Friday, December 21, 2007

yeah yeah yeah (but not how Usher says it)

Note- I am typing on a German kezboard for the umteenth time so excuse the typos!!!

So last night, after driving through the length of Eastern Austria we arrived in Salzburg, which begs the question - Why is Salzburg still called Salzburg in German but Vienna is called Wien...if I knew how to type a question mark on this keyboard, I would.

We found a cute little hotel that I will proudly advertise... www.stadhotel-salzburg.at

This morning's breakfast buffet was out of this world with about 15 types of cheese and even more varieties of ham and bread and chocolate. For that alone, this place was worth the 120 euro room.

Then, we took the famous Sound of Music Tour, and now I can't get the songs from this movie-musical out of my head, which means I should probably go see it in London next week or something. My mother told me I had to take this tour, so I did, and her advice didn't let me down.

After strolling through Christmas markets and cute little streets, we booked it to Vienna, where I have just arrived.



RETICENCE

The British are reticent in times of trouble or frustration, and I've been worried lately that in situations where I should speak my mind, that I too am keeping hush and turning my head the other way- Today in Salzburg, for the first 10 minutes of my Sound of Music bus tour, a passenger sitting directly behind me would not get off his mobile phone...it was rude and irritating, but as I was surrounded by Brits, I wasn't shocked at all that nobody would speak up and say something...and now having adopted many British cultural attributes, I, formerly a loud-mouthed New Yorker said nothing at all in response to this behavior. But just now, waiting for the lone computer in the hotel lobby (I decided to leave the laptop at home)...a German woman was using the computer for some 30 minutes...I asked her how much longer she would be on, and she said 10 minutes, after 20, I was fed up enough...and then I politely said something and she left...but I feel like my Brit friends would be waiting here for hours before they spoke up (if ever at all)!



England: Urban Socialite in the Sticks Part 3

OK, so attending a 12-person Christmas dinner with my classmates two nights ago at a decent Indian restaurant in town. Before any food arrived at our table, and when my wine-partner and I had each poured the first class of a bottle that we had split, our waiter decides to shake things up a bit...literally, and he moves our table over 8 inches to make room for another unexpected group of guests. But in the process of moving this hunk of oak, he completely spills our bottle of wine, and until I can turn it upright *thankfully without any damage to clothing* at least three glasses have been lost. In America, a new bottle would appear on the table within seconds of a staff member committing such a faux-pas, no questions asked. And one could also expect a free dessert or discount on the bill as a result of such a calamity. However, in England, this apparently isn't the case. The waiter never bothered to bring a new bottle, or even acknowledge that he had massively screwed up. After a significant amount of BEGGING, I was given two replacement glasses of wine, filled with the crap house wine that probably sat in an opened barrel for years before...I was astonished by this experience, as my British friends wrote this off by saying, "Welcome to Britain. You're lucky you got any replacement for the wine at all." WOW!

So many flurries: It's a blizzard out there!

ENGLAND - PART OF SERIES: Urban Socialite in the Sticks

Attending school at UEA in Norwich has informed me of life as a rural hick for the first time since five years ago when I tried and failed to be a student at Cornell University, stuck in the heart of upstate New York wastelands. I have realized that in many ways I am living in a backward society....this could not have been more true today when I boarded the train that was supposed to take me to Stansted Airport, but the conductor decided that such a stop would not be necessary, forcing me all the way back to Norwich from a place called Brummel (luckily I made my flight...) So in Brummel, I see that there is actually a man who has the job of opening and closing a gigantic wooden gate that covers the train tracks before each train passes by...this is a bit absurd, given that America and presumably the rest of the 1st world have had the technology for ages to have electronic barriers that open and close automatically as trains approach - what century is this place called Norfolk stuck in?



SLOVENIA:

I am reporting live from Slovenia, it is 5am, and the clubs are still rocking strong...with my cousin (a film industry prof.) and a friend from the UK we are taking this small town by storm...tonight we wound up at a club called BACCHUS where we intermingled with the Slovenian Elite (this phrase is not an oxz moron I assure you) - once again I am having the same keyboard troubles I had in Germany as the Y and Z key are switched making life hellish at best...tomorrow we are off to Lake Bled, but on a whim, we have decided to spend the night in Salzburg, Austria...more updates on this adventure soon.PS - tonight we were taken under the wing of an American Air Force Major who has a Slovenian wife, and despite her cheating on him, we learned that he is one of the world's foremost world war 1 experts...lots more cool stuff to come.

REQUIEM FOR A SWEATER...ALMOST

After arriving back from a hard night of clubbing and general debauchery *read...I went out with my cousin Lindsey and my friend Travis last night, and each of them quickly found a candidate to make sweet Eastern European love to early in the night leaving me to get way too drunk while I had to try not to barf from watching them make out with their respective new friends...enough of that...so we are staying at this crazy hostel that becomes a bar all night and is generally overflowing with random people, mostly locals, 24-7...so this morning, after I woke up in a sloshy mix of hangover and sweat I realized that I had forgotten my sweater *aka my jumper* on the seat beside the very public computer that I am using to post right now...I first chastised my cousin for making me take my sweater back when at 4AM I told her to part from her new lover as we had a big day ahead of us causing her to throw a typical drunken fit that she would obviously forget about in the morning...the sweater has been through a lot with me, making it my number one travel companion, and I knew that surviving the night in a very open area of an Eastern *believe me this is not Central* European Hostel...but alas, as I sprinted out of my room in my boxer shorts, upon dreaming the loss of my sweater, there it was, hung over on the chair where I left if four hours before. Phew...


Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Retrospective from December 8th...

Last night, circa 7pm, I'm dressed to the nines on my way to the end of the year Christmas dinner for the UEA Concrete newspaper, and I get no further than the roundabout 2 minutes from my house when...a nice driver, gives me the brights and waves for me to cross the street. As I am riding across, some crazy chav woman fails to slow down and barrels into the front of my bike as I come to a screeching halt, slamming into her car. I was dazed, I was confused. But I didn't need to be hospitalized...it was insane though, my first ever motor vehicle accident...I think the adrenaline shot through me like never before in my life, and I was mumbling sweet nothings for about 30 minutes....in the end I made it to my dinner, and my bicycle should be fixed by next Thursday...now I'm seriously considering riding with a helmet and one of thosy dorky neon reflector vests. I'm lucky to be alive, and thus took the day off today to really enjoy the simple pleasures of life: grocery shopping (for the dinner I'm cooking for my housemates tomorrow) and cleaning my room (to procrastinate writing my end-of-term paper)...life is good.

Another grandiose flurry.

Flying home on Xmas...some Freakonomics of my own.

Cost/benefit analysis.That's what I'm constantly running inside my head. Ever since taking a basic economic course in high school my ways of thinking have been transformed. I'm flying home on Christmas Day, saving £90 over the next cheapest flight. However, I failed to realize that public transportation in this country does not exist on December 25th, meaning that I will have to make the journey from Norwich to Heathrow on the 24th. So as not to really financially screw myself by spending a night in a hotel, I will be camping out in Heathrow with my IPod, some reading material, and my laptop (to document the experience). It's been done by me before - once in Brussels, once in Pisa (where the airport closes at midnight and reopens at 5am, forcing me to sleep outside) and once in Rome (where I built an elaborate fort out of luggage with some friends). Luckily, for novices sleeping in airports (or other transport points), the good ole internet has made life much easier. Sleepinginairports.com is my go-to-source for all things necessary to make a budget night a truly magnificent experience. If you ever find yourself with an early morning flight or tight on the budget, please take this site's advice first.

I'm probably not a criminal...but maybe I am.

Ever since TVLinks was taken down a couple of months ago, a void was left unfilled for other similar sites to take its place. Well kids, I've found the answer: www.sidereel.com. I feel ok about myself watching episode after episode of Entourage (I watched six episodes yesterday and now I'm completely up to date with the series), because I know I didn't download anything. I just watched a streaming video, as I would on YouTube. Is it moral to do this to the broadcast companies? Probably not. But until I've got a significant income to purchase every DVD I could ever dream of, Sidereel takes the cake in terms of cost, effectiveness, and ease of use - as I don't even have to get out of bed to have whatever entertainment I want on demand.

Good food in Norwich? Nah

The struggle to find good food in Norwich has really been getting to me. A friend told me a great theory: For every mile you travel outside of London, the food is equivalent to British cuisine from that many years ago. Thus, Norwich is 115 miles from London, so the food is about as good as British cuisine was in the year 1892. I have found but a few standout places to dine at thus far. None offer British cuisine. All offer tapas (meaning if you don't like one dish you can easily get over your flawed decision-making). So, when you want to take that trip to lovely Norwich for a weekend out of the city, stop by Torrero (Spanish Tapas), Baba Ghanoush (Mediterranean fare), and Shiki (Japanese).

Limited, Darjeeling that is.

The Darjeeling Limited and I got along great. I still have that song stuck in my head - Peter Sarstedt's Where do you go to my lovely?

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

A mini-series of blogs=Longest post ever!

AIM+GCHAT=PROCRASTINATORGASM

They said it couldn't be done, but I knew the geniuses at Google were capable of anything short of achieving fission...and it's finally here: GCHAT has now officially been integrated with AIM. Goodbye Adium! Hello hours upon hours per day of employees jerking around while they're supposed to be doing work...the net loss to the global economy from this invention will probably be something like billions of dollars per day. Ah, maybe they'll create a sequel to Office Space too!

ADDICTED TO CHARITY

There have been many games that I've wasted hundreds, if not thousands of hours playing during my life. Luckily, my parents never allowed me to own video games, otherwise it could have been much worse. But between Sim City 2000, Flight Simulator '98, Snake, Slingo, Scattergories and more, games will inevitably hold some place in my leisure time (read: procrastination time) for years to come. I came across the website freerice.com, and I am amazingly impressed. Not only can I improve my vocabulary, but I am giving to charity (though 10 grains of rice per correct answer, even at high levels, seems a bit silly). This is the first good thing that has come out of the United Nations in decades.

AMENDMENT: Good thing's come from Penn too.

Yesterday, I bitched and moaned (albeit in a lighthearted way) about bad press that the University of Pennsylvania was receiving...But, when I woke up today, there were two shining stars above my head. First, a New York Times article about how writers find a haven in the middle of a large University where they are many times overshadowed by the Wharton School of Business. The second gem, this one is REALLLY cool to me, especially during the holiday season was an op-ed piece written by a columnist at my former haunt, The Daily Pennsylvanian. Jim Saska enlightened me by writing about a marvelous program that enables people to purchase laptops for a mere $200, so long as they donate a second laptop of equal value to a child in an impoverished nation. So for $400 - that's less than £200 - you can get a new computer AND open up a new world for a poor kid.


CNN and Brookings are SOOOO DUMB!

CNN decided to publish a list of America's Most Walkable Cities based on a study created by The Brookings Institution:

WALKABILITY RANKINGS

1. Washington
2. Boston, Massachusetts
3. San Francisco, California
4. Denver, Colorado
5. Portland, Oregon
6. Seattle, Washington
7. Chicago, Illinois
8. Miami, Florida
9. Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
10. New York
11. San Diego, California
12. Los Angeles, California
13. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
14. Atlanta, Georgia
15. Baltimore, Maryland
16. St. Louis, Missouri
17. Minneapolis, Minnesota
18. Detroit, Michigan
19. Columbus, Ohio
20. Las Vegas, Nevada
21. Houston, Texas
22. San Antonio, Texas
23. Kansas City, Missouri
24. Orlando, Florida
25. Dallas, Texas
26. Phoenix, Arizona
27. Sacramento, California
28. Cincinnati, Ohio
29. Cleveland, Ohio
30. Tampa, Florida

IN WHAT WORLD IS LOS ANGELES A WALKABLE CITY? WERE THE AUTHORS OF THIS STUDY SMOKING CRACK? DID GENERAL MOTORS AND FORD CO-FINANCE THIS COMEDIC PIECE OF RESEARCH? As a former resident of Philadelphia who never once needed a car (and usually walked everywhere), I am shocked that this study was even published.


Penn in the news.

It always makes you glad when your reputable alma mater produces a fair share of criminals. Last year, I tracked down convicted sex offenders on campus. In the year prior to that one professor was convicted of rape and another of sexually abusing kids. But in the past week, the University of Pennsylvania has produced some new names for the FBI's 10 most wanted list: A Bonnie & Clyde-like duo as well as a worldwide computer hacker. I can only imagine what gossip I will hear next...

Monday, December 3, 2007

Deep Space


For the first 21 years of my life, I feared outter space. I feared the unnkown, and I feared black holes. But most importantly, I feared the fact that I am just some inconsequential little twirp, a mere spec, barely even a blip on the radar, in the grand scheme of the Universe. But then, I read Tom Wolfe's book, The Right Stuff, and all of my thoguhts began to change. (I have never seen the film, as there have been too many occasions in my life when brilliant books have been ruined for me as the films don't even come close to capturing the same level of emotions as the original piece.) I now view space as a valuable, beautiful entity, full of stories and adventures waiting to happen. So when the documentary In The Shadow of the Moon came to my local theatre, I made sure that I was first in line to see it. And I was not let down, but had I not read The Right Stuff, the film would have been meaningless, and incredibly scary for me. Go see this film, but give Tom Wolfe some credit first.