Oct. 20th, 2010 12:01 am
pergamond: (Default)
"What can I get for you?"

"I'll have a soy tall, double shot, triple whipped, hazelnut mocha latte."

I tried really hard to make this order sound damn casual, with a side helping of narcissistic diva. Unfortunately, I couldn't help but feel guilty at making such a complex request of the Starbucks barista. Also, I was reading the order from my iPhone. I shot the woman an apologetic look. She grinned and we went through it again more slowly.

The reason I was attempting to purchase the most complicated drink on the menu when I normally just got a tea came down to .... fan fiction. Did I mention I spend a large fraction of my personal time pretending I am a middle school Japanese tennis player? Rarely? Huh. I can't imagine why. Anyway, accepting this, now put said Japanese boy in a story set in an alternative universe in which he orders incredibly complex drinks from Starbucks because he is an arrogant prick. Still with me? No...

Look, it's all here:

The reason why Elizabeth ordered a crazy drink at Starbucks

It was written by [personal profile] monarchist and I role-play (in a unconnected game) the character Atobe who orders this drink as if it is water. Therefore I had to do this. Obviously.

It's similar to how I made myself like ginger beer as a child because all the school kids in Enid Blyton books drank it at midnight feasts. I think when I write a best seller, all the characters are going to have cravings for broccoli.
pergamond: ([Blackadder] You cannot be serious.)
"I can never trust you again. My entire perception of you has changed."

How exactly do you respond to something like that? I finished my mouthful of food and tried to ascertain what horrific act of wanton cruelty I had committed in the preceding ten minutes. Apart from my lunch containing chicken, there were no obvious possibilities. And if my (apparently erstwhile) friend had a particular affinity to feathered fowl well ... he should have mentioned it before I reached for the second half of the sandwich.

"Have you not moved on from the conversation we were having at the start of lunch?" I guessed.

"No!" He had stopped eating to stare in horror across the table. "I still can't believe it!"

The lunch-table topic had been the question of whether you should be legally obliged to reveal to your partner that you have committed a serious crime, if you met them after you'd been freed from jail. My opinion was no, relationships are private and not a matter in which the government had a right to interfere. If you had served your time in jail and been released, you should have the same rights as any other innocent citizen. My friend's opinion focused on concern that a late revelation of such an act after, for example, marriage and children, would ruin the life of the ex-criminal's partner. He pointed out that there was some precedent for his view in the existence of the sex offenders list, which proved that it was not universally considered that serving your time in jail was always sufficient.

"You might be hiding something from me that would affect me negatively if I found out!" he accused.

"Well, we clearly should have hidden this from you," cheerfully remarked another friend who agreed with me. "Then you wouldn't be accusing us now!"

"You could be right though," someone else commented sinisterly. "Actually they've both served concurrent life sentences."

"True," I agreed. The tomato juice from my sandwich had started to run down my hands. I rose to go and locate a cloth. "They're called postdocs."
pergamond: ([Random] Quantum box)
My area of research in Astronomy involves computer simulations of individual galaxies. There are a few groups working on similar projects to me, but there is one person in particular whose research is so close that she shall henceforth be known as ARCH RIVAL #1. ARCH RIVAL #1 not only develops similar models, but she is also British and my exact contemporary, graduating the same year I did, albeit from a different university.

Even though we are employed on different continents (North America is MINE bitches, but one day I will retake Europe), the similarity of our work means that we frequently attend the same conferences. Currently, we are both in Aspen. In June, we were both in Barcelona. April saw us in Florida and last summer in Italy. You get the idea. Other scientists confuse us, sometimes using the wrong name even when facing the person in question.

So what was I to do when said ARCH RIVAL #1 had her birthday during this workshop? Clearly, a multi-step plan was in order:

1. First, announce said birthday to an entire room of Astronomers during the formal discussion we were jointly leading this morning.

2. Buy a cake.

3. Fill the birthday girl's slice with a slow acting poison that takes 72 HOURS to take affect, knowing that she reads my blog.

4. Laugh evilly.

5. Repeat (4) to taste.

pergamond: ([HP] Dumbledore // magic)

When I was 8 years old my images of what it was like to be 30 were different. There was a matching home on a housing estate, a permanent job, a couple of kids -- including a daughter called Adora, because I was seriously into She-Ra -- and a dog. Or maybe a dinosaur. Hey, I was flexible like that.

The reality?

(apart from maybe the dinosaur)

I spent my 30th birthday at Hogwarts.

Universal Studio's Islands of Adventure theme park in Florida recently opened "The Wizarding World of Harry Potter". This new island consisted of the main street in Hogsmead and Hogwarts castle. There was Zonko's Joke shop, Honeydukes sweet shop, The Three Broomsticks and Hogshead pubs, the post office, Dervish & Banges, butterbeer, pumpkin juice, the Hogwarts Express .... need I say more? Yes. Yes, I think I do.

Somewhat bizarrely, to reach the wizard section of the attraction, you have to walk through Jurassic Park. I skirted the pterodactyl ride and began to re-think the dinosaur idea. Crossing the bridge, we dropped down into Hogsmead village, although I did take the opportunity to turnaround and take a clearly classic photo of the "Welcome to Jurassic Park" sign right next to Hogwarts castle.

The first feature that strikes you as you walk down the street is the incredible attention to detail. The place really does appear as it is described in the books. Snow covered gabled roofs are on both sides of you, with icicles dangling from their crooked tiles. Sadly, the actual temperature was well into the 30s but this was alleviated by our first stop at a giant barrel cart selling butterbeer. Since children are known to have zero restraint, this particular version was completely non-alcoholic but it was personally approved by J. K. Rowling. It tasted like ... well, I'm not going to tell you. You will have to go and try for yourself.

We decided to risk insane crowds and eat lunch at The Three Broomsticks. This proved to be a surprisingly good decision. While we had to queue for a short time to enter the pub (not a hardship because there was so much to see), once we had ordered there were plenty of tables to sit even seven people. The displayed menu showed a moving image that panned over the dishes and our waiter was a house elf. Fortunately, he was not just wearing a tee-towel.

Basic desires met, we went on a tour of the shops. Although a primary (and completely successful) purpose was to shake even more galleons from our purses, the shops themselves were an attraction and made to look as authentic as possible. Broomsticks hung from the ceiling of Dervish & Banges, the Monster Book of Monsters rattled in a cage and model owls looked down at you from the post office shelves. The goods themselves were everything you could expect from the shops in question. Magical paraphernalia from sneakoscopes to Quidditch bats, school robes and fanged wallets could be found in Dervish & Banges, a huge display of Bertie Botts Every Flavoured Beans was in Honeydukes along with Weasly favourites such an tongue ton toffee and Zonko's held such delights as fanged frisbees and boxing telescopes. The window displays of the shops, including ones that were not "open" were also fascinating to see. Honeydukes had a ribbit-ing chocolate frog, there was a bookshop with a excessive display of Gilderoy Lockheart volumes, complete with a moving picture of the man himself, and a botany store had a large mandrake and mimbulus mimbletonia behind its glass.

After all that it was time for a pumpkin juice. I would be lying if I said there weren't insanely large queues (although the books often describe similar scenes on Hogsmead weekends). Despite this, the park got a number of important things right, including our relaxed lunch and the lack of a wait for the (clean and pleasant) toilets.

The signature ride on the island was the part-coaster, part-simulated  "Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey". The seats for this are on a robotic arm which swings you about in combination with sophisticated animated screens.
What, you wanted more details? Seriously, people, did you read my experiences on the 'Hello Kitty' ferris wheel? It was never going to happen. I did stand in line for it. That is a more exciting statement than you might first suppose, since the queue is part of the attraction and weaves through a series of scenes inside Hogwarts. You see Dumbledore's office, complete with a 3D hologram of the man himself who welcomes you to the school. You then pass through a corridor where portraits of the four founders are arguing over the wisdom of allowing muggles to see so much. The queue terminated in a classroom where Harry, Ron and Hermione appear (as holograms) and tell you they are going to kidnap you away from the tour Professor Bins has planned to go and see a Quidditch match. I wished there was a way to keep with the original program and ducked out to go and sit in the kids room where the first movie was playing to entertain the under 4 feet while the ride was in progress. Again, the attention to detail was beautiful. The moving portraits in particular were rather good, looking very much like the genuine article and not digital screens as they walked into each others frames. 

At various times during the day, members of Beauxbatons and Durmstrang appeared to do a brief exhibit and the Hogwarts frog choir performed a few songs. Exhausted from the day, we summoned up the energy to queue one final time for Ollivanders' wand shop, who evidently had decided to cash in on the new business development in Hogsmead and moved over from Diagon Alley. Here, a group of a dozen visitors were let inside and one was picked to go through the wand selection process with Ollivander. The scene was directly from the movie with floor to ceiling wand boxes and the first two attempts by the would-be witch causing objects to break. Finally, the lights and air came up around her as a unicorn tail wand found its match.

The wand chooses the wizard....

If you were inclined, you could purchase any wand you desired from the movies, including Harry's own phoenix tail feather affair to the death eaters' sticks of doom.

It was an amazing birthday with possibly my only disappointment being that I would have liked to hug Lord Voldemort, Mickey Mouse style, if he had been walking around. I did at least get to hug my friends a lot, even if their lack of red-slit eyes was a trace disappointing. So, sorry, Adora my would-be daughter, you're going to have to wait. Oh, and I might call you Voldermortaphine. It'll be great.


Jul. 21st, 2010 08:55 am
pergamond: (Tezuka/Atobe)
Because everything that happened was so worth it )
pergamond: (Golden pair)
"Do you remember the time Al walked in on you handcuffing Steve to a chair?"

I looked across the room at the previously compromised individual, who also happened to be the groom. Initially, my answer was negative and a strong denial was on my lips before a scene floated to the top of my memory of a college room, a chair and .... ah.

"The reason was innocent," another friend helpfully chipped in. "There was a cops and villains theme that night."

I hoped it was innocent. If it hadn't been, the very least I could have done was remember it. Still, it was not so surprising. Steve and I had adjacent rooms the first year at University; who else would I try a pair of handcuffs on? I looked around the table. Seven faces looked back at me and, frankly, they were all perfect candidates for such an occurrence. Pleasingly, my memory had at least given me ammunition of my own:

Did we, per chance, recall the time a member of our table procured a kebab after an inebriated last night of term and, rather than consuming his purchase, packed it in his luggage?

What about the random guy who tried to climb into a (male) friend's bed, having gotten the wrong room?

Or the fact that the same friend mirrored this event himself one drunken night down the line?

Then there was the bucket of tar in the police car park, which had been reached by climbing over a wall (ironically in an effort to get home), the traffic cone that sat in our hallway for a week, the 'mind your head signs' that appeared all around college (ok, that was me again) and the bar crawls. Really, we had enough material for several weddings.

Of course, not everything changes over the years:

"Do you remember when you reached for the mouse in the computer room but grabbed the hand of the girl next to you instead?"

"Oh, I do that all the time!"

Without a doubt, the concept of someone throwing a gigantic party and inviting you and all your friends rocks. It is perhaps a trace stressful for the bride, groom and immediate family but I'm prepared to tolerate their discomfort for the massive benefit to my own. To add to the complete win of this occasion, the ceremony was held in an idyllic village church and the reception was on a farm. When you live abroad, there is really nothing more exciting than a sheep. Except maybe a cow. Seriously, I could have hugged them all, except that might have disturbed the groom's family (the owners of the farm) even if it probably would not have surprised the groom himself.

My restraint was rewarded by the presence of plastic farm animals and a fuzzy-felt build-your-own farm yard on each table. The small toy hare was the same size as the cows which served as a warning to all guests on the perils of non-organic farming. Then there was wine, a hog roast (if you can't hug 'em, eat 'em), more wine, desserts, champagne and a ceilidh.

It was somewhat of a miracle that as dusk fell we were still capable of organising the flat-packed set placed into our hands into a lantern. These paper globes were lit at their base and then rose into the air to float gently off into the sky. Or crash and burn, depending. There was probably a profound analogy to be made regarding the fate of paper lanterns and our paths through life, but the only questions on my mind right then was how the bride was still looking beautiful and energised and whether there were any cup cakes left.

It was only when the un-handcuffed, newly wed groom came up to say hello and said how much it meant to have me there that day that I understood why people cried at weddings. I wonder if I could persuade them to do it again next year.


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