June 30, 2006

The Good, the Bad, and the British

Tomorrow I head home from Cambridge. I came out here to present a paper at the PET Workshop, and since I haven't slept enough the past few days to write something coherent, I'll jot down the important points from my ultra-brief trip to the UK.

The Good...

PET. The workshop was much funnier and intimate than Oakland. It felt like a bunch of high school buddies were getting together to make fun of eachother and talk about sports. Except that everyone was really a high-up in some area of privacy research and instead of sports, they were talking about how to better protect everyone from The Man.

The accents. Everything sounds better in British. I found myself falling into a pseudo-British, Chicago accent while out there and realized how harsh and twangy I sound compared to the light words of a Brit.

Bikes. There was much less auto usage in Cambridge over other cities I've been too. I'm sure being a college campus has a lot to do with this, but I saw people of all ages riding bikes at all times of the day; it was nice.

The Bad...

The food. This may be hasty, but I was not impressed by the quality of the food at any point throughout the trip. From the daily breakfast at my hotel, to the food at Robinson College, to the hotel dinners, everything was rather tasteless and preserved.

The prices. Estimate how much you spend for anything in the States (from toothpaste to lunch) and multiple by 2.

The teeth. This is certainly a generalization, but I did notice a lot of people with some pretty fangled and stained teeth out there. Perhaps a consequence of socialized healthcare?

Closing Time. All of the pubs close by 11pm. All other stores are closed much before this and have very limited hours. For example, grocery stores in Cambridge are only open from 12:00pm-4:00pm on Sundays. Madness.

The British...

Punting. Sort of like canoeing, except you just have a big stick to propel you down a small river. For recreation, the brave and strong will try to hop from the punt, climb over a bridge that lays over the river, and drop back into the punt before the it drifts under the bridge. Some fellow PET goers did this while I watched. One didn't make a dry landing back in off the bridge.

Lemonade. It's actually Sprite. Don't be fooled.

Pimms. Fun little cocktail drink invented by some Londoner a long time ago. It's gin-based and has lots of cucumber chunks and mint and random fruit in it. I am by no means a gin fan, but this was quite nice as a summer drink. If nothing else, it was quite pretty with all of the colors.

Butt cracks. Everyone seemed to be much more willing to show them, or rather, not cover them when shown. It sounds strange, but it was certainly noticeable.

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