High Speed (or, I Want To Read On The Way To Work)

Recently, the problem of drivers texting while in a vehicle has been brought to the forefront of the news, shedding light on a vital issue that illustrates that driving is inherently a very dangerous activity. Road safety is something that should never be far from our minds, either in the car, or out of it, and every day on my drive to work, I see examples of poor training and practice amongst my fellow drivers. Two years ago, the issue was on the roads themselves, where cuts and transfers of funds to the roads took place, resulting in roads with plenty of hazards. Both issues taken separately are worrisome, but taken together, they're both downright scary.

Thinking about this has brought to mind another initiative that has been making a bit of news over the course of the past year: high speed rail service. Currently, the nation lags far behind other industrialized nations, such as the United Kingdom, much of Europe and Japan, for large-scale access to a fast train system. In part, I suspect, that's due to the sheer size of the United States, as well as competing for space with freight transportation across the country. Because of the size, a high speed rail system is going to be an expensive proposition, upgrading the current one to something far better.

However, despite the expense, I want to see a high speed rail system come to the United States. On my way to work, I cross a set of rail road tracks that have since been abandoned, and over a hill, follow alongside the major railroad track that runs from the Burlington area all the way down to Boston and down the East Coast. A friend once visited from New York City, and it took her just as long to get up as it would have been to drive. Driving alongside the railroad tracks this morning, I couldn't help but think how much I would prefer to have the ability to make a short walk to a train station, get on a train and simply ride in to work. While I lived in England, in 2006, this was a common occurrence for me, and I found that I really enjoyed riding in to work and class via the underground and regular London transit system.

Maintaining a high speed rail system in the State of Vermont would be a good thing for Vermonters. Our long winters bring about hundreds of accidents each year on the highways that commuters use between Montpelier and Burlington, and hopefully, a rapid system would help to cut transit time for people who live a bit further away, and would help reduce the load on the roadways. With an increasing number of people texting and driving, deteriorating roads, moving more people off the roads into a mass transit system will help reduce some of the risks while on the road, and will help with the wear and tear on the roads. It's an alternative that should be available, and as public transportation has increased as fuel prices have done the same, hopefully there will be the the perfect storm of dangerous drivers and accidents, federal spending and infrastructure and availability to Vermonters.

A system such as this would be good for the state as well, linking Vermont to the southern states and cities, allowing for the state to market itself as it has long done for weekend excursions during changing of the fall leaves to the ski season, as well as all of the other attractive reasons to visit our state. It's easy to do that by car, but I've always seen taking a train ride somewhere as a sort of adventure, and have many fond memories of doing so while in London, travelling to Edinburg, Cambridge, Oxford, Eastbourne, Stratford-Upon-Avon and many other places. It was quick, allowed me to plow through fourteen books in four months and allowed me to see the rest of the country without requiring a personal vehicle.

Plus, mass transportation is a good, sustainable sort of practice. Thousands of people driving separately to their destinations is a woefully inefficient activity in the grander scheme of things, only going to highlight some of the issues that the country has when it comes to dependence on oil. It would be good to get used to the idea of having to limit ourselves and what we use before we're forced to in the future by high price by becoming a more efficient society. Don't get me wrong, I like driving my Mini very much - it's one of the reasons why I bought a car in the first place. But I while I enjoy driving, I get very little joy out of my morning commute. I would much rather be reading a book and not having to worry about the other drivers around me.

More London Happenings

So, I'm still in London, visiting various places and things like that. I spent Thursday recovering from Normandy (my knees were really starting to hurt - I need insoles for my shoes, I think). Yesterday, I went to the British Museum and National Gallery, which was cool, as always - those museums never get old. Although I was a little annoyed - the National Gallery had several sections closed until June, and of course, they're the ones with the artists that I like the most. Oh well.
Went out on Saturday night with Sara and Rob to a pub and then to Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End, which was fun, but like Dead Man's Chest, didn't quite get to the level of the first movie, although it was better than the second one. I'd give it a C+. I don't know if I'll type up a proper review, but it was fun to watch, although probably 40 minutes too long. I also finally caught up on Heroes and watched the last episode, which was amazing. SPOILERS - High body count, with Linderman, Ted and D.L. killed off, which I didn't quite see coming. Nathan choosing to be a good guy was also a great point, as was his carrying Peter up into the sky. Sylar's death was pretty well done, although I would have liked to see another hero or two take him on. And the ending - OH GOD HIRO IN THE VERY FAR PAST. That kicked ass, and I cannot wait to see the second series.
Went to the Imperial War Museum today, which I liked more this time around. Maybe because I'm in a bit of a military history mindset or something, but it was more interesting this time. There was a fantastic exhibit on the Falklands War, as we're currently in the 25th anniversary of it. I didn't know a thing about the conflict, and now I'm dying to get a couple of books on the subject. Max Hastings, who wrote the brilliant Overlord: D-Day and the Battle for Normandy, also has a book out called The Battle for the Falklands, which he was a correspondent for. I really want to get that, and Amazon's listing it used for $1.90 or so, plus shipping. I might get that when I return, because from what I saw today, it's truly a fascinating battle. The D-Day exhibit was also very cool, and the one on the Holocaust was disturbing. But it was a cool visit. I'm going to try and find the Burlington House, the home to Geological Society of London, and contains the first geologic map, drawn up by William Smith one of the biggest contributors to the field of Geology.
The weather's been typical London/English - Wet. Plus, the wind completely destroyed the umbrella that I found and fixed, and I mean really destroyed it. And carried it off as well. I haven't been taking a whole lot of pictures because it's been overcast, and as a result, crappy lighting.
And, because it's 12:36, I'm off to bed.


I was looking around IMDB for some information about the upcoming movie, The Golden Compass, based off of the book by the same name, and found this picture:


I've been there. Walked down that very pathway, with Barbara, Will and Fran, and again later when I went with the Marymount students and on my own during my time in Oxford. I figured I'd recognize some locations from Oxford, but I never really figured that I would have been in some of the areas where they did some filming.
I'm really awaiting this movie - aside from the fact that I've been in Oxford, it's one of my personal favorite books, and one of the best fantasy novels out there. On top of that, I've met Philip Pullman, the author of the trilogy, while in Oxford, which was one of the most memorable experiences while I was out there. Man, I can't wait to see this on the big screen. Hopefully, it'll turn out to be true to the book.


I'm almost done with the entire first series of Life On Mars, and it's making me horribly nostalgic for my time back in London.

It's not just the big things about London, or just being there in England, but mostly the very small details and things that I miss. There's the King's Arms just down the street from my flat, sitting on the bus, the announcer coming on at the end of a television episode, the white street signs, red telephone boxes, the accents, food, the sun coming over the buildings, so much.
I've pulled out my journal entries that I kept while I was over there, looked over my photographs and have talked to several people that I met while I was over there. I wonder if I'll ever return there, and it hurts so much to see it in my memories, but not my eyes.

Life on Mars

No, this isn't in regards to the recent news of possible evidence that there's water on the planet Mars, this is for a new TV show that I found - Life on Mars.
It's from the UK, which gives it a bit of good press right there, but it's a very tightly scripted detective drama mixed with a bit of time travel. Here's the blurb from Amazon.co.uk:

Life On Mars is the smash-hit cop show starring John Simm as a detective who is involved in a car accident and wakes to find himself transported back to 1973 – a world dominated by Ford Cortina’s, sheep-skin jackets and very hard coppers.

It's got a fantastic look and feel to it - the look of the episodes look like the 1970s, if that makes any sense. I love it.


London's changing in the last days that I have here. Walking down the street yesterday, I noticed that John Street and Doughty Street had a different feel to them than they have all year. Looking up, I saw that the leaves were starting to come out on the trees, changing from the bare skeletons that they've been the entire time that I've been here. It's a nice change.

A friend of mine, Prediep, from Paris came to visit, and he came at a good time. The leaves were coming out, and it was sunny for most of the weekend, while I took him around to all the major sites in London. We caught up on what we've been up to since this past summer at camp. It was good to have a new person to talk to.

We visited a number of parks and walk ways along the Thames. With the sun and leaves starting to come out, it was a nice feel to the city, especially in Covent Garden and Leister Square.

Prediep's visit served another purpose, something that I didn't come across until after I saw him off on his train earlier today - It was a chance for me to say goodbye to the city. During my tour, I showed him the major sites of London: The London Eye, Parliment, Big Ben's tower, Wesminster Abbey, King's Cross, South Bank, St. Paul's and a number of others. I showed him some of the pubs, the back streets, all the while talking about the meaning of being a tourist and fitting in, among other things. During this long walkabout, I saw a number of the things in London, probably for the last time in a while, ending today with something that I hadn't made the time before to see, Abbey Road.

There will be a lot of goodbyes in the next days, as I begin closing out and packing. Goodbye to friends that I've made and the places that I've come to call home.


It hit me as I was on the train this morning. In a week, from that moment, I'll be on an airplane, going back home. Everything that I've known and been forced to get used to will be gone. The money will change, my friends will seperate and go their own ways and in the end, all we'll have is just the memories.
It's a bit sobering, at just how fast everything has gone past. I remember coming in very clearly. My own nervousness and self doubt even a day or so in, hoping to hell that I had made the right choice, coming out here.
So far, I have few regrets about making the trip. Now, I'm torn over returning. Now that I've lived here for four months, I'm reluctant to leave the confines of my squeaky flat, my own cooking, the city and the people around me that I've come to know and enjoy being around. In a week, that'll all be gone, and I'll be back home with familiar people and surroundings.
On the other hand, I'm eager to leave. To see my friends and family back home, to share my experiences, pictures and stories that I've slowly accumulated over the past 104 days that I've been here. To see my two dogs, my sister, my room and my own computer, and to be away from my roommate and for the near future, work in general.
Most of all, I'm aprehensive about what's coming up, I think. Living here has been a dream. I'm surrounded by things that are fantastic and different, and that'll be gone soon, and in the next year, I'll be coming up to my last year of school, and spat into the real world, something that I'm nervous about and not sure if I'm ready.
I don't have a plan, an idea or a clue about what to do next.


Counting down the hours until I leave. A bit nervous, but that's normal for me before setting off on a trip to somewhere I haven't been. Happened with Scotland and Eastbourne and even England. Now for Germany/Greece. But I think that I have everything together, and that's something. I've already had two friends tell me that they hate me for going to Greece. I'll send them mocking postcards.

Other than that, it's been a somewhat slow day - got a haircut and found that the cast of Green Wing, a British comedy that I really enjoy will be just down the road signing boxed sets. Me and a couple of friends will be going to do just that. Exciting!

Also updated a weeks worth of photographs on my photoblog, here. The current top ones are some of my favourites thus far. I'm thinking that when I return home, I'll be posting up a best of thing. I can't believe how fast time is coming to a close, and there's so much to do.

Oh yeah, and I found a CD/Tape player system with speakers that someone was throwing out. It makes a good addition to our flat.

Now, for more running around and getting ready.

Edit: Several Hours Later

Just got back from waiting in line to meet some of the members of the Green Wing cast. Green Wing, for those of you who don't know, is an extremely funny show here in the UK, just released on DVD and with the second series on the air now. I picked up the set after watching one episode, pretty cheaply too. Tonight they did a signing, got to have a couple of words with some of the cast members, nice guys, very happy for the fans to be there, which was a plus.

Sorry, it's kinda blurry. Fun times. Now, for food and packing.

Greece : 2 Days

Two days until I depart for Greece. In the meantime (and this is mainly for my benefit) I have to:

  • Confirm my flights
  • Confirm my hostel
  • Write up a quick budget
  • Buy a phone card and call home
  • Write up a packing list
  • Pack
  • Get all of my information together, flights, passport, ID, money
  • Change my travellers checks for Euros
  • Find out the best way to get to the airport (I'm thinking the night before and just waiting)
  • Get to the airport for a 7 am flight


And, from the Guardian today:

US plans strike to topple Iran regime - report

God. Say that it's not true, please, someone say something. Has anyone gotten the impression that war in one country, then a worse one in another, and now it's being considered that we're looking to go to war with a third? How the hell did we elect our current president into power.
The thing that scares me the most is that he's looking for a legacy to lead behind. That's the worst part.

Another government consultant is quoted as saying Mr Bush believes he must do "what no Democrat or Republican, if elected in the future, would have the courage to do" and "that saving Iran is going to be his legacy".

Presidents, or anyone, shouldn't actively look for a legacy. It's arrogant and in this case, downright scary. Hopefully, the White House's response that this is overblown and untrue is true. Because this scares me more than anything else.


Back from my trip to Eastbourne. Had a lot of fun while I was down there, it was great to get out of the city again and into a much smaller, much-less-touristy place. Eastbourne is a smaller town (Although citysized for VT) and it's on the southern coast - sharing the same rock formations as Dover, and it has the same white cliffs. It seemed like a pretty quiet place to live, and a bit of a retirement community, although we did see a lot of kids and dogs.
I went down with my friend Katherine, who's in my British Heritage class. Apparently her roommate and friends from her school went to Amsterdam, and because her parents are coming today, didn't go with them. So she invited me to come along. We picked a location, looked at train costs and Friday morning we got to the station, got tickets and rode the two or so hours down to the town. I paid for the train fares, she payed for the hotel, and we checked in, and went out to wander around the place. The beach was the first place that we went, found that it was all chert and rock, walked the length of that for a while, before hitting the chalk cliffs, about a mile and a half or so.

The Cliffs were really cool. I brought along my geology field book and took some notes, climbed around on them for a while and gave Katherine a lesson in geology theory and how the cliffs got there. Good to have a captive audience. We walked probably another mile down the cliffs, looking at the rocks and chatting, before turning back. Katherine got attacked by two seagulls, or thought that she did. Got a late and quick lunch and walked the other direction, through the town a bit for another couple hours, before returning. Watched some TV - she found a hilarious show called Green Wing, which was both confusing and side splitting. Really wacky british medical show - Definently have to find some more of it somewhere. Went to sleep, woken several times by drunk college students and later in the morning by a flock of insane pigeons. Got up, checked out, got breakfast and set out to find where to look for fossils. Checked at the hotel, library and tourist office, and none of them could really tell me. Checked my email at the library and found an e-mail that someone sent to me regarding fossils in the UK, and in Eastbourne, figured out where to go and we set out. To the Southwest of the town there's a large open park that runs along the cliffs. There's some paths, and some cows. We hiked along a couple miles to one point, then tried to find the way down to the beach, but we couldn't figure out where it was. Saw one of the lighthouses off in the water, then continued on to try and find the beach outlet.

Another two or three miles and we reached the second lighthouse, lots of hills later, and we turned back. Got a quick bite to eat at a pub on the road following the cliffs, then an hour or so later, we reached the town and got lunch at Pizza Express (The UK's equivilent of Pizza Hutt, but way better) then got back to the train station and back home. We were both exhaused, fell asleep on the train for a little while, then split up in the tube when we went back to our flats. I passed out for an hour, got some dinner and watched some TV before going back to bed.

Great weekend - really nice town with some good walks around it. Maybe someday I'll return. Took quite a bit of pictures - you can see them here: http://norwich.facebook.com/album.php?aid=2003111&l=32b29&id=70000497

Trip & Masters of Sci-Fi

Quick post because I'm off for the next day or so leaving in a little while, going down to Eastbourne, on the Southern Coast of England for the night. Hopefully getting to see the ocean, some real rocks and some fossils while I'm down there. Should be very fun.

A while ago, it was announced that ABC has green lit a new series called Masters of Science Fiction, which adapts a number of the classic authors and some of their stories into television format. There's not going to be a storyline throughout the show, just adaptations of stories, which I'm extremely excited for. Should be really cool to watch, when it comes out. Here's a blurb on it from the SciFi Wire:

The series will feature episodes based on writing by such SF masters as Robert A. Heinlein, Ray Bradbury, Harlan Ellison and Isaac Asimov. (ABC has given the gree light to 13 one-hour episodes.) Some are original stories; some are adaptations of older classics to attract younger audiences. The first segment, "Watchbird," will begin filming in Vancouver, Canada, in late April, directed by Michael Tolkin (The Rapture) and co-written by Michael Cassutt (who wrote for The Dead Zone and Andromeda) and J. Michael Straczynski (Bablyon 5). "One of the people I'm most excited about who is going to be involved with this [new] series is Stephen Hawking [the professor, writer and black holes expert], and I always thought that I wanted to meet him," Hyde said. "He's a visionary of our time."
Full Article

Finally, it came to light the other day that President Bush was the one who authorized the leak of an undercover CIA official's name in an effort to get leverage for the war in Iraq. Cheney's Aide is under inditment for the leak and this is just going to get messy.

Sorry, but things are getting over the line. You DON'T release classified information like that, especially with a CIA officer, and one that's undercover. Given that it was classified and with Bush the one who authorised the release, there's more than likely something that's been broken. This has to be looked into more closely. Someone should at least say something about it in the Congress.

Carbon Leaf

Been listening to Carbon Leaf a lot lately. My all time favorite band. There's been a couple of developements lately with their stuff. On their website, which they recently revamped, they've said that they're working on a new album, which is awesome. Their past couple albums have been amazing. Every single song that they've put on those I've either liked or loved.
They just stuck some cool clips of something on their website, a sort of looping music, no singing, just drums and guitar, but it's relaxing for just about anything. I've taken to listening to it on my ipod and having it repeat for an hour or so. And, just looking over at their myspace page, I saw that they've got a fan made video for a song that I haven't heard before, called The War Was In Color, which is awesome, very good song.
Just thinking about what might be on their new album, that's the second new song that I've heard from the. So, thus the list begins: Porpoises, Texas Stars, The War Was In Color - the only ones that I've heard. This short list are some others:
For the First Time
Native America
Unknown Bride
If I Were a Cowboy

Back to... Norwich?

I visited Norwich today - here in the UK. I'm guessing that there's some sort of connection between Norwich Vermont and Norwich East Anglia. Norwich here is much more interesting, with a castle. They've got it decked out with a really crappy museum that's designed to interest someone about the age of five. I walked around it in about half an hour and was most amused by the castle well, which was deep. But that's about it. Big waste, which is a shame. We walked around the town, which was interesting. Cool town. My roommate missed the train, which I was thrilled at, because he seriously needs to be ego checked and brought down a couple notches. I swear, the guy's an idiot. Too institutionalised at Norwich (the university), too uncreative, unintelligent and really not that great with kids. Which is odd, because he's intending on teaching after college. Let's see how long that lasts.
It seems like a lot of deadlines are coming up. Two papers due earlier this week, an exam tomorrow, trips and my flight home. It's scary how fast everything's coming.

On another note, has anyone seen a show called Grey's Anatomy? How is it?

And finally, iTunes has added Dave Matthew's Band to their music library. I wonder what toook them so long.

Running out of Explicitives

Yes, it's true. I've completely wasted a day of work by starting the wrong essay. Tomorrow, on Monday, I apparently have not one, but two essays due to class. What's even more fun, is that I knew about one of them, started it earlier, and only just now found that I started the wrong one. Yep, so now it's back to scratch with an essay that subject that I started earlier, couldn't get anywhere with, and now I have to get a grand total of 1200 words on a building. On top of that, I have to type up another 1200 words for the same class for a second essay, the subject of which I need to come up with really quickly. I think that one will go over a little better, but it's frustrating.

Now, back to drudgery.

Four Weeks / Sara Wheeler

Inbetween moods at the moment. For the semester, I've had a three day weekend the entire time, which is nice. Yesterday was the four week mark. Four weeks. I can't believe how fast time has gone, and that my time here is almost over. Man. In that time, I have a trip to Cork, Greece and hopefully Stonehenge, as well as a report due this monday and a 20 page paper on the nature of science fiction in the UK to do. Too much to do.

Has ANYONE heard of a singer named Sara Wheeler, or have any of her music? She played at my school during my freshman year, and I really enjoyed listening to her music. I picked up her CD Moonlight Dancers, which is now linked in my mind to New Mexico, because I listened to that CD so much while I was down there. Unfortunently, I haven't been able to find any of her other albums in stores, although I do know of a place on the internet where I can get a couple, which I might do when I return home, or over the summer.

Her music style is folk, but she really doesn't sound like anyone else, and when I listen to her music, it really cheers me up a bit. Unfortunently, when my iPod crapped out again, I lost all of her music for the time being, and the only song that I've been able to listen to is Dreaming (Which is an outstanding song)

Her website: http://sarawheeler.com/

Returning to Camp

I just got an e-mail from my boss, Jon, and he asked me to return as a Village Director again for the upcoming summer. Huge relief on my part. Not only do I have a job for the summer, but it's a job that I absolutely love. I've ranted about it before, but it's a place where I really think that I can make a difference in people's lives, which is something that I've really ingrained in myself somehow.
Last summer was a huge challenge, and a worthwhile one. My dad had told me that management was the toughest job in the world, and I really saw that he was right. It was tough, and it took me a little while to get used to, but it was worth it. I did have some trouble spots throughout, but hopefully I'll learn from my mistakes and get around that.
I've also got a lot of friends there, some of the best in the world. Man, I'm getting chills just thinking about returning, and what will hopefully be an awesome time again this summer. Although, a couple of good friends won't be coming back, which is a shame, but understandable.
I can't wait.

RIP - Stanislaw Lem

An author of one of my favourite books, Solaris, has died at the age of 84. Stanislaw Lem was a Polish Science Fiction author, and penned several novels, which have sold more than 27 million copies, according to the SciFi Wire. His best known work was Solaris, which explored the human consiousness, taking place on a space station orbiting a star called Solaris, which may or may not be sentient. It's an amazing book and amazing movie, although I can't speak for the earlier Russian movie.

Oxford X 3

Went to Oxford for the third, and probably last time while I'm here. And, guess what?

I met Philip Pullman. Talked to him and shook his hand. He seems like a nice guy, just very distant.

I was up for a Literary Festival that the Sunday Times had put on in Oxford. Brian Aldiss, who wrote the short story Supertoys Last All Summer Long, one of my favourites, joined him, along with another two people who's names I forget, to talk about Science in Science Fiction. Interesting talk, although the questions weren't the greatest. I got signitures from the both of them.
After the excitement of waiting to see them on the stage, I was a little disapointed with them in person. They were both pleasant, but I guess I was just another fan. Not that I was really anticipating anything different.

Went to the Eagle and Child again, talked with a gentleman from Germany, where we talked about cars and the English Language. That was good. He spoke excellent English, and was there to brush up on it a bit.

Train ride home was uneventful, and I fell asleep. When I returned, I went to STA, and booked a flight to Greece. The way that the flights worked out, I was able to stop over in Munich for a short time. Now, to book a Hostel.