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################################## THREES ################################## This email is an update. If you haven't got one from me before you'll find I write them about four times a year. Rather optimistically (euphemistically?) I call them epistles. Apparently that's another word for long letter. This time I'll be chronological, which means starting in Eastern Europe and heading West - Christmas in Vienna, New Years in London, everything else in Oxford. Everything else includes some electoral shenanigans, a lot of dancing, an internship for the summer and I've even done some work on my DPhil. At least two of the photos won't make sense without captions. and I'll do that at the end. I've noticed something very interesting. The further East you are, the friendlier the locals are. Take the Germans. They have a stern and humourless reputation, and it is entirely undeserved. Perhaps it was in comparison to the Czechs and Poles? Susanna and I had a fantastic time in Prague, and an even better time in Krakow. Part of that was the people, but the wild spaces in Poland reminded me of New Zealand, and of how much I miss it. Auschwitz is... hard to describe. Strangely bland. There's nothing special about the buildings or the site - quiet, bleak, dead, but normal. Even the crematoriums. And maybe that's the true horror of the Holocaust? That it wasn't some exceptional trip to the bottom of the abyss, just an example. That might sound controversial. Some other trips? The Armenian genocide, the Japanese atrocities in China, the bombing of Dresden, the Soviet gulags, the Cambodian killing fields, Rwanda, Bosnia and others, all in the last 100 years. To put it bluntly, we aren't very nice. On a much happier note - Christmas in Vienna. Being able to go and see the opera or ballet for 4 euros and without even having to book ahead was incredible, and hearing the Vienna Boys' Choir was amazing. Two of my brothers and two of my sisters were there too, and it was the first time James, Ash, Dad and me have all been together for Christmas since 2002. Given that none of us actually live in Vienna I can appreciate the irony, but just being able to hang out was fantastic. The defining feature of New Years in London was public transport. It would be a lie to say we spent half the night on a bus, but that's only because we also used the tube and the trains. We had an amazing night though. Dinner with a couple of friend's near Tulse Hill, then Westminster Abbey for the changing of the year, and we joined Natalia (my dance partner) for her birthday celebrations in Camden town after that. Dancing has been brilliant. Although it didn't go as well as either of us had hoped, Natalia and I had a magic partnership, a great time, and - especially for me - a real chance to improve. I wouldn't say our (my) dancing was brilliant, but it's certainly not terrible, so I've uploaded a couple of videos to youtube (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n_KvSRsiqC8 and http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BFXjZKoCzp0). Natalia and I are the tiny dots, dressed all in black... Research-wise, the "supervisory committee" arrangement has been working really well. I have two more articles under construction and I should be working on those, but I've been helping a friend move house and writing this email today instead. As I type I have 2 experiments running though, so at least I can pretend that I'm being productive. It snowed recently in Oxford, as it did over the rest of England. I didn't take any photos of the city so you'll just have to trust me when I say it made a beautiful city even more gorgeous. We even had swans in our meadow! That was mostly because the snow melt turned our meadow into a swamp - there's something disconcerting about a pristine white swan paddling around in what looks a lot like a cesspit - but it was still pretty cool. The MCR Presidency is nothing like West Wing (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SnxQk8C_-kE). It is a lot of fun, and I really enjoy being able to help with this kind of thing, but the high powered meetings and crises which need some Hollywood-style inspirational leadership just haven't come about. I wrestled a 14 litre box of milk into a dispenser in our MCR yesterday though, and cleaned up the mess when I didn't set it up quite right. Does that count? Looking ahead to the summer, I'll be one of 3 interns with BCG in London this year. I am incredibly excited about that, and really looking forward to London - there are so many shows to see, parks to visit, and all the action after the sun goes down. Maybe I won't have the time or energy when I finish the work day, but however it works out it will be wonderful. I had to choose between a couple of internships, and it wasn't an easy choice, but I'm happy with the decision I've made. And I hate it when people moan about getting the chance to choose - so that's enough words on a summer that hasn't even happened yet! I haven't included many links in this email. I can't explain how Pale Blue Dot makes me feel, but I think it's as close as I get to a religious experience: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WmMUuR--Qvo http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/7/73/Pale_Blue_Dot.png Captions for some of the photos. Number (2) is just typical - no one in my family knows how to look at the camera! I think (11) is the most interesting one. Why? It's just a photo of people dancing. Yes, but have you noticed that the girls are mostly naked?! Because I didn't notice that at the time, or at any other comp, and it suddenly struck me some time later. It's a truly weird thing to become blind to, but I think that's what competitive dancing does to you. You look, but you don't see. In other news, it was my birthday a couple of weeks ago. I turned 3^3 on the 3^3th day of the 3rd month. My status as a nerd is thusly assured. But hey - any chance I had of being cool is a few years ago now anyway! FINIS
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