Friday, May 30, 2008

Deja vu

Torontonian Tries to Board Plane at Kelowna Airport while Toting a Gun

More specifically, a 1.7" long solid metal gun-shaped necklace. Sound familiar, mom, dad, Katie?

For those that don't know, back in 1998, my family and I were on our way to Disneyland, and I had a gun-shaped keychain. Mine, however, did have moving parts, and could fire caps. They wouldn't let me board the plane with it, so I had to put it in a little box that they shipped on the same flight with us, so I didn't have to leave it behind, as it had sentimental value to me.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Car Club

I've been meaning to do it for some time now, but I finally signed up for a car club today, City Car Club. It's similar to Zipcar, in that you pay a one time membership fee, and then you can rent the car on an hourly or daily basis. It's cheaper than just regular car rentals, plus it's a lot more convenient, as it's all self-serve through the website. You sign up to use a particular car at a specific time, using the website, and when the time comes, you just go to where the website says it's parked, and swipe your RFID membership card across the reader at the corner of the windshield, and the car unlocks for you. They track how far you drive and everything automatically, so you don't have to keep track of mileage, fuel costs, etc.
I'm rather excited about the whole idea of driving again, but also quite nervous. It's been two months since I've driven, the longest I've gone since I got my full license 10 years ago. Even when I had my Miata at the shop in pieces to be painted, I had a rental car for part of that time.
While the cars I'll have access to won't exactly be "zoom zoom", at least they'll be somewhat interesting in that they're European models I've never driven before, and nearly all of them are manual transmission, thankfully. Getting familiar with driving here is just the first step along the way to getting a Miata here, in my mind. Besides, it'll be really nice to be able to pop out into the countryside for a day on the weekends.

On an unrelated note, I was out at the boardgame meetup again tonight. Last week, I decided not to go, because it was on the same night as the UEFA Champion s League final, and I would have been hopping on the tube to come home at the same time as all the drunken football fans, so I just stayed home. I had a blast there this week, and played two new games. The first one was called Robo Rally, and was quite the mayhem with 8 players. It's quite an odd game, where you have robots that you have to race to various flags in order, to win, where you have to "program" you robot a full round in advance. At one point, about halfway through the game, I asked "out of curiosity, how many of you are programmers?" All seven of the other players raised their hands.
The second game was called Titans: The Arena, which was sort of a betting game, which I though I'd be horrible at, expecting (for no real good reason) for it to be something like poker. It wasn't at all like poker, and I actually nearly won, being displaced on the very last round. It's quite an interesting game, and I'd love to play it again sometime, not that I understand it better.

Oh oh oh ooooh, oh Oreo

I was listening to's "Best of the 80's" steam last night while I was trying to sleep. I've tried it the last couple nights, and having some familiar music like that playing very quietly in the background is comforting in such a different environment, and has been helping me get to sleep better. I've been suffering some insomnia lately, so I figured I'd try it, and see how it worked.
Anyway, last night, it set me to laughing, because they played New Kids On the Block - The Right Stuff. Way back when, when that song was totally hot shit, I knew all the words, I could totally sing along. Now though, all I can remember is the Weird Al lyrics. "What's in the middle? The white stuff."

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Stay Left

It's hard to overstate how pervasive and how subconsciously (and sometimes consciously) troubling is the fact that they drive on the left here. It bleeds into walking too, which is actually something I've long wondered about: whether people tend to keep to the same side they drive on. Even people that don't drive will be forced to, more often that not, yield in that direction, due to the people that do drive being so instinctively united in keeping to that side (That said, driving on the left is exclusive to the UK in this corner of the world, and this city is so full of foreigners having the same difficulties as myself, that there is little consistency at all in which direction people here tend to when walking.)
Speaking of instinct, it's not. It's entirely learned behaviour, but after s many years, it's ingrained at such a level, it may as well be instinct. It takes concious effort to overcome.
One mistake I made in preparing to come here (though I can't think of any way I could have done better) was to think to myself "I'm a bright guy, I'll have no trouble adapting to driving on the left, or crossing streets where they do." Thus spoke a fool. I hadn't bargained for how automatic it all is, how it's just take for granted. After nearly two months here, I still check over the wrong shoulder if my concentration lapses for a moment, which it tends to do frequently. I find it a minor miracle that I haven't been hit yet (especially considering how they drive here,) let alone not even caused anyone to squeal to a stop lest they hit me.

On an entirely unrelated note, I tried a new pub in my neighbourhood for dinner tonight. It's right next to the tube station, so it could hardly be more convenient. It's called The Tabard. I stopped in here one morning, a few weeks back, when I was peckish to see if they had anything breakfast like. All they had was ham & egg & chips, which was pretty tasty, and hit the spot, but was way too much food, and cost a bit much for breakfast as a result. I do remember that the ginger ale they had was very good (Yes, I was hungover. I never used to like ginger ale until Sara made me drink a bunch, very watered down, when I had food poisoning. I've liked it ever since.) Anyway, I had sausages and mash here tonight, with a pint of Tetley's, for less than a "tenner", $20, and it was quite good, and sufficiently filling, so I'll certainly be back. The crowd here tonight looks to be my age as well, and they have an outdoor patio, and theatre where they put on plays, so this has the makings of being my local, I think.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Cost of food and beverage

It's really weird how the cost of food and drinks here work out. If you go to the grocery store, then it's not bad, but if you eat out, it's crazy. For example, I think a decent loaf of bread is something like 64p, or $1.28 CDN. That's not too bad, right?
I found a place nearby that I quite like for breakfast. For £8.75, you get two pieces of back bacon, two sausages, two eggs, two large fried mushrooms, two fried tomatoes, two hashbrowns, two pieces of toast, a glass of juice, and a cup of tea. (When I say two hashbrowns, understand that hashbrowns here are like the ones at McDonalds, sort of a hashbrown pattie.) That sounds like a lot of food, but when it comes down to it, I can finish it all when I'm a bit hungry, so it's not an enormous amount of food or anything, but it's the equivalent of $17.50! That's a ton of money for breakfast. You could certainly find the same thing for cheaper, if you went to something like a greasy spoon, but this is like IHOP quality, not overly greasy.
Last night, I decided to go for a Sunday roast for dinner. The pub I got to at 6:30 was all out, so I found some restaurant called Gravy, and went there. The roast was £12, which included maybe 6-8 oz of lamb, some roast potatoes, gravy, and some vegetables. Hardly a lot of food, though it was tasty. I had a cheap glass of wine, at £3.75, and after dinner, had a latte, for £1.50. All told, it ended up being nearly £20, or $40 CDN! For that price in Vancouver, I'd be dining on an enormous steak, covered in seafood, and having at least 2 glasses of wine.
Out at the pub, a pint of beer runs anywhere from £2.80 to £3.60 at the places I've been. On the cheap end of things, that's not too bad, because the pints are bigger than in Canada, because they're proper pints, not a sleeve. I had two rum & coke when I was out on Saturday. One was Havana Club rum, and it was £6.50. The other was plain old Bacardi dark rum, and it was £4.20. Either way, $8.40 or $13 for a little glass of ice, with a bit of soft drink, and an ounce of rum, is rather expensive. It's a good thing I'm earning pounds.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008


I'm not sure why, but it seems that stockings are really in vogue here. I think I see as many women wearing stockings as I do with bare legs. They're also a lot more varied than I've commonly seen before. There's so many more than just plain stockings, in varying shades of darkness, but there's diamond patterned ones, striped ones, and others.
I like. :)

My flash still works

I was worried a couple weekends ago (down in Winchester) that my external flash for my camera might have bitten the dust. I tried using it at the cathedral to take some pictures, since it fills the distances so much better than the itty bitty built-in flash, but it wouldn't work. I swapped batteries when I got home, but it still wouldn't work, so I was worried it was done for. I then tried charging my batteries, but my battery charger wouldn't work here, even with the adapter thing to convert voltages. A few days ago, I finally got around to buying a battery charger, charging up all my batteries, and testing the flash with them. It works! I'm so relieved, I'm quite content with that flash, and didn't really relish the thought of having to buy another. They're not cheap.

That said, a more powerful flash would be nice for large buildings, and ETT-II support would be nice too... but, I must behave. I've bought enough toys since I got here, getting my life sorted out. Computer and decent speakers for music are so essential to my comfort and relaxation... a new flash, not so much.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Liver to brain, "Are you out of your mind?"

"Overworked and abused liver, 27 years old, seeks safe home."
This has been quite a weekend. I've met more new people this weekend than I have in the prior 6 weeks of being here.
On Friday, a co-worker of mine, Pria, invited me to join her at a nearby pub where she meets up with a bunch of people she went to university here with. That wasn't going to be until 8pm though, so I figured I would go find food first, and then meet here there. Well, before doing that though, I went to the pub across the street from the office with two other co-workers, to have one pint before I went to find food. After that pint, one co-worker headed home, and the other and I wandered over to the pub where I'd be meeting Pria later. As it turned out, after work on a Friday is not a great time to try to get food in a pub, so we just ordered beer instead, and stood around chatting, and ordering more beer, until Pria arrived. Pria apologized for being so late, and got a round of drinks. She introduced me to her husband, as well as some people they went to university with. The next thing I knew, it was 1am, I still hadn't eaten, and I'd had more pints than I could keep track of. Pria, her husband and I decided then that we should go get some food, because none of us had eaten. We walked down to Chinatown, which was quite close by, and found room in a restaurant there. More beer was ordered. I ended up ordering (despite the fact that it wasn't on the menu) udon noodles, with XO sauce and shredded beef, which is basically the #82 on the menu at Hons which I used to order every time I was there. When it arrived, it was everything I had expected, it was delicious. Eventually, Pria and Alex guided me to Trafalgar Square, where most of London's night buses run from, and I caught the N11 home uneventfully. It was well after 3am that I finally crawled into bed.
Saturday, I didn't get out of bed until 12:30, and was feeling none too steady by then even. Copious amounts of water and a few Tylenol were pressed into service, and by mid-afternoon, I was feeling mostly human again. At around 5:00, I headed out to the tube to go downtown. I had posted on looking for anyone that's interested in going out to see musicals, theatre, classical concerts, etc, and someone had answered, so I went for a coffee with her. She seems like a very nice lady, so we may go see a show or something at some point. I couldn't talk too long though, because I had also been invited to a co-worker's birthday dinner party. She knew I hadn't really met anyone in London yet, so she very kindly invited me to the party, so I could meet some people. The dinner party was Mexican themed, with tacos for dinner, and plenty of tropical weather cocktails, and tequila, of course. At some point, the canvas and finger paints came out. Anyone who's ever done it before knows that when finger paints and alcohol mix, you inevitably get paint everywhere, on everything, which is exactly what happened. It was fantastically fun, I met a whole bunch of new people, who mentioned that I should add them on facebook, so hopefully I'll see some of them again.
It's 10:30am here now, I got home at about 9:00 am, after sleeping drunkenly on the floor at my co-worker's house, along with at least four other people. I've finished a large latte, and about a litre of water, and I'm feeling pretty good, all things considered, but I think I'll be giving my liver the rest of the week off.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Flickr Photo Comments

I thought I had flickr set up to email me when people commented on my photos, but it turns out I didn't. I just changed that now, and I've gone through and read all the comments you've all left. Thanks so much :)

My Flat

I finally got around to taking and uploading photos of my flat.
I still haven't been able to get rid of all the cardboard and styrofoam my monitor, speakers, and receiver came in, but other than that, I'm settling in pretty good.

Well, that was a nice summer.

It's raining today. My co-workers have been saying "That was a nice summer", about the week-long warm and dry streak that just ended. Londoner's two major topics to complain about are the same as in Vancouver: The weather, and public transportation.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Oxford Street Fatal Stabbing

This was about a block away from my office, on Monday afternoon. When I left work, I tried to head north across Oxford Street to do some shopping, but a whole section of Oxford Street was cordoned off as a crime scene. Turns out there was a fatal stabbing.

Board Games

Last night, I went to a board game night I found through It was in the basement of a pub, where we had our own separate bar, with staff, and we had the whole basement to ourselves, to lay out board games on the table. It was great fun, and it was wonderful to hang out with some new people finally. I played a game called "Pandemic" with 3 guys, Martin, John, and Jason, after a woman (who's name I didn't catch) gave us a crash course on the rules. It's a very interesting game, being co-operative, rather than competitive. It's the 4 of you against a number of diseases, and you have to try to cure them before they get out of control. We played twice, and lost twice, but had loads of fun in the process. I'm really looking forward to the next one, next week. It's incredibly nice to finally have found at least one way to meet some people, though playing board games did make me feel rather homesick afterwords.

London Bus Drivers

I'm nearly convinced that most London bus drivers are NASCAR dropouts. I have to hold on for dear life when I'm on the bus, or I'll get thrown all over the place. They accelerate like a bat out of hell, brake for bus stops so hard I feel like my organs are being flattened, and go around corners so fast I'd swear I've heard the tires squealing. And all this with a double-decker red London bus! They're maniacs! The couple times I've been forced to go upstairs due to the crowding have been absolutely terrifying. When they come flying in to a bus stop, it always looks like they're about to run over the people waiting there, or like the swaying of the bus is going to crash it into one of the lamp poles.
And despite all this, neither the E3 nor the 70 (the two buses that take me to the tube station in the morning) still don't show up on schedule. They're supposed to arrive every 9-10 minutes, according to the sign, but it's usually more like 20-25 minutes.

May 4th-6th

Sorry for taking so long to get this posted. I haven't felt much like writing lately, but here it is finally.
May 6th was a bank holiday here, so I spent the long weekend down in Alresford at my auntie Gaynor and uncle John's house. I caught a train down from Waterloo station on Saturday morning. I woke up a bit earlier than expected, to I got to the station sooner, and rather than waiting for the train I told them I'd be on, I just caught the first train. Normally I would have been going all the way to Winchester for them to pick me up, but the service from Basingstone to Winchester was having maintenance done, so it was bus replacement service. As luck would have it, uncle John was going to be in Basingstoke running his roundabout (merry-go-round) in the mall across the street from the train station, so auntie Gaynor was just going to come across the screen to meet me. As I got there early, I wandered around a bit to see if I could find where uncle John was, and I did find him without much trouble.
After loitering about for a bit, Auntie Gaynor and my cousin Rachel arrived. Rachel sure has grown since I last saw her. On the way back to their house, auntie Gaynor pointed out all sorts of stuff along the way, like the house where Micheal Jackson hid out, and the house where Thomas Sopwith (of aviation fame) lived. Somewhere along the way, we got to the subject of books, and I mentioned that I had just finished reading Jane Austin's Pride and Prejudice. As it turns out, Jane Austin grew up not far from there, so after having a quick bite to eat at their house, we headed off to Alton where Jane Austin's house is. It was quite interesting to see all the things there, and try to imagine the world she lived and wrote in.
On the way home from there, we made a brief stop at the railway station in Alresford, where they run steam locomotives from. It was too late in the day though, and the last train had already left, so I didn't get to see much. One of my other cousins, Lynsey happened to be passing by looking for us, so we stopped into a pub on the corner for a pint before heading home for dinner. Dinner was delicious, spaghetti bolognaise. We had some wine with dinner, and some wine after dinner, and many hours of conversation and catching up before heading to bed.
On Sunday morning, auntie Gaynor made me breakfast, egg on toast (reminded me of egg and soldiers. Mom, you should remember that!) The first outing of the day was to Twyford, where there is a Victorian era steam powered pumping station. They were having an open day there, so there were loads of people that had brought steam rollers (real coal-powered steam rollers), steam tractors, steam powered water pumps, and a few old cars. It was absolutely fascinating to see all of that, and the smell of so much coal being burned was interesting. Not unpleasant, but interesting, like the odour of oil and gas that seems to permeate most modern day mechanical places.
After that, we drove into Winchester to see the cathedral. We stopped for some tea first, to give our legs a bit of a break, but mostly to rehydrate, as it was quite a warm day. When we did get to the cathedral, I was in awe! What a mammoth building! In this era of 50+ floor metal and glass skyscrapers, it's hard to imagine how something "only" 3 floors high can seem so massive, but the sheer amount of stone, and the enormous gaping caverns of rooms inside just overwhelm the senses. We spent an hour or so wandering through the cathedral, with my auntie Gaynor playing the tour guide, and pointing out all sort of interesting bits of history that would have been completely lost on me otherwise. When we were through there, we stopped for tea and cakes. I had some fruitcake. I never used to like fruitcake. I must be getting old. I even scraped some of the icing off, as it was too sweet. Before leaving Winchester, we walked over to Wolvesey castle, which is an old castle ruin. On the way over, it started raining a bit, but luckily for us, it stayed quite light, and we didn't actually get very wet.
Back at their home, we had a wonderful roast chicken dinner, with yorkshire puddings, veggies, and loads of gravy. Mmmmmm gravy. More wine flowed with, and after, dinner, and we chatted until late once again.
On Monday, auntie Gaynor had to work, so uncle John showed me around instead. We went back to the station in Alresford, where this time there was a train getting ready to leave. It was there for around half an hour though, so I had plenty of opportunity for photos. I even got to climb up into the cab (is that what it's called?) and feel the heat from the boiler, and pose for a photo with the coal shovel. After it left, we drove to Ropley, one of the other stations along the Watercress line (the one that runs the steam engines), which also houses the engineering yard. Another train was passing through, and refilling the water in the boiler, and there was three sitting in the engineering yard, so there was plenty of targets for my camera.
Later that day, I caught the regular (electric) train back home, and went out to see the movie Persepolis with a few of my flatmates.
What a full weekend!