NYC and Oxford
July 22 - Aug 18, 2004
random trip report
7/28: Erica and I fly to JFK on Jetblue. The vaunted personal Dish TV is the same crap as its terrestrial equivalent.
We stay for a few days with the in-laws (Emily, Paul, Grandma Rose)
A game of tennis with Paul (6-6 draw) snaps me out of my lethargy.
I go to the Mannes School in Manhattan and see Dave Weinberg
take a master class with the wonderful Nina Lelchuk.
Emily and Paul join us for dinner at The Monsoon
(appropriate, given the prevailing weather).
7/25: Erica and I drive to Bellport to visit Alice and Larry.
We have a nice time, go for a hike,
visit the Stonybrook campus,
peruse the tourist haven of Port Jefferson,
and have a great dinner at a 2-star restaurant in a strip mall,
run by a Guatemalan man who has worked his way up
through the local culinary scene.
7/26: Erica, Emily and I drive to Middletown to visit Ron and Bobbi,
and meet their newly adopted daughter Lily Cai.
E, E and I tour the campus - it's a beautiful New England summer day.
Emily locates the Honors College, where she was married,
and a Tudor house she lived in.
I leave a note for Wistar Comfort.
We go to Ron's house.
Lily Cai is the cutest, and all-around best, baby I have ever seen.
She asks to be held by each of us in turn.
Cai knows some sign language, can say 'blueberry' and many
other words, and plays piano.
She's 18 months old!
Leaving Bobbi to work her kitchen magic, we go to Wadsworth Falls,
which turns out to be a fairly long hike but quite enjoyable.
We have a wonderful dinner under an canopy on the back lawn.
On the drive home, we introduce Emily to the 5 letter work game, and she immediately springs 'khaki' and 'xylem' on me.
7/27: I join Berg for a final day of wandering around Manhattan, then return to Brooklyn for Emily's birthday dinner at an Italian place that, although it's nothing special, has pictures all over the walls of Sinatra, Pavarotti etc. with the chef.
7/28: We fly on American to Heathrow, stay at the nearby Comfort Inn (not recommended - no air conditioning, for starters) and wander to a kabob place for dinner.
7/29: The next morning, a young Nordic couple is waiting for the bus too. They are very tense, and seem to have been fighting. On the bus, they hold hands and seem to silently make up; tears are shed on both sides. Will their first trip together be their last?
We take the bus to Oxford, rendezvous with Carl Christensen, and get installed in Irene's rooms at Christchurch. Simple but VERY nice. The Christchurch dining hall is featured in the undeservedly popular Harry Potter movies. Erica explores the Christchurch Meadow (these Oxford colleges are unbelievable) while I rest and successfully fight off a virus.
The bells in Christchurch's Tom Tower ring 101 times every day at 9:05 PM,
in honor of its 101 original members.
7/30: The Climateprediction.net 'Open Day', is attended by various academics, media and participants (from as far away as Prague!). I give a short talk. A woman leads applause for the American public, for funding BOINC! I reacquaint with the CPDN people (Frame, Stainforth, Myles, Jamie) and meet Tolu Ainu.
We meet Carl and go for a long walk along
the Thames/Isis, stopping for Pimm's at a river-side pub,
visiting a very old church in Iffley,
going to another pub, then returning.
Frightully pleasant, really.
8/1: We vacate the Don's chambers, reluctantly, but our new digs (Myles/Irene's house) are great too, albeit less central. We have an amazingly hard time figuring out their house's high-tech gizmos, especially the front and back door locks.
In the next few days I settle into a pleasant routine of working at CPDN, with Erica visiting in the late afternoon to read email. Carl comes over a few times to watch Black Adder and Red Dwarf.
There's a climbing gym at Oxford Brookes University, part of their recreational complex. I navigate there by bike. It's small and quite crowded, but looks fun. Unfortunately they don't rent gear, and I didn't bring mine.
8/5: Erica and I see a piano concert - Piers Lane, a Brit, playing 12 Scriabin preludes, Chopin Etudes op. 25, then 2 waltzes and 2 nocturnes, then Rachmaninoff's Chopin variations. Quite a program, and excellently played.
8/7: Erica and I take the 20 bus to Woodstock,
tour the village (antique show and farmer's market)
then do Blenheim Palace.
We're too cheap to pay 12.50 to tour the palace,
or even 7.50 for the grounds, so we just sneak into the grounds
and go for a walk around the lake.
Being halfway through 'The Baron in the Trees' by Italo Calvino,
I'm strangely attracted to the trees,
and climb a couple; Erica Forcibly prevents me from climbing more.
8/8: I take the bus to Gatwick airport and fly to Geneva. With slight difficulty I take city buses to CERN, where I'm staying in the hostel. I get a beer and sit outside in the warm twilight. It's blue overhead, but thunderclouds surround the nearby Alps, and there are periodic silent pyrotechnics. A single huge cumulus cloud floats in front of me, calibrated by a row of power lines. It seems stationary, but each time I look it has shifted subtlely. A metaphor for life?
8/9: I'm walking in, and Ben Segal drives by and picks me up. I spend the day talking with people about the CERN BOINC project, which thanks to the heroic political efforts of Francois and Ben is moving ahead in spite of ambiguous response erom higher levels. Karl Chen and his friend Amy arrive, having taken the overnight train from Rome. They have had the usual European marathon (Paris/Berlin/Munich/Rome/Venice in 2 weeks) but unlike the Nordic couple they seem to have survived pretty well.
Returning that evening, I get to Gatwick in time to catch the 20:15 bus. I go the ATM, return at 20:15:01, and see the bus leaving. Sigh. I type this document up to here on the 21:15 bus.
8/11 or so: Erica, who has been doing some exploring, shows me a path across Port Meadow, to the Perch pub, and the village of Binsey (on her first visit, Erica walked to the Binsey Church and saw the Treacle Well, which figures in Alice in Wonderland), and past the fabled ruins of Godstow Priory. We stop for dinner at The Trout, an upscale pub in the village of Wolvercote, where J.R.R. Tolkein is buried. An Orange-County Republican gives his political views (Powell, Ashcroft and Rumsfeld are 'great men of integrity' etc.) to a European couple at the table next to us, who suppress laughter as he walks away. Erica goes over to assure them that not all Americans are dolts.
8/12 or so: we tour the Bodleian library (which is the library and infirmary in Harry Potter).
8/13 or so: At my urging, Carl buys a copy of the Isle of Wight rockumentary on DVD, and we watch it on my laptop. The sound is pitiful.
The fish tank in Myles' house has turned an alarming shade of green, but the fishies are still moving about.
8/14: With David Stainforth and his wife Rebecca and baby daughter Janet
we visit the village of Dorchester, tour the extremely old church,
hike to the Clumps (two low-ish hills),
and enjoy tea in a little cafe run by the parishioners.
Erica buys a hard-cover copy of Harry Potter V from a sidewalk vendor.
A perfect British country day.
8/15: Erica's relatives Simon and Celia, their kids, and common friends Bjorn and Livia visit from London. The kids discover the cache of toys at Myles' house. We walk across Port Meadow to The Perch, then come back and have sandwiches. More pictures are at http://newleaf.homeip.net/~livia/2004-08-15Oxfordvisit/index.html.
The Olympics appear on TV. The coverage is a tremendous contrast with American network TV. There are no commercials and no 'up close and personal' segments; obscure sports are covered, including badminton and crew, and there's fairly minimal national Chauvinism.
8/17: Yielding to pressure from Erica, I agree to go punting on the Cherwell. My technique is atrocious but at least I don't fall in. Erica does somewhat better.
8/18: Long travel day. We're up at 7:45, taxi, then bus, then AA to JFK, then JetBlue to Oakland. Paul is supposed to pick us up, but I sent him the wrong day so we end up taking a taxi home ($37, and worth it) and confronting the gigantic pile of snail mail that has arrived in our absence.