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Cold Warrior

Profile Information

Gender: Male
Home country: USA
Current location: London, UK
Member since: Sun Aug 24, 2014, 05:49 AM
Number of posts: 14,115

Journal Archives

Do you still use cash

or cheques for that matter? Pursuing a daily life in the UK, one has to deal with collecting massive, heavy amounts of change (the smallest bill is 5GBP). Since I've gotten a contactless debit card, I've almost completely stopped using cash. Tube fare, coffee, all of it paid for with the card. It's actually quite a bit more efficient for the merchant as well as it speeds up payment processing.

As to cheques, I haven't used them in more than a decade. Occasionally, I'll get a cheque in the mail -- refunds for train delays, for example -- but I pay all bills by direct debit. Indeed, when I was in Bosnia in the early 2000s advising Eastern European banks on western banking standards, we advised them to skip cheques altogether.

How about you?

29 March 2017: UK Independence Day

Theresa May has signed the letter that will formally begin the UK's departure from the European Union.

Giving official notice under Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, it will be delivered to European Council president Donald Tusk later.

In a statement in the Commons, the prime minister will then tell MPs this marks "the moment for the country to come together".

It follows June's referendum which resulted in a vote to leave the EU.

For Maxwell Smart's eyes only: Weekend in Budapest

Weekend before last I decided to take a long weekend in Budapest with a lovely, much too young lady from Kosice. Budapest is one of favourite city-break destinations with the Buda Castle District, the opera house, Vaci Street, and, of course, Gundel, Budapest's best restaurant. The Budapest Hilton is in the Castle District as well (one of two Hiltons in Budapest) and opposite the first picture below. As a Marriott Lifetime Platinum Elite member (over 2400 nights in Marriott brands ) I tend to stay in the Marriott on the Pest side.

Arrived Thursday evening and on a glorious Friday we went up to the Buda Castle.

The first citizens arrived to Castle Hill in the 13th century after the Mongolian invasion, seeking protection in the hills of Buda. The first royal castle was built around this time. The golden age of Castle Hill was in the 15th century, following the marriage of King Matthias Corvinus and Beatrix of Naples in 1476. Many Italian artists and craftsmen accompanied the new queen, and Buda became an important European city. After the Turkish occupation, Buda was in ruins. A Baroque city was built, and Castle Hill soon became the district of government. During World War II, Buda was bombed to the ground and had to be rebuilt again.

Today, Castle Hill is recognized as a World Heritage Site, and has many must-see attractions, Gothic arches, eighteenth-century Baroque houses and cobblestone streets.

This photo of Matthias Church is actually from a previous trip. It's stunning inside and out with painted interior walls and ceilings

Matthias Church (Hungarian: Mátyás-templom) is a Roman Catholic church located in Budapest, Hungary, in front of the Fisherman's Bastion at the heart of Buda's Castle District. According to church tradition, it was originally built in Romanesque style in 1015, although no archaeological remains exist. The current building was constructed in the florid late Gothic style in the second half of the 14th century and was extensively restored in the late 19th century. It was the second largest church of medieval Buda and the seventh largest church of the medieval Hungarian Kingdom.

I'd rather laugh with the sinners than cry with the saints

the sinners are much more fun.

What was it about the interwar period

that spawned such great literature?

- T.S. Eliot
- Franz Kafka
- Ernest Hemingway
- F. Scott Fitzgerald
- Thomas Mann
- Luigi Pirandello
- James Joyce
- Hermann Hesse

I'm sure I'm missing some. Even Somerset Maugham, who was not great, but who is a sentimental favourite of mine.

Franz Kafka on the phone

There was an episode of The Amazing Race wherein a team comprised of two of the Harlem Globetrotters were in Prague and the challenge involved answering a room full of ringing landlines to ultimately derive the name "Franz," a very Kafaesque situation. It was the challenge that eliminated the Globetrotters. Here's Shelley Berman's take on Kafka.

An Ode to Palinka

During my trip to Budapest last weekend, I picked up four crystal liqueur glasses and a bottle of pear Palinka. God, it's good!

An Ode to Palinka

There are few better ways to get an honest glimpse into the soul of a nation than through its national drink. Almost every country has a distilled spirit that is a vital part of the local culture and traditions, and for Hungary, that drink is pálinka.

The basic idea of pálinka is very simple: take some good local fruit and absolutely nothing else, and distil it into a spirit. It’s done in small batches, sometimes with just one type of fruit, sometimes with more. It can be aged in barrels but it doesn’t have to be. Pálinka is all about the pure juicy aromas of the Hungarian countryside, with all the flavors of fruits the grow there, distilled into a small glass.

The beauty of pálinka lies in its simplicity: with nothing to hide the real flavors of the fruit it’s made from, only the juiciest fruit, distilled in the most careful way, makes really great pálinka. It can be made by anyone anywhere where there’s fresh fruit, but the drink will always reveal the quality of the fruit and the skill of the distiller. Making pálinka is as much science as it is art: distilling is a delicate process, and only someone who really understands the science behind it can become a real expert.

A beautiful sunny day in London

This weekend has been so nice in London -- the first real days of spring! No better place in the world to be. My new flat is on the NE corner of Hyde Park, London's gem, while I previously lived in Queensway on the NW corner. I walked over today today to my hairdresser's which meant walking the entire northern border of the Park.

Greenery returns!

People come!

The street painters regroup!

Should prostitution be legal?

I'm curious as to people's opinions on the topic. As a libertarian, I say "Yes." I consider arguments derived from criminal activities that may be associated with prostitution as invalid as there are already laws against kidnapping and slavery. Indeed, an argument could be made that by keeping prostitution illegal, these criminal activities are bolstered as the women may be reluctant to approach authorities.

Pass the parmesan

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