Monday, 26 November 2012


Hi-ya Readers,
We'll start out the week with a Carol Seppanen Book Update. I finished Element Zero by James Knapp, 368 pages.  The trilogy was fresh and entertaining to me which I found to be surprising since I don't like/get the whole zombie fascination thing that is popular in books/movies/video games right now.  But there is an awful lot I don't get so I'll just move on before I digress to far down that sloped path.  For my next book I browsed the local library to find some new books and ended up spotting a couple old ones instead.  The first book is The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler, 251 pages.  All I know about Chandler is that he created the private investigator Philip Marlowe and I haven't read any of his work yet so I picked one up.  I also thought it would be interesting reading a mystery novel copyrighted in the thirties (1939 to be exact).  Plus his PI Marlowe seems to have stood the test of time so my curiosity was piqued.  I am only a few pages in but I have found the book to be outstanding so far.  (I wrote that sentence Tuesday night, by Thursday night I had finished the book.  Now I need to read some more of his books to see if this was just a one off fascinating read or if Chandler will stay near the top of my favourite authors list.)  He has such a uniquely descriptive writing style I don't even know how to justifiably describe it so I'll just include a few excerpts from the book instead:

"It opened into a sort of vestibule that was about as warm as a slow oven."

"The old man nodded, as if his neck was afraid of the weight of his head."

One of the characters speaking of orchids - "And their perfume has the rotten sweetness of a prostitute."

"Then the old man dragged his voice up from the bottom of a well and said:"

"Dead men are heavier than broken hearts."

"I went to bed full of whisky and frustration..."

Another benefit of the book was finding a few Auntie "B" Words of the Week so here you go Auntie "B".  This week we have benison, suborner and Chicago overcoat.  The last one is more slang so if your mindset is in 1930's detective novels you should be able to figure it out.  After quickly polishing off that exceptionally fine book I started on my second selection.  The Spy Who Came In From The Cold by John Le Carre, 258 pages.  This is also an older book (1963 copyright) so I guess this week is classics week.  I haven't read any of his books either but this is supposed to be one of the classic spy novels so we'll see how much I enjoy it.

A rare cheerful school update.  Kalle's school started a newspaper last year.  It was only one issue as it ended being a lot of work for the teachers but the kids enjoyed working on it so they decided to have one again this year.  Kalle was one of the sub-editors last year so this year she interviewed for the editor position and she got it!  The best part was the kids were told there would be interviews for the positions and Kalle prepped herself for the interview without any input by Lori or I.  She was so excited - she said she answered all of the questions well so she thought she had a good chance of getting the position.  Lori and I are so proud, not only for getting the position she wanted but also for prepping herself beforehand without any prompting by us.  Parenting can be SO rewarding sometimes. 

No comment on Karl's school.  He received his grade card and we don't understand it but he seems to be doing well.  He isn't learning much new on the core subjects (Maths, Science, English) and his teachers recognise that a lot of the subject matter they are covering in class he already knows but we are in England so we don't bother challenging our students here by taking a group of students with aptitudes for a subject and teaching them at an accelerated pace.  He did get penalised for using the phrase "chemical bonding" instead of "chemical forming" the other day because bonding has not been taught to his class yet so he shouldn't be using the word.  On the upside he was complimented by his English teacher for having an advanced knowledge of comma usage (not making it up) which is good.  For Maths he has a new teacher and supposedly the old teacher didn't record his target level so the new teacher lowered his target level.  (Sidebar - the culture here is for the teachers to error on the side of caution and give students a lower target level so that they will attain it as opposed to giving a higher target level and have the students fail to attain it.  Just one of the "differences" from American schools.)  The best part is that it doesn't seem to matter as all of the students do the same work irregardless of his target level so he wouldn't be challenged whatever his target level was.  Niiiice.  Okay I guess I did comment.  Sometimes I just can't keep my trap shut.

This weekend we went to Leeds to the Royal Armouries Museum (link), or three floors of awesomeness as I call it.  We sprinted through in three hours; okay only I sprinted through in three hours.  The rest of the family s-l-o-w-l-y dragged themselves through in three hours.  Even teenager KJ sided with the girls.  Three levels of weapons, armour and war exhibits and he was bored.  I sooo want to beat him some days - especially the days when I pick out fun things for him to do/see and he gets doesn't seem to enjoy it.  Anyway, the museum is huge, admission is free, and has a couple million items on display.  Throw in a lot of interactive exhibits for the kids and I figured we would be captivated for hours.  Unfortunately it only captured the kids attention for a floor and a half.  Lori was bored after ten minutes.  I thought the museum was great, they had a lot of different weapons spanning the parts of the globe and many centuries so there was a lot of variety to see.  Plus with all of the interactive exhibits I figured it would be a fun stop.  I guess the kids had fun for awhile but the size of the museum was just a tad to much for them.   

Karl trying out the Lee Enfield Rifle interactive exhibit.

Kalle trying out the same exhibit.

The Hall of Steel.  Inside the stairwell was this impressive collection of every small weapon/armour piece imaginable.

The museum had some information boards on the British Isles rulers over time.

How many people see this and think of the Bugs Bunny Kill the Wabbit opera cartoon?  I did.  If you read the caption it correctly identifies it as a Celt design instead of Viking which is the popular misconception.  (I thought it was Viking also - thanks for perpetuating the misconception Bugs Bunny.)

And the weapon and armour overload starts in the medieval period (1100's).  This also starts a long run of poor pictures as everything is encased in glass.  Sorry about the quality.

Check out the length of the pikes compared the the people.

My favourite interactive exhibit, gauntlets holding horses reins and a sword.  The gauntlets were pretty heavy but very fun.

The horse armour was interesting.  I was surprised at how much horse armour was here as well as the variety - cloth, leather, steel, ringlet, looped, plated, woven, pageantry, etc.

"Horseman's Axe, German, 14th Century".

"Comb morion, Italian, about 1550-60".  This infantry armour was popular in most of Europe during that time per the card.

Welsh Buckler.

"Bardiche, North-East European, early 16th century".  One of the axes popular with Eastern European foot soldiers per the card.

16th century handguns.  They look heavy and awkward to use.

"Shaffron, Probably Western European, about 1490". 
"...decorated with fluting in the late "Gothic style."  I didn't know that horse armour was decorated in any style.  I'm such a horse armour newb.

"Infantry officer's armour, English, about 1630-40". 
"Based on the portrait of the Royalist Colonel Thomas St. Aubyn.  This is typical of the appearance of the officers on the campaign during the English Civil War."

Cavalry officer's armour, English, about 1642". 
"Based on the portrait of the Parliamentarian Nathaniel Fiennes.  This is typical of the appearance of officers on campaign during the English Civil War."

English Civil War info board.

They also had a section on castles and sieges.

Not exactly sure what the grass eating and eye socket flaming skull significance means but I am guessing you wouldn't want to be captured by their army.
Interesting helmet.

"Cuirassier armour, German, about 1630".  Cavalry armour as there isn't anything protecting the insides of the legs.  KJ also gave me the lowdown on the best way to kill men wearing this armour from one of his video games.

English Flintlock blunderbusses from 1630-40's from card.

"Flintlock musketoon, English, dated 1721".  Often part of a ship's armoury from the card. 

"Matchlock musket, German, Suhl, about 1620's".

Model of Chepstow Castle in Wales.  We was there!  See my blog link.

The unpleasantness of siege warfare.  Diseased animals were the worst as they couldn't be buried and sometimes burning them would only spread the disease.
"Billman, Italian, late 15th century".

"Grenade launcher, US 40 mm M79, American, about 1970".  Range of 350 meters per the cards.  350 meters is about three and a half American football for the metric challenged.

"Centrefire semi-automatic rifle, Springfield Model M14, American, Springfield, about 1953".

"Centrefire semi-automatic rifle, Dragunov SVD, Soviet Union, about 1980".  Designed as a sniping weapon per the card.  (The weapon on top although the scope should have been a sniper giveaway.)

"Centrefire automatic assault rifle, Automat Kalashnikova (AK47), Soviet Union, about 1985".

"Flintlock volley gun, English, London, about 1780" on right.  "Boarding axe, English, mid 19th century" on left.

There was also Naval War exhibits.

How Naval fighting changed over 200 years.

Teresa Robinett Pic - Henry VIII's horse armour from 1509.

"This foot combat armour was made for Henry VIII to fight in at the Field of Cloth of Gold tournament.  It is distinguished by a tonlet (deep skirt) and a great bacinet (helmet).  The tonlet was probably inspired by the male fashion for heavy fabric skirts, or 'bases'."  Looks like a skirt to me.

"The 'Horned Helmet' is technically called an armet, with protection for the skull, hinged cheek-pieces and a face defence."

"The 'Horned Helmet' was made by one of the finest armourers of the early 16th century.  Konrad Seusenhofer of Innsbruck was court armourer to the Holy Roman Emperor, Maximilian I.""

Isn't this cute?  Read below.

For above.

Henry VIII in later years.  Apparently he was a widely admired stud soldier in his youth but I haven't seen many paintings of him from that time period.     

Tournament info board.

Scene from a tiger hunt.

"Fabric coat (jibbah" and helmet, Sudanese, 19th century."  Armour was worn exclusively by cavalry in the Saharan armies per the card.  This is woven fabric with sheet metal lining per the same card.

Japanese matchlock muskets from 18th and 19th centuries.

Read below.

For above.

We're in the Persian section now.

Carved ivory hilted dagger on left, dagger on right has a five tipped point.

18th century Japanese armour.

Read below.

For above.  We are in the American Old West and popular entertainment culture section now.

"Centrefire revolver, American, Hartford, about 1875, Colt Single Action, Model 1873".  Commonly known as the 'Peacemaker'.

"Centrefire rifle, American, Hartford, about 1875, Sharps New Model 1859".  Used by Indians and buffalo hunters.  Lots of western books I've read in years past are flooding my memory banks in this part of the museum.

Are you feeling lucky, Punk?  Dirty Harry's S&W 44 revolver from the card.  (I added the quote.  How can you not look at his 44 Magnum and think of the line?)

German wheellock pistol.

English Snaphaunce revolver from about 1660-70.  An early example of a multi-shot weapon that was not very reliable from the card.

Anybody getting tired of looking at weapons yet?  Not me.  But the rest of the parade rainers are running out of steam.  Worst part was I was just starting to warm up by now.  But being the team player that I am I picked up my pace from Carl Lewis to Usain Bolt about now.  I would have loved to have spent all seven hours that it is open here.  Even KJ didn't hang with me which surprised me.  I guess he didn't see enough weapons from his video games to interest him.

Leave it to the Brits to put a tool in an armoury museum.  Yes wrenches are called spanners over here.

Bond, James Bond.

A Cosh.  I saw an awful lot of new words in this place.
Belgium percussion revolvers from mid-1800's.

War elephants.  Hannibal's crossing of the Alps (Wiki link for those not familiar) comes to mind every time I see war elephants.

"Executioner's sword, Indian, Oudh, early 19th century".

"Matchlock petronel, French, about 1590".  Per the card the barrel and lock are inlaid with gold and silver scrollwork while the stock is inlaid with plagues of mother-of-pearl engraved with animals and scenes from classic mythology.

One of the modern day gun sections.

Endangered species skins and furs.
"Harpoon heads, Modern Casts, Originals about 11,500 BC"  One of the early weapons on display.

This was new to me.

A man punt gunning.

Throwing stick.

Elephant goad.

Kalle found some funky chairs.

Did you know?

"Cataphract cavalry from the tomb of Tongkou, Korea, 4th century. Complete armour was introduced on the eastern steppe at the start of the 4th century."

Asian Swords.

"Trench clubs, British and French, about 1916".  Clubs were mainly used by raiding parties who entered enemy trenches to capture prisoners and obtain information per the card.

Trench warfare picture.

Self explanatory I think.

Battle of Pavia scene.  I didn't know what it was so had to look it up.  You can read about it on Wiki here.

Zulu wars.  The Zulus had clubs and spears, the British had guns.  Guess who won that war?

One of my all time favourite info boards so far.  Must have been my engineer side.

From the Great Rebellion in India section.

Read below.  Wouldn't this look good in the living room Lor?
For above.

Turning arms into art.  Obviously the work of hippies.

Here's for you Tara Schetzel.  We were sitting at the Pizza Express for lunch after the museum and this bride and groom pulled up for pictures (their reception was in a banquet room inside the museum).  We've seen Rolls Royce's used for wedding party transportation but this cream coloured stretch VW bug and matching love bus was a first for us.  On a side note this sparked a wedding dress conversation from 10 year old Kalle.  I'm not sure I am ready to have a daughter yet.  Even scarier was hearing about one of her classmates who has her wedding planned already. 
After lunch was the Church of St. John the Evangelist (link).  St. John is the oldest church in Leeds which dates to 1634.  As far as style and history goes it isn't quite as appealing as a lot of churches we have toured but Leeds didn't have a lot else that interested us.  And neither did St. John once we toured it - I think we are turning into church snobs.  But to be fair it is hard to compare churches now that we have seen York Minster, Lincoln Cathedral, Liverpool Cathedral, Stockholm Cathedral, Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Helsinki Cathedral, Old and New Churches of Amsterdam, Notre Dame, etc.

The outside of St. John.

Inside of church facing the screen and altar. 

Inside church facing the rear.


Main altar.

At one point in the 1800's the church was remodeled and some stained glass windows of John Harrison were installed.  John Harrison is the person responsible for the building of the church.

Random building in Leeds after we finished at the church.  We also checked out a couple of malls but they were very brief stops as nothing caught our eye.  One interesting note about Leeds is that both parking decks we parked in were right side driving and the ground floor was named floor one like in America.  Every other parking deck I have been in here drives on the left side and the ground floor is called ground.  American level two is English with level one, American level three is English level two and so on.  I'm not sure why that was but it felt kind of odd.

Our last stop of the day was Kirkstall Abbey (Wiki link).  But since it was dark (time was 4:30 PM) and raining we didn't stop and look.  Instead I popped out of the car to take this picture.
At the Abbey I ducked into the gift shop to see if it was open.  It wasn't but I did see this 1666 Plague stone.  Read about it below.

For above.  Sorry about the blurry picture.  For the non-readers Leeds lost a fifth of its population in the plague.
Tis the end of the month (almost) so the Billy Goat Beard is on its way out the door.  So long Billy!

Thanks for playing Billy Goat Beard.  Stay tuned for next month's selection.
Happy Thanksgiving!  The American holidays just aren't the same over here.  The locals were surprised that the Yanks don't make the big Thanksgiving Meal and go all out over here because they don't understand that the holiday is more about family than turkey.  (They also don't get pumpkin pie, they think it is bitter like eating raw pumpkin because they don't have pumpkin filling available over here.  I explained to one mother that it is a sweet and what goes into it and she was extremely surprised.)  For us this year Thursday meant school, work and parent teacher conference for Kalle.  And football.  RGIII for MVP!  So on Sunday a bunch of ex-pat Rolls Royce people and their families met for our "family" meal.  Turnout was very good, twenty-six of the twenty-seven people who RSVPed showed up and we had a variety of single younger workers, single older workers, married workers without kids and married workers with kids.  I even met one of the Worser Halves from our Better Halves Club which was great.  It was a lot of fun meeting some of the new people over here and catching up with the ones we normally see at our get togethers.  I did take a couple of pictures but we had a loooooonnnng rectangular table so I couldn't even get half of the people in them so I won't post any pictures.  Oh well.  We had a good time though so that's all that matters.

Dana Johnson Pic - my Thanksgiving meal.  The San Morino maybe?  It had ham, red onion, pineapple, chive and spice tomato sauce.  Very good.

On a final note I passed a milestone with my camera.  10,000 pictures.  I'm not sure how many pictures it will take before it starts breaking down but I am certainly getting my money's worth out of it.  I have been having a problem with blurry pictures lately but chalked it up to operator error so maybe my camera is going.  Hmmmm, is a DSLR in my future?

Thanks for listening,