Monday, March 26, 2007

Getting Back At The Tube

Annie Mole points us to Bad Oyster, a snarky site selling plastic wallets and stickers for the ubiquitous Oyster smart card used on the Tube, buses and some rail services. My favorite: The "Mind the Gap (between your expectations and the service provided)" wallet.

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Sunday, March 25, 2007

Things We Missed While We Were Gone

Pakistan's criket coach was murdered after two consecutive losses in the World Cup, the last of which was to cricketing non-power Ireland.

England's erratic football squad couldn't even beat Israel. I guess they really miss Beckham now.

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Saturday, March 24, 2007

22 Short Posts About America, Cont'd

Cheaper than Turkey
It really is!

Play Ball!

This is only the second rain delay in Cactus League history, as far as you know.

Go Climb A Mountain

Phoenix preserved some of its mountains instead of paving and building over top of them. A favorite is Camelback Mountain, a moderately challenging walk for half of its height and then a bit of a dodgy scramble to the top.

Cactus In Bloom

We picked a good time to be in the desert.

Chipotle Still Rocks

Yea, verily.

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Friday, March 23, 2007

Viva Chipotle!

The silver bullet that killed the howling werewolf of hunger -- hunger for a burrito that requires two hands, one large stomach and at least 20 uninterrupted minutes. Mmmmm! As I gleefully told MK's k's, that first sweet bite of barbacoa was one of the happiest moments of my life in the past, say, year.

Let us take a closer look at the spicy goodness:

Note the layers of shredded beef (sorry MK), black beans, chunky tomato salsa, firm rice with a rich guac and a dash of sour cream. Tell me you don't want one right now!

Someday we will have Chipotle in London. Yea, verily. But until then, I am going to gorge myself as much as possible when I can. It's three meals and counting. Viva Chipotle!

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

22 Short Posts About America (Or Less)

This is an homage to the Simpsons episode 22 Short Films About Springfield, which is itself an homage to the film 32 Short Films About Glenn Gould. We are unlikely to get 22.

Why not a fifth or sixth meal?

This is just a really bad idea. Breakfast is called such because you're breaking a fast that started with dinner, not from when you woke up at midnight with the munchies. It's quite interesting that the Yum! Brands corporate responsibility page says nothing about obesity.

Driving on Nine (Lanes)
It's interesting to be driving around on roads that were actually designed for cars. Your outside mirrors are seldom at risk here.

Push-Button Walk Signals Are A Joke In Yo' Town
Attention Phoenix-area transportation planners: The walk-signal button at Tatum and Doubletree, the one by the Tesseract School, is just a cruel prank you're playing on pedestrians.

Proving The Theory Of Relativity All Over Again
To people who routinely participate in outdoor activities when it's 100 degrees F or more, 75 degrees is sometimes described as "freezing."

DEFRA Saves An Entire Species

This is a golden barrel cactus. It is my favorite type of cactus. On past visits to the Southwest, I have returned home with a golden barrel cactus and eventually killed it. Why this particular grouping of golden barrel cacti is not running in fear from me is uncertain. Perhaps it has something to do with them being plants and not animals. In any case, the DEFRA prohibitions on me bringing live cacti back to London has probably preserved the species.

Chipotle Still Rocks

But I'll let Mrs. Werbenmanjensen wax eloquent about it later.

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Monday, March 19, 2007

Death Likes War

Hi. The Werbenmanjensens have moved on in America. We're now at the Middle Kid compound somewhere in the desert Southwest where it's really really hot. Speaking of really really hot, imagine going to a peace rally dressed as this:

Death really does like war.

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I commented earlier about how loud America was (when, to be fair, I should have been referring only to California, and even that would be unfair, since Yosemite isn't nearly that loud, so let us just say there's a spot in the San Fernando Valley that's really really really loud on Friday nights). The conference I was attending held a reception on Saturday night at a club in the Universal City CityWalk. As the music got louder and louder, a colleague from Portland sat at the bar muttering, "If it's not loud enough, people will start thinking, and if they start thinking, they'll start getting ideas."

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Saturday, March 17, 2007

Wisdom(?) Of Crowds

I'm not enough of a blogger to write philosophically about blogging, but at this professional conference I've been attending for the last three days, I've heard the phrase "wisdom of crowds" used twice to describe the online, interactive world (once by Steve Case, particularly when referring to sites (like this one) that provide readers with the opportunity to comment.

This is not aimed at the commenters on this particular blog, who are all so very wise, but rather to crowds in general. I don't think crowd-think always leads to wise conclusions. In fact, when I think of crowd behavior, I think of events similar to this:

I hope the internet world drops this buzz-phrase soon.

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Friday Night In Universal City

It isn't quite enough for Universal Studios to have a theme park and studio tour, they also needed to have an outdoor pedestrian shopping mall.

(I'd forgotten how bright and loud America can be.)

Mrs. Werbenmanjensen was happy because they had a Lush, but found it more expensive than London.

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Friday, March 16, 2007

Other Britishisms I'm Comfortable Using

Rubbish. A commonly known word to Americans also, but the usage to which I refer is:

"The high-speed internet connection in my hotel room is rubbish."


"The headphone the cabin attendant gave me is rubbish."

This usage allows me to avoid using a naughtier word (not safe for work).


Thursday, March 15, 2007

California Dreaming

I dreamt of a place where houses hung on the sides of hills ....

Another note: The hotel put the British visitors in room 1066. How droll.

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Hooray For Hollywood!

(Be kind. It was the best I could do from a moving taxi.)

Americans Amuck is now amuck ... in America. We're in Universal City, in San Fernando Valley (or so they tell me), attending a professional conference. Our hotel room has a view of Universal Studios (the theme park) ...

(Again, please be kind. I shot that through a window.)

... and a run I took this morning went right past the real Universal Studios, the one where movies are filmed. Somewhere behind the big globe in that photo is the City Walk, a pedestrian retail district that was a bit of a bright version of Carnaby Street, the main difference being that Carnaby Street was once a hip retail district that has become homogenized.

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Tuesday, March 13, 2007

We'll Be Right Back After This Short Break

Greetings. The Werbenmanjensens have to take a short break, but we'll be back posting in a couple of days. Why? We can't tell you just yet. But since we can't answer a question, maybe They Might Be Giants can answer a different one: Namely, Why Does The Sun Shine?

(Listen for a short party political announcement toward the end.)

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Sunday, March 11, 2007

Sunday Viewblogging

A view of the town of Dorking ...

(Blogger waits while readers stop giggling)

... from Box Hill in Surrey.


Friday, March 09, 2007

A Helpful Note

Because of new laws, Americans spring ahead to daylight saving time this Sunday. We in the UK do not move forward to British Summer Time until March 25. Therefore, you are all an hour closer to our time as of Sunday morning. EDT will be GMT/BT -4 hours.

Unless you live in Arizona or parts of Indiana. Then I don't know what to tell you. I guess you stay the same relative to us.

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Friday Catblogging

In the blog world, there's been a long tradition of cat/dog/random petblogging on Fridays. Since the beginning of this blog, we've had no pets, our cats Lucy and Ethel being left behind in new homes rather than placed in the DEFRA concentration camp. I've had a bit of a struggle making friends with these London cats, too, but I think I finally have a feline buddy.

Meet Greg:

Greg is the parish cat at our church. I've been volunteering at the church three hours a week to cover the telephones and main entrance, and Greg has made friends with me--I think, in part, because I sit in one of the rooms he likes to sleep in, and in part because I'll take the time to pet him. One of the more elderly brothers in the Passionist community that makes its home at our parish described Greg as the cat of the beloved late Father Hubert, although he seems to have lots of companions in the church community. "He's rather cossetted," the brother told me. "Well, every cat is cossetted."

Greg is an older cat--I think somebody told me he's around 18 years old--but appears in good health. He's able to hop up on the desk and claw at will at the papers on the bulletin board.

Despite his age, he's hip to the web. He has his own web page.

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Thursday, March 08, 2007

Britishisms I'm Now Comfortable Using

Arse. Not to refer to one's rump, but rather the usage "can't be arsed with," which means roughly, "I don't want to mess around with."

Common usage: "I can't be arsed with an office job. I like working at home."

Brilliant. Neither super smart nor bright and sparkly, this usage means, roughly, "excellent," like the guys in those Guinness ads.

Lovely. Roughly the same as "brilliant," above.

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Tuesday, March 06, 2007

New Frontiers In Weather Descriptions

I'm taking a French class at Alliance Francaise de Londres. Last night mon professeur taught us a phrase that I found useful this morning: Il pleut comme une vache qui pisse.

OK, yes, I used a naughty word. A cleaner version: Il pleut des cordes.

(I'll wait for Mrs. Werbenmanjensen to correct my spelling later, because I'm sure I misspelled something.)


London's Biggest Attraction

London Geezer cites an interesting story (it's a couple weeks old now, but it's news to me) about the top attractions in Great Britain, and to my surprise (maybe everybody's), the top tourist site in London is not only a museum, not only an art museum, but a modern art museum. The Tate Modern beat, among others, the British Museum, with its kid-friendly mummies, and the Tower of London, with its adult-friendly macabre storytelling.

Take that, all you people who say you don't "get" modern art.

(Madame Tussaud's, the London Eye and the gruesome torture museum on the South Bank don't make the list, but perhaps they aren't members of ALVA.)


Friday, March 02, 2007

The Automobile Comes Second?

Downstairs, I noted that the Blogger Formerly Known As Aussie Sarah made a long haul from London to the Lake District via automobile to visit the Beatrix Potter Museum. This morning's Times of London has a couple of interesting stories about motorists this morning.

First of all, contaminated petrol has caused thousands of car breakdowns nationwide, for which the average cost of repair will be 300 pounds. And then motorists are finding out this morning that transportation ministers are planning to create a nationwide road pricing scheme for motorists, for which the lowest toll will be 2 pence per mile and the highest 1 pound 34 pence.

It seems to make sense in these times of climate change to encourage people to get out of their cars (especially, as the contaminated fuel story tells us, engines are capable of "kangaroo hopping," whatever that is) and onto mass transit or making use of human transportation, especially since the rail system still seems to be reasonably intact in this country. Let's just hope they use the money to make the rail system better in the process.

UPDATED at 12:55 p.m.: Annie Mole informs us that there will be no Tube strike.

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Thursday, March 01, 2007

A Visitor Pops By

The blogger formerly known as Aussie Sarah, now just Sarah, of Traveling Texans, stopped into London for a few days. Mrs. W and I met up with her at a cafe in Soho, where much tea was consumed. You can read about her trip to the Beatrix Potter museum here and here.

Hats off to her for the long haul up to the Lake District. I would have taken a train. Life's too short to spend nine hours driving on the left.

This might also be a good time to note that I've finally gotten around to adding Traveling Texans to my blogroll. Also note Miles David Moore's blog has been added to our blogroll. If you don't know Miles, he is America's greatest living poet, and I don't say that just because he's my friend. He also has interesting views about the arts in general, film and theater in particular.

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