Monday, October 25, 2004

never trust a British plumber

I don't know how they manage it, but but the British must be the worst plumbers since the invention of the outhouse. Everything about their water and waste management systems are...well, annoying. I shall enregister examples thus:
1. Where I come from, Hot + Cold = Warm. Here, however, Hot + Cold = Hot and Cold. More often than not, the taps are separate and on opposing sides of the wash basin. In order to get warm water, you have to plug the sink and let it fill with both. Sounds like it makes sense until you take into account GERMS. Filling the sink to wash your hands is the same as or worse than not washing your hands at all. The glossy porcelain harbors millions upon millions of germs that were washed off of hands, teeth, underwear, shoes, and every other thing that has been in that sink since the last time someone went over it with an acetylene torch. Its just not clean. Rinsing your hands or dishes in the same sitting water that was used to wash them puts the same bacteria and little bits of crud Right back on them. Tap water, as provided by the city, is legally required to meet certain cleanliness criteria. Provided that the water is not allowed to come in contact with anything else after it leaves the pipes, that cleanliness remains constant. Clean water is running water. Whenever harmful microbes manage to get into pipe water it makes huge news and you have to boil your water before you drink it.
My kitchen sink has one nozzle, but still manages to have two separate pipes in it for hot and cold until its on your hands. If you look up into it, you can see a line where hot comes out the front, and cold comes through the back. The result? any handwashing experience is going to be an unpleasant blend of scorching and freezing your hands simultaneously.
2. In a country that seems highly concerned about conservation and the environment, it would only make sense that water-consuming appliances such as toilets should be efficient and do their best to conserve water. In practical applications, however, this is rarely the case. The toilet tanks here are enormous and each downward flush takes at good deal of time, accompanied by water activity that is reminescent of opening the floodgates on the Hoover Dam. Interestingly, the tank refills at a snail's pace--you can hear the trickle of water out of a tiny pipe into it for a good ten minutes. What's more, on bigger, after-dinner type jobs, one flush isn't going to do the trick.
3. British architecture is pretty n'all, but piping fitters seem intent on not marring walls at all by punching holes through them to run tubing. The insides of houses--old and new--are all littered with an inordinate number of pipes, held to the walls with little brackets. They run up the corners, in the middle of walls, and along baseboards, visible everywhere. If aesthetics aren't a big deal to you, there's also the question of the pipes themselves. They run in pairs, with a hot pipe and a cold pipe side-by-side. And if you dare walk around the house in bare feet you'll learn which pipe is hot rather quickly. Its not just a bit of warmth that connects with your unsuspecting tootsie--these puppies could melt lead.
4. I never really appreciated central heating until I no longer had it. Radiators function on the principle that if you heat water over a large surface area, the heat of the water will dissipate through the room and heat it by activating air molecules and making them bump into each other faster and more often. So that explains why rooms heated with radiators are always ice cold save for a five-inch area around the radiator itself. If you ever question whether a radiator is on or not, you would do well to not touch it. Its just like the pipes, only bigger. Its a better idea to instead wave your hand in front of it, then wave the other on the opposite side of your body. They are, however, effective at drying laundry, if you pile it all on top of it, which it says somewhere in the manufacturer's instructions that you shouldn't do. Oh well.
Yeah, plumbing in the UK is due for an overhaul. Lets find a way to make it unintrusive, safe, convenient, clean, and ecologically friendly. Ask your friends in South Carolina, if you need help.

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Viruses must be alive

Scientists, philosophers, and theologists can all bicker and argue over whether or not a virus is a living being--as it fails to carry DNA and does not seem to have much of an identifiable cell-type structure that is indicative of life in unicellular beings--but I will vouch that not only are they alive, they're smart little buggers.
Consider: Viruses attack bacteria that normally live happy, subdued little lives in your lymphatic (sinus) system. The virus pumps its RNA into an individual bacterium, which gets eaten up by baby viruses, who in turn go ahead and infect other bacteria. Basic 10th grade biology. Now here's the part that may be a conspiracy theory, but it makes sense. When viruses kill bacteria and cells from your lymphatic system, it causes your sinuses to screw up. Namely, with the common cold, it causes the sinuses to produce excessive quantities of phlegm and icky green, infected mucous. It generally does its best to exit the sinuses, by entering the nasal cavities and filling up whatever space it can there before leaking out, either exiting the body through the nose or attempting to continue through the body down the throat. Biology teachers once told me that this was a protective measure--that the phlegm was relocated to the throat and nasal passages to protect the thin and delicate skin there. BULL SHIT. When phlegm enters the nose, it causes you to sniffle, sneeze, and have a nasty runny nose that won't quit. When it enters the throat it causes you to choke, cough, splutter, and eventually spit phlegm everywhere. Noticing a trend? This infected green goo is doing its very best to not just exit the body but dissipate. spread. become a fine, airborne haze. we do our best to cover our mouths, wash our hands, keep away from food and use hankies, but the bottom line is--a good deal of that infected krud gets out of the body and into the air, water, and stuff we touch every day. Your mother always tells you to avoid touching doorknobs and toilet seats, wash your hands, and for heaven's sake keep your fingernails out of your mouth. There's Germs on those surfaces! But did she ever think of why? Not why did someone sneeze here, why did someone not wash their hands after using the toilet and wipe whatever in the world on this door handle, but why are the germs there? Because Viruses made a Conscious Effort to enter a body, make it sick, and exit the body in the quickest, most propelled manner possible. You call it a sneeze. The inbred army of virii living in your snot call it a missile.

Sunday, October 17, 2004

a month abroad

Well, i've survived a month so far. 8 or more so to go but this one went so fast. I still haven't managed to get more than a platonic peck from anyone, and i don't see any of that activity glimmering in the future, so it looks like I won't get an opportunity to marry someone in order to stay here. Pity. But this level of inactivity does clue me in to a certain curiosity--British men, in general, aren't anything to look at, and British women aren't either. Its almost cute that they're attracted to one another.
Yeah, i'm bitter. I've made a good number of friends and i'm doing fairly well in my classes and i even went to London yesterday and had a dern good time the whole way through...with a boy that i'm interested in that doesn't seem too enthused about me. The last time i had a guy friend who wanted to be close but had no sexual interest in me was...well, high school, but he came around. They all used to.
I guess that makes it official--i've lost my touch.
But its okay--sure my money is worth half its US value and prices of everything are doubled to boot, but if I only buy basic food items at the grocery, stay sober every night, avoid public transit and borrow all my textbooks from the library I should be able to come home only six or seven thousand dollars in debt.
Its cold, its damp, the sun rarely shines and the wind blows in gusts. I understand why colonization was such a big deal three hundred years ago, but now i must wonder why the whole population didn't just leave. Last one out please shut the door.
I miss my roads. People drive on the sidewalk here about as often as they do the streets. Bus drivers are generally talented and safe, but the average driver here is a reckless idiot careening around curves and slamming on brakes at the last possible second. Every moment spent driving is an opportunity to play 'chicken' with any other car. Like the ones that manage to squeeze past you on a one-lane road that is 3/4 covered in poorly parallel-parked cars. I have witnessed the success of more impossible feats on the roads here. Amazing. I miss my car. If the busses fit on the roads here she must too, though how the busses manage I can't imagine. Sure i'd have to learn an entirely new way of thinking while on the road--new signs, new directions, new random chit going on all around--but i feel trapped without her. canterbury is cute and there's a little bit to do, but sometimes you just want to DRIVE. Busses and trains will take you away, but they don't give you that cleansing relief of controlling 1.4 tons of steel and explosive materials. Without my car I am smaller. I am powerless. I hold no clout. But at least i never have to be DD.
I took 3 pictures in london yesterday. All of trafalgar square. I actually went to a good number of places and saw many things that serve to amuse and endear, but I completely forgot that I had my camera. The only reason I remembered it in the Square was because i was surrounded by tourists and a girl came by and asked me if I wouldn't take a picture of her with her friends. I don't know how well the photo turned out--i always aim with my left eye but her viewfinder was on the right. Sometimes that matters. Viewfinders should be in the middle of the camera, like they used to be.
I've reached that state of poverty in which you learn to starve comfortably. One meal of pasta or a sandwich a day is sufficient--anything more is luxury. I bought a bottle of liquor last weekend and its already gone--the last I saw of it it was still half full. My neighbors may not be outright thieves but I hope whoever drank the last of it is ashamed.
London is pretty, but it is completely filthy. After several hours of mild irritation I eventually thought to blow my nose in a lavatory...and was astounded by the quantity of black dirt and soot i managed to remove. I guess you'll get that in any city, but the last time I found crud like that up my nose I'd been sanding rusty pipes for three hours.
I missed a protest today in London--it started out pretty dully last night so I didn't think to get involved with it further, but today it made news as 75,000 people turned out to encourage Americans to vote Bush out of office. It was a big deal after all. Pity my bus left at 10pm last night. I missed the opportunity for adventure, but I'm sure there'll be others. After all, the English are known for being upbeat and exciting, right?

Friday, October 01, 2004

Dude, boys suck

A'ight, so Captain Fine from Manchester is all tryin to hit it with me tonight, and i was totally excited with that idea, so he goes for the "well i'll walk you home" from the college in which we happened to be drinking and out of nowhere two of his buddies--them being the Ugly Emo Putz and the Token Asian Guy say "yeah, that' d be a great idea" and come the hell along. Ex-CUSE me? There was definitly some energy going on...that was not being communicated to you guys. If I'd a wanted a foursome with Mr. "I hate Life so I'll Whine at You and Pretend I'm Intellectual" and Mr. "Hey, I'm a Really Nice Guy but I'm not Interested in You, I'm Just Happy to Be Here" I would have friggin asked for it. Nope, I wanted a TWOsome with Mr. " Hey, I'm Cute, Dumb, and Into You" but his lousy friends had to ruin it all for me. Whatever happened to Common Courtesy? If a guy offers to walk a girl home and you don't feel invited along, DONT INVITE YOURSELF. Chances are you're not wanted. What does it take to get some action around here? I've tried being seductive, direct, forceful, smart-mouthed, cute, enthusiastic, unenthusiastic, playful, hard-to-get, and even good old fashioned DRUNK and i've wound up with nothing on all fronts. Excuses like "i've got a cold, I don't want you to get it", "its going to rain--i better hurry up and head home" and "check it out, i'm here with two huge losers who want to get in on it with you" are really starting to pile up. What's wrong with me? I'm Cute, i'm Foreign, i'm Smart, i'm Flirty, i'm Desirable, i'm Young, and i'm even a Horny Drunk. I may act dumb, but i've got some frickin' intellect right here. I know what I'm doing and I've always been at least successful on a mediocre scale. This level of ousting and rejection I've encountered here is unthinkable to me and I am feeling quite lonely. The south may not have a lot to offer but at least I know what i'm dealing with. Not these britty squares who don't know what's good for them even when it kisses their neck and invites them home. Stupid.