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

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Carfax Tower, Oxford

Carfax Tower is at the corner of High Street, Cornmarket, Queen Street, and St. Aldate's. The name "Carfax" comes from the French quatre voies or "four ways" and the tower is the center of the main north-south and east-west routes through the city. The tower was originally the bell tower of St. Martin's, a 14th century church that was demolished in 1896 to widen the roads. For a small fee, visitors can climb the tower and get nice view of Oxford.

Carfax Tower

One staircase

Yet another staircase

I went up without the children and did some quick snaps of the rooftops.

Covered market across the street

View down High Street with Queen's College in the distance

View down St. Aldate's with Christ Church in the distance

More of the view to Christ Church

View to the countryside

View to the northwest with some church towers

View to the north with just buildings

View down on a chimney (how does Dick Van Dyke fit in one of those?)

The tower has a clock that strikes on the hour and is supposed to be a nice sight to see but we never timed our arrival right the weekend we were there.

Clock face and entrance to tower

Clock detail

Across the street is the town hall.

Oxford Town Hall

More on Oxford in coming posts!

Monday, November 17, 2014

Book Review: Bone Vol. 8 Treasure Hunters by Jeff Smith

Bone Volume 8 Treasure Hunters by Jeff Smith

The Bones, Thorn, and Gran'ma Ben make it to Atheia, human capital of the valley. The city is getting ready for a siege and is overwhelmed by refuges fleeing from the ghost circles that are creating havoc in the valley. People wait at the gates to be allowed in. Thorn's group bribes their way in. Inside, things are also bad. Water is being rationed by the military force in control of the city. The force calls themselves the Vedu and they've outlawed dragon-lore and have no interest in returning royalty reestablishing their authority. Thorn and company will have to tread lightly. Unfortunately, Phoney Bone is only interested in finding the fabulous treasure he assumes must be in the city...and he wants to mint gold coins with his image on them. Political intrigues, both significant and slight, abound.

The amazing blend of comedy and drama continues in this volume, setting up an epic conflict for the next (and final) issue.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Bury St Edmunds Abbey and Cathedral, England

Halfway between Ipswich and Cambridge is Bury St Edmunds, a town famous for its Abbey and Cathedral. The Abbey became a popular pilgrimage spot when Edmund, last Saxon king of East Anglia, was buried there after he was martyred by Danish raiders in 870. Edmund was canonized circa 900 and King Canute had the abbey built in the martyr's honor (thus the name of the town). The currently-standing cathedral was built in the 1100s. In 1214 a band of barons swore an oath at the cathedral's altar that they would fight King John if he refused to accept Magna Carta. He finally did in 1215. After the dissolution of the monasteries, the abbey fell into ruins but the cathedral remains. The lands have been turned into formal gardens.

The Abbey Gate was rebuilt in the mid-1350s and makes an impressive entrance to the parklands that contain the ruins of the abbey. One other gate and the cathedral are all that remains standing from the Benedictine abbey.

Abbey Gate

Formal gardens

Abbey ruins

Lucy check the model of the abbey

The ruins were fun to explore for Jacob and Lucy. They had plenty of opportunities to climb and run around.

No "No Climbing" signs here

Daddy and Lucy check out a well

Jacob hangs out

More fun at the ruins with the church in the distance

The old staircase

The cathedral itself can be accessed from the gardens or from the street outside. We approached and saw a memorial by the door to an 18th century family.

Approaching the cathedral

Close now!

Near the door

We didn't have much time to explore inside but got to see the nave and the spectacular baptismal font.


Ultra-fancy baptismal font

Stained glass window (click to enlarge)

The church has a model of itself inside, though the model does not include the nice decorative gargoyles.

Model of the church building

Two snakes in one!

The formal gardens include a playground which the children enjoyed.

A nice bridge

Spinning each other around

Happy swingers

Ready to go on other adventures!

We left through the Norman Gate tower (built in the 1140s)

Ivy league parking!