Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Book Review: Ghosts of St. Augustine by Dave Lapham

Ghosts of St. Augustine by Dave Lapham

St. Augustine in Florida claims to be America's oldest city. It was founded by the Spanish, taken over by the British, returned to the Spanish, and eventually became part of the United States of America. With such a long history, it is easy to see how many stories and legends have grown up around the city. The author, Dave Lapham, is interested in ghosts but is not a professional ghost hunter or psychic. When he decided to write the book, he collected stories from many people, some first hand accounts of experiences with the supernatural. Some of the specters are recently deceased, others date back to the British or Spanish periods. Lapham believes in the stories but doesn't feel the need to persuade the reader. Rather, he tells each in an entertaining way. One of the stories is even told (quite effectively) from the ghost's point of view. The creativity is refreshing and makes the book very entertaining if light reading.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Ashmolean Museum, Oxford

The Ashmolean Museum is the oldest public museum in England, opening its doors in 1683. It has a wide variety of exhibits which was good for the attention spans of our children. Even so, we did not spend a lot of time there. Happily, entrance is free so we didn't feel pressured into seeing everything to the detriment of everyone's happiness.

Ashmolean Museum entrance

The museum has a lot of classical sculptures from Greece, Rome, and Egypt. Other countries are also represented.


A variety of statues

Venus with a restored head

Lucy and Jacob admire a sphinx

Jacob is not sure about this one

Swedish runes

The museum has an extensive collection of paintings. If you've been reading this blog for long, you know I tend toward the medieval stuff, so here is a sampling.

Annunciation, attributed to Paolo di Dono (circa 1400)

Triptych by Fra Angelico and Studio (circa 1420s)

Meeting at the Golden Gate by Fra Filippo Lippi (1440s)

Meeting at the Golden Gate shows Joachim and Anna (parents of the Blessed Virgin Mary) meeting in Jerusalem.

St. Michael Subduing Satan and Weighing the Souls of the Dead, attributed to Lelio Orsi (1540s)

Truth Presenting a Mirror to the Vanities of the World, artist unknown (1620s)

Paintings and porcelain

A large collection of musical instruments are on display, including a Stradivarius.

Violin family

More exotic stringed instruments

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Oxford Churches, England

Oxford is a university town with many different colleges (36 in all) where most of the churches are located. The cathedral in Oxford is part of Christ Church College. Like most colleges in Oxford, it's a bit of a gated community, with strict times when tourists can come in and look around. Also, they charge a fee for tourists to come in and look around. We didn't think it was worth it, so we only saw the gate and the gardens.

Christ Church College gate

The gardens have a peek at the cathedral

On High Street is the parish church for Oxford, St. Mary the Virgin, which is normally open to visitors and free of charge. Parts of the church date back to the 1200s though there have been many renovations in subsequent centuries. Sadly, we visited in 2012 when the church was undergoing more renovations and could see very little inside.

St. Mary the Virgin entrance

The nave as seen from just inside the door

Cool tree outside St. Mary's (fenced off and with its own support!)

We were visiting over a weekend and went to the Oxford Oratory dedicated to St. Aloysius. It was built in 1875 and originally was served by Jesuit priests. Now the Oratorians (founded by John Henry Cardinal Newman) serve the church and have a thriving community.

Oxford Oratory

We didn't tour much inside since the children were dying for a snack. Maybe we'll get to go back someday.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

PE After, but Still at, School

A few months ago, Jacob and Lucy wanted to demonstrate their monkey bar prowess and they said the best place was their school's playground. The school isn't very far away so we went on a weekend afternoon to check it out. When we got there, Jacob was the only one to show off, so he got the most pictures.

A good start

Going from ring to ring

Going to the next ring

Almost there...

Just about done

Lucy played on the other equipment and did some crossing of her own.

Much easier crossing

A few weeks later, the PTA hosted a healthy exercise night followed by an ice cream social. Definitely a mixed message there. Originally the exercise was going to be laps around the bus loop (where the school buses drop off and pick up the children) but the sky was threatening wet weather. The activities were moved into the school's gym which has plenty of fun things to do. In addition to jump ropes and hula hoops, they had little carts that roll around on the floor and climbing ladders on the walls. The ladders were the most popular with my children so they got all the pictures.

Lucy on the second rung

Jacob happy

Jacob worried

Nicholas relaxed

Two-fer hangout

After a half hour, the ice cream social began. We were first in line which was lucky because the line stretched out the cafeteria. I would have taken pictures but I was too busy trying to eat my ice cream before Lucy swiped it! Jacob doesn't like cold food so he ate the granola bar that we packed for him.

It was a great night with a good balance of healthy fun and not so healthy fun.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Book Review: Zombillenium 2. Human Resources by Arthur de Pins

Zombillenium 2. Human Resources by Arthur de Pins

Having established a quirky set of characters (from horror standards like vampires, witches, mummies, skeletons, etc.) who work at a horror-themed amusement park in the first issue, problems start arising for everyone. A strange normal family comes to the park and gets into trouble when the mom freaks out about the freaks. Meanwhile, the son wanders off and gets into his own trouble. Sirius Jefferson, the skeleton, is attacked on the way to work by some anti-monster clowns who sneak into the park to blow it up. They disguise themselves as the skeleton (some robes and the skull work just fine) but wind up in an HR meeting with other employees and they are discovered. They are chased through the corporate digs of Zombillenium and it's a sure bet they run into the son who's being helped out by Gretchen, the witch from the first book.

This second volume keeps up the madcap fun and interesting details that came in the first book. I'm enjoying it a lot though the next book won't be released in English until August 2015. Time to set a calendar reminder...

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Oxford Playground, England

Near the Botanic Garden in Oxford is a fabulous playground. As we visited famous colleges and landmarks in the university town, the children insisted on visiting something more child-friendly. We couldn't resist either.

Wait, is it closed? I don't see other kids?!?

Happily, the playground was not closed and we had it to ourselves, which meant unlimited climbing and sunshine, a rare treat in England.

A small fort good for climbing and sliding

Jacob ascends!

Some of the rides seemed too scary, like this lizard, so they were avoided.

Ride me!

A sand pit included a nice boat with plenty of playful opportunities.

Ship shaped shenanigans should result

Being Oxford, the creators couldn't help but throw in something scientific to expand the children's minds while they played.

Not sure what science exactly

Jacob ponders switching from sailing to science

The playground had a third area with more mundane obstacles.

Jacob by the saucer spinner

Safest uphill climb ever!

The last obstacle was definitely the toughest, a brick wall. Luckily it was not too big so we just walked around it.

End of playground

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

The Bodleian Library, Oxford

The Bodleian Library traces its roots back to 1320. It was expanded in 1426 by Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester, when his collection of manuscripts wouldn't fit in his old library. Since his brother was King Henry V, he didn't have any troubles with Oxford authorities. The library was refounded by (and renamed after) Thomas Bodley in 1602, who expanded the size of the library and the amount of rules, such as the keeper of the library can't be married and the library doesn't loan out books, they must be read there. The library is a copyright deposit library, so every book published in England comes there. The library has over 6 million volumes stored in its main building and in Radcliffe Camera.

Jacob and the blogger at Radcliffe Camera

The main building is made up of the Old School Quadrangle, which features entrances for various schools with their Latin names above.

Entrance to the Quadrangle (from the inside)

School of Logic and Rhetoric (now the gift shop)

Logic and Rhetoric, Music

Natural Philosophy, Medicine

Library, Moral Philosophy

Grammar and History, Languages and Math


The decorations are impressive if not colorful.

Ceiling decoration, the most color outside

A fellow waiting to get into the library

Statue of William Herbert, Chancellor of the University (1617-30)

More picturesque is the Radcliffe Camera, a fantastic Baroque rotunda just outside the quadrangle. James Gibb built it in 1748 in honor of John Radcliffe, a prominent physician who died in 1714 and left £40,000 in his will for the cost. The rotunda originally housed the science library and now serves as the reading room for the library.

Radcliffe Camera

Sadly, regular tourists can't go inside without arranging a tour, so we did not wander around the stacks. I am sure it would have been fun.

A school and a camera!

Behind the rotunda is All Souls College, one of the schools that makes up the Oxford University.  All Souls was founded in 1438 by Henry VI.

All Souls all alone