Monday, July 28, 2008

I lied, it wasn't over.

I thought it was, but it wasn't.

Sunday morning, I was trying to get to King's College Chapel for a Eucharist service, but got lost because I took a new route and there was this rather confusing traffic circle where instead of walking around, you walked underneath. Also, the typical lack of visible street signs meant I took off in the wrong direction.

Anyways, late and lost, I saw this church that seemed to have people streaming in. So in I went, and it was a nice evangelical service. Then I had a coffee after service and was hanging around looking awkward and a woman asked me who I was and what I was doing. As I told her, she started laughing. Her husband is starting a new research facility in Cambridge on science and religion, and they were having their first lecture series that night. So I was invited along. As it turned out, this was a pretty big thing. We had one of the top archeologists from the British Museum there, a guy from Germany who is working on a dig in Jerusalem, and several other experts in their fields. Everyone (including the director of the Faraday Institute with whom I'd just taken this course) had had a private invitation. Except me, I just showed up. It was fantastic!

Anyways, I've left Cambridge, I'm now back in Staines, and head home tomorrow!


Saturday, July 26, 2008

Well, it's all over folks!

Well, maybe not quite yet. I suppose there is still two more days in Cambridge and the flights home, but just about everyone has left now. I'm heading out again soon with Dean Zimmerman for lunch. He's the prof. of philosophy from Rutgers university who also likes old slasher movies, punk rock, and Dr. Horrible's musical weblog. (I'd love to link all these, but right now it is not working on this computer. I'll have to come back and change this when I get to a real computer.) Last night we went out and saw a bunch of local punk rock bands at a tiny venue. Tons of fun. There was this absolutely fantastic group called The Sills. I got their CD so if you are interested, let me know and I'll give you a listen.

In other news, one of my buddies here has been keeping a VERY good blog where he is actually talking about the lectures and the responses to them. He's a physics professor from Ireland, and a nice and interesting guy. I give you: Cormac.

He'll also soon have pictures up. My camera died, so I got a disposable for a couple of important shots, but you can see what things looked like from his perspective there. And if I download them later, I'll post my favourites.

Well, so long, dear reader! I may post again before coming back, but no guarantees.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

I love this country!!

Simon Conway Morris presented this morning. If you don't know, he worked on the Burgess Shale, which is tons of fun biologically. He gave a brilliant presentation, and I may have a new hero.

In other news, a couple of us were taking a back alley/road (they are hard to tell apart here) last night to the pub, and who should be getting in/loading into a van right in front of us but Stephen Hawking. So yes, I saw him, he crossed the street right in front of me.

Speaking of the pub, the pub we went to (The Eagle) was where Watson and Crick dreamed up the double helix form of the DNA molecule. It's also where they announced it to the world. I didn't have such a brain wave, though I tried to think of one while I was there. I did, however, have a fantastic and far too long talk with Dean Zimmerman, our philosophy expert at the conference. Definitely a cool guy, who likes Flight of the Conchords and old slasher movies.

Today is "evolution/biology" day, so I'm actually coherent on the issues being presented, which is really nice. Unfortunately, the pseudo-theology being presented was horrid, but so they've only been tag-ons to excellent scientific work presented by scientists. The theologian is up next, so let's hope it is good. I'll let you know.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Hello Again!

Well, time is just flying here, and I hardly have the opportunity for these short updates!

Today we heard from Katherine Blundell, and Paul Shellard. Paul was talking about speculative physics models (multiverses, cosmic inflation, and the like) and unfortunately I didn't really understand a word of it, though it all sounded quite impressive. On the other hand was Katherine, who spoke entirely intelligibly, and wonderfully, and even introduced a hermeneutic for interpreting the Bible which was incredibly close to Denis', though it held itself back to mathmatic and cosmological concordism. (If that last sentence makes no sense, don't worry. I only included it for about 2 people who I know are reading this...)

Life here is delightful. It has been really nice weather - no rain, and a mix of sun and fluffy clouds. The grounds are amazing, and I have a friend (Rowan Dorin) studying over at Trinity College, who walked me all around and inside the grounds of Trinity and Kings.

I can't get over how small Cambridge is. It takes about 1/2 hour to walk across the entire place. It is, as a result, rather dense with very narrow streets and lots of grand buildings.

I haven't been punting on the river yet (little boats you take out, and push along with a long pole... think Venetian gondolas, but flat-ended), but I have been to several pubs. I've also been shamelessly asking everyone about Ph.D. supervision, but don't have any good news yet. We'll see. If nothing else, I'm making lots of great connections - getting lots of face time.

This afternoon we have John Polkinghorne and Dean Zimmerman. I can hardly think of a stranger combination for one evening, but there you go!

Sorry if this whole post is a little fragmented... I've been running primarily on caffeine and adrenaline, with far too many incredibly interesting conversations, so I'm starting to fray a little around the edges, despite the fact that we are not yet half finished!

Tuesday, July 22, 2008


Hello faithful readers!

I do apologize for being so late in updating this, I've simply been frightfully busy! Actually, I just can't get into the library, but that's another story!

I was dropped off in Cambridge on Sunday around 4pm, on the complete opposite end of town. Luckily, it only takes about 20 minutes to walk across the entire thing! I checked in, and then called my good buddy Rowan. He took me all around Trinity and Kings colleges, and down the river. It was lovely. But I soon had to hurry back because the course was starting. I ran back to St. Edmund's and came to dinner. We met in a big hall, surrounded by portraits and gardens. After dinner was a drinks reception, so I stood there sipping beer talking to people I was terrified of. In fact, at one point I was standing with two very tall, very proper Englishmen, who both sort of mumbled things like "quite" a lot. I felt like I was in that Family Guy episode where Brian goes to the New York Times and he is sitting in this room with these really incomprehensible people.
Then, I was talking to a guy named Peter Harrison, a professor at Oxford whom I'd love to work with, and this American walked up, invited Peter for "a real pint" and since I and another guy were standing there invited us as well. The American is a guy named Ed Larson, a Pulitzer Prize winner, holds two University chairs, and all sorts of things. Of course, I knew nothing of this, and probably made a total fool of myself, but there you go! It was fun.

Day one was exciting - lots of good discussion, and great topics to talk about. And the other people in the course are fantastic as well - from all over the world. This morning, for example, I was invited to early morning prayer and eucharist. I only found out at breakfast that the man who led it is a Jesuit priest from Malta.

Yup, Cambridge is fabulous.

I also went to see Darwin's papers - they have the largest collection of manuscripts in the world here - so I saw his letters, notes he'd made on his Beagle trip, and even his annotations of Paley's books. And, surprising enough, Darwin's great grandson was actually in the room, advising another group of Darwin scholars. It was really neat!

Well, the next session starts in 4 minutes, so I'd better get going! Until next time!

Saturday, July 19, 2008

London : the day of three

I woke up late this morning. I think the adrenaline is wearing off and the jet lag is setting in finally! But I was in London by noon, at the National Art Gallery (also free in this great country!), and was looking at the masters! Donatello, Raphael, Da Vinci, Michaelangelo (yup, that's all four ninja turtles!), Monet, Rubens, Rembrandt, Tintoretto and many more! Fantastic! Also, dropped by the National Portrait Museum and saw Elizabeth I, and her court, John Bunyon, Milton, the only Shakespeare portrait by someone who has actually seen him, and all sorts of other things. Then I went back to the British Museum to see an important room I'd missed (the reading room) to find it closed in light of a new exhibition that will soon begin. Then I wanted to go over to the room with my Babylonian map of the world, but it was closing just as I got there and couldn't get into the gallery. Much sadness. But all was not lost! Because, I left and caught a double decker and sat front and centre all the way back to the train station home, so my trip there was not a complete waste.

Finally, my hosts took me out for a wonderful Indian meal at a local restaurant here in Staines. Yeay Lamb curry!

Tomorrow, I'll go to church with them, and then head directly off to Cambridge, so next time you hear from me, I should be there! Adios!

Friday, July 18, 2008

London: Day 2!

So, I found out today that if you travel after 9:30am (end of peak time) they take a good 5-7 quid off your travel price. Needless to say, I slept in with happiness. Then I went in, just in time to catch the changing of the guard. Which was, as a short person, rather a disappointment. I suppose if you like looking at the back of people's heads and hearing scraps of music and being crushed by a crowd, you might like to see it. The only real redeeming part was the fact that the band inside (the one being relieved) played the starwars theme. The whole thing. It was brilliant.

After that was the Tower of London. Certainly a worthwhile trip. I think it was awesome: medieval castle, where the royal family lived for 500 years, the place where Queen Elizabeth I was imprisoned while a princess, where Anne Bolyn and her sister were executed, the royal crown jewels, and armouries!! I saw more suits of armour today than I ever have before... it was delightful. And the security guards all actually double as tour guides, and are incredibly knowledgeable about the rooms if only you stop to talk to them. I stayed until it closed and I got kicked out. I also did my mandatory "Fish and Chips" meal during this time. Yeay!

After that, I went over to Westminster Abbey to try and catch an evensong service. Unfortunately, I was too late. But I saw all these people walking in after whispering something that sounded like "high mass" to the security guard. So I did the same, and he let me right in. So I was wandering around this massive cathedral, and found the service in the main bit- right where the coronations happen. And as it turned out, it was a very small gathering with a very large choir. Probably about as many in the choir as in the congregation. And it was HIGH church. Incense and everything. (I actually talked with the guy who made the incense later, and he bases the recipe on the high priest incense in Exodus - you know the one that anyone who imitates should die? But he adds more cinnamon and nutmeg to the mix, so it comes out smelling like apple cider)
Anyways, there I am in one of the most glorious cathedrals in the world, celebrating high mass with almost everyone in the congregation in suits, and then the robes of the choir/priests, and I am in sandals, jeans, and my pink robot t-shirt taking communion. Classy. I know.
Then, as I was leaving, people seemed to be leaving in two different directions. I thought "Well, I've already been down that way, so I'll go the second way". But it didn't lead to a way out. It lead to a private reception in Poet's Corner. With wine and free food. Being a shameless student as I am, I ate... well... shamelessly. It turns out the mass I stumbled in upon is a once-a-year event put on by the "Our Lady of the Pew" society. I spent all evening there, talking to different people. And then one old Scottish guy decided to give me a tour of the Abbey. Except instead of showing me normal things, like the nave, or side chapels, he took me into the back gardens, completely ignoring all the signs that said "Residents only" or "Private" - right into where the canons live. Then another old couple (who turned out to be Catholic Charismatics) took down to Downing Street, and along the street beside Whitehall, the House of Lords and Big Ben. It was marvelous. They also said "We always have beds kicking around, and we live in London, so if you don't like commuting from Staines..." Hmm... I might just take them up on it someday!

Well, another adventurous day is past. Tomorrow? Indian curry with my hosts, and a couple of museums. But we'll see. It is after all, another day.

Good night dear reader!

Thursday, July 17, 2008

I've arrived... and such....

Well, I must say it has been a busy day.  I arrived at Heathrow around 9ish, got out by 10:30ish and was ready to explore by 11ish.  Of course, I no sooner set out for the train station than I got entirely lost.  Yup.  Had to ask some maintenance guy.  Despite my map.  Turns out the "street" I was supposed to turn off on was really more of a goat track hidden by bushes.  No, really.

Anyways, got to London, Trafalgar square, and the British museum.  They are... stunning.  Especially that last one.  I actually petered out before I even got through every room.  Of course, trying to deal with jet lag, while piling lots of facts and random things into your head is not so easy.  But here is what I remember seeing:  the great sphinx's beard, Ceasar's ring seal, a Babylonian map of the world, the Rosetta stone, mummies, coins, half the parthenon, swords, and so on.  And no sooner did I get out of the museum than another vision of greatness presented itself to me: Spamalot!  Yes, the Monty Python musical is playing here, and I already bought my Edmonton ticket.  Am I bitter? Don't ask.

Then came the Globe Theatre, Fleet street (which does have a barber shop, but underneath is a noodle shop, not a pie shop.  Asian fusion food is all the rage these days...), St. Paul's Cathedral, the old Bailey, Millenium bridge, the Golden Hind, Rev. St. James beer, the Underground, and many other adventures.

Oh, I should also mention that I'm saying in the "town" of Staines.  Yup, the same place Ali G calls home.  Word.

I also got lost down a random street and found a wall hanging that said "Mr. John and Mr. Charles Wesley preached here frequently."  Cool.

Well, more has happened, but I can't tell you all.  Also, if you are wondering why there are no pictures it is because my totally unreliable camera has proved itself one more to be... unreliable.  So, later I'll add some generic web photos of these places and some of you innovative people out there can photoshop me in!

Saturday, July 12, 2008


Well, as a request came in, I will be blogging for my Cambridge trip.

For those of you who don't know, I'm going to Cambridge for a week long course at St. Edmund's college. It is a faith/science conference put on by the Faraday Institute. The link to the course is here.

I leave on Wednesday and will update you as stuff happens!