Oxford, U.K. Archives

August 10, 2008

One Down, Seven To Go


Michael Phelps blew away the field in the 400 IM final for his first gold medal of the Beijing Games. It looks as if he is swimming unbelievably well.

Happy To Be Here


I am settled in at Merton College and ready to begin life as an Oxford student, at least for the week.

August 11, 2008

Living In The Past


For this week, at least, I am living in an Old World setting: Merton College was the first to establish its buildings in this medieval university town, and as one passes through its gates, Merton presents itself in a rarefied air of ancient buildings and meticulously maintained gardens and quads.

We take our meals in a grand baronial hall, adorned with stained-glass windows, a vaulted ceiling, and the portraits of various Merton wardens (as the heads of the College have been known for over 600 years) through the ages.

The college chapel is filled with history, as it's as old as Merton College itself.

Ducking through arches and ambling along manicured lawns recalls the monastic roots of such a layout. And it reminds one of English period dramas, as if you are living on the set of Brideshead Revisited.

Mad Men


My pre-bedtime ritual here in Oxford involves a bit of reading and then an episode from the first season Mad Men DVDs. This is a skillfully written and produced show, with lots of engaging elements. I should all caught up and ready to watch Season 2 episodes--which I am recording--when I get back home.

August 12, 2008

Magic Touch


As a former competitive swimmer, I was thrilled to watch the U.S. men come from behind in the final lap to edge France in the 400-meter freestyle relay today. Even though I knew the result before seeing the evening replay on Eurosport, it was palpably exciting to see the race unfold.

August 13, 2008

Another Olympiad


I am reading an excellent account of the 1960 Olympics in Rome by Washington Post veteran David Maraniss. This excellent overview of this particular Games touches on the politics, the emerging commercialism, the human interest stories, and the sheer drama of sport that the Olympic Games typically encompass, and does so in an engaging narrtive style. It's a treat to read this while keeping up with current developments in Beijing.

Much Ado


I caught an outdoor performance of Much Ado About Nothing tonight--my thirteenth (!) Sheakespeare production in the past four months--and despite the rain that delayed the start and annoyed in the first act, it was an altogether enjoyable show. It was staged in a courtyard at the Oxford Castle, and itsmedieval walls formed an effective backdrop for the action of the comedy.

This is a perfect play to perform under the stars (okay, the clouds) on a summer's evening, because it's a silly romp with identity confusion, some broad humor, and a happy ending. The nine-person ensemble was inventive in handling extensive doubling of roles and minimalist sets. The action of the play was relocated from Sicily to Spain in this rendition. The love/hate combination of Benedick and Beatrice forms the heart of the play, and the witty verbal sparring between the two actors in these roles did not disappoint; nor did a genuinely funny Dogberry. (The director's notes in the program astutely commented that the character's need to be the center of attention and his bumbling incompetence make him the David Brent--or Michael Scott, for those familiar only with the American version of The Office--of his time.)

This was a fun night out.

August 14, 2008

Some Really Old Books


This morning I got to poke around the original library here at Merton, a facility dating from the 1370s, with manuscripts from as far back as the 9th century.

Real Tennis


Merton College has its own real tennis court--what American call "court tennis" (the "real" is a corruption of "royal" as the origins of the game are associated with Henry VIII's court at Hampden Court Palace. Had a nice chat with the pro here and got to watch some play.

Bravo, James Blake


Roger Federer's 2008 woes continued as he was upset today by American James Blake in the Olympic competition. This was a terrific win for Blake, who previously had taken but one set from Federer in eight matches. This result advances Blake to the semifinals, meaning he's one of four players vying for three medals. Should he win against Chile's Francisco Gonzalez, he'll be assured at least the silver. In the other half of the draw, Rafa Nadal and Novak Djokovic will meet. Can we assume right now these two are the best two players in the world, at least based on current form?

Pub Life In Oxford


One of the attractive features of Oxford is the pub tradition. The Bear, which is quite near my lodgings in Merton, is a 13th-century pub that is still around and has got lots of charm. One can imagine following in the footsteps of dons and students over the centuries who warmed themselves in such taverns, unwinding over discussions of politics, literature, philosophy, and politics.

August 15, 2008

Nadal Going For Gold


The about-to-be-#1 player in the world Rafael Nadal prevailed in three sets in the Olympic Games semi over Novak Djokovic to earn a gold medal showdown against Fernando Gonzalez of Chile, who beat American James Blake after saving match points in the third set.

August 16, 2008

Are You Kidding Me?


The touch that was worth $1 million, I guess. By just .01 seconds, Michael Phelps won his seventh gold medal of the Beijing Games, earning a hefty bonus from Speedo for tying Mark Spitz's record (and Phelps could add to his haul with another relay victory tomorrow in his last race of these Olympics). It REALLY doesn't get any closer than that.

Collegiate Grandeur


Spent part of this morning poking around Christ Church College here in Oxford. The iconic Tom Quad, pictured above, is at the heart of the College, but oddly enough it's the staircase entrance to the college's impressive hall that may be best known around the world, as it has been featured in the Harry Potter films as a stand-in for Hogwarts in some scenes.

Grist For The Discussion Mill

Forbes is offering, as an alternative to the monopoly on college rankings established by U.S. News & World Report, its own hierarchy of the institutions of higher education in America. The magazine claims to use a formula that "ranks 569 undergraduate institutions based on the quality of the education they provide, and how much their students achieve." Unlike the U.S. News approach, this list does not put research universities and liberal arts colleges into separate categories. I'm pleased to see my own alma mater is ensconced among the top five, but surely the surprisingly poor placement of some very highly regarded schools will make this list quite controversial. Here are the top 50 from Forbes with a few others of note included:

1. Princeton University 2. California Institute of Technology 3. Harvard University 4. Swarthmore College 5. Williams College 6. United States Military Academy 7. Amherst College 8. Wellesley College 9. Yale University 10. Columbia University 11. Northwestern University 12. Wabash College 13. Centre College 14. Massachusetts Institute of Technology 15. Bowdoin College 16. United States Air Force Academy 17. Middlebury College 18. University of Chicago 19. Smith College 20. Pomona College 21. Wesleyan University 22. Haverford College 23. Stanford University 24. Hamilton College 25. Sarah Lawrence College 26. Barnard College 27. Brown University 28. Whitman College 29. New College of Florida 30. Brandeis University 31. Vassar College 32. Boston College 33. Bryn Mawr College 34. Kenyon College 35. Franklin and Marshall College 36. United States Naval Academy 37. Colby College 38. Washington and Lee University 39. Westminster College 40. Claremont McKenna College 41. Rice University 42. Cooper Union 43. University of Virginia 44. Colgate University 45. Bates College 46. Knox College 47. DePauw University 48. Tufts University 49. College of William and Mary 50. Hampden-Sydney College 51. Oberlin College 58. Trinity College 60. Connecticut College 61. University of Pennsylvania 66. University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill 70. Mount Holyoke College 71. Cornell College 73. University of California, Berkeley 74. Colorado College 76. Georgetown University 77. University of Notre Dame 79. College of the Holy Cross 80. Duke University 81. Johns Hopkins University 82. Emory University 84. Dickinson College 86. Bucknell University 92. Skidmore College

June 18, 2010

"O Ye Spires Of Oxford!"

That's a snippet of Wordsworth.

I am spending tonight and tomorrow night in Oxford, a short jaunt from both Heathrow (where I arrived today and will have to return my rental car first thing Sunday morning) and Stratford-upon-Avon (where I will spend most of tomorrow seeing two plays at the RSC).

The Championships Loom


Seeding and draws for next week's Wimbledon tournament have been released. Though ranked #2, Roger Federer is the top seed in the men's singles event. Seeded #2 is Rafael Nadal. Both men have seven-match winning streaks at The Championships to defend! The Spaniard appears to have a tougher road to the final, though he appears fresh and confident after his successful European clay court spring. Andy Roddick is in the same half as Federer, so we won't see a rematch of the classic 2009 final. A rematch of the 2006/2007/2008 showdown might still be in the cards however!

On the women's side, the big question is: can anyone derail the Williams sisters? Venus and Serena seem to own the All-England Club.

June 19, 2010

Happy Birthday Daw Suu


Aung San Suu Kyi, the imprisoned leader of the democracy movement in Burma, turns 65 today. Walk On.

About Oxford, U.K.

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