Friday, September 28, 2012


The bags are packed, the animals are dropped off at other people's houses, and there's no more perishable food in the fridge. I'm ready for a vacation.

It seems a bit scandalous to take a two-week vacation in the middle of the school year. I'll be missing group meetings, and I needed to make sure the student that I supervise had enough work to keep him busy. Even more importantly, Andrew is teaching this semester and he had to find someone to cover the twelve hours of class time he'd be missing. But my uncle arranged a holiday in Spain during the quieter, less touristy fall season, and we decided to add on a visit to Andrew's parents in England.

This is the first international trip we've taken since I've had my Kindle, and I'm really appreciating having an electronic reader. I've loaded it up with a dozen library books, and this is the first time our suitcase was decidedly under the maximum weight.

The previous trip to Europe

This trip. 

Tomorrow morning, if all goes well, we'll get off a plane in Heathrow airport and meet Andrew's parents and my parents (who are flying in from Ohio), and then we'll all drive over to a house in Oxford that they've rented. There's supposed to be wifi at the house; if so, I'll be able to post updates from England.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Shopping the past

When my parents called me up and asked what I'd like for my birthday, I told them I'd like some kind of book that had pictures of people from the 1940's or 50's. I'm always looking for collections of pictures showing how everyday people dressed back then, because then I can figure out how to style my hair or purchase modern clothes that fit into that look. My father exclaimed, "I have just the thing!" and he ran upstairs to fetch a Sears, Roebuck, and Co. catalogue from 1949 that just happend to be sitting on his bookshelf. He promised that I could borrow it for a few years, but then he'd want it back. It's a perfect gift, and it arrived in the mail today.

What I most love about this is how it shows that my father can literally "shop his closet," picking out gifts for people from the treasures accumulated during decades of garage saleing. It also demonstrates how my father and I share a love of old stuff. He might collect tractors while I collect hats, but we come from the same stock.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Singing "en plein air"

Singing in a semi-professional choir doesn't just mean that I have singing homework every week, it also means that I get to hang out with lots of cool musicians. And on Labor Day weekend, it meant that I had the chance to participate in a flash mob. (Officially, it was called a Random Act of Culture). To the people standing around in the open-air mall in downtown Miami Beach, it looked like a violintist started playing Beethoven's Ode to Joy. A string quartet soon joined in, followed by a small orchestra, and 80 chorus singers (that would be my group). One stanza later, a jazz band and gospel choir joined in, followed by Afro-Cuban drummers and dancers. The Miami Herald wrote up a bit here. I think a bit of information got leaked to the press beforehand - otherwise I don't know how all the cameras knew to be there at precisely 5:30 pm.

I'm only visible for a moment, at 1:16 in the video:
It was great fun to sing for a a surprised, appreciative audience. Most of the time when we sing, we're not supposed to smile or move very much, because classical choral singers are supposed to blend into the background. We got official permission to show that we were having fun during this performance, and I didn't need much urging.

Three choir members and I try to smile while singing the word "Freude". (Thanks to my friend Jan for the picture.)

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

Hiking in the "woods"

  As you might have heard, Isaac turned out to be rather less than a hurricane, at least for South Florida. I know that a number of states have really suffered from it, but we only experienced a few periods of wind and rain, and a bit of flooding. In fact, Andrew and I were driving during the worst part of the storm, because I didn't realize that it was supposed to hit that early in the day. It felt far less dangerous that driving during a big thunderstorm.
  The worst part turned out to be the day after. Our power was out for twelve hours, and since the university was closed, we just sat at home and waited. I can see now why hurricanes can be so awful; even after the storm passes by, you can lose your power for hours days. Someone in our neighborhood had no power for three days, which isn't very good news when you consider that this was only a tropical storm.
  To celebrate the clear weather, we headed out to the great (humid) outdoors. I wanted to use the Labor Day weekend to check out a state park, because state parks allow dogs. We drove a few hours north, which meant that the vegetation was slightly (but sufficiently) different - look at the pine trees in that picture. You don't see trees like that in Miami. Of course, Labor Day doesn't mean it's cool - that won't happen until November, so we just drank lots of water and wore hats and trudged through the heat.