Wednesday, 5 November 2008

Bored in Reading?

Looking for something to do in Reading? Local blog Reading Roars offers a few good suggestions here. I have to say, I've done hardly any of them, but intend to change that!

Sunday, 7 September 2008

Scenes from around town


The face in the windows at Kings Point on King's Road.


Someone thought the Girl and Swan sculpture (there's a swan above her head) could use some hand-shoes. Everyone's an artist these days.


The gate at the Oscar Wilde Memorial Walk looks like the writer, and always remains open so that anyone may pass freely. The walk is just outside the old Reading Gaol (that's pronounced "jail" y'all) where Wilde was imprisoned for two years .

Tuesday, 22 July 2008

Getting dodgy with dollars

My mom loves the Dollar Tree. It's a little store not far from her home in rural Alabama. Everything is a buck, and she can have fun shopping on just a little money. I have been the recipient of many silly, often tacky, gifts from said store, all of which were appreciated because they were purchased with love by someone for whom every dollar counts.

Last week Mom told me there's now a sign at the Dollar Tree that says they won't take dollar bills. Say what?! How can you not take a dollar when it's in the name of your store? Isn't that false advertising? That would be like if Pizza Hut stopped selling pizzas. It just seems wrong.

Apparently the reason for the ban on bucks is that someone has been passing counterfeit dollar bills at the store. So that means some criminal mastermind decided to not only go to the time and effort to make fake one dollar bills instead of tens or twenties, but he or she also decided the place to spend them that would be worth risking prison was the Dollar Tree. Because stale cookies, out-of-date toiletries, fuzzy dice and various other things not worth more than a buck anyway are worth risking a few months eating cheap hot dogs and dreading shower time in county jail while you await trial. And he or she will spend the time in jail, 'cause you can't post bail with $10,000 in fake dollar bills.

Tuesday, 8 July 2008

The beauty of bad dancing

This video called "Dancing" by Matt Harding is a must-see. It shows Matt traveling around the world doing a silly dance, with brief clips in dozens of cities filmed on digital cameras. Crowds and children sometimes join in. The background music, composed especially for this video, gives a poignant feel. Seeing so many people around the world come together in a joyful celebration to do a goofy dance with a stranger actually made me cry a little. It's lovely, fun, funny and touching. Shake on, Matt. You can learn more about his story at his Web site.



Sunday, 8 June 2008

Getting rural at the museum


We visited the Museum of English Rural Life on Saturday as there was a special event with people doing demonstrations of old-timey crafts, music, etc. And peppered throughout the museum on various displays were stuffed toy rats, an homage to the lovely dark corners, grassy areas and rubbish bins of Reading. One supposes. There was even a game in the courtyard called Smack a Rat or some such in which darling tykes could take a bat and try to smack a toy rat dropped down a tube by a volunteer. Ah, a glimpse of the good old days!

But besides an odd preoccupation with rats, the museum was a perfectly nice example of a small museum preserving remnants of a past way of life, with old farm equipment, milk bottles, wagons, and homespun clothing. They even had the obligatory gift shop, complete with bookmarks made of sheep poo -- the perfect gift for that recycling fanatic on your Christmas list!

Wednesday, 4 June 2008

Porn at Poundland

No, I'm not talking about some adults-only club with a graphic name -- Poundland is a store where everything costs £1, kind of like The Dollar Tree in the U.S., except with everything costing twice as much (£1 = $2).

This morning I found shelves overloaded with one-pound porn DVDs, bearing such titles as Suburban Wives 1 and Girls in Uniform 2. But I just noticed I got Suburban Wives 1 *Volume 2*. Oh no! Will the story still make sense if we didn't see Volume 1 first? Ditto with the other DVD, as it's part 2, Volume 5. They also had Suburban Wives sequels through to No. 7. Hubby wondered if they manage to carry the characters' storylines successfully through to the end. Hmm, I'm guessing there are no storylines.

I arrived home to tell my hubby what a good wife I am. Yes, I was out spending his money. But hey, I also bought him porn. At Poundland. You want to hand some surly cashier a pile of cheapo porn? Ok, maybe some of you do that regularly anyway. But in my case, that shows love, man. And I wasn't really embarrassed; you may recall me blogging about how this store sold vibrating stuffed penises with smiling faces around Valentines' Day, in among all the other fare you normally see at a dollar store (or 2-dollar store, in this case). So I think the cashiers have seen it all. And after we watch these films, I will have, too.

Thursday, 15 May 2008

Yes, Virginia, editorial meetings really are boring

The Liverpool Daily Post became the first UK newspaper to broadcast its editorial meeting live on the Web on May 13. I couldn't get through more than two and a half minutes. God, editorial meetings were dire when I had to go to them, and I sure wouldn't want to sit through them without being paid. At least if there are no cameras around, most meetings are slightly spiced up by the possibility of a good argument, chastisements over screw-ups in the previous day's paper, and once in awhile an inappropriate comment that has everyone whispering afterward about how so-and-so should watch what he says 'cause someone could go to HR over that. (That last one probably only happens in the States, because I'm not sure what it would take to be considered inappropriate office behavior in the land of making sexual jokes at the office after having a couple beers at lunch, but it's got to be something heavy duty to get into trouble here from what I've heard).

And could the people at the Liverpool meeting look any more uncomfortable? At least if the cameras weren't on they could doodle, surreptitiously read a paper, or try to doze off with eyes wide open. I can't imagine how much it would suck to have a camera at one of these meetings. Check it out below:



Wednesday, 14 May 2008

Bea Arthur's 10 Best Moments

VH1's The Best Week Ever celebrated Bea Arthur's 86th birthday with clips of her top 10 moments. Check out No. 1 (below) with her reading about anal sex, and the one where she, Sally Struthers, Mrs. Garrett from "Facts of Life" and Mona from "Who's the Boss" do their version of "Sex and the City". Go on with your bad self, Miss Bea! (And thanks to the folks at pyzam.com for making the Hot Like Bea pic available to all.)




Thursday, 1 May 2008

Bag is a poot ... er, I mean hoot

The Oracle Shopping Center in Reading is giving away these "Bags for Life" (which is what reusable shopping bags are called in marketing campaigns here) this weekend. The slogan on it refers to gases emitted by cows, which can cause climate change (my hubby could explain all this better than I; let's just say the pic means that people are affecting the environment, too, and we can all try to be "greener").

If you look closely at the pic, the drawing depicts "wind" coming out of the cow's butt! That's right, I picked up my free bag with a picture of a cow farting. I think a U.S. mall would leave the "wind" off the picture, because we're a bit more delicate about bodily functions in the U.S. (a place where it's considered crass to say you're going to the toilet, as Brits do; we prefer saying we're going to the restroom or bathroom - that's far less graphic, as for all you know we're just going to wash our hands. If you say you need a toilet, well, that's more info than I wanted).


Tuesday, 29 April 2008

It starts so young ...

Seems you *can* make people like you if you give them things. At least this kid is young enough to be honest about it (FYI, I was tipped off to this clip at Me and My Big Mouth):



Friday, 11 April 2008

Sunday, 6 April 2008

Snow!


Snow. In Southeast England. In April. Kinda cool!

Saturday, 5 April 2008

Gravel shows shades of Shatner

Former U.S. Senator and current candidate to be prez Mike Gravel has some of the most freaky-cool campaign ads I've ever seen. Here's one where he recites Helter Skelter a la William Shatner (who totally rocks in his "Has Been" album, no joke. Check out my fav, Common People, and another fun one, Has Been. But I digress). Shake it, Gravel, you won't break it:




And here's another called "power to the people vs give peace a chance." Rap on, gramps!



Tuesday, 1 April 2008

Scenes around town

I took my camera with me recently when I scooted around on some errands. Here are some local sights:

The above is a statue of Queen Victoria located in front of Town Hall.

And there's the side view of Town Hall, which stretches across a block.

Here's a view of the abbey ruins, as seen from Kings Road.


And finally, here's a picture of a sunrise a few weeks ago. Pretty, no? :)

Saturday, 29 March 2008

Brit on a Wire

Did you know that the dreamy, tough, flawed, sexy, cop Jimmy McNulty on the HBO drama "The Wire" is played by a British actor? Not just British, but Eton and Trinity College educated? KerrBoom. That was the sound of my mind being blown when I picked up the copy of Telegraph Men's Style inside the newspaper today with the picture of Dominic West on the cover.

On the show, he seems totally American, all Baltimore, a hard-working cop who screws up his personal life with ease. And of course I knew he wasn't those things in real life -- except I never guessed he wasn't American. I was already impressed with his acting before, but to know that he was totally putting on that accent on top of all the other acting work is just amazing. He sounds perfect for the part, never slipping in his pronunciation. That's even more impressive than his smoldering gaze. Just barely.

Saturday, 22 March 2008

Dreaming of a white ... Easter?

Snow is expected across much of England for Easter. The cold, wind and rain kept me indoors today.

Now that I'm addicted to bargain hunting (a hobby I need to curtail a bit as I may find deals, but I'm spending more than I would have on things that aren't really needed), it's hard to sit in the house when I went to be out! It's like I need a fix, and it's not as though I didn't go out several times last week. As far as I can tell, the country shuts down on Easter, so there'll be no shopping then, either. I wonder how you buy a Sunday paper with all the stores closed down (I've never seen a coin-operated paper box in this country)?

Tuesday, 18 March 2008

Slam this

I may have been slammed. Very possibly it was just another example of gross inefficiency by a company, but it's hard to say. Slamming is "the practice of swapping a consumer's residential phone line over to a new company without their consent." Sounds highly illegal, but it's not.

I got a letter from Sky telling me it was sorry to hear I'm canceling it's Sky Talk service, which gives me unlimited calls to the U.S. for a flat rate this normally costs £5 a month, but which Sky had just agreed to give me for free for one year to keep my business, starting March 26. Which is exactly why I never would've dreamed of canceling service with them, yet their records show I have.

So I called Sky, and they said a third party has requested my phone service. Well, when I signed on for the free deal with Sky Talk, I also agreed to let Sky take over my line service from BT, saving £2 a month. I'm pretty sure the "third party" is Sky itself, their system just doesn't show it. It should, but this sort of thing has happened to me with other companies, where their systems are just crappy and the information isn't properly networked. So I asked the lady on the phone who the third party was, and she said she didn't know, that it just said "third party" and no name had to be given. A company can just contact your supplier, say they want your service, not tell you about it or even state who they are to the first company, and they can steal your phone service! Meaning if someone does steal our service in this way, we could make several calls to the States (or indeed the UK, as without Sky Talk you're charged per call here), and run up a huge bill without knowing our rates have changed! It's a huge con game!

So the lady tells me to call BT and find out who the third party is. I call BT, and they don't have a name, either! Holy crap, that's ridiculous! They then put me back through to Sky, and this time I got a man who said the system showed that I *wasn't* set to change over -- he said there were notes on the system from my previous call stating that I didn't want to change. But the first lady said if someone wants to take your service, you can't stop it! So I don't know what's going on. The supposed cancellation is due to take place March 27, and the 2nd Sky rep told me to call on the 24th to make sure there was no changeover. Except that the 24th is the day after Easter here, which I think is a holiday and I doubt they'll be in. Whenever I reach them, I'll call back on the 27th to make sure they really do still have my service so that I know my calls are free.

I do know, however, that no "third party" has sent me a "welcome" letter for joining their service, which presumably they would do. Which backs up my theory that the request to switch service came from Sky itself, which it what should have happened to change over my line service. This was all very stressful, very poor service and completely insane. Once it's all cleared up, I may call back to file a complaint, for what good it's worth. Maybe they'll give me a discount. They should.

Monday, 17 March 2008

Attacks on clergy

Hate ain't pretty. Clergy are now being attacked by drunk a-holes, apparently over religious differences (the attackers were Muslim). Here's the story from the Times, and below is the gist of it:

Canon Ainsworth, 57, who was wearing his clerical collar, was punched and kicked by two Asian youths while another shouted religious abuse outside St George’s on March 5. He suffered cuts, bruises and two black eyes. He was discharged from St Bartholomew’s hospital but later readmitted following complications to an injury.

Canon Ainsworth moved to St George’s at the end of last year after his wife was appointed as the first female chief education officer for the Church of England. Mrs Ainsworth said: “Normally community relations here are very good. We have had very strong messages of support from the East London Mosque and Tower Hamlets Mosque, with whom we’ve got good relations.

“Clearly, the Muslim community is very shocked. These individuals were under the influence and this was a random act, but it may well be that some good can come out of it.

...

Nick Tolson, a former police officer who set up the National Churchwatch safety scheme, said that there had been an increase in faith hate attacks on clergy.

“The harassment is usually coming from young Asian men – often, but not exclusively, Muslim,” he said. “The police and prosecutors will classify an attack on a mosque or Muslim as a hate crime but not if it is a church or a vicar. These aren’t targeted attacks, they are spontaneous, but [the victims] are being singled out because of their faith and should be dealt with in the same way as other members of the community.”



Sunday, 16 March 2008

Customer service? What's that?

On hold for 15 minutes with BT phone service this morning, only to be cut off as soon as I talked to a service rep. He had already taken my phone number; will he be calling back? Nope, doesn't look like it.

Also, I need to call Sky satellite TV service as they had just offered me a year free of Sky talk. And then sent me a letter saying "sorry to hear you are canceling Sky talk" and as of March 26 the service that lets me call the U.S. for free will be cut off! WTF? This is England, y'all, and these are the type of stupid problems brought about by inefficiency and not caring about customer service that people deal with on a very regular basis here. These problems are actually quite mild compared to most of the stuff I deal with, but it's constant problems and cock-ups here. That's England -- premium prices, crap service. Urgh!!!

Tuesday, 11 March 2008

Lost, my American-flavored guilty pleasure

I love Lost, and wonderfully enough, it airs only three days behind new episodes in the States (as compared to many other shows that are months or even a year or so behind -- like How I Met Your Mother and 30 Rock).

Anyhoo, for any other Lost-ites out there, I just read a really interesting theory of what the heck may be going in that show. Check it out here.

Friday, 7 March 2008

A truly tasty bargain

I finally found a good deal at a restaurant with great food. And I'm amazed by that fact. England is the land of high prices, and that definitely includes eating out. At a very basic fast-foodish place in London called the Hamburger Hamlet last year, we spent $25 on two burgers, one order of fries and one cola (not being a big drinker and avoiding caffeine, I stuck with tap water, per usual). And the food was nothing special, believe me. That's why we almost never go out, and when we do it's to the very basic Back of Beyond, and even then only when socializing with friends.

But tonight we had a date, just us. And it was no more costly than having a burger and fries at the Back of Beyond. We spent about $24 on two scrumptious orders of Sicilian Chicken served on a bed of potatoes in a spiced tomato and red pepper sauce. We also had desserts -- a yummy chocolate "pudding" (sponge cake with hot chocolate sauce inside) served with ice cream for Hubby and an order of iced winter berries in an amazing hot white chocolate sauce for me. AND Hubby had a beer (that alone was $6.40). We got all that here in Reading at the Slug and Lettuce for a bargain price because I'd clipped a coupon from the newspaper that gave us half price on all food orders at the restaurant. My bargain hunting is paying off!

The presentation was wonderful and the food tasted even better than it looked. I was duly impressed. They could've turned down the throbbing music a bit to make it perfect, and having extra wait staff to help out the two-overworked souls bringing out the food would've been nice. But I can't complain when the food is that good AND that inexpensive. We'll definitely be going back (because I have another coupon -- I'm still not down with paying full price, though I must say, it would be worth it).

Sunday, 2 March 2008

Ex-cons need GPs, too

I was in the waiting room to see my GP where I heard two others waiting to see a doc comparing notes about their time in prison. They met at the doctor's office; it was apparent they didn't come in together and didn't know each other beforehand. What are the odds?

Saturday, 1 March 2008

A Holly Jolly Wal-Mart Christmas


That's what my husband called his haul of stuff he got on a recent visit to the States, land of lovely prices at Wal-Mart. I tossed some of it in a basket as I emptied his suitcase.

Wednesday, 27 February 2008

Earthquake

Last night I felt the shaking, and at first thought the upstairs neighbors had dropped something or were running around. Hubby didn't feel it for a few seconds, and by then it was obvious that it was an earthquake. The couch felt like someone was rocking it, and the ottoman where I set my laptop was shaking. It just lasted a few seconds more, and Hubby was a bit fascinated by it all. There's a story about it here.

I was surprised to read that: "Police in the Midlands received more than 5,000 calls in hour and in Dudley 12 people walked into the police station in their pyjamas." Perhaps the quake was stronger in that area. It didn't disturb us at all; we just thought it would be interesting to read about in the morning and went right on watching TV.

Thursday, 21 February 2008

Mmm, pancakes

I whipped up a batch of American-style pancakes tonight, the first time I've made pancakes in years (except for when I tried a British pancake mix recently, and they came out gross and gooey). I found a recipe for American pancakes using spelt flour, which is supposedly healthier than the regular ol' white flour (I also used skim milk instead of the suggested soy milk). We smothered them in low-cal syrup that my hubby brought back from his recent trip to the States, needed because the only syrup we can find here is pure maple. Which equals way too strong for more, and way too expensive, too. The stuff here costs about $4 for a 3.5 ounce bottle, compared to the 24-ounce American bottle that cost $1.29 at Wal-Mart.

Man, they were good! Brought me right back to the days of sitting at Waffle House in Alabama at 2 a.m. after dancing all night, often seated with people I hadn't known more than a few hours. Mmm, mmm, just sitting there, eating a pecan waffle while the guy across from me was having hash browns (smothered and covered, natch), and maybe someone else had bacon and eggs or some other variety of fried, fatty food that was oh so good and cost about two bucks. I'd just sit there, eating and laughing and watching the place fill up with people as the bars closed.

The most crowded I ever saw a Waffle House was on a Christmas Day after my mother and I had made a four-hour drive coming back from visiting relatives. It seemed like a good idea to head to Waffle House for some reason, and we sat at the "bar" in the only open seats and had a good (if unhealthy), cheap meal. It was a lot of fun, and I still enjoy saying I had Christmas dinner at Waffle House one year.

Tuesday, 19 February 2008

A pub by any other name ...


... is not as interesting. There are some great pub names in England; far more that are striking and often far different than what you'll find in the States. One I like is the Back of Beyond (pictured above). The name comes from a term used for any remote area (I'd never heard the term before coming here); it's kind of like the American expression that something is located in Bum F*** Egypt (also referred to as BFE) or Bum F*** Nowhere (BFN). Saying "Back of Beyond" makes me think of some far off, mystical land. As it applies to this pub, however, it denotes a cozy place where the food and drink are cheap (for England, anyway). You can get a burger, fries and a drink (beer, wine or cola) for about $9.

Some other interesting pub names in Reading: Great Expectations, The Queen's Head, The Monk's Retreat, The Hobgoblin, The Jolly Porter, The Purple Turtle, Pavlov's Dog, and The Upin Arms (I love this name!).

Know of a cool or funny pub name in Reading or elsewhere? Please share!

Friday, 15 February 2008

So that's what they said in Trainspotting ...

Although English newspapers are lacking in the sale circulars and coupons I loved in American papers, they do often entice you to buy with freebies.

This week the Times has given away a free screenplay each day (if you buy the paper at WHSmith bookstore or turn in a coupon there). Today's script was "Trainspotting" (you can find the script online here). Which was cool, because that's one of my husband's favorite movies, and now he can finally figure out what everyone is saying (Scottish accents are a wee bit hard to follow). The paper cost about $1.40. Maybe all the "free" items are why papers (and magazines) cost so much more here.

Still, freebies are cool, although not always something you'd want. We haven't watched a single free DVD we've gotten yet (how we can stand to hold off watching "Merlin" or news highlights of 1970, I don't know).

Wednesday, 13 February 2008

Confusion is the word

According to an article in the Times, a new report has found that "Redesigning roads to leave drivers and pedestrians uncertain about who has priority will save lives." Creating confusion on purpose, hmm, that explains a lot about this country. And here I was hoping for *more* traffic lights. Down with roundabouts, already!



Tuesday, 12 February 2008

Alanis rocks

I may be late to the party, but I just saw Alanis Morissette's parody of "My Humps" by Fergie and the Black Eyed Peas (made last year I think). Alanis does it in her own unique style, showing her sense of humor full force. And even though it's all for laughs, she actually makes the song almost seem like it has depth for a second here and there. Now *that's* talent. Go on, Alanis, you had me at "my hump, my hump, my lovely little lumps." Check out the video below.



Saturday, 9 February 2008

A lovely church



One thing Reading seems to have in abundance is lovely old churches. Here are some pictures of the Polish Roman Catholic Church of the Sacred Heart of Jesus on Watlington Street.





Wednesday, 6 February 2008

Sexy stuff for a quid


Where would one expect to find these "Furry love cuffs with a feather teaser?" Perhaps some adult novelty store or sexy lingerie shop? Nope, they were along with household goods, food and toys at Poundland. The store is similar to the Dollar Tree in the U.S., except here everything is £1 instead of $1. Click here to see other Valentine's items they have for a quid, including edible nipple tassles, adult "playsets", and something called a Willy Lead (translation to American English: a penis leash).

When I lived in Alabama, such items were only at Spencer gifts or in an "adult" store. Of course, Alabama was way too repressed about such things. But I'm torn between thinking it's refreshing that they aren't as repressed here, and feeling a bit sorry for anyone whose toddler asks what a Willy Lead is and why you'd want that. But since I don't have kids, I'll just enjoy shopping for the fun, cheap kinky stuff. However, since I was slightly embarrassed to hand my furry cuffs to the young man behind the counter while someone's grandma was in line behind me, I don't know how comfortable I'd be buying an edible G string or the bedroom play kit (which is a Do Not Disturb sign, ribbons for binding wrists, and an eyeshade/blindfold). But I gotta admit, for £1, these items make a nice fun or funny gift, depending on the viewpoint of the receiver!

Saturday, 2 February 2008

Wow ... just, wow

Woolworth's stores here recently withdrew sale of a little girl's bed sold as the Lolita model after mothers complained. The staff was baffled about complaints at first, until they looked Lolita up on Wikipedia. How, seriously, how, could that happen? No one involved in the creation and marketing of the item figured out the reference before it went on sale.

In case you don't know, Lolita was a little girl in a book of the same name who was repeatedly sexually abused by her obsessed stepfather. The word has come to be associated with sexually promiscuous young teens. I'm really not a prude, but could we please not market things to 6-year-old girls that have a reference to sex abuse and promiscuity? Could we maybe put down the Sun and read a book once in awhile so that people get the reference to Nabokov?

The story also mentions that:
In 2006 Tesco ... removed its pole-dancing kit from the toys and games section of its website after it was accused of destroying children’s innocence.
Can you imagine getting a kid the Lolita bed and a pole-dancing kit for Christmas? Throw in some clear "hooker" heels and a belly ring, and she'll be ready for a job at Scores in a few years. Maybe it could be a marketing campaign; stores could package all of the above with a Stripper Barbie and call it a tribute to working girls. Actually, I shouldn't even joke about such things lest it show up in the next Argos catalogue!

Sunday, 27 January 2008

Put on your corsets and calm those nerves

My hubby just before we watched Lark Rise to Candleford: "I find these BBC period dramas so calming." Which is pretty amazing, considering how he primarily enjoys the History Channel, news shows and guy movies. And any TV shows that mix violence with good dialogue. Now I can add to his favorites list shows that focus on propriety, village life and love that cannot be due to one's station in life.

Happy B-day, John Belushi

This is a few days late (his birthday was Jan. 24 according to IMDB), but here it is. Happy birthday John; we miss ya, man.



Friday, 25 January 2008

Do you like freebies?

I love freebies! I know this isn't my normal topic here, but I've found several freebies that others in the UK can take advantage of, too. Here goes:

Free eye test at D&A

Free flight if you sign up with BMI's Diamond Club (but you do pay fees and taxes, so it remains to be seen how much of a deal this is)

Get a coupon for half price entrees at Zizzi restaurant in the Telegraph next week (I think it comes in Sunday's too, but the week editions are cheaper)

These finds all came from Moneysavingexpert.com. These seem to be the most usable bargains I've ever found there, and they don't involve signing up for a credit card or some such to get them!

Takes off bargain-finder cap.

Monday, 21 January 2008

Where does the Times find these goobers?

The Times will apparently print any uninformative, ill-researched and plain wrong article that grabs attention. Case in point: a travel article advising people to stay away from the U.S. because gaining entry is too tough. Really? Turns out the writer means that it's not really tough to get in, but rather going through security and immigration is a pain in the ass. He then fails to really explain any of these new difficulties in detail or list anything that sounds significantly different from what it's like getting into the UK, and the only things that sound bad are the things that he imagines are the thoughts going on in some official's head, or things that could maybe sorta happen.

He mentions "A preflight e-interrogation," which he fails to explain and, based on his attitude, probably is an out-of-proportion way of describing answering a couple of questions online. He also dreams up "an outside chance of a rubber-gloved rectal rummage." Believe me, the guards don't want to give a booty check anymore than you want to get one, and that kind of thing isn't done randomly like a bag check. Then the writer suggests other places people can go instead, which he presumably thinks have more lax security. Because you'd rather get through the airport fast than feel safe? Good luck with that.

I personally don't have a stake in where the lamo travel writer or anywhere else chooses to go on holiday. Go where it seems fun; go where you can afford; go where you can indulge in the things that relax you, be it shopping or skiing. I'm not saying you should go to America, though I think a weekend shopping in New York when you're getting 2-for-1 on your pounds sounds divine. But wherever you go, it's going to be a hassle getting through the airport. If it's not, that's the time to worry.

Friday, 18 January 2008

Who gets drunk and goes to the zoo?!

Seriously, who does that? On Christmas Day, no less? And then taunts a tiger until it attacks you and kills a friend? These guys had marijuana and vodka in the car. At the zoo. 'Cause you need to be loaded before you go look at a panda. Time to reevaluate your life, dude.

Tuesday, 15 January 2008

Harold and Kumar (and NPH) return

The follow-up to Harold and Kumar go to White Castle (known as Harold and Kumar Get The Munchies in the UK) is coming out April 25 in the U.S. It's called Harold and Kumar: Escape from Guantanamo Bay. Yes, really. I loved the first one so I'll have to check this out, but it looks like it could offend some people on about 20 different levels. At the same time, in a world gone Politically-Correct mad, the fact they aren't afraid to offend might make it appealing to some. Check out the preview and decide for yourself.

The most important factor is that it has Neil Patrick Harris, so I'm sure it will be Legen ... wait for it ... dary (You'll have to watch How I Met Your Mother to get that joke). Or you can just watch the awesome NPH in his role as Barney in the clip below.



Monday, 14 January 2008

TV reviews, England style

Hang on to your hats, because this next idea seems to shake up the sensible order of things: Newspapers in England review TV shows after they air. That's right, after it's too late for you to tune in, you can read all about it.

You can find short reviews of some shows before they air in some magazines. However, the newspapers do longer, meatier reviews after the show is gone and won't be back; if it sounds good, tough luck, you missed it. Can't we get preview copies of shows for the folks at the papers, too? Newspapers can't get no respect, man. But wait, do these reviewers really watch the show at 9 p.m. and then write their review after 10 p.m.? Sure, you can get something in quick under deadline at that point (depending on the paper and its late deadline), but would you push it for a TV show? I'm guessing reviewers often do get a preview copy and write their articles before a show airs, but the papers wait to print it until after. Just for funzies.

However, I do see the point of reviews printed after the fact a little better after reading reviews for a couple of shows I watched last night. I still think it's doing things backwards, but it was interesting to read someone else's take on shows for which I had a context because I'd seen them.

Thursday, 10 January 2008

Tuesday, 8 January 2008

What's news is all relative ...

The local Reading paper does what a lot of papers do when in competition with big boys (like The Times) -- it covers news that locals couldn't find elsewhere, no matter how seemingly small and insignificant. This often means anything could be news, like a kid's bike being stolen or a cat using a toilet (with video included, ugh).

Flipping through a local paper (in any country) is often amusing, but I'm not knocking it. I worked at a small paper early in my career, and there simply wasn't the staff or funds to cover the big stuff (which was already being covered in lots of other papers and shared around via news wire services). What readers can't get elsewhere is the small (sometimes *very* small) stuff from their hometown. So small papers are usually weak on serious or in-depth news, but that's not typically their job. They won't tell you what's going on in the world; they tell you what's going on with your neighbors. It won't win a Pulitzer, but it fills a niche.

Monday, 7 January 2008

Graffiti gone wild


You know graffiti is out of control when cleaning it up becomes an employment opportunity. This must be a Reading Borough Council van, as the phone number matches the one on the town Web site.

Thursday, 3 January 2008

Christmas crackers not as tasty as they sound

The first time I heard of Christmas crackers, I thought it was some type of holiday treat. If cookies are called biscuits here, perhaps a cracker is some type of cake? Nope. I discovered long before Dec. 25 that a Christmas cracker was a gift-wrapped tube that you pull apart. I only recently found out that it also pops (one might say it cracks) when you pull it apart. We bought some for our Christmas guests, who were all Americans and one from Japan -- not a native Brit in the bunch. Two of our guests brought Christmas crackers, too, as they were serving the dual role of host and guest -- they invited us for dinner, but needed our kitchen facilities. So we were both the guest and host in our own home. Dinner was made for us and we didn't have to leave the house, which is pretty much my idea of heaven.

But back to the crackers. Fortunately, my husband knew how to get off to a cracking good start (haha). He told us how to use the crackers. I thought everyone got his own and pulled it apart, but it turns out you do the wishbone thing, with two people each pulling an end. Whoever gets the bigger end gets the prize inside. I learned on Wikipedia just now that you can also just each get a cracker, and you get to keep yours no matter who gets the bigger end.

And it would be a shame not to get a prize. Not because it's worth anything -- it's mostly the kind of stuff you'd get from a nickel bubblegum machine in the States. No, the fun is in getting a prize, even if it's crappy. You also get a little paper hat, which I'd seen people wear in British movies but had never figured out what they were for. I still don't know what they're for, but that's neither here nor there, as they are sort of fun to wear and see your guests wearing.

The prizes can be better, depending on how expensive the crackers are. But you still can't expect much. The ones my hubby bought were $20 and the "main" gifts inside were things like nail clippers or a cheap pen. Each also included a paper crown and a slip of paper with the kind of joke that 5-year-olds would tell. Which made them sort of sweet I suppose, and fun to groan at.

The crackers were a success. We think they should be marketed across the pond as party favors in the U.S. They of course would cost much less (what doesn't in the U.S.?), and we envision people putting them out at birthday parties or creating special ones for businesses, say, to give out at grand openings with magnets and keychains bearing the company logo inside. Maybe we'll market it ourselves and become the cracker kings of America. It could happen.

Tuesday, 1 January 2008

Reading on New Year's Day

Town still trashy
I decided to cruise around city center to look around today, thinking the town would be mostly vacant. Turns out I was wrong, as many people were out and many stores were open. I still did a little exploring, and went out past the Broad Street Mall area onto Oxford Road. I turned for home quickly though, as there didn't seem to anything thrilling there -- the area was rather grim looking.

The above picture is just one sign of grimness. All that trash rests inside the fenced-in area of an otherwise attractive-looking church called Providence Chapel. It's obvious that people on the sidewalk purposefully toss their trash over the fence. Why?! There's no lack of trash bins, but apparently also no lack of people who think nothing of littering. I can't understand why anyone would choose to turn his or her city into a huge rubbish bin.

Horsing around



I also saw police officers on horseback on my little adventure around the city center. These animals were huge and made impressive clopping noises with their hooves. They also smelled and I can only imagine they left steaming "gifts" on the pavement. That kind of litter I can understand better than the human-made variety (usually consisting of bags and bottles rather than poo, I should hope).

Who says you can't get anything for a pound?


I also went by the 99P store (P is for pence); it was closed. This is the place my husband said would be our only shopping site -- except he never went back. I've never been inside, and do admit I'm curious about what they have. The store is also an example of how the cost of living here is roughly double that in the U.S. Judging from the items my husband brought back on his one visit, the store sells the same stuff you'd get at the 99 Cent store in the U.S. (or a Dollar Tree). And 99P is about double 99 cents. Even cheap junk isn't that cheap here.