travel-album

Off to Marbella

I don’t particularly like “lazy” holidays. You know, the kind of vacations where all you do is lie on a beach or by the pool and limit your intellectual stimulation to reading a mass market paperback yarn that caught your eye at the airport bookshop. Yes, I am all for a swim in azure waters,[…]

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Nice and efficient Brits

Sometimes, a small and fairly inconsequential thing happens, which makes me think: “Hey, I can’t imagine this being handled so efficiently and positively for me in America”.

Natasha received a parking violation ticket a couple of weeks ago. That was before our recent discovery of mobile-phone-enabled payments, but it occurred on a trip to the nearby market, and she never leaves on such trips without enough coins to pay the parking fee. She did procure the appropriate sticker and attached it to the inside of windshield as required.

When she returned to the car a couple of hours later, she found a violation notice attached to the windshield on the outside. The parking sticker was lying face-down on the dashboard. It must have fell off. The text of the notice referred to “failure to pay or to properly display the proof of payment”. The penalty did not distinguish between the two: £50 if paid within 14 days or £100 thereafter…

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YouTube’d memories: You’re a Woman

Maybe not as popular as Modern Talking, German-based multinational pop trio Bad Boys Blue was a staple of our DJ playlists in mid-80’s. The two contemporary outfits are curiously forever linked in my mind. My very first own cassette tape was meant to contain The First Album by MT in its entirety, but instead had[…]

diary

Working on alternative careers

The last couple of weeks both Natasha and I have been heavily occupied with our Home PC-related careers. Natasha’s is all about travel. Having successfully seen through my parents’ visit to Paris and London, she had to turn her attention to the upcoming visits of other relatives. Let’s just say that none of our relations[…]

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Jabbing at America

I have just finished reading Merde Happens, which is the third installment in Stephen Clarke’s series about a young Englishman’s experiences with foreign cultures. Unlike the first two installments, A Year in the Merde and Merde Actually (I skipped over the latter by pure coincidence of it not being sold at the Eurostar terminal bookshop when I was in need of a new book), this book is not about France, but about good ol’ U. S. of A. instead.

Our protagonist, Paul West, an Englishman who now permanently lives in Paris, finds himself in a dire financial situation related to his tearoom business. In order to get the money he needs, he signs up for a wackily-organized campaign in the States to promote UK as a tourist destination. He takes his French girlfriend along for the trip, and proceeds by car, train and plane from New York to Boston and back, then to Miami, New Orleans and Las Vegas, ending up in Los Angeles, all the while getting in and out of silly, sticky, and occasionally downright dangerous, circumstance.

I wasn’t planning to write a review at all. While the author continues to exhibit considerable wit and mastery of comical situations, the plot gets too ludicrous for my taste, the situations too grotesque and the jabs towards American culture too gratuitous. The latter, however, are based on outsider observations that echo my own “reverse” observations of Britain through the eyes of an American.

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diary

Cell phones can be useful

Contrary to my recent rant about cell phones, they do come in handy in more than obvious ways.

For instance, more and more parking lots around England allow you to pay your parking fee by calling an automated processing service, so you no longer find yourself in a pickle when you do not have enough coins to feed the ticket machine.

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diary

To the nearest gastro-pub

The old dilapidated pub on one of the corners of the big intersection near our house has recently re-opened after a renovation. It dropped the word “tavern” from its name, remaining simply “The Royal”, and now markets itself as a gastro-pub. Even in our Brooklyn years, we have never lived this close to an eating[…]

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Booklist meme

By the simplest gauge, I have already had a handful of posts devoted to the tried subject of British weather, so I can hardly expound on it any more without truly approximating a broken gramophone record. Yet, that particular topic remains – as it would be in any civilized discourse – the only one that can inexhaustibly feed a conversation. For instance, the glorious week and a half of sun and warmth has now seemingly been replaced with the more customary drizzle and chill…

Oops, here I go again. Sorry!

Instead, let me heap a new meme thingie on you, courtesy of my friend Jason, who himself picked it up elsewhere.

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Becky has a blog!

I am happy to announce that my elder child now has a soapbox of her own within confines of this website. The link is now prominently featured on the navigation bar. Warning by the newly-minted authoress: You are not really advised to visit if you were born before the 90’s. (P.S. There is only one[…]

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Anyone for extreme hiking?

Came across this via Exler. Stupendous video, and vertigo-inducing, no matter how comfy is the armchair that you currently occupy. As comments on Alex’s site say: By night, in a drunken stupor, traversing this path is quite easy… but in the middle of the day, entirely sober – and with a camcorder?!…    

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YouTube’d memories: Brother Louie

I’ve already offered a glimpse of Modern Talking in the retrospection of my musical affinities (and also posted this clip in other people’s blogs). But it is high time that I paid my respects to the German duo directly. For some period of time in high school, I was a DJ. Not because I was[…]

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Translate this page

I come across people translating their websites into other languages quite often. They do it via free translation services such as Babel Fish. Every time I read something translated into Russian that way, it makes me cringe. Yes, you can probably relay the gist of it via such translation, but at the expense of all grammar and occasionally simple sense.

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Protecting the seller

Say, you browse a store, any store, and come across an attractive item that is on sale. You’d be lukewarm to the idea of obtaining said item at its original listed price, but an ability to buy it at a discount closes the deal for you.

Now, suppose, as you reach the checkout and a clerk scans the barcode in, the original non-discounted price comes up on the register. You point out to the cashier that the advertised price is considerably below what they are attempting to charge you. What do you hear in response?

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Victory Day

If there is one day when I am wholly proud to have been born and raised in the former USSR, it is today. Anyone who shares my background has at least one person in their extended family tree who either gave their lives in the Great Patriotic War or marched to the victory with the[…]

diary

First verbal sparring on burlaki.com

The excellent spring weather – what actually qualifies as summer in London; the next stop is dreary autumn – has seemingly spread across the Channel, and we are finally wearing short sleeves, having dinners on the deck in the garden, and deceiving ourselves with “British climate is not so bad” sentiment.

I am actually spending the best hours of the day in office, since most of my current job has to do with the States, so I am lightly occupied until about 1:30, and then very heavily through the afternoon, eventually peeling myself away from the issue of the day at around seven. Good thing it does not get dark until after nine. On the bright side, my parents are extremely lucky to be able to rediscover London – walking for hours, no less, – in such pristine conditions.

In the meantime, I have reached new heights in my blogging career. What else would you call acquiring a critic who not only looks for opportunities to post corrections to my musings, but explicitly states that he aims to “sway” people who read my blog away from my ostensibly poisonous conclusions.

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It does not take an Einstein…

Unlike previous tests, this one is fairly academic. Still, was there any doubt?     I could not figure out how to swivel my computer screen to get a good look at a stretched picture, and that’s probably the wrong answer that cost me the 2%… Via both Nathan and John the Scientist.

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Back from Paris

Ahh, Paris… There is nothing like it in the whole wide world. Not for us, at least. I don’t know what it is, honestly, but we always feel entirely at home in this most romantic of cities.

This time around, we benefited from exceptionally bright skies and warm weather, which was a great and welcome change to the customarily rainy and drab London week prior. We could not exactly take it entirely slow, given that we were trying to play guides to my parents on their first ever visit to the city, but we worked a leisurely afternoon at the Luxembourg Gardens and several unhurried strolls into the proceedings.

 

Palais Luxembourg

 

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Mind your passport

It is the most basic and universal of any advice that an international traveller can get: Never forget when your passport expires.

My parents, who leave the shores of the U.S. of A. about once a year on average, were going for a tour of Paris, followed by a stay with us in London. Our resident travel agent – my lovely wife – has figured out their lodgings, meals, transfers, their entire itinerary in Paris including a day with a personal guide, etc. She even synchronized their one-way trip on Eurostar with our return leg.

What neither of us thought to ask Mom and Dad is to check their passport expiration dates. (I tend to ascribe that to my own obsessive approach to documentation; it does not occur to me in the normal course of events that some people – my own parents, especially, – may be less anal about knowing what shape their papers are in.)

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