Thursday, June 24, 2010

London Elephant Parade

This summer, London has been taken over by a herd of elephants. Not literally, obviously, because it probably would have made the news. These elephants are part of Elephant Parade London 2010, and will be auctioned off next week to raise money to help in the conservation of the endangered Asian elephant.

For the past few weeks, we've been on an elephant hunt. With 259 elephants in total, we have our work cut out for ourselves. Luckily, three of the elephants live in Greenwich, so we checked those off our list without breaking a sweat. After a lot of walking, we've managed to see 45 elephants, a paltry 17 percent of those on display.

But it's been a blast looking for elephants, particularly on a one day during the half term when we made it our mission to see as many as possible. All of the elephants will be on display together this weekend at the Royal Hospital Chelsea, but frankly, if you claim that you've seen all the elephants by seeing them all in one place, that's cheating. The elephant auction will be held on 3 July.

Without further adeiu, here are our favourites:

Thing One's favourite, No. 127 called Gloria:
Thing Two's favourite: No. 57, called Help!
(Green! His favourite colour)

My favourite was not my namesake, which is in front of the Royal Festival Hall on the Southbank, but the one pictured above, No. 45 New Map of London. I do love a map, even if it's on an elephant.

Hunt them while you can.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Leonardo, Mona & the Boys

Thing 1 & Thing 2 in front of the Mona Lisa at the Louvre
(Not pictured: Hundreds of people jostling around trying to get their own photo.)

It's Art Week at school, so the boys have been learning all about, you guessed it, art. Thing One's class has been studying Picasso, Matisse and Mondriani. Thing Two's class studied the work of Leornardo da Vinci.

When Thing One told me they were looking at the work of Mondrian, I had momentary art amnesia so he had to tell me what sort of work he did. "It was black lines, squares and primary colours," he said, which is a spot-on description.

Thing Two is now absolutely fascinated by da Vinci. He also told me that while he was pleased that we saw the Mona Lisa, he was disappointed that he hadn't see The Last Supper yet. I told him we would put it on the list of Things To Do. He also taught me all about the Vitruvian Man. (In fact, I was disappointed that he wasn't here I was was writing this post, because I couldn't remember what he was called.)

In any case, I have posted the picture above for Thing Two, so that way he can prove to his class that he had seen the Mona Lisa, because some of his friends didn't believe him. The 7-year-olds need evidence, so here it is. They are a tough crowd.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010


Thing One & Thing Two at Centre Court last summer.
Big Surprise: It's raining.

Wimbledon has started, which is probably a good thing for English football fans because for the next two weeks they'll have something different to think about other than the current sad state of affairs on the England squad.

This is one of those times when I absolutely love to be in living in London. The BBC has all-day coverage, which might not be great for work productivity, but is great for all tennis fans. Our first year here, in 2009, we went over and queued up on the first day for grounds tickets and had an absolute blast. I followed up with a solo trip a few days later, because I figured my pregnant state meant it would be some time before I'd be able to get there easily. (As it happens, we won tickets in the lottery for Centre Court tickets in 2000, but we haven't been back since.)

This year we are planning to nip over to SW19 after school to see the tournament in action. I think this is the first year that both boys are old enough to go over after school and wait around, hoping we'll get a grounds pass. We're going to give it a try, anyway.

I'll be going over there in any case, since I was lucky in the lottery and got two tickets for Court No. 1. I learned an important lesson the day the tickets arrived in the post, too. They came in a non-descript envelope, so non-descript that I thought it was junk mail and almost recycled it without opening it. Luckily, curiosity got the better of me, so now we're off to the tournament.

The picture above was taken last summer when my old grad school flatmate Kavita came to visit with her family. She is a tennis fiend, so we went over to the Wimbledon museum and also got a tour of Centre Court. Appropriately enough, it started to rain while we were visiting, so we got the full Wimbledon experience.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

World Cup Fever: Best Commercial

Nike, it can almost go without saying, wrote one of the best slogans in history: Just Do It.

They've got a new slogan for World Cup this year: Write The Future.

I love it. It tells you that your future is in your hands. They've taken this slogan and used it to set out two scenarios for some of the best footballers in the world. What will happen to them if they make a historic goal or what will happen to them if they miss he historic goal. (Look for cameos by other famous sporting legends, like Roger Federer.)

I don't know how many millions Nike spent on this commercial, but it was worth every penny. Fantastic.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

World Cup 2010: England v. US, as portrayed in Lego

Maybe you've been stranded in the Indian Ocean for the last couple of days, (Abby Sunderland I'm talking to you), so you may have missed either the England v. US World Cup game on Saturday, or, even better, this Lego reenactment that was released a few days later, and is now an Internet phenomenon. If you've missed either or both, get up to speed by watching this clip, thanks to the Guardian.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Some Wow Words from the New York Times

The New York Times, one of my favourite papers in the world and one for whom I proudly worked (very briefly, in both time and content) published a list the other day of the words that most frequently stumped its readers. I found this list both life affirming and humbling, based on the words I use frequently, and the words I had to look up. I've provided a definition of the first 10 on the list, but I'm not going to tell you which ones I had to look up, and which ones I knew already.

The NY Times was able to compile this list because of an incredibly cool feature on, which I only just learned about. If you're reading a story online and are stumped by a particular word, if you double click it, a question mark will appear. If you then click on the question mark, it will give you the definition.

This list also reminds me of an incredibly vexing school assignment that my brother was given when he was in 7th grade. He was given a list with various Wow Words (though they didn't call it that). My parents took one look at the list and said, "Let's call Grandpa. He reads the New York Times every day. He's bound to find these words." I was able to find one word-- placid-- in a book I was reading at the time, but my contribution was immediately rejected by everyone because it came from a "Girl's Book."

So without further delay, here's some new words for you to add to your vocabulary. Drop them into a sentence at your next party to impress your friends!

Most Frequently Looked-up Words on, 2010

Date Range: 1/1/2010 through 5/26/2010

1 inchoate (definition: undeveloped)

2 profligacy (definition: recklessly extravagent)

3 sui generis (definition: unique)

4 austerity (definition: The 2008-2010 Recession Aftermath. Kidding!)

5 profligate (definition: the adjective version of the noun found in No. 2)

6 baldenfreude (Fake Word, so don't bother getting out your dictionary)

7 opprobrium (definition: state of being abused)

8 apostates (definition: person who has abandoned religion, cause or political party)

9 solipsistic (definition: theory that only the self is the only thing that can be verified)

10 obduracy (definition: obstinate)

11 Internecine

12 soporific

13 Kristallnacht

14 peripatetic

15 nascent

16 desultory

17 redoubtable

18 hubris

19 mirabile dictu

20 crèches

21 apoplectic

22 overhaul

23 ersatz

24 obstreperous

25 jejune

26 omertà

27 putative

28 Manichean

29 canard

30 ubiquitous

31 atavistic

32 renminbi

33 sanguine

34 antediluvian

35 cynosure

36 alacrity

37 epistemic

38 egregious

39 incendiary

40 chimera

41 laconic

42 polemicist

43 comity

44 provenance

45 sclerotic

46 prescient

47 hegemony

48 verisimilitude

49 feckless

50 démarche