Magdalen College Library
May 17, 2013

Oxford from the Archives: A Tale of Two Colleges

As I said goodbye to the old streets of Oxford last week, I dismayed that I had not had the opportunity to fully explore the lovely little university city. Indeed, I barely took any photographs at all—many potential shots seemed to have waves of tourists, trucks, garbage bags, traffic, pylons, construction, and other everyday objects that reduce the quality of a picturesque landscape photograph (though Oxford is quite lovely). Nevertheless, here are a few photographs I was fortunate to snap:

Hollywell Street, Oxford

Hollywell Street, Oxford

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Medieval Labyrinth, MS Trinity College O. 2.45
May 10, 2013

Meditations on a Medieval Labyrinth

Last Saturday, May 4th, marked the 5th annual World Labyrinth Day. People from all over the world walked labyrinths together in celebration of this cultural construction, “Walk[ing] as One at 1”.1  Labyrinths have existed for over 4000 years across multiple cultures and settings, including classical, Roman, medieval, and contemporary. Today, the medieval labyrinth has endured as one of the most popular styles of labyrinth construction. In one manuscript I studied a few weeks ago, I came across a labyrinth image among a collection of other game problems.

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  1. The Labyrinth Locator lists over 4000 labyrinths worldwide. []
Exploring Asquiths Teddy Bear Shop
May 4, 2013

Bearly Medieval: The World’s 1st Teddy Bear Shop

When I had arrived in Henley-on-Thames during my long walk along the River Thames, it was late and I was starving so I was not able to do much exploring that evening. Last Sunday I decided to return to Henley (via rail) for a relaxing afternoon of discovery.1

As I made my way around the little city centre, I happened upon a most unusual site: situated in a fifteenth century building—one of the oldest buildings in Henley2 —was a teddy bear shop. A real teddy bear shop, complete with elaborate window displays of antique, brand name, and handmade teddy bears.

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  1. For anyone thinking of going to Henley-on-Thames on Sundays, be aware that the trains do not run as often, so it can take upwards of one hour to reach Henley from Reading. []
  2. The oldest bulding in town is The Old Bell is a traditional pub situated right in the centre of Henley. The building has been dated by experts at 1325. []
April 29, 2013

Walking along the Thames River (Reading to Henley-on-Thames)

The Thames River Trail is a national walking path that opened in 1996 and stretches 294 km (184 miles) from the source of the Thames in the Cotwolds, through London, and out to the sea. The trail is fairly well-marked and passes through numerous rolling meadows, rural villages and historical sites. Many sections of the trail use the original old towpath as well. I am an avid hiker and jumped at the opportunity to walk a small stretch of the longest river in England (someday I would love to hike the entire trail!)

Thames River Trail

Thames River Trail


I began in Reading and walked to Henley-on-Thames, exploring the villages of Sonning and Shiplake along the way, and returned via rail. This section of the trail is quite rural. I only saw a few other people on the trail (many of which were near Henley-on-Thames).

2 feet. 6 hours. 26 kilometres. 380 photographs. 38420 steps. Here we go!

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My workstation at the Cambridge University Library
April 8, 2013

#DayofDH: A Day in the Life of a Digital Medievalist

‘Day of DH’ is an annual online event celebrating the projects, work, groups and people involved in digital humanities (DH). Members, for the most part, tweet and blog about their daily activities as digital humanists, which provides insight in the DH field, elicits discussions among researchers, and creates a sense of community. If you are wondering what ‘Digital Humanities’ is, the term is difficult to define and responses vary widely among researchers. This ambiguity, I believe, adds to the appeal of the event since you can explore various ideas, responses, and definitions from every member here. This year the event is hosted by MSU’s own DH center: MATRIX: The Center for the Digital Humanities & Social Sciences.

You can also follow along today by visiting or through Twitter with the hashtag #dayofdh.

I’ve been following the ‘Day of DH’ for a few years now, but was always a bit shy to participate. This year I decided to send in my post (now that my life is a little more interesting!) I’ve written the original post here, and have copied it below for your reading pleasure. I am not usually the sort of person to write about what I had for lunch (etc), but it seems relevant to discuss these types of things in a post about one’s daily activities. So here goes:

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March 28, 2013

The Beauty of Chess: Medieval and Modern

Chess problems have been around for about as long as the game itself. Murray documents over three hundred chess problems (or, Shatranj problems) in various Persian and Islamic manuscripts dating from the sixth century.

The beauty of the game lies not only in its material properties—such as golden chessmen or ornately jeweled gaming boards—but also in the game’s complexity. With over 10^120 possible chess game variations, the game’s elegance also lies in its logic, geometry, and computation. For chess problems, the most aesthetic are also sometimes the most deceptive: a simple-looking problem can prove to be the most difficult, as in the case of Richard Réti’s famous end-game problem first published in 1921:

Richard Réti's Famous Endgame Problem

Richard Réti’s Famous Endgame Problem


Sometimes called “The Hunt of Two Hares,” this problem presents a chase scenario, where a king can make multiple threats and move in a variety of ways.1

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  1. This problem has been published numerous times in problem book and is, arguably, the most famous chess problem. []

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