Tuesday, August 31, 2004

Faith in Humanity Restored!

Ok, I must say, I haven't been extremely forthright about how much of a dumbass I am in previous posts. Basically, I left the US without any way to get more funds than I brought because my ATM card expired like 2 years ago and I didn't realize it until I arrived. So, the 150 pounds I brought with me were supposed to last until I got a bank account set up and could transfer money electronically. But, things cost a lot here, there were many start up costs (like a cutting board, dish towels, ect) and I was lazy about setting up a bank account. Push come to shove, it's friday night and I have 7 pound to my name, 5 of which I spent getting into the club (hey - what was I supposed to do? Cute girls were going.)

So, over the weekend, I met a friend for drinks and dinner and I paid with my credit card and he gave me cash. It was enough to see me through. Monday was a 'bank holiday' so my first chance to do something about this was today. I got up early (read: 10:30 instead of 11), took care of some things at the house (shower, eat, email, job apps) and then headed to the Navy Federal branch near the US Embassy. When I got there, they explained that they were not a cash facility - i.e. they don't carry cash and don't issue cash.

Here's the long-winded point: When I explained my situation, the lady at the "bank" offered to get pounds for me (which they can do elsewhere in the building because they were military) and I could give her the money. It was an extraordinary effort from someone who is probably making next to nothing working in a "bank" while her husband is stationed in the UK. It meant everything to me (I was down to 2 pound - enough to take the bus twice) and it really made me smile. Every once in awhile, when you least expect it, humanity actually shows up.

Anyway, after that, I went to school, got a letter from them stating that I was enrolled and what my address was, and then went to Lloyd's TSB (which is a bank) and filed the paperwork to open an account. It's technically not open yet, but should be by tomorrow. So hopefully, I won't have to worry about this anymore. The lesson, of course, is to get off your ass and square away your finances before A) spending all your money and B) engaging in relentless tourism.

After the bank, I went back to school and did a little research in the library. Ran into some friends on the way and chatted for a bit too. I have a lot to read for class, so I begged off early and headed home.

This school really suits me, more so than Emory ever did. At Emory, I never really felt at home except in debate. Here, I feel extremely comfortable. The people are really nice, they are quick to solve whatever problem you may encounter, and they actually seem to care about you more than just the dollars they're receiving from you. Also, the people that attend the school are pretty laid back and friendly. I guess we're all a bit more mature than the 18-year-old newbie going away from home the first time.

Tonight I'm going to do some more Japan reading and probably play Madden on my laptop (my one computer game for the year!). Some new girl just got to the house today (from Cyprus) and I helped her move her gigantic suitcase upstairs. One good deed begets another, or so they say.

Monday, August 30, 2004

Random Observations

Well, I made it to Carnivale today and it was definately worth it. I ditched my meeting for my non-credit research seminar (but didn't feel too bad because I basically did all the work for the damn thing anyway). About 7 of us from the house left around noon and got back around 5.

Carnivale is basically one giant street party that just happens to have floats. I think my senses are permanently infused with the smell of burnt corn, barbeque, and reefer; a lovely combination if I say so. We walked around the area watching the parade for awhile, but then left the beaten path for some of the side streets, which is where the real party is at.

Basically, every street in the area is blocked off to traffic meaning that there are thousands and thousands of people milling about. Every block has 3 or 4 different speaker set ups where people just play music, shout over a microphone, and the crowd goes nuts dancing in the street, drinking and smoking. And when I say speakers, I don't mean those little things that sit on your desktop and pump out marginal amounts of volume. I mean those giant SOBs that you find at concerts, in some cases 12 or 14 feet high. We found one place where the base was so strong you could feel the street vibrate. Really gives new meaning to "the rythm is gonna get you".

We stopped in one such area for awhile and they were playing some great hip hop. True Jamacian entertainers ran the show. The MCs were having a great time whipping up the crowd, getting them to blow whistles and horns (forgot, that's the other thing - everyone buys these whistles and they blow them all the time!), and making sure everyone was dancing. We danced in the street like fools, just as everyone else was doing. Good fun.

When we finally decided to head home, it was a near impossible task. It took a good 1.5 hours to find our way out. We were all exhausted afterwards. I immediately went to my room and passed out for an hour.

When I got up, I tried to go to Tesco, a local grocery store. Forget it - bank holiday. Fortunately, there was another grocery store open. I needed some caffeine, so I bought something called Pepsi Max (which of course raises the question - since Pepsi tastes like open ass, why would you want the Maximum flavor of open ass?). Turns out, it was a diet soda. No sugar, no calories. I found that fascinating for some reason (probably because I have too much time on my hands). In the US, they would advertise the Diet angle. Here, I didn't know until I tasted it (and yes, it is Ass flavored to the max).

This reminds me of some larger thoughts I've been having about stereotypes and culture. One of the guys with us today (Yoshi), is Japanese. Everyone knows the Japanese love high tech, and he's no exception. At what point does the stereotypical affinity for high tech gear cease to be a stereotype? It is universally true.

At any rate, so far on this journey, I've met people from all parts of the world and for the most part, stereotypes have been accurate (yes, the French are rude). Does that mean that there are no stereotypes, only types? And what about the British. I don't think i've hung out with enough Brits to know, but it seems that they share something in common with us Americans - they have no identity. Some say that the Brits are more reserved - which doesn't seem self-evident (although maybe that's validation in itself). But I haven't seen it as I expected. The Brits I have hung out with have been outgoing and charming. Still, one stereotype I've heard about british girls is that they are snobby and standoffish. I don't know if those were the words of a snubbed American who sought the company of a british hottie and was summarily (justifiably) rejected, or if there is an element of truth, but it's what i've heard. More study on this is needed.

Ok, enough of the randomness. I'll post pics from the last week (Larry and Vanessa and Carnivale).

Side street that was packed - and then my battery died.

Woman on stilts waiting to march in the parade.

Really random pirate ship on a side street - you can kind of see some speakers.

Main strip at Carnivale - the crowd stretched as far as the eye could see.

Friends from the house on the way to Carnivale.

People on the way from Bayswater Tube to Carnivale.

Random art in British Musuem that has Vanessa's name on it.

Me and Larry in the same square.

Larry and Vanessa in some square.

Sunday, August 29, 2004


Somehow, I completely forgot about the Carnivale in Notting Hill this weekend. I don't know if it's going tomorrow or not, but if it is, I'll be sure to make it. It's the largest street carnival in Europe and supposed to be a blast. Note to self: pull head out of ass.

Instead of walking to Notting Hill, I spent most of the day doing school work. Obviously a valuable thing to do, but it wasn't necessary enough to trump a street festival. I did get ahead on my Japan book, so at least I accomplished something.

For dinner I made potatos and chicken. They sell breaded, precooked chicken here that is not that expensive and is decent. You just throw it into the oven for 20 minutes. But, it needs sprucing up, so I bought a tomato and some mozarella cheese. Just before it was finished cooking I added sliced tomato and then topped it off with the cheese. Mmm. Yum.

I then hung out with Joaqen and Amanda (from Columbia) in the kitchen for awhile. Joaqen is a decent guitarist, so he played a bunch of songs while we chatted. Good people here.

The weather is unseasonably cool right now, or so I've heard. It's been gray and cloudy and quite cool the last two days. Supposed to warm up a bit by Tuesday though, which is good, because I'm not mentally prepared for fall to start this soon.

Tomorrow is a bank holiday. I don't know what they're celebrating, but it's probably the strength of their currency! The bank holiday is one of the differences from the US that i've noticed. In the States, we make sure everyone knows why there is a holiday. Here, it's sufficient to just say "bank holiday" and everyone takes the day off. Really, all it means for me is that I can't open an account tomorrow.

There isn't much more to say right now. I have a ton of work to do and since I've been so productive today, I think i'll keep at it a bit longer.

Saturday, August 28, 2004

Dancing King

I went to a club last night with Dominic (a german girl with a british accent - it was her birthday), Marjo (Finnish girl), Sandra (another german girl), Sebastian (a balding, older Argentean Tenor), and Kaifi (a british-chinese guy). It cost 5 pound to get in, which wasn't too bad I suppose. I didn't really want to drink (or buy drinks!), so I had my first completely sober clubbing experience. It was loads of fun. Here are some highlights:

1. No matter how hard you try, it's almost impossible to dance with 3 girls at the same time without one of them being disappointed/angry. I tried - trust me.

2. Marjo was burned by someone's cigarette, not once, but on two different occassions. Of course, she made a big production out of it.

3. The Euros are worse dancers than the Americans. Seriously bad.

4. European men have no idea how to pick up girls at the club. They think you just roll up to a girl, offer her some of your beer and you're in. Have they not had problems with that date rape drug over here? Bonus points for guys that spill their drink on the girl before offering.

5. Just like the US, some people can't hold their liquor and it shows. One dude was all over Marjo at one point - and was way to drunk to realize that she was not interested. A couple of sharp elbows later and he got the point. Bottom line: Don't mess with Finnish girls.

6. There's little appreciation for hip hop at this club. They like it, they played it, but they had no idea how to dance to it and they don't love it. The music they seemed to like most was not the hip hop/techno style, but more in the 80's style. I find that disturbing. The 80's is over. Let it die.

At any rate, I had loads of fun. I pretty much will go clubbing anywhere, anytime. I danced for 3 straight hours with hardly a rest break, I sweated my ass off (it was really hot), and I bonded with some of my house mates. Good times. The only problem was that I'm really not that interested in the girls we were with (well, maybe Dominic) and they were somewhat of an impediment to meeting other girls, but that was ok. I committed myself to having a good time and dancing like crazy. I'll meet other girls when i go out with the guys.

One last thing - when we were leaving, there was some dude out front who had clearly just had his ass kicked. He was bleeding in several places. It was gross. Down the street, there was a lot more blood on the sidewalk, probably from his nose. The stupid thing is that he was too drunk to give up. His girlfriend was trying to stop him from going back in the club, but he kept pushing forward as if he going to find the guy that beat him up and get the best of him this time. Moron. I've seen this in the US before and it's the same everywhere. Some dumbass gets too drunk, starts a fight, gets his ass kicked, and doesn't know it. I was just surprised the cops weren't there. In the US, there would have been cops on the scene. We got out of there as quickly as possible.

Friday, August 27, 2004

New Addition to the Hall of Fame of Everything that is wrong in the world


Word of the day: J-O-B

It's been fun, but it's time to buckle down. School officially got underway yesterday afternoon and I'm officially spending too much money. Time to get serious.

As I was saying to Andrew from Ghana, academia is like war - only so many people are going to get A's and I want to be one of them. So, if the professor says he wants lots of participation and interaction (worth 20% of your grade), well, he's going to get that in spades from the likes of me (as he did yesterday). I have already formed an allegiance with Andrew and two other guys (one is a 50ish former businessman) to assist in making sure we have all the reading materials and whatnot. It's not like the US where you just go buy a list of books. Here, you have to actually track down dozens of materials and copy them - the kicker is, the library is small and doesn't have them all. So, we divided them up and we're supposed to have them in hand by the next class session.

At any rate, the point is, there are those that are going to be more passive in the class (like Xena from Palestine - and no, she's not a warrior princess), who are going to be happy with B's. Not me. I didn't travel halfway across the globe, invest thousands of dollars, and a year of my life to sit around and get B's. But it's more than that. As I was telling Larry, I'm a representative of my country, not just a student. I have a duty to produce the best quality work, to read the most that I can, and to actively engage in the class. Anything less would further the stereotype that Americans don't know about the world.

Ok, rant over. Class was ok yesterday, but the first day of class is universally boring across the globe. It went about 4.5 hours and most of that time was going over the basics - requirements and topics. We did get into a fairly heated (and totally irrelevant) argument about whether there is a "status quo" or not. I, of course, was arguing that there is, because I never liked those "status quo is illusory" arguments from debate land. We reached consensus when I conceded there is no such thing as a static status quo - my winning argument was that the system is fairly static, it's inputs (population growth, wars, etc) that are dynamic and have an effect on the system. Whatever, it was really pretty worthless aside from the fact that the Prof wanted to have the discussion and I wanted him to know that I'm going to be very active in the class. He thanked me afterwards for making things "lively".

We had a break of about 30 minutes in the middle of class. We got some food and then went and had a beer in the school pub. Don't think I'll be doing that again, but it was worth trying, I suppose. When in England...

After class, I went with Dave and Andrew to the school pub. The British-American College started yesterday so there were lots of young kids from the the US. Not really my scene, but we gave it a go. It's actually a pretty good gig for US kids. The drinking age over here is 18, so if you're under-21 and study abroad, no problem.

But, I can't keep up with the pub life. It's just too much of a strain. Plus, it's extremely smoky. I do like going to pubs, but it gets expensive and tiring. It's impossible to live here and not go to pubs, but going doesn't mean you have to drink all the time. People do drink water or other non-alcoholic beverages. I'm not going totally clean and sober, but I am going to scale things back. I just like healthy living too much to get pissed (as they say) every night.

Last, we learned a funny English saying the other day. Larry was looking for some extremely rare scotch and the clerk at the store said it was "low to the ground".

Thursday, August 26, 2004

Blog not working right

For some reason my posts aren't going up. Not sure what the deal is. Will try to figure it out.

Catching Up

It's been a busy couple days, so i'll try to give the run down.

On Tuesday, Larry, Vanessa, and I walked around town (Knightsbridge, Hyde Park). We ended up in the British Museum which was pretty solid. The British Musuem is not exactly coherent; it's more like a random collection of artifacts that the Brits stole from the rest of the world hundreds of years ago. Still, lots of cool things to see there.

On the way back, we stopped in at Wagamama and had some dinner. We bounced around a couple of pubs after that, finally calling it a night around 11 or so (the pubs close at 11).

On Wednesday, I met with my non-credit research seminar group and we had coffee (which was our assigned research topic). We hung around campus for awhile because no one showed up on time. I tried to take the bus and failed miserably. (I figured it out today, so now i'm an official bus rider.) One dude never showed, although he was always "en route".

I met Larry and Vanessa for lunch at a local pub (The Globe) and then we headed southeast toward Leicester Square, Trafalgar Square, and Westminster. It started raining when we got to Westminster, so we took refuge in a pub (The Red Lion). But, unlike most of the storms i've experienced here, this one didn't want to go away. We managed to get to the Thames for a bit, but finally called it quits and went back to their hotel. We had dinner plans with one of Vanessa's friends from DC who works in London, so we ended up watching the olympics for an hour before meeting her friend Dierdre.

We had dinner at a tasty (and spicy) Thai restaurant in the neighborhood and then hit a local pub for a couple of pints.

All in all, it was great to see Larry and Vanessa. They're flying back to the States in an hour or so and they have jobs waiting.

My agenda today is to take care of some administrative things, job hunt, and go to class at 330. I managed to check out two of my course books for my Northeast Asia class, so I'm beginning to read up on Japanese history as well. It's pretty interesting.

Monday, August 23, 2004

Someone pinch me!

Today was quite an excellent day. I had to go to a non-credit research seminar, which was entirely useless for someone with my research background - but I gave it a go just to be sporting. It took a couple hours and we actually have some work to do outside of class before the 2nd conclusionary seminar in two weeks.

Afterwards, I had lunch with a gent who is about 50 or 60 and is a really cool guy. He's from South Africa and has been very successful financially, but he never had the experience of attending a English/US university and he always said that he would if he had the chance. So here he is. He's definately the kind of guy to make friends with because he has enormous connections and wants to make the program as dynamic as possible.

Later I hung out with my friend Evan, who I must say, is one smooth operator. We basically did silly things like go to banks and mobile phone stores to see what types of deals we could get. But really, a great guy.

After I got back to Earl's Court, Larry and Vanessa showed up in town. They've been traveling in Italy on a post-bar vacation and are here for 4 days. We met up for some Indian food and some pints after. Great to see them. Nothing like seeing a friendly face in foreign parts.

Really though, i'm just struck by how great a time I'm having. My classes are going to be tough, but I'm really looking forward to kicking some major academic ass. I got my syllibus for my Northeast Asia class today and wow - there's a lot of material to cover. But i'm pretty excited about it and I'm ready to really put myself into it. It's different going to school in a foreign country. It's kind of hard to express, but I basically feel that I'm not just a student, I'm a representative of my country. And hopefully, I'm the best that my country has to offer. Less than 6% of Americans study abroad, so I feel like I have to really impress to do the US proud. I don't know; I guess I just want to really want to kick ass for many reasons, and that's just one of the dominant ones at the moment. Either way, I'm actually really excited about school, which is a very different take on things compared to my undergraduate years.

Sunday, August 22, 2004

Start Slow, Finish Strong

I got off to a slow start today. After helping Sandra from Germany burn a CD, I decided to go out to Holland Park. It's about 10 minutes (walking) north of where I live. So I grabbed a book and soon found myself reading in a lovely park. The flies and bees were buzzing annoyingly, though, so I only stayed an hour or so. The park, however, is on High Street Kensington which is a posh area (similar to Georgetown), so I decided to walk the strip for a bit. I had been on the street before, but it was such a nice day that I wanted to stay outside.

My new friend Dave (apparently it's required by law that I have a friend name Dave in every place I live) called me just as I got going to see if I wanted to grab a pint. Since I'm such an agreeable fellow, I immediately said yes.

He was at school, however, so he suggested we meet at Baker Street (which is right off campus). I told him it would take me about 30 minutes. Being the stingy type (and having meager funds in my pocket), I chose to walk. That may not have been the best idea, however, since it was quite a long way. An hour later (and two phone calls from Dave wondering where the hell I was), I managed to make it.

We had several pints and eventually some food. It was a good time. He's in my program and seems like the decent sort of fellow. At the least, it's good to get along with those that you'll be working with and going to school with on a weekly basis.

At 9 or so, we called it a night. I still didn't want to burn the fundage on the tube, so I decided to walk. It was a nice night and I was in good spirits, so I thought it would do me good. Unfortunately, I didn't wear walking shoes. I did enjoy the walk, but my feet won't be thanking me. All told, today was another 10 miler. Easy to do when the weather is nice in this town.

One thing that really is starting to bother me is the number of traditionally Islamic women wearing the hijab or shroud that covers their bodies from head to toe. I know I should be culturally sensitive, and I do try, I find it hard to respect a culture that is inherently, institutionally sexist. Maybe this means I'm not a cultural relativist, but I'm ok with that. I think that the hajib is just another way that traditional islamic culture coerces women to fulfill certain roles - but not only that, it teaches girls from a very young age that certain tasks are "women's" work and other tasks are for men. Women forever receive secondary status in these instances, and they think it's the way things should be. This culture is so pervasive, that the US military even required US servicewomen serving in arab nations to abide by the custom - at least until one brave woman said no.

The worst country, by far, has to currently be Iran. There, women have virtually no rights. Indeed, this cultural perversion is so extreme that it manifests itself in the worst abuses by the state government. The country of Iran observes strict Muslim law and frequently executes prisoners for a variety of offenses. The point, however, is not that the Islam demands such a thing. The point is that the exercise of Islam is political. Iran's conservative rulers want to remain in power, and they'll use any means necessary. That's one of the motivations for jailing political opponents and then not giving cause for those jailings.

Saudi Arabia is not to be excused either. They have one of the worst human rights record in the world. Yet, they are a US ally because of their strategic importance.

I used to think that Samuel Huntington's Clash of Civilizations thesis was absurd. But now, I see it before us. The US is engaged in two wars in the Mid-East, the French are banning all religious headgear, post 9/11 has seen a rise of anti-arabic protesting and violence. And still, women across the arab world are subjugated and abused and treated as second class citizens.

Maybe the hajib is not the cause, but it is a symptom.

Saturday, August 21, 2004


Today was more frustrating than anything. I spent a couple hours researching cell phone plans - there very different and very complicated over here. Then, after all that time, I realized I was going to get Virgin like I had originally planned. D'oh. At least I know that it's the best option since i did all the work.

Unlike the US, UK companies don't just offer a flat set of minutes. Instead, they have pay-as-you go and pay monthly plans. The pay monthly offers a certain number of minutes (like 200 minutes for 30 pounds), but then calls to other networks are more. So, for the US, that would mean that your Sprint phone would cost extra to call Verizon. Pretty strange. Add it all up and the Brits pay an awful lot for thier 'mobiles'.

At any rate, for someone like me, who doesn't know many people and primarily wants to receive calls, the best idea is to get a pay-as-you go plan. The rate per minute is slightly higher, but you don't have minimum fees per month and the rate is the same across all networks. The other odd thing about it is that you can "top off" your minutes at something like 85,000 locations in the UK for Virgin.

At any rate, after getting my phone and figuring it all out, I really wanted to go see the US Men's basketball game. I knew about a couple sports bars in the area, so I figured this was a good time to check them out. Unfortunately, I was disappointed to say the least. I did walk to West Kensington (which is suprisingly seedier) and investigate a couple pubs. But they were showing swimming and soccer. I headed back toward Earl's Court via the southern route (to make a square basically), and stopped in another pub with the same result.

Anyway, since it was unlikely that I was going to find a pub that would be showing the game, I decided to map out where my friends Larry and Vanessa are staying next week (they arrive Monday). Their hotel, as it turns out, is only about 10 minutes walking from where I live. Of course, I took the long way to get there, but I didn't mind. It was good to walk around and the best way to learn the insanely crazy streets of London is to walk them. This city really isn't planned out in any conventional sense.

I've been walking a ton this week, as you might imagine, and one thing I've noticed, aside from the fact that I get tired, is that I've been really hungry. I guess that's the difference from sitting on my ass all day as a paralegal.

At any rate, I didn't really do anything fun tonight. Just went through some of my materials from school, figured out how my phone work, and lamented the US hoops loss to Lithuania. No worries. I didn't spend any (more) money either.

Somewhere in the world someone is eating a burrito.

Friday, August 20, 2004

My new friends David (St. Louis), Evan (Bogata, Columbia) and me at a pub.

Good day

Today was a great day. It was the first day where I really thought I made the right decision moving to London. Orientation was fantastic, and I met many intersting people. I'm taking Intro to IR and Northeast Asia/Japan area studies.

After orientation, I went out with a bunch of people to a nearby pub and drank from 4 to 11. Yes, the alcohol was flowing. I had the misfortune (or fortune) of running into some english lady who clearly was crazy. I don't think I understood much of what she said except that she wanted to take me home with her. Needless to say, I declined. England is a crazy country. You never know who you're going to meet in a pub and what nationality they will be. It was a great time and I didn't spend much money.

I'm excited for my classes. My advisor Yossi seems like a really good guy and I get to take Methods and International Political Economy in the 2nd quarter. A good theoretical background will serve me well. Plus, I'm not the oldest guy in my program - some other dude is in his 50s (I think). But there are only 7 or 8 of us and 3.5 are from the US (one is here for 1 semester, thus the .5). At any rate, we'll be meeting others who started before us next week. I have class 2 times a week, which means I'll be able to work the other 3 days.

This is turning out quite nicely. What a wonderful life I am leading.

Thursday, August 19, 2004

These shoes are made for walking

An error wiped out my previous post, so I'll try to get the essentials.

I had hoped to watch Olympic Basketball on TV, but apparently the BBC decided against showing it (it was on the schedule). So, after waiting around until about 2, I took off southward and walked through the Chelsea area. It's quite nice. Eventually, I made my way through to the Vauxhall Bridge and decided to walk the Thames for a bit. My plan at the time was to go to the Tate Modern - and I would have to take the Tube since it is quite a bit away.

Anyway, I never made it to the Tate Modern, but I did have a nice trot along the Thames. It was really windy and I thought it would rain several times, but never did. I lucked out again! When I reached the Lambeth Bridge, I saw a castle on the south side of the river and decided to investigate. It was Lambeth Castle. Unfortunately, even though I was bent on getting to peer out across the Thames from the tower, I had no such luck. There was a nice garden there, however.

Finally, I headed toward the Westminster Bridge and crossed back to the north side there. I've been to Parliament and Big Ben before, so a few quick photos later and I was headed north along St. James Park. Eventually, I headed back home, but not before stopping and getting some Gelatto on the way. I figured I earned it since I had walked many miles. The orange-mango was delicious, but the vanilla was less than expected.

After returning home and posting some pictures on the blog, I had planned on fixing some dinner. My body had other plans, however, as I passed out on my bed for about 2 hours. I was really tired. Finally, I got up and went to Tesco and got some groceries. I craved carbs, so I made some spaghetti. I had to buy sauce, but I spruced it up with fresh tomatos, garlic, and italian spices.

Tomorrow is the first day of school. I feel like a teenager again! It's just orientation, so no big deal. After I figure out my class schedule, I want to find some work. Plus, I need to open a bank account (not easy to do) and buy a mobile phone (easy to do).

Looking East toward Lambeth Bridge and the London Eye from a pier in the middle of the river.

Lambeth Castle.

View of Lambeth Castle that peaked my interest.

A view of Westminster from across the Thames.

Queen Victoria Memorial, near Buckingham Palace.

Big Ben.

Government building next to Big Ben. The signs at the bottom of the flags are peace protests.

USA Hoops

It's raining, so I can justify sticking around to watch Team USA take on Australia at 1230. That is, if it's on TV. If not, I'll head to the Tate Modern.

Wednesday, August 18, 2004

Apparently, the Germans haven't cornered the market on efficiency.

Rain on me

I learned a lesson on London's weather tonight. Just because there are clear skies and warm sun doesn't mean the weather won't turn on you like a fickle lass.

At about 8 pm tonight, I headed out to Tesco (a large sized grocery store - 10 minutes walking). On the way, I saw hordes of people heading to this concert hall (later found out that Madonna is playing there - yes, the Queen of Pop is within 1000 yards of me right now!). After shopping, I came outside to find it raining. Oops, no umbrella! Fortunately it wasn't raining that hard and I'm not the Wicked Witch of the West. Still, lesson learned.

Today I bought some kitchen gear. Didn't cost me that much either. So, I had English sausages with sliced apple, and a cheese sandwich for dinner. Along with milk. I'm drinking lots of that because the House provides it for free.

I had dinner with a guy named Vasily (sp?), who is from Bulgaria and just finished studying law. We had a relatively deep conversation about US politics and Iraq - which is pretty much what everyone wants to talk about when they find out I'm American. Fortunately, I'm well equipped to talk about that stuff.

Tonight I'm going to rearrange my room. I finally found a structure I think works and I didn't have to Feng Sui it!

What the hell is C1 doing?

Ok, I'm trying not to be an 'ugly american', but the whole driving on the other side of the road doesn't seem to make a lick of sense. As you can see in the attached diagram, taking a right turn at a T intersection would require C1 to look to see what two cars are doing before engaging the turn. Alternatively, in the US, C1 would not be required to look at both cars in certain situations (like when they turn right, they only need to look at C3). Maybe I have no point - but the US system seems better. Or, maybe, as usual, i'm an idiot.

Look at C1's options.

Now look at C1's options.

I got the juice

Managed to find a close store that had plug adapters, so I'm no longer on a power budget. Shwing!

Just in case my tone seemed a bit negative yesterday, those posts were written when I was extremely tired and don't accurately reflect my mood here. London is a fantastic town with many wonderful things to do and see. I'm having a great time so far.

As for my room, the most important thing I need to find is some kind of padded mattress cover. The springs in my back all night are not so comfortable. Plus, I think i'm going to rearrange the furniture a bit and that will make it much better. It just gets stuffy with the windows closed, so that's why it smelled kind of musty when I moved in. Now that i've been there a bit, the fresh air has helped clean it up a bit.

I'm settling in nicely. Met some very nice people yesterday and this morning. I've started keeping notes to try to remember peoples names. Never was my strong suit and I forgot to use the one trick I know (say the person's name several times in the first conversation).

Yesterday's walk was quite a bit longer than I thought. I did a rough estimate by looking at a more detailed map and it looks like I went about 9 miles. I was exhausted last night, but it was such a great day I just couldn't justify taking the Tube. Today is a little more overcast and rain is threatening, so I think I'll go south instead of north. I haven't found a place to go jogging yet, but I think there's a nice park relatively close.

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

Beautiful England

Today was an absolutely glorious day, unfortunately I missed half of it because I slept in till 11.

Somehow I managed to oversleep and miss breakfast. Breakfast is included in the price of rent and it runs from 8 – 10:30 every day. No, I did not really sleep 11 hours. I went to bed at midnight or so, but had trouble sleeping because that was like 7 pm to my body and the street we live on is fairly noisy. I’ll adjust to that soon enough.

After finally crawling out of bed and showering, I went down the street to Nando’s, which is a highly recommended chicken shop. They’re a chain, but still legit. I had a chicken sandwich and it was tasty. But, it’s no Chipotle (sigh), and I really could have used a burrito. It wasn’t that expensive, until I did the math and figured out what I paid in dollars, which caused me to want to vomit up my food and ask for a refund. London is expensive.

I figured the best way to learn a city is to walk it, so I left from there on a generally northern direction. Thankfully, the powers that be blessed me with an internal compass because the map I was using was woefully incomplete. I walked from Earl’s Court to Kensington Gardens and Hyde Park, up to Regent’s Park and my school (which looks quite petite), back down through the center of London, over to Knightsbridge for a quick stop at Harrod’s (where I purchased bread and overpriced sandwich meat), finally heading back home and getting lost on the way (the first time all day). All told, I’m sure I walked 5+ miles, but since I don’t have a watch, and I don’t know what the hell a kilometer is, it could have been much more.

I went to this enormous grocery store and got some fruit to cap off my overpriced Turkey sandwich. The store is big by US standards, so i'm sure it must be an anomoly. Also, I saw my first gas station today. I didn't think they had any here. Of course, I didn't look at the cost of petrol, but i'm sure it's expensive as can be. You can find some pictures below.

My balcony from the street level.

And last, but not least, Bill Clinton's favorite place.

Inner circle, Regent's Park. My school is right behind me, but was not picture worthy because of the trees and shrubbery.

House in Hyde Park.

Hyde Park.

View from my balcony.

My balcony.

My room.

Arrival Update

Getting through the airport was uneventful. I was a little worried about how much my bags weighed, but they were checked through without a hitch.

For the most part, the flight was unmemorable. I did watch part of Hellboy (good) and all of Standing Tall (bad). The English breakfast they served was vast; it included 2 sausages, half a tomato, scrambled eggs, blueberry muffin, fresh fruit and yogurt. Most of it actually tasted good too.

I do have to confess to complete nobbery, however. After being served coffee, I immediately dumped a package of what I thought was sugar into my cup. Instead, it turned out to be pepper. After several agonizing minutes of fishing out the ground pepper with a spoon (and many furtive glances in the dire hopes that no one realized what a dumbass I was), I decided to try the coffee.

Cough, cough – and no, I’m not at the doctor’s office. Obviously, fishing out pepper grains is a lot like fishing out coffee grains – totally fucking useless. I drank half the cup.

After arriving at heathrow, I breezed through immigration, secured a cart, and loaded my bags up. The train ride was easy, a straight shot; but the walk from the Underground almost killed me. I definitely took too much stuff! I must have made 5 stops on the 2.5 block walk. I tried to make a phone call in the nastiest phone booth ever (you don’t even want to know what they were ‘advertising’ on the wall), and failed because the phone either wouldn’t accept my money or I was too incompetent to figure out how to put the damn coin in the slot (I’ll go with the latter). Rashly, I decided to just go to the address and hope that I could sneak in the door and find the person who I was supposed to call.

Long story short, I lucked out and got in the door when some Asian dude was going in. But then, I had to wait at a pay phone while a guy named Joachem (Ted’s gotta love that name) talked and talked only to find out after he got off that it only accepts phone cards – no cash or credit card. Uncertain what to do, I ran into Joachem and he showed me where the woman whom I was supposed to meet lives (and I don’t know her name either because I’m an ugly American who can’t seem to remember foreign names). Fortunately, she was coming from outside. I got my key and finally got squared away.

My room is, frankly, trash. I have the rattiest furniture, the mattress is springy and lumpy, and the room smelled…musty when I got in. However, I have a balcony, which most of these rooms don’t have, and I have the sun side, which I’m told by my Columbian friend (who I shamefully can’t remember his name – even though he’s the nicest person I’ve met so far), is the best side of the house because it gets sun in the winter. Once I get to a store and purchase some air fresheners and figure out what to do with the completely useless piece of furniture that virtually blocks the door, I’ll be fine. I lived in Dobbs hall at Emory with another person for crying out loud. (For those of you who don’t know – the rooms are tiny, it’s in the basement, and if it was a federal penal facility, it would be illegal to have two inmates share that space.)

I'm here!

Hey everyone -

Briefly (since i'm getting charged by the minute), I arrived safe and sound. I'll write a longer post later when I get back to my residence.

Sunday, August 15, 2004

Goodbye USA

Great excitement mixed with a touch of sadness fill me on this, my last night in the US for the foreseeable future. I am extremely happy to be embarking on this adventure, but at the same time I will miss my family and friends greatly. To each and all of you I say, you will be missed but not forgotten.

Now to lighten the mood, here are some pictures of the ocean's carnivores.

The rabid otter doing otter things. Posted by Hello

The highly dangerous striped bottom feeder. Posted by Hello

And last, the dangerous, mighty, and extremely rabid jellyfish. Posted by Hello


There's nothing like having a last hurrah burrito before you head to the burrito desert. Mmmm, Chipolte was delicious yesterday.

Yesterday was a long day. We got up early, packed up the cars and drove to Arlington. Then we packed more stuff into the cars and drove to Maryland. After unpacking there, I attempted to pack my bags for the 2nd time...and failed for the second time. Last night I went to Vic's and hung out with him and Dave. Good times.

Today, I'm going to pack up (for real this time), then head over to Dorn's. He lives near Dulles so I'm going to spend the night there. He's been generous enough to offer me a ride at 5 in the AM.

Whenever you make major life changes, you receive advice from everyone. The following is a snippet:

"Be careful"
"Marry a toothless english woman"
"Never call an englishman 'limey'"

But standing above all other was from my barber on Friday. She had three peices of advice:

1. Don't get anyone pregnant - Sound advice always
2. Don't marry anyone over there because those Europeans just want US citizenship - which was news to me
3. If you do marry, make sure it's for love - equally sound

Somehow, the kind lady managed to get my entire life story in about 10 minutes, then promptly declared that since I am 29 and have not married yet, that I must be a sensible boy.

Seriously, the best advice came from Sensei, who led the way as usual:

"Party hard, but study harder".

Friday, August 13, 2004


Although we were all excited to dine at the Lynnhaven Fish House, which had previously been rated both tasty and delicious, tonight's experience was distinctly negative. Here is the breakdown:

1. Appetizers: popcorn shrimp with haberno infused raspberry sauce - i didn't taste, but was reported to be scrumptous. Mildly spicy, however, and thus not up to par with the advertising.

She crab soup - I was most excited for this, but i was once again disappointed. This may be the end of my relationship with She-crab soup. The distinction between a bisque and a chowder type soup is one of flavor in my book. Bisque's are lighter in flavor, thus they accentuate the lobster or crab in the soup. Chowder's have a heavy cream base, which, in my opinion, dilutes the purity of the flavor of the meat in the soup. I can't speak for clam chowder, becuase it's not my style, but I don't think it makes a ton of sense to use a dense, thick sauce with crab, which has a somewhat mild flavor.

Overall, I'd give the apps a C rating.

2. Salads/Bread: Bread was very delicious, light and fluffy. Salad was disappointing. Whatever happened to a simple oil and vinegar based dressing? Some places call it "italian", others call it house. Frankly, I would have been satisfied with a creamy italian. Instead, I had to settle for "french", which i'm sure would make many french people turn their noses in disgust. But, really, when it comes down to it, who the hell needs a salad in the first place? It's almost impossible to wow me with salad, so when I am thusly not wowed, you receive a poor rating.

Oerall, this course received a C rating.

3. Main course: Three of us ordered Yellow Fin Tuna. We had very high hopes of deliciousness, but, we were all disappointed. Phillip ordered his "rare", which raised eyebrows from our waitress. Expecting that the "rare" would be cold in the middle, I asked for mine "medium rare", as did Eric. But, it was all for naught. "Rare" apparently means "cooked to a nice brown color in the middle" and medium rare means "tastes like fresh leather boot". It's a damn shame to ruin fish in such a way.

Even more appalling than that, however, was what they called "sauce". You had 6 or so options for sauces. All three of us chose the meditereannean style, expecting a subtle, yet delicious sauce. Instead, we received a pile of chopped green onions that might have been lightly tossed in a thimble full of olive oil.

The problem with this was obvious. Their sauce does not actually meet the definition of 'sauce'. Even though "sauce" does include the term "relish", they are actually distinct items. Therefore, the completely false advertising created an expectation that could not be met by their poor planning or execution.

The other problem, clearly, was that if I wanted a handful of green onions, I would have gone to Farm Fresh and gotten my own which undoubtedly would have been a safer option. But, safety considerations aside, there's nothing like overcooking your food and then piling a handful of green onions on top to ruin a perfectly good meal.

Entreé rating: D

Desserts: Didn't get any. Fussy 2 year old curtailed that option. But, given the track record, that was probably for the best.

Company: Even though the food wasn't great, I had a good time. Definately an A level effort from family and friend (Matthew).

Overall, very unsatisfactory, and I would highly recommend that interested parties skip the Lynnhaven House on their next trip to Virginia Beach because it fails both the tasty and delicious test.

Somebody stop it!

Apparently, there's this phenomenon out there that effects your breathing. It's called "filamentous fungi", aka "Mold", aka "Mildew", aka "Serious Pain in My Ass". I never had allergies when I was young, but it seems that I do now. Of course, when the house you're staying in is infested with Mildew, I guess anyone can be overcome by it. At least modern pharmaceuticals is somewhat effective. At any rate, I'm headed back up to DC tomorrow.

Tonight, instead of cooking, we're going to dine here. We've been there before and it's exceedingly tasty.

I'll be eating She-Crab soup, at a minimum.


Wednesday, we went to some science museum that, with the exception of the Otters (who were doing Otter things), was mostly not that interesting to the likes of me. It's geared toward children, for the most part. Later, I cooked a Duck with an orange-ginger glaze that was superbly delicious. I only wish there had been two of them.

Yesterday, we went to the beach in the AM. Apparently, I'm not very good about putting suntan lotion on or it mostly washed off in the ocean, because I have some very burnt shoulders and back.

Last night, I made 6 pizzas from scratch, as my other sister and her family came over for dinner. I was so exhausted that I went to sleep at 10:30. Yikes!

Today, I think we're going to see The Bourne Supremecy in the afternoon and then were going out to dinner. I have to run some errands as well.

Tuesday, August 10, 2004


Today we got up at the ass crack of dawn to go fishing. We hopped a charter boat and drove out into the ocean. It took about 50 minutes, but finally we got to drop line. It took me a little while, but finally I pulled in a fish. After that, they kept coming. All told, between the three of us, we probably pulled in 60 fish. Of course, we threw back at least a third. I had the honor of pulling in the biggest fish of the day - a 14 inch croaker.

When we got home, I became management and my nephew and his friend became labor. Rightly so, they did most of the gutting and cleaning while I watched. I was curteous enough to clean the area afterwards (and that was some super scrubbin').

Tonight, I cooked up the Croakers (because that's all we caught - we had to put the 2 sea bass and 1 spot back because they were small) four different ways.

1. Asian Surprise - Croaker fillets boiled in soy and mirin with Ginger, Garlic, and Red Pepper. I call it 'Asian Surprise' because it was so chock full of ginger and garlic, it's likely to give you a 'surprise' in the morning (although not exactly the 'hot diarrhea'). The flavor was good - i grade it at a C+.

2 and 3. Fillet ala Provencal - I did two different styles of provencal french white fish cooking. One was with fresh tomato, shallots, and garlic. The sauce was good, but wasn't quite right for Croaker. The other style was with tomato paste and herbs rubbed on top. It was a little thick and overpowering. I rate my sauce a B, but overall, 2 & 3 take a D+.

4. Whole Croaker Cajun Style - This was clearly the best dish offered tonight. I took whole, cleaned Croakers and spiced them with a Cajun spice mix I found at the store (Tony's they did not have). Then I stuffed the fish with a combination of fresh herbs including sage, thyme, and cilantro. The fish were wrapped in foil and then thrown roughly on a hot grill. Twenty minutes later, they were good to eat. I grade this out at a B+. If I had remembered to add small lemon wedges inside the fish while cooking and the fish had been of a higher quality, this would have been a perfect dish.

Overall, a very enjoyable day. It was a beautiful day to spend on the water fishing, and of course, I love to cook.

Tomorrow we go back to the beach.

Monday, August 09, 2004



Beach time

It's time to make this white boy less white. I'm going to the beach at 2. I plan on laying out and getting red. It's back to hot after that brief respite of cool. So it's time to bake.

Babysitting right now.

Sunday, August 08, 2004

Lovely Brits

Courtesy of Fark, it appears those saucy brits are saucy for a reason.

Saturday, August 07, 2004

Finally arrived

I finally got to Virginia Beach. A long drive, lots of traffic. Blech. Now i'm hot and sweaty. Already cut open my pineapple and had some. Mmm, mmm good.

Friday, August 06, 2004


Now that i've had a few drinks, I have to say, I'm gonna miss the hell out of DBR. You my boy blue. Serious.

RIP: Rick James

Let's all have a moment of silence for Rick James, who died today at the young age of 56.

Last timesheet signed, sealed, and delivered

Well, that's it. I'm finally done. No more paralegaling for me, at least not until school starts. I have to say that I have mixed feelings about leaving. I've been working with a rare group of excellence and it is sad to know that our relationships will change from this point on. Still, i'm very happy to be leaving this job. I've had enough of it.

Today, my co-workers suprised me with a cake and a card. Very touching. Even my manager brought me a little card and some chocolates. This really was a very nice place to work. Too bad the work was just not right for me.

Still, I feel like i've made some very dear friends here.

Sensei, Metro, Broadway - I am very lucky to know each of you.

Now it's time for a vacation.

Post Lunch Blues

Excellent, excellent burrito today. Passed both the tasty and delicious test. Unfortunately, it looks to be the last burrito consumed by yours truly for quite some time. Sigh. Sacrifices we make for pursuing our dreams. I just hope this Nando's place turns out to be the cheap eats mecca it's rumored to be.

Gary Payton Traded to Celts

I'm not sure what's wierder - that the Celts just traded for Gary Payton (a good move from a GM that habitually makes really really bad decisions) or that ESPN's Page 2 satirist Bill Simmons already has a long article up in support of the trade.

Now i'm a pretty reasonable guy, but this smacks of conspiracy. Did Celtics GM Danny Ainge give Simmons a heads up in order to garner positive press? He has been taking it pretty hard from "Boston Sports Guy" recently (justly, in my mind). Seems like a solid strategy to me. Tell Simmons that you are making this trade but that he can't tell anyone about it until after it goes through. Simmons gets to write a long article about it, scooping the rest of the media world, and establishes himself as a viable/credible source.

Go out with a bang

As usual, Sensai is cracking me up.

"There are two ways for a fart to come out. Loud or silent. The loud ones pass over the poo, and thus, are less stinky. The silent ones pass through the poo, and thus smell foul. "

Yes, it's the high level analysis and insight they pay us for.

Later, Sensai decides that the image is not graphically imprinted in our frontal lobes and rips off this string:

"The silent ones are more dangerous because they have to fight through the poo. And they're extra stinky because they had to fight through a poo that's ready to be unleashed. The fart has lost it's 'pow' because there is no room between the poo and your anus."

Last day on the job

Today I set up Nob Central. It's my last day on the "job" and I wanted to accomplish something.

Burrito coming at noon.

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