London Part I – You Are Poorer Than You Think


That’s the view out of my room in London. Isn’t it amazing?!


People say London weather is bad, but I’ve actually found it quite agreeable, compared to other places I’ve lived in.

OK, that’s not saying much. I’ve lived in Taiwan and Vancouver, and after living in those 2 places, one would probably find the weather in northern Russia agreeable, too.

It’s end of September, and we still get quite a bit of sunlight. Temperature has been fairly steady at 15-20C, which is quite a bit warmer than I had expected. I still go out in a tshirt, though I do seem to be a little out of place at times. I blame that on being Canadian :).

A new Welsh friend told me London has its own little weather system, and is usually a few degrees warmer than the surrounding areas. That’s pretty cool. I haven’t had a chance to verify it, yet. It’s actually pretty difficult to get out of London from the centre, just because how big it is.

It has been 1 week since I moved here, and I haven’t had a chance to see London much, since I have mostly just been shopping for the essentials, and food.


Like this £9.15 (~$15) meal from IKEA. I am pretty sure in the US this would have been less than $9.15.



I found that to be the general pattern here – a $5 thing in the US would be £5 here. Even after taking out the 20% VAT that’s usually included in prices, that’s still a good 40% more. I guess that’s the price to pay for living in the most expensive area of London!

After a while, you just learn to mentally replace the £ sign with $ instead of actually doing a conversion to evaluate the prices. Because if you do the conversion, you’ll starve.

The place I’m living in is just north of Shepard’s Bush, which is reasonably close to Kensington (where Royal Albert Hall, Hyde Park, and all the interesting museums and all the billionaires are), hence £££.

That’s pretty much by necessity, because some genius decided to build Imperial College in the middle of South Kensington, right across from Royal Albert Hall – quite possibly the most expensive land in all of the UK.

Well, it’s nice that I can go check out a museum or watch a musical between lectures at the most famous concert hall in the UK, but I think I’d be willing to give up that privilege for £300 per month lower rent.


It did take a bit of adaptation to get used to not having a car.

While I did walk a fair bit in Canada, I’ve always had access to a car, and always drove if I had to buy a lot of things, etc.

Here, it’s all buses and tube. I had to make 3 separate trips to IKEA just because I can’t physically carry that much stuff in 1 or 2 trips. I have never had to do that before.

It’s also slightly mind-bogging how big London is. In Vancouver, I can run from one end of the city to the other in about 2 hours. In London, 2 hours would move you by a few pixels on Google Maps, if you zoomed out to see all of London.

I have visited quite a few huge cities, but this is the first one I have lived in, and having to tube and bus everywhere really puts the size of the city into perspective.

If you are ever bored in London, you can just hop on the tube in some random direction and  sleep for 2 hours. When you wake up, you would still be in London. You’d be in a middle-of-nowhere borough you’ve never heard of, but still London.

For comparison, the population of London is about 8 million. Vancouver has about 500K, San Francisco has about 800K, and LA has about 4 million.

Compared to a similar sized city like New York, I quite like it.

It does have the usual problems with all metropoles – congestion, high prices, crime, pollution, etc, but overall, I like it a lot better than New York.

The streets are not nearly as clean as Vancouver, but also not nearly as bad as New York. Public transportation is much better – this one probably doesn’t really need an explanation if you have tried public transit in New York (subway drivers can randomly skip stations, take random detours, etc, and some lines still run at about 20km/h). London’s tube system has its quirks, but it’s pretty good on the whole, and very extensive. It is a little confusing at first with something like 8 lines and 250 stations, but that’s not really a problem if you have Google Maps. If you just follow their directions, the tube will take you to pretty much anywhere in London, relatively fast, especially in times of congestion. I like it over Vancouver’s system because Vancouver relies on busses too much, and busses do get stuck in traffic. Obviously also like it over Bay Area’s lack of a system at all.

Trains are reasonably fast. They aren’t as new and high tech as in Vancouver or Washington DC (their stations are absolutely gorgeous btw), but they do work, and are reasonably clean.


Also, their rhinovirus strands are amazing! At least the one I am sampling at the moment. Give it a try?

The Fault in Our Stars

You know the feeling how, every time, when you watch a movie that was adapted from a book, after reading the book, the movie always turns out to be entirely unlike what you had imagined from reading the book?

Yeah, I didn’t get that feeling at all, not from this movie.

I’m not sure if it’s a positive or negative, but the movie was almost exactly as I had envisioned when I read the book a few years ago (thanks Tree!), and had planned to write a review for, but never got around to.

I was hoping the movie would draw my attention to something I overlooked in the book, maybe present some things differently to invoke different emotions, or something. But no, didn’t happen. It was a faithful rendering of the book, but really not too much more.

On the plus side, that means less work for me, because now I can write 2 reviews for the price of 1!

I haven’t read many sick novels, so I don’t have many books to compare it to, but I thought it was pretty good.

The language is flowery and the plot twists plenty, though slightly predictable. But it was still a nice and touching story.

No, it’s not realistic and things don’t work that way in real life, but who wants to read a book or watch a movie about the real life of 2 American teenagers? I know I certainly wouldn’t want to read a book about my teenage years!

The movie felt a little bland for me having read the book, but I’d still recommend it if you haven’t read the book. You get most of the good stuff form the book, with much less time investment, and hence high ROI.

The book is pretty good as well, and there’s quite a bit of good stuff that didn’t make it into the movie.