Friday, October 31, 2008

Friday Catblogging

Restoring catblogging to the normal place in the rotation.

Whitecross (ish) Street cat went from the council housing to the skip across the street and back without making friends.

-- Post From My iPhone

Thursday, October 30, 2008

We're Number 18! We're Number 18!

Turns out our postcode is the 18th most-burgled in the UK.

Top that, Croydon!

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Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Wenesday Catblogging

This one goes out to the felinicidal commenter Badger:

Greg offers an opinion on Sherwood Anderson.

-- Post From My iPhone

Skyrockets In Flight

I've begun to hear fireworks at night again, which can only mean that we're getting close to Guy Fawkes Day, aka Bonfire Night, the night England celebrates pyrotechnics, or maybe it was to commemorate the Gunpowder Plot, or maybe it was to commemorate the failure of the Gunpowder Plot. Anyway ... fireworks have been purchased, and I believe we're in the midst of the first school holiday of the year, which means aimless youth are wandering about at night setting off fireworks.

Still, the volume of fireworks is probably insufficient for this guy:

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Saturday, October 25, 2008

Mervyn To Smitty: Thanks Kid. Here's A Bag Of Money.

The rapid devaluation of the pound to the dollar, and the fact that I'm paid largely in dollars, means that I've experienced a 25 percent raise in recent months. Thanks, Mervyn King!

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Top Five Lies About Soccer, er, Football

I love the beautiful game. I'll sit down and watch the British football equivalent of a Single-A baseball game if it's on, just because. But there are some things that you'll hear about the game that are just not true.

1. English people never call it soccer. This is just a flat-out lie. On Britain's leading sports channel, I just finished watching a show called "Soccer AM." I am now watching a show called "Soccer Saturday." English people can stuff it if they sneer at me for call it soccer. Get your story straight. It's either "football" always, or it's not.

2. Soccer is a non-contact sport. This is a lie that many American soccerphiles will tell you to promote the sport among kids. Hossam Ghaly's teeth will disagree. So will Petr Cech's head.

3. Soccer players run the whole game. Yeah, if they're 5 years old and the game is aimed at getting kids tired out so they'll take a nap on a Saturday afternoon. When players are substituted in certain matches, Britain's leading sports channel likes to pop up with a figure of how much the substituted player has run in that match. I've seen figures as high as 15 kilometers. Memo to Sky Sports: 15 kilometers is 37 and a half laps of the stadium. I'm not buying it, especially when I see guys in the 78th minute doing a lot of standing, walking and slow jogging.

4. There's no more hooliganism in soccer. German authorities might disagree. So might the Manchester police. Football fans have to be separated. Rugby fans don't. 'Nuff said.

5. Soccer songs and chants are sporty and inspirational. I'll let you be the judge of that. It appears that Atletico Madrid fans agree with me.

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Friday, October 24, 2008

The Further Continuing Adventures Of English As A Second Language


Saying "Merry Crimbo" just doesn't sound right.

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Thursday, October 23, 2008

Boris Speaks ....

.... to the people who voted for him.

ADDED: Most Bromleyans (or whatever you call them) would probably prefer to be governed by Kent. How far is it from City Hall again?

View Larger Map

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Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Whitecross Street Catblogging

Don't know if this cat is asking to be let in or simply basking.

-- Post From My iPhone

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Tuesday, October 21, 2008

A Palace Boudoir

Smitty and I are thinking of redecorating our bedroom a la the Reggia di Caserta. Just need to get the ceilings a tad higher...

A Scene from Hampton Court Palace

Some days, I just feel so exposed, don't you?

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Monday, October 20, 2008

The Chrysalis Cracks. A Londoner Emerges.

My palate is far too relaxed and my diphthongs too chewy to ever speak British English. I choke at the thought of pledging allegiance to a royal. When "God Save The Queen" plays, I hear "My Country 'Tis Of Thee." But I can feel like a Londoner nonetheless--because I can now navigate Soho's twisty passages and narrow streets without a copy of London A-Z.

The more astute of you may note, based on taglines from recent posts, that I could easily use the map function my iPhone. Yes, I could, which makes it easy to leave the A-Z behind. But twice this past weekend I found my way around Soho quite easily without ever having to check a map.

This is a major accomplishment for me.

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Friday, October 17, 2008

Whitecross Street Mural--Artist Found!

I finally saw the mysterious artist working on the Whitecross Street mural. He went by Bird and had a baby with him as he painted.

-- Post From My iPhone

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Hello, autumn

Some weird, blowy showers have been passing through the last couple of days.

-- Post From My iPhone

The Last Conceit Of Unfettered Capitalism ...

... or, The Losing Side Renegotiates Surrender Terms

-- Post From My iPhone

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Tuesday Catblogging

Greg nicked my seat when I stood up for a second.

-- Post From My iPhone

Monday, October 13, 2008

I'm From The Government, And I'm Here To Help

Yesterday, as we were coming back through immigration, the gentleman reviewing our passports looked at the number of stamps we have and suggested, in a helpful way, that we register for the Home Office's IRIS Program--a biometric program to protect borders and keep us safe from terrorism, while of course guarding our confidentiality.

We know that the UK government has a sterling record on protecting personal data:
Personal data on every child in the country and national insurance numbers and bank account details of parents and carers claiming child benefit have gone missing after the government sent two password-protected CDs through the post.

And UK governments have never misused anti-terror powers before, have they?
Thousands of middle managers in local councils are being authorised to spy on people suspected of petty offences using powers designed to prevent crime and terrorism.
Even junior council officials are being allowed to initiate surveillance operations in what privacy campaigners likened to Eastern bloc police tactics.
The Home Office is expected to be urged by the Commons Home Affairs select committee to issue guidelines to councils on the type of operations in which surveillance can be used.
Amid increasing concern in Parliament that the UK is slowly becoming a surveillance society, the committee has looked at the operation of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (Ripa), which some MPs say is being misused to focus on petty crime rather than serious offending.

And of course, the UK government itself has never used anti-terror powers to resolve a contract dispute, have they?
Iceland's authorities last night appeared close to agreeing a repayment package to help cover the losses of British savers with deposits in Icesave, the UK operation of one of the country's stricken banks.
Officials from the Treasury, Bank of England and FSA flew back from Reykjavik yesterday having made "significant progress" in talks with banks and government officials aimed at securing a rapid payout for British depositors.
However, the deal does not yet include the billions of pounds invested by councils, charities and other public bodies.
The Icelandic government took control of three of the country's largest banks last week and froze deposits, including an estimated £4.5bn from British savers.
The UK government has used anti-terror laws to seize an estimated £4bn in Icelandic resources, and ministers said yesterday these will not be released until a deal has been struck.

We of course politely told the immigration drone we'd think about it, but I think I'll view standing in queues as a minor inconvenience compared to the major inconvenience of losing my personal freedom.

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Friday, October 10, 2008

Pompei, Casa Dei Vetti

Yup, that's what you think it is. (It's Priapus, the god of fertility. No surprise there.)

-- Post From My iPhone

Pompei, The Victims

Plaster casts taken from the landslide.

-- Post From My iPhone

Pompei, Anfiteatro

That rumbling sound means we haven't killed enough Christians today. (Contestants entered one gate. The dead and injured left through the other.)

-- Post From My iPhone

Pompei, Teatro Piccolo

That rumbling sound means Ovid's experimental works have offended the gods.

-- Post From My iPhone

Pompei, Teatro Grande

The rumbling sound is a sign that Ovid In The Park must go on!

-- Post From My iPhone

Pompei, Forum

No, seriously, I hear a rumbling sound. Maybe we should ask the priests. (Yes, that's Vesuvius in the background. Draw an imaginary triangle from the outside of the two masses there. The top is the peak of Vesuvius before it blew.)

-- Post From My iPhone

Pompei, Temple of Apollo

Do you hear a rumbling sound? Eh, it's probably nothing.

-- Post From My iPhone

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Amalfi Catblogging

Italian cat wants to be friends, but liked the water in the street even more.

-- Post From My iPhone

Ciao, Amalfi

The towns on the Amalfi Coast cling to the sides of mountains. You get the feeling nothing much changes here--except, you know, for all us tourists.

-- Post From My iPhone

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Sea, City, Mountain, Sky

The view from our balcony. The person who booked this room did a fantastic job (it wasn't me).

-- Post From My iPhone

Monday, October 06, 2008

St. Peter's Dome

At the end of our street, we get this view.

-- Post From My iPhone

Church of Jesu

This is the ceiling.

-- Post From My iPhone

Monument to Victor Emmanuele II

Considered an eyesore to some, this monument to the Risorgimento movement became known as "Mussolini's Typewriter" because his blackshirts paraded on the steps as he addressed the populace from the square opposite.

-- Post From My iPhone


The hole in the roof of this temple-cum-church provides all of the lighting. This is a hole, not a skylight, so you might want to avoid it during the rainy season.

-- Post From My iPhone


The hole in the roof of this temple-cum-church provides all of the lighting. This is a hole, not a skylight, so you might want to avoid it during the rainy season.

-- Post From My iPhone

Church of St. Cosmas and St. Damian

This fifth century mosaic shows Peter and Paul introducing the two saints to Jesus.

-- Post From My iPhone

The Forum

The main bit of the old Roman city: The place where they got on with the business of an empire.

-- Post From My iPhone

Largo Argentina

Four temples of unclear use. Under the street, behind the six columns, is the site of Julius Caesar's assassination.

-- Post From My iPhone

Sunday, October 05, 2008

The Spanish Steps

-- Post From My iPhone

Top O' The Spanish Steps

-- Post From My iPhone

The Main Altar

With a better look at the rose window that looks like a wafer. There's a peace dove in the window. We heard mass I'm front of this one. Didn't understand a word, other than "pace" and a few other ones from Latin, but we're well-drilled Catholics and knew what to do.

-- Post From My iPhone

I Like This One Because

I wonder how many babies the painter had to throw to make the floating cherubim look so realistic.

-- Post From My iPhone

Name That Painting, Part 2

Again, another wonderful entry from the Vatican Museums, but my memory is faulty.

-- Post From My iPhone

Name That Painting

Honestly, we saw a lot today, and our tour guide said it was an important milestone in art history, but I'll be damned if I can remember.

-- Post From My iPhone

Altar, St. Peter's

The high altar is monstrous enough, but if you look past the altar, to the white rose window in the background: it looks like a communion wafer, and the gold around it looks like a monstrance, the stand used to hold communion wafer during exhibition of the blessed sacrament.

-- Post From My iPhone

The Transfiguration

Rafael's last work.

Saturday, October 04, 2008


The most famous sculpture in the world. This is the real one, not that fake Pieta that almost got me fired.
-- Post From My iPhone

St. Peter's Square

-- Post From My iPhone

Dear British Airport Authority

Once a customer has arrived at an airport it should never--never!--require a £20 taxi ride to move from one terminal to another. Only an idiot would design an airport otherwise.

-- Post From My iPhone

Friday, October 03, 2008

Yo! Yotel!

There's not much more space in a Yotel room than what you see in this photo: Enough space for a bed, with a small bathroom (behind the shade on the left side of the photo). Small, efficient, cute: The epitome of Japanese design. This particular space is a premium room at the Heathrow Yotel. The idea is to give tired travelers a place to nap for a few hours or, as in our case, a place for people with veerrry early flights a place to sleep that requires little early morning transport. Brought to you by the same people who run Yo! Sushi, eveybody's favorite conveyer-belt Japanese joint.

-- Post From My iPhone

Rotten Butter

Your eyes don't deceive you: That is John "Johnny Rotten" Lydon, the onetime frontman for the Sex Pistols, doing adverts for butter.

It's probably important to note that Johnny earned his "Rotten" moniker in the '70s because of his personal hygiene.

Oh, wait, here's a video!

(Johnny Rotten and Morris dancers? Heavens!)

That's OK, though: The folks from Madness are also doing food advertisements:

It's no "Baggy Trousers":

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Thursday, October 02, 2008

Whitecross Street Thursday

-- Post From My iPhone

I Predict A Riot

I've written before of our ubiquitous bookies in the UK. You may know that they'll offer a wager on almost anything: Sporting events, elections, natural disasters. Perhaps it's an outgrowth of the kind of behavior that goes on at the Lloyd's of London insurance market, with less sophisticated financial instruments (e.g. you're the guy holding the bag if you lose your gamble, instead of your reinsurer). Mrs. Werbenmanjensen has emailed this morning to tell me that one of our fine bookies, Paddy Power, is offering odds on riots in several international cities related to economic turmoil.

New York, at 9-4, and Washington, at 10-3, are suckers' bets, in my opinion. The terms of the wager are that "riots must be confirmed by that countries ruling government as being due to motivated by economic circumstances." The Bush administration would just call them looters. It's happened before, after all. My money would be on Paris, at 3-1. But I'd also like to know where the Kaiser Chiefs are putting their money:

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Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Rush Hour, London Bridge

-- Post From My iPhone