Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Running around.

House things take a lot of time out of my week. By "house things" I mean laundry, dishes, cooking, grocery shopping, cleaning and tidying up, changing lightbulbs, etc. Plus personal stuff like banking and filling paper/mail and dealing with e-mail. It all takes a lot of time. And it's all the more noticeable now because for the most part I wasn't doing that stuff (to the same extent) in London.

Anyways, whatever. I'm not really complaining. It's just necessary for me to think about how I can not watch TV or movies, or listen to music, or do that much surfing of the internet and yet still not get much work done on any given day. Yes, I could be more efficient with my time, but not terribly more. Hmm.

Today was beautiful. Bright and sunny, and although the snow's mostly melted from the streets and sidewalks---good for walking places---it's still everywhere else. So pretty. I happily walked to school to hand in my reapplication to Massey, and then took the streetcar down to Kensington Market to stock up on a whole bunch of things. You know, it was nice to have 10 degree weather in London, but I think I missed snow. After a proper snowfall, the world seems clean and peaceful and happy. I like it. Let's just hope -5 degrees is here to stay, and it doesn't get much colder until next year!

There's lots to do tomorrow: attend seminar a friend of mine is giving (she doesn't know I'll be there); hold office hours for my students; have dinner with HD; make an appearance at pub night.

(As I write this, FN is watching "Babel," and it sounds, well, kinda hard to take. I quote from my living room: "Oh my goodness . . . I can't deal with this.")

In other news, I've been interestingly reading positive reviews of my supervisor's latest offering. How fun!

Tuesday, February 27, 2007


After about 8 hours flying time, JDS, TC, and I arrived back in Toronto last night. It was a long day, and included: two English pies (pasties), good airplane food, my last tube ride, the Maple Leaf Lounge at Heathrow (emphasis on the "row")---because TC did a lot of travelling last year and gave me his get-in-free pass to the lounge, parting ways with JDS and TC in business class (they got bumped!), chatting with an interesting seat-mate in the plebs section of the plane, and coming home.

My social and work calendar is already filling up fast, so book me now if you wanna see me before I jet off to my next research locale . . . wherever will I go?

Sunday, February 25, 2007

A day at the National Gallery.

Today I spent 5 and a half hours walking around the National Gallery. It was excellent. I plonked down 5pounds for an audio guide and a donation, and off I went. I didn't have as much fun as yesterday, mind you, but this is a great gallery. I saw a whole lot of old, famous paintings. And I learned some things about them, too! I was going to hit up the National Portrait Gallery, which is in the same building, but I ran out of time. In fact, I even missed an entire wing of the gallery---the paintings and sculptures done between 1200 and 1500---and I missed a few rooms of the more recent stuff. Ah well. It just means I'll have to go back when I'm in London next.

Tomorrow I'm going to see about finding me a pasty to eat before packing up and heading home to Toronto!

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Let the touring continue!

Let's see, let's see . . . . Thursday I spent many hours at the National Archives, finishing up my research there. For this trip, that is. That evening I stayed in for some much-needed rest. The next day I trekked out to North London to visit the British Library Newspapers location. It took me nearly an hour and a half to get there. Oy. (Or, say it with a British accent.) Once there I looked through The Red Triangle, the British YMCA magazine published in my period. It was slow-going but good to do. Unfortunately, it took longer than I hoped, so I didn't have much time in the afternoon to be a tourist. I did manage to get out to Buckingham Palace and walked around downtown London until I met up with JDS, TC, and the others for dinner---at an excellent Turkish place in Soho. Next up was the theatre. We saw "Avenue Q," which was very well done and entertaining. I enjoyed it. It's quite American, though, so I wonder how it goes over with non-North Americans around here.

This morning I woke up and quickly (for me) got ready to leave the house and meet up with CS, a former Torontonian, historian, and all 'round excellent person. We met up just after noon, went for lunch at a great Thai place in Soho, and then randomly walked, walked, walked! It was too much fun; CS is too cool. We had an awesome, history-filled time. I think the thing that really makes this city so interesting and beautiful is that it's been around for hundreds of years. Heck, give Ottawa and Washington---already lovely in their own North American way---a thousand years, and they'll be pretty nifty too!

For one example of how old regular things can be around here, this is a random church sign we came upon. Click on the image to read the text.
Most interestingly, we had a look around several churches, most of them in the City. The first one we saw was St. Clements Danes, an RAF church! I still can't get over this. It was very cool. Old church with lots of history gets bombed by the Germans---we saw the battle scars on the outside---gets fixed up in the 1950s and becomes an Air Force church. All over the floors are the signs (heralds? what's the word?) for the various units. And all over all memorial plaques, etc. In the basement parts of the original church are to be found preserved in the crypt.

Our next stop was the Temple Church, nestled away in behind Fleet St. So unexpected! This was the where the Knights Templars worshiped beginning in the 12th century. Craziness. Afterwards we made our way through some unknown passages and arrived at what we later discovered were government lawyer and judge chambers. We'd seen the church-like Royal Courts of Justice building (see picture, below) a few minutes earlier, and it looked like this area is where a lot of legal stuff goes on.

The other churches and cathedrals we saw were less interesting in terms of our astonishment at their existence, but very nice too. In one of them, we happened upon a rehearsal of a chamber trio. Their music was very beautiful. We dawdled much longer than we would have inside, marveling at the several hundred year old stonework and taking in the free concert! We then happened upon the London Monument and quickly decided to drop 2 quid each and go for a bit of a climb. 311 steps later (though it seriously felt like way more) we were at the top, taking in the amazing view. Later, after visiting yet another church, CS taught me how to pronounce "Southwark." No, it's not Southwark, but Suthik.

We trundled onward along the Thames, enjoying the view---by this time, the sun had set and the lights were on in the city---and heading downtown to search for a place to eat. (The photo to the right is of the Tower Bridge.) After our hours of walking, we were getting peckish. Fish and chips was had and enjoyed by all. Yay! Anyways, that's basically the day. I just left out the part of the story where we went into a bookstore and made a bee-line for the history section ;-). What a super fun day. Today was totally my best London day. Thanks, CS! Next time I'm in London, I'm gonna make you walk all over with me again.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

A tourist in London.

This here is a sneak peak at part of my day yesterday. Scroll down for more visual delights!

Yesterday's adventures, in reverse chronological order (because I feel like it):

Sleep. Arrive home. Train back to Kew. Leave JDS and TC at Piccadilly Circus. See Chinatown. (The decorations are still up from New Year's celebrations on the weekend.) Finish dinner at Bar Shu and head out. Eat good, but strange (of course) Chinese food with JDS, TC, and various other married people. Pre-dinner drinks and (expensive) snacking at a pub in Soho. Walk to Soho. Leave the Eye, take more pictures. The LONDON EYE!! Line-up for tickets. Walk from Parliament across the Thames. ("Look! There's Big Ben. Isn't it cool?!") Meet up with JDS and TC outside Westminster Abbey. Stroll and down Whitehall---a street, not a building, which I should totally know since so many of my documents came from there! Am awed by Parliament. Leave the House of Lords. Conduct archival research . . . in the House of Lords. Neat, eh? Walk from Trafalgar to Westminster, in search of Victoria Tower. Marvel (quickly) at the sights, and make a mental note that I must come back for a leisurely stroll. Snap a picture of Canada House and the "Canadian Pacific" building. Take the requisite tourist photos. Join the throngs in Trafalgar Square for a few minutes. Arrive at the Square. Leave Victoria Park (I think that's what it was called). Stroll through a nice park just outside the underground station. Get off the tube at Embankment. Get on the District Line at Kew. Leave my house. Eat lunch and get ready to start my day. Return home and pay my landlady. Wait a LONG time for the train to depart for Kew. Cash my last travellers' cheques. Find the correct bank in Richmond. Get off the train at the end of the line (as in, the next stop). Finally get out of the house. Futz around for too long. Eat breakfast. Awake. Decide I don't want to wake up just yet and reset my alarm for an hour later. Alarm goes off; I press "snooze" a few times.

Here's the standard me-on-a-research-trip-with-a-pink-scarf-and-a-black-coat shot of me on the Eye.And here are a few other tourist photos, this time in proper chronological order. London is (obviously) totally beautiful. Washington and Ottawa ain't got nothing on it. (But, then, one can't seriously expect them too. So it's okay.)

Nelson's Column, Trafalgar Square"Canadian Pacific"Canada House (or that's what JDS and TC tell me it's called) Victoria Tower. To get to the Parliamentary Archives, go 'round to the right and into the first entrance past the guard. So cool!"The Women of World War II"---a different sort of war memorial along the stretch of Whitehall where there were a whole bunch of granite and bronze type things. The stereotypical "interesting" shot of that engineering feat, the Eye, looking up from the ground outside the ticket office. (It costs 14.50pounds to ride. Ouch! )The spicy chicken dish that was mostly peppers. Can you make them out?

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Dinner with Canucks.

After a long day at the archives I headed out to a Mews on Notting Hill for a good homemade dinner with JDS, TC, and their expat friends. It was a nice evening, and I only got a bit lost on my way there. For the past few hours I've been hard at work on the internet, chatting with HD about dissertation research and etc., and making plans for researching at the British Library Newspaper Reading Room later this week.

In the morning I will go into Richmond to get money to pay my landlady for the coming week, perhaps do a couple hours work at the National Archives, and then head over to Westminster for my appointment at the Parliamentary Archives. Afterward, I'm meeting JDS and TC, and we're going on a ride on the London Eye!!! And then dinner out. It will be an expensive day, for sure, but it should be a fun one. (And, seriously, what's a trip to London without blowing A LOT of cash?!)

And now I really must get to sleep, seeing as how it's after 2:30am over here. Oy.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Day of war.

Yes, that's right: today I did the Imperial War Museum, as promised. I took the tube out to the south shore of the Thames and made my way there without any difficulty. This city---the parts I've been to, at least---is very well signed and the underground is quite easy to navigate, despite there being about a trillion different lines going every which way. I don't always understand the heavier accents through the PA systems, but signs I can read! (Although I followed a sign that indicated "subway" yesterday, and instead of going to a tube station, I just ended up going under a road and out the other side of the street. A true sub-way, I suppose, but not quite what I was expecting.)

I was soon on my way up to the Department of Documents, a fancy name for a fancy round room near the top of the dome where researchers work with old bits of paper. I had 6 collections pulled and waiting for me. There was a small amount of useful material in them and I was done after about 2 hours.

After eating my sandwich in the cafeteria I decided to have a peek around the museum. Since it was so early I figured I might still be able to do some work at the National Archives before they closed. Alas, it was not to be. I should be realized. This is a war museum, after all, and my personal history with war museums has been to go through them very slowly. I rented the audio guide and bought a glossy brochure (all of which put me back 6pounds) and spent more than 5 hours walking around. It's a pretty good museum, though it was quite crowded today. (The kids are off school this week for half-term break.) And I now have visual evidence that the rubles I saw in the College Park archives were in fact from the North Russian (White) government---which I already knew, because it's written on the bills---but also that the bills looked almost exactly the same as the old imperial notes. How interesting. Earlier in the day I had read in a diary of a British officer stationed in Murmansk how unimpressed he was with the new currency issued by the anti-Bolshevik government because it resembled so closely that of the hated old regime. I saw examples of both currencies in the museum today, and he was right!

But anyway, I did most of the museum, skipping out on the paid exhibits---which looked like they would have been good to see, by the way---and running out of time to see the genocide/crimes against humanity section. But that's ok. I'd seen plenty for one day. It's certainly not for everyone, but as someone who researches war at least in some capacity, I always feel a certain responsibility to visit war museums and such. Maybe one day I'll go on a battlefields tour too!

After the museum I was too hungry and tired to check out the London Eye, but I did see it all lit up in the distance. I was home by 7pm and there was a ton of yummy green Thai curry and other things for me to pig out on. So I did. (I lucked out in this house, it seems, again.) And then I talked with TC for a couple minutes and we made plans to meet up for dinner tomorrow. Should be fun!

Tuesday it's back to the National Archives for me, and then on Wednesday afternoon I've got a research appointment at the Parliamentary Archives. Yes, at Westminster! There's only one document I want to see, but, heck, this way I get to go there. So it's totally worth it. After my few minutes of research is done I plan on being a tourist for the rest of the afternoon before meeting JDS and TC again for dinner, this time for a belated Chinese New Year's celebration.

Anyone up for some culture once I'm back in TO?

Before I tell you about my day, there's a couple things I'd love to see in March. Let me know if you want to join me, please. First is Chekhov's Vaudevilles, playing at Hart House 1-4 March; second is a Russian film, "The Amphibian Man."

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Surrounded by Europeans.

Smoke is so disgusting: I will never hang out around smokers ever. The reason? This morning I woke up with a headache and my outer garments still smelled like cigarettes, as did my hair. Ew gross, ew. So, anyways, after getting over my achyness and persuading myself that I really did need to leave the house I ventured out to London and took in the Tate Modern. Travelling was a bit more complicated than I anticipated because the underground line out here was closed "for planned engineering works" or something. Which meant I had to take a couple other trains (for which I'm not sure I even paid, since the system is apparently different) and do a bit of walking. But I eventually made my way across the Millennium Bridge (at the insistence of EC), saw the big church in the distance, and into the gallery.

It's pretty nice, though I wasn't totally blown away. They had a bunch of Rothkos and Jackson Pollocks and Andy Warhols, though, FN: you would have liked them! Warhol's Marilyn Monroe diptych is there. Oh, and there was a large Klimt lady, too! It was kinda neat to compare the different modern galleries I've been to recently. (Here, Washington, Minneapolis.) I think Minneapolis had the best one, though the Tate obviously has a more famous collection. There's also a big slide installation that people were going down (multi-floored slide). It looked like fun, but not the kind of thing I was prepared to do on my own. If I was with friends, I'd totally do it, though. Despite the huge lineups on each floor. And, no, I didn't pay 10pounds to see the Gilbert & George exhibit; I just did the free stuff.

My way home was similarly confused. Tube, then bus---I sat on the top of a double-decker!---then train. Normally, see, I'd be able to tube it all the way. Stupid engineering. But this way I did get to do the bus thing.

Today I decided that I much prefer painting and sculptures and the like to other forms of art. Maybe object-type displays are meaningful or whatever to some people but I just don't get it. I know, there's not anything I necessarily need to get. But for me, art is about mood. And an interesting piece of standard-type art can make me feel something or get me contemplative, etc. But objects generally don't have this effect. I mean, a handmade drain that looks exactly like a commercially-made, mass-produced drain might have me think, "well, this guy can make a realistic-looking drain," but not much else. Even with a black canvas there's more going on. I dunno. Maybe the stuff will grow on me. I'm prepared to keep giving it a chance since I really do like modern art galleries! Well, except all those stupid films that are screened in little darkened rooms with a few benches to sit on where you always walk into the middle of a showing and then quickly decide it's not worth hanging around. Whatever. I guess in the end it's all fine and it's all part of the postmodern experience ;-). Or something.

Here's my first attempt at a panorama shot. Looks like I messed up a bit with one of the five original photos, but you can still get a pretty good view of what I saw when I exited the gallery today. The church is St. Paul's and the pedestrian bridge is the Millennium one. On the left you can just make out Blackfriar's Bridge. The tube station I used today is just beyond that.

Tomorrow I'm off to the Imperial War Museum's archives. I hope also to have a chance to look around the museum after my research is done. Should be fun! Actually, on Saturday at the National Archives I came across some material that had to do with setting up the museum's collections at the end of the First World War. (A printed booklet thing from 1919 outlining what had been gathered and what was still wanted.) Which makes good sense; the museum was set up a year later.

Two more pics. The first one is for EC; the second was something I only noticed because I wondered what was occupying such a lovely building. Can you see the name on it? It's nothing like the one in downtown Toronto . . . .
Oh, right, and what's with my title? Well, this place is of course full of tourists, but here most of the tourists are European, which is a bit different for me. I've never heard so much funny-sounding English (UK versions of various kinds), German, French-French, Russian, other Slavic languages, Scandinavian ones, etc., all in one place. It's weird, too, because it's so heavily white. Hmm. But that's just what I experienced today in two hours downtown, so don't take my word for it.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

I smell like smoke . . . and probably old paper.

Ugh. People can still smoke here in bars. How vile. And so of course I was also surrounded by people puffing and it's quite disgusting. I hear that in April all this will change and London will join the civilized world. Sigh.

So, yeah, this evening I went with the girl who rents the room above me to a bar in Richmond (a city just outside London and near Kew). It was fine, but the people weren't nearly as entertaining as my Toronto friends. Also, tequila is gross, but the lemon actually does help. I did, however, get up the nerve to dance! (First time since DC.) Afterwards we hit up the local food mart (Tesco) for some munchies. I bought Digestives! Yes, the real kind!! Yay.

But the most exciting this today was of course the archives. It's open on Saturdays, unlike the College Park archives, and so of course I couldn't not go. I admit it: I am an archives junkie. In fact, last night I was thrilled thinking how I might get to go to the Parliamentary Archives at Westminster for a spot of dissertation-related research. Too cool, that.

After work my housemate and I had a lovely dinner together (yes, a Kew version of FN!). Red Thai curry: mmm. Oh, and with some kind of Indonesian fruit salad and regular salad (my specialty). Yummy all 'round.

My brain is a bit scattered at the moment, so apologies for the lack of chronological sense of this posting. But now I will tell you about how yesterday I discovered that the man I've been sitting next to at the archives since Wednesday is a prof. in Kingston, Ontario! I mean, what are the odds? I asked him yesterday morning where he was from---I figured he was American because he didn't have an accent when he said "hello" to me---but no, "Canada." "Oh! Me too." Crazy. It's almost like I'm not even overseas ;-). We've chatted a bit over lunch the past couple of days, and it's nice to have a bit of human contact to break up a day of flipping through old pages.

I must tell you all more about my research adventures another time. Now I must away to bed. I am going to try my darndest to do the tourist thing tomorrow!

Friday, February 16, 2007

Photos of my way home, attempt # 2.

First up, a mail box . . . or, more precisely, a post post. I believe mail is delivered by the Royal Mail, and that the Post Office 'round these parts is a private company where you can do a bit of banking, mailing, or get a phone plan. Or something. Bizarre.Next up is a telephone booth. What's that show called? Dr. what?Here's a shot of the busy (for Kew) tree-lined street I walk along each day to and from the archives. That glowing yellow box thing is I think an indication that pedestrians can cross the street there. The green fence is part of the crossing system. Crossing the street (legally) is a bit of a process. You can see more of the crosswalk system in the next picture. To cross, pedestrians press a button on a box that tells them to either "WAIT" or "WALK" (and there are also crossing signals kinda like the ones back home). Also, I swear all the cars here look like new. Shiny and clean. Must be all the rain and lack of dirty snow and salt . . . .This is a tree that has no business growing outside in February anywhere in the north. I am wierded out by this tree/plant/alien posing as flora.Penultimately, I bring you an example of a street sign. Unlike everywhere I've been in North America, where most signs are raised on poles at so they are clearly visible (well, as long as the signs are big enough), the ones I've seen here are either on the sides of buildings near corners or propped up to sit a few feet above the ground. How quaint!Finally (yes, you've reached the end of my walk home), here's a not-so-great shot of the house where I'm staying. It's much nicer in real life, and it's huge. Also, it has a name. A name!*Addendum later this evening . . .*

Continuing my theme of photographing the cats I stay with on my research trips (usually while they are snoozing on my bed), here's Snuggles. Or, I think that's his name. He's lovely but a bit pudgy. It happens to the best of us. ;-)

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Which side do I walk on here?

This is the question that bothers me every time I approach another human being in this country: to which side should I veer? In North America, the answer is always, "to the right," unless the person approaching you is stupid and doesn't know walking etiquette. But here? In a subway (tube/underground) tunnel, I saw a sign that told me to "keep left," which makes sense since this is the side of the street that cars drive on. But the reason I'm not convinced about local ways is that I get the feeling that sometimes people here want to do it my way, and not the other way. Hmm. Seriously, this is making me a little crazy. I don't want to appear a fool! Any help with this would be most appreciated. ;-)

I forgot to mention in yesterday's post that when I got to the British Red Cross office, my contact took me up to the library instead of to the archives. The reason? The archives---located in the basement---were flooded! I don't think there was very much water down there, but still. What a potential disaster for us historians! Let's hope that at some point the records will be moved. Perhaps a group like this one will take an interest. (Please note that I don't mean to denigrate the British Red Cross or its staff members; I just hope there wasn't any damage to the holdings.)

But, anyways, back to me. Today I spent many hours at the National Archives flipping through some of the Paris peace conference volumes, the records of the Vladivostok consulate, and other pertinent records. I didn't find a whole lot of direct interest, but there was more good Canadian Red Cross material and a smattering of other things. I'm going to go back there tomorrow.

I am in Europe! How cool is that, eh? Before this week, I hadn't been to London since I was about 10 years old, and I hadn't been overseas since I was 16. It was definitely about time I came back. Too bad I feel the need to do work here. I know I'm an archives nerd and all, but it would be great to spend two weeks just being a tourist!

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Double the archives, double the . . . something.

Clearly, I am not as good a photographer as Alex, and need to actually use settings other than automatic when shooting. (Making a mental note of that right now.) But, I figured you might want a (blurry, poor) visual of what Kew looked like this evening on my walk home from the archives. So here goes, the first pic without flash, the second with:Anyways, enough of that. I am ashamed and will try better next time.

This morning I had a rough time getting out of bed. I slept for an hour or two before my alarm went off at 7:30am and I really didn't want to wake up. But I had an appointment to keep! So I eventually persuaded myself to get up and eat and pack myself lunch. I made it to the underground station and then started a very long ride on the District line. The underground is really awesome, but damn expensive. It's confusing at first glance, but the stations are well signed so I haven't had any problem getting around. Also, once in town there are stations all over the place so it would be challenging to actually get stranded in this city. I made it to the British Red Cross office at Moorgate only, ahem, 35 minutes late! But it was fine, and there really was very little for me to see. I was done by 1pm and then completely forgot that I was supposed to call a couple friends of mine. I only remembered once I was half-way back to Kew. Ah well. Perhaps seeing them isn't meant to be . . . .

Since it was only just after 2pm when I reached Kew Gardens station I figured I might as well be productive and so I headed off to the National Archives. It's a nice facility and so different from both Library and Archives Canada and the National Archives at College Park. Interesting, that. And thus completes my plan to research in the national archives of the Anglo-Atlantic world this winter! (Even though it's really not anything like winter in London. Today was rainy/dry and +9 celcius or so.)

After the archives closed I walked over to the local retail park to check out Marks and Spencer. I bought a few more things to eat and then came home. A long, productive day in terms of getting stuff done, but I didn't get that much of use in terms of the research I conducted. But . . . I find excellent stuff on the Canadian Red Cross in Siberia in my last few minutes at the National Archives, material that I totally could have used for my MA, and will now hopefully use to good effect in current/future projects. Yay! Tomorrow it's back to the NA for more discoveries.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007


I'm here! London is cool. Kew is way cute. Things are good.

My transatlantic flight was uneventful. I sat beside and chatting with a Canadian PhD student in engineering at Cambridge University. So that was nice. But we didn't get to sleep much on the plane because we kept getting fed! Seriously, people: big sandwich at midnight and then enormous breakfast at 4:30am (Toronto time). With drinks a few times. I was so stuffed when I got off the plane that I didn't eat anything until I had a snack at 7:30pm London time. (So, 9 hours later.)

Heathrow was not a problem, especially after I changed out of my winter gear. It is MUCH warmer here than in Toronto. I got bad advice from the information counter at the airport, but no biggie. I ended up walking around part of downtown London for a few hours, taking in the sights, etc. Oh, and taking the underground, so I'm totally ok with that now. My adventures ended at the American Express office on Kensington High Street, after which I headed out to Kew to check out the archives before I could go to my new (temporary) home.

After settling in and taking a shower (which felt really good!), I walked to the village to get provisions (read: food). This is a really nice little area. I went to sleep at 8pm figuring I might sleep through the night, but no such luck. Six hours later I was awake again, but that's ok. And . . . I have internet here! Now all I have to do is get over this jetlag.

In the morning (once the sun comes up) I have an appointment at the British Red Cross archives, which is in downtown London. Wish me luck! And let's hope the snow stops in Toronto and the rain stops here. Best to everyone back in North America.

P.S. At the suggestion of TC I added a counter. He seems to think that the site get a lot of hits . . . but he will soon find out the truth! Also, the counter is ugly . . . hmm. Whatev.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

London less than a day away.

I am London-bound in less than 24 hours' time and am a bit nervous about it.

Today was spent doing laundry, planning for my trip, wasting time, and visiting with LG. Poor him: he's not doing so well at the moment, but I'm sure he'll be better soon. I best be off to bed soon so I can get up and run last-minute errands tomorrow before heading off to the airport at around 8pm. Wish me luck!

Saturday, February 10, 2007


The conference was really great this afternoon. I skipped out on the morning sessions to sleep in and spent time with the various people living in my apartment (either temporarily or permanently). The Dutch people left for Hunstville, Ontario around 10am. Have a great time in Canada, EH and D!!

After a good lunch at the conference and catching up with some historian friends and one of my supervisors, I took in two excellent panels on gender, sexuality, imperialism, etc. All the papers were really interesting and quite varied within the conference themes. Very inspiring and impressive all 'round. I think I should be involved in organizing next year's conference. I think it would be a very rewarding experience, and important for keeping the conference going. (Not that there wouldn't be other people to do it, but you know.)

It's also been really interesting to see the students/recent grads who are a few years ahead of me and very impressive. Impressive in so many different ways. They were always smart and warm and stylish people, but I think they've gotten more so since I first met them. At least, I hope so, because it gives me hope for my own growth over the next few years!! Seriously, though, they are awesome, and I have high hopes for them are individuals and scholars. What a great crew they are. I wish them well on the job market.

While I'm on the subject of impressive history students, there are others, of course. But most of the grad students who are involved in things around the department are women. Some of the men are lovely and involved and marvelous, but they are very few. I find this sad and inexplicable. Why don't more men want to join in and make the department a better place for us all? It's so rewarding and great fun for those of us who do things. Oh well.

At the end of the last session I hung around long enough to be offered food leftovers. I swear this wasn't my plan, but it worked out great. I came home with tons of stuff, enough to feed (with a couple additions) four of us dinner tonight. I know this is a little iffy, but thanks, conference organizers! We very much appreciated it, and our guests were jealous of what good catering us historians get.

After dinner we watched "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind." That's such a good movie. Very unexpected.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Day 1 of conference fun and visitors from across the ocean.

This morning I got up at the ungodly hour (for Toronto, not for College Park) of 7:30am to make sure I got to the department in time for breakfast and to man the registration table at the conference. PM and I did the meet-greet/take your money thing for a couple hours, which was mostly fun. (Especially when he called me an "ice queen"! Was that in response to something I said, or does he just generally get that impression from me? Hmm. What do you think?) It's been a long day, but generally a good one. After several interesting conference sessions and lots of brief chats with fellow historians (yay!) I came home pretty tired and ready for a nap. But there's no time for sleep!

I ditched the historians---a chunk of them went for sushi (yum)---to be home in time to meet my Dutch friend EH (and her Dutch friend travelling with her) who flew in from the Netherlands for a winter trip to Canada. They were much more tired than I was at this point, having been awake for nearly 24 hours by the time dinner was eaten and the bed made. Oy. Despite their tiredness I hope their trip got off to a good start in Toronto! It's great to see EH in person again.

I could have gone back to school to party it up with the conference attendees but decided I had better things to do. (And, believe me, this is saying something: I usually can't be kept away from a history party!) Also, I was tired. I'm sure it went great without me there . . . (though I secretly think it would have gone better with me there). And I'm only half-joking. ;-)

Tomorrow I'll be up early to hang out with the Nether-folk currently asleep on my futon. I'm planning on taking in more of the conference in the afternoon if I can---the papers look really interesting!---but we'll see how things go.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Fancy me.

It always surprises me how much prep work there is to do before a research trip. Maybe the next trip I take I won't be as surprised because I will have learned my lesson: do everything a week in advance of departure so you're not running around (electronically running around) when you should be chilling before a trans-Atlantic flight!

Anyways, things will be fine, and I'm mostly organized. I now have appointments at the British Red Cross archives and the Imperial War Museum (Department of Documents), and am also set to visit the British Library (and the BL Newspaper Library) and the National Archives. Phew! I've also found some more interesting material on the National Archives website, so I'm definitely looking forward to getting a look at this stuff.

This afternoon I went and got my hair cut. This was a necessary thing since my hair has just not been working for me since late January. (How I know it hasn't been working for me is that I have been wearing it up more often than I should be.) The bad news is that my hairdresser is moving to London in March, but the good news is that I have good hair again. And today she straightened it instead of curling it as usual. The reason? It's winter, and I wear a toque outside, so any fancy styling would just get smooshed. (That's not a word, Blogger tells me, but you know what I mean.) It turns out I like the straight look. It's pretty nifty. And to prove to myself later on that I like it, I took a pic of myself before I headed off to sit at High Table at Massey:
Cool, eh?

Anyways, so, yeah: High Table. Tonight was my turn---as a new Junior Fellow---to sit up there amongst the fancy people and be introduced to the community. It was fun, but mostly because the food was fine and the conversation fairly interesting. (Good dinner companions are obviously key.) After dinner I got to talk with a few of the Masseyites I hadn't seen in a long time. It was nice to see them again, and I feel good about the place again. Maybe I will apply to be a fellow next year. Hmm. It's an odd place, but it has its charms.

I'm going to head to bed soon because I've got an early day tomorrow. I'm helping out at the conference and have to be there by 9am! Should be fun, and maybe I'll get to show off my straight hair . . . .

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Just doing the PhD thing.

Yesterday and today I saw a whole lots of history grad students I hadn't seen in a long time. It was nice. And then last night HD came over for dinner and to go over some history stuff with me. It was good to get that over with, and good for her to show me how to make much better use of the UK national archives website than I had been.

This afternoon I ran off to the Munk Centre to hold office hours for the class I'm grading for. A handful of students actually came in to talk about their essays, so it wasn't a complete bust like it might have been. And I spoke with one of my supervisors (who has an office just down the hall from where I was) for a few minutes. Good to catch up with him. We gossiped a bit and talked about research a bit less.

Afterwards it was time for me to perform . . . well, participate in a show-and-tell session about the note-taking program I use. (This one, which I generally recommend, but it depends.) It was great to learn about some of the other programs that my peers are using. Very worthwhile, and kudos to HD for actually organizing the session! She rocks when it comes to stuff like this.

Hopefully I will have a bit more time to hang out with historians later this week at our grad student conference. It should be fun!

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Tired and so not wanting to travel again.

I'm leaving for London next Monday. This is very soon. I feel like I just got back! Sigh. Oh well.

This week's been pretty busy with school and life stuff, and it's only going to get busier between now and Saturday. Double sigh.

Anyways, life is generally good apart from having too many disparate things to do.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Party Saturday.

JR is in town this weekend so I got to hang out with him yesterday. Yay! (He has a week off from his teaching gig in small-town NY.) We met up here and then after chatting for a bit, headed off to Yonge St. for a spot of shopping and to meet up with a couple of his Bryn Mawr friends at one of the many Starbucks downtown. After that we went back to my place and then walked down to Bloor St. for some Thai curry. Yummy.

It was quite chilly out yesterday, so we---or at least I---felt hardy braving the windchill, but not hardy enough to take in an outdoor concert. Instead, we went to SM's birthday party. Fun times. SM, like all the Russianists, is super fun. After lots of talking and laughing and a couple shots of vodka ("when in Rome," you know) I was home again by 1am. And so very tired.

I missed JR. We have a great time together, and it was nice to catch up . . . and hear all his exciting news!

This morning/early afternoon I decided to weatherproof our windows. I've done two so far, and I think that's it for my household handiwork for this weekend. The first window should be ok. but the one in my room is sooooo drafty that I think the tape will get blown off soon. Darn it. I mean, getting rid of the drafts is the whole point! Sigh.

Today is Superbowl Sunday. Go Colts! Or Bears! Or whatever.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

I smell like curry.

In College Park the closest I got to curry was when the bus passed by Curry Lane on the way to and from the archives. The whole month was pretty much all about white-people food. Which is fine, but, well, boring.

Toronto is awesome these days. It's cold but manageable. On Thursday evening, after a yummy dinner with FN, I headed off to history pub night to catch up with people I hadn't seen in many weeks. It was fun! That crew of first-year PhDs and MAs are quite entertaining. And it was nice to see HD again . . . with a very chic new look!

Friday my body decided at about 7am that it was time to wake up, so I did. I finished some household errands and after an un-filling breakfast, FN and I went down to Chinatown---Toronto has a real Chinatown, unlike DC's completely un-Chinatown-like Chinatown---for dim sum (good!) and then shopping for provisions in Kensington Market (fun!). We parted ways so I could walk to school to check my mail---there was one thing after a month away---and go buy myself Wordperfect. I hate hate hate Word and I love Wordperfect. I walked home from school with a silly grin on my face because I ran into friends at the department (as usual) and JDS at Robarts! I must hang out with her and TC soon. I miss them!

Once home it was nearly time to start cooking for FN's dinner party. It took about 3 hours but she made really excellent Indian dishes from the cookbook she wanted from me for Xmas. I stayed long enough to eat my fill and then dashed off to go watch Harry Potter 4 with LG. He accused me of being a social butterfly, which I guess is quite true. Especially since my weekend is pretty solidly booked. Sigh. But yay.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Good to be home.

Ok, I'm convinced: the Annex is totally the place to be. College Park and J were excellent, but they just can't beat life in Toronto. I went out for groceries this evening, and (of course) ran into a friend on Bloor St. This almost always happens. So TC2 and I walked home together, him telling me about his research and life in Germany, and me about my adventures at NARA and in DC. I love historians!

On the plane yesterday I sat beside a woman who lives a few blocks away, and we agreed about the awesomeness of the Annex. And speaking of seat-mates, why is it that I always manage to find myself beside interesting people on my flights to and fro? Yesterday's seat-mate is a documentary/non-fiction producer/director who once made a documentary about women during the First World War. She and a few other people on the flight were returning from a television conference in DC. It was very nice talking to her, though it meant I didn't get to read any more of my supervisor's book. (Bad me. Especially since I didn't read very much of it in January.) I hope that I enjoy my job---once I get one---as much as she and her husband enjoy theirs.

Well, anyways, back to life.

Five things you might not know about me.

Because E tagged me . . . .

  1. I used to be shy, and when I did the Myers-Briggs test years ago, it told me I was an introvert. (Which wasn't surprising in the least back then.)
  2. I've almost certainly seen every single episode of "Star Trek: The Next Generation," "Star Trek: Deep Space Nine," and "Star Trek: Voyager." And I watched them on TV, not on DVD (which is why I'm not absolutely sure I've seen them all).
  3. I like Arnold Schwarzenegger movies. I watched two that I hadn't seen before with J in College Park last month, plus one that I'd seen a few times already.
  4. When I was a kid I lived in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania for three years. Our house was on the Indian Ocean.
  5. I still haven't left the house today yet.
Do I have to tag people now?

Back in the Annex.

I'm baa-aack! After a long day of researching, packing, and travelling yesterday, I'm now back home and trying to organize my life. First up: opening a months' worth of mail. Next I need to finish unpacking and get myself down to Bloor St. so I can get provisions.

It's definitely colder here in Canada's largest city than it was in DC. There's even snow on the ground! How nifty.

My social/work calendar is filling up fast, folks, so book me soon. (I sound like an ass writing that, but it's true!)

I'm glad to be back, but I miss the structure of life in College Park. Maybe this is a sign I need to get me some structure. Hmm.

Oh, and yesterday at the archives I found money in a couple boxes. Russian rubles. Neat, eh? Here's one 5-ruble bill (front and back) from 1918: