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again: Home safe

[Comments] (2) Can't see further than my own nose: Wow, I was apparently really lazy about posting when I was back in the States... I have halfway unpacked and now my room looks like a tornado hit it. Where will all the stuff gooo??

[Comments] (1) Holiday highlights, in more or less chronological order:

[Comments] (2) Maybe I can blame it all on jet lag.: It looks sunny outside. But I am not fooled. I know it's a trap. You think, ahh, what a lovely day, then you go outside and FREEEZE! No thanks.

In other news, I am so vair vair tired as Georgia would say. I think I am coming down with something and couldn't sleep last night for a scratchy throat, forcing me to resort to nyquil, which would account for the drugged feeling I have. Went to brunchie and there was nothing worth eating so I made yet another pbj. They used to have lovely baguettes at brunch, whatever happened to that, now it is just the endless english breakfast. Save our souls.

Still. To workie.

: My new job is going great. My supervisor was "exceptionally pleased" with my historiography. I am 95% sure moving into a flat in seven sisters. Now I'm off to the IWM for some research. Life is pretty good right now.

I am moving: Attempting to pack, and wondering if my stuff has learned to procreate or where did it all come from?

[Comments] (2) By foot it's a slow climb: Just to let you all know that I am still alive and have not actually dropped off the face of the planet. It's just that my new flat doesn't have internet (yet!) and I have been too busy to actively seek it out, till now. Well actually I am still too busy but it was getting ridiculous! I am too addicted to go so long without checking email. Anyway: my new flat is amazing and Aleks is here for her visit. We have lots of fun running aroud doing things. I have been meeting her for evenings after my work at the Imperial War Museum but tonight we are going to take it easy and go to bed early! Hopefully soon I will be able to catch up on everyone's blogs, etc.

When I come back you'll know: Only to say that we have internet in the flat. Charley and I are heading to Rome early tomorrow, whee! After that it is back to the grind. Have hardly had two moments to think this whole month from working hard and playing hard. My friend Aleks was here for a week and we had a blast, I really love the new flat and now that there is internet in residence hopefully I won't be such a stranger. Byeee!!!

[Comments] (1) I need to start paying attention (underground version): I accidentally got on the northern line at euston yesterday. How, I have no idea. It was a complete surprise to me when I ended up in Camden town and had to backtrack. Then today TWICE I looked up from my book to see we'd made it all the way to my stop without me noticing.

: Wow, it's bed time, and I still haven't done two very important things I meant to do this weekend: type up my IWM handwritten notes and write about Rome before it goes the way of Belfast. (no link there because I still haven't done it.) How does this happen? I did spend the afternoon in the worthy task of back-uping up my files since I have been happily reunited with my external hard drive, and clearing out space to make room for some things essential to planned projects on my computer. And trying to work out why Zotero wasn't working, something in my mozilla profile (what words! I've had quite an education) is broken and until I figure out what, I have no bookmarks or anything, but at least I have my research notes. However. An equal amount of time was spent chatting on gmail. In conclusion, I fail, so it's straight back here tomorrow for laundry and writing.

It's a good thing this woman never had to experience modern air travel:

After the most maddening delays at last we got on board. Our passports had to be inspected our luggage passed through the customs, our passports inspected again and yet a third time as we stepped on board. At this end our passports were again inspected and stamped and we had to fill in a card stating our reason for coming to England and as I came from Belgrade my home address had to be taken as well – some idea about my coming from a locality where there was infectious diseases. Then the customs and finally the train.

[Comments] (1) My voting experience: http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/584697/super_tuesday_voting_from_london_in.html

Henry Fitch, My Mis-Spent Youth: A naval journal: I leave you with this interesting tidbit, brought to you by the British Library and see-through plastic bags.

One day the Admiral sent me out to General Jivkovitch to demonstrate a trench periscope and to tell him that, if the Serbians wished, we would order 20,000 from home. The General, who was seated in a leafy hut in the garden of his headquarters, spent a pleasant afternoon putting the periscope round the door-post and startling approaching Staff officers by speaking to them before they actually appeared in sight. It became his inseparable plaything. He went into the town to take tea with a well-known hostess. When she apologized for her late appearance he said, "It is quite all right, Madame, I saw you bathing in your courtyard – by means of this little toy with which the English have presented me." My propagandist mission was a failure.

[Comments] (3) Sympathetic tears: Probably I am too sensitive if someone posting senior cat food on freecycle makes me want to cry.

Pointy: All roads lead to Rome.

Happy Valentine's Day everyone: that is all.

[Comments] (6) Damned if you do, damed if you don't: [In which the muddled thoughts about these "troubles" come forward] I am not a political scientist. I am not a contemporary history. I am not what anyone could consider an expert on this topic. I am, however, more educated about south-eastern Europe in general and Serbia specifically than your average person, and I do have an opinion. What follows is my opinion.

To start with, I don't think there's any right answer to the situation in Kosovo. I have thought about this and worried and puzzled long and hard, probably unnecessarily because even if I did think up a solution there's nothing I could do about it. But I don't think there IS a solution, unlike the Kosovars who think independence is the answer and the Serbs who emphatically think it's NOT. That by definition means there is no solution. That said, the entire thing is going much better than I imagined it would. This is because, being a First World War history student, I imagined the Serbian reaction as what it would have been 90 years ago. These are the people who walked across the mountains of Albania and Montenegro rather than surrender, half of them dropping dead from exposure and starvation in the process. To say they are not very good at giving up would be a bit of an understatement. So you can imagine why I was very worried indeed. It looks as though my fears were somewhat misplaced. I really hope that's true.

I think a lot of people in the west, particularly Americans, misunderstand the situation in Kosovo, for a number of reasons. Another disclaimer, aside from my non-expert status: I love Serbia. I love being in Serbia, I love talking to Serbs, I love the culture and the food and the scenery. While I enjoyed my time in Albania, I don't have the same warmth of feeling for the place as I do for Serbia, and I've never been to Kosovo. That does not mean, however, that I can't recognize national flaws and destructive politics when I see them, and it's kinda hard not to see that when looking at Serbia. (And maybe I should also mention that I'm being trained in a profession where distance from bias is not only desirable but necessary.) But I do believe the Serbs have been portrayed unfairly in Western media. I know that the average American's opinion of Serbia is definitely not favorable. There's a very simple logical reason for that and it goes back to the propaganda poster I once wrote an essay about for my AP European History class, or probably much farther. You have to demonize a people if you want your population to support a war against them, so if we were going to bomb Serbia, they had to be the bad guys. So no one's going to talk about the ethnic violence that goes both ways, then and now, and no one's going to mention that the population imbalance in Kosovo is at least partly due to Serbians leaving the area because of violence against them, and the huge gap in birth rates between Serbians and Kosovars. No one's going to try and understand that Kosovo declaring Independence would be like Philadelphia and Washington D.C. declaring independence from the US. The national mythology may be just that but unfortunately in these matters, truth is less important than function (this is the problem historians face all the time when they try to dismantle traditional national histories).

I suppose to a lot of people is it a clear cut matter of self-determination. 90% of the population in Kosovo want independence, so they should have it. Wilsonian ideology is still going strong, and it sounds pretty in theory but put on a map -- not so much. The idea of self-determination caused more trouble is areas of mixed population than I like to imagine. Nationalism is responsible for as much violence and hatred as other destructive ideologies such as imperialism and fundamentalism... It's frustrating because it shouldn't be necessary for different ethnicities to have their own nation. The US may not be perfect but we are managing to more or less get along with all kinds of people as our citizens. The only reason other places with mixed populations can't do the same is because they're manipulated by age-old ideas that says they can't get along, they can't forgive the past and certain factions won't let them forget that "they" killed "your" grandfather. I wish everyone would go read Hobsbawn's Nations and Nationalism and realise what is important is not this constructed identity that is, at the very base of it, a political tool, but the more day-to-day realities of jobs, family, neighbors, and quality of life.

This is what makes me such an optimistic Europeanist. Not because I believe in the ideology of a greater Europe or something like that, but because it's quite clear that the only thing keeping a lot of people from tearing apart their neighbors with their bare hands is if they have something to gain economically from NOT doing so. Peace for economic gain might not be a pretty as peace for the sake of peace, but it has a better chance of sticking around. If the EU can bring peace to the Balkans then I'm all for it, whatever the inconveniences or criticisms may be. Maybe other areas will follow this lead. The fact that at least 50% of Serbs think it's more important to have better relations with the West and opening doors to EU membership than to hang on to a backwater province, whatever the emotional baggage, tell me that it working. Now if only the other 50% would hurry along.

I'm sure it was a very small fire: Things are getting a bit worse is Serbia, causing much nail-biting and worrying of worriers. Come on guys. Let's not get too out of hand.... Yow.

I advise you to read the weblog of my friend Kent who has been in Novi Sad since September. His observations and on-the-ground reporting are way more interesting than anything I could say.

[Comments] (1) As per request: Wishlist

World peace. But I'll settle for peace in the Balkans.
Flight to Athens and/or Prague
Microchip for Tonks
Foyles gift certificate
Casablanca DVD zone 1
A nice set of waterproof, multi-colored ink pens
Something like this
Or this

Brevity:
Me: do you think this sounds like a good paper proposal: Stabbed in the back: the Balkan League and British/Serbian attitudes towards neutrality in 1915
Susie: why write a paper, the title says it all

[Comments] (1) Curses! foiled again!: I've just realized that one of my travel goals -- to visit every country in the former Yugoslavia -- has been UNCHECKED from my list!

How dare they! If for no other reason than this!

[Comments] (3) Where I go, earthquakes follow: Totally felt this. The jiggly bits woke me up. But then I thought, I'm in London, must have been my dream, and went back to sleep!!

Blah: The grant I was planning on applying for to go back to Serbia this summer doesn't cover language tuition. How did I miss that?

Would you like some ketchup with that chip?: Here with L. a great time so far. Unrelatedly I feel like everyday I am learning more about British culture. Apparently leap day is the day where it's "okay" for women to propose to men. Like pancake day, I had to listen to a couple of references feeling like I was missing something I really should know about before someone explained it to me. Not even wikipedia knows the whole story, but that postcard is awesome, and supposedly if your proposee turns you down he owes you a present! great way to amass presents. Actually I feel a romance novel coming on. And one more random fact that I now know about, so I can feel more part of the gang one four years from now. If I'm still here.

In other news I have also now become one of those people who refer to wikipedia for everything. I tried to resist, it's just sooo ... easy.

[Comments] (2) I would marry a Bridgerton. Totally.: I've been chastened for not updating my blog enough. Well. I have two things to say: 1. I'm getting old and 2. Romance is in the air. Evidence of both of these things: two best friends, Chris and Jessica, and getting married. Insane, right? Well it would be, except that they're perfect for each other.

Unrelatedly, I have recently become addicted to Julia Quinn romance novels, thanks to my new best friend Jenn. I imagine Jodena Burzlaff must feel a bit like Lady Bridgerton does at the end of all eight books, her ducks in a row and her chickens married off. Or something. Except that in regency times, we'd all be reaching the end of our shelf life instead of just beginning it.

Update: OMG Julia Quinn just added me as a friend on facebook!! Like seriously for reals!!

Happy Birthday: to little Maggie. I can't believe it's been a year!

Normally you don't squee in the British Library. Unless you're me:

One of the young nurses in this hospital was, literally, the finest living model of womanhood I have ever seen. On a hot still night of August, just before sailing for England, she suggested a last bathe under the cliffs about a mile away. Our exit from the compound was a stealthy business, and so unpremeditated that we had no time to seek out our bathing costumes. We swam in the calm, warm waters of the Aegean, clad only as the ancient Greeks were clad, and afterwards we lay on the sand to dry and talked of many things. Then we resumed our uniforms and crept back through the line of sentries to our respective quarters….And that was all.
--Henry Fitch, My Mis-Spent Youth (I'll say)

[Comments] (4) Where I am : right now

[Comments] (1) La la la la la : So far my day has consisted of: opening Amazon packages, very very exciting; working on my proposal revisions, not quite so exciting; maybe a little tiny bit of lazing about. Possibly a nap. It is my birthday after all.

When I finish revising I'm going to go for a jog/walk, then get ready to meet Jenn for dinner in Camden Town. We're going to a ceilidh! Should be fun.

Hm I've just noticed the time stamp thinks its daylight savings time in the UK. It isn't yet!

[Comments] (2) So close yet so far: MY CHEETOS ARE TRAPPED IN A POST OFFICE THAT CLOSED ONE MINUTE AGO!!!

Also: Review of Lonely Planet's Berlin Encounter Travel Guide

[Comments] (2) But do you have footnotes?: Yes as Susie so keenly observes, I am alive. Barely.

In the depths of sickie, hoping to be inspired, I picked up a book that was delivered (or not, I had to run to the post office twice to get it. RUN. TWICE.) via parcel force from my loving sister, who may or may not have "opened in to make sure it was what she ordered." Yes! The long-awaited fourth installment of The Pink Carnation series. Once again I am struck by jealousy of not only Lauren Willig, who seems to be able to churn out novels and get them published while completing JDs AND PhDs in History from Harvard and holding down jobs in law firms (explain that one to me) but her heroine Eloise, who manages to succeed in areas where I can hardly hold a candle, including dressing cutely, getting grants, exposing secret agents in dusty archives, convincing good-looking heirs to allow research weekends in their family archives in charming Sussex estates, and landing dates with said good-looking heirs. But I am getting closer, people. I spent ALL DAY in the British Library. (I went to a training day for history postgraduates). I HANDLED Sylvia Pankhurst's toilet paper roll! (On which she wrote letters to be smuggled out of prison.) The manuscripts curator happened upon that little gem in their recent acquisitions. I might not be Eloise Kelly, but I'm a hell of a lot closer to it than I was 3 years ago when I first picked up the advanced reader copy of The Secret History of the Pink Carnation in the break room at Russo's.

[Comments] (5) My weekend, an essay, by me. : This weekend was a double bank holiday. I think it's so weird that here we have Good Friday and Easter Monday off work and in the US, where people are much more religious generally, there's no holiday at all. Separation of church and state I guess. Go figure.

This weekend was also my first paid time off ever! I normally work Tuesdays and Fridays but last week I was so sick I didn't even think about it till I went in for the first day on Thursday. But they just said not to worry about it since I would receive bank holidays in proportion to how much I work anyway and sick leave too! WOW! This whole getting paid not to work is totally new to me.

To celebrate the bank holidays and also make up for the fact that Christina fell ill so her visit and our joint birthday celebration in Prague fell through, I went with my friend Jenn to stay at her parents house in a small village in Norwich. Her parents work at a DODDS school at a nearby USAF base. This is very exciting because it meant we could go there and buy American things. Technically, that shouldn't happen, so I won't tell you about the iPod shuffle (for running! Galinda dies after about 20 minutes these days), pair of jeans, enormous jar of Skippy, bags of cheetos, and other American goods that I didn't buy, in dollars and tax free. Yippee! It was kinda like being in a really crappy stateside mall, but you know, beggars can't be choosers. Actually it was really great. Being in an American grocery store and knowing I could buy whatever I wanted and not have to carry it on a plane. Wheat Germ, Cream of Wheat, hot sauce, goldfish, etc etc etc.

I spend most of the weekend meeting random people, easter dinners and pampered chef parties, snuggling with Jenn's dog, watching Pride and Prejudice and reading Julia Quinn novels. All very healthy activities I assure you! We had big plans about running and bike riding but it snowed all weekend so it wasn't really good weather for stuff like that. The snow as the most amazing snow I've ever seen! I always thought the snowflake image was some kind of myth but actually... these snowflakes were huge!! Inches big! I've never seen anything like it! But I am from California and easily impressed. Charming I'm sure. It was really nice to be in a home for a while, with yearbooks and 10th grade English projects lying around, baths and endless cups of tea. It was also nice to be surrounded by yee merrie green hills of england with charming village greens and stone churches and cute pubs and what not. I loved just gazing at the woods as we drove through them. Jenn kept saying it wasn't the prettiest time of year to be there but it was beautiful to me! I mean, I love London but all this constant citying makes me really appreciate countryside and open skies when I see them. I guess growing up in the middle of nowhere I can't really do without that for too long. It's like sunshine. I always took it for granted when I lived in California. Being here makes me appreciate it soo much more. I really notice when the sun is out.

Unfortunately for us they tend to use bank holidays for engineering works, so we had to take a circuitous route to get back to London. However ten minutes into the train journey and the ticket lady told us our tickets weren't good since they were through Cambridge and because the rails are privatized (boo hiss Thatcherites) it's a separate company operating the route we were planning on. But the line from Cambridge to London was being worked on! So in the end we had to get off at Ely, sit on a rail replacement bus for 2 hours, and then get on another train at Royston which took us to King's Cross. Actually it wasn't too bad. The bus wasn't anything luxurious, just a requisitioned double decker but because we got on at Ely with one other person instead of at Cambridge with the rest of the population of London, we hoped up to the top and had the fun front top seats so had a great view of the country lanes we twisted and turned through. Or as much as the headlights showed. It did end up taking like 2 hours longer than it should have.

What with our frantic commissary purchases and all of Jenn's stuff she was bring back (one of her flatmates moved out and took the entire flat with her) we had two heavy suitcases plus some so I took the bus with her to help her and then just stayed the night, going back after work to get my stuff. So all in all I didn't get back till this evening. Pretty adventurous stuff. I really had a great weekend. The one bad thing about relaxing holidays is you never want to leave. When you are frantically busy sightseeing or whatever the thought of going home has some appeal to you but when you are laying in a conservatory reading romance novels with a dog at your feet it is hard to want to go back to London. However here I am and I think my laundry is ready to hand out now.

COME BACK, HOUR: I was going to use you!

Dear National Archives: Your catalog sucks! What the hell does "Scope and content: Serbia. Complete." mean???

[Comments] (1) The Ulimate Contest: BL vs. NA:

National Archives perks:
Free internet
Better and cheaper food
picturesque area
quick(er) document delivery time
higher ratio of cute guys to general reader population
no pound coin required to operate lockers (seriously what is the point of that?)
no undergraduates
You can take in a camera! they even have camera stands so you can photograph documents
Less stringent rules about ids required to get a reader's ticket

British Library perks:
Newer and nicer building
Not on the other side of the world
Greater likelihood of running into friends and thus an excuse to escape to the cafe for a break
Or for that matter your supervisor so she will see for herself how hard you are working
Fewer dragons pacing the floor to make sure you are not mauling the documents

BUT BL put "Ms R" on my card and NA put "Miss Rachel." Guess which I prefer. I went to my friend's flat in Wimbledon for dinner (which, coincidentally, means that I transversed London from zone 3 to zone 1 three times today, but you know, it was okay, I had a Julia Quinn novel) and we had a long discussion about the importance of titles in this country.

[Comments] (3) QOD: What's more important, buying free trade or buying organic?

Discuss. Link me. Just don't tell me it's all a sham. I'd like to hold onto some of my idealism.

Success and failure: I'm working from home today, so I went out exploring some more of the West Indian grocers on a nearby street. Finally I found some black beans I can cook, which is good news for burrito time. I love cooking black beans because for a little more than the price of a can you get 4 times as many, plus you can make them however you want and it's really not the much effort. I just can't bring myself to buy a can for 50p knowing the beans are saturated in salt and will only make about 3 burritos. I have been pretty much living off of lentils recently so this will make a nice change. I've been craving protein since I started running.

I also found some white vinegar and baking soda in containers bigger than tiny. But they were still quite expensive. £2.79 for 900 grams of baking soda and 79p for a bit more than half a litre of vinegar. I wanted to start using them for cleaning as we use up our current stash of cleaning supplies, and I guess it is still cheaper than buying more but it's not really the huge savings it would be if there were a smart and final around.

In other news I found a place that has henna just off the tube stop, so now I'm a red head again. As are my flatmate and my friend Jenn. 99p and enough henna for all of our hair. Once again I recommend henna to all who want to dye their hair red.

Delicious tuna wrap:
1 tortilla
1 can tuna
handful of spinach leaves
5-10 thin cucumber slices
1 tablespoon hummus
1 tablespoon pesto
3 tablespoons plain yogurt.

Spread the hummus and pesto on one half of the tortilla each. Place the spinach leaves in a layer on top, and arrange the cucumbers in strategically placed rows on the tortilla. Drain the tuna, stir in the yogurt, and spread half of it as best you can on the tortilla. Roll up tortilla, cut in half and place in sandwich Tupperware. Retain rest of tuna for tomorrow's lunch.

[Comments] (2) Just me then?: I wonder if everyone frequently has post-apocalyptic dreams.

[Comments] (2) Publishing and history collide:

“Oh, Rachel, this should interest you,” says one of my coworkers, pouring over a copy of The Bookseller. “In ‘history, politics and war’... ‘What is was like being a woman in the Balkans, First World War.’” He was joking of course, but I read the preview section anyway. No need to worry, there’s still a unique place in the historiography for my work. In fact, there was not one book on non-western fronts, unless you count "a concise and authoritative account of the entire course of the First World War, with analysis of decisive encounters and landmark engagements. It describes every major battle..."

The entire course of the war? Just the very book I would argue is impossible to produce. A definitive account of the First World War? EVEN if it’s just focusing on military events? (They never come out and say this outright, you have to infer it yourself from the description of battles, etc, but I think it’s a deplorable assumption in this day and age of social and culture [not to mention economic and political] history that a book on a war by default means military history. But anyway.) Let’s just consider the scale of the event. But then, these are publishers, not historians.

What other gems does The Bookseller line up for us? How about one on Marie Antoinette’s daughter? "It includes previously unpublished evidence that lays earlier conspiracy theories to rest." Previously unpublished evidence??? Who ever heard of such a thing? How exciting, really. Except that finding and interpreting primary source evidence is, um, yeah, the job of historians.

One book drew my attention, seemingly about the foundation of the Imperial War Museum and the end of the First World War. Since I spend a fair few of my days at the good ole IWM a book about its first days was intriguing to me. But – go to the Amazon link and lo and behold!: “Including archive material published here for the first time…” Why is this such a big deal? Not only that, it looks like I got the wrong impression from the Bookseller. Just another book on remembrance….

Now don’t get me wrong, remembrance is all well and good (and important)… However since Jay Winter it has been done over and over, and in one section of my thesis I remember (haha) arguing that this over-emphasis on remembrance might be just another way of our co-opting First World War experience for ourselves and devaluing the experiences of those who actually lived it.

Opps: I thought I felt something poking me in the night and when I woke up I discovered I'd been sleeping on my iPod shuffle. It must have been in my kangaroo pocket and fallen out. Hopefully it is no worse for the wear!

[Comments] (2) I miss you: Not a day goes by when I don't, to give truth to that old cliché; but today, especially today, I miss you.

[Comments] (4) And whiskers on kittens: On Saturday night I went to see The Sound of Music at the Palladium. As my siblings will (fondly I'm sure) remember, this was my favorite movie growing up, at least until I saw The Little Mermaid, so I was really excited about it. Well, it was pretty good and I enjoyed it. Some of the actors were better than others, unfortunately these were usually the supporting actors who were better. Max and the Baroness for instance, although Max was a lot older than he is in the movie so that threw me off! I have to remember the play came before the movie. There were a couple of songs that weren't in the movie, some of them quite good. But there was very little chemistry between Captain von Trapp and Maria, also Maria looked quite a lot like Hillary Clinton which was distracting. Also there wasn't as much development of their relationship as there is in the movie. I suspect a lot of that is those scenes they added in the movie would have been very boring on stage.

Overall it was really enjoyable, though. The main thing that struck me was how overtly political it was; much more so than in the movie. The Nazi question is central in the relationship of several of the characters, for instance it is actually the reason why the Baroness and Captain hastily end their engagement. The von Trapps' flight from Nazis becomes even more clearly the climax of the story; though, to be fair, my muddled view of things from the movie might have to do with those compulsive re watchings at the age of four, when I had no idea about anschluss or Nazis or anything like that. During the music festival scene, all these Swastika banners came down from the sides and the ceilings of the theatre, a very powerful evocation which made me a little bit uncomfortable! Also Rolph. In the play he actually doesn't betray him, but becomes compliant in their escape. A bit unfair on him then! Well, I actually think it works better but the logistics of theatre wouldn't have allowed for the heart-in-throat chase that ensues. Which is too bad because the nuns with the car parts are pretty much the best part of the whole movie.

Anyway a good time was had by all (me) and now I think I should work in a few more plays before the summer. It's globe season again!

I also realized that the Captain von Trapp would have been serving very near by stomping grounds during the FWW. Hmm...

[Comments] (3) All in a day: My cousin Laura is here visiting, so yesterday was quite an adventure. It might not be possible to "do" London in a day but we certainly tried. We took the tube into Green Park, walked through to Buckingham Palace, over to Westminster to see houses of Parliament, up to Trafalgar Square, where we stopped in the Waterstones to settle some small point on Harry Potter, being the nerds that we are. There was some kind of Sikh festival going on at Trafalgar Square so it was really crowded, music and free food! That was a real spot of luck. We were chilling on one of the fountains eating our free lunch when I noticed a media crowd and along walks Boris Johnson!! He was walking through the crowd shaking people's hands and stuff. I didn't put out my hand to shake because I don't really like him and also I was a little bit in shock. It was pretty random. He doesn't like so goofy in real life. Anyway so that done we poked our heads into the national gallery to look at some impressionists and then crossed charing cross bridge and walked along southwark... and walked and walked. We stopped at the Tate modern to go up to the top floor to admire the view and use the toilets, and an a pizza express that had set up a gelato stand. And also at the globe, hoping to buy tickets for today but sadly there is no show! We continued to walk and walk till we got to Tower Bridge, which we then crossed, and examined the tower from the outside. From Tower we hoped on a bus which took us through the city, down fleet street and strand, through picadilly circus and oxford circus and down oxford street to marble arch. We had seats at the front of the top so had a pretty good view of all these things. Got off the bus finally and entered Hyde park to gawk at speaker's corner and sit on the grass and eat a picnic of pb&j. Then walked along the serpentine to the peter pan statue (I remembered, Aly!). Up to Lancaster gate where we got the tube to Tottenham Court Road. We walked all the way down tcr then Euston rd to King's Cross for traditional platform 9 3/4 pictures. After much confusion and ado, we met up with some friends for fish and chips in a greasy spoon. Then finally, exhausted and defeated, home. We walked miles. I must have worn poor Laura out; I know I wore myself out, but it was great fun.

It is one of the first really nice days we have had so far and it felt wonderful to be running around in a t-shirt only, light out till almost nine. Everyone was out, and in such a good mood because it's a holiday and the weather is fine. So nice to stroll along the Thames or sit in the grass at hyde park with so many other people who are in just as good of a mood. I wanted to skip (and I sometimes did) just for the joy of fine weather. One thing living here has certainly taught me is to not take it for granted.

The weather has changed just in time; I'm going tomorrow to pay a visit to my friend Aleks in Greece and "get some sun." But hopefully it will be even better there; I'm going to bring my swimming suit and hope for the best. Today I am just staying in, cleaning, grooming, packing and thinking, thinking, thinking. I am so glad it's sunny, both literally and figuratively.

It's cinco de mayo, so if you have to go on a desperate mission to save France, be prepared. Last year this time I was thinking how strange it is that the world continues to turn when it seems like, for all intents and purposes, it should have stopped. Now I am feel it more than ever, but am starting to feel it might not be such a bad thing. Please let this feeling stick!

[Comments] (3) The luck of the Greeks: I know some of you have (not least myself!!) been on as many pins and needles about this funding.... we can all rest easy now.

[Comments] (1) Exciting dreams: involving secret meetings above a kebab shop. Ideas much?

I went to Oxford yesterday to go to a seminar. What a nice town! It's so pretty! I guess I'd forgotten. It turned out to be a really helpful and interesting seminar and I met lots of nice people who are also doing FWW. All in all very refreshing. Other recent adventures include Karaoke with the nanoers and a mysterious illness that struck me on the way home from Athens and rendered me various stages of useless all week. Jenn was flat/dogsitting at a nice place in Chiswick and I went down there this weekend. We spent a good day vegging out watching movies, episodes of Gilmore Girls and Arrested Development, and old Mariah Carey music videos on Virgin Music on Demand, while I wondered whether eating brie and chevre was a good idea in my delicate condition. Probably not, but a good time all around.

[Comments] (2) : I kept meaning to write about Eurovision because it was the best time ever, but as usual I manage to fail entirely at things I want to get done, but maybe later today. Amanda is here right now with her bf and they have completely crashed at this point being very jet-lagged. She brought some Ricks Steve's guidebooks with her so we made a reservation for a cheap hotel in Paris and went on a walk from Buckingham Palace to Trafalgar Sq by way of Westminster. Then we got falafel at my favorite place in Soho and I went to a seminar while they came back here.

In other news things are really falling into place for my trip to Serbia this summer. I booked a flight and I'm going out June 22. My friend Kent of Azbukum fame is leaving this week, which is unfortunate as I won't get to see him again, but at least it does mean that his flat is free so I am going to live in it for the summer. It should be really great, in the meantime I an doing half a dozen other major projects such as finishing a chapter draft etc etc... It's all a good time.

[Comments] (2) Technology wants my memories to vanish: My little computer is slowly dying, but I took him into the apple store and asked if there was anything they could do to make him run any faster. The guy suggested I do an erase and install which I did, and now I suppose my computer is running faster, probably due to the fact that NOTHING IS ON IT and NOTHING IS AS IT SHOULD BE. Something went horribley wrong with the backup I did before the erase (eiiii) and now I'm missing my latest firefox profile with my updated bookmarks and zotero with all my notes! (Okay so I have a version from the beginning of April. GREAT. I hope it's all in the docs, too... but all that organising gone to waste. I cannot believe hoe stupid I was to not CHECK and MAKE SURE everything I needed was all up to date and THERE) My emails for the last 7 years appear to be missing, AND my pictures from Athens are COMPLETELY GONE. Just, gone. Go figure, I had additional backups of everything else... I thought they were still on my camera but noo.... =( The good thing is I do have Jenn's photos but she was only there for half the time I was. Not only that Quicken has vanished, and Word of course, though I think I can reinstall it, and those updated versions of iPhoto and iWeb that I went through such great lengths to obtain. I seriously cannot believe it. I copied over my entire library, how did it manage to just vanish? Ick ick ick.I want to curl into a ball and cry but ugh, I've agreed to go Karaoke tonight.

[Comments] (1) Email from BA:

Dear MS RICHARDSON, With less than a week before your journey begins[...]
Sorry I have been so MIA lately. I am still bitter with my computer and I think my subconscious way of dealing with it is to spend as little time with it as possible. Today is a lovely day, surprise surprise, which is great luck as I've planned a picnic on Hampstead Heath with my palsies. Rumour has it there will be kites involved. Afterwards I am meeting up with an old friend from UCLA days. I can't believe it's almost time for me to go to Serbia and I have to admit I'm feeling rather ambivalent about it as London is turning out to be such fun now that the weather is nice. Oh well. Serbia will be fun too and at least there will be good, fresh, cheap produce there!

[Comments] (1) Hello to all that: Sooo... here I am. Apologies for lack of communication skills. I will try to do better, especially now that I am living in what my sister calls a "third world country." so here is the dealio:

I have returned to Novi Sad for what amounts to 9 weeks of Serbian classes with a two week break. By the end of it I hope to be really really good. yay. I flew in yesterday from London on a BA flight. The flight was ridiculously early, so after packing up my crap on Saturday with the help of the lovely Jenn, I headed out to my friend Molly's and her husband John took me to Heathrow on his way to work (he was really early for work.) What amazing friends I have! Unfortunately I am saying goodbye to some of them as they are returning to states etc, which made me very sad. I will also miss my friendies and future flatmates very much but at least a few of them are coming out. It was really weird for me not to be uber excited about coming to Serbia because I have been every other time, leaving Bakersfield, but I suppose it is good as it does me that my life in London is great & happy. Hopefully everyone doesn't forget about me! And even though I was so sore about leaving now I am glad I'm hear.

I got into Beograd about noon and Novi Sad an hour later, since I didn't want to deal with bus-train/bus-bus so I splurged on a car to pick me up. only £27! (Serbia is still cheap, even if not as cheap, what with the dinar rising against the dollar (I know right?!) and all prices being quoted in euros.) My friend Kent, who I met at Azbukum previously, had been here all year and just vacated his flat which worked out really well for me (although I was sad not to see him again) so I took it over. Which means no old Serbian ladies who hate me and won't let me do laundry! It has internet and everything! And, perhaps, more importantly, air conditioning. It is hot, hot, hot here, about Bakersfield hot, but with the constant house-car-store-pool air conditioning. Oh well. I am used to it -- right? buck up, California girl. the flat is about 15-20 min walk from the nicest parts of novi sad and about 30 min from the language school. I am thinking about a bicycle if I can get one cheaply. There are bike lanes on all the big roads so it is pretty safe.

There are I think about 5 other students at Azbukum this week. I have met one and seen two others, and the one I met said he is living with an American history student. Imagine! Right now, however, I am the only one at my level, which is means I get private lessons, at least for this week because a bunch of students are coming next week. Awesome! That makes it 3 hours a day instead of 4 for the same price, but I think it works out favorably. I will be having the same two teachers as last year which is great as I really like them and am comfy with them. Today I had a little test which I did ok on and then a lesson. It's great to see how quickly the language is coming back to me because I was afraid it wouldn't, but I really did learn a lot last year.

U Novom Sadu: Today was my third Serbian lesson and I am improving by leaps and bounds. I am able to follow the second level book which really pleases me as actually it's pretty advanced. three times during the lesson my teacher said what a good student I am, she could see how quickly I am learning. This is great, sometimes I feel like there is so much I don't know and it's going very slow, but in fact I have made huge progress in just three days so I'm really pleased. I never thought I was good at languages, I always struggled so much with French and when I first started to learn Serbia. But maybe I wasn't applying myself. Or maybe, contrary to all the rumors, grad school does make you smarter!

Well that's a record: Day 4 in Serbia and my shoulders are now pink. YES I am wearing sunscreen.

Zurka: Finally I met the other students at Azbukum. Until today I had only met one. There are four others in total, two Americans, a Brit and a German. They are all about my age except for the American girl. She is 16. 16! This seems crazy to me. I can't imagine my mother letting me go off to Serbia for a month alone when I was 16, and my mother was pretty liberal about what she let me do when I was 16 (probably because I didn't get up to much!). Also NATO was bombing Serbia when I was 16, but that's beside the point. Maybe she has family here.

After a very difficult class where I had to fill in the correctly declined pronoun in sentences, I had a game class with the others. They are all beginners so I was the most advanced, which was pretty surreal! Anyway I invited them all over to my flat, since I am lucky enough to live along, for a bit of a party. They seemed quite keen so we'll see if anyone shows up. This weekend I am going to work on winning the hearts and minds of the local population. Hopefully I'll meet up with the best friends of Kent fame, plus some other peeps. I'll keep you updated on how it goes.

[Comments] (2) Učim da govorim: So I keep meaning to blog and I keep failing utterly. Who is surprised? No one? Here are some things I have been up to lately:

Speaking a lot of Serbian
Hanging out with various Azbukum students
Hanging out with various Serbian kids
Going to EXIT fest with Seb who came out from England
Reading The Sun Also Rises

Probably these will turn into seperate posts. Maybe. What do you want to hear about most? It seems like most of my time is actually spent in class, wandering around speaking srpsko-engleski, or sleeping. I heard that you absorb the language you're learning while asleep, so I don't feel too bad about that.

[Comments] (2) Stream of consciousness : I know monopolies are supposedly bad and everything, but I have this fantasy. I want google to buy facebook, so my inboxes are the same everywhere and I can stalk people all on one page. I want google to buy flickr, I know it's already owned by yahoo, get out of my fantasy! I want google to buy delicious and librarything so I can click on a tag and have it bring up everything from that tag in books, pictures, blog posts, etc. And I want it all to seamless integrate with my mac so I can jump from thing to thing without losing my train of thought.

wait, where did it go?

I want every word I type to be search able (by me!) so I can find it again.

[Comments] (2) Drago mi je: Today is the end of my 6 week Serbian course. Whew! I feel like the last two weeks have be stagnant if not worse... I seem to be forgetting stuff rather than learning it. Today on the test my professor said I got all the difficult stuff right but made a ton of stupid mistakes. At least it's not the other way around! Anyway I have earned a break and break I will. In a few hours I am setting off to meet Jenn in Plovidv and we will couch surf and flexpass it around the Balkans. Should be loads of fun. I'm all travel nerved up. I'll use that as an excuse for this disorganized post. This is why I never like to leave for anywhere in the morning, it's impossible to sleep. Anyway. Today being the last day for everyone (the school is shutting down for holiday) it had the feeling of the last day of school, like high school style. After we finished our tests we picnicked in the classroom, I walked around barefoot taking pictures, checking email, making tea for everyone, then we had a relaxed game for the last two hours of class. It was a bit sad because although I'll be seeing the professors and some of the other students who are coming back, some I won't see.

Now I've done a ton of these language courses (well okay three) and I always make good friends who I know I'll see/ have seen again but this has by far been the most interesting group of people. In fact we have had people flowing steadily in and out for the 6 weeks I've been here but a good group of us have been here more or less for at least a month. And some real characters! The slightly embittered academic addicted to the internet, laid back and hilarious german with his own grasp of the English language complete with helpful and eager host brother hanging on, enthusiastic French girl, fellow lazy American grad student, etc. It's been long enough for us all to get to know each of and to build up a repertoire of inside jokes, etc. Mostly mispronounced Serbian words. Well, I'm trying but I don't think I'll be able to express exactly what it's like to be in this situation, where you have so many people from such different backgrounds thrown together with hilarious results. Use your imagination. Anyway it's really a great time and I'm looking forward to coming back and meeting new people but I don't think it will be the same. Based on the stories I hear from last year it seems like the July group are really where it's at. Wish I'd been there (but I was way too burned out from writing my thesis to be able to concentrate of learning Serbian immediately!) Oh well!

[Comments] (2) Seen too clearly what she can't be: I have been totally slacking on the blog front recently, but if it makes you feel any better I have been remiss on all fronts that don’t involve reading twilight parodies. So here is a quick run down on what I have been up to lately:

Returned from a two week jaunt in Turkey with Jenn. Pictures… sometime. I have an excuse! My computer hates the uploader thingie. It was a great time, but a little more expensive than I thought it would be even though we were cutting all kinds of corners. Prices raised approximately 300% from the ones quoted in my 2007 LP, no joke. I’m through with traveling through Europe for now. No really. Stop laughing. Ok so I have a cheap flight to Florence booked in January, but after that, that's it. I'm thinking Mexico.

Back to the grind here in Novi Sad. I have learned a lot about my limits here this summer. When it comes to something like language immersion, that’s important, because unless I’m working at peak capacity I feel like I’m wasting my time. Or not making the most of it. Something. I got burnt out after about four weeks, and the two weeks off weren’t enough to fully recharge. If I had it to do over again, I’d do three weeks, take a week or two off, then another three weeks. And I’d bring some books and do actual work for a week during the break. Then I’d go back to London.

Back to London on the 9th! Wooo!

Also I booked my flight to the US. 13th to 29th October, flying to and from SF which means I’ll need a ride to SLC at some point, keep your ears to the ground.

I have some interesting classmates this time around. The French girl is still here, but she leaves tomorrow so I’m about to go meet her one last time. I’m in class with two other American guys, one 35 and the other 19, so we are quite a diverse group for being all Americans, but these two have the distinction of their courses paid for by the US government. I actually wonder what percentage of Azbukum’s income comes from the US government. Wish they’d pay for my course.

We have class every day at nine, which is way too early for me to be up and thinking in a foreign language, and sometimes activities in the evenings. On Monday we all watched Gde ceveta limun zut and I gave a little (very little) talk about my research. The movie was interesting but long and the portrayal of Flora Sandes was barfalicious. I wish I’d gone to some of those memorials when I was in Corfu, instead of mudbathing on the beach and crashing other hostels, being bitter about how commercial it was after Albania, but what can you do. You live, you learn.

Uhh yeah I better go do my homework. I have been suck a slacker lately with not doing it, I feel like I'm in high school. The time just literally flies by and I have no idea where it goes. This entire summer was gone in the blink of an eye. I remember the days of yore when summers were endless, day after day romping through vineyards and... yeah.

[Comments] (3) Also, I lost my kišobran: All of a sudden I feel oddly disconnected from events in the States. There's all the political happenings, which I seem to find out about only through reading blogs and facebook statuses, despite several resolutions to check cnn daily. Then today my classmate asked why we were working on Monday when it's a holiday (his friend who works at the embassy isn't working) and our teacher was like, duh, why should we have an American holiday off? And I was like, oh, wow, Labor Day. Also, WHERE DID THE SUMMER GO?

I had a dream about packing (hurriedly) last night. I guess I am getting ready to leave Serbia. Hey, at least there was no German army involved!

Anyway, today was such a Friday. Yesterday I went out with a classmate and his host brother who is also a friend of mine, plus so random people to a happening venue where they have cover bands playing the best of Serbian rock music. I love it. A great time was had by all but the force-feeding of several large slices of Serbian pizza at 3 am was not so much fun. Class was as early as ever so I was reallly tired, and also today happened to be one of our professor's defense for her master's thesis, and we split up our classes by going to support her. Imagine listening to a hour discussion of Serbian national poetry on 4 hours sleep (na srpskom naravno). However. My classmates and I plus our professors have a really good rapport going, and we spent the rest of the afternoon joking about things that are probably not very funny in the retelling. (bad turbofolk, and sweaters knitted with the inscription 'srpska zvezda.' told you.) I was so tired I was almost hyper, but it's better to be joking than sitting quietly or something. After taking turns playing our favorite serbian music on youtube, and reading out essays about our favorite trips (which lead to an interesting discussion about sex changes and pedophilia in Thailand. yah I know) our professora asked, "What to do?" We wanted to igraju. (play/ dance) My suggestion of Bingo for practicing numbers didn't catch on, but we did have a short kolo (Serbian national dance) demonstration before settling down to read an text in cyrillic. You win some, you lose some.

The other day I went for a long hike in the fortress and I think the exercise was good for getting rid of a lot of my angst. It was interesting to see the fortress, I haven't been back through the yonder parts since EXIT, and not in daylight ever. It looks so different, it's hardly recognizable. There were houses! People live there! What do they do during the festival? Surely the don't STAY there? I can't imagine anyone trying to live a normal life in the middle of um, southern Europe's biggest music festival. Also, it's huge. I thought for sure I was beyond the span of the fest, but when I got to where I couldn't go any further, I realized I was looking down into the dance arena. On a side note, I am now officially Very Worried that EXIT and the release of Half Blood Prince (movie) will be at the same time next July.

In the morning we watched an interesting documentary about Roma in Belgrade. The movie itself was well done, using a certain type of car used by the Roma to create their multi-tasking vehicles as a hanger for all sorts of issues. It's so hard to talk about the Roma because it seems like it's just too many problems and too few solutions. I think they are better off here in Serbia than elsewhere, though. At least they seem to be less behind petty crime and eeking out a living selling things at the pijaca etc. One guy in the movie said something that got my thinking. He said there was no recycling service in Serbia so they do it instead. So why not start one (long overdue anyway) and hire the Roma to do what they are doing now, only give them actual equipment and decent pay so they can provide for their families? Eh but I don't know what I'm talking about. Anyway it's interesting to see stuff like this, and a outdoor photo exhibit that was on the city center a while ago. Then contrast it with a woman we saw while walking back from our field trip, holding a baby with a 3 year old following her, naked from the waist down and covered in dirt (or something else?). It's hard not to judge: how can you let your child walk around like that?

[Comments] (1) Oh I give up: It has been forever since I posted. What can I say. 1. Happy bday Susie. 2. back in London. I'm copying from some emails what I have been up to. because I am lazy. In case you hadn't noticed.

Some things I have been up to: I have been busy catching up with everyone and trying to get back into the swing of things. I got my old job back, at least temporarily, spent some time in the library and on Saturday after some intial flat hunting Jenn and I went to a democrats abroad rally at a fair by the river. It said "canvassing" but we didn't believe it till we saw it. Can you imagine canvassing for an american election in a foreign country? We got a few mummers about that but most people were really supportive and we got a lot of "I'd vote for him if I could." The goal was to get expats registered and requesting absentee ballots and we actually had quite a few people asking how they could and even more taking fliers for their american friends. So. It was fun anyway but totally exhausting. I can't imagine doing it in the states though. We had very few jeers, I could probably count them on one hand, I imagine that would not be the case if I tried to do the same thing in Bakersfield!

We have a new house. It is described thus: The thing we hate most about it are the kitchen cupboards dating from the 1970s and sporting a lovely puke green color. And the fact that there's no off street parking, and both of the toilets are upstairs. All very minor things. There are two reception rooms (that's what the Brits call living rooms) opening into one another, but the one has a fold out couch and doors that close completely, so plenty of room for guests hint hint. The kitchen is HUGE with a ten person dark wood table. We love the table. There is a fireplace!! that works!! (gas of course) and a bay window with an old fashioned couch in it. Upstairs there are three double bedrooms. Mine is overlooking the garden and is completely lined in shelves. I'm even considering shipping a couple of boxes of books just so I can fill them up! It is the smallest bedroom but it is still plenty big and one wall is taken up with a huge wardrobe. I seriously don't have enough stuff to fill it! There are two other bedrooms... The bathtub has jacuzzi jets in it! In the extra toilet room are washer and DRYER (unheard of) and there is also an American size fridge (yes they are called that) and a dishwasher (also unheard of). Then to top it all off there is a lovely garden with a bbq, outdoor heater, plum and apple trees. And there is a cat flap on the door! Needless to say Tonks will be very welcome there. What a relief. It's on an incredibly quiet street, the road at the end is not open to through traffic so I feel secure in letting him doing him wandering which is great because I don't think he would be happy otherwise. This place is perfect for cats! Jenn is also going to get a kitten. There is a park at the end of the road, the entrance just two minutes away and it has some nice paths for running on. AND we were looking around the area on Saturday while waiting for one of our viewing appointments. At the top of the road, about 10 minutes walk max, there is a really nice gym that has pilates classes, a women's only workout room, pool sauna and steam room etc etc. We poked our heads in and ended up taking a tour and they were really friendly! There are also some little shops, two pubs, and a vet! Then up the road a little further, about 15 min walk from the house, is Muswell Hill Broadway. This is a really posh area of London. As Jenn pointed out we are really gentrifying from Seven Sisters. There are a lot of families living here because the houses are so big, there's so much green space and the air, I swear, is fresher, I think it comes from being uphill. There are a ton of nice shops that I can't afford, plus grocery stores and a planet organic. There was a fishmonger which on saturday morning had a line of 15 people out the door. So I'm guessing that's good. Tons of pubs and restaurants plus it is a major bus hub so we are never too far from a 24 hour bus for when the tube (which did I mention is 2 minutes from our house??) is shut. It will be such a relief to get away from the Victoria line. They have been doing works the entire time I have lived here, closing at 10 every week day, which means if you are out having dinner you have to cut and run during the dessert, and to make matters worse it closes completely about every other weekend, but in September it's closed EVERY weekend, and you have to get a rail replacement bus to the picadilly line making getting into central london at least 20 min longer. The northern line is much better. It's fairly reliable, even though people call it the "misery line" (I think people just like to complain) plus because of the way it's set up, very confusing so I'll have to give you a crash course when you come to visit, you have twice as many destination options as other lines. We're moving not this but next weekend.

Less than a month and I will be in the states! I can't believe how busy life is and continues to be. I was really sad about leaving novi sad and my idyllic life there but now that I am back in London I am sooo happy to be back!

Thanks to me: Maggie is now addicted to flamin' hot cheetos!

[Comments] (2) Here's a hint: If you see someone struggling with three heavy bags, by all means help him/her. Or at the very least get out of her way!

[Comments] (1) Can we?: Everyone is really excited about the election results, including me. Wheee!! We (my flatmates and I and a bunch of our fellow expats and interested parties) went to a venue in Angel where the American Ex-pat meet-up group was playing the election results. It was a fantastic time. I jumped up on stage and waved our "London for Obama" sign which got me in a little trouble but it was worth it. We played Obama bingo (although I don't think anyone actually got a row), yelled and screamed till we went hoarse, and stayed till Obama's acceptance speech. Hugs and tears and more hugs, then we got the first tube home. Yay.

That was last night. This morning. Well, afternoon really, I woke up to disappointing news about Prop 8. This is something I'm really having difficulty with because I just don't get it. I can understand why people might think that McCain would make a better president than Obama. I don't agree, but I can understand it. It's all that time and effort and energy put towards imposing your moral will on other people and denying other human beings basic rights... that's what I don't understand.

I think we should just get rid of marriage altogether. If two people want to be a couple in the eyes of the state they go down to city hall and register as such, and that's the same for everyone. Then churches can do whatever they like with marriages. The whole mixing up state and religion, imposing one version of morality on everyone, and putting civil rights up for a vote, it all makes me nervous, and sick. I know it's a matter of time before it changes. After all, 10% fewer voters went for this discrimination than seven years ago. But I really wanted to believe that Californians were better than this, that we were ready. As some of my friends pointed out, it seems that Californians care more about the rights of the animals we eat than about our human beings. Boo.

Anyway, I have some thoughts on the upcoming "change" but it will wait for tomorrow. I'm having a bath, then there's the Democrats Abroad celebration at the Texas Embassy. And maybe I'll write some words. It's November, after all.

Change: So... Thinking one things is going to change everything makes me nervous, not least because I've fallen into that trap myself, that of thinking: once x happens everything will be perfect. Not so. Thinking one person is going to change everything is just as dangerous, especially if that person happens to be a politician.

The most exciting thing about Obama, however, is not the man himself, necessarily, so much as what he had inspired: the grass roots movement, the interest in civics and democracy, a first for many people. What made me nervous was that people might think, once he was elected, okay, great job us, then go home and wait around for Change to happen. One person can't change the world, or America, even if that person is the most powerful person among us. If we want America to change, we have to do it ourselves. I read this in the letters to the editor section of the New Yorker the day before I left the US, and it really struck a cord with me:

The question is whether we can make the personal sacrifices necessary to change ourselves or whether we believe that change is only about what leadership we select... [We need to] realize that there is more to being good citizens than going to the polls. Jon Gilmore, Oct 27, 2008.

Then, after the election, was Friendman on the NY Times:

But a new politics of the common good can’t be only about government and markets. “It must also be about a new patriotism — about what it means to be a citizen,” said Sandel. “This is the deepest chord Obama’s campaign evoked. The biggest applause line in his stump speech was the one that said every American will have a chance to go to college provided he or she performs a period of national service — in the military, in the Peace Corps or in the community. Obama’s campaign tapped a dormant civic idealism, a hunger among Americans to serve a cause greater than themselves, a yearning to be citizens again.”

So, a couple days in, and the new administration-to-be already looks like it's shaping up to be something like what we hoped. I'm a little less nervous. Or, as Becca said, "it's an interesting time to be alive."

:

All, too, will bear in mind this sacred principle, that though the will of the majority is in all cases to prevail, that will to be rightful must be reasonable; that the minority possess their equal rights, which equal law must protect, and to violate would be oppression.
--Thomas Jefferson

[Comments] (3) 25% more free: I didn't get any writing done today or even my sunday chores, but still I feel so productive! Until today about 1/4 of my room, no joke, was taken up by a humongous wardrobe. It took up a whole wall! I really hated it from the first and I tried to pawn it off on Jenn, but she was having none of it. It really limited the options in my room and took up so much space that everything else was cramped, especially my desk, and I hardly had any room to sit at it and work which I'm sure at least partly explains why I have been so unproductive lately!

However the wardrobe came with the house and I didn't want to have to buy a new wardrobe or dresser if I got rid of it. Then I spied this little gem from Ikea, only £25! and I decided it would look great in my room. So this morning Seb and I set off for Ikea. We took two buses to get there and it took over an 90 minutes so that was no fun, but then the adventures began. It was a Sunday so it was pretty crazy, but even so we managed to get in and out with almost everything we intended to buy and a few things more. Then we came home and started the hard work, disassembling the 'monstrosity' as I started calling the wardrobe. When I say we I really mean Seb because he did all the hard work of disassembly and assembly and carting the heavy bits in between, to the basement, which is full of our landlord's junk storage and is now more like bursting. So he definitely gets the awesome flat mate award. I also put up new curtains which I bought *last* Ikea trip. My room already looks so much better! It's a shock to walk in and see open space as opposed to the large wall of a wardrobe.

It's not quite done though. I got a small pine dresser which I want to paint black before assembling, and I got lots of frames for pictures and prints, but we don't have a hammer or nails so they're not up yet. I also want to get a frame for at least one other poster. Also I don't have a dust ruffle yet, Ikea failed on having the sheets I need twice in a row so I'm going somewhere else. It's going to look so great! I will put up pictures when it's done. I'm so excited and happy. It's been forever since I've been anywhere and had an expectation of staying for longer than a year at most. It's so nice to nest!

I also got a pillow top mattress cover thingie so my bed is super comfy now. And I'm going to go use it.

Home alone: I had salmon and salad for dinner and now I remember why I never cooked when I lived by myself. There goes the whole evening, pretty much (except for one and a half hours spent at the gym). And maybe I eat even slower when I have to type to talk instead of just talk?

I really need to start getting to bed earlier. But Nimbus is in his prime, most broom-like, at these hours. Hard to sleep when there is a kitten charging through your room, over your bed and back out!

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