Friday, November 25, 2011

"Oh, you're such a positivist!"

Also overheard in yesterday's Jurisprudence (JPT) seminar: "So far so Kant". Hmm, OR IS IT?

Some of the readings for JPT. No I haven't read them all....yet.

To be honest, I'm still pretty lost and confused in every JPT seminar I attend. (And I've attended quite a few of them...3 times a week, 7 weeks so far...yeah.) Everyone thinks so fast, everytime I catch up they've already moved onto the counter-counter-counter argument to the original proposition. My main problem is that I lack any kind of philosophical background, which by itself isn't fatal, but pretty awful when: a) you aren't used to rhetorical thinking, b) your critical thinking skill are rusty, and c) you have zero knowledge of philosophical methodology (naturalizing what, exactly?!) and philosophy of language (truth values, anyone??). Well that, and my reading skills are abysmal. Seriously, when did I become such a slow reader? This is true of most classes, but especially JPT where I have reread every sentence 5 times in order to understand it.

Sigh. One more term before final essays and evaluations. I have my work cut out for me. C'mon brain, learn faster!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

3 costumes and a belated post

[Health update: My cold is most tenacious, but I'm -- hopefully -- mostly recovered. No idea whether it had anything to do with last week's accidentally skipped Jurisprudence seminar...]

I meant to post about the Halloween shenanigans ages ago but somehow never quite got to it. Oh well, better late than never.

Halloween this year was an elaborate affair. I actually put on not one, nor two, but THREE costumes! It all started on Thursday the 27th, which was our friend M's birthday. As per our grand tradition of celebrating whatever occasion we can find, we had a party that evening but with a twist: a 20's theme! (Themed parties are going to be the thing for our group from now...can't wait for the next one!) Prohibition, gangsters and flapper were de rigueur. Well, except for the actual Prohibition part...let's pretend that we were in a speakeasy?

Look at all these flappers and gangsters. Roaring Twenties incarnate!

Flapper photobomb! Crashing the birthday girl's portrait.

Then, on Friday our college MCR held an outdoors Halloween party, to which we brought our most imaginative, elaborate and/or pun-tastic costumes...

Three guesses as to what I was. Let me give you a clue:
I was dressed like a French caricature and had pieces of
toast  stuck to me. (Yes this is beyond nerdy. Haha.)

Here I am with my friends Blackmail and the Cold War. Oh the puns we made.

And on Saturday St-Anthony's College had their annual Hallow-Queen bop, which means cross-dressing and lots and lots of funny people watching. (Seeing 6 feet-tall guys attempting in heels was a riot was something. And pronouns were a bit difficult that night. "Hey, did he...she...erm... just spill my beer?!")

Girls being boys (including Van Gogh and Doctor Who) was fun...

...but clearly the boys got the more fun end of the bargain! 

When Sunday, the actual 31st, finally rolled around, we were all too tired to do anything. Although, I did find out that night that our porch light is a security light which doesn't turn off. Consequently, kids kept ringing our doorbell and my flatmates and I, after I gave away my last three apples (the kids didn't seem too happy about them), hid and pretended to not be home...

(Photo credit: some are mine, most were taken from various friends' Facebooks.)

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Seasonal blues

Il fait froid et humide (toujours cette maudite humidité!), le ciel est éternellement gris et le soleil, lorsqu'il en a, se couche à 15h. En plus, malgré touts mes précautions (écharpes au pluriel, gants, tisanes au gingembre et citron), j'ai réussi à attraper un rhume. Mal de gorge, mal de tête, les yeux qui coulent...ouais, ça va super bien pour faire mes lectures.

Et dire qu'il faisait tellement beau et ensoleillé mes premières semaines ici. Quelle fausse publicité!

Oh Oxford, pouquoi tu ne peux pas ressembler à ça tout le temps?

Si seulement il faisait assez beau pour aller faire du punting...

Mon cercle d'amis non anglais (les Anglais sont fous pour adorer ce genre de climat) et moi-même sommes tous en trian de déprimer collectivement. Solution? Pourquoi pas organiser un séjour à Fuerteventura, dans les îles Canaries, à la fin du semestre? Les billets d'avions coûtent 48 livres (merci RyanAir) et il y fait 20 degrés au mois de décembre. 20 degrés!!! Et tout gros plein de soleil sub-tropical. Hmmm. HMMM.

J'ai très très très hâte. (Photo prise d'ici). 

Décompte officiel: 18 jours avant l'océan, les montagnes, la plage et, Dieu merci, DU SOLEIL!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

O is for Oddities

In many ways, Oxford is a bit of a world of its own (which world, forcibly, also includes the other place, ie. C--bridge). It has extremely well-defined and long-standing institutions and customs, a way of functioning that has its roots in the High Middle Ages and armies of students and ex-students to keep its traditions alive. But then again, I guess that any establishment of 800 years is bound to be slightly insular and different from the rest of the world.

Hence why the unofficial motto around here is "It made sense in the 1200s". See, whenever you run into something inexplicable (or alternatively, requiring a 15-minute long explanation full of medieval references), the short answer is just so say: "Hey, it made sense in the 1200s!". Confused about the college system? Well, it made sense in the 1200s. Wonder why the same street changes name three times within 2 kilometers? (I'm looking at you, Cornmarket!) Well, back in the 1200s...And let's not forget about sub fusc and Matriculation.

Of course, keeping traditions doesn't mean that we can't have flat screens in
an 800 year-old church. This is St-Aldates, where I attended an Intl Student
Welcome Dinner my first week here. Picture courtesy of friend-of-friend`s FB.

Sometimes, however, even things in Oxford aren't old enough to warrant the 1200s-explanation. Therefore, a popular variant is the "Around the 1800s..." justification. This is particularly true regarding my field and faculty. The English common law wasn't as much taught as learned on the job for the longest time.Señor Blackstone found that out the hard way in 1758. The entire system of the BCL (why a "Bachelor of Civil Law" as a master's degree?), the MJur (why different names for what is essentially the same degree?), along with the vocabulary of "writing a paper" (ie. taking a course) and final honour schools (final year all-inclusive exams for undergrads), all make sense once put into their rather complicated historical context. I mean, we probably could hypothetically modernize everything, but: a) that'd be losing centuries of reputation and b) what would be the fun in that?

Sir William Blackstone, of the infamous Commentaries
and the first Vinerian Professor of English Law.

Finally, there are some inexplicable things here which, no matter the time period reference, simply DO NOT MAKE SENSE. In that case, the default explanation is "Oh, those crazy English people...". Case in point: Separate taps for hot and cold water. Gosh, this drives me absolutely c-r-a-z-y. You get scalding hot water coming out of one tap, and freezing cold out of the other. Ugh. My dishes never feel quite clean (unless I want to have burnt hands), and neither does my face (I've resorted to washing it in the shower). I have never appreciated the possibility of having warm and even lukewarm water at will. Oh those crazy English people.

My sworn enemies, separate taps. GRRRRR. 

Speaking of oddities, I'm thinking of doing a whole series about things specific to Oxford and its people. It'd be under the form of an abecedary,  so I'd write about one oddity per day in alphabetical order. What do you think people? Yay or nay? I know you don't often comment, but I'd really love to get some feedback on this idea. So comment ahead...thanks!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Guy Fawkes Fireworks

Last Saturday was Guy Fawkes Night. It's definitively a strange holiday to non-English people, celebrating the failure of the Gunpowder Plot with a burning effigy of Señor Fawkes himself. Of course, Guy Fawkes has also mostly become for his mask, as prominently displayed in V for Vendetta. Anyhow, on a day-to-day basis, Guy Fawkes Night means fireworks, bonfire and overall fun.
Fireworks!! (Those things are darn difficult to photograph!)

The event this held was held in South Park, which is a huge swatch of green space not far from where I live. I am ashamed to say that I had never set foot there until last week-end. If I ever want to take up jogging...(hahahaha). It was a rather big production, with a fun fair and a huge crowd. The fireworks themselves were very impressive and the burning of the bonfire(s) --- there was an effigy and a wooden house on a pile of logs, which I assume was to represent the explosives beneath Parliament House --- let off some well-needed warmth among the cold crowd.

The fun fair!

People. Lots and lots and lots of them.

Bonfires. Those were some MASSIVE flames!

The food stalled were sadly mostly sold out by the time I got to them (I was dead set on getting a hot dog and fries, or chips as we say here, but the former was apparently incredibly popular and the latter had to be eaten with wishy-washy mustard and mayo. Hm.) We also skipped the rides afterwards, to my disappointment (carousel! airplanes! inflatable slides!!!), but to be fair, (a) they were mostly aimed at children; and (b) we went for Asian food at Red Star instead, so I can't really complain.

With my fellow Canadians S and K (and my chips, hah). Picture stolen from K's FB.

Yaki Soba at Red Star. Oh (Far) Asian food, how I have missed you!

I learned three important lessons from that evening: 1) wear warm socks when planning on being outside for a few hours; 2) bring your own snacks to events like this; and 3) don't think that you can just walk into a restaurant with a group of 10 people after Bonfire Night, especially when it falls on a Saturday. Make reservations, and that will save you the pain of walking around and waiting for an entire hour. 

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

L'heure du thé

Une tragédie d'envergure inestimable s'est produite récemment:

NONNN!!! PAS MA CAFETIÈRE (À PISTON, ie. French Press) !!! 

Horreur des horreurs, j'ai dû me contenter de vivre sans mon café matinal pour plusieurs journées. C'était assez insupportable Dieu merci (accros au café, qui moi?!), mais j'en ai profité pour élargir ma collection de thé. Et oui, je bois maintenant du thé maintenant. Matin, jour et soir! C'est un parfait compagnon d'étude et j'ose même parfois ajouter du lait. (Sauf dans mon thé vert et mes tisanes, bien sûr. Mes parents méprisent déjà assez mon obsession avec le Earl Grey...)

Twinings, je suis ouverte à négocier un salaire de porte-parole.

En sens horaire: thé vert au jasmin (pas très authentique, je l'avoue), chai, camomile, menthe poivrée et lady grey. Techniquement, la boîte de chai appartient à mon coloc A, mais nous mangeons souvent ensemble alors partageons officieusement une partie de nos épiceries. Et oui techniquement la camomile est une tisane, pas un thé. Mais bon.

Et de ce que j'ai pu percevoir, les Anglais sont effectivement profondément attachés au thé, en tant que boisson, et au thé, en tant qu'institution. Toutes les occasions et tous les moments sont bons pour une bonne cuppa. En effet, toutes les logements fournis par notre Collège venaient avec une bouilloire (habituellement entartée de calcaire, mais fonctionnelle toute de même). Par contre, pas tous les logements contenaient un micro-ondes. Hah. Aussi, j'ai eu l'occasion d'assister à un cream tea, expérience que j'ai trouvé très agréable et engraissante. J'espère la répéter bientôt.

Fin de l'histoire: tout est bien qui finit bien. Je me suis retrouvée à furtivement emprunter la cafetière de ma coloc K plusieurs matins d'affilé, lorsque, me sentant comme un radin et une voleuse, je me suis procurée une nouvelle cafetière. Malgré le fait que j'aimais bien le rouge vif de mon ancien appareil, j'ai préféré la qualité à l'esthétique cette fois-ci. Je suis donc devenue la fière propriétaire d'une Bodum, de couleur noire (ennuyeux!) mais qui paraît bien solide. En tant que crise, je mise du côté de la technologie scandinave-suisse, moi.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

La bicyclette bleue (et blanche et turquoise et rouillée)

Tout le monde me l’avait dit : à Oxford, tous les étudiants se déplacent à bicyclette. Bon, les rues sont plutôt étroites et les cyclistes doivent les partager avec voitures et autobus (des double deckers, en plus!), mais pour sauver du temps (et avoir l’air very British), on prend son vélo. « Tu verras, m’avait-on proclamé, ça te permet de traverser la ville en 10 minutes et si tu as un panier, plus besoin de traîner tes livres ou ton épicerie!».

Étant obstinée et paresseuse, je n’ai écouté personne et ne me suis pas procurée de bicyclette….jusqu’à maintenant.

Mon nouveau mode de transportation. (Guenille non incluse.)

Voici comment je me suis rendue là :

Monday, November 7, 2011

Resuming normal programming

Okay, so there was a brief and unplanned period of non-posting on this blog. Life was extra busy, readings started piling up on me and I went chasing high and low after my elusive sleep pattern. I'm happy (and relieved) to say that things are more back under control now and that we're back to regular spamming from yours truly! So expect a barrage of posts coming up in the next few days. (Hopefully this brings a smile -- and not a frown, to your face, oh dearest reader.)

I leave you with a recent picture of Cornmarket Street, a major pedestrian shopping street in central Oxford. You can see the Christmas decorations that have been put up (my favorite is the one of a bike pulling a sleigh!) and Christ Church's tower in the background.

On a rare day (almost) clear blue skies can be seen in England...