December 31, 2006

New Year's Resolutions

I resolve to not read gossip blogs. It is a bad, bad, bad habit that only perpetuates the horrible work of the paparazzi. Plus, it is a waste of time even if it is so totally interesting and indulging like eating a full bag of potato chips.

Because of our various activities this week in Scotland and London I’ve been internet-access-less and have already started to make good on my resolution. I’m trying not to be upset that I didn’t’ know that Tiger Woods and his wife are expecting, Arnold Schwarzenegger was in the hospital and James Brown died. Now I will be the last to know and that’s OK. Please give me strength to really believe that it is OK.

Sliding Down the Tate Modern

Last night we ventured out to the Tate Modern to experience their slide installation. These aren't the traditional types of slides you would see in a gallery, ones that would be viewed in a slide projector. These are actual slides that you can swish down on a magic carpet.

The installation, by artist Carsten Holler, is in central core of the building. Each of the slides, descending from a variety of heights, is a twisting tube. The best possible time to experience these seems to be between 8-10pm as we did. The gallery is actually open late on Fridays and Saturdays and it still seems to be a secret. People were running up the escalators and down the slides as though it were an empty amusement park - which it was.

None of us actually went on the slides but they made for super photos.

December 30, 2006

Changing Laptops

My folks are visiting from Connecticut and have been generous enough to drag along my old laptop to the UK with them. It weighs about 10 pounds but it is good to have her back. Feels like a bit (albeit big) of the US here with me.

The one I have been using is a UK keyboard and a British spell check. Ah yes, the beauty of the butchered Queen's English back at my fingertips.

December 22, 2006

More Updates

For those who are wondering - here are the updates on various issues I've mentioned over the last couple of weeks.

Tesco Club Card - not going to get one. I'm feeling spiteful. Instead signed up with other grocery stores. Unfortunately still order from Tesco online. Damn I am loyal despsite myself.

Boiler - Still broken. British Gas was supposed to come on Wednesday. Stephen was going to take the day off to be there, since they are requiring that we are now present for their work (punishment for annoying customers) but with my twisted ankle I stayed home. They called at 11.30am to inform Stephen that they didn’t have the parts and the company that does have them will install them and Stephen will have to coordinate. Duh! Can you believe this? We’re on week eight or nine with this. Plus, they sent us a bill for the final instalment as well as another evaluation form. Please continue to punish us, we enjoy the pain.

I've learned we're not alone. Check out the similar stories from other British Gas customers More Flak for British Gas.

Ankle – About 75% better.

We’ll be in Scotland again for a couple of days. My folks are flying in from the US to join us and then taking the train down to London for NYE! Stay tuned.

London in a Fog

And I thought San Francisco was foggy. The London fog has engulfed the airports bringing holiday travel to a halt. Luckily Stephen and I have train tickets for travel up to Edinburgh for the holiday. We'll be warm and cozy as we travel up to Scotland. Ah yes, no security lines, room to walk around, a variety of food services, beautiful scenery. Join us, won't you?

December 20, 2006

Twist and Shout

Walking to the Tube station yesterday morning I twisted my ankle. Didn’t think much of it after about 30 seconds and continued on my journey. I was on the way to my first UK dental appointment and had a lot on my mind – like possibly saying goodbye to this toothy smile. Reaching the dentist’s tube stop I took a wrong turn and went quite a distance in the wrong direction. Realising I was lost I called their office and learned that I had to hike back about a mile in the opposite direction. So, I ran.

Remarkably I arrived only ten minutes late if a bit sweaty. The appointment went super well. Turns out I don’t have any problems with my teeth and don’t even need a cleaning. The only worrying thing was that when they took an x-ray they didn’t cover me with a protective lead bib like they do in the US. “Your flight over here exposed you to 100 times more radiation than this machine. Plus, the new technology ensures that there is very little radiation exposure.” explained the dentist when I expressed concern. Okay, I’ll just knock a few minutes off the end of my life for that one.

Feeling very good about my gold star dental appointment I walked to the office which was about a mile up the road. For the next few hours I sat at the computer and then headed off to lunch with an associate. But upon standing after lunch my ankle was very painful. Suddenly I remembered I had twisted it and then walked 152 stairs down the tube station, run to the dentist, and then walked to work. Maybe I should have taken a bit of care of this key joint.

After work I had a dinner date with Simone and her kids. Hobbling to the tube I made it to their stop and then of course had to do some window shopping. Clearly my priorities were blinded by that must-shop affliction associated with the holidays. Stepping down on the curb I twisted the darn ankle again. Now I was really in bad shape.

Late that evening, after numerous calls to various cab companies, we finally secured a ride back to my flat. Yet again I had learned the lesson of not having cash on hand and only a credit card. The cab driver had to stop at an ATM machine. After hobbling across the street and dodging several cars and buses I reached the cash point and of course it was broken. The next option was going into the grocery store to buy something and get cash back. Can of Heinz tomato soup in hand and £40 richer (or is it poorer) I hobbled back to the cab much to the driver’s relief.

Of this entire story the good news is that the ride from Simone’s cottage to our flat was only 20 minutes including the cash stop. I had never done the journey above ground. The tube trip is one hour. Cab fare was £11 plus £2 tip (to which the driver expressed concern for such a huge tip.) Frankly, it was cheap, fast and cheerful. Plus, I realised how close I live to Simone. This city feels so big when you travel by Tube but when you walk, take the bus or cab you realise it is not that large. Unless of course you’ve double twisted your ankle.

December 16, 2006

Update on Tesco Club Card

Referring back to my December 13, 2006 posting Club Card Programs Gone Bad Stephen has informed me that he never had a card. Oops. I'll try to tone down the angry outbursts in the future.

Now That’s an Office Party!

Our company holiday party was on Friday. I am proud to announce that no one got stinking drunk – at least during the party. Can’t vouch for after. We launched the afternoon with mince pie (fruity concoction) and mulled wine at the office. Next we moved on to a nearby pub that is frequented by locals. Needless to say they all fled as soon as the twelve of us invaded their safe drinking space.

The eating festivities took place at a whole-in-the-wall Thai restaurant also in the neighborhood. It is one of those places that have the most spectacular food but you would think is a dive. Duck in red curry sauce was a winner.

A highlight of the afternoon was the Holiday Crackers. We all criss-crossed hands with a cracker in each and then pulled. These are always filled with silly joke cards, small toys and a paper hat. Our hats adorned our heads for the next two hours. Being Jewish we didn’t have these growing up, the closest were Cracker Jacks which perhaps have the same origin?

Here's the joke in my cracker: Whose the most famous women in the United States?

Answer: Mrs. Sippi

December 13, 2006

Everybody Loves Peter Boyle

Peter Boyle, who played the dad everyone loved to hate on Everybody Loves Raymond, died today at the young age of 71. This is by far one of most favorite sitcoms. Although an Italian NY family they remind me of my Jewish CT one. It is so sad to think Frank is gone. Well, the series has been off the air for a few years but it lives on a reruns - especially in Mexico and the UK.

The CNN obituary highlights his amazing life which started with him studying in a monastery for three years. Then he ran off to NY to be in theatre. An amazing fact is that Peter played Frankenstein in Mel Brook’s Young Frankenstein. Even more fascinating, he was friends with John Lennon who was best man at his wedding.

The Everybody Loves Raymond website doesn’t have any “goodbye” yet but I’m sure it will soon.

It is touching to read that one of his daughters is named Amy. See, I am part of his family.

Club Card Programs Gone Bad

The following is an email I sent to Tesco one of the UK grocery stores. There are so many I don't know why we're using this one if they are so bad with customer service. Fine, call me American, which I am, but I'm not going to roll over and take any more poor customer service like a wimpy dog. Arff.


My husband has lost his card and I would like a replacement plus one for myself. It is a very strange loyalty program that as his wife I can not have a card on his account or get a new card without him being here on the phone with me to talk with you about this request. Is it assumed That I would take his club card points and do something with them? Very strange. It makes me not want to be in your club.

Additionally, you sent us coupons that we are supposed to be able to use online but they do not work. I would use them in the store, although we never shop in the store, but we do not have a card to do so. Very strange. I am regularly very enthusiastic about club card programs but this one is being run like some kind of security bank. Believe me, I would enjoy shopping in your store and using our card to ensure that you can track our purchasing habits. Doesn't bother me as I have a marketing background. But now I'm just not interested in your program, at all.


December 12, 2006

The Scream-ing Google

Yet another fantastic google image. Today is Edvard Munch's birthday.

Polite Sardines Squished in a Tube

This is the key ingredient to the London commute. I’ve only been on my job for two weeks and two days but I’ve already hit my limit in the tube situation.

The ancient system operates with all kinds of delays, every day, during both the morning and evening commutes. A mechanical voice comes over the ominous loudspeaker to announce, “Significant delays on all London lines because of a…” and here they make certain to insert the exact cause.
…customer illness
…signalling error
…switching error
…train fire
Thanks for too much information. Just make the trains move, please.

In addition to the delays we are smooshed into the cars. Everyone is very polite so no one says a word while we squish into each other. Yesterday morning we approached a station with a platform filled with commuters all hoping to get onto our train. Franticly people pushed to get off and others to get on. Suddenly we hit max. In a very uncomfortable five minute silence, that was like a stalemate between six hundred commuters, people stood face to face on and off the tube while the doors…didn’t close. No announcement, we just stood there. Finally the driver announced, “the radio is broken and we will be here a few minutes while we wait for a technician. (Oh yes, the technician. Like waiting for the Spanish Inquisition as you know from our British Gas stories.)

The ultimate insult in this situation is when there is a hacking cougher on the train. Being new to the country I am getting every cold and flu. Being too close to someone who is even thinking sick thoughts ensures that I catch their germs. So each time someone coughed I turned to another direction, making sure I gave them the evil eye. The problem is that there is no room to turn and no one makes any facial expressions. I feel like a lone extroverted East Coast American expressing my frustration and no one seems to respond.

Polite sardines. Heck, if no one complains the service will continue to be piss poor.

December 8, 2006

Xtreme Xmas Partying

It is 3am on a Saturday morning (as in the end of Friday night) and I am waiting for Stephen to get home from his company holiday party. Its not that I'm worried he won't show up - its that we are sharing one set of keys today and he can't get into the building or our flat without me buzzing him up.

Company holiday parties in London are quite scary. People party until they scream and then get sick. Stephen's company had a non-partner party meaning that all the significant others were not invited. Just too expensive in London Stephen says. Hum. I wonder.

To ensure that a good time was had by all I spent the evening in Central London with my new friend Hidy who is married to one of Stephen's consultants. We had a super time at the British Museum then out for Thai food and finally ending at Starbucks. We actually had to stop by the restaurant at which Stephen's company was partying so that Hidy could pick up her flat keys from her husband Bob. When he came out to the street he looked quite sober considering it was 11pm. We had been out last night together and that was a rather juicy scene of too much wine. Good golly when do these people work?

When Hidy and I parted ways, after she showed me how to catch a bus (and the woman has been in London for only a month) I had the "pleasure" of watching hundreds of drunken folks wandering down Oxford Street. I had to dodge the drunks as they wobbled past the bus shelter. It has finally dipped into the very cold weather but chicadees were wearing very little clothing.

Stephen's home!

Tea Time is Any Time

What they say about the English drinking tea is true. They drink it constantly. Perhaps it is the cold and wet weather that encourages the drinking. Or, perhaps the government with its campaign encouraging people to drink four cups a day.

At work they supply us with endless tea. Thankfully my boss is very politically correct and has purchased herbal tea as well as the traditional Tently stuff. She also supplies the office with the freeze dried coffee that the Brtis seem to love.

The teapots used over here are electric and are able to heat your water in about thirty seconds. Unfortunately the one at work was melting from so much use and had to be replaced this week after a year of service. Photos here show the new beautiful pot as well as the skanky manky old one. Look inside and see what I've been drinking for the past two weeks. You wonder why healthy teeth are an issue in this country.

The first photo showing the new teapot has some other intersting features. This is our office kitchen. Note the cannisters of tea, cereal boxes, a rickety old toaster, an accident book in which we record things like cutting your hand in the papercutter, and a mouse deflector plugged into the outlet.

Speaking of teeth I've purchased dental insurance and go for my first dental appointment next week. I inquired if the dentist was "conservative" in his approach to dentistry. "Oh yes, very modern here." They assured me he only pulls teeth as a last resort. I'll bite the dentist's fingers if he tries extracting any of my lovely pearly whites.

December 5, 2006

London’s Kings Cross

My new job has its offices located in Kings Cross an area of London which is the location for the recent film Breaking and Entering featuring Jude Law, Juliette Binoche and Robin Wright Penn. Sadly none of those folks work in our office. But thankfully the area is not as depressing as depicted in the film.

Kings Cross hosts several train stations including Kings Cross, Thames Link and Saint Pancras. The area is always a hustle and bustle of people, luggage, buses, taxis, bicyclists and endless street construction. Kings Cross is also the home of the Flying Scotsman train which goes directly north to Scotland.

I can tell that are many story opportunities in the area. For instance I was searching for a birthday card for my mother yesterday and wandered into a bookstore. It looked clean, lots of well-displayed books and racks with cards. But the guy behind the register gave me a look like, “what are you doing in here?” Then I noticed that all the books were pornography. So, I had to make like I deliberately came into the shop. I tried to chit chat with the guy as I casually looked at books displayed behind him featuring all kinds of unexpected nudities. Would you believe there was a book of Frida Kahlo art? So, I said, “what a nice selection of artwork. Any birthday cards?” Then I noticed that the card racks were filled with gay porn cards. He said very curtly, “No birthday cards.” Okay, I get the picture. Ended up getting her a card in the Marxist bookstore down the road.

The next shop I explored was Tony’s Organic Café across the street. I felt a cold coming on so I ventured into the shop to see what homeopathic stuff they could offer me. Sure enough Tony the owner was eager to convince me of the benefits of Echinacea syrup extracted from plants that were planted on the eve of a new moon and hydrated with only the best filtered water. I got aggressive, “Look mate, I’m getting sick and I can feel it coming on this minute – what do you have?” He was happy to fill up my bag with all kinds of goodies including the old standby and grandmother favourite Ricola. Ironically the Ricola is artificially sweetened with aspartame.

photo source.

Updates on the Same Old Same Old

Good news on the bank card - arrived at work!

British Gas - Stephen has taken on the project. Off my plate.

Photo Expedition with Fellow Blogger

Found a posting on London Craigslist posted by a woman who wants to go around London and practice taking photos. What the heck, I need a social life. So, I emailed her and we met up this evening. Checkout her amazing blog Girl in the Café.

It was fun – I gave her pointers on how to use the SLR camera and she gave me pointers on blogging from my mobile phone. I'm addicted to the mobile's camera which is very picky about night time photography. I pushed it to the limit. Also was inspired to try shooting some video on it but unfortunately can't upload those images to this blog as of yet.

Here are some of the betters photos.

Public art built into the new office buildings at Euston Square.

December 3, 2006

Hush, its a secret

During my adventuring around London yesterday I found this mysterious book store called Persephone Books. It was sunset when I discovered the store and it was curious that the lights inside were very low and the store was filled with women. Didn't look like a regular book store either - more like an office that was secretly selling books. All the books were covered in the same grey cover and there weren't any prices. The only helpful information was “This book good for a Sunday read” and “Perfect to read by the fireplace” and other comments of that sort posted near each pile. It was clearly a hush-hush kind of place so I grabbed a catalog and snuck out.

Once safely on the tube I could read the catalog and figure out what the heck this place was about. Check it out…

“Persephone prints mainly neglected fiction and non-fiction by women, for women and about women. The titles are chosen to appeal to busy women who rarely have time to spend in ever-larger bookshops and who would like to have access to a list of books designed to be neither too literary nor too commercial. The books are guaranteed to be readable, thought-provoking and impossible to forget. We sell mainly through mail order, through selected shops and we have our own shop.”

Through further investigation into Persephone I discovered on Encyclopedia Mythica ™ that Persephone is the goddess of the underworld in Greek mythology. Ah yes, it is now all making sense.

Here are some of their 70 titles (which apparently sell for £10 each):

Title No 1William - an Englishmanby CICELY HAMILTON

Title No 4Fidelityby SUSAN GLASPELL

Title No 6The Victorian Chaise-longue by MARGHANITA LASKI


I’m a cover shopper which is also how I buy bottles of wine. If the cover looks interesting then I’m in for a whirl. I think I’ll have to trust their selective judgement and pick one up. Hopefully they have a title that is “Perfect for a long night beside a dripping boiler whilst you wait for your bankcard to arrive.”

Various Updates

Boiler - British Gas tech (new one, Steve is gone) was here on Friday and supposedly fixed the dripping. Ha! Still dripping - now more than ever. Still no electrician to fix our clothes washer/drier which was incorrectly reconnected.

Bank Card – supposedly tried to deliver it to my office but couldn’t find it.

December 1, 2006

Banking on the DaVinci Code

I’ve opened an account at a reputable London bank and I now feel like I’m reliving the Davinci Code.

To obtain my new debit/credit card I have to:
-Pick it up from the branch, or
-Have it delivered by messenger to my flat or office, and
-Provide ID for pickup

The branches are only open 9-5 Monday – Friday. So, no pickup at the branch since I have a job. Delivery to my flat is impossible because it is any time between 8-5 and you can’t setup the time. Can’t do that since I have a job. I received a letter from the messenger company stating that I have to go to their website and confirm that I want delivery and to what address. I can’t schedule a date or time so it is pretty much a guessing game. It was supposed to be delivered to my office yesterday and they didn’t show up. Still no card.

To begin internet banking I have to:
1. Call to request an internet ID
2. Wait for the ID to arrive in the mail
3. Log onto the website
4. Create a password and “memorable information”
5. Be told to call the bank
6. Answer bizarre and tricky security questions
7. Be told to log on to the internet
8. Enter my ID and password
9. Then enter items #1, 6 and 8 from my memorable information (what the???)
10. Now I can begin internet banking

This bank must have had some serious security and theft issues to go this far.

Does service delivery have to be this difficult? To add insult to injury I am now late for work waiting in the flat for British Gas which was supposed to show up an hour ago.