Alex Soojung-Kim Pang, Ph.D.

I study people, technology, and the worlds they make

Tag: London (page 1 of 4)

Packing this weekend

Among other things I’m doing this weekend (mainly related to my son’s rugby career, it seems) I’ve got pack and get ready for my Big European Tour: I’m off to London for several days to promote the Penguin Life edition of Rest, then will go to Amsterdam for the release of the Dutch edition of Rest and a talk sponsored by The School of Life.

It promises to be a fun time, particularly because after I take care of some business my wife will able to join me. (Next time, kids!) And because after years of writing about it, I finally plan to go to Downe and visit Charles Darwin’s house.

I’ve never been to Amsterdam, so I’m very much looking forward to spending several day there. I’m going to be speaking at the Westerkerk, which promises to be a pretty extraordinary venue.

I just hope the dogs don’t get too flipped out by seeing luggage. But they usually do.

In London

I’m in London for a few days, doing some research for Rest.

My table at LSE archives

We’re staying at the Hotel Russell, which overlooks Russell Square in Bloomsbury. I’ve passed by it many times, and have always been curious about what it was like. It’s nice.

Hotel Russell

Our room doesn’t overlook Russell Square, of course; ours overlooks one of the other hotels, though if you crane your head out the window, you can see some of the trees.

Thursday I was at the British Library, and the Wellcome Collection. Both were great.

British Library

Friday I went down to the London School of Economics, and spent the day in their special collections. The LSE library has this wacky spiral staircase in its center.

LSE library

London is great as always, and being here in the summer (which I’ve done very rarely) is great. We did happen to be in town during a huge anti-austerity rally, which meant we could forget doing normal tourist stuff, but which proved interesting on its own terms.

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Wednesday I go up to Cambridge, to do some work in the archives there. Then it’s back home.

O Yes

On the Eye

After the Transport Museum, we went on the Eye. Thanks to a quirk of timing, we had an entire compartment to ourselves.

On the Eye
via flickr

Previous to getting on the actual ride we went to the “4D experience,” which is essentially a 3D movie with dry ice and the occasional water effect to get viewers wet, plus extremely loud music. As we were leaving it, I heard a kid say, half-admiring and half-sarcastic, “That was the STUPIDEST THING EVER!”

On the Eye
via flickr

And indeed it was that instantly recognizable form of dumb that lives by the motto, when in doubt, make it Really Really Loud. Nonetheless, the view was a spectacular as always, even though it was kind of cloudy.

On the Eye
via flickr

Even my daughter enjoying taking pictures and interacting with the security camera.

On the Eye
via flickr

Transport Museum

Today we took Mom and the kids to the London Transport Museum.

Transport Museum
via flickr

It’s at Covent Garden, and is a fun place, but with the exposed metal and the multiple school groups, it tends to be a little loud. Still, it’s worth it, and it’s not like noise is NOT part of the experience of public transportation.

I think my favorite part was the room devoted to transportation advertising and design. The Underground and the rail system has had an amazing history of getting great industrial design, and even if their work isn’t always brilliant, they’re trying hard.

Transport Museum
via flickr

Indeed, the whole museum is beautifully designed, and works very well.

Transport Museum
via flickr

Piccadilly Circus and Burlington Arcade

Monday, we got up early to take the kids to the airport. The bus ride from Cambridge to Heathrow is over two hours, so naturally my son fell back asleep during the ride. Which was fine.

Early morning bus to Heathrow
on the way to heathrow, via flickr

After we got them checked in and through security, Heather and I went into London. Not that I haven’t been able to keep busy in Cambridge, of course, but we were in the area.

At Heather’s suggestion we went to Covent Garden, where I’d never been before, and we wandered around the flea markets for a bit.

Covent Garden panorama
covent garden, via flickr

I picked up an old hip flask– I’ve always wanted one– but mainly just took in the scene.

Type cases
type cases in covent garden, via flickr

After that, we made our way to Piccadilly Square and then Burlington Arcade. For me, Piccadilly is a kind of default stop: it’s the very first place I went when I first came to London in 1989. I got off the plane and got through customs, got on the Tube, got off at Piccadilly, and went straight to the Royal Astronomical Society. So the area still has a kind of nostalgic pull for me.

We took a quick stroll through Burlington House, but then took a stroll down Burlington Arcade, which I just love.

Window shopping
burlington arcade, via flickr

I’ve never bought anything there– everything is absurdly expensive, and the stores that have that prohibitive, formidable exclusiveness that keeps the likes of me on the outside looking in– but it’s a great place to walk around and look.

Writing implements
store window, via flickr

After that, it was a quick dinner, and off to see The Rivals, which was fun. Then it was back to Cambridge, and back to work.

Couple utterly gratuitous pictures of/around London

Just because I had the new camera with me:

Westminster, natch
Westminster, via flickr

Trafalgar Square and Big Ben
Trafalgar Square, via flickr

British Museum

Sunday Heather and I went to London. Destination: the British Museum (lots more pictures here).

British Museum
British Museum, via flickr

Since the kids have recently been reading The Red Pyramid (we recorded the last few chapters as mp3s and emailed them back home) and are big fans of Demigod Chronicles (or whatever that series of books is called), and we figured we’d spend plenty of time with the Rosetta Stone and Elgin Marbles in a few weeks when the kids are here, we skipped the Egyptian and Greek wing and headed up to Bronze Age and Roman wings.

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Exhibit cabinet, via flickr

We also went through the exhibit on timekeeping, which has some pretty extraordinary Renaissance and early modern clocks.

Timepieces through the ages
Clocks, via flickr

After lunch, it was upstairs to the small Americas rooms, thence into the big, impressive Enlightenment wing.

British Museum
Hall of Enlightenment, via flickr

Personally, I still find the courtyard one of the most extraordinary spaces I’ve ever seen, and after several weeks here in England, I have a new wrinkle on my affection.

British Museum
The Great Courtyard, via flickr

One of the things that impresses me here is how some very old buildings are reworked and expanded, with little concern for maintaining (say) the look of the old stonework, or erasing the fact that you’ve bricked up an old window or door.

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Renovations, Trinity College, via flickr

In a way, the British Museum courtyard is a version of this: it takes the old buildings of the Museum, and welds them into a very different space.

Great courtyard
The Great Courtyard, via flickr

It’s very cool.

Last night in London

I’m back in London, after spending a very interesting day in Cambridge. I may be in the for night: I was going to meet a friend, but he has a little kid and so couldn’t make it (don’t I know how that is), so I’ve been uploading pictures and doing some e-mail. I was going to go out, but I took 600 pictures today and a prospective client decided she needs something by end of business TODAY OR THEY WALK, so I’ve been chained to the computer, mailing stuff thousands of miles.

So I may not get back out again tonight. But I can live. I need to pack and stuff, and can maximize my use of the incredible expensive wifi connection.

Scenes from London
embankment and south bank, via flickr

Among other things this has given me a chance to organize my pictures and upload some to Flickr; not only do I have a set of London and Cambridge pictures, I’ve got one devoted to panoramas, which I’m creating using an iPod app, AutoStitch.

More scenes from London
eurotrain platform, st. pancras station, via flickr

The results are kind of insane, as far as I’m concerned. I remember this kind of thing taking minutes on my Mac Quadra (back in what, 1996?), and now I can do this on my iPhone in seconds. Quite awesome.

Scenes from London
Burlington House, via flickr

And London is the kind of place where panoramas are especially useful.

Scenes from London
sick tricks, via flickr

[To the tune of U2, “Wake Up Dead Man,” from the album Pop (a 2-star song, imo).]

Walking on the Embankment

After I slept for a few hours– the hotel was able to give me early check-in, bless them– I had a shower, got some coffee at the nearby Starbucks, then took the Tube to St. Pauls.

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From there I walked across London Bridge, and back along the Embankment toward the Eye.

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I’m not the only one who had the idea. There were LOTS of people out, in contrast to the rest of the city, which seemed kind of deserted thanks to the bank holiday.

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I stopped in the Globe (I gave a talk there a few years ago, which was one of the highlights of my life at the Institute), and bought the kids t-shirts that say “Something wicked this way comes.” I thought about one that said “Out out damned spot” that looked like it was splattered with blood (they also had tea towels) but thought better of it.

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I then went to the Tate Modern for a while. It’s an awesome space, truly incredible. I also stocked up on my postcard collection.

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From there, it was down to the Eye. It was too cloudy to be worth going on it (I’m hopeful that Wednesday night will be nice), but I wanted to replace a bottle opener that I bought there a couple years ago and lost. Alas, it was not to be.

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Then it was across the bridge and to dinner.

[To the tune of Django Reinhardt, “La Mer,” from the album The Best of DJango Reinhardt (a 1-star song, imo).]

Off to London

I’m on my way to England for a few days. A bit of a whirlwind trip, but I expect it’ll be productive.

Loaded up my Tube map and National Rail schedule on my iPhone. The new travel practice: adjusting your collection of apps.

More from England.

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