Archive | 2005
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 25, 2005

Thanksgiving and “Black Friday”

mosin_m44.jpg

It’s been a while since I’ve celebrated Thanksgiving back home in California – four years, to be exact. I came back here for my freshman year of college, but then realized it was a bit ridiculous to fly 3,000 miles across the country for one meal. My subsequent Thanksgivings in DC were spent with fellow West-coasters at Clyde’s of Georgetown, where I always ordered the untraditional Thanksgiving dish of filet mignon (I was never a big fan of turkey). Last year in London we had a potluck Thanksgiving where, oddly enough, the Americans were far outnumbered by non-Americans. It seems no one will turn down an opportunity to eat and drink with abandon! We did have turkey, which apparently was extremely difficult to find in central London and required a trip to Zone 2 or 3 on the tube. And the person in charge of cooking the turkey? Norwegian. Oh, and you should definitely try turkey with curry rather than gravy…delicious.

So, we had a good Thanksgiving here and ate plenty of food, etc. etc. And then comes “Black Friday” (explanation for all you non-Americans), a day on which Americans wake up very early to make the lives of retail workers a living hell (Solidarnost, my comrades!). At 7:15am this morning, I was at Big5 filling out the paperwork for a Soviet Mosin M44, which was on sale for the “early-bird” price of $74 (regular price is a ridiculous $180). I’ve wanted a Mosin M44 ever since I bought my M91/30, and when I saw the Big5 ad for their “Black Friday” sale, I had to get it. Due to California law, I have to wait 10 days before I can bring it home, but here’s a photo of an M44 that I took off of another site:

mosin_m44.jpg

Will post more photos when I bring it home.

November 22, 2005

LA Times on the CA National Guard

jason_iraq.jpg

My cousin Jason is a Staff Sgt. currently serving in Iraq with the California National Guard’s 1st Battalion, 184th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Infantry Division. He recently returned to Iraq after spending his two week leave here in the Coachella Valley. While he was here, we drank plenty of beer and he talked about his experiences serving over there. He will be returning to California for good in February, and our family can’t wait until he gets back.

jason_iraq.jpg

Anyways, the LA Times has had a few articles on his company (Delta company) in the past few weeks, so read them if you’d like to get an idea of what some California National Guard soldiers are doing in Iraq right now:
Dread Takes a Toll on GIs in Iraq and Troops Have a Nervous Ride to Nighttime Raid.

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.

November 10, 2005

My first Young Republicans meeting

The boredom that arises from living in the Coachella Valley leads you to do irrational things, like go to an inaugural meeting of the Young Republicans. Actually, it’s called the “Reagan Forum” and is a new, younger offshoot of the local Lincoln Club, the epicenter of Coachella Valley Republicanism.

Those of you who personally know me are probably saying “Lindsay, WTF?” No worries, I’m still a Democrat, albeit one who, as Katerina said recently, “owns a gun and wants to work for an oil company.” Crazy, I know, but I’m no longer the wild-eyed liberal that many of you knew back at GW. For the past year or so, I’ve kind of been in this state of political apathy. Being “over there” (um, in the UK) I didn’t really care what was going on with the Democratic Party…well, not that I didn’t care, it’s just that between writing papers on the Soviet economy and frequenting the pubs in Bankside and Notting Hill, I didn’t have time to read all those boring e-mails the Democrats would fill my inbox with…delete, delete, delete. And why is John Kerry still sending out e-mails? Someone needs to tell him the election has been over for quite awhile now. Since I’m back in the U.S., though, I’ve started paying a bit more attention to politics now. I still think the DNC leadership is a bunch of yahoos, and I continue to delete all their e-mails, but I do watch Hardball with Chris Matthews now. It’s a start.

So, when my friend Kim asked me if I wanted to go to this event, I said yes. She’s a reporter with a local paper and ran into the two founders at an event she was covering. They told her to come to their first event and bring friends. So that’s how two registered Democrats ended up at this meeting…and really, what else do I have to do in this god-forsaken desert? Oh, that’s right…nothing.

When I was a student at GW, I was an executive board member for the GW College Democrats, the best College Dems chapter in the nation (Yeah, CDs at NYU, you read that correctly). So I thought I would compare a typical GW College Dems “welcome back” event with my the inaugural meeting of the Coachella Valley Reagan Forum.

Location:
Republicans – The Clubhouse at Bighorn Golf Club in Palm Desert. If you’re a golf fan, no doubt you’ve heard of this place (some Skins Games, Battle at Bighorn tournaments, etc). And, if you have $2-10 million lying around to blow on a house, then look no further. Keep in mind, though, that buying a house at Bighorn does not entitle you to actually play golf there. You’ll have to pony up $237,500 for the club initiation fee and another $15,000 annually. They have two beautiful courses, though, so I’m sure it’s worth every penny, right? And the private jet service? Sweet.

Democrats – The University Yard on the beautiful campus of the George Washington University, located in the center of our nation’s capital. Yes indeed, “something happens here.”

Dress:
Republicans – Since it was at Big Horn, we had to “dress up.”

Democrats – It’s college, wear whatever you want.

Valet service:
Republicans – It’s Bighorn, so yes.

Democrats – Haha, are you kidding me? Where are you going to park a car in downtown DC?

Food:
Republicans: Waiters walk around serving you trays of chicken things on sticks.

Democrats: Burgers, hot dogs, (expertly grilled by your awesome e-board members) chips, and cookies.

Drinks:
Republicans – Two free drinks. I opted for Amstel Light. Nice.

Democrats – A wide range of sodas to choose from! To be fair, though, we were handicapped by university regs that prevented us from providing alcohol to our members. If there were no such rules, you can be assured that we would have dedicated an ample portion of our budget to providing kegs of Sam Adams and Yuengling at our events.

Membership dues:
Republicans – $100. OMGWTF? $100!? Not even a student discount! If it was $10, I would have joined. But whatever, I’m still on their e-mail list.

Democrats – $5. A nice, simple amount. Granted, we also received $10,000+ from the GW Student Association every year, so we could afford to have low membership dues. (And, as an aside, the GW College Republicans also received the same amount that we did – totally fair.)

Speakers:
Republicans – State Senator Jim Battin and Assemblyman John Benoit. Battin had on a really weird shirt that looked like it was 1970s surfer vintage, and said that several years ago he had a hard time convincing people in Sacramento that the Coachella Valley was not liberal and was indeed a bastion of conservatism. Huh? I’ve always known this place was a Republican stronghold…where has he been? John Benoit was cool and very mellow. They both said that the Republican Party didn’t work hard enough to get their voter base out to the polls for Tuesdays election. Apparently the liberal bastions of LA and SF turned out in larger numbers than voters in the “OC” and CV, and that’s why Arnold’s propositions lost. I also learned that the Republicans pay people to register voters for them. Damn, and I worked for free to register voters in NY, MD, and VA? What a rip-off.

Democrats – It varied from year to year…sometimes we would have Congressional candidates speak, but one year former White House Press Sec Mike McCurry spoke to us and then we headed off to the Crossfire studio on GW’s campus to talk with Paul Begala. Both really interesting guys.

Discussion:
Republicans – Complaining about Democrats and (surprisingly) some complaining about Bush and stating that Rove needs to leave. This being the Reagan Forum, I was prepared to get into a discussion about how Reagan single-handedly brought down the Soviet Union, but no such luck, as everyone just talked about how they were married and wanted to go to business school. Damn.

Democrats – Complaining about Republicans, Bush, and Democrats (we like to beat ourselves up).
Thus ends my analysis. If I attend any future events, I will be sure to write about them here.

November 1, 2005

Attention: This blog is NOT written by the family butler

Mrbelvedere.jpg

If you blog, thank the Russians.

Yeah, you read that correctly…

According to MosNews, back in 1837 a Russian writer “predicted” the use of blogs in the future:

Believing in the Russian genius is an essential feature of the Russian mentality. That is why no Russian was surprised when we found out with the help of Lenta.ru the Internet in general, and blogging in particular, was, if not invented, at least predicted by a Russian back in 1837.

[...]

[Author Prince Vladimir] Odoevsky suggested in future there would be a kind of connection between houses that would allow people to communicate quickly and easily, the way they do now via the Internet.

“Houses are connected by means of magnetic telegraphs that allow people who live far from each other to communicate,” Odoevsky wrote.

Even more interestingly, Odoevsky suggested every household would publish a kind of daily journal or newsletter and distribute it among selected acquaintances, a habit which Russian bloggers immediately recognized as blogging.

“We received a household journal from the local prime minister, which among other things invited us to his place for a reception,” one of Odoevsky’s characters tells a friend.

“The thing is that many households here publish such journals that replace common correspondence. Such journals usually provide information about the hosts’ good or bad health, family news, different thoughts and comments, small inventions, invitations to receptions.”

However, Odoevsky, a prince and a wealthy man, could not imagine people taking so much bother to keep their acquaintances updated on their daily affairs. He suggested the job would be carried out by the butler.

“The job of publishing such a journal daily or weekly is carried out by the butler. It is done very simply: receiving an order from the masters, he makes a notice of what they tell him, then make copies by camera obscura and sends them to the acquaintances.”

Needless to say, our family butler does not update my blog because we don’t have a family butler.
He got married and ran off to Africa. Bastard.

Mrbelvedere.jpg

(hat tip: siberianlight.net)

October 31, 2005

All set

Everything has finally been moved over to the new host. I’m with Dreamhost now and really like them so far…TONS of storage space and fast servers, what more could you want?

I’ve also upgraded to Movable Type 3.2 and Gallery 2.0.

In other news, it’s Halloween today and we haven’t had ANY trick-or-treaters. This neighborhood sucks. It’s full of angry old people who won’t open the gates, so no kids come in to take all this candy off of our hands. Even the kids that live here don’t trick-or-treat in the neighborhood! God, this place is dull.

October 27, 2005

Moving to a new host

I found a new host and will be moving all the content onto the new server. Might take a few days for me to get Movable Type, Gallery, etc installed and for the DNS to propagate.

October 27, 2005

Knott’s Scary Farm

Last week, some friends and I went to Knott’s Scary Farm. The night went something like this:

“AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!”
“AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!! AHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!”
“Let’s get an icee!”
“AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!! WHAT THE HELL WAS THAT?!”
“AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!! AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!”
“AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!”
“Let’s get a caramel apple!”

It was definitely a lot better than I expected it to be. They have a ton of “mazes” spread around the park that you can go into. At first, they were scary because when the park opened there were not a lot of people so you often found yourself walking through this maze alone, with random Knott’s employees jumping at you from above and popping out of the most random areas. It’s funny how something can still be “scary” when you know going in that people are going to be jumping out at you and startling you. Near the end of the evening though, the park was much more crowded, so when you went through the maze you were in a huge line and the scare factor was zilch. Most of the rides were open, too, and they put them in “scary” mode by turning off all the lights inside and having employees setup along the ride routes to jump out of the darkness and scare you. Anyways, it was definitely worth the drive to Orange County land, check it out if you get a chance.