Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Getting Around Sans Tube

It's been quite a few months on the London Underground. Since roughly last September, major hunks of the Northern Line--and several others, of course--have been shut down on weekends because of "capital projects," although the nature of the capital projects has been invisible to the customer. First it was our branch of the Northern Line, which necessitated, for example, taking the bus if we wanted to go to the theater on a Saturday night. Now it's the Charing Cross branch through central London that is affected, which necessitates, for example, taking the bus if we want to go to the theater on a Saturday night.

Also on weekends, because of platform renovations Northern Line riders cannot get off and change trains at King's Cross/St. Pancras, which, with six different Tube lines running through it as well as numerous intercity rail lines, is only the biggest transfer station in the system. That's no inconvience to Northern Line passengers now, is it?

So it's with some gratification that I read a couple of items over at Annie Mole's. First, some art students have gotten together to inform passengers about walking times between stations in central London. This is helpful in part because there are so many delays on the Tube that there were half a million claims for refunds last year by Tube customers.

The Tube is lovely, one of the best mass transit systems in the world when it works. It is unfortunate that quite often it doesn't work.

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RIP, MacLeod Of MacLeod

This is old news in Britain, I suppose, but it's worth noting that John MacLeod of MacLeod, chief of the MacLeod clan, the man who tried to sell the mountains of Skye to pay for repairs to his house, died last week.

Since Skye and the mountain range Chief MacLeod tried to sell are very special to us, I thought his death deserved to be marked by us, too.

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Monday, February 26, 2007

Some Call It The 'Shoulder Season' ...

... and others just call it late winter. The Werbenmanjensens hopped a train Saturday for the beach resort town of Eastbourne, where ...

... you can visit a historic Victorian-era pier ...

... you can visit a museum dedicated to shopping, should you tire of shopping ...

... and you can do that, that thing the sign says, whatever it is.

We went down there because I had entered a half-marathon running race. My original intention had been to take the train down Sunday morning, but we decided to get out of the city for a weekend, just to see something else in Britain.

Because it's a beach resort, it's obviously not the time to be there, but it's always nice to see the ocean (or the English Channel, in this case). Because the fall-winter months are always dry seasons for the merchants in a beach town, they do like to organize events that would otherwise inconvenience beach-goers during the peak season and also, coincidentally, bring in some visitors during the off-season. Given that the race was sponsored by the Eastbourne Hospitality Association, it's clear that they wanted to pry our London pounds from our pockets for the benefit of Eastbourne merchants, restauranteurs and innkeepers. It worked, I guess.

How'd I do? Well, the race went over the promontory that features the highest chalk cliffs in Britain, I'd say my result ...

... is satisfactory.

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Friday, February 23, 2007

Another One Of 'Those' Days

Today is the day the UK Trade Unions Council informs us that employees who work unpaid overtime on average finish the unpaid work they do every year.

As I mentioned last year, I have a word for unpaid work: "blogging."

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Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Happy Ash Wednesday?

Apologies for not posting lately. The past week has seemed largely like one gray day melding into the next, without even so much as biathlon on TV, so it seems like there's been nothing of note to write about.

The delightful Annie Mole has picked up my spirits, however, by carrying a brief item about two Swedes who set a new record for passing through each one of the Tube's 275 stations in something over 18 hours.

The punch line: They spent 17 hours of it in a stopped train between Euston and Camden Town.

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Saturday, February 17, 2007

And Now For Something Completely Different

For our readers in the snowbound United States, here are some flowers blooming today in Waterlow Park. Meteorological spring is 12 days away. Solar spring is only a month away.

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Thursday, February 15, 2007

Thursday Viewblogging

The sky was slightly pink when I left the flat, heading for the Archway Bridge, but this is what it looked like when I got there. But I took the picture, so you're gonna look at it.

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Snow Joke

There's snow ...

And then there's snow ...

And then there's snow:

Thanks to reader Schmutz for sending me these photos taken yesterday at the Schmutz Family Compound, somewhere in the Midwest of the United States. To any Londonders who read, the bottom two photos are from a real blizzard, what a city-stopping snowstorm should look like.

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Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Do they know it's Valentine's Day?

One of my relatives recently asked me if they celebrate Valentine's Day here. So here's a little ditty for all you lovebirds out there that addresses that very question.

(To the tune of Do They Know It's Christmas?)

It's Valentine's
In the land where rugby's played
At Valentine's
We spread our love and we punish Jade
And in our lust for chocolates
We will eat a box or two
Throw all caution to the wind
At Valentine's...

But say a prayer
Pray for the royal ones
At Valentine's
It's hard 'cause they just get no love
Then there's the world inside Westminster
And it's a world of love and hate
Where the Lords they all don powdered wigs
And the Commons deliberate
And the Tories follow Cameron
And Brown and Blair they feud
Well tonight thank God it's them
Instead of Newt

And there will be hearts in London town on Valentine's
The greatest gift I'll get this year is this
Where CCTV scans
And there are no garbage cans
Do they know it's Valentine's at all?

Here's to you
Raise a glass of fine champagne
Here's to you
Glad we're not Coleen and Wayne
Do they know it's Valentine's at all?
Charles and Camilla
Let them know it's Valentine's again
Blair and Bush
Let them know it's Valentine's again
Wills and Kate
Let them know it's Valentine's again...

Monday, February 12, 2007

Go green

People in Europe have always been a little greener than us Yanks. But now that George Bush has admitted that global warming exists, hopefully some people are getting inspired to use less energy and be less wasteful.

Our parish priest has been advocating this Web site in recent sermons. (Disclaimer: He is personally involved in this effort AND the Web site is a Christian one.) But you don't have to love Jesus as much as W to make some of the changes advocated: Play less on the computer. Watch less telly. Turn off lights in rooms you're not using. Turn down your heat one degree. (The last one doesn't apply to our readers in the American Southwest.)

For my part I've turned into a light nazi, and (I think) I've convinced Smitty to have a telly-free day once a week. As they say at Tesco, every little helps.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Pre-Monday Viewblogging

There are days I really like the views from our flat. Today was one of them.


Thursday, February 08, 2007

`Cheaper Than Turkey'

Overheard at the hair salon this morning, a woman's description of shoe shopping in the States during a recent holiday.


Thursday Wow!-blogging

It's a respectable amount of snow. Very wet, though. Those who are into waxing nordic skis would probably want to use Swix violet.

The forecasters on the Beeb this morning tell us that we can expect 10-15 centimeters through the day, which by my round-numbers math is four to six inches. That's a fair amount. I suspect Mrs. Werbenmanjensen will have some stories to tell. The Beeb forecasters also tell us that the dividing line between rain and snow was the M4 motorway, which runs into the city roughly at about its middle on an east-west axis.

I went for a run in Hampstead Heath this morning. Pausing by the Highgate gate of the Kenwood Estate, I looked around. Despite the trees, the open meadows, and the water, on a normal day you still the buildings, traffic noises and other signs of human habitation that remind you you're in the middle of a big city. But today, the falling snow wiped that clean. But for the spire of St. Michael's church, all was white. I could as easily have been in the Peak District.

To answer a question posted by Middle Kid at the post downstairs: I don't have any memory of Dickens' portrayal of snowfall, nor whether it did in fact snow more during his time. If it did, it's probably the Little Ice Age that's to blame.

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Wednesday, February 07, 2007

The Tabloids Get Fired Up

Overnight and into tomorrow's rush hour, the meteorologists are forecasting another accumulating snow. The British Meteorology Office, as I write this, is getting so many hits I can't open it. Metcheck, a sort of Accuweather for the UK and Europe, is opening slowly, but once it opens I can see it is forecasting up to 3.9 cm of snow. I can hear the tabloid news teams going into overdrive now. Last week, they referred to it as "Snow Chaos," so I wonder what it will be this week.

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Moon Over Ghana

The green dome is atop the Cromwell House, once home to Oliver Cromwell, now the Embassy of Ghana. The sunrise wasn't so good yesterday, but I got this view of the setting moon.


Monday, February 05, 2007

A Reminder

Today is the most common day for British workers to call in sick.

More coverage here:
Forget bird flu - an outbreak of the winter blues is forecast to strike Britain today, leading to hundreds of thousands of people taking "sickies" from work.

Surveys have suggested that the first Monday in February is the worst day of the year for absenteeism, leading to it being labelled National Sickie Day.

The year began with what appeared to be a nationwide week off work, as many businesses failed to resume normal service until January 8.

And today around 310,000 workers are predicted to call in sick. Post-Christmas blues, poor weather, credit card bills and a long wait for the next holiday have all been blamed for this lack of motivation.

The Employment Law Advisory Services estimated that absence through sickness could cost British industry £27m today.

For the record: Mrs. Werbenmanjensen is using a comp day. She earned her day off.

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Funny Man

I don't have a whole lot of energy to entertain you today, so I'm going to call in another entertainer today, a Tube driver with a lot to say.

(hat tip to the delightful Annie Mole).

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OK, it's over with

That was a very lopsided game for being just a 12-point win. We're sleepy.

Don Johnson Has To Go

But you can see him at the Piccadilly Theatre.

The production is good. I don't know how well Don performs.

Best Night Ever

A Dolphins fan described the Sky Sports Super Bowl party as this when interviewed on one of the many loooonnnngggg cutaways from the game. I wonder what his worst night ever was.

Rugby Trivia

To score a six-point try in rugby (the equivalent of a touchdown) a player has to actually touch the ball on the ground ... which is why you'll often see rugby players diving headfirst into the end zone, even when no tacklers are near. Thus, it's "touch down" for an opportunity to "try" to kick for a seventh point.

Kickers also get hurt in rugby. I may have mentioned that earlier.

More Don Johnson Memories

If you speak German ....

(A little Al Bundy action there, too.)

Who's Winning The Bud Bowl?

We're not getting that over here.

(What do you mean they don't do that anymore?)

Luck Be A Lady Tonight

Send your backs down the field so they can catch a first down pass
Luck be a lady tonight

(Our tribute to Sky Masterson's knowledge of football.)

I just remembered Don Johnson's horrible single Heartbeat:

Now he's teaching Pommie blokes about football. But count the number of time he says the word "heartbeat" in that song. It's several hundred times, I recall. It was the sort of thing snarky college students did in 1986.

We Had To Take A Break

How much did Prince overshadow Billy Joel?

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Mrs. Werbenmanjensen Says

It was worth taking a day off of work to watch this.

Hagler from Kankakee?


The Most Exciting Play In Football

Now you understand why I call kickoffs that.

An Important Point About Don Johnson

He followed Patrick Swayze in his role in Guys and Dolls.

National Anthem

Wow, I never knew what a great song that was until I heard Billy Joel sing it.

Pre-Game "Entertainment"

Man, that Cirque du Soleil thing really sucked on this side of the Atlantic. Was it better over there?

Didn't think so.

Mike Ditka on today's Bears vs. 1985 team

"Our guys were a special group of guys. They were characters. These guys look pretty sane."

Sky Sports Part 1

One of their sideline commentators is Shaun Gale, one of the defensive backs from the 1986 Super Bowl champions who tragically did not get a solo in the "Super Bowl Shuffle."

Don Johnson Quotes A Chinese Philosopher

Next: The world comes to an end.

The Difference Between American Football And Rugby

In American football, the kicker wouldn't bleed profusely from the mouth for half a game.

Michael Strahan Says

"Tally-ho! I think that's how they say it over there."

"I have friends who are rock stars and they say there's no better place to play than Wembley."

Liveblogging the Super, er, Big Game

Good evening and welcome to the Americans Amuck liveblog of the Super Bowl. Why would two Americans in London want to liveblog the Super Bowl, when half a million antisocial, football-obsessed nerds will be doing the same? Well, first of all, you will remember that I bet on it last year, but was unable to watch. Secondly, it is a celebration of the end of the secular holiday season in the United States (it starts on Halloween and ends on Super Bowl Sunday--think about it and you know it's true). Thirdly, the Super Bowl is a lens through which the rest of the world sees the United States.

And finally, I thought it would be interesting for Americans to hear how the rest of the world gets to view the game. Since they'll be taking the U.S. network feed, but not the commercials, I envision looooonnnnnngggg studio commentary breaks interspersed with a Coors (yes, Coors, not Budweiser) ad or two (we're drinking Groelsch, and when that's finished, we'll switch to Kroenenburg Seize Cent Soixante Quatre). We probably won't get to see the American advertisements.

To kick things off, I wanted to mention that the Guardian (scroll down) had some coverage Friday of the NFL regular season game next year between the Giants and the Dolphins at Wembley Stadium, the big stadium that couldn't. While you can't see it online, the Guardian illustrated the article with a football that had two white stripes and a Nike swoosh. What's funny about that, you might ask? An NFL football has no stripes, and if I'm not mistaken, Reebok is the official sponsor of the NFL.

This just in: Don Johnson is in the Sky Sports One studio. Some Miami connection, and he's starring in, uh, Guys and Dolls on the West End and we do get to see the halftime show with Prince and, uhm, Billy Joel.

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Channeling Sporty Spice

It's a sporting weekend for me. Yesterday afternoon, Smitty and I watched Six Nations rugby at a pub with his English-Swedish friend and a lovely Kiwi couple. It was a good introduction to the sport for me, as all I really knew about the sport I learned from a friend who played in college.

Tonight we are watching the Super Bowl live -- I even took a day off work to watch what should be one of the most exciting championship games in recent history. I see my deal with the devil paid off, and the Patriots aren't in it. Ha! The downside is, so I am told by Smitty, is that we don't get the cool ads OR the Prince halftime show. (This Prince, not that one.) What's up with that?!

The big question for me is: Who to root for? I was going to pull for my man Peyton Manning, who deserves a ring more than the Bears' poor excuse for a QB. But Smitty says he gave money to George Bush (See post below) so now I am torn. The Colts haven't had one since they fled Baltimore (I have a friend who is still bitter about this), so they have that going against them too. Well, I have a few hours to decide.

Meanwhile, I am trying to avoid watching ski sports, which seems to be all Smitty is interested in at the moment. What would Sporty Spice make of Nordic combined? Although there are some good-looking Finns who ski...

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Apologies for not having posted in a while. And strangely enough, this post is about ... apologies.

My colleague and I took a quintessential Englishman out to lunch this past week, someone the locals here would call a "top toff boffin." Early in our meal I said something about Canada. He looked at me with interest and said, "Oh, are you Canadian?" I said, "No, I'm American." There was a pause, and suddenly I remembered that I'd heard him speak against the Iraq war at a conference. So I blurted, "I'm sorry."
"Sorry for what?"
"Um, for George Bush. Not that I voted for him or anything. And, uh, for Iraq."
"Well, in that case, I should apologize for Tony Blair. He's just as bad."

And then we had a lovely lunch, feeding upon various animals which won't be listed here, knowing that, like the people we had apologized for, we were on the same side. I should join the State Department.