Archive | November, 2005
November 28, 2005

Why I dislike college sports

If you’re a great athlete, but that 0.6 GPA is holding you back from playing college football, no worries, as a free ride to a big name school can be all yours for the small sum of $399!

This is one thing in particular that I like about the UK educational system – the universities there aren’t looked upon by players and coaches as stepping stones to professional sports. Are you a great basketball/football/[insert sport here] player? Great, stop by the athletic union and sign up for as many extracurricular teams as you like, but don’t count on your athletic talent to make up for a sub-par academic record and land you a full ride to a university.

November 27, 2005

One last call for alcohol, so finish your whiskey or beer

Of course this happens AFTER I leave London:

Drinking in British bars after 11 p.m

Some see the dawn of civilized cafe society, others a boozy Armageddon.

Either way, it is last call for the early pub closing times that have shocked many a visitor since their introduction during World War I. The government hopes the change, which takes effect Thursday, will stop the flood of binge drinkers spilling onto the streets of England and Wales at the traditional 11 p.m. closing time.

The new rules allow pubs, bars, shops, restaurants and clubs to apply to stay open any hours they like, although each license must be approved by local authorities. The government’s licensing minister, James Purnell, said the new law means that “at last grown-ups will be treated like grown-ups.”

[…]

Britain’s licensing laws – largely unchanged since they were tightened in 1915 to keep factory workers sober – have long been derided as an anachronism. They required most pubs to close at 11 p.m. Monday to Saturday and 10:30 p.m. on Sundays.

Culture Secretary Tessa Jowell said the closing time was effectively a “national curfew” that had been “unfair in principle and wrong in practice.” The new rules give police stronger powers to close troublesome bars and punish underage drinking, meaning “yobbish behavior will be cracked down on,” Jowell said.

It would have been nice if this had happened a year earlier, but at least I’ll be able to take advantage of the longer hours when I go back to London for graduation in December (Leave CA on the 11th, arrive in the UK on the afternoon of the 12th…can’t wait to get back there!)


HOBBIT PUB! (Er, Windsor Castle Pub in Notting Hill)

November 15, 2005

Small houses on wheels and other American peculiarities

Several years ago, during my first summer in St. Petersburg, I wandered into the Dom Knigi (House of Books) on Nevsky Prospekt in search of a Russian-English dictionary. While I was there, I picked up a small book called “Profiles of the United States.” It’s designed as a sort of mini-textbook on history and culture for Russians who are studying (advanced) English and will most likely be studying abroad in the U.S. I like reading non-American impressions of the U.S., so for only $1, it was well worth it. After flipping through the book, though, I got the impression that the author really hasn’t spent much time in the United States, and was simply trying to terrify prospective study-abroad students with images of Americans smearing toothpaste all over their bodies, driving around the country in their houses on wheels, and eating sandwiches off American flag paper plates at a table covered with an American flag table cloth while drinking iced soda from an American flag cup. So, if you’d like to see what some Russian students might be learning about the United States, read below…

On our place in the world:

“Americans live in present and think about the future. Maybe that’s why Americans are not interested in history. They are not interested in other cultures beyond the one in their own country. It is a self centered nation. It is a very young nation, even adolescent. Somebody once called this nation ‘puppies of the world.'”

“These are the people who are not bound by traditions. In this respect they even might appear disrespectful to a European or to an Oriental person.”

On our self-reliance and independence:

“The value of self-reliance and independence encourages old people in America to live in retirement or nursing homes. For a Russian visitor where family ties are strong and children are supposed to take care of their parents it is hard to understand how Americans can allow their parents to live in retirement homes.”

On privacy:

“The next thing Americans value a lot after individualism and personal independence is privacy. Do you know that it is very difficult to translate the world ‘privacy’ into Russian?! This word does not exist in our culture because the social conditions have not required its invention. The idea of privacy is alien to our culture. We are a communal nation for whom community (obshchina) was always the foundation of society.”

On choices:

“‘What are my choices?’ is one of the most widely used phrases in the country. Americans use it booking flight tickets, making hotel reservations, installing new equipment, buying services, etc. They must have choices. Without them they feel trapped.”

(Yes, I feel trapped when I don’t have 638 differents brands of soda to choose from)

On friendship:

“In America friendships are more casual, they can be easily dropped or picked up.”

(Uhhhh…?)

“It’s not customary in America to drop into a friend’s house because you are passing by, or because you suddenly feel the urge to see your friend. You should call first and arrange a meeting.”

On our eating habits:

“Americans love sandwiches, they eat a lot of them. All fast food restaurants offer sandwiches. Maybe that’s why a large percentage of the population is overweight.”

“When you invite somebody to a restaurant and tell this person that it is going to be a Dutch treat, it means that each of you will pay for your own meal.”

(“Hey guys, let’s have lunch at Las Casuelas today…Dutch treat!” Wow, I think people stopped saying that in the 1950s.)

“There are so many overweight people in the United States that more than a decade ago a new subject was introduced into the school curriculum. The subject is called nutrition and it teaches students how to eat properly.”

(My freshman health class at PDHS kinda covered nutrition…I had it 6th period, shortly after lunch, which usually consisted of nachos, taquitos, and a Coke…hmmm…very useful class.)

On sports:

“Americans are the nation of sports fans. They love to watch sports on TV, they pay a lot of money to attend a sport event at the stadium, they love to buy t-shirts, badges, hats, shorts with the symbols or colors of their favorite teams.”

On having fun:

“Americans have lots of recreational equipment, special outfits, cameras, telescopes, even special type of vehicle which is called RV (recreational vehicle). It’s a small house on the wheels where you have everything to travel long distances.”

“Americans love to play. Being an adolescent nation they play like teenagers. Cream in the face, toothpaste on your body, crazy games and roller rides – these things are as much a part of American culture as Disney World.”

(Has anyone here smeared toothpaste on your body?)

On our obsessions:

“There are several things that Americans are obsessed with. The first one is their flag and the symbolism it brings. You can see an American flag in all the government buildings, in schools, sometimes in every classroom, on private houses, on boats, in parks – everywhere. You can buy cups, mugs, glasses, plates, tablecloths, t-shirts with a flag pattern, you can wear clothes imitating the flag, you can buy candies with this symbol. Americans adore their flag.”

“The second obsession is ice drinks. Most of American drinks are served with ice – sodas, teas, water, juices, alcoholic drinks.”

“The third obsession is showers and everyday change of clothes. Americans are very intolerant towards body smells. From early childhood they are taught that the odors of the human body should be controlled by frequent showers, soaps, deodorants, mouthwashes, etc. You should change your clothes everyday because it absorbs your perspiration and might produce unpleasant odors. It’s a general rule that is strictly observed by the people in American society. If your body or breath smell irritates them they would prefer to keep a distance and stay away from you.”

(Ah yes…this is very true. During the summer in Russia, the government shuts off the hot water for two weeks in each sector so they can carry out repairs. Hot water, like everything else built in Soviet Russia, was provided centrally, rather than each building having their own water heaters…weird, huh? So a lot of the Russians would cut back on the amount of showers they would take when it was their neighborhood’s turn to be hot water-less. Not us crazy Americans, though! Although our teachers and dezhurnayas warned us that showering in the ice cold water would make us sick and die, we still did it. They just couldn’t understand that we HAD to take a shower everyday.)

On driving:

“Americans are very polite drivers.”
(Uhhhh….)

On standing in line:

“Americans in general don’t like to stand in lines, they would prefer to leave and come another time. There is always one place where there are always long lines and where people patiently wait for their turn to enjoy the attractions. This place is called Disney World.”

Etc:

“Death Valley is now a resort. It was called so in 1849 by Gold Rush pioneers when part of them died there.”
(Death Valley is a resort?)

“The simple obelisk built in honor of G. Washington is often called the Pencil.”
(I lived in Washington, DC for 3.5 years and never once heard the Washington Monument referred to as “the Pencil.”)

“America is the motherland of jazz, “rock and roll”, nylon, and Coca-Cola.”
“Friday the 13th is the worst possible day for an American.”

Well, I hope all of you learned a lot about American culture today! I’m heading off to politely drive my small house on wheels to the Death Valley resort, but only after I disrespect some Europeans, drop a few friends, and shove my parents into a retirement home!

November 12, 2005

UK photos: Stonehenge, Bath, and Windsor Castle

Now that I have everything moved over to my new host, I’m going to work on uploading all the photos from this past year that somehow never made it into the photo album (due to lack of time or whatever).
Here are the photos from Stonehenge, Bath, and Windsor Castle:




Coming up: Various “tourist” sites around the city, Cardiff, Madame Tussaud’s, etc etc.