sangre_fria: (Default)
The fire alarm just went off.

It's past two o'clock in the morning, and the fire alarm just went off.

Because someone was smoking inside of their room, right under the highly-sensitive smoke detector.

Instead of walking down one flight of stairs and smoking out in the nice, warm night air, someone decided to light one up under a smoke detector. And we all had to evacuate the building and just stand around while they tried to figure out what happened. At two o'clock in the morning.

Some people have their final exams tomorrow. Others have to catch early flights home.

A lot of people aren't happy right now.



On a lighter note, I'm glad I'm a weirdo. My first instinct isn't to get upset. I suppose I'm just especially sensitive to the irony of situations; in other words, I usually get a twisted kick out of this kind of thing.

In other words...Don't get mad; laugh like a lunatic.
sangre_fria: (Default)
The much-needed update has arrived. No, I'm not horribly lazy. Sorry for putting this off for so long.

Last Thursday was one of those surreal days. Ada and I were about to leave lectures when a motorcade went by; there was a woman sitting in the main car, surrounded by police cars and motorcycles. We both just kind of stared as it went past, and I noticed that the car was flying a small flag. I only got a glimpse, but it seemed to be red and yellow.

Ada turned to me and said, "Hey, she was wearing a hat that was kind of like the ones the Queen wears..."

"Uh...I think that was the Queen, Ada..."

Sure enough, she was here in Oxford to preside over the grand opening of the Oxford castle. Ada found a newspaper article on it, complete with a picture of the Queen. The Queen, wearing that hat.

So that makes two members of royalty in one school year. How many other college students could boast that? Man, I love Oxford; my life is such a fairytale here.

The ball last Saturday was so much fun; the chocolate fountain, pampering room, and champagne reception were all amazing. One of the tents displayed various dance and singing groups, such as the belly dancing club and the Oxford Belles. Katie got a massage in the pampering room, and I had some henna done on my hand. I can't believe it was free; the girl who did it was incredibly nice, and even had advice to give for my upcoming exams.

Speaking of exams, they finally let us know when and where they're going to be held. The Exam Schools are just down the road from here, but I'm going to have to travel all the way to the edge of the city to take mine. Ah, the joys of inconvenience...

As soon as my exams finish, I'll be on my way home; that doesn't make me feel much better about them, though. I'm still terrified, to put it mildly. To quote Prachett, "...there was a light at the end of the tunnel, and it was a flamethrower." I'll survive somehow, though.

Our lab practicals are hilarious. We've been making genetic recombinants, mapping bacterial genes, and test-crossing various yeasts. Our professor pointed out that all of this has to do with sex, and to "set the mood", he put on some love songs. So we're all cracking up over our petri dishes while these crooning make-out tunes play in order to "encourage the yeast".

I've said it before, and I say it again: I love this school.
sangre_fria: (Default)
I just wanted a smooth trip here, without any major issues popping up to bite me. I suppose it really was too much to ask.

I was scheduled to leave on Wednesday afternoon; Chris even came from Tampa to see me off. So we get to the airport, and it says that my flight's been delayed. Well, that's never good; when you have to catch a connecting flight, being on time is somewhat important. To make a long story short, the Atlanta airport had been shut down completely. No planes coming in; none going out. Over 150 flights canceled, and the airport itself was completely evacuated. The TVs in the Melbourne airport were showing what was going on at about the same time we found out; apparently there had been a "breach in security". This later turned out to be a completely false alarm, but I was still stranded. The whole point of me leaving on Wednesday was so I could get here by Thursday morning and settle in/deal with jet-lag before my collections (exams) on Friday.

So I ended up having to leave on Thursday through Orlando. Luckily for me, my family was heading that way, anyway. My sister has a volleyball tournament up in Baltimore, and they were leaving through Orlando about two hours after me. The flight to Cincinnati wasn't too bad, and then I just hung out there in Ohio for a few hours until my next flight. Since I waited for about three hours, I was able to watch the rest of the passengers arrive at the gate...And got a heads-up on what I was in for. There were seven infants on this flight. I'm not talking about toddlers, though there were plenty of those too. I'm talking about babies, here.

Needless to say, I didn't sleep on that flight. I'm used to sleeping sitting up, and can do it in just about any situation now, but there was no way I could sleep on that flight. There was tons of extremely rough turbulence, which didn't bother me, per say. But every time the plane shook, one or two of the babies would wake up and start screaming. Which would wake up all the others, and they would start screaming too. I can block out two or three babies screaming, but not all of them. Needless to say, everyone more or less scrambled off that plane when we landed. If it had been any longer of a flight, I think someone would have cracked.

Getting all my luggage together was pretty routine; I was able to find the ATM fine, and get the money needed for my bus ticket to Oxford. Bought the bus ticket, and didn't have to wait too long. The closest stop to St. Hilda's is on St. Clements, which is quite close. But when you have two huge bags, a backpack, and two smaller bags, it might as well be across the city. My back and arms are sore today, but I managed to drag my jet-lagged self and all my stuff across the most dangerous street in all of Oxfordshire. I managed to get settled in here, and get all of my stuff out of storage all right, but I missed my collections. I talked with Sarah about it, and she said I could just make them up sometime this week.

"Oh, you must be so jet-lagged. Never mind the collections and just go to bed!"

If you've never had jet-lag, I suppose you could imagine it this way: Stay up all night, the following day, the following night, and then part of the following day. Take light cat-naps if you can, but remember to stay upright in your chair the whole time. During this time, get up twice, but make sure to have your hands full of heavy things wherever you go, and make sure you walk at least a mile without stopping. Then you'll understand how I felt at that moment. Obviously, I didn't really argue with her.

Of course, the sheets for my bed were still in storage. So I had to go all the way down to the Lodge and get the key, then run back and forth from the CBB building with my boxes and trunk. I finally got everything unpacked and arranged to my liking. And despite feeling like a zombie (and a zombie who hadn't showered in two days, no less), it was great to see all my friends again. Katie's invited me to go punting with her and the girls this afternoon, and I might be able to drag myself away from my comfy room. Considering the weather here, it would be worth it. It's so warm here; I actually had to open my window because my room felt to warm yesterday. Shocking. Everything is in bloom, including the tree outside my window, and it all smells wonderful. Katie also invited me to come see the play her father's in two weeks from now; her entire family is hugely into theater, and her dad has the lead role. It's down in Sussex, so I'll be able to stay in her home in the countryside. She said that she'll show me the bluebell wood there, which is where the Winnie the Pooh books are set. Go figure. I'm already looking forward to it, and I'll be sure to bring my camera along.

So...yeah. I made it here in one piece, and I'm already enjoying myself. Wish me luck on my collections, guys.
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Well, I'm officially halfway through the term now. And funny enough, it's halfway through the school year, too.

Friday evening was wonderful in so many ways. It was such a nice change of pace, considering that I never seem to socialize over here.

Hooray for new friends. ^.^
sangre_fria: (Laura- EL suit)
Just a quick one, I promise.

Okay, so I was sitting in Darwin's Cafe after my morning lectures, putting the finishing touches on the lab report that was due this evening. I was sitting at the table closest to the vending machines, so I overheard some third years while they were getting a snack.

Now, you have to understand that Oxford's degree in Biological Sciences is only a three-year course, so these people were the equivalent of Seniors in our colleges back home. Except for the fact that they have to work on a "third-year project", which is basically a thesis. You know, the kind of stuff that most people do during graduate work. So yes, I do have respect for them to begin with; and the kids here at Oxford are nice. They don't lord it over us freshers, just because we're new and they're the oldest. Anyway, back to business.

The vending machines are always a pain; they're moody, they don't give back your change sometimes, and they've even been known to take your money without actually giving you the food/drink. (That's happened to me twice so far; there's actually an Oxford Facebook group "Victims of Vending Machine Trauma". But I digress...) The vending machines downstairs accept actual money, but the ones next to Darwin's don't; as a member of the science department, you're issued a special card (a "Darwin's card") that you can load money onto and use in the cafe or upstairs vending machines. And if you loose it...well...

Student 1: Bollocks, I don't have my card.
Student 2: Lost it already, have you? It's been...two and a half weeks since the start of term?
Student 3: Ah, no worries. You can use mine and just pay me back later.
Student 1: God bless you all. God bless us, every one.
*laughter*
Student 4: These machines are so hard to manage sometimes; I'd prefer the Drosophila to be honest. How is that going, by the way?
Student 2: Well, I'm certainly getting my kicks with the ether. And I found out yesterday that the methyl iodide is a carcinogen.
Student 1: Mmmm...Cancerific...

People here usually don't have "my kind of humor", so it was a refreshing surprise. And I know how crazy it is to try to work with Drosophila; we've been breeding them in our genetics labs over the past few weeks. You have to check who's male and who's female and such, so you have to gas them with ether and just hope you finish identifying them before they begin to regain consciousness and start twitching.

Oh, and the spot I had in lectures today had "I *heart* Bacteria" written into the tabletop. I need to keep a list; arthropods and bacteria so far.

I know it's only a matter of time until I find an "I *heart* Drosophila".....Hey, I would write it.

God bless the little buggers. Every one.
sangre_fria: (Default)
I haven't had time to update in a while, and no wonder...

But our organisms lectures were rescheduled due to illness, so I have the whole day off today. And I was able to have a bit of a lie-in. Shocking. But it's given me the opportunity to update here a little.

Okay, Saturday's trip to London was amazing. Getting myself to and from London wasn't that big of a deal; I'm so used to traveling between continents, this was a cinch. So we arrived at the Museum of Natural History, and I have the say, the building itself was incredible. It was built during the Victorian era for the sole purpose of being a science museum, so the outside of the building (as well are the inside) was covered in carvings of various animals. I'm so glad that I thought to bring my camera with me on this trip...

I could easily spend a couple weeks looking around the whole building. Floors and floors, filled with various exhibits...The place was huge, and a person could easily get lost in there. Lost in science. Hey, I wouldn't mind...

Then it was time for our behind-the-scenes tour of the Darwin Centre (the area of the museum devoted to current research and storage of specimens). We were given special lab coats to wear, and our guide unlocked the door to the research facilities. You have to understand that this museum is special; when a new species is discovered, it's sent here to be recorded and officially classified. There are only three that officially do this; the Smithsonian, a museum in Paris, and the Darwin Centre. So they have several floors devoted to the storage of these key specimens (the first of their kind known to science). There are always two sets of automatic doors; you have to unlock the first with a remote control (looks like a small garage door-opener on a key chain) and step inside. The next set of doors won't open until the first set have closed and sealed; this is all to help maintain the temperature and humidity in the storage rooms. Everything is controlled: temperature, humidity, light, air pressure....

They do everything they can to ensure that these specimens are protected. The guide (who had a accent that sounded Eastern-european; maybe Russian?) lead us around, showing us various jars and their contents. Some of the labels had mold spots on them, and she explained that these jars had to be hidden in caves during World War II to keep them safe during the German bombing of London. And she showed us that the ones with red around the seals meant that they were special in some way.

"Red means 'be careful with me'. Sometimes it means that they're especially fragile or old specimens. Sometimes it's because they were the first individual of their species to be identified. And some are from special expeditions. If you can please look at this one...The labels show the year they were entered into the museum here, who collected them here, the classification here...And if they were from a scientific expedition, then the ship's name is here. Can you read it?"

We all gathered around and peered into the jar.

"The HMS Endeavor?"

"Yes. This one is from Captain Cook's famous journey on the Endeavor."

Woah. That voyage was from 1768 to 1771, guys. These were brought back and added to the museum before we had even declared our American independence. So we went from room to room, floor to floor, as she told us stories about various specimens and the explorers/scientists that had brought them in; each jar has its own special story, and I wish I could have heard them all. (Though that would've been impossible; they have more than 70 million specimens...) She showed us the tanks were they kept the bigger creatures; they have the only complete giant squid in the world, and its tank is longer than a London bus. It was so impressive. She showed us the cranes mounted on the ceiling that are used to lift the lids of the tanks, and showed where an artist from the BBC had come to do some sketches; apparently they want to do a television program on a certain fish species, so they came to the museum to look at some of the specimens there. She said that even art students come here, to sketch the jars (since each of them are so different).

And then she stopped beside a barrier that said "no visitors beyond this point" and gave our little group a long, hard look.

"Well, I'm not supposed to let you past here, but I know that you'll be able to appreciate seeing this. Just be very careful."

So she moved it aside and led us to a shelf with several old jars.

"Can you read these labels?"

We all crowded around again and squinted at the labels. They were more than a hundred and fifty years old, and then we noticed the ship's name in the bottom right corner. 'Beagle'.

"These...These are from the Beagle?!"

"Yes. These were specimens that Darwin himself collected when he was a young man, on a world-wide expedition on the HMS Beagle."

O.o

Guh. Chills, people; it gave me chills. They were right there. I was breathing on them...

So yes; my trip to the museum was amazing, incredible, and I'm going back as soon as I can.

The rest of my week has been fairly routine so far. Monday afternoon was spent running around our own Museum of Natural History in a strange parody of a scavenger hunt. We couldn't dissect any reptiles, so our reptile lab consisted of wandering around the museum and doing things like comparing the hip joint of a crocodile to the hip joint of the Tyrannosaurus. Looking at the fossil skull of an early mammal-like reptile and trying to figure out what it might have eaten while it was alive. (It was an omnivore; its teeth showed the differentiation that's so classic in mammals, but so revolutionary to reptiles.)

It's kind of funny; I'm not very artistic, but a major portion of our organisms labs is drawing. We have to cut things open, and then draw them; look at various muscles, and draw them; look at the guts and draw them. Look at the skeletons in the museum and draw them. And yes, they do have to look like the real thing. And we really don't have much time to spend on it. So I've actually been developing drawing skills during my biology studies. Who would have thought?

It makes sense, though. A scientist has to be able to describe what they see, and sometimes words just aren't enough. Quick (but stunningly accurate) sketches are extremely important in fieldwork. You could be the first person to ever see this or that animal, and it's not going to sit still and let you take your time with its portrait.

Yesterday's dissection was the one on birds, and Ada's been dreading it since we first learned that we would be dissecting things. She wants to be an ornithologist and study birds for a living; and since she loves them so much, it was terrible for her. So I was the one doing all the actual cutting. And plucking. So I had to sit there and pluck the poor thing, which had been shot so I got its blood on my hands. Yes, that really bothered Ada; and to tell the truth, it kind of bothered me too. I can do these gory sorts of things, no problem, but it doesn't mean I'm going to enjoy it.

But we got through it all right, and were able to study all the muscles involved in flight. That was really cool. So now I've seen the inside of a bird's wing; add that to the list of odd things I've done in my life. Next Monday is a mouse, by the way.

In the meantime, Ada and I spent last night relaxing in my room again, and watching some movies and FMA. I finally saw Pulp Fiction (it was funny because she had to turn off the Polish subtitles), and now I know where she learned her "more interesting" English phrases...Heh, and she now has ten more episodes of FMA under her belt. We have so much fun watching it; she always asks what's going to happen, and I always refuse to tell her. We joke around about how Maes Hughes reminds us of our genetics tutor. ^.^

So yeah; life is definitely good.

Pictures! )
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Yes, I'm alive and across the ocean once again.

My schedule for this term is going to own my soul, but I'm ready for it. I spent most of the afternoon on my reading, which was nice and really quite relaxing. There's nothing like a Sunday afternoon spent curled up with a cup of tea and a good vertebrate textbook. It's funny; last term I was so anxious to get home....But now that I'm back here, I realize that I've missed it. I've missed the quiet, monastic bustle of the University; everyone running back and forth with their hands full of books, as if there's nothing in the world more important than your latest research.

And for now, that's true. There's nothing more important than my studies, and my lifestyle has been reflecting that. After shaking off my horrible jet-lag and getting my head/heart/emotions back in order, I've been a studious little monk. And not just with biology; I'm going for a complete education here, so I've been picking up other things here and there. I suppose I'll explain more later. (Everyone has to have a hobby, right?)

I took some pictures of the city with my digital camera, so when I have time, I'll be sure to upload those and let you guys take a look. I even got some video of a swan in the Isis River; it's quick, but lovely all the same.

Speaking of lovely, Laura has designed the gorgeous new layout I have. And on top of that, she's sent me scans of the drawings she did for [livejournal.com profile] our_resistance; so those are up now too. Major thanks and kudos to her. ^.^

So what else is new? I've been thinking of making my own mood theme (and maybe even my own icons for a change...), but seeing how I don't have the technology....Regardless, I'm going to have a look around and see if I can't snag what I want. Maybe someday Photoshop shall be mine; call me crazy, but Paint just doesn't cut it...
sangre_fria: (Default)
Okay, so I'm going to try to get back on British time tonight. I got up at seven-thirty this morning, and I'm going to bed around seven or eight o'clock this evening. Then I'm going to wake up at three in the morning, and stay up until tomorrow evening. This will be my new life cycle, and if you want to get in touch with me, I suggest you do it while I'm actually awake. Yes, I know this is weird. But my mom insists, so we'll just have to see how it goes.

My family celebrated my birthday yesterday, and guess what I got? A digital camera. You guys know what this means; you'll be able to actually see what I see while I'm at school, instead of having to suffer through my legendary purple prose. I promise good pictures. I'm going to try to download the photo software onto my laptop tonight before I go to bed, and we're going to get me a bigger memory card tomorrow. And an international battery recharger, so I don't have to constantly buy batteries over in the UK. I look forward to assaulting you all with pictures of my daily life.

By the way, Kacie is awesome. I got to spend some time with her before she left, and it was time well-spent. When you've been friends with someone since you were six-years-old (and they swear that you'll be the godmother of their children), you always have a special place in your heart for them. I'm so proud of her; I could never learn to speak and write Arabic, and she's been pulling it off with flying colors. And seriously, what a sweetheart. Hopefully we can keep in touch better this term.

Kacie also presented me with gifts. Leave it to her to know the most incredible moisturizers and such. I smell like some kind of dessert right now; no kidding, I'm delicious. And it's the kind of stuff that you can rub all over you, but it's not greasy so you don't even feel the need to wash your hands afterward. I've never owned girly stuff like that, so please ignore my astonished amusement.

I stumbled upon a gift-card that a friend of the family's had given me for Christmas. I hadn't even known it existed, and now suddenly I have forty dollars to spend. The beauty of gift cards is that they can't be spent anywhere else, so I don't feel the usual guilt at the thought of buying something for myself. So we're going to the mall tomorrow, and I have forty dollars, guilt-free, to spend in Victoria's Secret. Woohoo, panties.

And even though I still have about a week's worth of antibiotics to take, I'm starting to feel better. I still get tired really easily, but I'm not sneezing constantly anymore.

So let's recap: I have a freaky new sleep schedule, I have my own (totally awesome) digital camera, I was able to spend time with my opposite twin, I smell wonderfully girly, I'm going to get some pretty unmentionables, and I'm no longer a walking contagion. Yes, things are just peachy*.

I started to pack today, and I've actually gotten most of it done. Score.

If any of you guys want to see me before I leave, I suggest you let me know as soon as possible. The closer we get to E-day**, the less likely my mom will let me hang out with friends.


*Yes, I'm aware of how utterly ridiculous this entire post is.

**England-day; code name for my latest invasion of Oxford, and Britain in general.
sangre_fria: (Default)
I'm feeling so much better today; only a slight sore throat and some weakness to deal with now. And it was much warmer than usual, with a high of forty-eight degrees. Oh yeah, bring on the heat.

Tonight should be really nice. Packing up everything, followed by Carols on the Stairs and then chocolate cake with the rest of the Bio girls. Carols on the Stairs is a tradition that St. Hilda's has had since the 1930's, and consists of everyone gathering around the main staircase of South building and listening to the girls of our choir sing. This is no shabby singing, let me tell you; my neighbor next door is a music major, and a member of the choir. The first time that I heard her sing, I originally thought I was hearing a violin, her tones were so pure. So we get to hear all of this beautiful singing, to really herald in the Christmas feelings, and then they're going to serve mulled wine and minced pies. Sounds good to me...

We had our Principal's collections on Tuesday, which was a bit stressful. Basically, each of our tutors writes a report on each of us and how we've progressed over the term. Then we all dress in our formal gowns and meet with the Principal and one of our tutors individually to discuss the reports and how we've been doing so far. I've spoken with Lady English before, but never in an academic context; Sarah (aka Dr. Watkinson) was there, and read each of the reports aloud. I was relieved to hear that all of my reports were good. Sarah thought that I've made consistent progress with my essays, that my writing style has been flowing and compelling to read since the beginning, and that I've always contributed interesting points to discussions; Petros (aka Dr. Ligoxygakis) thought that my essays really captured the essence of the subject, and that I was always forthcoming in tutorials; and Annalie (aka Dr. Morris) thought that my essays were clear and concise, and that I was very active during tutorials.

Which means they all said more or less the same thing: my essays are short/to-the-point, and I talk a lot.

But we all knew that already, right?

Well, Lady English asked if I had been doing anything extracurricular during my time here, and I mentioned the fact that I had joined St. Hilda's boat club and had been rowing this term. I don't know about you guys, but here, everyone who hears the phrase "I'm in boat club" realizes the same thing: you're up horribly early all the time, you're always tired, and you have no time for a social life (even on weekends). So I saw the surprised look on her face before she smiled. "Oh, you've been rowing? Well, that's a very Oxford thing to do, isn't it?"

And yes; it is a very Oxford thing to do. It's obsessive here. There's even an anti-rowing group on Facebook because of it...

"Any of you who have been at Oxford for at least a term will understand the horror of this apparently civilised sport. Not only does it require that greatest taboo, physical exercise, but it also turns those once much loved friends into unrecognisable monsters. Yes, it's true. That neighbour of yours who once got up at noon is suddenly taking a shower at 9.30, is knocking on your door for breakfast at 8 and, worst of all, you hear their alarm clock at 5.30. Those friends who could once talk to you about anything become closed-minded and yes, rowing obsessed. One by one we are losing them, those once ordinary people who are gradually taken by this monsterous sport. We must stop it. We must save them."

Ha! That's all I have to say. It's funny; the girls on my floor introduce me as "the American rower". I'm the only rower on our floor, so they like taking the mickey out of me sometimes. All in good fun, though. (I'll convert them yet, just wait and see...)

But in the end, Lady English said that it seemed like I was really taking advantage of my time here, and that I was a credit to the college and the university. This is the part where I went bright red, blurted a "thank you", and was lead out of the room in a kind of daze. When I got back to my room, Eva knocked on the door. Apparently, she and the rest of the girls had been talking, and they wanted to know how my session went. I told her it was fine; nothing bad happened, of course. She said that all of them had figured that I would have the best report. That was more than a little surprising for me. But apparently, the others had been told about some "areas that needed improvement" in their work, so I suppose I really did do well.

I still can't believe it, though.
sangre_fria: (Laura- EL suit)
I don't want to sound melodramatic or anything, but I seriously thought I was going to die last night. I actually considered how Oxford would have to tell my mother.

Dear Mrs. M_____,

It is with our deepest regrets that we must inform you of a tragedy. Your daughter, Cassondra, passed away last night. There were no witnesses, but questioning of her neighbors revealed that she had mentioned feeling ill. The medical examiners have confirmed that the death was due to natural illness, and nothing suspicious was found in her room. Arrangements are already being made to return her remains to you. St. Hilda's College, and the University of Oxford as a whole, sympathizes with your loss and offers any aid that you would require in this most unfortunate of times.

Sincerely,
Lady English
Principal of St. Hilda's College
Oxford University


I can't remember the last time I felt this sick; certainly not in the last two years, at least. High fever, the shakes, sore joints and muscles, killer headache, horrible sore throat, neck pain, and dizziness. It all came on so quickly, too. I had felt a little sick before, and then boom; it hit me like a ton of bricks. I had an essay to finish, too. The last paper of the term, and I could barely concentrate for more than two minutes. I was so dizzy and confused, not to mention colder than I've ever been. I had to struggle with the button on my alarm clock because my shivering was so bad. No cough and no runny nose, which was odd. I had to just curl up and bed and try my best to keep warm.

I feel so much better today, that it's almost like a miracle. I slept until eleven, and missed my lectures for today, but it was worth it. I needed the rest more than anything, really. I'm supposed to go to an erg test tonight, to see how hard I can pull and which team I'll be on next term. I can walk around without feeling dizzy now, and so I might go anyway. If I set out early, I can ride nice and slow to our boathouse at Longbridges. I know that my split would be crap, but then again, it would be crap anyway. I'm the weakest one on my crew, sadly enough. I was also supposed to go to the biology student social tonight, but there's no way that I'm going to go out if I could be resting. Rachel was organizing it, and she's going to be upset at me for missing it, but there's just nothing I can do. I can barely function, so socializing is right out.

So now I'm just going to putter around my room like an old lady, doing what I can to pack and resting every few minutes when I get tired.
sangre_fria: (Default)
Thursday: Our second day that the ChCh regatta. The current in the river was so strong, one of Merton's shells crashed into the bank and had to have people rescued. (We passed by the accident site later, and the shell was complete wreckage.) Because of that, our race was delayed an hour. So we sat out in the freezing cold, in a boat, fighting the current for an hour. Two (Irina) and I had to constantly row so that we could stay in the same place; I'm not kidding. Then it started to rain (freezing rain) right before our race. By the time we finally started our race, it had started absolutely pouring. We couldn't even see, and we could barely hear our cox, even though she was screaming at the top of her lungs. Halfway through the race, hail started to come down on us. Chunks of ice, about the size of marbles. The wind made the current so bad, we almost crashed into the bank like the other crew. And, of course, after our race they had to cancel the rest of the regatta for the day...

We did manage to make it to the finish line. When we rowed past Merton's wrecked shell, I felt like crying. It was so sad; it was a wooden one, hand-crafted and polished to a shine. Broken more ot less in two, the riggers all twisted on one side. It was a horrible crash, and such a shame losing such a beautiful shell. And we almost knocked a goose senseless, because it was just too stupid to get out of our way. Strokeside accidentally knocked it about a bit with their blades before it swam on. Yeah, geese are pretty dumb...

Pictures, anyone? I'm the bow, which for you non-rowers means that I'm the one on the end...

http://www.rowtherace.co.uk/chch05/slides/IMG_3211.html
http://www.rowtherace.co.uk/chch05/slides/IMG_3212.html

Thursday night was spent at Katie's party, which was absolutely fabulous. She had a murder mystery party, and each of us was given a character to dress up as and act the part of during the game. These mystery party games are all the rage here in Britain. It's all in a kit that you buy in party shops and such. You buy one that has the right number of characters for your party, and it contains invitations that tell everyone who their character is and how to dress. So then you get there; everyone's in character, and you put on a tape that came with it. A "detective" starts talking about the murder, and gives you clues here and there to help you solve it. Each of us gets a booklet for our character, telling us who we are, and what our real motives are; what we're supposed to tell people, and the things that we should try to keep secret. Then we go around accusing each other and questioning to figure out who did it. No one knows who the murderer is until the very end, after you go around guessing who did it. Then you play the last bit of the tape, and all the pieces fall together.

And just in case you guys were wondering who did it, I can tell you that it was just about everyone. It was a lot more complicated than I thought it would be. Apparently, the dead Butler had been stealing the Uncle's port, and since the Uncle was pathologically insane, he put poison in the alcohol to "teach him a lesson". That would have killed him, except for the fact that the French Girl he had an affair with tried to poison him too, because he was blackmailing her. The two poisons canceled each other out, but he was feeling very sick and had to stay in bed. That's where he was shot, but the curious thing was, there was blood on both sides of his pillow. As it turns out, the Nun was his long-lost sister; when their father had died, their family became penniless so the Nun was sent to America and the brother/Butler was sent to London. Their mother later married a rich German, who already had a daughter, the Caberet Star. When she died, the money was going to go to the Butler, but he died so the Caberet Star was going to inherit it all.

The Nun was my secret lover, and I wanted her to inherit it all instead; so I was going to kill the Butler. I even had a suicide note all written up. But when I got there, he was already dead. So I left the suicide note and snuck away. The Butler was killed because the Niece's Fiance owed him money. The Butler was actually a member of a the crime underworld, and the Fiance didn't want to get mixed up in it. So he convinced his wife-to-be to actually pull the trigger. But the shot to the head didn't actually kill him. That's why there was blood on both sides of the pillow. The Nun (his sister) had come in afterward, and had seen that he was shot, but still breathing. She smothered him with the pillow; a mercy killing.

Man, it was so much fun...

Friday: An unspeakable amount of work was done.

Saturday: Errands were run, inquiries were made, and laundry was done. The dryers only take twenty pence coins, and I ran out halfway through. Despite borrowing money from a porter, there still wasn't enough to actually dry my clothes. Or the sheets I was supposed to sleep on. Or the towel I was supposed to use after showering. I'm almost positive that my annoyance could be felt across the Atlantic ocean. If you felt a chill come over you that afternoon, then yeah, that was me.

Sunday: Finished my last cells and genes paper a day early. I'm almost positive that my jubilation could be felt across the Atlantic ocean. If you felt the sudden urge to laugh hysterically come over you that afternoon, then yeah, that was me. My clothes and sheets and towels were still wet, though. But on the bright side, the regatta after-party was that night. So I got to hang out at Filth with some of my crew, and more or less danced the night away. I ended up getting to bed at three o'clock in the morning; not because of leaving the club late, though. I actually left around one o'clock. When I got back to my room, I remembered that Biz had borrowed my extra mattress because she had had a friend come to stay with her. Of course, I didn't really "remember" this by myself; I saw the mattress laying out in the middle of the hallway. So there I was at about two in the morning; single-handedly dragging a mattress through the hall to my room. Ducking under the clotheslines still covered in drying clothes, I finally managed to shove it back on the bed. Then bed for me.

Monday: Last dissection for the term; the poor little starfish never had a chance. I turned in my cells and genes paper, but I have my last invertebrate paper due Wednesday; so it was off to the library for me. I stumbled across a book written by Dr. Speight, which was interesting (though not really surprising, at this point). He gave his last lecture this morning, so I suppose I'll just have to chat with him about it after I get back from winter break. Like most of our dissections, today's had been a bit rough on the nerves, so Ada and I took up our habit of hanging out in the college bar for a while after dinner. She doesn't like cutting things open (not to mention that she's a bit of a vegetarian), so I bought her a drink for being such a good sport about it all. Afterwards, I walked back to my building.

It started to rain, but something just wasn't right about it. The rain wasn't falling as fast as it should have, and it wasn't very wet. I looked down at my coat and got the shock of my life. I'm almost positive that my childish wonder could be felt across the Atlantic ocean. If you felt the sudden urge to dance in the middle of a snowfall about four hours ago, then yeah, that was me. They weren't proper snowflakes, but it was still snow.


I'm in complete awe.
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Alright, there's a lot to say and not much time to say it.

Prince Charles walked through our laboratory while we were doing a practical on arthropods. Hooray for bugs. Very surreal, really. Security everywhere, and apparently the Press were being shepherded around the building while I was practically pressing my face up against the glass of a scorpion's cage. The lab went on per usual, and they didn't even announce him when he came in. He just walked right in, and since I was right next to the scorpion at the time, I was about four feet from him. He was a tad bit shorter than I thought he would be, but other than that he looked exactly the same as any picture your could find of him in the Media. Once he and his entourage of official-looking men in smart suits passed by, it was business as usual. Part of the lab was to create and label diagrams in order to show the diversity of form within the arthropods as a whole. Which more or less means that I drew a pretty picture of a butterfly. I wonder if my mom is going to hang it on our fridge...

For those of you that don't know, my schedule has been a bit tight lately because of the coming regatta. Monday mornings are off. On Tuesdays, I have to get up at six o'clock to make it the the gym session, before my morning classes. On Wednesdays, I'm up at five o'clock to go on outings on the river. Thursdays are the same as Wednesdays. Fridays are off, usually, but we had an outing on Friday last week. Saturdays have afternoon outings that last several hours. And Sundays either have outings or sprint erg sessions (when you get on a rowing machine and row as hard and fast as you can until you can't really move anymore), followed by an evening gym session (heavy weightlifting). Not to mention that I have nine o'clock lectures every morning, and Mondays and Tuesdays are lab practical days (i.e. I'm there until past five at night). Not to mention essays to write for tutorials and reading to do for the lectures. And we can't forget the little things like laundry, cleaning, grocery shopping, and going to the bank. Those sorts of things seem insignificant, but they do add up when you have things to do and places to be.

I also have to figure out how much (and what) stuff I'm storing here over the holidays. (Luckily I already found a place, emailed them, and got a reply back so that's one less thing left to do.)

Christ Church regatta starts tomorrow, and we'll be racing Pembroke's novice B team first. Depending on how well we do, we might be having races all the way until Saturday. So I'm going to miss one lecture tomorrow to race, and who knows how many others in the next few days. I'm excited, but a bit nervous too. I have been trying my best, though, and I know we'll all enjoy it so I'm not really freaking out (yet?). On Friday, we had an almost mock race with one of Balliol's teams, since we both spun at Longbridges at about the same time and that just happens to be the starting point for the Christ Church course. We started out and passed them; then three different people caught crabs at the exact same time, so we actually had to stop completely while Balliol kept going. Then we all recovered, started rowing again, and passed them again. Balliol was not best pleased.

It really felt good, and it gives us a certain level to aim for when we race tomorrow. Trust me, we're not cocky; about as far from it as you can get. I always put my all into our power tens, even when it's just practice. We all do, and you can hear it...Sadly, you can be fined for using profanity during a race at Christ Church. Irina (who sits at Two, right in front of me) is quite fluent, and we were joking about that tonight. Since she's Russian, she said she'll teach us all to curse in Russian (and especially Estonian since no one here speaks it) so we can't be caught. I don't really need to worry about that, though. I only talk to myself silently in my mind, really.

"Pull, you fat bitch! PULL!!"

And I don't want to hear any "But Cassie, you're not fat!" and such; when I'm in the bow seat and we're doing a power ten or power twenty, I am the fattest bitch on the face of the planet. End of story. I'm not going to be a weak link; I won't let my crew down, no matter what. I prefer to take the mindset that I need to work twice as hard as everyone else in the boat; that way, if everyone is thinking that way, we'll all just fly down that river.

This is not fun and games. It's cold here. The highs are in the low forties and the lows are in the low twenties, so if you ride from Hilda's to the boat house without gloves on, you will actually hurt your hands. But when it's time to row, the gloves come off and stay off. Even though frost is covering everything, and the sun hasn't even risen yet, and you have to watch your step when you're putting the shell in or taking it out of the water, because the raft under your feet is slick with ice. Even though your blade is covered in ice, and when you grab it to put it away, your hand actually freezes to it, like getting your tongue stuck to an ice cube. It hurts; it's so cold at first, your knees ache. You're tired, and probably have the start of a cold, and you have to go to a full day of lectures and practicals and tutorials afterwards. But you get out there anyway, and you concentrate on keeping your back straight, and squaring early, and slowing down the slide, and catching in time with Stroke, and keeping your arms straight, and tapping down sharply, and all the other tiny details that could make your rowing perfect if you can manage to pull them all off at once. And while you do that, your putting all your strength into the strokes; really trying to put power into the water. And after about ten minutes, you need to take off your jacket, and your jumper, and your shirt, because it's just too bloody hot.

So there you sit, in the middle of a river, before the sun has risen, in below-freezing weather, clutching an iced-over oar, and wearing nothing but a tank top.

And the funniest thing about this is that your thoughts ("I'm a masochist...") perfectly match what your timing should be. Let me explain. When you're rowing, it's best to have a stroke to recovery ratio of two to three. Two beats for the stoke while your oar's in the water, and three beats to take down the slide. No matter how fast you're rowing, the 2/3 ratio shouldn't change. Sometimes the cox will count it out loud, but usually they have more important things to scream at you. So you have to do it in your head, and it helps to do it a little something like this. Stroke. Recovery.

"I'm a masochist. I'm a masochist. I'm a masochist. I'm. A. MAS-oh-KIST..."

It works, and it's oh so true...

But despite how horrible it may sound, I love rowing to death. And I'm not going to stop, no matter how tough it gets.



Wish me (and the rest of my crew) luck tomorrow at Christ Church, guys.
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Well, our Organisms lecture today was taught by the Head of the Department, Dr. Martin Speight.

Now, Dr. Speight is one of the funniest people I have ever met in my life. I'm not kidding. Every lecture he gives is like a comedy hour; the whole class laughs all the way through it. Well, today Dr. Speight had an announcement. We've been doing dissections for a few weeks now, and we're slowing moving our way up to higher organisms. Well, apparently we're going to have a visitor on Monday afternoon.

Prince Charles is coming to get a tour and a demonstration, so we'll be seeing him while we work.

Yes, that's right. Prince Charles. And no, I'm not joking. Though Dr. Speight certainly was.

"Right; make sure you all look very interested and interesting. And you're not allowed to mention either his ears or his wife...."

So, yeah...

All those times before I left, everyone would say, "Oh, Cassie; you're going to be meeting royalty and stuff!"

And I was just like, "Yeah....right."



Freaky to the max, man.
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You know what's funny? Consider this scenario.

You wake up, get out of bed, and suddenly realize that it's incredibly cold in your room. You know that they always turn off the heat in the buildings at night, but you vaguely wonder if they've left it off for longer than usual or if the sudden extra cold is just a figment of your imagination. So you shuffle about your morning routine in your slippers, pull out your warmest jeans to wear, and quickly scramble through the "brisk" process of changing into your clothes. (And by "brisk", I mean "I'm having a hard time fastening this button because of my shivering"...) You grab your stuff, and head out the door. It's cold.

This is about the point that you look out over the college grounds and frown. That's strange...The grass looks...paler than usual. Almost like...

O.o

Yeah. Yeah. I think you get the idea now.

So I ran over to the nearest patch of grass, bent over, and ran my bare hand over it. Yep, it was there. It was real.

Apparently, we had had a frost.

I started laughing so gleefully, I'm glad no one was around. I literally just crouched there and said, "Oh my God..." while running my hand over it. The real fun part was scraping the ice off my bicycle seat. I just laughed to myself the whole time, like the head-case I really am.

And all the amazement that I felt for seeing my first frost was shared around, because the rest of the girls reacted with the same kind of wonder when they learned that I hadn't seen frost before.

"You tropical girl..."

I suppose I really am a tropical girl. At least, compared to here. They're so sweet, though; they humor me.

Clare and I made a point of walking through the grass and making little crunching sounds with our boots. It was only a light frost, so we left green footprints behind us.
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I was late for class today. Yes, I admit it. But the professor had just started talking (he was still on the first slide) and a lot of other people came in behind me because of Monday morning traffic. So even though I feel terribly guilty, I wasn't horribly mortified. But that's me; getting up later and later every morning.....Always pushing the envelope.

But I'm sure my little "morning run" did me some good. I certainly felt better after warming up all my sore muscles like that. I've been so crippled lately. For serious. Moving in any way, shape, or form has been Hell. Whenever I laugh or cough, it's horrible. I always get funny looks when I start laughing, but then moan and clutch my ribs, still helplessly chuckling. But this evening I felt much better. My beloved hot showers are finally working their magic.

The line between pain and pleasure is completely blurred here, but that's what attracts me so much. It's just awesome, so any pain is worth it. Speaking of which, I was just emailed my rowing schedule. I'm going to have a practice on Wednesday morning before class, and then a training session that evening, then another morning practice on Friday. Which means that I'm going to have to crawl out of bed at five in the morning. Holy Teh_Crap. You guys know me, and you know that if there's one thing that gets to me more than anything else in this world, it's getting up early in the morning.

But I will do it. This is what I want. And besides, it's going to be gorgeous. I'll have to run across Magdalen Bridge, then turn left onto Rose Lane, enter Christ Church Meadow, walk for ages through the forest there (it has two rivers running through it and everything), and arrive at the boat house. Of course, we're not using our boat house. That one was burnt down a little while back by animal rights activists, and now the University is trying to rebuild it. I'll talk about that some other time, because it really is a story worth telling.

We had an awesome practical today; it was a field trip to the Natural History Museum. You know, the exact place where Darwin's concept of evolution was first presented to the public? Yeah, I was there. Our tour guide was hilarious, and about as insane as they come. But it was the good kind of insane. The "Heheh...Crazy people are funny..." kind of insane. I'll have to give specific examples later, because I'm just so tired right now.

But I should mention that I'm starting to get a better view of what my terms here are going to be like, and it's looking like an uphill (more like vertical) climb from this point onward. With all of these essays and labs and assigned readings and crew practices, I'm going to be even less reachable. But I will say that if any of you guys email me during your morning, I'll be sure to check my mail in the afternoon when I get back from classes. I'll be able to read it then, and I can almost guarantee some kind of response, however short it may have to be. So if you do send it, I'll read it.

...Right before my afternoon nap...
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Yesterday was cool. I saw a swan swimming in our river on my way to class. I thought we'd have a lab in the afternoon, but we didn't. They gave us a whole afternoon off, to use in whatever fashion we may fancy. This was a good idea, because I had laundry to do, groceries to buy, two essays to write, one essay to edit, my room to clean, and my dishes to do. And what did I use it for?

I took a stroll around the city, taking pictures like the bloody tourist that I really am at heart. I went with another girl on my floor, Helen. Helen is a history major, and she's half-Welsh. She already knows the city better than I do, because in the past week I've only left the college for classes. I hadn't really done any serious exploring outside the college. So we ran around, talking about this and that while we walked. We stopped by the Eagle and Child (all you Tolkien or CS Lewis fans should enjoy the pictures, when they're eventually posted), but I could grab a napkin or coaster while I was there. Becky's mom asked me to bring back a napkin for her, and by God, I'll do it! I'll just have to have a pint there sometime, that's all.

We also got to see several of the colleges, a cemetery in the middle of the road, a rugby game being played, the foundations of the old city wall, and the inside of the Exams Building. The next time I go there is going to be in June, and I'm going to be terrified (I'm not looking forward to exams). We walked right in and the lady at the desk didn't say anything, so we just went farther inside. But before we knew it, a security guard was chasing us down. Apparently, we're not allowed in there unless we're members of the University, or students taking exams. I really wanted to mention that we were students, but I made sure not to open my mouth; being an American undergraduate here is almost unheard of. My accent definitely would have gotten me accused of lying, on top of being thrown out on my arse.

We found The Turf, which is the pub where the students usually hang out. It was by the old city wall, and was nestled in among several small alleys. Seriously. You guys know how small I am; if I were to walk down the alleys with my elbows out, I would be scraping them against the walls.

Helen tried to explain the game of cricket to me, which was hilarious. We compared several games from America and Britain, which was interesting. Came back to my dorm, grabbed my wallet, and ran down to Cornmarket Street to withdraw some cash (since the exchange rate is good right now), then took a shower and called home. I need to buy some more phone cards...

This morning, my alarm didn't go off. But I was up and scrambling around at nine thirty because we had Matriculation today. It's an ancient ceremony (again, held in Latin) that formally accepts us as member of Oxford University; and it's a huge deal. It's all very secret, too. No one ever tells you what it's going to be like, and parents aren't allowed inside the gates, let alone inside for the ceremony.

So I was scrambling around like mad this morning, trying to sort out the sub-fusc I had to wear. Sub-fusc is all of the formal gowns and such that we have to wear when we Matriculate, or go to take our exams. For girls, it's: dark hose, dark skirt or slacks, black shoes, white button-down shirt, dark jacket, black velvet ribbon at the collar, and gown. We had to bring our black mortarboard hats along, but we weren't allowed to wear them; only on graduation day. In fact, if we were ever caught wearing them, we would be fined fifty pounds. (They're crazy about sticking with tradition here. Apparently, a girl last year wore a baby-blue sock while taking exams, and she was fined twenty pounds.)

Oh, and you remember the weird black wings that hang down the back of my gown? Well, they're traditional because if students ever try to run, the Proctors can grab hold of them. That's the thing; we're expected to behave ourselves, but there are ancient traditions for keeping us all in line. For instance, guys called "Bull Dogs" patrol the city pubs to make sure all us gownies are minding our manners.

So we all got together in the morning to take a college picture, and then individual pictures. Two guys dressed up as girls, and snuck into our picture. One was wearing a headband, and they had stuffed their bras and everything. They didn't do a bad job on the make-up, either. I got a picture of them on my camera, so hopefully it'll come out well. They were from Catz (St Catherine's College), which explains everything. Heh, yeah; inter-college rivalry. Gotta love it.

So then we met the Dean of Degrees and went off the Matriculation. It was all over so soon, but I did get some quick pictures of that. Then we caught some lunch (I forgot to bring my wallet, but Biz offered to pay for mine), and then the girls went off to get their costumes for tonight's S&M bop. I went back to college and checked my email. There was an email from the boat crew, and they said that they would have a practice today at two o'clock. I had already signed up for the one tomorrow, but since I felt bad about missing a few last week, I signed myself up at the Lodge and went along.

Holy Teh_Crap! There's too much to say about it; you guys'll just have to ask the next time I see you. I enjoyed it immensely, though, and I can't wait until tomorrow. My body could probably use a rest, though. I had to keep flexing my hands this evening, because I had such a death-grip on my oar. For those of you that haven't done crew before, there are times that you don't row, and your job is to keep the boat level. Well, even just sitting the boat, as it's called (at least here, that is) is hard work, and you always have to have your wits about you. If the people sitting the boat aren't really paying attention, then rowing is just that much harder. That happened while I was rowing, and so my side was tilted more towards the water and my oar dug too deep. So the oar was underwater farther than was right, and the handle nearly swung up to smack me in the face.

Yes. I had to dodge being bitch-slapped by an oar. That was certainly an experience...

So I came back from practice, and I already had the beginnings of blisters on my palms. That's what happens when you spend a few hours out on the water. I could almost feel my muscles tightening up on the way back to my dorm. So I went grocery shopping. I walked all the way down to Tesco's and bought provisions for the weekend. They only sell food in the dining hall during the school week, so we're on our own during the weekends. They sell brunch on Saturdays, but that's it. So I got my food and walked all the way back with my heavy grocery bags. Carrying them all that way just made the aching in my arms/shoulders/back more obvious.

So I got back to my dorm, made some dinner, and had a little Matriculation party with the rest of the girls on my floor. Woo!

I still need to do laundry and write essays, but that'll just have to wait until tomorrow. I just know that my whole body is going to be sore.

I'm so knackered...
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I really should have updated last night, but I just didn't have time.

Lectures are awesome, and incredibly interesting. On Wednesday, the Organisms lecture was on animal behavior as explained by optimizing resources. Which more or less means that animals act the way they do because they're trying to get what they want with the least effort/cost to themselves. So my professor started talking about how birds set up mating systems.

Females want to have offspring with the best male possible; a strong male that will pass on good genes and has a large territory in which to raise their brood. Males, on the other hand, want to pass on their genes to as many offspring as possible, and will try to court multiple mates. If the male is of high quality, it will be more advantageous for a female to consent to sharing a male than to choose a male of lower quality. So harems develop, because the male is just too good to pass up. Sometimes, two weak males will band together, combining their territory, in order to attract one female. So then you have one female and two males. Females want to mate with more males, because her offspring will have a higher chance of surviving. Males, on the other hand, want to mate with more females, because they will end up having more offspring (and some will survive by sheer numbers). So a species' (or society's) mating system is created by this struggle between the sexes.

Heh...Birds are funny. One of the slides in the presentation showed how the monarch butterfly was brightly colored and poisonous. Birds see the bright colors and eat one, but once it gets sick, it will always associate those bright colors with distaste. Poisonous, but dull, butterflies won't be recognized as distasteful so quickly, and many more will be eaten. A black butterfly may surprise the birds with its hidden poison, but they won't remember it for next time. It will always shock them, as if they didn't know. So a slide showed a bluejay eating a monarch, and then puking. I've never seen a bird puke before. Everyone started laughing, because it was just so ridiculous looking. If my professor posts the slides online, I'll snatch that picture and show you guys.

I got back to my dorm after class and just crashed. I've been feeling horribly sick lately, and my throat was killing me. I had stayed up most of the night before because I had called my mom. We talked for a long time, and then I had to finish writing an essay. Yes, an essay. I had to turn in a seven-page essay on my third day of class. Are you really surprised? Not me. So I spent from two until six that afternoon in bed, alternatively sweating and shivering with fever. They call it "The Freshers' Flu", and everybody has it. You should hear everyone hacking during the lectures. Thankfully, I feel much better today.

We had a formal dinner last night, and were officially accepted into St Hilda's as freshers. We all were required to be "smartly dressed" and wear our gowns. You know Harry Potter? Yeah, they're like that. My gown as funny black wings hanging down my back; ah, tradition. It was all so cool. We each sat at the tables according to our area of study, and our tutor sat with us. The Head of House (our Principal) banged a gavel on the table, then said some things in Latin that none of us understood, and then the waiters can around with wine. They served the first course with white wine, and then the second with red wine. I didn't have any of the white, but the red was quite good, in my opinion. Of course, that was the first time I had tried red wine, but I prefer it to white.

The main course was something called "Supreme of Pheasant" with raspberry sauce. It was delicious. Pheasant is much more juicy and flavorful than chicken, and they had wrapped it in what seemed like very tender bacon. The raspberry sauce sounds strange, but it was delicious. It wasn't sweet, so the slight tartness offset the flavor of the meat perfectly. Dessert was a passionfruit mousse. With a strawberry on top. I'm getting hungry just thinking about it...

So after dinner, we all had a little coffee, while the Principal gave a speech about the traditions here at Oxford, and that she was proud of us, welcomed us, expected us to grow as both scholars and people while we were here, etc. Then she said something more in Latin, and left. That was our signal that dinner was over and we were free to leave. I came back to my room, and just chilled out for a while. Then I took a shower and collapsed into bed.

This morning, I took my sweet time getting ready, and rushed off the class. I still have yet to be late. (Just watch; I will be tomorrow...) Hooray for copious amounts of exercise. But I always enjoy my walks around the city. Everything's just so beautiful here.

Classes today? Awesome. We're working on DNA structure and sexual selection right now, which is always amusing. In fact, it was too amusing to talk about here. So when I come home, you guys'll have to ask me about the primate correlation constant.

...Heh...

I had my first real tutorial session today. The way that things work around here is that you have lectures (given by the University) to introduce the material, and then tutorials (given by the college) to reinforce the ideas and give you assignments. You can also discuss the subject in deeper detail with the professors that happen to be your tutors. So Dr. Watkinson already had our essays read and graded, by the time we had our tutorials this afternoon. Each of us go in as groups of two, and my partner is Clare. So she asked us both to read our papers outloud, and she stopped us occasionally to discuss things that we had written about. So then she gave constructive criticism and asked us to edit our papers. Next time, we'll turn those in to her so she can copy them and distribute them to the other students. Also, she gave our next essay topic for next week.

"Compare the advantages of molecular genetics and comparative morphology in understanding the ancestry and relationships of organisms."

Rocking. Awesome. I'm really looking forward to this one. Also, I got an email from my other tutor, setting me an assignment to do by Monday. I'm supposed to answer these points:

a) Describe the main features of the DNA structure.
b) Based on these features, what are the predictions for DNA replication and the flow of information to the protein level? Do Watson and Crick refer to these in their paper?
c) Which properties are required for the genetic material to perform its biological role?
d) Briefly describe how DNA replicates.

I certainly have my work cut out for me, don't I? Bring it on!

^.^


Edit: Oh, I thought this was funny. My mom emailed, and said that I was the "OxFox". According to her, that means "brains and beauty!". Such flattery, from my own mother, even. It's really nice to know that I have a cheering section back home, though.
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Here they are, as promised.

A picture is worth a thousand words... )

There are still more pictures, but my mom hasn't emailed them yet. Stay tuned for more views of Oxford.
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Alright, here it finally is.

I am beyond long-winded, but you all might find this interesting... )

So here I am. I love the country, I love the city, I love my college, I love my room, I love hanging out with my new friends. I’ve settled in fine, and I’m already excited about my classes (which start tomorrow). I already have an essay to write, and my schedule looks like Death on a timetable, but I’m beyond happy.

I love my life so much, it leaves me breathless.
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I spent today gathering up my leisure time items.

Yes, I know. It shouldn't have taken too long, but I kept getting side-tracked. I went through all of my pictures and chose which ones I'm bringing along. I had to linger over them for quite a while, of course...

Then the music was next. I sorted my way through the celtic music, the hippie classics, the Beatles collection, the Styx collection, the trance, the happy hardcore, the musicals, the comedian recordings, and the ska. It was so funny; I've been hoarding friend-made CDs for years now, and I have quite the collection.

Kari- Friendship CD
Ross- Assorted swing and dance tunes
Ethan- The collected works of Underworld
Richard- Ska, happy hardcore, trance, a Tiesto concert, and some Flogging Molly
Laura- Various hilarious movie sound bites ("Tweak!")
Alex- Avenue Q soundtrack
Abbi- Latin music
Becky- Bright Lights, Big City soundtrack
Molly- Jeff Foxworthy (via Kacie's original)

Thank you all. I love being able to carry some small bit of everybody overseas with me. And music has always been so important to me.

Today's going to be complete chaos. Last minute shopping, packing, and weighing of luggage. Maps consulted, travel plans checked and double checked, and my last bout of house cleaning.

Saying good bye to my dogs is going to be tough. For the past four months, I've been the one to feed them, walk them, and sit around the house with them while everyone else was off working or in school. I think they already kind of know that I'm leaving. I caught less than an hour of sleep yesterday, but when I finally collapsed in the afternoon, I woke up to find both of them sleeping practically on top of me. No, I'm serious. Mari's a fifty-pound Chinese shar-pei; she was curled up on my legs and I lost all feeling in my toes. Siriah, my little dauchshund, was nestled right up against my stomach. I almost lost it. I'm going to miss them so much.

I grew up with Siriah, and I'm so used to him always being around me. He's the only dude that I sleep with on a regular basis (Heh, yeah, I know. Excuse the bad jokes; I'm trying not to be too nostalgic...) and I know that it's going to be hard to fall asleep in a cold, empty bed.

I'm not nervous, but I'm starting to get really excited. I'm not too worried about flying over there alone. Melbourne, Atlanta, Houston, Heathrow. I'm going to be spending an entire day in flight. I can't help but love that. It brings back memories of my first plane flight alone. And yes, I do remember being five years old. I was just so proud of myself...

Grant decided that I needed "fun homework", and gave me a pub visit as my first assignment. Sorry, Grant. I'll visit the pub and all, but no pints for me. You know what a kill-joy I am...

For those of you at wanted/tried to see me, thank you. It makes me feel loved and special. I'm going to miss everyone and everything that I leave behind here.

But all-in-all, I'm ready. This is it.

Bring it on.

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May 2008

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