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Occurrences good and bad

Contrary to my regular protestations of an utterly routine boredom, things happen to us all the time. As it happens with the rest of humankind, only the biggest things tend to leave an imprint on our memory and, later on, resurface at a point of writing a blog entry.

The last few days gave rise to a few big occurrences, so my task of keeping an up-to-date, yet entertaining, chronicle is so much simpler.

Let’s start with pleasant.

As early as Thursday, Natasha started to appear more fired up than usual, busying herself with some fanciful cooking. The reason for that was fairly simple: We were expecting friends from America. It was only for one-night stopover on the weekend, but it heralded the start of the season where we expect several considerably lengthier visits from the friends whom we’ve been missing a lot. The occasion was certainly exciting for all of us, and Natasha’s spirit was really contagious. I primarily expressed my own excitement by happily devouring most of the stuff that Natasha prepared…

Since Ilia1 and Josh were arriving only late Saturday afternoon, we decided to fill in the day with something useful, so I took Kimmy to the Natural History Museum to see the dinosaurs. That is an hour-long trip from our house, and we only spent a little bit over an hour at the museum itself, but the kid was beyond herself with delight. Trains and subways still hold novelty for a suburban American girl that has been used to getting everywhere in a car. And on this, her third, visit to the museum, she was equipped with recent knowledge about dinosaurs that made going through the exhibition so much more fun.

Surprising to me, my not-yet-seven-year-old girl was able to properly identify several dinosaur species by sight (triceratops, anyone?) and was particularly mesmerized by the display of tools used in archeological – or is it paleontological? – expeditions. She was a bit scared of the animatronic T-Rex, especially when it roared, but otherwise went through the entire exposition with an air of a seasoned explorer.

I do not think I mentioned this before: Kimmy collects pencils. Simple pencils (although if they happen to be of some fancy design, all the better). She probably has a hundred of them, by now, and never misses a chance to add more. I bought her a giant one with dinosaurs drawn all over it, and that was truly her icing on the cake…

Becky and I later drove to Heathrow to pick up our guests, and we all drove to the city center, where Kimmy and Natasha joined us by coming to the city on the train. As Ilia noted from the very beginning, 10-year-old Josh cared very little for the city in the company of Becky. He also bridged the age gap between my two daughters somewhat, which helped Kimmy to feel more “included”. As for adults, we were doing our best to catch up.

After strolling around the center for a couple of hours, we retired to our house, availed ourselves of some of Natasha’s concoctions, put kids to bed and continued catching up for quite a while.

On Sunday morning we gave in to kids’ request to take a ride on the London Eye. That, basically, took all morning, but the kids were clowning together, Natasha, Ilia and I did not exhaust topics on which to catch up, so everybody was happy. The ride was followed by a hearty pub lunch at our favorite place near Charing Cross, Sherlock Holmes, where our guests tried traditional English offerings. Ilia even tried Spotted Dick for desert, which belies its curious name by being nothing more than a raisin cake.

Overall, the get-together was exceptionally enjoyable. Too bad it was brief, but all the more we are looking forward to future visits.

It is interesting to note that people who have not seen us for over six months, have commented that the person who changed the most was Kimmy. And they heard a distinct British accent in her speech…

Now, on to the less pleasant.

Occasional fraudulent transactions on our credit cards have happened to us before. Being internet-attuned, I have long developed a habit of keeping an eye on all of my finances on practically weekly basis. England, however, is years behind America in making account information reachable on the internet, so with our only UK credit card, I am limited to reviewing the information in the monthly statement.

So, I open my latest statement and find a dozen transactions that I do not recognize, buying stuff on Amazon, paying London congestion charge, etc. There is also an airline ticket purchase – and a refund for that purchase!? Nothing major, but over £300 in total. I immediately called the bank, listed all the transactions that were not ours, had them close the account and open a replacement one, and received assurances that I would not be responsible for the fraudulent charges.

It could have been worse, of course, as the fraud was perpetuated for almost three weeks. I guess whoever stole the numbers was being careful to not create a spike in activity or amounts charged, hoping that it may go unnoticed for longer. If I had continuous access to my information, I would have surely caught this as soon as it started. Even if this gets resolved with no harm to my finances, I am afraid I found another reason for being dissatisfied with the Old World.

I need to remind myself that our recent trip to Tuscany and our upcoming long weekend in Paris are only possible because we have relocated to the Old World. You lose some, you gain some, in a way…

Another bother were my website problems. I have built the site myself, but I used out-of-the-box freeware for blog, gallery and calendar portions of the site. They turned out to be vulnerable to some sort of malicious attack that inserted redirects to advertisement sites into their loading scripts. The effect on blog was mangled display, while gallery would not load at all. I spent half of last night upgrading and reconfiguring the packages to eliminate the problem. The bonus is some additional admin functions that I gained in the latest packages, but it was hardly an agreeable exercise.

Такие дела! (So it goes), as recently departed Kurt Vonnegut might have noted.


1 That’s spelling your name in a different language for you. With only four letters, Ilia and Ilya are written exactly the same in Russian. But when Ilia was emigrating to America, his name got spelled with an i while I got mine spelled with a y.