Friday, March 31, 2006

Friday Viewblogging

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Another view from Hampstead Heath.

(I need to get a shot from the path by the running track. It's a fairly stunning panorama.)

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Light blogging today

I have two assignments coming due today, so I probably can't come up with anything good today. Please consider this an invitation to use the comments as an open thread. Maybe I can persuade Mrs. W to come up with something clever later today.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006


There was an eclipse today over London.

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Nobody could tell the difference.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

They had the plant, but we had the power ...

One of the hazards of moving to a country where unions have more power:

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A one-day strike, on our garbage day, after I've been unpacking boxes and tossing loads of belongings we can't use.

Just my luck.

Friday Viewblogging (Special Tuesday Edition)

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I went up to the High Street to pick up lunch and dinner supplies, and I had a bright sunny view of downtown. I return to the same spot 15 minutes later, and it's raining. Anyway, you can see the Gherkin from here.

Banned in Boston ...

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... but not in London. This is a bottle of La Fee Verte absinthe that I purchased from Royal Mile Whiskies' shop on Bloomsbury Street. Called "the Green Faerie," absinthe is an anise-flavored liquor containing an herbal infusion of wormwood, which imparts a substance known as thujone into the liquid.

Europe and the United States have had a complex relationship with absinthe, in part because of the psychoactive natures attributed to the thujone. Wikipedia's entry on absinthe notes:
Spurred by the temperance movement and winemakers' associations, absinthe was publicized in connection with several violent crimes supposedly committed under the direct influence of the drink. This, combined with rising hard liquor consumption due to the wine shortage in France during the 1880s and 1890s, effectively labelled absinthe as a social menace. Its critics said that it makes people crazy and criminal, it turns men into brutes and threatens the future of our times. Edgar Degas's 1876 painting, L'absinthe (The Absinthe Drinkers) (now at the Musée d'Orsay) epitomized the popular view of absinthe "addicts" as sodden and benumbed; Émile Zola described their serious intoxication in his novel L'Assommoir.

The Lanfray murders spelled the last straw for absinthe. In 1905 it was reported that Jean Lanfray murdered his family and attempted to kill himself after drinking absinthe. The fact that he was an alcoholic who had drunk considerably after the two glasses of absinthe in the morning was forgotten and the murders were blamed solely on absinthe. A petition to ban absinthe in Switzerland was quickly signed by over 82,000 people.

In Switzerland, the prohibition of absinthe was even written into the constitution in 1907, following a popular initiative. The Netherlands came next, banning absinthe in 1909, followed by the United States in 1912 and finally France in 1915. The prohibition of absinthe in France led to the growing popularity of pastis and ouzo, other anise-flavored liqueurs that do not use wormwood.

In reality, it was probably the toxic dyes used to give cheaper absinthe its distinctive green color ...
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... that caused the psychoactive effects. (Wikipedia's entry on thujone says, "There is no evidence that any dose will cause hallucinations.")

The recent history of absinthe, as described by Wikipedia:
In the 1990s an importer, BBH Spirits, realized that there was no UK law prohibiting absinthe sale (it was never banned there)—other than the standard regulations governing alcoholic beverage. Hill's Liquere, a Czech Republic distillery founded in 1920, began manufacturing Hill's Absinth, a Bohemian-style absinth, sparking the modern resurgence in absinthe's popularity.

It had also never been banned in Spain or Portugal, where it continues to be made. Likewise, the former Spanish and Portuguese New World colonies, especially Mexico, allow the sale of absinthe and it has retained popularity through the years.

France never repealed the 1915 law, but in 1988, a law was passed to clarify that only beverages that do not comply with European Union regulations with respect to thujone content, or beverages that call themselves "absinthe" explicitly, fall under that law. This has resulted in the re-emergence of French absinthes, now labelled spiritueux à base de plantes d'absinthe ("wormwood-based spirits"). Interestingly, as the 1915 law regulates only the sale of absinthe in France but not its production, some of these manufacturers also produce variants destined for exports which are plainly labeled "absinthe." La Fée Absinthe, launched in 2000, was the first brand of absinthe distilled and bottled in France since the 1915 ban, initially mainly for export from France, but now one of over twenty French "spiritueux ... d'absinthe" available in Paris and other French cities.

In the Netherlands this law was successfully challenged by Amsterdam wineseller Menno Boorsma in July 2004, making absinthe once more legal. Subsequently, the government in May 2005 repealed this law. Belgium, as part of an effort to simplify its laws, got rid of its absinthe law on the first of January 2005, citing (as the Dutch judge) European food regulations as sufficient to render the law unnecessary (and indeed, in conflict with the spirit of the Single European Market).

In Switzerland the ban on absinthe was repealed in 2000 during a general overhaul of the constitution, but the prohibition was written into ordinary law instead. Later that law was also repealed, so from March 2, 2005, absinthe is again legal in its country of origin, after nearly a century of prohibition. Evidence suggests absinthe has never stopped being produced in Switzerland and clandestine home distillers had produced it since the ban.

It is once again legal to produce and sell absinthe in practically every country where alcohol is legal, the one major exception being the United States. It is not, however, illegal to possess or consume absinthe in the United States.

You can get absinthe in the States if you order online or have a friend willing to risk the third-degree from U.S. Customs (big thanks to a reader who did this for me once before).

My interest in absinthe was sparked by this article in Modern Drunkard magazine, in which the author documents his experience of drinking a 750 ml bottle of Czech absinthe (with 10 times the EU-regulated thujone content) in one sitting. After consuming the entire bottle, the writer says:
I fell asleep at around ten in the morning then spent eleven hours wrestling with a colorful gang of strange and intricate dreams, the sort where even the subplots have subplots. I woke up lethargic, but without the pain of a proper hangover.

I felt as if log jams had been cleared from my head, I felt very sharp and sociable. Strangest of all, I remembered the entire evening, I didn't pass through a single blackout tunnel during the journey, I could even remember 90 percent of the songs that came on the radio, which I certainly can't do when I'm sober. I can only conclude that thujone must stimulate the memory centers.

Drinking absinthe is fraught with all the ritual of Catholic communion or Japanese tea service. You pour a shot, and then mix it four parts to one with sugared water, which turns the clear emerald green fluid into a milky green. The French tradition is to mix the sugar and water into the absinthe by first placing a special slotted spoon over the rim of the glass into which the absinthe has already been poured. On the spoon, you place a sugar cube (or in my case, two) and drip the four parts chilled water over the sugar cubes. Depending on how patient you are, you may end up dunking the sugar cubes in the mixture and swirling it all together with the spoon. There's also a Bohemian ritual that involves lighting the mixture, but I'm not one to burn precious alcohol.

Mixed properly, it all tastes like a fluid jelly bean.

Free Association Tuesday (Standard Edition)

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Man #1: Right, we'll stay here until you get back.
Man #2: And make sure he doesn't leave.
Man #1: What?
Man #2: Make sure he doesn't leave.
Man #1: The prince?
Man #2: Yes, make sure he doesn't leave.
Man #1: Oh, yes, of course.
[Points at Man #3]
Man #1: I thought you meant him. You know, it seemed a bit daft me I were to guard him when he's a guard.
Man #2: Is that clear?
Man #3: [hiccups]
Man #1: Oh, quite clear. No problems.
Man #2: Right.
[Man #2 turns to leave the room, both guards follow him]
Man #2 : Where are you going?
Man #1: We're coming with you.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Monday scooterblogging

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From the same shop where the mechanic told me his tale of woe.

The one in the front is a classic old Vespa. On the blue one in the background, notice the sticker with the red "L" on the fender. This signifies that particular scooter is driven by a messenger. Should you ever have the joy of driving in Central London, one of the things that may make you very nervous is the messenger-driven scooters that zip by you on the right, between you and the oncoming traffic. It made me very nervous about changing direction for fear that I would take out a messenger in the process.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Time change

As a public service announcement, we at AA would like our readers to know that we are now on daylight savings time or as they say here, summer time.

Happy Mother's Day!

Today is Mother's Day in the UK, or as they say here, Mum's Day. So we at AA would like to give a shout out to all the mothers in the audience, and in their honor, here's a short list of a few things mothers would love about London:

1. Everyone says "please" and "thank you" even when they are giving you money. If you don't say it and you should, you will get an icy cold stare a la Mom.

2. The shopping opportunities, especially now that I know where to find a mall. (Yes, it's easy to find a coat with lots of pockets here.)

3. The Queen. A woman with absolute power (technically speaking), fabulous jewels and cheeky children. How can you not relate, mums of the world?

Adventures in IKEA

So Smitty and I had our first semi-suburban experience in London -- taking the bus to IKEA. Our Swiss friends have convinced us that IKEA rocks, especially when you are living in a city flat (apartment), desperately need space-saving storage solutions and refuse to pay 18 pounds ($31) for a bloody shower curtain at James Selby. (I mean, it was made of VINYL! As Gob Bluth would says, C'MON!)

Neither Smitty nor I got what we REALLY wanted; for him, that was a shelf to add storage capacity under the thing we've decided to call a hutch, rather than a buffet, and for me, it was this really cool shoe storage thingy. But we did get a vinyl shower curtain for 2.99 pounds (score!) as well as some nice sheets and a dish rack.

And -- as if these purchases weren't enough to convince me that IKEA does in fact rock -- they also offer a home delivery service! (For a reasonable fee.) You take the bus to the store, shop, pay for your items and then they arrive at your home the next day. Brilliant! And, because we had to switch buses at a shopping mall to get to the IKEA, Mrs. W also discovered what she deems a Level A mall at Brent Cross. While she loves shopping on the high street, the mall is her native habitat. I smell a trip next week when Smitty's out of town...

Friday, March 24, 2006

We may get your cast-off Simpsons, but ...

We were the first to see this:
NEW YORK - Ever wonder what Bart Simpson would look like in human form? The longrunning animated Fox series "The Simpsons" is about to show you. The series will unveil a live-action opening sequence Sunday, 8 p.m. EST, a Fox spokeswoman announced Thursday. ...
A team from British network Sky One created and commissioned the live sequence, which apes the long-running series' memorable opening shots: Bart writing on the chalkboard, Homer pulling the nuclear rod out of his shirt and Maggie and Marge at the supermarket, a Fox spokeswoman said.

Friday viewblogging

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From the grounds of Lauderdale House in Waterlow Park.

More posts about subways and food

Coming from the famously repressive (but clean!) Washington, D.C., Metro system--where sneaking a french fry or munching a candy bar on an escalator can lead to an ugly incident with armed rent-a-cops--I still gasp when I see somebody noshing aboard a Tube carriage. But then again, there are vending machines on the Tube platforms.

Or are there?

Since my arrival, I have noticed that certain candy machines are out of order an every Tube platform--same brand, everywhere. And they purport to sell chocolate--each machine taunting us as they offer chocolate but you just can't get to it! Well, it turns out that it's probably for the best that they remain out of order.

(I'm a month late to the story, I know, but they're still all just sitting there, teasing us with their chocolatey goodness!)

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Roestiland giggles

At Adventures in Roestiland, Die Frau has droll commentary on the hairstylings of the Swiss men (or at least the subset that does not contain Hot Karl). Just go, and be on the lookout for it in Switzerland, whenever you board a Swissair flight or check in at a Swissotel.

More Commonwealth Games fun

Imagine a game that resembles basketball, but:

1. Has no dribbling
2. Has no backboard
3. Has a goalkeeper
4. Allows absolutely no contact
5. Oh, and the women who play the sport must wear unflattering dresses ....

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Then you'd have netball, one of the four team sports contested at this year's Commonwealth Games.

Random photo Thursday

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(It's art, OK? Deal with it. )

Free Association Tuesday (Special Thursday Edition)

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You keep all your smart modern writers
Give me William Shakespeare
You keep all your smart modern painters
I'll take Rembrandt, Titian, Da Vinci and Gainsborough

(This is a hard one. Look for a clue in comments.)

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

The woman with two red shoes

So I saw a woman today, dressed all in black, except for her shoes, which were red. Actually, more like this. It was like putting an exclaimation point at the end of your outfit. And I think I simply must get some.

Londoners, in general, are fashionable people. They're not afraid to wear things that don't quite match, yet don't clash, like red shoes with a black pantsuit. It's a kind of Bohemian elegance.

I just finished reading (more like blitzing through) a book called The Secret Dreamworld of a Shopaholic, about a female financial journalist with a penchant for spending and a debt load to match. Of course, in addition to being an easy and entertaining read, it features the names of the many stores our heroine shops at... Where's my Visa?

(And OK, honestly, who got the reference to the Tom Hanks movie?)

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Hot Karl -- Back by Popular Demand

Guys and gals alike insist on more Hot Karl, and we at Americans Amuck aim to please. At least in this case.

So our Swiss friends just happened to leave their snowshoeing poles at Chez Karl Alpiger (which means my female friend probably hid them on the premises, and then waited for her husband to notice, so they would just HAVE to make the trip back). And I get a text message from said friend when they do go back: KARL SEZ HI! HE RUBBED MY BACK. And no other details. Nothing. I want details!!!

Other surprising news

The English national anthem (not to be confused with the British national anthem, "God Save the Queen") is a song called "Land of Hope and Glory." Statesiders will recognize it as "Pomp and Circumstance."

I hear it periodically through the day as English winners at the Commonwealth Games are given their gold medals.

The first time I heard it, I thought, "Oh good, they're graduating, too, unlike some athletes I could name," but it turns out it's just a song.

Sporting matters

Right now, the Commonwealth Games are going on in Melbourne--it's late summer there--and it's kind of a big deal in the Commonwealth, where the sun still never sets. Aussie Sarah has some good posts up on it because she's watching it live--good on her! Watching it on TV, I've learned several things:

1. Scots can swim. Who knew?
2. The Isle of Man gets its own Commonwealth Games team (and has a gold medal in the 20K cycling scratch race), as well as Guernsey, Jersey, the Cook Islands ....
3. An event that involves sprint, jump, throw, jump, sprint, sleep, sprint, throw, jump, throw, jog a mile is the most grueling event in track and field, even more grueling than running the marathon, if you listen to the Beeb comentators.
4. Scrums in rugby 7s look absurdly small.

The Cheltenham Festival
I guess this is a big deal here, too--four days of steeplechase racing in Gloucestershire. However, any event that involves killing so many horses doesn't get a thumbs up from me.

New doohickey

I've added Adventures in Roestiland to the blogroll on the right, an English-language blog from Switzerland which has a name based (like so many of our posts) on a food product. Die Frau would love it if you would visit. If we ask nicely, maybe she'll even give us a Hot Karl update.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Food matters

Church-goers in our audience know that this is Lent. While technically a season of abstinence, it also happens to be the time of year when we in the States would see certain types of candy appear--most specifically, the Cadbury Creme Egg and Peeps. In the UK, however, it appears that the Cadbury Creme Egg is a year-round delicacy. On the other hand, Peeps are nowhere to be found. The best I can hope to do is attempt to gnaw my way through the stale Peeps that were in the back of our pantry in the states ...

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... and, like several other unintentional imports, are now in our London kitchen. But I will leave dear reader with this web site that warns about the dangers of Peeps smoking and drinking before they're old enough.

Jaffa Cakes
Today I have been awakened to Jaffa Cakes, a sort of soft, cake-like cookie with a an orange-cream layer and chocolate frosting. They're very popular.

Vegetarian haggis
My favorite butcher was closed today, but I noticed a sign on his door that said he is a registered agent for MacSween haggis, which sells a vegan variety of haggis. It sounds like a contradiction of terms to me, too. Regular haggis isn't so good that I'd knock myself out to eat it again, but maybe it's better if you remove such ingredients as sheep's blood and innards.

Monday scooterblogging

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We now return you to your regularly scheduled scooterblogging ...

This one parks on our street. It strikes me as one part mod, one part chopper.

Do they sell this model in the States?

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Howdy from Houston

Howdy, y'all! So I have made my first trip back to the States since moving abroad. And you know what? It was harder to get back into this country than it was to get into the UK. Seriously.

While I didn't get Chipotle, I did get Tex-Mex while I was here. Mmm good!

Friday, March 17, 2006

Light blogging

I've been busy with multiple assignments this week. I hope to resume more steady blogging next week.

Friday Viewblogging

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From the window of our flat, you can see the silhouette of the British Telecom tower and other buildings of the Central London skyline.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Another Random Photo Day

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The signs are 10 feet over your head if there's no snow on the ground. During the winter, you might have to dig them out.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Tube maps, redux

Earlier I noted the funny spoof Tube maps that were all the rage about a month ago. Now, lawyers came in and ruined all the fun.

(For the record, this is an example of how corporate lawyers are ruining society more than those nasty trial lawyers ....)

UPDATED: Annie Mole reports that the Underground's lawyers are forcing one dissemenator of the Tube maps to remove links to other sites.

Find the animal

Commenters downstairs have noted that there were some photos that looked like they might have been taken at a zoo. The fence may have been a dead giveaway, of course, but they're absolutely right.

The cat-like creatures ....
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...are lynxes, while the mountain-goat-looking creatures ...
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... are capra ibexes, (read more here), hunted to extinction by the early 20th century but preserved through a breeding program at Wildpark Peter und Paul, the formal name of the animal preserve where all these shots were taken.

The second photo is kind of a precious moment: The juvenile making its way down the crags to the ground is having a moment of fear about jumping to a rock in the foreground, and is being nudged along by the ibex following.

And for the record, the ibexes were behind a fence, too, but I'll never tell how I got the clear shot.

Random photo Wednesday

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(Sorry. I don't have a gravestone to blog today.)
This was a scene at the bottom of one of the pistes at Sports Center Wildhaus Karl Alpiger. Evidently, students who complete a weeklong ski school compete in a ski race at the end (it looked like a giant-slalom-width course but on a slalom-length slope). If you look through the forest of ski poles and the swirl of snowflakes, you can see one of the students finishing a run.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Hot Karl

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My first manuever after donning snowshoes for the very first time in Wildhaus (altitude 1050m) was to leap up onto a snowbank and promptly fall over sideways, into about four feet of soft snow. The process of righting myself soaked the leather palms of my lightweight cross-country ski gloves, which would have made the whole snowshoeing experience a little less fun and a little more miserable. So to get new gloves, not to mention rent poles, and get advice on the best schneeshuhwandern routes, a visit to Sport Center Wildhaus Karl Alpiger was in order.

Little did I know that the gent with the wavy brown hair and the angular cheekbones who was in the shop giving schneeshuhwandern advice to our hosts in German and bantering in English with me about gloves was none other than Karl Alpiger, two-time bronze medalist in the skiing World Chapionship downhill. He wished us well and sent us on our way, up the lift to the station at Oberdorf (altitude 1230m), where we began our journey.

Later, after our out-and-back trip that took us back to Oberdorf, a schneeshuh descent down the sledding piste into Wildhaus, and a quick Jaeger Punch in Karl's bar, we saw Karl again, pushing a snowblower around the lot, a a frosting of snow on top of his fluffy brown hair. Men want to be him, women want to change him ...

Swiss you were here

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No, the Werbenmanjensens didn't drop off the face of the planet. We popped over to the Continent for three days with friends in the Helvetic Confederation ....
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the land more commonly known as Switzerland, where the itinerary included wildlife ...
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fondue (and adult beverages that accompany fondue) ...
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a pretty Swiss snowstorm ...
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and snowshoeing (in German, schneeshuhwandern) near Wildhaus.
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I'm a fairly experienced nordic skier, but snowshoeing is new to me--what a blast, and I can't imagine a better place for a first-time snowshoeing trip. Mrs. Werbenmanjensen is uncomfortable with the physical sensation of anything that can slide beneath her feet, but is perfectly at home with snowshoeing, so it's something we can do together in the wintertime--thus, we bought each other snowshoes as presents last year. I foresee more trips to Switzerland in the future.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Friday Viewblogging

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Hazy view of downtown from the side of Parliament Hill. I liked this angle because you can see the London Eye, at least hazily.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

The Crouch End shot I've been waiting for

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I got this standing at the bus stop. I really liked the verticality of all of the buildings along Tottenham Lane.

Eavesdropping ...

Overheard in Figo's in Crouch End

An Englishman who'd traveled to the States, trying to hit on two American students:

"So, what brought you to London?"


Then Smitty was engaged in conversation by a Scotsman who wore not just tinfoil on his head, as Smitty does, but also a lead helmet ...

Random photo Thursday

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Approaching Archway Tube station on Bus 271, top deck front.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Where's our stuff! (cont'd)


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all ...

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over ...

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our ...

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Wednesday Gravestoneblogging

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Who controls the British pound?
Who keeps the metric system down?
We do!
We do!

I spotted this one in Highgate Cemetery this weekend (2 quid for me, 1 for my camera) so I knew it had to make into the blog.

(Some other cemetery-goers stopped us after we took the picture, wanting to know who it was. "I don't know," I said. "I just liked the epitaph.")

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Where's our stuff? (cont'd)

The moving guys are here. We stayed up late last night watching Sky's Oscar highlights show. Meanwhile, I don't have a job today, so I felt fairly free to sleep in. They were scheduled to arrive between 9 and 9:30. I arose at around 8, went downstairs to put a note by the buzzer to let them know to call my mobile phone because the buzzer doesn't work, and then set about to make some coffee. A minute later, my mobile phone rings. They're here already. Which reminds me of the day the packers came in Silver Spring. I had stayed up until 3:30 or so packing stuff up. I went to nap for a few minutes on the couch, and woke up at 7. I went to the door to look out, and saw the packers pulling up in their truck.

Anyway, the lead moving guy is a stitch.

"Any of these cars yours?" he asked. "We're parked down the street."

"No, sorry."

"Third floor, eh?"



"No, sorry."

"This job keeps getting better and better."

Monday, March 06, 2006

Even more cricket

More on British banks

A quick teaser on BBC Breakfast a moment ago:

Our bank, which I'll simply call Vogon Galactic Bank, is "poised to make record profits," according to the reporter.

If my business plan were to take people's money and not let them use it, I could make record profits too.

Monday scooterblogging

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Finsbury Square, a couple weeks ago.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Sports on TV

I arose late yesterday with a bit of a headache (don't ask) and thought I'd watch TV to help wake myself up. To my delight, Eurosport was broadcasting, live, the elite women's race from the Vasaloppet , one of the great nordic skiing events in the world. The commentators were knowledgeable, and discussed, intelligently, how changes in temperature could affect the snow quality and how that could affect the athletes' performance in the latter stages of the race because their wax would be less effective. After that was over (two Norwegians went 1-2, including a 41-year-old who came second), they started brodcasting taped coverage of an indoor track meet in Calais, France. Again, the commentators were knowledgeable about the events, even commenting about how one long-jumper's "leg-shoot" technique had been sloppy. Not once did we have to hear about how one athlete had overcome the tragic loss of her dog when she was 6 or how another athlete had a surprising performance despite the hangnail he'd suffered 10 days before. After that, it was a match from the Champions League of team handball. Later in the day, BBC 2 broadcast a game from the Anglo-Welsh cup in rugby. All of these are great sports I only get to see in the states during the Olympics, or never.

Early spring flowerblogging

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Waterlow Park, earlier today.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Light of day

The days are growing longer here. When I went to work yesterday, I paused on the front step. Instead of slipping into the inky black of a new day, I was walking out into deep blue sky. By the time the bus was halfway to the office, there was bona fide sunlight hitting my face. And by sunlight, I mean something like this. You know, London sunlight.

And when I got back on the bus to head home, there was still some light lingering in the sky. It's amazing how much perkier one feels when the sun is present. A little light goes a long way.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Friday Viewblogging

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Looking up from Parliament Hill toward Highgate, during last week's British national cross country championship.

More cricket

I think I finally figured this out. Imagine if you played the Major League Baseball world series--except one team batted until there were 27 outs, and the series were determined on the basis of most runs scored. And they gave points for strikeouts. That's what a cricket test match is.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

The Big Book of British Smiles, 2nd Edition

A commenter downstairs wondered why we aren't doing "dentalblogging." This morning, the Guardian give me my excuse.
There is an episode of the Simpsons in which, in an effort to convince his young patients of the importance of dental care, Lisa's orthodontist heaves out a book entitled The Big Book of British Smiles. The punchline, of course, is that the British are famed for possessing teeth that are so gnarled and yellowed and gappy that they can frighten children across the world into obsessive dental hygiene. Our teeth have a reputation that has caused us to be the butt of many a joke in America and beyond; in Mexico, for example, bad teeth are known as "dientes ingles". And, for a while, we Brits were faintly proud of our unseemly smiles. Not for us the white picket fences of American mouths; ours were dry-stone walls: craggy, uneven, weathered.
But then something changed. Braces became a rite of passage for most children, we bought electric toothbrushes and whitening toothpastes, stealthily beginning the pursuit of the Hollywood smile. This week, conclusive evidence that cosmetic dentistry had moved beyond the realm of glamour models and soap stars came with the publication of photographs of the chancellor, Gordon Brown, showing his peggy, stained teeth to have been replaced by a perfect chorus-line of pearly whites. The fact that even the champion of prudence appears to have shelled out several thousand pounds to perfect his smile proves that great gnashers have finally arrived on these shores (though a Treasury spokesman yesterday would say only, "He looks after his teeth like anyone else. Any work he has had done over recent years has been for reasons of dental health and not image.") But how, precisely, did we get to this? When did Britain, of all places, start flashing its minty-fresh, brilliant white smile?

So I guess they'll have to come out with a 2nd Edition.

Another great neighbor

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This morning, running through the Kenwood Estate in Hampstead Heath, I learned that singer-actor Paul Robeson lived nearby, in Hampstead, (one neighborhood over), somewhere on this street.

Now there are those who have suggested that we are not fair and balanced. Given Paul Robeson's controversial history of being blackballed as a supposed socialist sympathizer, it may once again be suggested that we are not being fair and balanced. So, in the interest of being fair and balanced, let us remember the snitch whose testimony helped to deny America the great talents of so many like Paul Robeson for so long.

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Yeah, that feels better.


The English are still at bat this morning. 327-9

Random photo Thursday

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Railway viaduct, Holloway Road (I think). I took this from the top deck of a double decker on the way back home from central London Tuesday.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006


The Queen today opened the new general assembly building in Wales. Reports described the Queen's outfit as "biscuit-colored." Does this look biscuit-colored to you?

I don't know. If I'm the second-richest woman in Britain (after JK Rowling), I think I can do a little better than that. I mean, Camilla looks 10 times better!


The English are up 102-2 over India in the first test.

Whatever that means ....

(The game started at about 4:30 this morning, London time. They've already had lunch.)

Wednesday Gravestoneblogging

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Stop at William Blake's grave, turn slightly to the left, and there's Daniel Defoe.