October 2nd, 2005


Athens, α-θ-ε-ν-σ

Hello from dezzikitty's house! All is well here. This has been rather a different trip than any of the past, as she now lives in Athens, Georgia, a town with a population just into six digits, about an hour and a half ENE of Atlanta. The temperature was well up into the 90s °F a few days ago, but happily has become at least a little more temperate since I arrived. (We've even had some overcast days and people are talking about "the first rain for a month".) Meg's living situation, with her sister and with two, three-month old, extremely playful sharp-clawed kittens, is definitely different to living with elsalus; living in the mosquito-riddled, wooded suburbs is far different from relatively European Boston. I flew in on Delta, because Virgin don't serve the route, and wrote up a comparison of the two airlines for another site. Collapse )

(Also on the airline front, interesting to see EU plans to include aviation within emissions trading. Not sure that they have thought through all the consequences of such a move - or, perhaps, they are prepared to accept some of the less immediately obvious consequences as worthwhile side-effects for the intended benefits, which is probable. I look forward to developments here with interest because analysis would just be speculation at this point.)

It has been a quiet week, mostly with trips out to Athens' many restaurants. America has remarkable food; many restaurants which are terribly unremarkable in the US would qualify as minor wonders of the world in the UK. Bagel bars and buffet restaurants with remarkable choice, and masses and masses of seating, are absolutely nothing special whatsoever in Athens. I do miss Anna's, the incredibly efficient assembly-line Mexican take-out restaurant in Somerville, though. The cost of these restaurants is extremely variable - some which qualify as extreme bargains due to the strength of the pound against the dollar, some rather less so. We also saw petrol prices rise about 9% in 24 hours - from $2.88 to $3.15 per gallon. UK petrol prices may have been on a roller-coaster recently but never quite to that extent.

Much of my time has been spent watching Firefly (all but three episodes so far) and then the Serenity movie on its day of release. I do admire the way US movie audiences dress up - Meg even bought herself a Shiny Shirt and other folk wore the trademark brown coats - and the extent to which American movie audiences aren't afraid to react openly during the movie itself. One unwelcome thing was that a trailer for a horror movie beforehand - where the trailer alone had an R rating - flashed the trailer's rating card on-screen for less than a second, so when the trailer crashed unexpected jarring images on-screen, we had had no time to prepare ourselves beforehand. Incidentally, you do occasionally seem to get blipverts (possibly not quite blipverts as such, but still advertising images faded out within a second) at the end of a TV ad-break as well. I'm convinced I saw five two-second blipverts separating the real ads in a break on UK Channel Four once, maybe in about 1990 or so, but have never found any record or mention of this.

The show and the movie were good fun, which is what they set out to be, with some excellent lines. The movie was unexpectedly violent, though - rather heavier on the sci-fi and lighter on the "western in space" roots of the original. Some of the actors and actresses have also aged rather visibly in the three years between filming. I probably would have given this a miss had Meg not been so much into it, but I've certainly enjoyed getting into the show. :-)

It has been delightful to learn the purpose of the flag on the US mailbox, which is an iconic part of the familiar-to-overseas-eyes US mailbox design; I had never previously properly understood what it was there for. If you put outgoing mail in the mailbox and raise the flag, the mailman will collect it from your mailbox and include it in the system. (Thus the mailman will check every postbox for a possible flag and mail to collect, even if there is no mail to deliver there.) How wonderful! I guess it is sensible - possibly, inevitable? - when there are people who live miles from their nearest postbox. I wonder whether many rural inhabitants in the UK take advantage of the counterpart collection service; it is possible to get daily collections from your door in the UK, but I think the fee is about £50/year or thereabouts.

One pleasantly surprising public transport innovation in Athens that I hadn't seen before: each bus - though there aren't many buses about in the first place - has a little fold-down rack on the front of it, and a bicycle rider can (after hailing a bus) fold down the rack and hook their bike onto the front. It's surprisingly simple and secure, plus a good way to extend the convenient bicycling radius. Why doesn't the rest of the world do that?
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