English Department Postgrad Social Event

After slowly rising from the bed this morning, I first got The Rosetta Stone software working with the German introductory modules. I want to practice with another language, because my friend Christian, and his flat-mate, Andrea, both speak German. If I have some friends to speak conversationally with, I think it will substantially improve my chances at learning German over my attempt at learning French.

During the day, I read a good chunk of Greg Egan’s Diaspora, and I went for a walk to Blackwell’s and Tesco. I returned to my room with a copy of Richard Dawkin’s The Selfish Gene and two six packs of Coca-Cola.

Tonight, I went to a social event for postgraduates in the English department. I was the second person to arrive. A cute Asian girl was already there, and I promptly struck up a conversation with her. Her name is Susan and she’s from Taiwan. After my second glass of wine, I was quite the conversation maker! We exchanged numbers after I told her that I would call her once I find a place that serves Kahlua (which many bartenders apparently haven’t heard of). I also talked with Jonathan Olsen, a PhD student, about presenting a paper in the Postgraduate/Staff English Literature Seminar Series that he’s organizing. This will be a great opportunity to get feedback on a future paper! I also got to talk to Professor Dinah Birch, Head of School. She told me that she reads SF too, so we talked about that. After the social, Christian and I went to dinner with Jonathan on Bold Street. Above, I’m pictured wearing an awesome t-shirt that Mike and Diana gave me before I left Atlanta. Several folks commented on it at the social.

Tomorrow, there might be a university wide postgraduate social event. I’ll find out more about that in the afternoon. Also, I discovered that I won’t have to worry about the research skills module until next week–thank goodness!

Special Collections and Archives

After today’s genre definitions seminar, we all headed to the Sydney Jones Library to look through some books that the library was selling. I scored several SF collections, Ursula K. LeGuin’s The Left Hand of Darkness, William Gibson’s Burning Chrome, and Roger Zelazny’s The Dream Master. Pictured above are Sandor (visiting scholar), Sunshine (MA in SF), Mr. Andy Sawyer, and Christian (MA in SF). Behind them are the special collection stacks.

Christian invited me over to his place for dinner as long as I agreed to peel potatoes. I thought about this for a moment, until I realized that this would mean I could have a real home cooked meal. I told him that I would gladly be on potato duty. His place is about a twenty-five minute walk through the rougher side of Liverpool. On the way there, I passed an Aldi and an ASDA, which is “part of the Wal-Mart family.” He lives in a very nice flat with two girls. I met one of them, Andrea. She’s from Germany, and very cute. I hope that I get to talk to her again in the near future. For dinner, we baked potato wedges, peppers, carrots, and onions. It was a very tasty and filling meal!

After dinner, we took the bus back towards the university so that we could meet Sunshine and Sandor outside the Liverpool Community College. We were meeting up so that we could go see Little Miss Sunshine at the FACT movie theater. I thoroughly enjoyed the film. It’s definitely in the vein of a Wes Anderson character study, but it also had a circuitous story to tell. I definitely recommend it!

I’ve been making plans to go to London during Thanksgiving. I’ll finalize those plans once I know what my schedule looks like with the research skills module in place. As it stands now, I should have my two core modules on Mondays.

Sundays For Reflection and Studying

The picture above is from my going away party at Manuel’s Tavern in Atlanta, GA. From left: Brenda, Mark, Camille, James, Paul, Mike, and Diana. We had a great time that night, even though I passed out at some point. My friends know that I love ‘em, and I’ll see them again soon.

Today, I’ve been preparing for tomorrow’s classes. Everyone agreed to move our philosophy module to Monday morning, so I had to do all the reading a few days in advance. That means that I’ll have philosophy at 10:00am and genre definitions at 2:00pm. I don’t yet know when our research skills module begins.

I need to become a little more adventurous with my eating. My primary diet has consisted of trying every type of Subway sandwich meat on wheat bread, and doner kebabs. The fish and chips that I had yesterday were an anomaly. I look up on my shelf and I have chips, salsa, peanut butter, nutella, bread, and organic flapjacks. Don’t worry…I don’t eat all of that at the same time. That would make me sick!

I’m about to walk over to Sunshine’s place to play Scrabble. I don’t have a lot of experience at board games, but it should be fun to exercise my vocabulary and spelling skills a bit.

Doctor Who Exhibit

Sunshine, Christian, and I went to Spaceport, which is a space museum across the River Mersey at the Seacombe stop via the Mersey Ferry. Today was the opening day of their Doctor Who exhibit. It was packed with eager fans to check out props, costumes, and video of the popular British sci-fi television show.

We all met up outside the Sydney Jones Library and then proceeded to walk through the city to Pier Head. The ferry ride over to Spaceport is a fun experience in itself. And, as you might have heard, the song, “Ferry Across the Mersey,” when the boat pulls away from port.

We primarily went to check out the Doctor Who exhibit, but we took our time going through the space museum exhibits. It has a lot of hands-on stuff for adults and kids to experiment with and learn a little bit about how our great Universe works.

I was able to take a lot of photos, but unfortunately, my camera’s battery died before I was able to snap a shot of the most popular exhibit: a live action, killing, and maiming Dalek! Yes, it was spouting off about exterminating this and killing the doctor that. Also, it would have been nearly impossible to get a good photo of the Dalek, because the kids loved it and were hanging all over the exhibit!

After making our way through the museum, we went in search of food in Wirral. Unfortunately, we didn’t find anything in the direction that we walked, but a kind gentleman pointed us back to the museum area and a place called the Seacombe Cafe. We all had fish, chips, and peas. It was a good lunch!

On the way back to the dormitories, we were going to stop for coffee from Starbucks, but the queue was enormous. Instead, we settled on milkshakes from a place akin to Johnny Rockets back home. While there, I discovered that Sunshine has a bit more mischief in her than I had first thought!

I almost forgot! Last night, I went out to the first social gathering of the Liverpool Anime Society. It’s a club on campus that has social events and film screenings of Japanese animation. I heard about the organization during the activities fair held for international students. I met some cool folks last night such as Laura, Rebecca, Kevin, Nick, and Simon. I met a lot more people than that, but my memory is poorly suited to remembering names. I know everyone’s faces so I’ll recognize them when we have our first screening next Friday night.

Now, I’m going to get back to reading. We’re shuffling around one of our courses so that we’ll have two seminars on Monday, thus freeing up an extra day during the week. That means I’ll have to do a little more preparation to be ready for Monday’s discussion in the Philosophy module.

Rainy Day…The First of Many

Today is my first very rainy day. It has rained on other days, but this is the first day that I had to go out and run errands in the rain. All-in-all it went okay, but I have to venture out for one more task.

I slept until about 11:00am–the first time that I’ve slept in since I arrived in Liverpool. Last night, I was out having some pints and it rained on me while I was walking home. I guess I felt run down after getting soaked, so I went along with my body’s need for rest. Unfortunately, it wasn’t an easy night’s sleep.

I had two similar, but separate nightmares. The first was about moving out of my house in Norcross, and trying to get it sold. By the way, if you know anyone interested in a nice, big house in the suburbs of Atlanta, pass along this link to my house’s listing. The second nightmare had to do with being forced to move to another university. I don’t remember what it was all about, or where I was being made to go, but I know that I didn’t want to leave and that it was causing me a great amount of distress.

After getting up, I made my way to the English department. I asked Phil to send a FAX to the T-Mobile offices in the US so that they would waive my early cancellation fee on my cell phone contract back in the States. He helped me with that, and then I walked to the city centre. First, I stopped at a used bookshop that had a large SF collection that I had heard about. Then, I went to the Liverpool Public Library. Once there, I obtained a library card, and I checked out Greg Egan’s Diaspora. Next, I stopped by The Carphone Warehouse and the T-Mobile store to find out about their pay-as-you-go phone deals. I decided that I’m going to get a pre-paid SIM to go into my T-Mobile phone from back home. I may need to get it unlocked, but it will still be less expensive than buying a new phone outright. I also walked to the Virgin Mega Store to look at Tori Amos’ new collection called The Piano. The packaging looks like one and a half or two octaves of a keyboard. Inside, there are about six CDs worth of material and some other extras. It costs about £70, which is outside my price range.

Tonight, I’m going to the first meeting of the Liverpool Anime Society. There were some cute girls that were at their Activity Faire booth. I haven’t really met anyone outside of the SF program yet, so I’m hoping that this might lead to some new friendships and maybe more. We’ll see.

Time and Consciousness

Today, I attended my first seminar in the Time and Consciousness module. We all met in Dr. Barry Dainton’s office on the third floor in 7 Abercrombe Square. It was mostly a planning session for our future seminars. For next week, we’re going to discuss Asimov’s I, Robot collection and Alan Turing’s “Computing Machinery and Intelligence.”

The Time and Consciousness module should be a lot of fun, particularly since a lot of my research has centered on autonomous machines and AI. I’m going to review basic philosophical concepts over the weekend, so that I’ll be better prepared to engage the discussion next week.

I went to the Liverpool Public Library today to get a card, but I didn’t have an official letter or bill with my Liverpool address on it. I’ll have to walk back over there tomorrow.

I began reading Thomas Pynchon’s The Crying of Lot 49 last night. I should be able to finish it tonight. Over the summer I read his novel, Gravity’s Rainbow. Thus far, I feel as in as a nebulous place in The Crying of Lot 49 as I did in Gravity’s Rainbow.

Also today, I walked around the city centre with Christian. We hit several of the bookshops and comic shops. While we were talking, I learned that he likes playing WoW too. I haven’t played in a few weeks, but it reminded me that I need to level my Tauren druid. Besides playing the game, it will be cool to talk with my friends Perry and Matt back in Atlanta.

Box of Books

My box of books finally arrived yesterday! I was walking by the porter’s lodge and I noticed my box sitting under another box. I rushed in, grabbed the sign-out book, and I ran with utmost haste to my room. I proudly unpacked my books on the shelves adjacent to my bed. Since unpacking, I’ve already read one of the shipped books, Marleen S. Barr’s Oy Pioneer!

I attended Mr. Sawyer’s undergraduate speculative fiction lecture yesterday afternoon. It’s a full class, but there is room at the top of the auditorium for AP, Sandor, and myself.

Also yesterday, I finally received my student membership card. Immediately after procuring this magic card, I went over to the library and into the basement to peruse the Archives and Special Collections. Mr. Sawyer was kind enough to let me check out The Road to Science Fiction: From Heinlein to Here, Volume 3, edited by James Gunn. It has a copy of Tom Godwin’s “The Cold Equations,” which I need to read before next week.

Let me tell you about the SF Collection. It’s big. I mean really big. I think there were five moving shelves devoted to the collection, and each shelf is about 7 feet tall and 30 feet long. It’s organized by a modified Library of Congress system, so it wasn’t easy to browse through. However, I did get to hold a real, genuine Hugo Award! Now, the trick is for me to do something worthy of winning my own Hugo!

Today, I’ve been enjoying the cold and overcast from the relative comfort of my room. I finished watching A Scanner Darkly on my computer this morning, and I read Philip K. Dick’s Ubik. I’m taking a break right now, but I’ll probably go on to Godwin’s short story momentarily.

Oh, today’s picture was inspired by the opening sequence to Doctor Who. I read in a free paper that a Doctor Who exhibit begins on 30 September at Spaceport, which is across the river from Liverpool. Check out Spaceport’s website…it has a “Holly” just like on Red Dwarf. I’ll post pictures from the exhibit after I get a chance to attend.

The Long Good-Bye

I just finished reading Raymond Chandler’s The Long Good-Bye. I’ve heard of his work before, but I decided to read one of Chandler’s Philip Marlowe mysteries after the urging of my Hungarian friend, Sandor. I like Marlowe, and in some ways, I would like to be like him. This was an enjoyable read, and I’m looking forward to reading Chandler’s other Marlowe stories!

Yesterday, I had my first seminar in the genre definitions module. It was an enjoyable discussion, and I think that everyone had something to contribute. Present at the seminar were: Mr. Sawyer, Sunshine (MA), Christian (MA), Sandor (visiting scholar), Aiden-Paul (PhD), and myself. Mr. Sawyer hasn’t heard from the fourth MA student, so we might only have a class of three.

Also yesterday, I walked down to Bold Street to find the Waterstone bookshop. I had heard that they have a larger science fiction selection than Blackwell’s. Unfortunately, I wasn’t aware that they close so early. I arrived at their storefront to be turned away by a pretty attendant who told me that they closed at 17:00. I’m used to the convenience of stores being open until 21:00 or 22:00. It’s just a minor point that I’ll have to remind myself of before I want to undertake another evening shopping trek.

Returning to today’s going-ons, I am currently doing a load of laundry across from the porter’s lodge. It costs £2 for a wash and £1 for drying. It’s a little more expensive than I would care for, but the washers can handle more than a normal sized load.

First Seminar

At 2:00pm today, I’ll join the other MA in Science Fiction Studies students for our first seminar. I’m prepped for talking about Hugo Gernsback’s Ralph 124C 41+. I think that the seminar will go very well!

On Friday, I chipped the cap on one of my incisors. I hope that the cap will last a little bit longer, but I should be able to get it repaired under Britain’s NHS. I’ll look into what I’ll need to do to obtain a NHS card.

The other day, while I was walking around Liverpool, I noticed that when a group of cars are sitting at a Red light, the traffic light will change to a Red/Yellow, to indicate that they are about to get a Green. If we had that in America, I’m afraid that there would be carnage on a massive scale!

Six Days Since Arrival

I’ve been in Liverpool for six days, and it’s been a great six days! There are still a lot of administrative tasks that I need to address, but I’ve had a good deal of time to explore the city and the university.

Today, I walked to the city centre after picking up some books at Blackwell’s. Yesterday, I hiked around town and I took a copious amount of photographs! Afterwards, I took off my tourist hat, and put on my SF badass academic hat before I met with Mr. Sawyer and the other folks in the Science Fiction Studies program. Only one of the other students was able to make it to the meeting. Her name is Sunshine, and she’s from Canada. There are two other MA students, who I imagine will be at our first seminar on Monday. I also met some of the PhD students and a visiting scholar from Hungary. We all went to the Cambridge for a drink. That night I went out to the Augusta John, which is adjacent to Blackwell’s.

On Monday, Sunshine is going to begin our discussion on Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, and I’ll introduce our second text, Hugo Gernsback’s Ralph 124C 41+.

I still haven’t received my box of books that I shipped myself from Norcross. I hope that they haven’t been lost, or worse, destroyed by overzealous customs agents who fear that Derrida is a fancy name for “explosive device!”