet even seen his Pokemon Diamond game!) and Cal Tort was faster and closer to home. (Not to mention cheaper, and since they didn't care what they ate anyway, we figured we'd save the Red Lobster gift card -- which we got as a Christmas present from [livejournal.com profile] apaulled's aunt and uncle -- until everyone is really in the mood.)

[livejournal.com profile] fridayfiver: Get up, stand up! )
[livejournal.com profile] thefridayfive: Favorites )
[livejournal.com profile] fannish5: Cool gadgets )
[livejournal.com profile] hp_fridayfive: Choose a character )


Dudley Castle )


For Saturday we are debating whether to go to Maryland Day at the University of Maryland, when all the departments have really cool displays and open houses, particularly the science and agriculture divisions, or whether to go to Shakespeare's birthday party at the Folger Library and then to the National Arboretum to see the azaleas. Oh, dilemma! None of us can decide which we want to do more!
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Psalm Nine )

[livejournal.com profile] perkypaduan came over with oranges and Volver, which I meant to see when it was in the theater but never quite made it. It was utterly fantastic...neither the genre I was expecting nor the twist I was expecting although I suspected the nature of the real crime from the beginning, which made it all the better. Penelope Cruz (whom I have resisted liking in recent years because of her association with that other Cruise -- everyone he touches turns loathsome for me) is both superb and unbelievably gorgeous...she has curves and doesn't try to look ridiculously young and is so much more beautiful than any of the 20somethings shoved on us in other films. I love, love this movie and will be watching it again very soon, though I almost wish there were one male character in the movie who wasn't worthless...this is very much a story about how women support each other because all the men in their lives let them down so badly.

I wrote an entertaining article on William Shatner's numerous upcoming appearances in which I learned not only that Shatner will appear on the reality show Fast Cars & Superstars, but that StarTrek.com now links to slash art. With a Gorn, no less! Go Kirk! I also wrote a less entertaining article about all the money-making schemes surrounding sending Scotty's ashes into space, in which I tried to be nice but covering the post-death Doohan circus has not been pleasant. Had dinner with my parents, since we can't tomorrow -- we are going to pick up older son from school after his return from Boston, where apparently he has had a great time (based on the text messages I have received about buying baseball caps, visiting M.I.T., taking photos of the Mayflower, etc.), and my parents are going to New York to my brother-in-law's birthday party to which my sister did not invite me until today.


British Animals )


Watched Smallville, which I enjoyed more than perhaps any episode in the past two years...I don't care how hot Oliver is, I still love Clark and Lex together, and given that what first attracted me to the show was the metaphor of growing up superhero as a parallel for growing up gay, and later how the distraction of power is only a surface consolation when the person you love doesn't love you back, everything about this episode was right up my alley. Even Lana, for once. Spoilers. ) Also watched Shark, which was well-played but the plot was stolen right out of a case I'd read about, so I knew where it was going from the beginning. More spoilers. )
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Psalm Three )

Yeah, officially sick of pollen season...quite literally, though the trees do look lovely. I've had a headache for three days now and I know it has nothing to do with what I'm eating, how much exercise I'm getting, etc. Had another quiet day with laundry, looking up deck and fence regulations for the neighborhood (which included a long walk around the back path looking at numerous decks and fences), covering Trek comics news and taking younger son to violin.

In the evening we went to the elementary school book fair -- probably my last elementary school book fair! -- where I bought a collection of poetry I had previously not heard of, This Same Sky, a collection of poems in translation about the human condition edited by Naomi Shihab Nye, though younger son did not want any books since he just got the latest Erin Hunter book (the book fair was several volumes behind). There was a picture book for very young children of the tortoise that adopted a hippo, even though they no longer share an enclosure (here is the blog about them and how they worried that as Owen grew, he would become a threat to Mzee).


British Birds )


In other animal news, I read that George Lucas and Mark Hamill are doing a Star Wars parody for Adult Swim, Robot Chicken: Star Wars, this proving that Lucas has learned nothing about poultry since Howard the Duck. And the Smithsonian is going to charge for admission to its butterfly pavilion, the first time it has ever charged for admission to a permanent attraction, which sucks. But Spinal Tap is reuniting to fight global warming, which rocks in several ways, and Mexico City is legalizing abortion right as our own Supreme Court is chipping away at Roe v. Wade. And on my local news, when they were covering the new Earth-like planet discovered 50 light years away, the science reporter said it would take hundreds of thousands of years to reach it, and the anchor responded, "That's only if Kirk and Scotty don't get the impulse engines fixed."
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The Violins )

Quiet Tuesday...the pollen is really bothering me, so I tried sleeping late and taking drugs, but I think the only real help is when the flowers start dropping off. I was going to meet my mother for lunch, but then she remembered she was having a pedicure and couldn't get there till I needed to be home to retrieve younger son, who was most anxious for the school day to end because Erin Hunter's newest Warriors book was coming out, plus a manga about one of the cats. So we went to Barnes & Noble before Hebrew school, where I was excited because I thought I had found a new Rachel Pollack book on the Tarot on the bargain table, only to get home and discover that it's a book I already have with a different cover...oh well!

Wrote up an interview with Avery Brooks, who is always interesting -- he's recording an audio production of Roots, which he did not appear in, though he and Kate Mulgrew were both in the dreadful holiday TV movie Roots: The Gift which gives me horribly politically incorrect fantasies about Mirror Universe Janeway/Sisko (and Janeway/LaForge and Janeway/Tuvok...Roots: The Gift really has a dream cast for such a mediocre script). Speaking of politically incorrect Star Trek-related TV fantasies, Boston Legal went for utterly unrealistic social commentary but it was still fun to watch, and Denise and Brad are so adorable! Spoilers. )


Magical Animals )


I see that scientists have found kryptonite, though it isn't radioactive. And more importantly, Fairport Convention will play at the 2007 Herndon Festival on May 31st! Now Be Thankful!
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From 'Venus and Adonis' )

I can't believe I missed the Bard's birthday! I didn't even think about it until I was writing an article about Patrick Stewart teaching at Oxford and it hit me that they picked Shakespeare's birthday for his first lecture. The Folger Shakespeare Library's annual celebration isn't until next weekend so I was all thrown off. (The other Trek article for the day was about how The Next Generation episode "The High Ground" has never been shown in the UK or Ireland because of Data's explanation that Ireland would reunify in the future after a terrorist attack, and it's being shown this week at a Belfast festival and is still causing controversy despite the huge shift in Irish politics since the episode was made -- I love it when Star Trek news is about something bigger than Star Trek.)

So we all know now I have psychotic dreams, right? Last night I dreamed that I was trying to clean the basement and pile things in the backyard, and ran out of room, and finally set fire to the pile in the yard because it was the only way to get rid of all the stuff, and the house caught fire and I was thinking this sucks but at least now I don't have to try to clean the basement. I woke up with a headache and in a bad mood but a sense of purpose, and instead of taking a walk in the morning I went outside and took down 90% of our ancient backyard fence, which I have never liked and wanted to get rid of ever since the kids were really little and I couldn't see them in the backyard over it. It really never occurred to me before that I could do this singlehandedly, but at this point the wood is so rotted that it came down really easily except the big posts.

Ironically, while I was doing this, my husband was finally (after only, oh, three years of nudging and getting some quotes myself) talking to people about repairing the deck and cracked front step which you can see in squirrel and chipmunk photos. Yep, going to cost as many thousand dollars as we feared...actually the deck is going to be less than our worst case scenarios and we can probably push it out a foot if we want, which we are debating, and we're trying to decide whether we need flagstones over the concrete in front. We are the opposite of handy around a house and garden and I imagine anyone who has known me a long time, like [livejournal.com profile] vertigo66, is laughing uproariously at the image of me taking a fence down.


Arthurian Britain )


Am very happy to have Heroes back and after it we watched Boston Legal from two weeks ago so we'd be caught up for this week's episode, which was supposed to air last week but was pre-empted for one of the specials about Virginia Tech. I still love most of the actors on Heroes (even the people who play characters I really dislike, like Nathan Petrelli, are well-cast) but the mythology is getting convoluted enough to send up my warning feelers and when characters are quoting the tag line from The X-Files movie and borrowing rationales from The X-Men movie, it makes me a little nervous. As for Boston Legal, I see that I complained about Brad not having enough big scenes without full information! Spoilers. )
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Fiddler Jones )

Older son left bright and early for his week-long field trip, so we were all up very early, and while younger son was at Hebrew school I took a long walk in the neighborhood. Then, after Hebrew school, we went to get Pokemon Diamond for older son and Pokemon Pearl for younger son (they've been saving and older son's one disappointment was not to be able to get it in time for the bus ride), and because we were up in Gaithersburg, we went looking for baby geese both at the lake at Rio and the one in Montgomery Village. We saw no actual goslings -- there were a couple of mother geese sitting on nests across the water from us, hissing, and numerous adult geese paired off in what appeared to be mating couples -- but we saw something even more interesting, a colony of great blue herons nesting on an island at Montgomery Village, all these enormous birds at the tops of these trees!

I ended up crashing hard for an hour in the late afternoon after getting all that sun, then woke up around dinnertime because younger son had a rehearsal for next weekend's violin recital in the evening. The entire concert is Vivaldi, with the younger students playing concertos and four of the older students each playing the solo parts of The Four Seasons. They are performing in a local parish, St. Jane Frances de Chantal, which has a gorgeous new church building less than seven years old. There were still Easter flowers around the altar and brilliant evening light streaming in through the stained glass. The acoustics are terrific and the kids really sounded great considering that this is the first time they have performed as a group; my son has practiced a couple of times with the violin teacher's daughter, who plays cello, and with the boy who has lessons right after his, but there were easily 30 kids playing the first concerto who didn't know one another.

I will eventually post local spring photos, but I cannot resist another few days of dwelling in Great Britain, so here is...


Caerphilly Castle )


We saw a huge bullfrog and many turtles sunning themselves in the lake too, which reminds me that my uncle sent me a link to the Great Turtle Race, where sponsor companies support Pacific leatherback turtles as they migrate from Costa Rica to the Galapagos Islands and people can cheer them on. I picked Freedom because I like the name (Yahoo's turtle is called Purple Lightning). I'd have rooted for the one sponsored by Drexel University, but it's apparently still lounging on the beach in Costa Rica!
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The Fiddler of Dooney )

Since older son leaves early Sunday morning for his week-long school trip to New England, including a visit to M.I.T. and many of the Boston highlights we visited three years ago (younger son is quite envious about the aquarium, which has three kinds of penguins), we did mostly utilitarian things Saturday, like getting haircuts for everyone, doing a bit of shopping and washing, drying, sorting and folding lots of laundry. Younger son had soccer early in the morning while older son was working at Hebrew school, and in the afternoon we went for a hike at Meadowside Nature Center which was surprisingly crowded, as we had not anticipated all the Earth Day-related activities that might be going on. So it was not all that eventful a day, though quite lovely out, with temperatures in the 70s and trees in bloom all around where we were walking.

Had a bit of a headache when I woke up and on a lark checked the ingredients on the supposedly organic yogurt I ate yesterday, and it's got high fructose corn syrup in it! And the "pure vanilla extract" my husband uses in cookies also has corn syrup in it. I've been aware for a long time that we get corn fed to us in products we don't even think about, but since I've been reading labels it's been astounding to me: even powdered malt extract, which I thought by definition was germinated barley, has corn in it. I'm going to have to read the ingredients on every single thing we eat regularly; I don't live close enough to either Trader Joe's or Whole Foods to do all our shopping there, even if we could afford it.


Chepstow Castle )


Finally watched the "young Denny Crane" episode of Boston Legal, which I had missed while we were in England. It's definitely one of Shatner's best performances on the series and the impression is even greater given that the episode uses clips of him playing a lawyer in an episode of Westinghouse Studio One called "The Defender" that someone at ABC pulled out of a vault -- he's stuck with horrible cliched lines and overly dramatic music and he's still compelling in that bad old lawyer drama. Really, except for poor Brad who spends most of the episode stuck in a ventilation shaft, it's a great episode for everyone: Spoilers. )
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Elegy for a Jet Pilot )

Not a great deal to report. Took an hour-long walk in the gorgeous late morning weather and looked at all the flowers in the neighborhood. Wrote a review of "Justice", the terrible Next Gen episode where Wesley Crusher is sentenced to die and Picard almost lets him, based on the world's most idiotic misreading of the Prime Directive. Had dinner with my parents, discussed the week's events, almost became irate when my father tried to blame ME for the fact that my sister is being totally unreasonable about celebrating my mother's birthday anywhere but the phenomenally expensive resort where she wants to go. Told him to deal with her himself. Watched the news, saw the NASA stuff, listened to Bush defend Gonzales, wanted to cry some more, switched over to coverage of Aishwarya Rai's wedding and then, to my astonishment, saw a report that the Catholic Church has declared that there is no Limbo. Wow! Am fascinated that a concept that has endured for so long can be swept away with one document.

[livejournal.com profile] fridayfiver: Don't Let Your Life Pass You By )
[livejournal.com profile] thefridayfive: Gender Stereotypes )
[livejournal.com profile] fannish5: Canonical Romances )
[livejournal.com profile] hp_fridayfive: Love Potions Etc. )


In Dartmoor National Park )
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Composed a Few Miles Above Tintern Abbey )

Neither of our laptops allowed me to load LiveJournal or several other web sites until about five minutes ago. This meant in essence that I could not watch TV and use the computer at the same time, though for some reason my own computer never had a problem. Husband's initial helpful response was to spend all evening downloading Grateful Dead concerts...oh wait, he does that every evening. I was sure it must have something to do with the router and the way it communicates with the DNS servers, and since the modem is on top of his computer and I really can't do anything with it from here, and he had both laptops going simultaneously to feed his music fetish, I had to wait until he was ready to look at the sites I was telling him to look at to see if we could figure out how to fix it, which ultimately we did (it was the MTU setting -- don't ask me what it means, I just now know where it needs to be set).

Anyway, I couldn't watch Shark and was pretty distracted during Smallville...saw enough not to feel like I was missing much, even with Lynda Carter, even though it looked pretty Chloe-centric with minimal Lana except in her usual Bimbo In Distress role, which leads me to believe that maybe it is time just to give up. Spoilers. ) What else? Fun report on efforts to create a deflector shield to protect astronauts from radiation. Not all that exciting report on Grand Slam last weekend, of which my favorite tidbit was that Colm Meaney invited his television wife, Rosalind Chao, to his real-life wedding last month and that Marc Alaimo and Nana Visitor appeared onstage together for the first time ever (oh man would I have loved to see that -- when he and Louise Fletcher appeared together at Grand Slam, she got asked whether Marc was a good kisser and things went straight downhill from there in the best possible ways). I finally have a Facebook page. And I'm tired and drained from the events of the past few days, and worrying about older son's long field trip when a kid in his grade was just expelled for having a weapon and a hit list, so back to something spiritually uplifting...


Below Tintern Abbey )
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Term )

Every time I looked at the news today, I felt sick. The Supreme Court butted into our reproductive rights and put women's lives and health at risk. NBC had a much clearer portrait of the Virginia Tech murderer in his own words and images. My older son's school was briefly on lockdown because a teacher had found a list of student names in a notebook labeled "Hit List" -- the student was quickly detained and the situation hopefully resolved, but not before the principal had sent out an e-mail informing parents of what was going on. It's exhausting to be this stressed out, and gives me a headache.

Fortunately [livejournal.com profile] gblvr decided that we needed to celebrate the Birthday of the Davids (Hewlett and Tennant) and came over to share Chicken Out with ice cream and The Lake House, the latter because I have a secret thing for Keanu Reeves she has a secret thing for Sandra Bullock it was filmed in Chicago and made me nostalgic for living there, a block from the shore of Lake Michigan in Hyde Park. She also brought her laptop and SGA vids and now I have "Grace Kelly" stuck in my head. So it was a very nice afternoon when I wasn't looking at my own computer screen.

I did write about Abrams confirming Kirk's presence in Star Trek XI and Colm Meaney talking about A Moon for the Misbegotten, which ironically enough my son's violin teacher was talking about as well, having read conflicting reviews in The New Yorker and The New York Times. I really like my son's violin teacher as everything but my son's violin teacher: she's the only person I know in the neighborhood with whom I can discuss Eugene O'Neill, Gustav Dore, the environmental policies (or lack thereof) of the Bush administration and the county's arts funding, but she tends to be scattered during lessons, stopping to yell things to her kids or to be conversational, and my son really needs someone who will keep him focused. Sigh. They have a recital at a church next weekend and a rehearsal this weekend.


A Cheer-Up Penguin Photo Post )


Have just learned that Kristin says "one of the main four [Smallville] castmembers — Tom Welling, Michael Rosenbaum, Allison Mack or Kristin Kreuk — will be killed off before the season ends...it is someone who is most definitely a fan favorite. And I think you're gonna freak." Am desperately hoping of the four that it's Lana (I think it's a pretty darned safe bet that it's not Clark). While I assume they could kill Lex in such a way that they could bring him back later as Completely Evil Lex, I doubt I'd bother to watch if they did, and there's no denying that Chloe's the most expendable canon-wise but is she "most definitely a fan favorite" the way Lex is? Ugh. Well, it was fun for awhile but as I learned from Voyager, X-Files and so many other shows, let them go before they become intolerable.

And have just heard on the news that the last two weeks in January were warmer than the past two weeks have been in the DC area. Weird spring.
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Grief )

Like many people, I'm sure, I spent a lot of Tuesday staring in horror at the news. Somehow it seems worse the day after, when there are faces and details, like the Israeli Holocaust survivor who died trying to shield his students and the girl from the Virginia town where my father's company has an office I've visited many times. Virginia Tech could hardly have done a better job advertising its diversity: African American and Latin American and Asian faces, Christians, Muslims and Jews, people from all over the US and all over the world. There aren't words.

Otherwise I had a relatively quiet day...went for a long walk in the afternoon to see all the flowers in the neighborhood that have been emerging in the past few days, wrote up a long interview with Connor Trinneer about Enterprise and Atlantis, started reading Andre Aciman's Out of Egypt which I had bought to read on my trip and never even opened (ditto a collection of short stories by Janette Turner Hospital...pretty much everything I read on the trip was trip-related, either about the history of Glastonbury, Avebury, etc. or about the literary connections of spots we were visiting in Wales).

Younger son had Hebrew school and while looking in his backpack for a notice sent home from the school, I discovered some makeup work that he had mysteriously forgotten about. He has been devouring Kathryn Lasky's Guardians Of Ga'hoole books, which are about owls, and while I hate to tell my kids to stop reading anything, it's like when older son was devouring Redwall at the expense of his social studies homework. Older son leaves Sunday for a week-long field trip to Boston so he has very little homework this week, but he and three other kids are doing a project with an M.I.T. professor while they are there so he has preparatory stuff to do for that. This will be the longest he's been away on his own without relatives!


Gloucester Cathedral )
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The Spring )

Doesn't feel much like spring here, even though we're past the mid-point of April...I want to go back to sunny Cardiff! There was power off all over the area on Monday following rains and flooding Sunday and then several trees down overnight in high winds...a huge tree across the road in my neighborhood, though we didn't lose power overnight but my parents had none for 18 hours or so. Our power was off for several hours from late morning until late afternoon. Fortunately I had no electronics running when it went out, as I was out to lunch with [livejournal.com profile] dementordelta eating Mexican food, who brought me naked Daniel Radcliffe an Equus program and goodies from London.

We decided to go see The Namesake, which was wonderful...Kal Penn (whom I most recently saw in a totally inane role in Epic Movie) as the titular character, and the wonderful Tabu as his mother and the gorgeous gorgeous Zuleikha Robinson from Rome as his wife. I love Mira Nair -- have only seen Mississippi Masala, Monsoon Wedding and Vanity Fair from among her films, I really need to rent Salaam Bombay -- and the family journey in this one, the enjoying new freedoms vs. maintaining one's cultural background dilemma was played out beautifully across two generations. The female characters are very well written, even the relatively unsympathetic ones. Highly recommended.


Beautiful Aberdyfi )


Have been watching the news all evening in a state of shock. What a nightmare for everyone at Virginia Tech and everyone who knows anyone there -- hope everyone connected here is safe and sound as well as your loved ones.
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The Self-Unseeing )

As predicted, we had a very rainy Sunday. No cherry blossoms for us! Instead we went to see Blades of Glory, which was hilarious...I'd been warned by various people that it was homophobic, insulting to women skaters and just plain dumb, but I did not find any of the above to be true -- it's stereotypical, sure, but I actually found it less insulting to women than all of those girl skater movies where the ugly duckling becomes a swan on the ice, and although it certainly plays on real and imagined stereotypes about male figure skaters, sexuality and gender performance, and it's perhaps a bit heterosexist in that there are remarkably few gay men in the film's version of the sport (not counting stalkers), the entire film is about how pairs skating would be more interesting if it was opened to less conventional pairs and how two men together shouldn't feel any wronger than brother-sister teams playing lovers, which happens all the time. It spends far more time poking fun at the macho skater than it does at the flamboyant one in feathers. And the ostensibly straight guys skate to Queen's Flash Gordon soundtrack and Aerosmith's song from Armageddon...very illegal music and moves for real competitions but total camp fun! More movie-related blather. )

Came home, watched Doctor Who on my computer because there is no way I'm waiting a year after seeing the first two in the UK, am utterly infatuated but have no desire to attempt to enter this fandom except in a "SQUEEEE!" way; fortunately my best friend in the UK is a longtime fan yet utterly unaware of online flame wars, so I can talk to her about it when I feel the need. Also watched some of the Jackie Robinson Day Dodgers game, mostly for the commentary. And that's the extent of my news, other than not being able to find the Eragon Nintendo DS game for older son at three different stores, not being able to help younger son with his math homework because I don't remember enough algebra and not being able to load the web page with the SGA spoilers on Connor Trinneer I'm supposed to write up as Trek news. Hey, does anyone else around here use Twitter? I discovered it via [livejournal.com profile] thedivinegoat and love how easy it is to drop in single-sentence updates for anyone looking for me.


Bath and the Baths )
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A Simple Cuban Meal )

Very domestic Saturday...finally mostly caught up on e-mails, correspondence and LJ comments, though not phone calls, Trek news or reading other people's journals! Older son volunteered in Hebrew school in the morning and younger son had soccer in the afternoon, so had stretches with just one child in the house, and they wanted nothing more than to catch up on Runescape when they had computers to themselves so they were mostly out of my hair. I folded five, count 'em, five loads of laundry (I hate socks OMG) while watching Eragon on DVD; it is still very bad, and there are still so many different ways to slash it that I don't even care. (It's supposed to pour here on Sunday and family is making noise about seeing Blades of Glory, much to my surprise, and I am counting on that being even more homoerotic to make up for what are sure to be its shortcomings.)


Wild Things )


Let's see...wrote some silly Trek-related news like The Black Donnellys being cancelled, ate some leftover Cadbury, took a walk to see the spring flowers before the rain washes them away. If I have other news, I've forgotten, as the recovery time from this trip is apparently longer than usual due to having my body clock completely reversed (I haven't been quite this tired since being postpartum). Shall sleep and ponder whether Prince William broke up with Kate Thingy because he caught a glimpse of me across London and fell hopelessly in love...
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Springtime Comes to the Capitol )

Am fully unpacked! And the laundry is finished, though not folded. And some of the mail is answered, and all the photos I intend to post for now have been reduced in size and posted, and the huge pile of paper on the kitchen table has been diminished. Otherwise, I am days behind on work and LJ comments and haven't even caught up on Boston Legal or The Tudors because I haven't folded the laundry yet! It's supposed to rain all weekend so at least maybe I'll be able to get some stuff done without spring distraction, though I took a walk today and noticed that much of the neighborhood is in bloom despite the chilly weather the past couple of days.

[livejournal.com profile] thefridayfive: Lurve and Stuff )
[livejournal.com profile] fridayfiver: Another Social Casualty )
[livejournal.com profile] fannish5: Desert Island )
[livejournal.com profile] hp_fridayfive: Let's Get Ready To Ruuuummmble! )


Lacock Abbey, Part of Hogwarts )


It's supposed to rain all through the cherry blossom festival this weekend, and apparently most of the flowers are already gone. Ah well, we shall have to walk the monuments on a less crowded weekend!
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Requiem )

Once again I am Too Damn Tired To Move [TM] and it's not even 10:30 as I type this. Had a nice day, got some things done like lots of photo cropping and uploading plus I sorted my souvenirs for people. Had lunch with [livejournal.com profile] gblvr at Macaroni Grill, went shopping at Target for some necessities and a few frivolous things, tried to catch up on fannish news and realized I actually don't want to understand what set off the latest SGA kerfluffle. Wish I lived in the UK so I could be properly obsessed with Doctor Who but it's hard getting it delayed and anyway I'm sure I'd manage to say something politically incorrect about Martha at some point. My kids love it, at least, though I had to insist on not playing with remote control Dalek when I supervised younger son and his best friend's homework. Saw my mother for awhile, tried to make a dent in a stack of e-mails, had pizza for dinner because we were too lazy to come up with anything else.

Am contemplating the fact that in two weeks overseas, despite changing weather patterns, knocked-off sleep patterns, pollen and schlepping and eating at weird hours and that time of the month, I never got a migraine, and am thinking I seriously need to note whenever I eat anything with corn in it in any form. I was very aware that everything I ate there, from Kelloggs bran cereal in the morning to Nestle chocolate at night, was missing the corn syrup we get in every mass food product and lots of restaurants, and while I have never had a consistent pattern with headaches in terms of what I eat, that might be because I get corn in so many things I don't even think to check the labels or ingredients for.


Chalice Well )


Have comments I was supposed to answer, e-mails I was supposed to send, phone calls I was supposed to make, work I was supposed to get finished, laundry I was supposed to fold and stuff I was supposed to read, but it's not going to happen tonight. Hey, if you have news, leave me a comment, pretty please? Happy Friday the 13th!
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Last Night I Dreamed of Chickens )

Totally fried. No news besides laundry, unpacking, recording but not watching the third episode of The Tudors, taking son to violin after two weeks of no practicing, writing apologetic notes to teachers over extra days of school missed, reading the riot act over one particular grade on otherwise good report cards, overseeing homework, working lots on posting photos and trip reports that are not yet finished, etc. Going to go collapse!


Fields of Gold )
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The Hole )

Home. Exhausted. As always didn't get to everything we wanted to see -- this time it was Cornwall that had to be stricken from the agenda so we could get to everything in Wales -- but had a divine time anyway. Spent an extra half-day near Heathrow because our original flight was cancelled; we had to get up insanely early. They put us up in the lovely Radisson Edwardian and fed us extremely well but I am beyond functional with the lack of sleep and the time change. Watched Miss Potter and most of Blood Diamond on the flight (missed the beginning of the latter), am officially over my dislike of Renee Zellwegger as that's three movies in a row in which I've felt she gave great non-actress-y performances (as opposed to Kidman and Paltrow), thought the acting and cinematography in Blood Diamond were phenomenal but was very glad to be watching on a teeny tiny little screen because the violence was so graphic (small screen didn't stop me from bawling). We were slightly detained because the Department of Agriculture had to question us about the farm on which we stayed and to check our shoes. Have laundries going, am about 1/3 unpacked. Must go collapse before I crash out of my chair...hugs to [livejournal.com profile] perkypaduan for taking care of my cats and I have lots of people to call tomorrow...but not too early!


London in the Rain )


Can't keep my eyes open for Boston Legal and still have to watch last week's Young Shatner episode, so will catch up while folding laundry eventually!
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Saturday was a glorious day, both in terms of the weather and our activities. We got up very early and left the cottage in High Littleton for Dudley, a city near Birmingham with a zoo containing one spectacular and unique feature: a castle. However, this was not our reason for visiting: last year [livejournal.com profile] mamadracula had adopted one of the penguins there for younger son as a birthday present, and when we realized we would be in the vicinity of the zoo, I had written to the marketing manager, who had offered to arrange for son to meet his penguin, Arkwright, while we were there. The zoo really went above and beyond the call. Not only did son get to help zookeeper Mark feed the penguins and pet one of Arkwright's week-old babies while a zoo photographer snapped pictures for their newsletter -- I gather that they don't get many Americans who have adopted animals visiting them at the zoo -- but they also arranged a private tour of Dudley Castle led by "Brother Dudley", ostensibly a medieval monk who told us about the castle's history from the Norman conquest through the execution of onetime owner John Dudley, who lost his head for supporting Lady Jane Grey, up to the fire that destroyed the castle in the 1800s.

There are beautiful views of the castle from all over the park, but from inside the walls, you forget that you're visiting a zoo (well, unless you are fixated on penguins and sheep, since the latter can be seen and heard all over the area). fter a visit to the castle armory and a quick walk through the zoo, which is beautiful -- there are paths through the wallabies and lemurs where the animals can run right next to zoo visitors, plus a little amusement park and gorgeous views of the entire city from the castle keep, the highest point in the Midlands -- we drove through the Welsh countryside to Aberdyfi on Cardigan Bay. We passed steam trains, magnificent mountains and thousands of sheep on the way to the shore, discovering that our bed & breakfast at Tyddyn Rhys Farm was an extremely steep quarter of a mile uphill from the water...nearly as strenuous a hike as Glastonbury Tor!

I am starting to think that rumors of bad weather in England and Wales are made up to scare away American tourists, because it was warm, brilliantly sunny and clear the entire afternoon and evening. After walking down to the shore, we had dinner at Walkers Fish & Chips outside facing the water, where a handful of boats were coming and going, and local kids were racing crabs which scuttled to the waterline and buried themselves in the sand as quickly as possible. The B&B where we stayed had several cats, one of whom came through our open bedroom door and made itself comfortable on the bed between the kids, as well as dogs, chickens and sheep in the fenced areas around the house. We watched Doctor Who in the evening -- the Shakespeare episode, filmed at the Globe in London, in which the Doctor explains to Martha that the seventh Harry Potter book was unforgettable and 57 academics punch their fists in the air at having Shakespeare's sexuality confirmed for them.

We were awoken Easter morning when a Jack Russell terrier came upstairs and whined until younger son opened the door to the room in which the kids were staying, where it proceeded to jump on the bed and lick older son awake. There were cats mewling and sheep bleating just outside our window. After eating the huge breakfast prepared by the woman who owns the B&B where we were staying, we hiked up to Carn March Arthur and the Bearded Lake in the hills far above Aberdyfi -- again in weather so gorgeous it seemed unreal. The path winds up past hundreds of sheep and alongside a farm into Snowdonia National Park, surely one of the most beautiful places in Britain. The lake isn't very bearded at this time of year because the water lilies that cover it in the summer have only started to spread across the surface, but it's still a gorgeous little lake surrounded on all sides by grass and rock-covered hills which I have wanted to see since I first read Susan Cooper's The Dark Is Rising books in elementary school.

We stopped briefly at the Talyllyn Railway station in Tywyn to see the train museum and to watch the steam engines come and go. In Thomas the Tank Engine movies based on Reverend Awdry's series, this line became Skarloey, and while we were at the station, the red Thomas train Duncan pulled in. (The kids were at this stage less impressed than we were!) Nearby is Tal-y-llyn Lake, also known as Llyn Mwyngil, the Pleasant Lake, at the foot of Cader Idris -- another place I have wanted to see since reading about Susan Cooper's Wales in childhood. Yet again we missed any hint of the Brenin Llwyd; it was spectacularly bright and sunny as we drove into the valley, just as it had been since we arrived in Wales. However, keeping to the King Arthur theme, we went on to King Arthur's Labyrinth in Corris surrounded by a local artists' colony. The Disneyland-type history of the Mabinogion is mitigated by subterranean boat ride and walk through the caverns beneath Braichgoch Mountain used for decades by Braichgoch Quarry to mine slate. It was very dark, quite chilly and moody in the caverns and the exhibits in that setting were quite enjoyable. We had dinner at the Brewers Fayr in Telford.


And In Photos )
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I have always managed to be in a church on Good Friday when I have been in Britain, and this year was no different. We went first to Caerleon, one of the sites frequently associated with Camelot, though the Roman museum there carefully made no mention whatsoever of Arthurian legend. Instead there were relics dug up at the nearby barracks and graves -- weapons and beads and the remains of shoes. The museum has a reproduction of Roman barracks and many suits of armor, but is not nearly as interesting as the excavated barracks and amphitheatre across the street, where University of Cardiff students were surveying a yet-unexplored field adjacent to the barracks. The amphitheatre rises in mounds out of the ground where the arches were buried and looks astonishingly complete. I didn't feel particularly strong King Arthur vibes there -- much less than at Glastonbury, even though the graves there said to be Arthur and Guinevere's are almost certainly not -- but it's amazing to see something from so long ago that has lasted for so long.

We had lunch on the grounds of Chepstow Castle, one of the earliest stone castles in Britain, dating from about 1090. It was held by Royalists and besieged during the English Civil War, then used as a prison and allowed to decay, so that now it is a beautiful ruin with gorgeous views of the Wye from the paneless windows. We toured the castle, then drove to Tintern Abbey. There was a time when meadow, grove, and stream were made easily accessible by the National Trust and English Heritage people working at them, but I must say that I am thoroughly unimpressed by Cadw, the Welsh equivalent. The town was very crowded both with tourists and locals all going to some kind of Good Friday fair, and the miniscule parking lot couldn't hold all the cars coming in. Lots of people were parking illegally in front of the abbey and on the street creating traffic hazards, but we figured we would do the right thing and ask if we could park in one of the many unused coach parking spots for a few minutes -- there was not a single coach to be seen -- but the answer was no. We got lucky and managed to get a spot after much driving in circles, but at that point I wasn't all that thrilled by the abbey, which isn't as dramatic as Rievaulx, as scenic as Fountains, as striking as Whitby nor as meaningful to me as Glastonbury, despite the fact that I spent a week studying the poem in a Wordsworth class as an undergraduate.

We went from Tintern to Monmouth, birthplace of Henry V, which has a small Nelson museum including a substantial collection of his letters, though there were none of the impressive displays we saw in Portsmouth a couple of years ago -- Nelson displays are always amusing because it seems like the curators don't quite know what to do about all the controversy he caused before he became the martyred naval legend by dying on his ship in his moment of triumph. Then we drove to Gloucester Cathedral, nearly 1000 years old (and a setting for the first two Harry Potter films, which naturally had nothing to do with why we visited, heh). Formerly Gloucester Abbey, the building was spared during the Dissolution because Edward II is buried there after being murdered in captivity, since Henry VIII apparently did not want to destroy a building where a king was buried and refounded it as a cathedral. It is quite magnificent, with cleaner, brighter stained glass than most of the cathedrals we have visited and beautiful cloisters. Tenebrae services had just ended when we arrived, so the church was in darkness save the light through the stained glass and from candles, which was wonderfully evocative. We drove back to High Littleton through fields of sheep, cows, horses and golden flowers, with the occasional rabbit and deer along with pheasants and magpies by the side of the road.


Caerleon, Chepstow, Tintern, Monmouth, Gloucester )


There's more but I am trying to get this posted before my internet connection dies again. Will be completely offline tomorrow night in remote Wales, hopefully back online Sunday!

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