July 2006 Archives

Ah--the keyboard is free

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Hello all, Saint here. Somebody has been messing with the cushion in my crate. It's still the same cushion but it doesn't smell like me anymore; it smells like the old dame's clothes smell when she first puts them on in the morning. Also, it isn't lumpy and uneven anymore; it's uniformly thick and soft. I'm not sure I like the change.

I have an ow-ie. A wasp stung me day before yesterday. It hurt quite a lot, and I'm not usually one to complain. The old dame gave me some pain tablets that were left over from a scrape I got when I squeezed under the back fence as a pup. They helped some, but she says they're gone now. It's okay, I hardly notice it anymore. Oh, and the wasp--I chewed him up and spit him out. Serves him right.

So long folks--


Home again

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So, it wasn't my imagination. Since writing my last entry I've learned that London is now the 2nd most expensive city in which to live; only Tokyo beats it. I don't know when this happened or how, but I believe it.

When I first spent time in London in 1972, there were none of the kind of "fast food" restaurants that are ubiquitous today. Now, in addition to McDonald's being everywhere, there are Pret a Mangers and a slew of others. If you wanted a cheap, fast meal in 1972, you went to a fish and chips shop. I seem to recall paying about £1, depending on the type of fish you chose: sole was more expensive than haddock, which was more expensive than cod, or something like that.

I didn't notice any fish and chips shops in London this time around. Maybe they're a thing of the past. Most restaurants have fish and chips on the menu, but it isn't cheap.

Changing topics: I'm going to change my web host. I'm paying $25/month for this site, and I don't need to pay more than $5. I expect this to be a painful, aggravating process--nothing is ever easy. If this site is down for a while, don't think it's gone for good--it'll just be a temporary hiatus.


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I'm in London. I'm here to attend some meetings, but I came over a couple days early "to adjust to the time change"--at least that was my excuse; I really just wanted a weekend on my own before the meetings started.

I've been in London quite a few times. The first time was thirty-four years ago when I was in college. I remember London being cheap back then. The Underground was dirt cheap; even taxis were cheap. Fish and chips was cheap, as was beer.

On this trip I've been stunned by how much things cost. Mike and I were here five years ago and I don't remember feeling this way. The prices would seem about right if they were in dollars instead of pounds, but with the exchange rate being nearly $2 to the pound, prices are double what I'd expect to pay back home.

Yesterday I took a short taxi ride--my first and last if I can help it--and paid £12: almost $24. I took the Underground after that and paid £3 for a short trip. I'd pay less than $3 for a comparable ride on the DC Metro. It started to rain and I bought a small umbrella at Boots--£15. Again, that would seem about right if it were dollars, not pounds. Last night I had fish and chips, a beer, and dessert at the Sherlock Holmes pub/restaurant and with the tip it came to £21--almost $42.

I went into a couple of clothing stores--didn't buy anything, just looked around--and had the same impression. The prices would be about what I'd expect to pay if they were in dollars instead of pounds.

When did London get so expensive? A couple of summers ago Mike and I were in Ireland and I noticed how expensive it was to eat in restaurants or get a beer in a pub. I wondered how the locals felt about it and when I asked I heard plenty of grumbling. People blamed it on Ireland having joined the European Common Market.

The exchange rate hasn't changed much since my first trip to London; it's always been about $2 to the pound. Which means prices here have gone up twice as fast as prices in the US. I wonder what's happened here in England to make everything so expensive, and if wages have kept up?

Ah, that explains it

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I ran some errands over my lunch hour today and had NPR on in the car. I heard a good explanation of why polls show people aren't too happy about the economy these days, despite the growth the administration is crowing about.

It was all about medians and means but it boils down to this: say there are a bunch of guys in a bar, and the average income of the bunch is $18,000/year. Then Bill Gates walks in. Now the average income of the guys in the bar is $37,000,000/year. The Republicans can't figure out why, polling the guys in the bar, the majority of them say they don't feel any richer.

No Truer Words

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From Billmon:

But there finally came a point when I realized it doesn't really matter what Jewish humanitarians and peace activists think, just as it makes no difference what the moderates on the Palestinian side say or do. In the end, those fully vested in war will always have the final say.

As true here as in Israel and Palestine and throughout the Mideast. He goes on to say that with regard to the Israeli/Palestinian conflict: "Under such circumstances, the truth is the enemy of peace, not its friend."

With regard to our own war in Iraq, though, truth is the enemy of the warhawks. And yet, all they have to do is accuse those who would not have waged this war, those who would withdraw, of cowardice, of cutting and running, for opposition to crumble. That's some powerful rhetoric, that the administration and congress would rather see the Mideast awash in blood and ruin before allowing themselves to be accused of backing away from a fight.

Trip Pics

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I finally got around to uploading some pics from our trip out to Jenner. I wasted the camera battery on too many pictures of the ocean, sea gulls, etc., and the camera died while we were out there. I bought one of those disposable cameras but I haven't gotten the film developed yet; these pictures cover the first week of the trip, or thereabouts.

If I embedded all the pics in this post the page would probably load too slowly, so I'll use thumbnails. Click on a thumbnail to see a larger version.

We flew to San Jose, since I was able to get cheaper flights into and out of San Jose than SFO. I discovered when we arrived that I'd neglected to change the rental car reservation when I rescheduled the trip after my father died, so we ended up getting the only vehicle Avis had left (Hertz had nothing available at all): a mini-van. Here is Mike loading our luggage into what would be our ride for the next ten days: We skirted around San Francisco to the east and drove across the Richmond San Rafael Bridge into Marin: Our destination was Jenner, a small town (population about 120) on the coast where the Russian River runs into the Pacific. It's about ten miles north of Bodega Bay, which is about 90 miles north of San Francisco. We stayed at the Jenner Inn, in a 100+-year-old cottage: The cottage was behind the main building of the Jenner Inn, along a short gravel driveway. Here's Mike standing on the gravel drive; our minivan is in the background, and the cottage is to the left, out of sight: A little farther along that gravel road is a large open area where weddings have been held. I took this picture looking up into the hills from there: One afternoon I took some pics of a couple of deer out there: The view from our cottage was obscured by trees, but we could see a bit of the Russian River: Heh, here's a pic of me soaking up some rays on the cottage deck (note the wine glass): We slept in Jenner every night, but we didn't stay there during the day. We drove down Route 1 to Bodega Bay several times; a distance of about 10 miles. I took many, many pictures of the ocean: Here's an "artsy" shot of Mike on the beach, looking pensive: We drove out to Bodega Head and took more pictures: We also did laundry in Bodega Bay. No cell phones work in Jenner, and I couldn't pick up a Cingular signal to get online, so we took the laptop with us everywhere. Here's Mike checking his email while doing laundry: We also spent time in Guerneville, a town on the Russian River 10 or 15 miles east of Jenner. Mike found a gym there where he could pay by the day or week to work out: The owner was a great, friendly guy named Terry. I have pics of him on the disposable camera.

But...this is the real reason we were there: Wine tasting!! Here's our guide at Korbel winery, which makes champagne: We spent a couple of days tasting at wineries along the "Russian River wine road," which goes up to Healdsburg, a couple of days in the Sonoma Valley, and a couple of days in the Napa Valley. Here's a picture of Mike and me with the Brothers Beringer:

And that's all I have for now, until I finish the roll of film on the disposable camera and get it developed.

Heart of Darkness

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Title cribbed from Buzzflash, which links it to this article by Lawrence Kaplan in TNR. It starts:

Even by the degraded standards of everyday life in Baghdad, this report from CNN's Nic Robertson comes as a shock:

One international official told me of reports among his staff that a 15-year-old girl had been beheaded and a dog's head sewn on her body in its place; and of a young child who had had his hands drilled and bolted together before being killed.

I don't agree with the author's conclusion, that this is the result of a "coarsened and brittle culture" in Iraq and no number of American soldiers, no perfect post-war plan, could have prevented it.

It's as though a portal to hell has opened in Iraq. Maybe it was somewhere else before--someplace ignored by our MSM--and it moved to Iraq, going where the pointless violence welcomed it. Or maybe it's a new portal and now there are two, or three, or a hundred or more. It's as though pure evil is taking over the collective consciousness of a segment of the population. It's a sickness of the mind. What religion would be served by this? What god?

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