For no particular reason, I thought I'd take some self-portrait shots while in London. Well I guess it was because while I was all dressed up for the conference I thought it would be nice to have some photos. Here are some of the results:
If you have no idea bout the emerging church, then this will make absolutely no sense to you. On the other hand, if you do, then this is simply the most off the charts piece of brilliance since, well, at least last week.
I was out last night wandering around London and ended up at Regent Street, one of the big shopping areas. As the Christmas shopping season over here starts around the end of August, the decorations have been up for ages. Here's what Regent Street looked like last night:
I'm in London for a conference, staying at the Hilton on Park Lane. Park Lane is, of course, one of the top two properties on the English Monopoly board. So hey, I'm staying on a hotel in Park Lane! Last time I did that I was fifteen and paying my dad 400 pounds for the privilege! The real hotel looks a little like this:
The view from the window is pretty nice - I'm on the 10th floor overlooking Hyde Park. Here's the rather dramatic view of the afternoon sky from the window as I was settling in.
Last night I was invited by one of the professors here at Cambridge to an event at Madingley Hall, a small stately home kind of a place that's now a conference and events venue. The event was a bit hard to describe, but it was part lecture on the history of the violin, and part demonstration and concert featuring some antique violins.I think the event was billed as "Meet a Stradivarius" or something like it. Wine and canapes were promised, too.
Well, I was game, even if it wasn't something that I would have pushed to the top of my "must see" list.
The speaker,Nigel Brown, is apparently a world class expert on violin history and was very engaging, funny and informative. His planned featured violinist for the evening, Matthew Trussler, had been whisked off to a concert in South America, so at the last minute he had secured the services of a delightful young lady I can only remember as "Flo".
Nigel had brought along four violins and had Flo play Baa Baa Black Sheep on each of them. The sounds were remarkably different, especially the last one. As he gradually revealed, one of them was a 1706 Stradivari, another a 1735 Guenari, another a Jacob Steiner violin from Austria and the last a recent copy of (I believe) another Strad. The odd man out was the Steiner.
The hour of chat and demonstration flew by, and after the break it was time for some real music. Flo played first a Brahms Sonata in D minor on the Guenari, accompanied by a delightful young lady on piano, followed by Sarasate's Introduction et Tarantelle on the Stradivari (the Corbett Stradivari to be precise). In his introduction, Nigel likened the instruments to Formula 1 cars - being just as tricky to get used to and drive, and Flo agreed. It was remarkable that she had only had a day to try the four out.
The Sonata was lovely, but the Sarasate piece was a completely brilliant mad five minutes. Flo remarked just before she started, "see you at the end..." And, thanks to the marvels of Youtube, here's a fine rendition of it by Jessica Hung:
At the risk of boring you with more Cambridge stuff, I was playing around with a colorful picture of the market square taken from the tower of Great St Mary's in Corel's Painter software and came up with this:
The last couple of days I've had my younger sister-in-law and her partner in town visiting, so we've been trekking around town once more. The weather has been grey, but largely pleasant enough, and I got to see some new sights today too.
We toured King's College Chapel, and this time I got to see it from the tower of Great St Mary's across the street...
St Mary's itself looks a bit like this (on a much nicer day, of course)...
many other gorgeous sights today, including the Bridge of Sighs at St John's College:
and finally (for now) a lovely view of the Robinson chapel lit up from the inside.
I've always enjoyed Keith Olbermann, from when he was a smart-aleck sports reporter on ESPN to his migration to the broader news and commentary scene on MSNBC. Here's a fabulous reaction to the California vote on Proposition 8 - the vote that essentially rescinded gay marriage there.
They said to allow two hours for the interview. It took less than twenty minutes to verify all the answers to the 8 page application, answer some relatively easy civics questions (hardest one was probably "who is in line for the presidency after the VP?") and do the English test. For some reason the interviewer calculated my time as a permanent resident from 1988 to 2007. By the time I thought about pointing out it's now 2008, we had already finished the English test that should have been waived. Meh, never mind, it was interesting to know just how trivial it was.
At the end, the guy told me my swearing in would be Nov 20th. Hmm, apart from the fact that I'll be in the UK for the next two months that would have worked out fine. So it won't be all official until sometime in January, but it is all over bar the swearing in.