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I See Elsie

The Ithaca College London Centre

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Posted by Claire Mokrauer-Madden at 8:41AM   |  Add a comment


For the Fall 2010 students it is the final countdown of weeks left in London.  You are counting down your weekend trips, the tourist sites you STILL haven't been to and let's not forget the number of plays/sporting fixture/gigs still remaining to be seen.  For the Spring 2011 students it is the final countdown of days left in Ithaca before your semester in London, of days left on the 28 day holding period (if you are applying for a visa), of figuring out exactly how many credits you need to take here in London and which classes you will be taking (actually, I bet you all have a pretty good handle on that one already).

For Bill, Sarah, Heather and me we have a lot going on during this season, too.  This is the high season for competitions.  Bill has just named the winner of the dinner quiz (the one where you win a homemade dinner at his house!  I was one of the lucky winners of this one in the Fall of 2002.  That's probably why Bill knew that I would be good hiring quality in 2009).  Coming up is the Travel Writing competition, for which the prize is £50.  There is the Photography Competition, voted on by the students.  And of course the new term-long Scavenger Hunt.  The prizes for these competitions will be given out at the End of Term Event.  Fall '10 students, find info about these competitions on the board in the front entry.  But the competitions don't end there for us.  The Spring '11 students are getting weekly emails from Bill with quizzes to win a bit of cash upon arrival in January. 

Here are some reminders of the glory that comes with winning:

Dena was the first to ask a man in a kilt to dance with her at the ceilidh! That was worth £5. I don't think he wanted the dance to end.


Carrie was a bit of a quiz master in Stratford and Oxford.


Heather taking £5 off of Bill.


Back in August Theresa collects her summer winnings for answering one of the quizzes in the pre-arrival emails.  I bet £10 made her jet lag a little less bitter.


 -Claire (no help from Elsie)


Posted by Claire Mokrauer-Madden at 11:11AM   |  Add a comment

The NFL road show, featuring the San Francisco 49ers and Denver Broncos, with Jerry Rice and John Elway in tow, plus scores of hangers on and media technicians, arrived in London last week. Almost 85,000 people attended the match at the brand new Wembley Stadium.  This 4th in the NFL’s annual series of ‘international’ matches was a close game, dull in the first half, more exciting in the second, when 37 of the 40 points were scored and two critical refereeing decisions shaped the outcome. The 49ers came out on top, a bit fortuitously, but any win is good when a team has a 1-5 record. The game turned on penalties that negated two explosive Bronco touchdowns. The Broncos’ place kicker also missed a conversion which would have brought his team to within a converted touchdown of the ‘Niners’.  “Wait a minute,” I jokingly commented to Gen at the time, “a skewed conversion reminds me of the ‘spot betting’ scandal in the recent Test series between England and Pakistan.” Had the Broncos place kicker found a betting shop in central London? What are the odds on a missed convert, one that is not even blocked, not even close? Shades of “the 5th ball of my 4th over will be a ‘no ball’”. To say nothing of the officials who were decisive in turning a game Denver should have won into the 49ers’ second win of the season**.

All dressed up for the game!

Over here we believe that American football developed out of Rugby which in turn developed out of football/soccer. Both parent games are played on a wider and longer pitch, for longer periods [80 minutes and 90 minutes], with fewer substitutions and no time outs. When substitutions are made in football’s Champions League the distance the player has run is shown on the screen: for example, in last night’s Tottenham Hotspur v Inter Milan game, the Spurs winger Aaron Lennon was substituted in the 80th minute having run over 10km. [He also made tackles and was tackled.] Spurs have a minimum of 38 games each year and are allowed just three subs per game. To play football at this level the players need to be very fit. No doubt the same is true in US football, but the game doesn’t show it. No US player would run 10km in a game.


The main novelty the Americans introduced was the forward pass. Much of the equipment and the sophisticated strategy came later.  The biggest difference between US football and its grandfather, Association Football or soccer, and its father, Rugby, lies in the amount of time the players actually PLAY the game.  I am not challenging the supreme fitness of the players, nor the sophistication of the strategy which calls for numerous substitutions and time-outs. But for the soccer or rugby public it does seem strange that US football has too many occasions when fit, professional athletes stand in half huddles on the pitch doing nothing but drinking water and chatting amiably to each other.  US football is far slower and, arguably, less physically strenuous than other versions of the game.

Non-committal QPR hat, Bill


Check this data compiled during the first half of the Wembley match.


ACTUAL CLOCK TIME FOR 1st half: start 5:00pm; finish 6:12pm = 72 minutes

ACTUAL GAME TIME: Two 15 minute quarters = 30 minutes

ACTUAL PLAYING TIME: [from snap to end of play]

Possession 1: DENVER 37 seconds [5 plays]

Possession 2: SF 31 seconds [4 plays]

Possession 3: Denver 50 seconds [8 plays]

Possession 4: SF 70 seconds [13 plays]

Possession 5: Denver 49 seconds [6 plays]

Possession 6: SF 37 seconds [6 plays]

Possession 7: Denver 41 seconds [7 plays]

Possession 8: SF 41 seconds [6 plays]

Possession 9: Denver 83 seconds [12 plays]

Possession 10: SF 1 second [1 play]

TOTAL PLAYING TIME:   440 seconds = 7 minutes 20 seconds for 68 plays OR roughly 24% of the ‘game time’ and a mere 10% of the ‘real time’ of 72 minutes. Each play lasts on average about 6.5 seconds.


I ask these questions of the NFL.

1. Do fans attend games to watch superb athletes at the peak of their performance OR to be otherwise entertained by the razzmatazz, the cheerleaders, the Mexican waving, the tailgate parties, etc.

2. Can football players & fans cope with bursts of play that last longer than 10 seconds?

3. Do the cheerleaders, also fit, choreographed and with facial make-up [like the running backs and receivers] perform more strenuously and for a longer period of time in a game than the players?

4. Who is more highly paid? The [arguably] underperforming fit athletic footballers or the equally fit cheerleaders?

5. Are some fans more active than players in a match? Do they burn more calories watching a game & cheering for their team than the majority of kitted players?


** DISCLAIMER: The author does not believe that the BRONCO place keeper and the referees placed bets on the outcome of the match.

Thanks for this one, Carter!


Posted by Claire Mokrauer-Madden at 11:12AM   |  Add a comment


Birthdays only come once a year (for most of us), and they are such a good excuse to spoil ourselves just a little.  Whether you are having three celebratory breakfasts or treating yourself to a lie-in, this is a day that stands out from the other 364.  If you are having your birthday while on your semester abroad you may find it a strange and exhilarating experience.  One of the best parts has to be getting packages and presents and cards from home.  Others make a special point of being out of their home country for their birthdays.  Perhaps it has become a tradition, or perhaps it is a clever ploy to ask for money to take traveling for your birthday.  Either way, there are infinite ways to celebrate birthdays.

A horse and a snake after the birthday brownies are eaten

This scavenger hunt installment therefore deals with years.  Here in the ICLC, Bill likes to keep abreast of the where his faculty and staff fall in the Chinese calendar to see which animals are represented.  Bill himself is a dog and amongst our staff the dogs grossly outnumber any other animal, so I think we all know where this bias in his hiring policy comes from.  It may also have to do with the fact that people born in the year of the dog possess the best traits of human nature.  When including the faculty into the mix I thought that the dogs topped the leader board with six of us, but much to my surprise we have seven snakes!  Snakes are deep.  They say little and posses great wisdom.  It makes sense that a college would employ people who possess great wisdom.  We also have four rabbits, three rats, two horses, one dragon and one boar.  Unrepresented are rams, monkeys, roosters, tigers and oxen.  Your job is to find any one of these last five animals.  Extra points if they are living, breathing animals.

3 horses, 2 tigers and a snake

On a personal note, when I was born I think my doctor was very excited on the occasion.  My evidence for this is that she dated my birth certificate with the wrong year.  As a result, I have quite a unique certificate which says that I was born a decade after my birth certificate was signed and dated.  My parents were there, that's not how it happened.  I don’t think she is a psychic as well as a doctor, but I don’t really have an explanation for this one.  She’s a very good doctor, so she probably just put in a better effort studying medicine than the calendar.  Birth certificates, being part of public records, can involve a lot of bureaucratic effort to change.  So my parents never did it when I was a kid, and I think it’s such a weird quirk that I have no interest in changing it myself.  When I was a kid I hoped this would help me get a driver’s license ten years early.  My dad, with more of a mind towards forward planning, thinks I should apply for social security ten years early.  Needless to say, I had to wait until I was actually 16 years old to drive, because no one would believe that a child who looks six years old should be behind the wheel of a car.  And I have no intention of trying to scam the social security system.  In honour of my wonky birth certificate, your second mission is to find something made in 1972, the year I wasn’t born.

A horse and a snake

-Elsie (as well as one of the ICLC’s many dogs)


Posted by Claire Mokrauer-Madden at 11:12AM   |  Add a comment


The old adage that America and Britain are two countries separated by a common language has a truthful ring, but, if one were inventing a 21st century variant of the adage, one might say that the USA and Britain are two countries separated by their summer games, baseball [an English invention] and cricket [also English, but once very popular in the [USA]!

When first at university in the UK, my American friends and I regularly laughed uproariously when reading a cricket report. How could a popular domestic and international sport be so much like the ‘goons’? Was Spike Milligan The Times’ cricket reporter? It was a bit like reading the Law Code of Hammurabi or Einstein’s theory of relativity. Without a great deal of background, the reports would never make sense. Cricket seemed to be absurd, like the Pythons’ ‘ministry of silly walks’, ‘four Yorkshiremen’ [my favourite Python] and ‘dead parrot’ sketches.  Clearly a sentence like “Smith was caught for 15 by Harris fielding at silly-mid-off off the bowling of Johnston” is a joke! How can a ball be a ‘no ball’? How can a position be entitled ‘silly mid-off’? Would Babe Ruth, Joe DiMaggio, or Roberto Clemente ever humiliate themselves by playing in such an undignified position?  More significantly, would Marilyn Monroe have married a ‘silly mid off’ [or a ‘silly mid on’ for that matter]? Was every day April Fool’s day in the UK?

The British can’t make sense of baseball [apparently, and rather patronisingly, just a slightly more sophisticated version of rounders, a girls’ school game], and the Americans remain incapable of understanding how a game can be played over three hours [Twenty/20], eight hours [50 overs or a one day match], or four or five days [first class matches, internationals and Test matches] and still end in a draw.  And then why are there always two batters?  [UNLIKELY ANSWER: the loneliness of a batter who is out in the middle all day – he needs to talk to someone.] Why don’t the fielders use gloves [UNUSUAL ANSWER: since its creation in 1948, the NHS has specialised in broken fingers, and it’s free!]  How is it fair, indeed part of the strategy, for the bowler to hit the batters? [TRUE ANSWER: ‘bodyline’ was developed by the English to use against the Aussies, the old rivals, a nation who could give as good as they got]. Why invent a game for 11 players that has at least 20-30 fielding positions? [IMPROBABLE ANSWER: the British invented a game that would be good for its huge and under populated colonies like New Zealand, Canada and Australia.] And what about stopping 45 minutes for lunch and another 20 minutes for tea? [ TRUE ANSWER: Nothing to do with strategy; rather an attempt to fill the belly if one had to field or bat for another 3 hours and a day. The British feel that cricket is a ‘manly’ sport that requires more fitness and hardness than baseball. Discuss this proposition over a pint. [The same is more obviously true for the comparison between Rugby and American football.]

The simplest route to understanding cricket and baseball is to play the games. There is new equipment to consider – the size of the bat, the colour of the ball, the state of the pitch or wicket, the positioning of the fielders, the need for collaboration between the two batters when running between the wickets,  sliding and stealing bases, the freedom to hit in a 360 degree area, etc.  Mindset: in cricket you just can’t ‘take a pitch’ in case that pitch knocks your middle stump 20 feet into the air.  Also when chasing a score, you need to take advantage of just about every ball. You need to know when to dig in, be obdurate, play with a straight bat, don’t take risks, slow the tempo, steady the ship, and when to attack. You need to be adept with the bat.


In baseball, you need to hit in a 90 degree area. You also get to keep the ball if the batter fouls it off into the stands. If a new ball that has just emerged from the umpire’s pocket has the slightest hint of acne – a little red mark], it goes into the recycling bin. But there are no free balls in cricket. Indeed a ball must last an entire innings, whether it be a 25 over match, a 50 over match or a test match [80 overs per ball change]. The American League’s ‘Designated Hitter’ role doesn’t always fit its purpose, that is, to make the game more exciting.

Can this expatriate choose between the two ‘games of summer’? Well, he will sit on the fence for the time being. Both games can be occasionally boring, although a 1-0 pitcher’s duel is technically not a boring event. One good thing about baseball is that you can buy hot dogs at the games. One good thing about cricket is that you can read a book, get a sun tan, have a Pimms, applaud politely or be as raucous as England’s ‘barmy army’ on tour. Cricket has been adopted by many countries in the now defunct Empire, while baseball is on the offensive trying to woo Europeans away from soccer, and rugby.


Final word: laugh all you want at cricket and baseball, or yawn if you must, but before dismissing the games, play them.  See the accompanying pictures of Ithaca students playing cricket on a very dodgy wicket in Hyde Park September.


-Bill (with no help from Elsie)


Posted by Claire Mokrauer-Madden at 10:33AM   |  Add a comment


Bill Sheasgreen is a very hard working man, often the first one to work and one of the last to leave.  But not this week.  (Not that Bill isn’t working hard this week, but hopefully he is also having some down time to be a tourist.)

Alyssa trying to dodge the camera at this week's coffee talk

Bill has gone to Nantes in northeastern France for a conference this week and left Sarah as the beauty on duty, with me as her second in command.  He hasn’t been gone long, but we are pleased to report that it has been business as usual.  The coffee has been made in the morning and the newspapers have been bought.  The students are attending their classes and the internet has crashed (twice).  What makes this week different from most others?  With any luck, not much, except that I led one of Bill’s classes this week.

Work-study-Will, working

There is a feeling of great satisfaction that comes with knowing Bill is comfortable leaving the smooth sailing of the ICLC in our hands.  I would even dare to say that we have really “serioused” this place up in his absence.  While Bill has been gone there has not been student wide cooperation on a practical joke, which is good.  Mass organization of approximately 54 people is the type of thing that can lead to overthrow and revolution.  Bill may never leave the London Centre again if he will only use his time away in future to worry about what is being plotted in his absence.  No, this week flowed seamlessly into the next when Bill will be back, and everything will remain normal.  No one had any mug shots taken of them, either.

More work study work, Kathryn posting a notice

I’m not trying to say that Bill’s absence is going unnoticed, but he runs such a well oiled machine, that is the ICLC, no crucial responsibilities go completely unattended without one of the three of us here.  There may not be a walk with Bill scheduled this weekend, but that's because he's working on his tan so that he can come back for his next walk as a bronze god.


-Claire (and Elsie)


Posted by Claire Mokrauer-Madden at 10:30AM   |  Add a comment


I would like to measure this fall's orientation week against a loaf of bread.


This summer, for my birthday, I was given a bread machine. I love making bread in it, though I sometimes get frustrated because I don't make it through the whole loaf of bread in the course of a week, by which time it starts growing mold.  In an effort to waste less food, I haven't made a ton of loaves of bread.  But on Monday evening of this week, when I had come home from a day of feverishly preparing the ICLC for the arrival of 50 new students, I thought I would make a loaf of bread.  Normally orientation week has the building buzzing with students coming in and out all day reporting back on flats that they have looked at, finding out about how to withdraw enough money to put down a deposit, how to set up internet, where to go for their internship, which areas of London are both nice and affordable...  With all this excitement happening in the building I could foresee very little opportunity of popping out to get a bite to eat, and with a loaf of fresh bread at home I decided it would be a good week for homemade sandwiches.

Fresh fall '10 faces, straight off the plane

It's now Thursday, and the building is pretty quiet.  By Wednesday evening most groups of students either had flats sorted or very promising leads that just needed a bit of finalization.  I, as it turns out, have the time to go out and get something to eat if I want.  I'm not going to, because I have been responsible about making sandwiches each morning this week.  Actually, I'm beginning to think that I should continue doing this, because I have tallied my bill for lunch this week and it comes to an average of about £1.50 a day.  I can't complain on that count.  I can also report that this loaf of bread has been the perfect size to make for a week of sandwiches, with very little left over.  I think by Friday afternoon the whole loaf will have been eaten!  This will be a real first for my bread machine and me.

I baked that bread!

Knock on wood, the housing experience seems to be going pretty smoothly.  When I was a student here my group was that last to sign a lease.  I think it wasn't until Friday afternoon that we signed.  That afternoon felt as if it came years later than the Tuesday afternoon three days earlier that we started flat hunting.  With any luck, those feelings of complete exhaustion and weariness won't be plaguing the fall '10 students.  You can sit back and enjoy the feeling of satisfaction that comes with having a place to live.

The Common Room isn't usually this empty during Orientation Week

It looks like everything is coming together for the semester.  The builders have nearly finished all their work in the bathrooms, though I would keep an eye out for 'Wet Paint' signs around the building.  The students are hopefully getting a bit of free time to be tourists in London before the term starts.  And Bill, Sarah and I all got to take a turn on the scooter belonging to Pete, the builder.  As for my bread, I have learned that with diligence I can eat a whole loaf on my own over the course of a week.

This is Bill's scootering face

-Claire (and Elsie)


Posted by Claire Mokrauer-Madden at 11:13AM   |  Add a comment


I have noticed that this blog is followed by current students and alums alike. So some readers might remember the toilets at the ICLC.  Do you remember hanging out in the bathroom waiting for the toilet tank to refill so that you could have another stab at flushing because the first one didn't take?  Did you ever let the staff know that the toilets weren't working, only to be told that you should try going back and flushing like you really mean it?  I'm not trying to jinx us or anything, but hopefully before the Fall '10 group gets here, that suggestion will be a thing of the past!  Right now the builders are in.  Of the six bathrooms in the building, we have three that are fully functioning.  While some have toilets and sinks, they also have wet paint on the walls and doors so that they have to stay open, making the room somewhat less private.  Other bathrooms in the building have been completely gutted are are awaiting new and exciting things like stalls!  I have used more exclamation points than normal in writing about the new toilets, so I hope that goes some way to showing our enthusiasm for the work in progress.  This work should all be completed by the time the Fall '10 term starts in a few weeks.  Our recently retired caretaker, Fred, used to spend much of his time jury-rigging the toilets back into operable shape.  But with new toilets, we are anticipating that as long as no one gets upset writing their Shakespeare essay and tries to flush their laptop down the toilet, we should have smooth toilet sailing.

The painter is painting the skirting board in the first floor bathroom.  I can read from his body language here that he is as excited about the new bathrooms as I am!

35 Harrington Gardens is a really lovely building, the history of which Bill is capable of sending any audience to sleep with.  For example, I work in the front office which is the room closest to the front door.  Bill likes to tell visitors that when this was a private home this was the smoking room where the men would go after supper.  In my office I can hear Stage Combat students throwing each other on the floor in the Common Room above me, and in Bill's office he can hear the voice and music students practicing in classroom 1 below him.  Bill also claims that there is a poltergeist that haunts the building, which is something I'm a lot more likely to believe when I'm the last one in, locking up the building on a dark evening.  It really is a building full of character.  Built in the late 19th century, the ICLC is very much a 20th century building inside.  It has a Grade II listing which means it is an important building of more than special interest.  I believe being a listed building limits the changes that can be made to it, but I'm pleased to say it doesn't preclude installing new toilets!  Whoop!

This is Bill.  He's hard at work. (Hard at work stealing the red football off my desk and hiding it in plain sight on his desk.  Nice try, Professor Moriarty!)


We sometimes refer to the London Centre as a campus, and it is that, but I think the word campus may imply to some people a larger space than it actually is.  There are five floors which comprise the college, plus a flat above the fifth floor that is used by visiting faculty and staff from the home campus back in Ithaca.  Upon entering the building you are standing in the main entrance.  Bill, Sarah and I all have our offices on this floor.  One floor above is the Common Room, classroom 2 and the Faculty Room, not to mention one of our brand spanking new bathrooms!  On the next floor up there are 2 more classrooms, our 2 computer labs and yet another brand new bathroom.  These three floors can all be accessed from the main staircase.  To get to the next floor up you are relegated to the servant's stairs, our other staircase which spans the entire height of the building.  This top floor has 3 classrooms.  Oh yeah, and a new bathroom!  The other floor that can only be accessed from the servant's stairs is the floor on the very bottom of the building.  This is where the student kitchen and vending machines can be found, as well as the library, classroom 1 and the student pigeon holes where mail is put.  This floor also has the bathroom that is undergoing the most change.  It was probably the ICLC's least used bathroom, partly because people may not have known what to make of it.  This bathroom used to have a shower in it, but that has been removed and will be replaced by 2 toilet stalls!  Accessed from a back exit through Bill's office, there is a shared private garden behind the building where we are currently allowed to have a maximum of 4 Ithaca students in at a time.  Using the garden as a bathroom may result in Ithaca being allowed no students access to the garden, so I won't include that in my list of bathrooms.  And that's the campus!

St. Andrew- patron saint of Scotland and modesty in first floor bathrooms that are awaiting sheets of frost for the glass and which overlook hotels.  He is quite a specific saint.

 -Claire (and Elsie)


Posted by Sarah Davies at 9:32AM   |  Add a comment

We are so excited about the upcoming semester at the Ithaca College London Centre that we are starting a blog! The aim of this blog is to talk about life in London, to give you an idea of what lies ahead while studying with us in London and we might even mention a little bit about ourselves. A lot of students study abroad hoping to immerse themselves in another culture. You will be pleased to know, despite the fact that an American, a Canadian and a token Welsh person are running this programme, we have jointly spent a total of 55 years in London. As foreigners ourselves (Welsh are not English) we are experts at getting to know the locals and have even picked up some local slang:

"Claire climbed the Apples today and recovered with a Rosy"

"Claire weren't 'alf knackered after climbing them stairs. She was gasping for a cuppa."

One of your first projects when you arrive will be the flat hunt.  Hopefully you have all started thinking about whom you would like to live with, what your budget is and possibly even started looking at different areas of London.  The Queen may have rooms to rent in Buckingham Palace, and with she and the family being out of town on the weekends, it should be an excellent house for hosting parties.  I needn't even mention the other parties that Princes William and Harry will be likely to invite you to.  But in case she falls through, you may want to start working on plan B.  On a serious note though, to get you thinking about where you are going to live in London our next blog will be about where we all live.You will get to hear about a great place in North London called Stoke Newington, a trendy place in South London called Camberwell and a more suburban place in South West London called Worcester Park. If you are lucky there might even be some photos!  We will also give you some information about areas of London that previous students have lived in recent semesters.  Zone 1, central London, probably has the most transport links and ease of access, but it is also the one of the most expensive places to live.  We three live in zones 2 and 4, with average commute times around 45 minutes.  Be open minded and have a look around at your options when you get here!

-The Three Dogs (and Elsie)

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