Monday, February 28, 2011

Cynthia = Rapunzel

These are my floating laterns. I really want to go this year.

Friday, February 25, 2011


Saturday the 19th dawned bright and early for me. It began with a 2.5 hour train ride from Tunbridge Wells, through London Charing Cross to London Paddington, and then onwards to Oxford. I slept pretty much the whole way. And since it was dark 75% of the time, I feel just fine about that.
Don't let the prestigious history and gothic architecture fool you about Oxford - it is definitely a college town. And also very touristy, surprisingly so for February.

Arriving at the crack of dawn as I did, I got to see the town in the best way possible - with no one else around. Oxford is rather small and easily walkable. Everything you want to see you can walk to in about 20 minutes, no matter where you start out. I started out at Christ's Church - more commonly known as the Great Hall for the Harry Potter movies. It definitely lived up to it's name. Walking in and around that ancient place was fun, as was watching the Oxford boys row (or punt) on the Thames.
Then across the street to visit Alice's Shop - an adorable store dedicated to Alice in Wonderland, as those stories were composed in Oxford. It was surreal and made me very nostalgic for Disneyland. And also tea, strangely enough.
Next on the list was Bodleian Library - 3rd largest library in the world! OH YEAH. It just smelled wonderfully of old books, and time and dust, and intelligence. I was so happy. And also, right next to the library is the History of Science Museum.... um, can we say COOLEST THING EVER?!? Especially since they were having a display on early Persian Astronomy, which you might think is incredibly specific exhibit, but it's still amazing. Trust me. Oh, and they happened to display the Einstein Oxford Chalkboard. Which is kind of famous.

But the funniest thing in that whole museum was the old wooden spiral staircase that creaks loudly as you walk up it, and the sign that says, "pleae tread lightly on this old staircase." It's the little things, really, that make life funny.
Next to Ashmolean Museum, which has your standard museum stuff.... Honestly I was still on a Persian Astronomy high. But there was a Stradivarius Violin which had some interesting carvings on the back of the Garden of Eden. And another one, which is considered the most valuable and it is nicknamed The Messiah, for reasons I still don't understand. Ironically, the instrument is in mint condition, for having been made in the early 1700s, and it hasn't ever been played. Which seems like the antithesis of a musical instrument's existence, but who am I to say?

From Oxford I went to visit Blenheim Palace - the place where Kenneth Branagh filmed his Hamlet. It was even better than I thought it would be! But it was freezing cold, and that made me sad.
The grounds of Blenheim are MASSIVE. Probably at least twice the size of BYU campus. And they are lovely, with lots of little areas of happiness, and a secret garden, and a water fall, and an arboretum, and an Italian garden and lots of other really lovely things. The palace is amazing and ornate. It is the place Winston Churchill grew up, so it's bound to be fabulous, right?
Blenheim is really an experience I don't think I can describe. Sorry. Pictures do some justice, but old, stately, ornate homes just need to be seen. I don't know how marketing people do it.

After I came back from Blenheim it was time to head home - unfortunately I had a short trip, but then I got to talk to Calista. And of all the things I did last weekend, talking to Calista was definitely the best. 18 months is way too long, I don't care what they say.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Brought to you by Congress Spending

This post comes inspired by Kylie.

Things I cannot get over:

1. The Economy/The Electoral College/ Stock Market/ Politics.
At best I sort-of half understand all these. I have tried so hard. Really, really hard. But I don't get it. Any of them. Every side presents their case with at least some truth, but without me knowing EVERYTHING it's hard to find who is telling the most truth and therefore pick a side. Can't I just go look through a telescope for a while? No, because congress ran out of money. It's one big circuitous ANNOYING fight in my head.

2. Sports love
To illustrate the extent of my lack of understanding, I cannot even write a paragraph about how much I don't understand. Pretty extensive, huh?

3. People who get uncomfortably close.
To be fair, I have done this for comedic effect, but I know some people who just get all up in your face. And that "I'm terribly near-sighted" excuse just won't work here. If I can freaking feel you breath, you are too close.

4. How trees grow.
Yup, I didn't pay attention in 2nd grade. I could probably solve this with a quick trip to Wikipedia, but I like that trees are still mysterious to me. That way I can keep pretending faeries live in them and build up the tree to accomodate their ever increasing population.

5. Why melted cheese and fried chicken skin are so dang good.
Seriously, it could probably solve US-Middle East relations, but no one ever thinks to bring along some KFC do they? That's really why they get mad around the discussion table. They're hungry but they have to eat fancy food, carefully selected to impress the visitor, not solve problems. Come on, world leaders, think!

You didn't know that the first thanksgiving was actually a successful peace treaty due to my 11 secret herbs and spices.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Sometimes i find things that are so ironic it makes me laugh out loud.

"The greatest thing I've ever done, was to give up the thing I love most, for the God I love even more."
~Thomas S. Monson

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Technology is the Future

This is just too hilarious, and still kinda cool.

But how long will it take a hacker to get into the Pope's iPhone and see what he's confessing?

Maybe people can start making graphs of their sins too, and chart a yearly progress. "Let's see... I'm always good around the New Year, but man, spring break week really needs some more vigilance. And St. Patrick's Day."

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Today I love

TWIX! Second favorite candy.

Because it's finally sunny here. Love that.

Cause I'm geeky...

I'm so hungry right now... and these make me feel like Christmas is coming.

I'm reading this right now. It. Is. SO. GOOD! Truly.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Me and books get along real well.

Yesterday I went to explore Tunbrige Wells downtown area. It was lovely. Why you ask? Because I found a GORGEOUS second-hand bookshop that will probably get tons of money from me before I leave England. Here are some samples.....

The Rubaiyat - some old Persian poetry that is just delightful. With pictures! Gaston would be happy.

Second edition of my second favorite book. Heck yes I did.

I might need a bigger suitcase. HAha from L-R: Arabian Nights, The Jungle Book, Essays by Bacon, Stories from the Greek Legends, Confessions by Augustine, Frankenstein!, Alexander Pope's trans. of Odyssey, some Churchill poetry, Treasure Island, Keats Poetry, Rubaiyat, and Lorna Doone.

It was a good day.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

The Life of a State Dept. Intern

When I told the people in my office about all my internships, they said to me, "What are you? A career intern?" And I guess the short answer is yes. The classroom only takes you so far.
In the Embassy I probably have the second best internship out of everyone. I'm so not trying to toot my own horn, but really, it's true. The guys do Homeland Security roves, the other girls do econ and PR, and one other lucky intern (this is THE best internship...) is part of the chain of assitants to the Ambassador.

I get to catch bad guys. I look at the special cases, all the silly criminals, and all the brilliant ones too. I get to investigate informant calls, document records, and watch some really awesome FSOs interview people who are lying and see beads of sweat roll down their face. It's 30% hilarious, 50% work, 20% ingenuity and 100% fun. No other internship has ever been this awesome for me. I can't say how appreciative I am that the State Dept actually put me to work. My other internships sometimes were... floundering. And even though there's a lot of autonomy in my dept (which is the BEST), everyone in there is really taking care of me too. They're such nice people. I don't even have to fetch coffee!

Working for the State Dept has been like drinking water out of a firehouse. I started out on a steep learning curve 4 weeks ago.... and I'm still on that learning curve. Due to some events in my office, they have a rotating schedule to help other FSOs recognize fraud. Last monday (the beginning of my 4-week mark) I started training people. Me. Their little intern started training federal officers. It is a whole lot of responsibility and I think I'm going to be second-guessing myself for a long time. But it's fun to tell about cases I've already had. In fact, this past week I wrote my first cable. Which, we jokingly declared could someday pop up on wikileaks, and then wouldn't I be oh-so famous?