Tuesday, October 19, 2010


I've posted before that my phone number at work is just one digit off of the "Vector Control" squad that does all of the rat exterminations and varmint hunting for the city. Usually a good source of amusement over the course of the day. Today I got another call for the same:

Me: Hello, this is Aaron Ritz
Woman: Is this the place for rat inspections.
Me: No, I'm Aaron Ritz and I work for the Office of Transportation and Utilities.
Woman: Where?
Me: The Office of Transportation and Utilities
Woman: Constipation Utilities? That's the strangest office I ever heard of...

Good times at the City of Philadelphia.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Jaffa Cakes

One of my favourite snacks from the trip was the ever popular Jaffa Cake. Upon trying to discover more about them, I chanced upon this fabulous wikipedia article about the history of the cake:

Under UK law, no Value Added Tax (VAT) is charged on plain biscuits and cakes —
they are "zero rated". Chocolate covered biscuits, however, are subject to
VAT. In Ireland, plain biscuits and cakes attract the "reduced" rate.
Chocolate cakes and biscuits attract the "standard" rate. McVities classed
its Jaffa Cakes as cakes, but in 1991, this was challenged by Her Majesty's
Customs and Excise and the case ended up before the courts.[8] This may have
been because Jaffa Cakes are about the same size and shape as some types of
biscuit, and particularly because they are commonly eaten alongside, or
instead of, traditional biscuits. The court asked "What criteria should be
used to class something as a cake?" McVities defended its classification of
Jaffa Cakes as cakes, producing a 12" (30 cm) Jaffa Cake to illustrate
that its Jaffa Cakes were simply miniature cakes.[9] McVities argued
that a distinction between cakes and biscuits is, among other things, that
biscuits would normally be expected to go soft when stale, whereas cakes
would normally be expected to go hard. It was demonstrated to the Tribunal
that Jaffa Cakes become hard when stale. Other factors taken into account by
the Chairman, Potter QC, included the name, ingredients, texture, size,
packaging, marketing, presentation, appeal to children, and manufacturing
process. Potter ruled that the Jaffa Cake is a cake. McVities therefore won
the case and VAT is not paid on Jaffa Cakes.[10]

Thursday, October 14, 2010

First Eats

After finding our hotel, we chanced upon a super-tasty sausage stand. Good stuff. Really good stuff. It was a fabulous introduction to a fabulous city.
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Who's having a great first day?

We are!!!! Just outside of Harrods London, where I bought the most interesting "cola" which was dandelion and burdock root. Not bad really, for something made from ditch weeds.
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Something like Giant Labia Eats Worm from Space might be the name that I gave this one in my head as we walked through the Tate Modern museum. I actually liked some of the big sculptures a lot but jet-lagged is not the ideal state in which to view modern art. Or is it...
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Almost as interesting as it looks

We were invited out to the Brompton factory for the presentation of the Queen's Award for Enterprise, given to the plucky and courageous folding bicycle savant pictured in the background. Andrew Richie is his name, and he is one of the few people I've ever met for whom the title "Inventor" is the most approprite thing that one could say. He's a kook.
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Rainbow Brommies

Unfortunately, they're discontinuing my favorite baby pink Brompton, but luckily they have replaced it with a most excellent sage coloration. I can hardly choose my favorite color!
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Now I kinda want a torch

I absolutely love factory tours. For reasons of which I am not quite sure, Brompton brazes their bikes rather than welding them. I speculate that this might be just for a retro appeal, or it might just be some staunch curmudgeony habits. Can't say really.
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Tuesday, October 12, 2010


  Didn't really do the flag proud, but hey, that's bike racing. At least I remembered how to fold the flag appropriately when our photo shoot was over.
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The Puerile Professor Poopy Pants Pouting at the Palace Pondering Punctures.
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Lovely little church

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Blockley Hotel

This was our home base for the two days we spent in the Cotswold village of Blockley. This was by far my favorite part of the trip. As ultimately English country as it comes, and just stunningly pretty. More sheep than people in these parts, and our hotel had been in operation for something like 400 years (under new management)


Broadway Tower, in the Cotswolds. It was designed and built as a cool place to throw a party. That's all. They've got some super gargoyles on the corners as well.
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Gargoyle in the making?

Jen trying her own face as a gargoyle. Not scary enough, in my opinion.
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Right of way

Did I mention that I really liked England? Public walking paths throughout the country, even through farm fields. That is an AWESOME tradition. I've got the strange notion that hikers would get shot at if we suddenly started walking over hill and dale in this way in the US.
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York was nice

Some quaint and lovely street in York. I really liked York, and it didn't hurt that they had one of my favorite bike shops from the trip, Cycle Heaven.
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We took a distillery tour of Glenkichie scotch. Owned by Johnny Walker's parent company, it's liquor is a chief constituent of Johnny Walker Black label.
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Good stuff

Still feeling good after the free shots from the Glenkichie distillery. "Scotch, scotch, scotch. I love scotch. Here it goes now, on down my throat."
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Holyrood Park

It doesn't hurt the beauty of a place to have a mountain park in the middle of your city. This was about 2 miles from the center of town, and a mile from our hotel. Chariots of Fire was filmed here.
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Edinburgh was very pretty, but perhaps due to where it sat in our trip, gave both Jennifer and I a kind of unwelcome vibe. It probably didn't hurt that most of the buildings were still recovering from years or coal smoke like this church here.
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The Calthorpe Arms, the Cheers of East London

We spend our last night in London with a pint or two in this lovely pub on Grey's Inn Road. The place was about as quaint as you could ever ask for, with 5 people total in the bar, shooting the shit with the bartender. Everyone knew everyone else, and they were all making fun of the guy who was sitting in the corner watching a Family Guy rerun. He laughed mightily as he tried to explain the characters to the other folks. "The dog is called Brian, and he's probably the smartest character on the show..."
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Thursday, October 07, 2010

Somewat deflated, still bouyant

Jennifer and I have been in the UK for the past week. Overall it has been a marvellous trip, full of adventure, surprisingly delicious food, and beautiful surroundings. London has maintained itself as one of my all-time favorite big cities, and I can honestly say that there are few places more lovely than England in the sunshine. Unfortunately, that sunshine is not often in steady supply. We were doused heavily on day 2 whilst still in London, then douched the night before and the day of the Brompton World Championship. My tires were apparently not up to the task and I flatted once before the race started, early in the morning, and once midway through lap 2 of the race. Dammit. I was pretty bummed, but we had an absolutely stunning day in Oxford and the Cotswolds, which made up for that in most ways. I'm still conniving a way to eventually work for a year or two in England somewhere-either in a bike shop or better yet, as a bicycle facilities planner. If anyone has any sweet hook-ups let me know. We've had spare Bromptons from Trophy Bikes on loan for the week, and also borrowed Mike's camera (for aesthetic value when coupled with the rack and bag that he had custom built for my steed) so I've snapped far too many pictures to date. Will post them once we return to the motherland for a bit.