Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Little things

Few days ago, this poster caught my sight:



I mean, that thickening can be seen on the key above its tooth is very typical here. Every skeleton key I had seen, was peculiar in the same way. To give you an idea of that prevalence, here are my keys below:



I'm not sure if this is indeed an English tradition (I didn't manage to find an unequivocal proof), but all my keys in Russia had been shaped ordinary.

As far as I understand, this thickening prevents a key from warping in a keyhole.

Monday, December 28, 2009

"Mind the gap"

On New Year's Eve, journeys on Tube and buses will be free. But on Christmas, there was no service, all stations closed.

Hardly one can find a more concise explanation of the difference in celebrations customs.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

How to dump properly

Depending on your local infrastructure, being greener and cleaner can be easier or harder.



If you have a special waste container near your house to dump recycled rubbish like paper, tin, glass, foil etc. you have nothing to worry about. Even special collectors for textile and shoes may present, though they look more like pillboxes or air raid shelters:



Usually those containers are for all types of litter to be recycled and you can just dump it making no distinction. But sometimes your nearest collectors are separated to accumulate different types of rubbish. In that case, they are usually numerous and look like train - even coloured and transparent glass don't share common "glass" container:


* clickable

So, you are to sort your litter either on your kitchen in real time (which requires space) or when you come to containers (which is not very pleasant). On the other hand, acting this way makes you even greener than you expected.

In our case, we had no recycled point like above in a walking distance. Well, actually, we had two of them nearby in a distance that is absolute okay to walk but only when you do not carry rubbish bags (the distance you are ready to travel with such a load is significantly shorter).

So, we used special litter boxes like that:


* Near that green one, a smaller standard litter box can be seen. Rubbish in those standard boxes is not recycled

The green litter box above is for all types of rubbish, but sometimes you can spot boxes designed specially for newspapers and paper cups:



Anyway, neither of those are convenient to use on a regular basis, when you're not a walking-by pedestrian who has just finished drinking his take-away coffee, but when you arrived with a whole bag to be dumped. The openings, as you can see, are not big so some bottles and non-standard cans can't be squeezed through easily. Still, while the only alternative available was to walk about 10 minutes to nearest containers, we were accepting the inevitable.

But recently, our council supplied us with special transparent bags bearing recycle marks for dustmen to treat them properly:



Now all we need is to fill those bags and then just left them on the pavement to be collected by rubbish tracks running regularly through the street - the same way we deal with usual rubbish. Many of you can consider this a bit weird - for us, it was also a bit awkward to leave trash bags on the pavement the beginning. I even wrote an email to council if it was really right way - but bags dumped that way are really collected on time (if there is no any strike in progress, of course).

Monday, December 21, 2009

Sleeting

The weather was rubbish today, making buses very slow. On the bright side, throughout our journey we were enjoying stunning views like those:

    



    

Friday, December 18, 2009

Breaking the silence

Sorry for delay with postings - I had started a twitter a while ago and then immediately faced that usual problem of it soaking all my thoughts quickly before they get a chance of turning into blog post. I'll improve, but still you can follow me if interested.

Today's news:

a) It snowed. Fortunately, it's still above zero.



b) I've discovered original Banksy's piece almost around the corner:



Apparently, it had been there from September. A good reason to be more curious about your borough.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Global cooling

Turning back to Frankenstein, I came accross the fact that this book was started at year 1816 which was memorable enough to earn its own name, Year Without a Summer.

Can't help sharing this link with all those climate scandals and contexts.

By the way, speaking about climate, here is a footer of email that I've received recently:



"Okay, we all are trying to be green, but hey, you're cutting corners off!"

Sunday, December 6, 2009

"One nation under CCTV"

Yesterday I spotted a vehicle with a strange message on it:



Later at home, I've looked through company website. Alas, behind that promising orwellian name, commonplace mobile networking solutions were offered. Nevertheless I remained excited and only after I while I understood that the definition which is so unusual and full of contiguities for a newcomer's ear is used to mark expert witnesses, 3rd party analysts providing expertise to the court.

Still, some pieces close to the intuitive interpretation can be found.

Yesterday's encounter



Project Chanology is still alive.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Today's findings

Carefully selected background:



Oxford st. street artist:



Another commuter:

Sunday, November 29, 2009

"Zombies are red, vampires are blue"

That feverish vampires fiction renaissance that we're observing all over the world made me to read Bram Stoker's Dracula for the first time. Need to confess, I'm proceeding with Frankenstein now and alrealy have something to discuss.

Many years ago I was introduced a great criterion in fiction literature (so-called "Wells/Verne" one). It is based on the fictional details role in the plot - if author's main intension is to describe something unusual, with characters and events to form frame for some invented idea to shine and to demonstrate all its facets, then this is "Jules Verne's book". On the other hand, if mythical or science fictional background just forms a field for characters of the story to act on, to demonstrate spectacular reactions and emotions then you classify it as "H.G. Wells' book".

In these terms, Dracula is definitely of Verne's type while Frankenstein is strictly of Wells' one. I was rather astonished to realize that monster creation procedure was only a single paragraph long:
It was on a dreary night of November that I beheld the accomplishment of my toils. With an anxiety that almost amounted to agony, I collected the instruments of life around me, that I might infuse a spark of being into the lifeless thing that lay at my feet. It was already one in the morning; the rain pattered dismally against the panes, and my candle was nearly burnt out, when, by the glimmer of the half-extinguished light, I saw the dull yellow eye of the creature open; it breathed hard, and a convulsive motion agitated its limbs.
I mean, that's all, no joke. After Dracula, verbose laboratory interior descriptions, dreadfully vivid monster's appearance epithets and numerous blood-chilling cries and yellings were expected! But instead of it the book is full of dialogs and emotions, and the main idea is not about creation process visualization but outcasted being's tragedy - while Stoker's characters' way is straight and bright, there are no hesitation in what to consider evil or heroic and undead creatures' impious tricks and physiology are explained in details.

At the same time Frankenstein, despite of having literary bar raised, fails in narrative. Probably the main reason is that Mary Shelley started it being only 18 and lacking some writer's practice. Also, while she is issuing tougher challenges for the reader, implementation of those questions is not always smart. For my money, Frankenstein is much more dull comparing to Dracula, being nevertheless, unlike to Stoker's fiction story, much more real "story" than "fiction", undoubtedly.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Slowpoking

Reading through Dracula I came across a familiar phrase:
I got him on the subject of the legends, and he went off at once into a sort of sermon. I must try to remember it and put it down.

"It be all fool-talk, lock, stock, and barrel, that's what it be and nowt else. These bans an' wafts an' boh-ghosts an' bar-guests an' bogles an' all anent them is only fit to set bairns an' dizzy women a'belderin'. They be nowt but air-blebs. [...]"
My shame, I wasn't awared of that famous film title being a persistent sentence.

Friday, November 20, 2009

"Nothing to write home about"

I have nothing to say to you again. Waiting for the next week news to come, and they are expected to be either great or gloomy.

Meanwhile, let me show a birdie. Tweet-tweet.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Left is obsolete, new zig-zag platform introduced

Daniel Hannan was right this spring - it seems that Labours are brokenly trying to catch their supporters leaving for radical candidates.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

The Vigilante

Street crime piece again, this time ended happily: Johnson saves woman from 'oiks'.

Boris is awesome!

How the heck does he manage to secure a flasher and a siren on his bicycle, Mr. Johnson's Russian collegues must be wondering.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

London street crime

Kicked to death over girlfriend's Halloween hat

Paired with that recent Trafalgar square murder, this makes a good picture of local bullies and thugs if you were unlucky to face one among decent people. Sometimes things are somewhat far from stereotypical green liberal tofu-eating European idyl.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Get lost, web 2.0

Finally, statue is back on The Fourth Plinth as The One & Other perfomance has ended:





Greetings, Sir Keith Park!

Saturday, October 31, 2009

"Dr. Zhivago"


[larger version to read handwritings]

I don't get clearly if "middle class" is an accusation here like "lies" or a casualty like "nazi victims". They say that most of people in UK define themselves as a "working class" even if they are white collars and that stuff - a different picture with US (and, as I suppose, with Russia Moscow) where "middle class" term is used unconcernedly even if you have nothing to save.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Lions again

Remembering recent comparison of Trafalgar square and British museum lions, today we suddenly discovered a new pair placed at the opposite side of the British museum building:



In the light Harold Speed regarded those sculptures (the importance of minding material peculiarity while still transmitting original's message), it's perfect, if you ask me - I mean, the mane is successfully simplified and so on. Also, it can be easily compared with Trafalgar square lions for the pose is almost the same and size doesn't differ that much either.

I've even checked the book again if the author had actually these stone lions in his view mentioning British museum, but no, he did really mean little heads on the front side railings.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

StuffWhitePeopleLike.com book presentation

Today, thanks to my friend's tip, I've visited this event. Despite my fears it wasn't just a boring promotion and the lecture turned out to be rather captivating and funny.

Key phrases:

"Never trust anybody who didn't watch The Wire"
"Actually, Barack Obama is the first white president"
"I've met my first Conservative at age 22"



Also, as an English neophyte, I've spotted one of those lovely BrE/AmE differences. In the beginning, Lander had read #11 Asian Girls post aloud, and here in UK the word "asian" stands for people from India, Pakistan and that region predominantly, in contrast to Chinese people in US.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Crunch effects

It is not a secret that UK job market is rather tight nowdays, but few outside of the country do realize how much is it. I'm gonna demostrate it.



A short intro first. Usually recruiters send dedicated emails to candidates even if message is the same for all who have applied for a role advertised. So, the thing is that I've got another message of this type today with usual formal questions about my expectations from the role. This letter, like other I received, was addessed only to me. Quite a feeling that you may be not the only one who's being asked about the role but at least, say, a named guy to remember, and you may think your chances are not that weak. It's okay.

But there was a slight difference this time that made me to write this post. I mean, then the recruiter decided to send an minor update for this letter, and unlike the first message, it had all the recipients listed at its To: field.

Now, remember that there were not listed all who had applied, but only those who were recognized as somehow relevant and were decided to be asked further questions. Also keep in mind that the ad I'm talking about appeared online less than 24 hours before. And then, if you have a mental picture of the scene, you can proceed with caution to next paragraph:

In that email, 209 recipients were listed.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Mind the gap



Looks like this ad was specially designed for Russians: this poem becomes enormously impressive for a person brought up on The Plum Stone by Leo Tolstoy.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Safari

Advancing through the guide I had cited from before, the following passage caught my attention:
What are those qualities of hair that are amenable to expression in stone? Obviously they are few, and confined chiefly to the mass forms in which the hair arranges itself. The finest sculptors have never attempted more than this, have never lost sight of the fact that it was stone they were working with, and never made any attempt to create an illusion of real hair. And in the same way, when working in bronze, the fine artist never loses sight of the fact that it is bronze with which he is working.

How sadly the distinguished painter to whom a misguided administration entrusted the work of modelling the British emblem overlooked this, may be seen any day in Trafalgar Square, the lions there possessing none of the splendour of bronze but looking as if they were modelled in dough, and possessing in consequence none of the vital qualities of the lion. It is interesting to compare them with the little lion Alfred Stevens modelled for the railing of the British Museum, and to speculate on what a thrill we might have received every time we passed Trafalgar Square, had he been entrusted with the work, as he might have been.
Obviously, places mentioned are familiar not only to newbie londoners like us but even to every tourist, so today we went to hunt some lions down and to check author's conclusion.

This is the Trafalgar one:



Impressive with its mass, although I can't really say it's breath-taking as a stand-alone sculpture (if no history behind imagined), but for other reason. My perception is stopped far earlier than it comes to bronze or dough or anything. I mean, that time of cheap high-quality photography dominance we're living in accustomed me to expect something to be unnatural (say, plainly geometric or surreally complicated) in an artwork. Just to be lifelike is no longer enough and some emotions must be expressed that can't be caught with a camera that copies shapes and colours religiously.

But what about British museum lions? Here they come:



Remember, the sculptor was complimented for taking material into consideration. If it really was the reason for partition, then his possible way of thinking could be rendered like this: "Hm, the bronze is not a material to represent a lion. Indeed, lions are made of flesh and blood, I've never seen a lion to be bronze. So - eureka! - there won't be a lion carved, only parts of it!"





As I said before, I don't like Trafalgar square lions much, though they are okay for their role in the ensemble. But I really can't understand how British museum railings can be compared with them. First, the very genres are different and second, those parts of lions that are still visible bear the same mane and paws realistic technique as Trafalgar beasts do. Yes, railings lions are more simplified, curls shaped without hair net carved on surface - but I think it's rather a matter of figures size, fine details would be lost under the mould precision limit anyway.

So, I didn't manage to see that difference in the artistic attitude. Maybe it's because of my ignorance. By the way, the idea with the railings wasn't original as I suppose, for there are a number of similar sculptures of the same age within the city centre:



Nevertheless, this walk was more informative than usually.

Central sketching



Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Sorry, bookworming again

From The Practice and Science of Drawing, 1913:
But while in science observation is made much more effective by the use of mechanical instruments in registering facts, the facts with which art deals, being those of feeling, can only be recorded by the feeling instrument—man, and are entirely missed by any mechanically devised substitutes.
While art is still opposing other activities here, please note that the author is trying to put it into a rational coordiate system with an explanation of an artist being a recorder for feelings, a complex recording device, not yet studied thoroughly but probably would sometime. No references to divine intervention and that pathetic stuff: the nature of many things and processes is unknown but there must be an explanation, and meanwhile we can give them names (i.e. Harmony, Beauty, Rhythm) and use them as black boxes knowing input and output.
[...] beauty is, strictly speaking, a state of mind rather than an attribute of certain objects, although certain things have the power of inducting it more than others
What a lovely Victorian era echo, badly missed nowdays.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Additional terms

Reading The Abolition Of Slavery (you can get this free ebook in Mobipocket format) revealed an interesting fact about US history, concerning the procedure of slaves emansipation. This procedure was difficult to perform without facing a contradiction with existing legislation (as the Congress initially refused to interfere with the institution of slavery).

The solution was found in putting this civil problem under the war jurisdiction, as Congress had limited war authority and the powers of war were limitated by the laws of the nations only. And according to the war powers slaves belonging to an enemy were regarded as belligerents first of all (for they had supported enemy's economy with their labour).

So, Southern slaves were being first taken as captives and then set free as a prisoners of war. Released captive is a free man, so it resulted to slaves in loosing their previous status. More exactly, not loosing but becoming free people in addition, which was enough to prevent masters from reclaiming their property back.

What has drawn my attention in this story is how it was necessary to become a prisoner first in order to become free.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Doors open day

Are there any subscribers here who don't know me in person? If you are one of them, would you mind to leave a comment?

I'm curious because this blog has been advertised among my contacts only, so it would be nice to know that somebody who got here on occasion finds it interesting too (but, seriously, why?).

Thanks and have a nice weekend.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Street newspaper

I've seen many people who looked like being homeless with the same magazine, captioned The Big Issue.

Some days ago I noticed another fellow sitting near a Tesco store not only with this magazine, but with a blue distributor's badge visible. So it really turned out to be a working distribution network (and, at least as they say, either profitable enough and charitable).

Another common local situation which is hard to imagine in Russia.

Continuing to discover Gutenberg Project

Just finished Pygmalion. Lively and vivid at the beginning, it almost bored me by the end - and this, as I can suppose, is not the book's fault but mine.

Still, what I really don't like in literature is when hypothetical and knowingly simplified actions are taking place at the hard-nosed, realistic sceneries. I mean all those real steet names, Mr. H.G. Wells appearing at the final essay and other details that make too much contrast with purely theatrical characters bearing one strain each.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Internet is jumpy today, time to read

Having finished The Importance of Being Earnest, I am still dissapointed a bit with this great reading.

The thing is that I was inspired by this quotes collection when I started, but the book proved to be no more than a quotes collection itself - a merrymaking vaudeville. The plot exists only to let the author have an opportunity of making a display of his witness - which, I must admit, is very worthwile though - and being impressed with a remarkable number of biting quotes I expected something deeper and more dramatic, like Woe from Wit.

Also, it may be a problem with my language taste but I find rather cheap rhyming Ernest and Earnest. See, it's like Wild Wilde, geez.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Tottenham Hale sketching

As far as I remember, last time I drew at university. No wonder today's attempt wasn't very successful, but still I'd like to share:





A rather actual hobby - only 2 pounds at local Tesco for paper and pencils and even an ordinary walk becomes exciting.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Healthcare

When we were being registered with the NHS I was confused with the colours of medical cards - blue for females and pink for males.

First I assumed another case of customs difference, like with wedding rings weared on a left hand here. But today I had an opportunity to ask a nurse in a surgery about it, and she admitted that it is really a mess and a source of confusion for medical staff.

By the way, I've read a lot of critiques about NHS lately (mostly in connexion with USA healthcare reform), but I must say that at least in the beginning UK system is much better than, for example, Russian one that is also run by government. I mean, local NHS surgery at the ward which is, well, rather far from being rich, turned out to be more clean and friendly than the paid polyclinic at the centre of Moscow I used to attend in Russia. Don't know if the treatment quality differs also (I am not ill yet and hope it will last) but this far my impression is definitely positive.

P.S. Of course, speaking about NHS one must bear in mind that it comes to about 15% of UK budget to maintain service.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Collateral damage

Two days ago I was amused with presence of exotic birds in believed-to-be-grey London, but there are also those who wasn't that lucky. The common and well-known house sparrows almost vanished in Britain :( As distinct from other urban species sparrow nestlings must be fed with insects necessarily and they are hard to find in London parks.

I only realized that I haven't seen a single small chirping fellow in a whole month when I noticed a special extinction warning sign at one of the Victoria embarkment small gardens.

Good luck to RSPB and partners and all hail the imperial sparrow!

Uroboros

There was a lot of racket today about an indicative case showing Labours being addled by their own overcomplicated immigration rules.

Many expect Tories to tighten either 'to enter' and 'to remain' criteria next year but I hope that at least for those who fit the bill system would become more friendly and less bureaucratic.

By the way, I've stumbled upon quite an interesting discussion on BBC 4 radio on about 5pm explaining Lady Scotland fault circumstances. Hope they publish transcripts so I'd recommend to look for that conversation later if you're somehow interested.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Celebrating diversity

Nature here has something in common with local cuisine - it is believed to be dull and not very manifold by foreigners. But really similar stereotypes are no longer actual in both cases, for those were enormously enriched during the last century with novelties from all over the world growing into everyday life and culture.

Okay, coming to the point, I just wanted to show this low-quality picture of London parrots:

Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.us

I've found an article about English parrots from 2004 but from that time as you can assume their population only rised. Birds from the picture above are green parakeets also mentioned in the text.