Saturday, October 27, 2007

Stupid Music

Today my friend got a text that Wilco had cancelled their upcoming show in London on November 5, which we had bought tickets to. We’ll get a refund, but it’s still shitty news. Sky Blue Sky was my least favourite Wilco album since A.M. (opinion subject to change after relistening to those two, but I am sure it wasn’t as good as anything between Being There and A Ghost Is Born). Now, the show was expensive, but I had already come to grips with the cost because it was a general admission show and I have only seen Wilco in a non-seated venue once and that was back in 2003. I was getting ready to rock it up close, although it would have been hard to top my third-row standing spot from that magical night in 2003. Anyhow, since I had already counted the funds as spent, it’s a huge disappointment to see the show cancelled.

Also, I’ve already referenced London’s great music scene, but the problem is everybody else knows about the great scene, too. Bands that already have performed or that are performing that I’ve not been able to see because they sold out include The Decemberists, Arcade Fire (3 shows), Okkervil River (2 shows) and the Delays. Which all sucks.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Finally, Genarlow Wilson Freed

Finally, the Georgia Supreme Court has corrected a grave miscarriage of justice and freed Genarlow Wilson. Wilson spent two years in jail and was sentenced to ten for having consensual oral sex with a fifteen-year-old girl when he was 17. Wilson, an honour student and football standout, was sentenced to ten years in jail despite the fact the girl repeatedly insisted the oral sex was consensual, because she was below the legal age of consent. In a bizarre pecularity, if Wilson and the girl had engaged in sexual intercourse, it would have been treated as a misdemeanor and not a felony, but oral sex was left out of the statute. Instead, Wilson was sentenced under a felony law after he refused a plea bargain offer that would have sentenced him to five years in jail with the possibility of parole, because Wilson believed he was right and because a plea bargain would have required him to register as a sex offender and would have prohibited him from living at home again, as he had an eight-year-old sister.

The Georgia Legislature changed the law after publicity began to generate around Wilson's case, but they refused to apply it retroactively and specified that fact in the bill. Finally, Georgia has corrected this miscarriage of justice and hopefully Wilson will be able to resume a relatively normal life. There have been several good summaries of the case in the media, but here are two brief NY Times editorials on the case, both demanding Wilson's freedom. Here is the Times on the Georgia Supreme Court freeing Wilson.

Update of London Activities

The past few days have seen me attend another couple of speeches. Last Wednesday I attended a talk by Tarja Halonen, President of Finland since 2000, on the welfare state during globalization. The talk wasn’t particularly interesting, but I didn’t have high hopes. Talks by extremely high-ranking government officials are, more often than not I think, filled with generalities and platitudes, simply because what he or she says is vetted by so many people. I hoped this may be an exception, but it wasn’t. However, that wasn’t really why I went. I went so I could say I’ve seen Halonen talk and say that I’ve seen an active head of state give a lecture, which is both true. I’ve seen former Canadian PMs give speeches, but I believe this is the first world leader I’ve ever seen in person and yes, she does look a bit like Conan O’Brian.

The next day Paul Collier, an economist at Oxford was giving a speech on development and although I originally intended to go, I wavered on the issue because I was tired and he wasn’t a “name” like Halonen. However, then I looked up the reviews his book The Bottom Billion got on Amazon and decided to go. It was well worth it and content-wise was the best public lecture I’ve been to while at LSE. Collier’s an alright speaker – he’s nothing special, but he won’t put you to sleep either. The content on the other hand was very interesting, as Collier argues that development efforts have had a very beneficial effect on about three-quarters of the world’s population, but has left the bottom billion even worse off than they were thirty years ago. Collier gave us a preview of his book as he rushed through some of the reasons why this is the case and what some of his policy prescriptions to solve this problem are. It was very interesting stuff and I saw one of my professors leave the talk with a copy of his book under his arm, obviously bought at the little stand set outside the lecture theatre. The book is something I’ve put on my “to read” list, but I may hope it comes out in paperback and saves me buying the hardcover.

On Saturday I watched the Rugby World Cup final at a local bar. It was a pretty cool experience, even if England played rather poorly and there wasn’t a try scored the entire match. Well, actually England scored a try, but the referee didn’t allow it based on video review. I don’t know what angle they had in the review booth, because from every angle shown on TV it looked like the player touched the ball down over the line before his foot went out of bounds. Nevertheless, that was the only time England looked close to scoring a try and South Africa deserved to win the match. One thing I don’t understand is why England rugby has adopted “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot” as it’s unofficial theme song. The patrons in the bar burst spontaneously into song at several points throughout the match and I was assured this was happening wherever people were watching the game. I’m not sure why English rugby is associated with a slave song with the message that no matter how badly things go on Earth, we can always look forward to Heaven. Weird.

On Sunday I did something that I and only I would do (of the people you know). Sunday was Game 7 of the ALCS (i.e. the deciding game in the semi-finals of the baseball playoffs), so I was determined to watch it. Luckily, a couple of guys on my floor are Americans and are baseball fans and we gathered in one room to watch it on a laptop at 1 AM. By 2 AM, one of the other guys had left for bed and the guy whose room it was clearly wanted to go to sleep, so I took my cue and left. Rather than return to my own room with my sporadic internet connection, I went to our computer lab in the basement with its 20th century computers and proceeded to watch the game until 4:30 in the morning online, in the dingy basement, by myself. It was well worth it, even if the dreaded Red Sox won. The game was exciting up through the seventh inning when Joel Skinner made the biggest blunder by a basecoach I think I have ever seen in my life. His decision was so bad that the runner stopped, looked back at the play and immediately did a double-take towards the coach, incredulous at the decision. I’ve never seen a runner look back towards the coach so immediately and with such disbelief on his face before. The Indians lost the game badly and likely would have lost anyway, but if Cleveland had scored a run or more there (or if the umpire hadn’t missed a call in the fifth inning that cost Cleveland at least one run) the complexion of the game would have been changed.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Commuting Sucks

Here’s an interesting article from The New Yorker on the rise of commuter culture. It’s mostly filled with human interest stories, but what’s fascinating is the lengths some people with go to commute to what seem to be fairly average jobs. I can understand a lengthy commute for a dream job or one with great advancement opportunities, but to commute six and a half hours a day for a job as a legal secretary when you’re in your 50’s is something I can’t fathom.

Americans have an average daily commute of fifty-one minutes, which isn’t that bad. However, one in six Americans commutes more than an hour and a half per day and there are 3.5 million “extreme commuters,” who travel more than ninety minutes a day, a number which has doubled since 1990. As I said, this would obviously change with a dream employment opportunity, but I couldn’t imagine commuting more than an hour per day regularly. I could put up with that commute (or not make it at all) for a shorter work week, but to do that every day seems like a waste. I guess the problem is that people are given employment opportunities which may not be their dream jobs, but seem so superior to other options that they’d rather be safe and take (or stay with) the job than try to find a relatively similar opportunity closer to home.

The article suggests that this may not necessarily be the right choice, as two Swiss economists at the University of Zurich have concluded that you’d need to make 40% in salary and perks in order to be as happy with a one hour daily commute as a worker with a minimal or no commute.

Anyhow, with the knowledge than an extreme commute may await me in the future, I better make the most of my ten-to-fifteen minute walk to campus. I live in a shittier residence, but it’s one of the three residences that are within a fifteen minute walk of campus. I haven’t been inside all of the other residences, but I’m pretty sure I’m happier here than I would be with a somewhat larger room and kitchen and a thirty minute walk during the cold English winters.

It’s pretty irrelevant anyway, as I’m holding out hope for the instantaneous teleporter to be invented in the next decade. Or a transmogrifier, just because that’d be pretty awesome.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

The Life and Death of Rod Beck

Here’s a rare article from worth reading, on former relief pitcher Rod Beck, who died earlier this year of a drug overdose at 38. Beck was a beloved relief pitcher, mainly for the San Francisco Giants, who was in the early 90’s for his wild image, which he cultivated with a long mullet and Fu Manchu moustache. Beck was nearly universally loved by fans, teammates and opponents and was always touted as one of the good guys in the sport. For example, he was actively involved in an AIDS charity in the early 1990’s, which was the era when the disease was still, at least in the public’s eyes, solely a disease that affected gay men.

In a development that perhaps personified Beck, while playing in the minor leagues in 2003 for the Iowa Cubs, Beck lived out of a trailer that he parked right beside the ballpark. After ballgames he would go back to his trailer and there was an open invitation for fans to come by and drink beers with him into the evening. Nobody was refused and Beck genuinely interacted with the fans on a day-to-day basis, which is almost unheard of in professional sports, especially by a 3-time All-Star. Here's an article, also by, on Beck's life in the minors, written in 2003. It's another good read and, if nothing else, at least you can take a very small amount of comfort in the fact Beck enjoyed himself so much at the time. In a time when professional athletes are very removed from any real interaction with the public, Beck was a shining exception and, if the articles have any basis in truth, one of the most genuine guys in professional sport.

Unfortunately, Beck also developed a drug habit, which cost him his family and his life. Despite two interventions by his family and close friends and visits from ex-teammates, Beck couldn’t shake his cocaine habit. His wife, still in love with him, left him and he became a shadow of the devoted father he had previously been to his two daughters. The story of Beck’s life and death is one of the best human interest stories I’ve read in a while, particularly from a mainstream sports media site often devoted to reducing everything to 30-second highlight packages.

Two Weeks in London, Pt. II

It has been a few days since I updated you about my first few days in London, so now I’ll finish with what’s happened over the second half of those two weeks, which have actually become three weeks because of internet issues and my own laziness. After recounting the first few days in extreme detail, I’ll now just hit upon the interesting events and spare you all the narrative of days where I woke up late and did next to nothing.

Saturday (Sept 29): I went to the British Museum with Katharine. What’s great about the British Museum, and I believe British museums in general, is that entry is free. So there is no pressure to see every exhibit in the one day and it allows you to see the Museum at a good pace. We spent maybe two and a half hours at the British Museum and saw perhaps two wings of the first floor and part of an exhibit on the second floor. The Museum has a great collection and we only saw an exhibit on cultural representations of life and death and most of their stuff from Ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia. There’s some fantastic stuff there, but we didn’t even touch anything else from Africa or anything from Asia or old Europe. We did manage to see the Rosetta Stone, but the temporary exhibit on the Terracotta Warriors is sold out for the next six weeks or so, so we’ll have to return at some point later and pay the exhibit fee to see them. They’re at the Museum until the spring, so I have lots of time to find a convenient date. I’m sure I’ll be back to the Museum at least a couple more times while I’m here.

Tuesday (Oct 2): This was the welcome day at the LSE. Yes, it’s THE LSE and not just LSE. I think Howard Davies will send a team after you if you leave the “the” out. Anyway, this was a pretty routine hour and a half introduction to grad school at the LSE. We were told repeatedly to be proud of our accomplishments; about how international the school is; about the strong reputation of the school both academically and in an extra-curricular sense; about how we should make the most of our time at the LSE, in London and in Europe by joining teams, societies, going places, traveling, etc; and also, that we would have a formidable workload and would have to spend a great deal of time on our studies. With those somewhat contradictory messages we were sent on our way.

In the evening I returned to campus to watch Bjorn Lomborg, author of The Skeptical Environmentalist, debate a geography professor from the LSE over global warming. Lomborg gained a cult following after the publication of his first book, in which he argues that global warming is real, but vastly overhyped; that market solutions are possible for many of the problems and that other problems are much more important. I’ve not read the book and his argument is obviously far more nuanced, but he’s basically very skeptical of much of the “common wisdom” of the environmentalist movement. He’s become so famous he was quoted as one of two detractors of Al Gore in many major media releases following Gore being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize and he is very controversial, as many in the hardcore environmental movement despise him.

Speaking of Gore, it was interesting to watch the right-wing go apeshit over the fact he won the Nobel Peace Prize. Some people speak of Bush Derangement Syndrome, where leftists will blame every and all evil on President Bush and I think we'll see a similar reaction from the right should Hillary Clinton win the Presidency, but there's a good case to be made that a section of the far right has a case of Gore Derangement Syndrome. The Wall Street Journal, devoted an editorial to a list of people who deserved the Nobel Peace Prize more and refused to even mention Gore's name, while The National Review Online suggested Gore share the prize with Osama bin Laden, who "has implicitly endorsed Gore's stance." But don't forget, when one anonymous poster out of hundreds uploads a random video to comparing Bush to Hitler, it's the subject of week-long debate in the mainstream media.

Lomborg “won” the debate over Dr. Simon Dietz, but he was also given about double the amount of time to speak since he was obviously the main attraction. He wasn’t incredibly convincing and much of his talk covered the bare essentials of his argument that I’m somewhat already familiar with, but it was still interesting to listen to. Dr. Dietz attacked Lomborg on two fronts, as he accused him of manipulating data, which seems to be a common criticism of Lomborg, and also argued the worst-case scenarios of environmental disaster are so severe that we can’t afford to play Lomborg’s game of looking at the average effects according to various modeling scenarios. He wasn’t a great speaker and given only half the time of Lomborg, he wasn’t able to construct more than a bare-bones argument against Lomborg’s case.

The Q&A session was far more interesting, as all but one of the six questioners were critical of Lomborg. He was accused on misrepresenting data on polar bears to downplay the effects of environmental degradation on animal extinction. Another questioner asked him a very technical question about the modeling scenarios he used, to which he basically had to respond that he didn’t know. He was asked another question about data and modeling, which I don’t really remember, to which Lomborg mentioned two scientists whose methods he had quoted, to which the questioner shouted, “How do you respond to the fact that both scientists have disavowed your work?” The Q&A session demonstrated to sort of anger people have towards Lomborg and the message he conveys. I don’t know enough about the topic to really comment on it, but that lecture reinforced the general impression I have of Lomborg, which is that I agree with some, but not all, of what he’s saying and that he seems to have some factual problems with his argument, which has made it very easy for the anti-Lomborg crowd to paint him as a sloppy or even disingenuous intellectual.

Thursday (Oct 4):
A ton of great bands come to London, obviously. If any band does Europe, they’ll do a show in London. If any band does England, they’ll do a show or two in London. Unfortunately, there are so many people in London that a bunch of them are bound to have good taste in music. The Decemberists played London on October 2nd and it was sold out. The Arcade Fire play three gigs in London in November and they are all sold out. And so on.

However, one band that London hasn’t caught onto yet is the New Pornographers, so I was able to go to see them live at Koko on that Thursday night. One interesting thing about London concerts, or at least it was true with this concert, was that they’ll place a schedule on the front door to let ticket-holders know exactly when each band will take the stage. Anyhow, a guy from my floor and I went and we arrived early, to be sure we would be able to buy tickets at the door. We stood through two mediocre openers – one was a guy with a guitar playing slowcore, for which I definitely wasn’t in the mood, and the other was a non-descript rock band that was okay to listen to for half an hour but immediately forgettable – before the New Pornographers took the stage.

Playing without Neko Case, as per usual when touring, and with Dan Bejar’s songs taking a backseat, it was very much the AC Newman show. Karhryn Calder, who assumed a more prominent part on Challengers than she had on any previous New Pornographers record sung Neko’s parts as usual, and although you can’t tell she’s not Neko, she sounds similar. If I had closed my eyes when listening to “Challengers”, I doubt I would have been able to tell the difference.

Anyhow, the New Pornographers played a great set. Although Challengers has really grown on me as an album, it is missing the bouncy energy or some of their earlier releases and contains a few of their more forgettable tunes. When touring in support of a new album some bands will play that album in its entirety and will mix in maybe four of their well-known songs and call it a day. Not the New Pornographers. They played seven songs from Challengers, six of their best tracks of Twin Cinema, as well as three each of Mass Romantic and Electric Version. There was not a single throwaway track the entire night. They played as many of their old hits as they could, from “My Slow Descent into Alcoholism” to “Testament to Youth in Verse” to “Sing Me Spanish Techno.” I have no idea if this is typical of the New Pornographers, but if I had been in charge I probably would have made one or two substitutions on the tracks from “Challengers” and otherwise left it exactly as it was. Overall, a very good show.

Friday (Oct 5): I did the tourist thing at Trafalgar Square and Picadilly Circus. Not too much to report other than I walked around them, took a bunch of pictures, soaked in the environment and appreciate a day without rain. I then returned via Charing Cross Road, which has a ton of bookstores, both new and used, along the street. I spent a while browsing them and intend to return, but the fact I was able to restrain myself from making any purchases was a good thing considering next weekend. I also walked around Leicester Square, which is one of the happening places for teens and young adults in London. There are four or five theatres in the square, along with several nice restaurants, a couple of clubs and what looks to be a casino. I'm not sure why, but similar stores in London seemed to be grouped together. There's a ton of bookstores on Charing Cross Rd., lots of theatres throughout Leicester Square; most of the cell phone stores are located on the same block on Oxford Street and so on. It makes it handy to compare prices, if you know what you're looking for.

Monday (Oct 8): Classes started this week, which I'm sure caused all of you suffering through the Canadian school year to exclaim "Finally." During the first week of classes students are encouraged to shop around and attend lectures for as many courses as they like. Seminars don't being until week 2 or 3 and few classes are capped, so while the system seems to lead to some headaches for some administrators and professors, it's quite handy from the student's point-of-view. I have one mandatory course and two electives, along with my Master's paper, and I attended about six or seven different lectures this week, before settling on my two courses, The mandatory course is an international political theory course, which promises to be loads of fun.

Tuesday (Oct 9): Today I saw Lord David Owen give a speech about hubris in world leaders, with particular reference to Tony Blair and George Bush. Lord Owen was the British Foreign Secretary from 1977 to 1979, the founder of the Social Democrat Party in England and he played a large role in the peace negotiations during the Bosnian War (he is the Owen of the Vance-Owen peace plans). I'd have preferred to hear him talk about the former Yugoslavia, but you can't win them all.

Thursday (Oct 11): Another day, another talk. As there's no homework right now - correction, no homework I'm choosing to do - I figure there's no better way to spend my time than listening to intellectuals give mildly interesting talks. Today it was Paul Kennedy, professor of history at Yale University and a visiting scholar at the LSE, talking about UN reform. Kennedy recently wrote The Parliament of Man, but is probably best known for his seminal work, The Rise and Fall of Great Powers. Kennedy is a historian, so he took a historian's approach to the topic and spoke about why the UN is structured the way it is and why that in itself makes change, particularly to the structure of the Security Council, nearly impossible. Given that Kennedy has done consulting work for the UN I was hoping he might tackle various reform plans that have been put forward, but he basically said that any reform is going to be nearly impossible. As is sometimes the case with these talks, the anecdotes, which often surface during answers to audience questions, were some of the most interesting points of the speech. Particularly humourous was Kennedy's tale of being trailed through Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Hampshire and Virginia by the Pakistani and Mexican Ambassadors to the UN.

Saturday (Oct 13): Today Mike Coe (Ryan’s housemate in Kingston and a good friend of mine at Queen’s) came to visit from Cambridge. He only came for the day as he had to get back to Cambridge for some rowing on Sunday morning, but we spent basically the whole day walking around London and catching up. We just went around a lot of the touristy sites, but it was more about just experiencing London and catching up than doing anything in particular. It was quite a good day and he’s already got some great stories from Cambridge. I hope to get the chance to visit him up there before too long.

Sunday (Oct 14): Today I went to a used book fair that was held in a hotel about twenty minutes up the road. It was actually quite a good fair, with a lot of stores that carried specialty books, out-of-print books and first editions. There were about forty vendors there, at least, all with stands of dozens of books and brochures about their actual stores. The crowd was fairly old; I was easily one of the youngest people browsing the books and I wouldn’t be surprised if, for the good hour I spent there, I was the youngest person in the room. Several of the vendors were in their mid-twenties, but about three-quarters of the customers, not surprisingly, must have been over fifty.

There were countless interesting books there. There were tons of first editions of everything from Winnie the Pooh to Ernest Hemingway to Dashiell Hammett. Many of the books were distinctly British, but you could tell there were some really hard-to-find items and I heard two different customers talking to vendors and saying, “Well, I need to go to a cash machine, but I’ll be back.” There was also a lot of autographed books for sale, including a signed first edition of P.D. James’s Children of Men (which I mention, because I considered buying it). Also, never before have I seen so many leather-bound books for sale. About a quarter of the stands must have stocked predominantly leather-bound books from thirty or forty years ago. I didn’t have that much cash on hand when I went, but I did manage to spend it all, buying an Ian McEwan, Ray Bradbury’s Farenheit 451, two other fiction books, The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich and Brian Urquhart’s biography on Dag Hammarskjold. Except for the Urquhart, which is a hardcover and harder to find, I got the other 5 books for just over 6 pounds, which made it a fine day. I was even able to tolerate the fact that my internet has continued to suck for the last two weeks, with no signs of getting better.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Two Weeks in London, Part I

I did originally write this last Friday, but one of the downsides of my move to London has been that I’ve had to deal with a rather sporadically working internet connection in my room, because of a faulty port or something. Hopefully it will be fixed soon and while London’s been great in many ways, this has been a royal pain in the ass.

So, as many of you (the four of you, that is) know, I moved to London, England two weeks ago for my one-year Master’s degree. Seeing as I’m sure everyone naturally will ask me dozens of questions about England and so forth, I’ve decided I will intermittently update this blog with my stories. I prefer to write about other things that aren’t me, but if I don’t do this I’ll spend half my evenings retyping the same stories for several different people. This way I can save myself time and readers then can pepper me with more individual and specific questions later.

With this entry, I’ll detail what I did during my first week in England. I flew out of Canada on Friday, September 21st and landed early in the morning on Saturday. I met my Dad at the airport. One of the reasons I chose to leave on Friday and not some time in the following week was that it allowed me to meet my Dad in London. He was in Frankfurt on business all week and instead of flying home he just flew into London on Friday night and met me there. After that we departed on the tube for my residence, which was a hassle as we were carrying three suitcases and two reasonably large bags between us and I am somewhat injured. Unfortunately, I wasn’t allowed to check into my room until 2 pm, so we had to store our bags and then find something to amuse ourselves for 5 hours.

We wandered over to campus and spend about half an hour and saw the whole campus (more on that in another post) and then we wandered the streets a bit and had a long lunch at the pub, which was nice after airplane food and a morning stroll. Not surprisingly, between 12:00 and 12:15 the pub went from being deserted to having about 35 people in it, all drinking beer early on a Saturday afternoon. We got back to the residence hall and got my stuff up to the room, but by this point jetlag was beginning to hit, as I hadn’t slept on the plane. I was exhausted and in no mood to unpack. I was fine when on my feet, but once I was in the same room as a bed, I had to sit down and then I was toast. After we (read: my Dad, because I was too damn tired) unpacked some of my clothes that needed to be hung up, like my suit jacket and good pants, we decided that we should leave the rest of the unpacking for another day.

So, we threw overnight stuff into a bag and took off for the train station and took a train to Norwich, where my dad is from. We arrived there around 6 and my Aunt and Uncle greeted us at the train station. My Dad’s sister is one of the nicest women I know; she’s absolutely wonderful and her husband of about four years is great, as well. She must have put our family up for four day to a week about fifteen times in the last twenty-odd years, always without complaint and with a giant smile on her face. She always remembered all of our favourite English foods and was absolutely fantastic towards us kids. You never got the sense she was even remotely bothered by our presence, which is saying something, as I’m sure there were a few times me and my siblings acted like twerps. Anyhow, I really like them. We had a nice stew with them on Saturday evening and my Aunt, Uncle and Dad spent the whole evening talking.

Sunday was a lot of fun, too. In the early afternoon my Uncle arrived with his three sons (they’re something like 17, 14 and 13 or 18, 15 and 14 or something). In the middle of the afternoon my Dad’s other brother arrived, along with his wife, although their 19-year-old son stayed home. My Aunt’s 33-year-old daughter also came by in the middle of the afternoon, as did my Aunt’s neighbours and their three children. It was nice to do a big family meal like that, even if I spent half of the time with the kids, especially because it’s something we never get to do in Canada. I think my Dad enjoyed it a lot too, as it’s probably been 18 months or so since he’s seen any of the family. Later in the evening, after both of my Uncles had left my Aunt’s 30-year-old son arrived, which completed the evening. The entire family was really supportive and gave me cell phone numbers, e-mail addresses and my Aunt extended an open invitation for me to come over any time I wanted, for as long as I wanted. It’s quite comforting to know you have that safety net there and I do intend to spend another weekend in Norwich at some point.

We arrived back in London midday on the Monday and spent the next day and a half unpacking, buying some essentials for my room and doing a bit of exploring around London. My Dad never spent any real time in London when he lived in England and we’ve only stayed there once, for about three days, during our repeated visits to England, so even though he’s roughly familiar with the geography of the city, a lot of it is relatively new to him, as well. We went to see St. Paul’s Cathedral on Tuesday and I assume my Dad has seen it before, but if he has it was likely 30 or 35 years ago or something, as we didn’t stop there during our one trip to London in 2004 or so. We weren’t able to go inside because of some special service and then during the walk back to my residence it started to rain, hard, and we got caught in it. Typical England for you.

We tried to go see the Arsenal vs. Newcastle football match on Tuesday night, but it was sold out and instead we went to see Spamalot, which is the means this year I’ve seen musicals on Broadway and in London’s West End, despite not seeing a musical in the previous five years or so. Spamalot’s lead was an actor from All Creatures Great and Small who my Dad was familiar with and who he had no idea did theatre, but the rest of the cast was no-names who had done other theatre shows in London. Spamalot was well done; you have to like Monty Python humour to enjoy it, but if you do it’ll give you a lot of laughs. There are a couple groan moments and a few jokes that fall flat, but most of it is consistently funny and it certainly keeps you entertained for two hours. It’s based roughly on Monty Python and the Holy Grail, but blends in a number of parodies of Broadway theatre. The story is very loosely held together, but you’re laughing hard enough that by the time it registers, you’ve already disregarded it. It’s nothing incredible you’ll remember in a decade, but it’s a good night at the theatre.

After my Dad left Wednesday morning, things started to get weird. Really weird. I knew one person coming to LSE, a friend of mine from Queen’s named Katharine. So on Wednesday she arrived and had to room temporarily in my residence until the weekend, so she came and found me (so much for the front desk protecting my privacy) and I helped me her move into her temporary room and then I took her for a tour of the campus. After I was made to feel useful by showing her around the campus we met up with her friend, Katee, who is also doing her Master’s at LSE and who also a Queen’s graduate from Hamilton. I knew Katee to have seen her around a couple of times, but we never really talked. So then Katharine and I showed Katee around campus and then we went to go buy cell phones. Although the people on my floor are great, it’s a nice feeling to have someone around who you know from before and have some common basis with.

After peppering the salesman with fifty questions, including the same question about accepting international calls fifteen times, we all bought the exact same phone, because we’re cool that way. Katee knew someone else coming to LSE from Queen’s, so we met up with her in the evening, and she is also from Hamilton. Then we joined a few guys from my floor, another temporary resident in our building and a guy he knew for dinner, The temporary resident and the other random guy were – wait for it – both Queen’s graduates and one was from Hamilton. So yes, you read that right. My first evening in London was spent with nine other students, of whom five were Queen’s graduates, of whom four were from Hamilton. I never thought I’d feel like a minority because I wasn’t from Hamilton.

What’s also strange is that of these Queen’s people, one was a Politics student and one was a Politics/History student and I knew the girl to have seen her around, but had never spoke to her, and I had no recollection the guy existed at all, despite the fact both were in my program for four years at Queen’s.

In addition to all of those people, I’ve met two other Queen’s people here in the last week, meaning there are at least eight of us from K-Town here, including me. One of the guys I met ths last week is this cool guy from the Boston area. I met him in the caf first year when one of us said something about baseball to the other and we had like a five-minute conversation. Since then we’ll randomly cross each other about twice a year at Queen’s and we’d stop, exchange greetings, talk about baseball for a minute or two and keep going. So, one night last week I’m walking home with a guy from my floor in Covent Garden and I hear “Hey you” and I turn and it’s that guy and we reminisce. I’m not sure we even know each other’s name, but it’s still pretty cool. It’s also cool because I was the you in a “Hey you,” which almost never happens.

Thursday and Friday were pretty slow days. I spent most of one day sleeping, because that week I moved over it was really cold and I came down with a chill. The other day I just did some shopping for a few more necessities for my room. Both evenings I went out drinking with some guys from my floor and some of the Queen’s kids. The guys from my floor are a good group, one guy is from Chicago and doing IR, another’s from Holland and doing Human Rights, a third is from Southern Illinois and doing Philosophy and Public Policy and a fourth is from LA and doing Urban Planning. The latter two share my “flat”, along with a guy from Greece who hadn’t moved it at this point. Basically, the “flats” are just three individual rooms off the main hallway, which looks like any shitty residence hallway built in the 70’s, and then every fourth door is a key-operated one that leads to a mini-hallway, off of which are a tiny shower, a tiny bathroom, a tiny kitchen and the fourth bedroom. It’s not terrible, but it’s far worse than the arrangement I had in first year at Queen’s – where I also got pretty lucky, so maybe this is payback – but the location is good and the price seems reasonable, so I can’t complain too much. I just hate sharing a bathroom and having a tiny shower. At least the water pressure is good.

So that’s the play-by-play of my first week in London. I’ll try to come up with some more interesting stories for you later, but really the amount of Queen’s people here is something strange. I’ve come to the conclusion I have seven stalkers.