Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Land of Confusion

"Bus stop. No standing."

Monday, January 29, 2007

Less Than Zero

New York radio breakfast shows are obsessed with traffic and weather. From the moment the alarm trips it's a constant deluge of information about the various bridges and tunnels, and the current temperature in Central Park.

I grew up with Celsius. My parents were fond of Fahrenheit, but we principally conversed in the sensible 0 to 100 scale that the rest of the modern world has adopted.

Water freezes at zero and boils at 100C. That's straightforward at any time of day. 20C is comfortable. 30C is hot. Fahrenheit is an altogether different proposition. The numbers are all out of whack, and are hard to translate into a nice, round, metric scale. 32 and 212 anyone?

So, when the man in the radio tells me it's going to crawl up to 36F today, it takes a little while to realise what that means. Sure, there's a little more granularity with Fahrenheit, but that all gets swept under the carpet with terms such as "low" 40s and "high" 70s.

I'm having trouble adjusting to a scale based on the temperature of a bucket of ice water, and the body temperature of a cow.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Spice Up Your Life

Last night we went to the Brick Lane Curry House; a restaurant promising a full "East London" Indian food experience.

The restaurant is situated on E6th Street between 1st and 2nd Avenue, a block in the East Village densely packed with Indian restaurants featuring facades and interiors of feeble-looking quality. The Brick Lane Curry House clearly stands out in terms of visual appeal. It looks clean and well presented, there isn't a hawker outside trying to pressgang you into a pakora, and you can also reserve online via OpenTable.

Not much like Brick Lane so far, then.

Once inside we were able to order traditional sounding curries from a laminated menu, drink draught Kingfisher and munch on popadoms until the food arrived. The service was friendly if a little inept, and the music definitely involved sitars. Ah! That's more like it.

The food was pretty good. Not amazing, but definitely worth knowing about.

One peculiarity of the place was the preponderance of London Underground posters and pictures of Big Ben. Another was the wicked strength phall sauce they challenge you to eat with the measly reward of a free beer.

But despite that, I think we'll be back at some point.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Pet Sounds

New Yorkers love their dogs.

This morning on the way to work I noticed a "doggie taxi". Being a curious person, I performed a quick Google and found that this taxi takes your pet to and from a "doggie daycare" centre. The day care centre sounds quite nice; they'll look after your hound all day, in the lap of luxury, all in exchange for a small wedge of cash. I'm not joking.

I also noticed a "doggie gym" a couple of weeks ago whilst poking around the West Village. This place allows your pooch to work out on treadmills, chew rubber rings and hang out in the sauna with other doggies; again all for the simple exchange of some greenbacks. And in true New York gym style, the most glamourous exercise equipment is proudly displayed in the window for all to see.

But in a true show of love for their animals, New York pet owners almost always carry a supply of small plastic bags around with them. This enables them to pick up the objects that appear from the blunt end of their furry companions on a daily basis. Whilst I whole-heartedly approve of the practice, I don't think there's any way I could bring myself to do it. Plastic bags aren't that thick, in most cases they seem to be transparent, and I'm a sensitive sort.

I guess it gets easier in the winter.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Cold As Ice

I'd always been told that New York got cold in the winter, but this year has been unseasonably warm and I thought I'd got away with it. For example it reached a heady 22C (72F for you Fahrenheit-philes) on January 5th and people were skipping round Manhattan in shorts. It's also been warm enough that the cherry trees in Brooklyn have already come out in bloom.

But that's all changed now. It's perishingly cold, and set to get colder.

Now I know it's not a patch on the crazy ice storms that have wreaked havoc across the rest of the country, and certainly not as serious as the weather system that has been ravaging Europe recently, but it is damned cold.

It was -7C (19F) on the way to work the other morning, and it snowed a little over the last few days.

What's more worrying is that people don't seem at all phased by it and are just take it in their stride. I'm guessing that means that it has the potential to get a lot colder.

I'm glad I've got a scarf.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Georgous George

I bought a quick dinner snack in a hole-in-the-wall Indian called The Pakistani Tea House this evening. New York isn't famous for its curry, but this place wasn't too bad. The naan was cooked in the tandoor in front of my eyes, and they had the decency to put the food from the big tray in the microwave before they gave it to me.

And for $6 it was damned tasty.

Amongst my change, I noticed one of the bills had a message stamped on it: "Track this bill at". This jogged my memory about the website it mentioned - I'd read about it a couple of years ago. It allows users to track where US currency "travels" by relying on curious citizens going to the website and entering the relevant details.

So I did:

It'll be interesting to see where it ends up.

Monday, January 15, 2007

It's Only Rock and Roll (But I Like It)

There are a lot of radio stations in New York, and they cover the full gamut of tastes and styles. We've got NPR (which is much like Radio 4), jazz, classical, shock jock, dance and so on. You name it, we've probably got it.

But there's only one "Classic Rock" station.

Now, I like my classic rock, so I've spent a bit of time listening to Q104.3 as I trundle round the apartment.

It's generally good, and plays pretty much what you'd expect. The only downside is the rather narrow playlist. I realise that "classic" is a subjective term, but this station seems to want to redefine it.

It's got so predictable now, that we can often guess which artists they will play in the next hour; and sometimes even the song.

Where's XFM when I need it?

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Polly Put The Kettle On

A kettle is a pretty important piece of equipment for an Englishman. For example it's integral to the tea ceremony; and can make cooking pasta just that little but quicker.

Americans have kettles, but they are most commonly the stove-top variety that take an age to boil and whistle ferociously when they're ready. The convenient electric variety aren't impossible to come by, but seem to represent about 10% of the available market.

I brought a kettle with me from the United Kingdom in the hopes that my meagre power transformer would be able to take the strain. After attempting to boil for about two seconds, the transformer packed up. So much for my physics degree, then.

So we bought a new one from Macy's today (the John Lewis of New York). It's shiney. It looks just like the last one. And above all, it's electric.

I'm celebrating with a nice cup of tea.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Electric Avenue

Having moved house in New York recently (which will be reported in all its gory details in another post) I needed to sign up for some utilities for the new property.

Cable, telephone and Internet had too many complicated permutations, so I opted to start with good old electricity.

After listening to some rather dull hold music for about 20 minutes, I was put through to a very helpful gentleman who set me up with my account. All pretty straightforward, but in true American style I was asked one particularly odd question: "Will anyone at the property be on critical life support systems that require electricity?".

I wonder what happened to all those poor souls wired up to machines during the great Northeast blackouts of 2003?

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Selling England by the Pound

There are small pockets of England hidden away in New York City.

I came across a newsagent shop in Grand Central Station today that had a whole section under a proudly displayed "British" heading. Maxim, Loaded, Horse and Hound, The Telegraph; they were all there.

We passed a shop in Brooklyn yesterday that successfully marries two of Albion's finest culinary delights: curry and fish and chips. One half of the shop was decorated in classic chip shop style (chrome, newspaper, black and white tiling), the other half in flock wall-paper and tapestry curry house splendour. And to get one up on the Brits, they have a fish and chip delivery service. How civilised.

There is also a fantastic little shop in the West Village called Myers of Keswick. They specialise in importing British products. So I can pop along there to get my Walker's crisps, Weetabix, Oxo cubes and Robinson's Barley Water.

It's comforting to find these boltholes. I know that I can get my occasional fix of "home" when required.

Now all I need is somewhere where I can queue for ages to talk about the weather.