Archive | October, 2004
October 22, 2004

Life in SE1: Borough Market / English Pride! / Dorm Life / $23 Movie Ticket


I’ll probably be updating this blog (God, I hate that word, and I don’t even know why) more often now that I’m in London. For obvious reasons, there is more to talk about here than if I were in Palm Desert (“Like, today I went to Starbucks, and then Best Buy, and OMG it’s hot”).

Anyways, this past weekend was quite fun. On Saturday, a friend and I went to Borough Market, a short 7 minute walk away from our dorm, because I wanted to check out the offerings and buy some fruit (Arrr matey, to ward off scurvy!) This market was simply amazing…outdoors, part of it under a railway bridge so you could hear the rumble of passing trains echo off the walls, stalls selling every food imaginable: fruit, veggies, meat, recently killed ducks and deer (ewww), seafood, chocolate, cakes, bread (oh, the bread! The beautiful bread!) cheese (huge wheels of it…larger than a vehicle’s tire), freshly made pizzas, sandwiches, etc. I almost wish that I knew how to cook, because if I did I think I would load up on ingredients and make a feast. The wheels of cheese looked especially enticing. Someday, I want to buy a cheese wheel from Borough Market and roll it back to my dorm…

“What’s that?”

“Duh, my wheel of cheese.”

We had some crepes (ahhhh sooooo good) and I bought some peaches. They were the biggest peaches I’ve ever seen, and four for 1 pound, how can you beat that? And the guy calls you “darling”…ahh so British. Walking around Borough Market was like being magically dropped into a Richard Curtis film…but where, oh where, is Hugh Grant and Colin Firth?? Ohhh, that’s right, I just missed them. Scenes from the upcoming movie “Bridget Jones: The End of Reason” were recently filmed at Borough Market. If you’ve seen the first movie “Bridget Jones’s Diary” then you’ve seen Borough Market…it’s where she buys all her ingredients for the “blue soup.” Her apartment, situated above The Globe pub, is located in Borough Market. If only I had been here a few years earlier to see Hugh Grant and Colin Firth fight outside her apartment…that would have been perfect.

I’ve been too lazy to take pictures of my neighborhood, so if you are bored and want to see what the area in which I reside looks like, then watch the following movies, all of which had scenes filmed in the area:

Bridget Jones’s Diary
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (When the Knight Bus drops off Harry Potter at the Leaky Cauldron…that is Borough Market)
Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels (The hideout)
Love Actually (Millenium Bridge, etc.)

There are a few others, but the above are some of my personal favorite (well, most…Harry Potter 3 could have been better). Also, if you’ve played “The Getaway” on Playstation2, the warehouse that you drive to is located not far from here…now I want to play that game again…too bad the PS2 is at home.

Later that night a group of us went to have dinner at Masala Zone, an Indian Restaurant in Soho. Luckily, some of our Indian friends were there so they could explain to us what everything on the menu was, because the only thing I know is curry. The food was amazing (especially after eating a week of Bankside food, ugh) and decently priced (about 10 quid for a meal + drink).

I’ve been buying some stuff for my dorm room…printer, mugs, kettle, etc. Since I’m not going to bring all his stuff back home with me, and I’m only going to be here for a year, I buy the cheapest items…interesting thing, though, is that the lowest priced items are all decorated with the St. George’s flag (England’s flag, not the British Union Jack)…

Because every dorm room needs one of these chairs.

Mini-fridge…and yeah, it’s MINI

Pint glasses

Consequently, when people walk into my room they think I’m some crazed English football fan (And by football, I mean real football aka soccer, not American boring as hell football). Maybe the government subsidizes products with English flags to whip up some nationalist sentiment? Or is it all just a bunch of leftovers from the Euro 2004 tournament?

So back to living in a dorm room…I completely forgot how annoying it is to have a communal laundry room. Apparently, leaving clothes in the washers and dryers for hours on end is an international phenomenon.
I was doing my laundry a few nights ago…I put my clothes into the dryer and the girl next to me watches, amazed, as I throw in two Bounce dryer sheets.

“What do those do??”

“They um, prevent static cling.”


“Static cling.”

Nothing but a puzzled look…what, they don’t have static cling in other countries??

And of course the dorm food just gets better every night. It’s always exciting to look at the dinner menu and see what the chefs have prepared for us. Honestly, sometimes I need a dictionary…I’ve never heard of some of this stuff. A few nights ago I had “Hawaiian steak”…wow, bad idea. Basically, it was a piece of glorified beef jerky with two slices of pineapple thrown on top. One of my friends had “American meatballs” (no spaghetti or anything, they were just serving meatballs)…what the hell are American meatballs??? Oh, and there’s no ranch dressing here. They use this disgusting stuff called salad cream…soooo horrible. If you ever come over here, don’t eat anything with salad cream on it…TRUST ME ON THIS.

Salad cream is dodgy. JUST SAY NO TO SALAD CREAM!

Also, I was at the grocery store a few days ago, and came across some “American style muffins.”
AWESOME. But then I looked at the package…they were BLUEBERRY AND MUSHROOM muffins. Uhhhh…gross. Mushrooms in muffins? Blueberries and mushrooms together? WTF?! I’ve never heard of those…NEVER.

This city is insanely expensive. To get an idea of how expensive it is, take New York City prices and double them (with the exchange rate hovering around $1.8 per 1 pound, it’s just easier to double the price in your head). Say a can of Coke will cost you 60 pence here…that’s almost $1.20. A pint downstairs, 2 pounds, or a bit under $4. A pint in a pub in central London, around 3+ pounds, or $6. A movie ticket from a theatre at Leicester Square, 11 pounds – 13 pounds…$26! No thanks, I’ll rent it…in the U.S.

In other news, I missed the season premiere of the West Wing (Ummm…I think they are still on season 4 here). Dammit, I attend President Bartlett’s alma mater, and I can’t get the new season of West Wing out here! WTF!

Oh, and this sounds like a bunch of BS to me.

October 16, 2004

Put yourself on my map, will ya?

Free Guestmap from Bravenet

This is so cute…

Place a “pin” on my guest map marking your location in this mad world of ours.

Free Guestmap from Bravenet

October 15, 2004

By Appointment To Her Majesty the Queen,


This website aproved by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II

I was sitting in our dorm’s canteen eating horrible British food (this is a recurring theme, you see) and drinking milk when I noticed that the carton was emblazoned with the royal court of arms and “By Appointment To Her Majesty the Queen.” Weird. So, the next day I was drinking some tea and noticed that the box of tea and the box of sugar cubes said the same thing. So I’m drinking tea that’s fit for the Queen. Good to know, but I still think it’s weird that they put that on the product boxes, and even weirder that my bags of Doritos and cans of Fanta do not have the mark of the Queen. I mean, surely the Queen eats Doritos!

Hmmm…the Brits aren’t going to deport me for declaring myself to be a provider of goods to the Royal family, are they?

Some news from around the world:
Coldest winter in years predicted
A senior forecaster said: “From what we are predicting, Britain could see its coldest winter of the century.” GREAT!

Discovery of mystery substance spurs bank evacuation (near my house in Palm Desert)
Bank employees contacted the fire department and its Hazardous Materials Team responded to the scene but was unable to identify the substance, Avila said.

At least one of the bottles had writing on the label in Russian and a College of the Desert student was brought in to translate. He determined the writing contained a number of scientific names for substances as well as the word grenade, Avila said.

No, it wasn’t my safe deposit box!

Area (Inland Empire) terror attack not likely, FBI chief says
“Al-Qaida is going to hit something that’s an icon,” Garcia said. “Something that’s going to have a lot of media behind it.”

There are no such targets in the Inland Empire, he said.

Coachella Valley residents can now sleep soundly at night knowing Al-Qaida is not planning any attacks on local landmarks such as Knott’s Soak City or the Cabazon dinosaurs!

Stray Dogs Invade Albanian Town, Attack Residents
An Albanian town had to call in police and hunters after a pack of 200 stray mountain dogs attacked at least nine people.

Headed by a clearly identifiable leader, the snarling pack overran the main street of the small northern town of Mamurras, its mayor said Wednesday.

Long-Lost Jules Verne Short Story ‘The Camera Phone’ Found

October 9, 2004

The food with its strange, evil tastes

A bit more on the culinary adventures of living in London…

I went to the grocery store yesterday (although it was more like a glorified AM/PM) in search of tea, milk, sugar, chips, and salsa. The tea, sugar, and milk was in plentiful supply (this is the home of “tea time”, after all) but I was unable to locate any tortilla chips. They had Sainsbury’s salsa…the generic store brand, but no tortilla chips! ARGH! So I ended up buying the salsa and potato chips (or, as they call them here, “crisps”, since chips are britspeak for french fries). Now, I am pretty sure that mixing potato chips and salsa is a crime in California punishable by up to 6 months in prison, but I was desperate for some salsa, so hopefully the judge will have mercy on me. Anyways, if anyone knows where I can buy some tortilla chips around here, do tell, because I’ve been to three different grocery stores and haven’t found any. Oh, and I miss guacamole, too.

[EDIT: So, a few hours after I wrote this I went with one of my friends to a “Costcutters” store not too far from the Southwark tube station, and guess what, they had tortilla chips! YES!!!]

Last night we went to Chinatown in search of food. We ended up in front of this random Chinese restaurant and decided that this is where we would eat. The menu looked fine, the diners seemed to be enjoying their food, the usual marks of a decent restaurant. There was a lady standing in front of the door, and we assumed that she was some sort of hostess…she told us to go upstairs. A guy up there took us to a table, and said “Seven pounds, ninety pence. You pay now.” Ummm, OK…We paid, and he brings us back our dishes, whose cleanliness is questionable. You see, it was a buffet, all you could eat for �7.90…there was no menu…it was really sketchy (or “dodgy” as the Brits would say). The restaurant downstairs seemed really nice, but upstairs was an entirely different story…the windows were all painted over, and the food was all on this buffet bar, which, of course you had to stand in a line for. I loaded up my plate with chow mein, rice, some fried meat things, onion rings (???), pineapple, and these weird pieces of sesame toast. I’m not really sure what I was eating at times. It could have been seafood, but maybe it was pork…I’ll never know. Let’s just say that it’s one of the few times I’ve been to a Chinese restaurant and actually longed for Panda Express. Hell, I would have even taken the dorm food from Bankside House…at least it’s predictable.
When you want more food from the buffet, you have to take your dish with you…they don’t give you a clean one…DODGY AS HELL. My friend asked for a clean dish but they wouldnt give him one, but they allowed him to clean it himself. Uhhh…yeah.

Also, I think we were pissing off the people next to us, because they seemed to really be enjoying their food, while we were like “WTF is this?” We were also ripping on George Michael (somehow the conversation turned to 80s music…it’s amazing that no matter what country a person is from, you can all talk about 80s music) and perhaps the people next to us were huge George Michael fans.

So anyways, the food there sucked. If I knew the name of the restaurant I would post it, but I have purged it from my memory. Basically, if you end up in front of a restaurant in Chinatown and some sketchy Chinese lady tells you to go upstairs, DON’T. Go to McDonalds instead!

October 9, 2004

Classes / British dorm food / Shopping / Cops


I’ve just finished my first week of classes, and I think I’ve finally narrowed down my list, so here are the classes I will be taking this year:

Russia and the Post-Soviet States: Politics and Policy
Post Communist Politics And Policies
Soviet and Post-Soviet Foreign Policy
Contemporary Russian Society : Key Issues and Developmental Trends
Basic Economic Concepts for European Political Economy
(quite possibly the longest name ever given to an economics class)
Russian Language

I’ve already been assigned to work on two presentations. Next month I’ll be presenting on the USSR’s planned economy for one class, and the key obstacles to Gorbachev’s economic restructuring in another. Exciting stuff, eh? You probably fell asleep reading the list of my classes…

The odd thing about UK universities (or, at least, LSE, as I’m not sure about other schools) is that we don’t have required reading, and you don’t have to run down to the bookstore and spend $800 on books. Instead, the professors will give you a huge list of “recommended reading” (and by huge list, we are talking 20+ pages listing books and articles). It’s odd, but it’s nice that you don’ have to spend a ton of money on books. On the other hand, I liked the structure of my classes at GW (“read chapters 1-9 of (insert book title here) by week 3”, etc).

Ah, funny thing happened in my foreign policy class. Our professor was asking how many students were from various degree programs (RPSS, Global Politics, Political Economy, etc) and then she said “Ah, and we have an intercollegiate student here. Where are you?” Guy raises his hand…Professor says “Right. He’s from the London Business School. Class, be nice to him.” The class had a good laugh. It was like, whoa, an MBA student in a foreign policy class? Crazy. So at the end of class, after the prof has gone over the syllabus, class structure, assignments, etc, she looks at the MBA student and says “Do you want to go back to the London Business School yet?” It was sooo funny. Well, anyways, props to him for picking up a foreign policy class.

I’ll post some pictures of my dorm later on, but it’s pretty nice. It’s weird living with a bunch of freshmen, though (or, as they call them here, “first years”). The majority of students here are undergrads, but they don’t seem like the crazy freshmen that you can find in the U.S…you know, like “OMG it’s my first time away from mommy and daddy, let’s go nuts!” No, the freshmen here are pretty chill…I think it’s because the drinking age here is 18, so they can all hang out in the bar downstairs and drink subsidized beer. Oh, and do you remember how at GW you used to get these flyers slipped under your door advertising night clubs and bars? Well, here you get flyers that say “Save up to 69% by subscribing to The Economist!” Exciting, indeed.
The food here is uhhhh…interesting. Dorm food sucks. British food sucks. British dorm food really sucks! Our restaurant was, up until a month ago, run by Aramark, so that gives you a clue as to the quality of the food. I was actually lucky these past few days, as my mom and two of her friends were in London (they were on a 9 day London-Paris tour) so I was able to enjoy some good food in London’s various ethnic restaurants…sooooo good, but sooooo damn expensive. So it’s back to cafeteria food for now, and every night I can’t wait to see what the Brits have cooked up for us. They serve up excellent dishes such as fishcakes with some weird tomato sauce, and salmon and broccoli stir fry. Mmmm tasty. Well, at least the dessert and chips (aka french fries) are good, and they do have Fanta, so it’s not completely horrible. Last night they served Chicken Kiev (Yesss!), which was actually quite good.

For lunch I will usually grab a sandwich from one of the trillions of sandwich stores you can find on Fleet Street. Two days ago, I came across a shop with delicious looking baguette sandwiches in the window, so I went in and bought one…and for �1.50, what a steal! Well, as I was walking across Blackfriar’s Bridge on my way back to my dorm, it started raining, and it was really windy…it felt like it was hailing, actually, and that if the wind was any stronger I would have been thrown off the bridge and into the Thames. The bottom of the paper bag that my sandwich was in got wet, and the bag ripped open, dropping my delicious sandwich on the ground…it was tragic…egg salad everywhere.

Shopping here isn’t the easiest thing in the world…and don’t give me this “But OMG, you can buy ANYTHING in London…Prada, Dolce & Gabbana!” NO, I am talking about practical stuff, such as a USB cable. I went to the nearest office supply store thinking that they would have one, but they didn’t, of course. What self-respecting office supply store doesn’t sell USB cables??? They sell printers (ok, so they only have 2-3 models) but no USB cables? Wow. So, I walked across the Thames to Argos to buy a USB cable. Argos, by the way, is a great store. There are no shelves, no products, no annoying a salesperson by asking where 10 trillion items are – basically, they have a bunch of catalogs (filled with everything! If you want it, Argos probably has it), and you look up the product you want in the catalog. When you find it, you punch the item number into this device in front of the catalog, and it tells you whether or not the item is in stock. If it’s in stock, you write the number down on a purchase slip, and take it to the cashier. After you’ve paid, you wait for your number to be called, and when it’s called, you go up to the counter and pick up your items. It’s really quite efficient, as the process takes less than 5 minutes. So anyways, I walked 2.5 miles just to get that stupid USB cable. There is a Starbucks every 10 feet here, but no place to buy a USB cable. Oh well, it’s good excercise.


Here I am with two authentic London “bobbies.” They were guarding the palace where Prince Charles lives, and they were pretty cool guys to talk to. I always thought it was odd, though, that the police officers here don’t carry guns. A city with a population of 7 million and yet the cops don’t carry guns? Wow.

I love the helmets they wear. I’m not sure what purpose they serve, but they are adorable. I don’t think “adorable” is the kind of image a cop wants to project, though. For instance, around midnight my friends and I stopped into McDonalds near Leicester Square to grab a McFlurry. This was quite possibly the weirdest McDonald’s I’ve ever been in…most of the people there were really dressed up…they had just gotten back from clubbing or whatever…it was like I felt underdressed…in McDonalds. Anyways, we were sitting at a table when suddenly these two guys started fighting (yeah, it was like a bar fight in McDonalds), and a cop ran in and broke it up…but the sight of this guy wearing this huge helmet and trying to break up this fight was just too amusing. And he had no gun, of course…armed security guards in the U.S. are scarier than these guys.

Well, I’m tired so I’m off to sleep.

October 2, 2004

Inductions, inductions, and more inductions

Classes don’t start until Tuesday, so all we have been going to are inductions…school inductions, support services induction, departmental induction, program induction, program reception, library induction, etc. Some are boring, but the others are interesting. A few of the presenters are hilarious (British sense of humor, I suppose). The director of the school said that LSE “is actually a beer company with an education subsidiary” and I’m really starting to believe it…I forgot that we had another bar on campus, so there is a grand total of four bars. Crazy, considering our campus is so small.

My MSc program (Russian and Post-Soviet Studies) has 12 students, 4 of which are from California. What’s amusing is that I hadn’t run into another Californian the first few days I was here, and then when I got to my program induction, there were 3 Californians sitting in a row. Last night we had our program reception, where you basically stand around drinking wine and talking to your professors. I can honestly say I’ve never had a professor pour me a glass of wine before I came to LSE.

I’m not entirely sure what classes I will be taking, because during the first week you are supposed to try out each class and see which ones you like the best, so we’ll see how that goes.

Oh, if you’ve sent me an e-mail in the past 72 hours, re-send it to me, because e-mail that has been sent to my is just outright disappearing.