Archive | August, 2005
August 23, 2005

Under the weather…literally

Tried to work on the dissertation today, but I have the worst cold known to man. Five thousands words to go, and what a great time to get sick!

Downed a liter of Sunny Delight “California Style” (was quite shocked to learn they carry Sunny Delight, and better yet, “California Style” here) but later learned through the powers of Google that the “drink orange juice” remedy is a just an old wives’ tale. Ugh.

Weather sucks, too…60s and raining HARD.

August 19, 2005

Living in the United Kingdom is like having an omnipresent babysitter

Our network over here has really been sucking, so my internet access has been rather intermittent. And no, there is nothing that I, the network advisor, can do about it.

Of course, I’m convinced that it is LSE’s way of forcing all of its grad students to work on their dissertations. If you don’t have internet access, what else are you going to use your laptops for? That’s right, open Microsoft Word and start typing. One thousand words…two thousand words…three thousand words…really, this lack of internet access does result in a substantial increase in productivity (although seems to have come to a halt now that internet is back – this post being a perfect example).

In terms of the UK being a “babysitter”, the pubs in the UK close at 11, and the tube at midnight. It’s like having a mandatory bedtime. Oh, but please, can’t we have just another pint? No, you kids have class tomorrow! Get outta here!

But…but…pubs can now apply for late licences, effective November 24.

When I won’t be here anymore. Damn.

August 18, 2005

Slowly but surely?

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Source: PhD Comics

August 12, 2005

Prague: Czech it out, Part II

St. Vitus Castle

If you are just five-and-twenty,
With industry, hope, and an aim;
Though the latitude’s rather uncertain,
And the longitude also is vague,
The persons I pity who know not the City,
The beautiful City of Prague!
– Jeffery Prowse

Prague…great city, I must say. I don’t think I’ll be traveling anywhere else before I leave London for the U.S. (sad, yes, but the dissertation needs to be completed) so I’m glad we were able to squeeze in this last minute trip to Prague. We only bought our tickets and booked our accommodation a week before we went. We ended up flying CSA (Czech Airlines) which was actually quite nice, as it has been a few months since I’ve flown a “real” airline (you know, with free drinks and some legroom).

We ended up staying at “Guesthouse Dream” which sounds like some posh nightclub, but in reality it was a guesthouse that this Czech guy, Leo, rents out to tourists. That’s one of the things I love about Central/Eastern Europe – all these enterprising people have taken it upon themselves to buy property around their flats, fix it up, and rent it to tourists for great prices. God bless ’em! Leo, by the way, is awesome and picked us up from the airport (he was holding a sign that said “FINCHER”…hilarious). On the way to his flat, he told us a lot about himself, his family, and Prague…when I mentioned I was from California, he said that his daughter did a high school exchange program in California…in Irvine of all places! He told us about a trip he took across the United States in the early 1980s. Could you imagine traveling across the U.S. by train and car, barely speaking any English, and yet managing to see places as diverse as New York City, the Grand Canyon, Yosemite, and Los Angeles? It must have been quite an experience. I later asked him what he had to go through to be able to take the trip to the U.S., as he was still living under a Communist regime in the early 1980s. He said that he applied for permission to take the trip FIVE YEARS before he actually was allowed to go, and that none of his family members could take the trip with him in order to guarantee that he wouldn’t just stay in the U.S. After he returned to Czechoslovakia, the secret police made him answer a ton of questions regarding what he did in the U.S. Needless to say, I will never complain about long lines at passport control EVER AGAIN!

Anyways, Guesthouse Dream was really, really nice…we had our own guesthouse…it was huge! And with satellite TV! Granted almost every channel was in German, but still, pretty cool. If you ever go to Prague and need a place to stay, I highly recommend booking with Leo. It’s in a really quiet neighborhood, with the tram stop to the city center right in front of the flat. He also has an adorable Dalmation, and if you need to check your e-mail, you are free to use his computer. He gave us a map of Prague, recommended some places to check out, and off we went!

The first thing we saw in Prague was Prague Castle, which is supposedly the biggest castle in the world. Inside this castle is this beautiful building, the Saint Vitus Cathedral:

St. Vitus Castle

And the guards look so happy to be there:

Next, we saw Charles Bridge, which is a very, very, very well-known bridge. This, of course, means that unless you wake up very, very early, you will find yourself fighting through a crowd of tourists so you can make you way towards the other end of the bridge.

Charles Bridge

Yep, that’s Charles Bridge. The sides are dotted with various statues, most of which are religious in nature:

Charles Bridge

The next sight we saw was Old Town Square:

Prague Old Town Square

This is a statue of Jan Hus.

This square is also where the famous Prague Astronomical Clock is located:

Prague Astronomical clock

Every hour, this clock puts on a little show for all the tourists called “The Walk of the Apostles.” The travel guidebooks really build it up and say it’s not to be missed, so we hung around for a few minutes so we could see the next “showing.” Well, it was quite disappointing, actually. Like “Eh…that’s it?” A lot of the tourists that had waited a while to see it actually started booing!

We also saw Wenceslas Square, which is not really a square at all, but rather a very long boulevard:

Prague Wenceslas Square

Those of you who took Eastern European history/politics classes should recognize this place – it’s where a student, Jan Palach, set himself on fire to protest the 1968 Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia. These days, it is a huge commercial area, mostly filled with department stores, tacky souvenir shops, and restaurants.
While in Prague, we took a boat trip down the Vltava River. Our boat was the “Jazz Boat”, but oddly enough there wasn’t any jazz music. Weird:

View of Prague Castle:

Prague Castle

Of course, we did a bit of souvenir shopping while we were in Prague. I must say, I was quite shocked to see such a large amount of Russian souvenirs. I could have sworn I was back at Moscow’s Izmailovsky souvenir market! Russian Matryoshka dolls, fake fur hats with Soviet insignia, McLenin shirts! EVERYWHERE! I found it a bit ironic, in fact, that most of the t-shirts for sale said CCCP or had a hammer and sickle design on them. I could easily see why they would still sell those in Moscow and St. Pete, but in Prague? Come on, 1968…throw out the Soviet oppressors (souvenirs)! Oh well, at least they had hand-carved Russian Santas for sale, which my mom absolutely loves, so I was able to pick her up a few of those for her collection without having to actually fly to Russia.

We also went into a liquor store there (not like a convenience store, but a nice, actual, fancy liquor store). We were drawn to the huge display of bottles of green liquid, otherwise known as absinthe, which, as you all known, is banned from the United States. We browsed through the various absinthe bottles for a few minutes, wondering what the hell the difference is between the types, when a salesman asked us if we would like to try some.

“Ummm…well, OK.”

He had bottles and bottles of liquor on a huge table, in case you wanted to try anything before buying. He took out a little plastic cup, and poured a bit of absinthe in it so we could each try it, and then explained that you usually don’t drink it straight (it’s a long drawn out process involving water, special spoons, sugar cubes, fire, and more than likely some sort of voodoo dance) but nevertheless this would help us distinguish the various types of absinthe. So I slowly sipped my absinthe from the plastic cup…and…

GAHHHHHHHHHHHH TASTES LIKE MOUTHWASH!

I suppose it tastes a lot better when you drink it with the water and sugar, but I’ll stick to the Czech beer for now.

Czech beer, by the way, is outstanding, and very, very cheap. We would usually get a half-liter for 50p! (Less that $1) I’ve heard from a few people that it used to be a lot cheaper, but still, I’m more than happy to pay 50p for a half-liter of Pilsner or Budwesier (no, not American Budweiser…Czech Budweiser!)
Czech food is also pretty good, although very heavy – goulash, dumplings, random pieces of meat sitting in some cream sauce/cranberry/whip cream concoction. Great prices, though…we would usually end up paying around 6 quid each ($12) for beer, bread, soup, main course, dumplings, dumplings, and more dumplings, and dessert…and actually, you could get it for even less if you eat at some restaurants that are “off the beaten track.” Still, try getting a full meal for 6 quid in London! Not gonna happen.

As for the language, we didn’t have any problems, as everyone we ran into spoke English. I used some Czech (the sentence was very similar to what you would say in Russian) at the post office to ask for stamps, but the lady just replied “I speak English.” Same with the waiters, bartenders, kiosk saleswoman, metro employee, tram driver…all spoke English. Now, on the one hand, the fact that we didn’t have any difficulty communicating with anyone is a good thing. On the other hand, though, I’m a big proponent of having to put some “work” into your traveling. That is, you should at least attempt the local language, even if that means you are only armed with a ridiculously thin phrasebook. It makes for some good stories, like when you had to argue with the angry babushka manning the fruit and veggie stand in Moscow, or when you tried to explain to the Bosnian taxi driver that you wanted to go across the border to Montenegro.

But that’s just me, and I suppose I’m a bit crazy when it comes to some things.

Also, on our last day in Prague we went to the Theresienstadt Concentration Camp, but that excursion deserves its own post, so I will have that up in a few days.

August 10, 2005

Less than a month

Unless I miraculously land a job in the next month, I will be departing the United Kingdom on September 8 and returning to my home state of California. How depressing.

I feel like I’ve barely scratched the surface of this city, as there is still so much I haven’t seen. I need to make a list of things to do before I leave and hopefully do a majority of them after I turn in this dissertation.
One thing I can scratch off the list, however, is seeing a play at Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre. I find it slightly amusing that from September until July I lived only a minute’s walk from the Globe and never once diverted from the usual path to Starbucks/Tas Pide/The Anchor Pub to see an authentic Shakespeare production. It just seemed to touristy. And that’s how it usually is, isn’t it? When you live in a city, you usually don’t see many of the sights there (unless a friend comes over to visit, and you can play tourist without feeling like a tourist).

This evening a group of us saw a performance of The Winter’s Tale. I really liked it (and this coming from someone who isn’t a huge fan of Shakespeare). We paid only 5 quid for our tickets because we were groundlings – that is, we didn’t have seats! We stood in the “yard” directly in front of the stage for the entire play (2 hours and 40 minutes) just like the common people did during Shakespeare’s time. I’m pretty sure, though, that there wasn’t a “Ye Olde Starbucks” across from the 16th century Globe Theatre, but still, it’s nice to know that you can watch some excellent Shakespeare while drinking a frappacino.

Seeing a play at the Globe is definitely something you have to do if you take a trip to London. The simplicity is a welcome break from some of the more tech-heavy plays now showing in the West End (The Woman in White, anyone?)

August 8, 2005

Prague: Czech it out

Forgive the horrible pun, but I had to get it out. Actually, I have to admit that I also bought a t-shirt that says “Prague: Czech it out!” I quite like it.

Anyways, I’ve finally uploaded all my photos from Prague and Theresienstadt/Terezin.




I’ll write a description of the trip later…I was a the library all day working on my dissertation and don’t think I can stand to write any more tonight.

August 7, 2005

A campaign we can all agree on

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On Friday, Moira, Jessica, and I attended the Great British Beer Festival. It is the largest beer festival in the UK, with over 450 British “real ales” on tap, along with a wide range of foreign beer, ciders, and perries.

Admission is 6 quid, you pay 3 quid for your GBBF pint glass (although you can return it at the end of the evening and get your 3 quid back, but who wants to turn in such a lovely pint glass?) You can buy either a pint of half-pint of the beers that are at the festival (costing 1-2 quid each). We usually opted for the half-pints, in order to sample more beers, but these half-pints were quite generous, so you really ended up with 3/4 of a pint. I don’t remember the names of all the beers we tried, but I did like the majority of them. I tried a type of Baltika (Russian beer) that I haven’t had before, but it was quite disappointing. I swear to God I could taste the Russian soil in that beer. That was too bad, because I really like Baltika’s other beers.

We talked to some interesting people while we were there, too. It’s funny how friendly people are after they have had a few pints. A lot of people thought I was Canadian, though…how weird is that?

I ended up talking to a hilarious group of off duty cops (“bobbies”).

“You guys are cops?”

“Yep, all of us except him.”

“I really like those hats you guys wear!”

Once they found out I was a “Yank” they proceeded to take the piss out of me:

One of them had purchased a t-shirt that had a picture of Oliver Reed on the back. I didn’t have the slightest clue who Oliver Reed is, but they informed me that he was a British actor with a well-known drinking problem.

“Why is it that the English know all about American actors, but you Yanks don’t know about our actors?? We know who Tom Cruise and Jay Leno are!” (I was a bit confused as to why Jay Leno and Tom Cruise were in the same category, but I let it slide)

“Well that’s not true, I can name some British actors.”

“Alright then, go on, name one.”

“Hugh Grant.”

“Hugh Grant! Ah, but he’s such a ponce! Here’s the real question, though, do you like Hugh Grant?”

“I LOVE Hugh Grant!”

“AHH! Horrible!”

Then they started grilling me on history questions, expecting that I was one of those “Yanks that think WWII started in 1941.” They were quite surprised when I actually told them the correct dates for the start of both World Wars and that no, the U.S. did not single-handedly win WWII:

“Hey, I’ve been to the Imperial War Museum – you guys were badass!”

“My God, this Yank has visited the Imperial War Museum!”

Those cops were awesome…it would be great to run into them again.

If you’re in London when next year’s beer festival comes to town, I highly recommend it. The festival is put on by The Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA), an organization dedicated to protecting your rights at your local pub.
They have recently been campaigning for an Honest Pint Law:

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Getting what you pay for is a basic consumer right. When ordering a pint of beer you should receive exactly that – a full pint. The reality is very different, and because of loopholes in the law over 8 out of 10 pints are short measure.

Despite repeated promises, the Government have failed to act on short beer measures.

Under pressure from the pubs industry, the Government are now proposing to define a pint as “not less than 95% liquid”. CAMRA believes that this proposal will lead to the worsening of the current situation as it gives a green light to companies to short change consumers.

Please write or email your MP calling on them to support the campaign for an Honest Pint Law and to sign EDM 404.

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They urge you to send an e-mail to your PM expressing your support for the Honest Pint Law:

As someone who enjoys a drink, I am fed up with being given short beer measures. It is simply impractical to ask for a top up in a busy pub. I urge you to sign EDM 404 and support the campaign for an Honest Pint Law.

While you’re at it, you may want to throw in these important facts:

* In 1997 the Labour Party promised it would “guarantee drinkers a full pint.”
* Wine and spirit drinkers are protected from short measures by law. Why is it acceptable for beer drinkers to be treated differently?

Republican, Democrat, Labour, LibDem, or Conservative – I think this is a campaign that we can all back regardless of party affiliation.

August 5, 2005

Lindsay goes to Ireland: The End

St. Patrick

It’s been awhile since my last Ireland post, but there is still a bit more to say about the trip.

In Dublin, we visited a few other sites such as Kilmainham Jail, Trinity College (to see the Book of Kells), and St. Patrick’s Cathedral. While at St. Patrick’s, I came across this highly amusing donation “box”…it is actually a Guinness keg:

St. Patrick's Cathedral donation keg

Also, on a random note, I had nachos in Ireland. I wasn’t actually searching for nachos, either. We wanted to have some dessert, so went to a pub down the street from our hotel. I was scanning the menu and printed on the top was ENTRADAS. I remember thinking to myself “What the hell is that doing on the menu?” Well, as it turns out, we had walked into a pub that specialized in Mexican food. Yes, you read that correctly…an Irish pub that serves Mexican food. I promptly forgot about dessert and instead opted for the nachos:

nachos in Dublin

They were actually quite good. Yeah, a bit skimpy on the toppings, but overall, very tasty. We also went to a Mexican restaurant one night for dinner. Now, you might consider that to be quite odd considering we were in Dublin and should have been eating Guinness stew or cottage pie every day, but I was getting pretty tired of that type of food. It’s one thing if you are coming to Dublin from the U.S., where stews and pies aren’t your typical everyday dish, but out here in London I have had more than my fill of that type of food, so I was looking for something different. We ended up at a place called “The Alamo” in the Temple Bar area (cool area – must visit if you’re in Dublin). There was also a restaurant called – I kid you not – “From Mexico to Rome” which served, as you may have already guessed, Mexican AND Italian food. Two great cuisines, but not sure if I want them in the same restaurant, so we chose The Alamo. I’m not going to get into a long-winded review of Dublin Mexican restaurants, but I thought The Alamo was pretty good (although still can’t compete with the Mexican food in the Great State of California). I remember being especially pleased with the margaritas. Go figure, eh?

I really want to go back to Ireland someday…there is so much more to see! I would like to visit County Mayo, a rugged area on the west coast of Ireland that was the home of my Collins ancestors (the Catholic ones, ha). I hear the surfing is pretty good, too, with the exception that the water is freezing cold.
What’s funny is, I never felt really any attachment to my Irish heritage. My Irish ancestors came to the U.S. in the 1800s, so I didn’t grow up in an environment where our “Irishness” was constantly celebrated (well, except for St. Patrick’s Day, but then again, as the old saying goes, “On St. Patrick’s Day, everyone is Irish.”). As far as I was concerned, I was just an American, end of story. Visiting Ireland, though, gave me an opportunity to “reconnect” with my Irish heritage, and I must say that I left that beautiful island with a bit more Irish pride, and a desire to learn more about the history of the country and its people.

So, that’s the end of my Ireland trip. I still have to upload all my Prague photos and write a post about my trip there. In short, it’s a really great city. We saw a lot in our short time there, and even managed to visit the Theresienstadt Concentration Camp, located 60km from Prague. Hopefully I’ll have those photos up soon.

August 2, 2005

Grad school weekend defined

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I love these comics.

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