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monday, 31 october

happy halloween!
quoted: "i was vomiting, so i had to get up and leave" -random girl on magdalen bridge

alright. henceforth, when attempting to return to oxford from anywhere outside zone 1, i will return to central london and go from there. because it took almost an hour on the tube to get from acton to hillingdon on saturday night. and that was wholly unacceptable. on the plus side, stef's birthday party was wicked fun. just saying that makes me feel like i'm impersonating someone from boston. oh well.

many thanks to stef for his party, and to ketan for an AMAZING dinner on friday. iou one umbrella.

jack and i went to a restaurant in knightsbridge on sunday for dim sum. the same one that i went to with my family on easter 2004. it was very good. better than i remember it, but still not as good as royal china. and slightly more expensive. then yesterday we went to lunch at edamame. my love of katsu kare knows no bounds. mmmmm.

today, it's back to work. i hope to write a few more cover letters and extract notes from a rather intimidating pile of history faculty books that demand to be returned to its library by the end of the day. argh. see y'all in november.

friday, 28 october

quoted: "all the people in china live in my room" -jack

apologies to anyone who had to deal with my yesterday after about 5 pm, when i got very grumpy. maybe the weather was just too nice for me to have spent several hours in a library. it was an unseasonably warm (around 66, i think), sunny day. if i remember correctly, october is normally the wettest month in britain. i think this month has been anomalous. i hope everyone in oxford (and london, for that matter) spent lots of time outside yesterday.

i (predictably) went to the university botanic gardens, which were packed. while there, i had the pleasure of discovering the name of my favourite plant between my room and the gym. it smells a bit like brown sugar, which is one of my favourite earthly substances. it's called helichrysum italicum.

there's an article in today's new york times on how this is the president's worst week ever. poor guy. hear's hoping for two indictments today. end the week with a bang. in completely unrelated (and rather old) news, the smoking ban on the ballot in washington state is expected to pass easily. hurrah!

in closing, i can't promise an update tomorrow, as i'm going into london for a day o' fun with jack, ending with stef's birthday party. i must remember to buy a birthday card for him today.

oh. i lied. in case anyone was curious, i am indeed reverse stalking everyone who visits my website. like the president's office at UCLA. or you random people in doha. well, alright, most of the time i can just see what city people are visiting from.

thursday, 27 october

quoted: "you could sand your deck with your face" -christine

i have been corrected: fewer than two months until christmas. mrs rowland, 7th grade grammar teacher extraordinaire, would be quite disappointed in me, i fear. although in my defense (defence?), i would point out that the american heritage book of english usage takes my side, contending that one "can use less than before a plural noun that denotes a measure of time, amount, or distance: less than three weeks, less than $400, less than 50 miles." either way, christmas is coming. YAY.

i seem bound to reminisce several times a day. this morning it smells like camp reed, which many of you (my siblings, brandon and katie, especially) will understand as high praise for today.

last night i went to dinner in hall--sweet and sour pork. not bad. not good, but definitely definitely not bad. then retired to the gcr for port and chocolate mints. and christine yelling at me about my scratchy face. a pleasant evening, though.

walking back from college at about 11, though, i noted that it was a night of meteorological tensions: it was clear, but it was humid and warm (about 64F). the few clouds overhead were moving very quickly, though the air at ground level was notably still. a pleasant way to walk home on a late october night.

i bought a pumpkin yesterday at tesco. at mac house, he had a pumpkin in our reception room from mid october until may. yes, but it wasn't as gross as all that. promise.

one last thing. i would like to thank Janessa D Todd, a "self-respecting 17-year-old" (who, dare i say it, is almost capable of writing a coherent sentence. almost!), for informing myself and the rest of spokane that Freak dancing is about sex. i'm not sure if her letter was in response to a story in the paper, or just begotten of her own selflessness, but i will say she makes a rather large jump in logic from "Without clothes, it's simply intercourse" to "It doesn't demonstrate respect for your partner". but then again, i don't mind a good freak dance every now and then.

wednesday, 26 october

less than 2 months until christmas!
quoted: "i think i inherited it with the alligator" -shel

several people deserve to be mentioned gratefully: thanks to jack for a lovely dinner at busuba: i highly recommend the grilled ribeye with the delicious delicious dipping sauce. or the panang beef. but we all know how much i love panang. thanks also to ketan, for very thoughtfully pidging me a copy of maurice, which i sadly did not take to london with me yesterday, preferring instead to read about the english court.

in any case, now i can share the much-spoken-of quote that reminded me of oxford, though that's not what it's about: "It was a land of facilities, where nothing had to be striven for, and success was indistinguishable from failure." Indeed.

on my walk to the gym today, it felt like an october morning in spokane. it didn't quite smell like it, though. and then when i was leaving the gym the air definitely lacked that thursday night football game crispness. so nevermind.

also while walking to the gym, i realized the main thing my family lost when my brother graduated from prep in may (other than my newly-empty-nester mother's sanity): the food drive. oh how i will miss it. this will only be the 2nd year since 1993 that there hasn't been a member of my family on the food drive committee. boo.

ok. shower and store. and then work work work. this statistic will sound either like i made it up or like i'm incompetent, but i'll share it anyway...yesterday i went through 4,900 pages of manuscript. i KNOW. thank god that archive is now closed for two weeks. all but 800 of the pages were on microfilm, too. icky.

monday, 24 october

quoted: "you have very nice legs; i've seen them." -seb, to me

it's awfully rainy outside. one of those days that i'll work from my room with a big mug of mint tea until mid afternoon. then i'll go to the gym, take a shower, and get ready for dinner. not a bad way to spend a drizzly autumn day, by any measure.

has anyone else ever noticed that sometimes the sky seems very large, while at others it seems much smaller? jean-paul sartre wrote an essay called "manhattan: the great american desert" in which he contends that the european city is designed to protect its occupants from the great expanses of space beyond the city: the crookedness of the streets precludes a view of the horizon, and their narrowness (and the shortness of the buildings) makes the sky seem narrow and close. manhattan, on the other hands, is oriented toward the infinite. its height draws one's eyes toward the heavens, not unlike a norman perpendicular cathedral. at the same time, its streets and avenues drive toward the horizon, so that standing in the middle of a midtown intersection, one can almost see forever in four directions (before being run over by a taxi). other american cities are much the same, especially where their suburbs melt into exurbs, which in turn melt into the countryside. but anyway, i was talking mostly about tom quad. some days the sky over tom quad seems but a roof, while other days it seems mind-bogglingly large, drawing one out of the quad and into its expanse.

i must apologise for not having the E M Forster quote ready for you all today: i went back to the library, but the book was nowhere to be found. perhaps wednesday. i'm in london tomorrow at the LMA, so maybe no update.

one last thing: i went to the evensong in comemmoration of the 200th anniversary of the battle of trafalgar with marty last night. more talking than normal, but not as much lording it over the french as i expected. and i knew the closing hymn, which almost never happens...eternal father strong to save (the navy hymn), which we inexplicably sang at st al's on the 4th of july.

sunday, 23 october
3rd sunday, michaelmas term

quoted: "he could spend 18,000 a year on cufflinks" -pete

really, who couldn't?

yesterday ended very pleasantly. katie's swat monkey party elicited some very creative fancy dress...swat dolphins. swat donkeys. swat, um, fly: tamson? i just don't know what you were. other than hot, of course.

so all these people on facebook have photo galleries now. which reminds me that i need to start taking more photos of the absurd parties i attend.

i started reading forster's maurice yesterday. a much-maligned novel, i believe. that first chapter was good enough i thought. but then i couldn't take it out of the library, so i was able to read no further before going to lunch. there was a great quote that made me think very much of oxford, but i can't recall it precisely, and i don't want to maul it publicly, so i'll give you its particularls tomorrow perhaps.

ok. i should do some work now before i head to evensong.

saturday, 22 october

quoted: "liminality is very fashionable" -dr gunn

how on earth do i continue to exceed my food budget every month? it's these trips into london, i think, with their temptation of good restaurants.

another important question: why do i continue to think that trips to the british library will help my research? i mean, yes, they have a lot of stuff, but it's all rather willie-nillie. it's easy to find an intersting scrap of information here or there, but only rarely have i found anything with bulk. take me back to the GL/LMA/WAM/LPL/PRO. acronyms it is. acronyms they are?

anyway, disappointment at the british library was followed up with lunch (con ricky) at busaba, nerdy nerdy bliss at the london metropolitan archives and dinner with jack at royal china on baker street: mmmmm. then i stayed up way too late talking to pete and harri, et al. now i'm off to the gym and then for a little drinky drink with the new BA (Oxon)s.

friday, 21 october

quoted: "you know what i think about henry vii...it's not respectable" -dr heal

already late for catching the bus into london. was up way too late last night. but one observation...after the gym yesterday, i ate a banana in the shower. not for any particular reason. i wanted a banana and i had to take a shower. but the juxtaposition of doing those two things, each of which i do very often but never before simultaneously, made me feel like i was breaking some sort of unspoken rule. it gave me all the sneaky pleasure of rebellion without any of the subsequent guilt. very enjoyable indeed.

ok. today: BL and LMA. tomorrow: everyone's in town for graduation. hurrah!

thursday, 20 october

quoted: "if all the girls who attended the yale prom were laid end to end, i wouldn't be a bit surprised" -dorothy parker

in the past 12 hours or so, i've realised some interesting things. the tesco on cowley road doesn't close until midnight: i don't live in an english cle ellum (easy thru access!). i watched half (?) of the oxford vs bath basketball game last night: i miss america. i woke up at 8.30: i shouldn't work out after 4 pm.

today i'm trying to figure out what i'm going to do tomorrow. that's clearly a good use of my time. but not just that; i'm going to go into college to sort out the possibility of a guest room for pete. he's welcome to sleep on my floor, of course, but i'm not sure that will be so very comfortable...everyone is coming back for graduation saturday, which should be tons of fun. i must remember to take my mortar board for tash.

warning: paragraph about my research. i was certain i had other interesting things to say today. perhaps not. i'm off to sturbocks now to outline the chapter on st martin le grand, which is increasingly necessary because i'm finding myself completely unable to recognise the significance of individual bits of information since i have no larger analytical structure in which to place them. i think this may be a result of my attempt to do archival work on this liberty before doing all the secondary reading. that was a mistake i won't make again... mostly because this is my last chapter (HURRAH!).

wednesday, 19 october

quoted: "remember dolphinsex.org? i miss it" -mandahouse, of course

i'm thinking maybe dolphinsex.org is the reason the government started developing the killer dolphin program down in the gulf of mexico.

i'm running way late today, so just bullet points really: dinner with mark and barbara harvey was LOVELY. i think jack would make a good treasure hunter. fiona always makes me smile. oxford dons are very good at asking the right questions. that is definitely a skill to which i aspire.

tuesday, 18 october

quoted: "where would christ church be without brookes?" -tom quad

my immediate answer was "in the same place, of course" but then i realised they were rugby guys, and they were talking about either 1)the fact that the brookes rugby squad is even worse than the christ church squad or 2)the fact that brookes women flirt with them. b) you da ho.

it's very difficult for me to comprehend that my friend justin died 8 years ago today. not only because i remember it all so clearly, but also because i remember him so clearly, and i still have trouble understanding that he hasn't been around for the past eight years. i always miss my spokane friends particularly at this time of year...too long since summer, but not close enough to christmas. so, um, yeah. that's that.

jack has a presentation right...now. ok. in 3 minutes. so hopefully he'll be stellar. i have a busy day of meetings (social and academic and mixed), ending with dinner at somerville with mark and barbara harvey, a brilliant medievalist who has done lots of work on westminster. which complements my thursday seminar, which will be given by julia merritt, who studies early modern westminster. and not to bore you all too much, but the chapter i'm researching right now is on st martin le grand, which was given over to westminster abbey in 1503 by henry VII. indeed!

disturbing item number one: yesterday i was at a thing (that operated under the chatham house rule) where a person asked "someone who would know" (really) to explain the legal rationale behind suspending judicial review of house-arrest orders made by the home secretary for terror suspects. the answer given was that it is galling for the home secretary to be overruled by a judge after having gone to the trouble of making a home detention order. (!!!!) now, i think we all know how much i love the british constitution. and i fully accept that the parliament is legally able to set out circumstances under which judicial review is impremissible. personally, however, i believe that review by an independent judiciate of government action is a necessary safeguard against tyranny. i also would hope that the bar for routing judicial review would be set a bit higher than the personal (or bureaucratic) pride of a cabinet minister. maybe that's just me.

disturbing item number two: i was at the gym this morning, and they had the MTV Hits channel on. fair enough. i got to see, you know, kanye west and sean paul and the sugababes and will young's new (hot gun) video. and THEN something strange happened: christian music. i'm pretty sure the refrain was "you raise me up so i can stand on mountains. you raise me up to walk on stormy seas. blah blah blah. you raise me up so i can walk with thee". yeah. exactly. very very very strangely christian. which is disturbing enough. (i'm sorry, but a little young life in high school went a long way toward making me demand something more spiritually complex and satisfying than a hug from my church). but anyway...even more disturbing was that the video itself wasn't overtly christian. it was black&white clips of friends hugging, or smiling together. or laughing. implying that the song was really about good friends. which it wasn't. this wasn't dar williams. very very insidious.

monday, 17 october

quoted: "...an empty bottle of peach brandy turned into a bong..." -broad street. doesnt' peach brandy sound GROSS?

i'm going to be a conscientious graduate student this week. i am. today i'm going to duke humfrey's library and the history faculty. i'm going to do tons of work and then eat some lunch, and then do more work.

i sent in 4 job applications over the weekend. go me. i've also been contemplating the whole idea of finding a profession, and i've decided why i have trouble wrapping my mind around it: quite simply, i don't know the value of a dollar. in earning terms, i mean. i've worked without being paid, and i've been paid without working, but never have the two been closely related. then again, i suppose even when i do get a job, i'll have a salary, and the relationship between an hour of my time and the amount my paycheck is made out for will continue to elude me. whoops.

i finished reading howards end (yes yes, again) yesterday. what a great book. only connect. there will be some additions to the quotes page soon.

oh. one last thing. i have a flatmate now. girls are gross. the amount of hair in the bath this morning was absolutely revolting. it better decrease soon, or it will be ending up on her doorknob. i'm not passive aggressive at all. and i think she's using my 14 per bottle shower gel. quite vexing.

sunday, 16 october
2nd sunday, michaelmas term

quoted: "all you really need is a golden foreskin" -brad (whom i had just met) to jeff, across the dinner table.

i have no excuse for not updating yesterday. on friday i left for london at about 7 am, so there was no real chance for an update. yesterday i reorganised the stuff in my room and did 3 loads of laundry. and ate 5 meals. hm. maybe my decision to forego the gym today is a mistake. in any case, by the end of friday i was a tad (read: extremely) exhausted and miserable. so i've taken the past two evenings for myself. anti-social, perhaps, but no less necessary.

a few other things: thursday and friday were notable in large part for the sharp rise in my awareness of bathroom sex going on around me. shocking as it may be, i shall relate particulars. i suggest my more puritanical readers (do i have any? i suppose it's all relative) use their earmuffs and skip to the next paragraph. ok. so thursday night i was walking past the pub oxford (which is on the plain, at the eastern end of magdalen bridge) when i noticed two human shapes through the only slightly obscuring glass of one of its loo windows. "intriguing," i thought. the one closer to the window was blond and had long hair. the figure behind (i'm assuming) her had a dark complexion and short hair. and then they began copulating. or appeared to do so in any case. in the loo at the pub oxford. in full (though obscured) view of all us pedestrians on iffley road. i KNOW. so then friday after lunch (at the ultimate burger on tottenham court road: yum), i decided i had plenty of time to walk to westminster abbey. about 2/3 of the way there, when i was walking past st. james's park, i had to pee. so i went into the public loo that faces the horse guards parade. washing my hands, the cubicle door next the sinks opened and a man walked out without washing his hands. "gross," i thought. then i noticed another pair of shoes below the cubicle wall. "gross," i thought again. and thus ended my two days of witnessing things i did not want to witness.

on to sunnier fields: i bought a kettle, and i'm really really glad my parents didn't follow the advice os the kim sisters when raising myself and my siblings. i mean, yes, they took an active part in our education, made sure we did our work and worked to the best of our abilities. and we flourished, but they weren't strict taskmasters. and i'm glad i had plenty of say in what i did or did not do. and i didn't turn out too badly.

finally (for now, anyway), i saw the ultimate geek squad clothing accessory yesterday at the gym: a hoodie from the institute for advanced study. mike says it's just nerdy, but i think it's SO hot. and if anyone knows where i can buy one online, i'd appreciate it greatly. GREATLY. so hot.

thursday, 13 october

731 days.
quoted: "coffee makes me poop" -marylebone carluccio's

i have nothing interesting to say today. i didn't sleep well last night, but i did dream about spokane. i'm going to the library. indeed i am.

wednesday, 12 october

quoted: "open your mouth. wider!" -kinda cute guy to really cute guy at lara's housewarming

mark complains that he's never been mentioned in an update. so that solves that. the gay rhodies drinks were scantly attended, but no less wonderful for their intimacy. i spoke to my parents on the phone for over an hour yesterday. that was very nice. i was also so hung over that it was kinda funny. my mother asked, "why are you so hung over?" i answered, "because i drank too much last night." it's true, though.

today, i'm going to try to figure out what this new chapter is going to be about. and i'm going to declutter my room as thoroghly as i can. gotta make it presentable. then i'm having one of amanda's amstud classmates and his girlfriend around for dinner at college.

finally, 3 cheers for wonkette's keeping the note honest. at least a little bit.

monday, 10 october

quoted: "brian left quite an impression on us" -jonathan

the dinner last night was tons and tons of fun. dinner was lovely; the house was beautiful; the conversation was intimidating; anne-marie LOVED my card. all in all, a pleasant way to spend a sunday evening.

the champagne tea in the les jones was also very nice. huge turnout. good work freshers! (and chris and amy, of course). hat guy is still wearing that hat. that is all for now. surprisingly busy day today. must run.

oh, and a quick ps - did anyone notice that this article (Front Line in Day Laborer Battle Runs Right Outside Home Depot) from today's new york time's is quite similar to this article (Outside Do-It-Yourself Store, Men Yearn to Do It for Them) from the new york times on the 12th of february, 2003? now admittedly today's story is about the country as a whole, while the 2003 article focused on california. i'm not sure which is more shocking: that the article has the prime front page, first column in today's times, or that i recalled an article from 30 months ago with anything resembling accuracy. freakish.

sunday, 9 october
1st sunday, michaelmas term

quoted: "you drunk slut!" -dave

well well well, last night did prove to be a good time. i should have stayed at the chch bop. balliol was good, but 4 and not nearly as fun as christ church. but don't tell balliol i said that. all in all a good night. i got to see thea (yay!) and dave finally showed up at a freshers' week event, so we got to talk shop for a bit.

dinner was good. i love pie. but penulums (pendula?) are bad. i don't like them. today was the first sunday brunch of term. i do like brunch. tim was there. i'm pretty sure he's never in austria anymore. and it's a beautiful sunny day. which means it will pour when i walk into town for the college lgb tea in a coule hours.

booker dinner in london tonight...coach set lifestyle.

saturday, 8 october
0th saturday, michaelmas term

quoted: "my father gave me a pearl necklace of wisdom' -stef, at lara's housewarming

this is an afternoon update, because i wasn't "with it" enough to write one this morning. it's awfully rainy out. it's kinda warm, but it's still the type of afternoon that makes me want to eat chilli with cheese and hotdogs in it while watching some movie i've seen a million times. perhaps the princess bride.

such daydreaming, of course, will come to nothing because this evening is the first bop of the year: golf pros and tennis hos. i hear there's also a bop at hollywell manor, but in all honesty i can hardly handle two bops per term, let alone two in one evening.

rob and i went to evensong and dinner in hall last night. both were remarkably good, as was the bottle of wine that the buttery recommended. a lovely evening, in all. he tried to trick me into going out with him in london, but i thought better of it. i'll be in town tomorrow evening for a dinner party in holland park, anyway.

OH! speaking of spokanites: i ran into kathleen at freshers' fair. she's doing well. always nice to see a face from home. especially such a fun one.

friday, 7 october

quoted: "no matter how hard i try, i'm sure i'm going to marry a complete twat" -some girl on magdalen bridge

i've said it before and i'll say it again: "it's not a day without green day".

brandon and laura were in one of my dreams last night. they had an adorable child who was in preschool, but kept bringing home differential equations for homework. precocious little kid, really. but cute.

yesterday morning, my current scout (carla) was not around, so my scout from last year (dawn) cleaned. boy do i miss dawn. the difference between having a great scout and a useless one has never been more apparent. on a related note, i think i may not have any flatmates this year. there are still 3 empty bedrooms, and term starts sunday. which means collections are probably happening today. curious.

my neighbor/friend rob from spokane is coming to town this afternoon, which is exciting. dinner in hall doesn't look promising, but that's why we'll have a bottle of wine.

thursday, 6 october

quoted: "your hand must need a vacation" -katie, not in a dirty way

at what time do "we" become "they"? in one of my all souls essays last thursday i wrote about the importance of shared values and experience as creating a sense of community, but that's not what i'm thinking about right now. well, maybe it is. i'm thinking about the durability of a sense of community over time, i guess. i was at the westminster abbey muniments on tuesday, as you know, and the woman who works there was speaking to another researcher. "they still charged him half the burial fee for erecting a monument, even though the body wasn't buried here," she said of a late 18th century funeral monument in the church. but it wasn't "we still charged him...", it was definitely "they" that caught my ear. which got me to thinking about my community affiliations, and whether i see myself as a member in this instant only or whether i see myself as more durably linked to its past and future.

i often speak of the united states, for example, as "we", even when i'm talking about some aspect of the US with which i don't directly identify, but i imagine it would sound presumptuous of me to speak of "when we entered the first world war". the same, i suppose, would go for JVC, or the rhodes trust, or georgetown, or the catholic church. perhaps it is linked to the degree i feel connected to the institutional structures of any given community. since i never speak from an official position, it is difficult for me to speak of any group in the past tense as "we" instead of "they".

and i'll leave you with that somewhat undigested and incoherent thought while i prepare for my day.

wednesday, 5 october

quoted: "i look nothing like the person who's going up here. i don't have a yellow stripe down my back" -tech guy checking the microphones before the white house press briefing

it really is wonderful that they open up the webcam feed for the white house press briefings a good 10 or 15 minutes before the briefings start. gives one an opportunity to overhear all sorts of funny things.

today is very grey and misty. lovely. i got a good night's sleep last night, which was nice, because monday night i could not sleep for anything. i didn't finally drift off until after 1, and i had to be up at 6.30 to head down to WAM (the westminster abbey muniments, of course). i shouldn't have to remind you that it's not really an abbey, though. it's the collegiate church of saint peter at westminster. i nearly got run over twice yesterday. the countryside was very misty, though, and it looked beautiful in the light of the rising sun. amazingly beautiful.

discovered some interesting things yesterday. went for a drink with susie in farringdon and had two (2!) meals at different busubas. quite sad, i know. next time: ultimate burger.

despite my desire to do no work, i really should get to the library. until tomorrow...

monday, 3 october

quoted: "whoops. there goes my cookie" -white house press briefing, 19 sept 05

i forgot to mention in yesterday's update that it was the two year anniversary of my first arrival in oxford. how much has changed since then! there's a line in a guster song called "come downstairs and say hello" that keeps running through my head: "by this time next year i won't be here". which is a rather strange thought. i suppose now i have to, you know, find a job and all that. woo.

also in the "not too thrilled" box: now that this exam is over, i suppose i have to return to being a conscientious, responsible graduate student. but not too conscientious or responsible, because it's only 0th week. it has all the makings of a busy week, though: it's freshers' week, of course; i'm going down to london for an archive visit tomorrow (so no update. sorry); wednesday's pretty wide open, but thursday or friday may bring an old friend to oxford, and saturday includes picnics and bops, while sunday is a chch LGB tea followed by dinner in holland park with fr ribeiro (et al) and monday and tuesday include more parties. HURRAH: term is here!

sunday, 2 october
0th sunday, michaelmas term

quoted: "ooo...i knew i was feeling dangerous...yet kissable" -bucky katt

yes, my two weeks of update exile have ended. i do think the time it freed up was valuable. more on that as time progresses. there is sad news: my dad's brother dennis died on thursday. i didn't know him at all, but do keep him and his family in your thoughts and prayers. and my dad especially.

i owe brandon a big ol' thank you for pointing out that in my 16th september entry i meant the lord of the flies, not rings.

i sincerely apologize to everyone whose calls/emails/letters/bricks through my window i haven't returned in the past couple weeks. it was nice to be mildly stressed about something that really didn't matter, though it was in the end more fun than i would have guessed.

tell you more about the all souls prize fellowship exam? ok. there were maybe 45 people taking it, mostly men (only 5 women). i attribute this largely to women being less masochistic than men. there were, however 7 of us christ churchers, 4 of us being historians. whoo.

the exam itself is five papers of three hours each, spread over three days. so in the past 3 days i spent 15 hours writing by hand. toward the end of the 4th paper, i lost feeling in my pinky, and my forearm is still sore. but two (two!) people complimented me on my handwriting. one person said it looked victorian, which i suppose she meant was a good thing. in any case, on thursday and friday mornings we sat our subject papers (history for me), while the afternoons were general papers. each of those papers had several dozen questions, of which i was to answer three of my choice. so basically they consisted of 12 one-hour essays on topics roughly chosen by me. here's a breakdown of the questions:

answered almost answered beyond my abilities
Was the principle problem faced by rulers in the sixteenth century a problem of communication? Was the United States an empire from its inception? What might emerge froma history of anger in the Greek world?
Was mid-sventeenth-century English radicalism a 'rude and undigested Chaos'? [Thomas Edwards, Gangraena] How far was America's westward expansion a response to immigration? Is the end of the Cold War best understood as a series of national revolutions?
Have historians been too quick to relieve the Versailles negotiators of responsibility for the Second World War? Why did Germany possess the largest socialist party in the world by 1912? Was Disraelian Conservatism no more than an invention of his successors?
Is it possible to write the history of homosexuality? What was the impact of western models on Japan in the period after the Meiji restoration? Was English or Latin the lingua franca of late medieval England?
Why was 'cheap print' seen as a threat rather than a prop to established institutions in ANY ONE century between 1500 and 1800? When and why did revolutions replace rebellions in Europe? Why did the earnings of professional football players rise by so much between 1970 and 2000?
What was the relationship between urbanisation and pubic (sic) health? Is the early modern history of the book a social history or a technological history? Was purgatory invented?
Why was the US civil rights movement so successful? Why did Islam preserve classical knowledge better than did Christianity?
Why did Hollywood abandon the western? Did universities encourage or stifle new ideas?
'On or about December 1910 human nature changed.' [Virginia Woolf] Did it?
Did it require the war on the eastern front to make the Holocause possible?
From where does a sense of community come? Is international migration a problem or an opportunity? Can the uses of euthenasia be secured against abuses of it?
Why should I tolerate? Do we need a written constitution, European or other? Does the non-participation of the United States make the Kyoto accord worthless?
Have developments in electronic communications destroyed our personal space? Should the Orange Prize for Fiction be open to both men and women? How would you explain the present strength of religious fundamentalism?
Who should run universities? What is war good for?
Does fashion serve a useful purpose? Is there ever a moral justification for the use of evidence obtained by torture?
What are the virtues and vices of patriotism? Should we preserve living creatures harmful to human iterests, such as the tick, the locust and the tapeworm?
Is history one discipline or many? Is the idea of a Dictionary of National Biography out of date? 'If news media are for sale, seats in the legislature should be too.' Do you agree?
Are universal human rights a form of cultural imperialism? What role has London played in English Literature? 'Translation changes the language translated into.' Discuss
Is the 'American Dream' a reality? Should it be? Who should protect civil liberties? What is power in international relations?
Should prisoners have the vote? Which was the first world war?
What difference should it make to feminism whether gender differences are natural or socially constructed? Is democracy a means or an end?
Can demographic studies of past societies ever be credible? Was nationalism unknown in pre-industrial societies?
and so, as you can see, it was essentially a chance to think constructively about a variety of issues, and to articulate an informed opinion on them. which was a joy, even if it hurt my forearm. the last 3 hours of the exam, which happened yesterday morning, are known simply as essay. they give us a single word, and we are expected to write a "polished, intellectual exposition" of it. yeah: it was the part i feared most, but it ended up being the most fun, in large part because we could all discuss what we did with it afterwards, since we all had the same word.

the word, in any case, was style. my essay was on style as fundamentally symbolic, attempting to provide outward clues to a more essential reality. i talked about how style can be used aesthetically or to describe the exercise of power and about how in either case analysing style provides as much information about a culture as it does about an individual. i was pretty happy with it, actually.

ok. gotta go shower and clean my room, which has been too too neglected in the past four or five days.

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