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August 2006

Homeward Bound

Summer_176 After nearly a year of living, working and playing in London, we're going home today to the big Apple Pie in the Sky: The States...USA...The United States of America...or as the Brits say simply, "America." 

The Two Crabs are both excited and nervous about our first trip home. For me, personally, I'm doubly-nervous to see how much things have changed in DC and Virginia.  You see, until we moved to London, I had never lived more than 30 miles from where I was born in Washington, D.C.  I'm wondering whether I will even recognize my hometown, the people, the places, and most of all, Americans' attitudes about current events and the direction this country is going.

After our two-week holiday, I'm also worried about the prospect of having to return to London, where I am now jobless.  That's right.

I quit. 

After 11 years of "loyal service" to my company, I resigned from my job. Tuesday was my last day. My friends and colleagues at work took me out to a local pub and we drowned our collective sorrows.  Honestly I wasn't happy at the way things turned out, but in a way, it was time to move on. And had I not been put into the difficult position that led to me quitting, I probably would have lived out the rest of my career there, snug as a bug in my comfortable, secure job, growing ever resentful until I became a grumpy old man, just sitting around filling space in a cubicle until I retired and joined the league of old hasbeen writers, sitting around a pub telling old war stories about the people we've interviewed, stories we've covered.  (Geez that was a long sentence).

I realized I had become too "comfortable" where I was. It took a big kick in the pants to  motivate me into trying something new.  So though I'm worried about where my next paycheck will be coming from, I'm also excited at the unknown, the future, the undiscovered country.

Financially, we have a bit of cash saved up so I can take my time finding my next place in life.  But neither do I want to lolly-gag. I want and need work, now!  Not just to pay bills, but for money to play, to explore, to TRAVEL! 

And our next travel adventure begins today, assuming our flight from Heathrow actually makes it out on time and lands at its intended destination without diversions, security scares or old crazy ladies going bonkers.   

Washington or bust!


The Day After

London Heathrow terror plot, Aug. 10
Originally uploaded by TwoCrabs.


I've finally had a chance to step back and reflect on yesterday's events in London and around the world as a result of the terrorist plot that was thwarted. For me, yesterday was Sept. 11 all over again.  Even though the terrorists failed, the same emotions and feelings came gushing forward.<

You see, I was at the Pentagon on Sept. 11, 2001.  I can still see the fireball explosion and tower of black smoke billowing from the Pentagon as I arrived on the Metrobus to catch my train to work.  It's a vivid image that remains burned in my memory, like one of those dreams you have where you're not sure whether you're awake or sleeping.

On that day, I went into reporter mode until late at night. It wasn't until almost midnight that I saw my wife (Pineapple Princess).  The same situation happened yesterday.  I was sitting in the dentist chair yesterday morning when the doctor broke the news to me about the terror plot. I ran to the office and then to Heathrow Airport and back across London. 

At the airport, it was a scene of utter chaos and confusion.  People were openly crying. Some shouted at the already frustrated employees. Some passengers gave up and went home, or fell asleep on the airport floors.

The terrorists failed. But it's only a matter of time before one of them gets through. It's not a matter of "if"'s "when".    It will happen. I fear for the future of humanity.

I finally made it home last night to my lovely wife at about 11:30 p.m...just in time for the clock to strike midnight. August 11...our sixth wedding anniversary.  We're still here.  But for how much longer, God only knows.

Another day, another terror plot

London Heathrow Airport, Aug. 10
Originally uploaded by TwoCrabs.

Londoners woke up this morning to news that British intelligence has thwarted a major terror attack aimed at destroying airplanes flying from the United Kingdom to the United States. It's been a busy day, to say the least. But thankfully the plot was foiled and we're all safe. No word yet on how this will affect our upcoming travel plans to Washington. More details as they come in.

More bad news for London expats

Img_7816*  Today's exchange rate: 1 British Pound Sterling = $1.91 U.S. Dollars *

Reuters:  Oslo and London are the world's most expensive cities, while Zurich and Geneva residents have the highest buying power, according to a report released on Wednesday.

Europe dominates the list of 71 cities compiled by Swiss bank UBS, while Asian cities -- including Kuala Lumpur and Mumbai -- are among the cheapest places to live, based on the cost of a basket of 122 goods and services.

Oslo maintained its top position from 2005, while London rose three places to second.

Copenhagen, Zurich and Tokyo round out the top five, with New York in seventh place globally.

But London and New York are the most expensive cities when housing costs are included, said the 52-page report.

"It's no wonder that their residents often tolerate extreme commutes in order to find affordable housing," it said.

North American workers earn the highest wages, closely followed by Western Europe. But European net earnings are significantly lower because of higher taxes and social security contributions.

Total pay packets were biggest in Copenhagen, Oslo and Zurich -- but residents of the Nordic cities lose out when tax is taken into account.

"After statutory deductions, people living in the Swiss cities, Dublin and Los Angeles have the most left over from their wages," said the report.

London rose from 15th place to sixth in the gross wages ranking, but was only 20th in domestic purchasing power.

Kuala Lumpur was the cheapest city, followed by Mumbai, Buenos Aires and Delhi. Delhi was also among the bottom five cities in both the wages and purchasing power rankings.

Cities in eastern Europe and China were among the least expensive, while Asian cities have the longest working hours, with Seoul workers averaging 50.2 hours a week.

Workers in Asia also have the fewest vacation days, on average 12 per year, compared to a global 20 days.

"Western Europe, by contrast, is very attractive for employees who value their leisure time," the report added.

Closer to Heaven

Scottish Highlands
Originally uploaded by TwoCrabs.

The Two Crabs have just returned to London after a short break in Scotland. We had a fantastic trip to visit our friends in Glasgow, a 5 hour train ride from London. The highlight came Saturday when we rented a car and drove up to the Scottish Highlands. Absolutely breathtaking! Words can't describe how beautiful this part of the world.

(Click on the Flickr icon on the right to see more images of this beautiful countryside. )

On Sunday, we drove to St. Andrews on the east coast of Scotland, a small beach village on the North Sea. It also happens to be the world capital of golf and the home of St. Andrews University (alma mater of Prince William). We later stopped in Edinburgh, took in the sights of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival before returning to Glasgow to rock away the night. Returned to London on Monday evening.

Now we're back to the grind, trying to finish moving into our new flat. Unfortunately we're having a major fight with our landlord. They replaced the broken fridge/freezer unit with only a dorm-style refrigerator. That's right: NO FREEZER! And they refuse to give us a freezer/fridge combination because the LAST TENANT broke the freezer by failing to defrost the unit. That's right: we're being discriminated because of what a previous tenant did to the unit. What the hell! We're seriously considering getting a lawyer and suing in small claims court. Stay tuned.

My friend in Hollywood

Just wanted to share some great news about my good friend Ron in Hollywood.  His short film "Leave a Message" has been accepted into the Los Angeles International Short Film Festival, the largest and most prestigious festival of its kind.  The film will be screened at the famous Arclight Cinemas from Sept. 5 to 14.  We're proud of you, Ron! Congrats on living your dream!

For more information on "Leave a Message," please visit the official website of Blushing Whale Films.