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Tourists find London unfriendly, dirty and expensive: survey | Reuters

December 15, 2012 Leave a comment

Cancun Beach

(Reuters) – London may have put on a cheerful face during the Olympics but tourists have still rated the city poorly in terms of friendliness, cleanliness and value for money, a survey showed on Thursday.

Of 40 cities worldwide, London this year ranked second to last for the friendliness of its locals, according to a poll by travel website TripAdvisor.

Only Moscow fared worse, while Mexico‘s Cancun ranked first.

Britain’s capital barely performed better in the nine other categories of the poll, ranking 28th for safety, 26th for cleanliness and 35th for best value for money.

On the upside, London was rated fourth best city for shopping – behind New York City, Bangkok and Dubai – and fifth for the quality of taxi services.

The study was based on responses from 75,000 TripAdvisor users surveyed last month.

via Tourists find London unfriendly, dirty and expensive: survey | Reuters.

White plaque for West End star to launch anti-drug campaign | Politics | guardian.co.uk

November 26, 2012 Leave a comment

Billie Carleton in The Freedom of the Seas, 1918

The dead body of early 20th-century West End star Billie Carleton was discovered by her maid in her apartment at the Savoy the morning after a victory ball at the Royal Albert Hall. London‘s aristocracy had attended en masse to celebrate the end of the first world war. Now, almost a century later, Carleton’s death is the first to be marked with a white plaque as part of a new campaign to draw attention to flaws in the so-called war on drugs.

The scheme, modelled on the blue plaque scheme that recognises the homes of the famous, will see white, cocaine-coloured discs mounted on the walls of places associated with celebrities who have died from drug abuse.

The campaign has been launched to coincide with the British release of the film The House I Live In, co-produced by Brad Pitt and The Wire’s creator, David Simon. The award-winning documentary examines US drug policy in particular, and the way it treats drug addiction as a crime, rather than a public health issue.

On Wednesday, the anniversary of the death of Carleton, Britain’s earliest “celebrity” drug fatality, the first in a series of biodegradable plaques will go up. It will be placed on the wall of a house in Bernard Street, the actress’s birthplace.

via White plaque for West End star to launch anti-drug campaign | Politics | guardian.co.uk.

Will Dean’s Ideas Factory: How does a robotic copy editor cope with Ulysses? – Features – Gadgets & Tech – The Independent

November 17, 2012 Leave a comment
"Writing on the wood is prohibited."...As the newspaper industry works out how to tackle the threat from free online news and other structural problems, some journalists can at least take heart that, no matter, what the medium – newsprint, the web, or electronic paper – a good copy editor is an essential role. As it is in publishing and advertising/copy-writing, too. When the robots are making our coffee and vacuuming our floors, at least they won’t be criticising us for our use of cliches… Oh. Hang on a minute…

Pro Writing Aid is the creation of Chris Banks, a London-based programmer. It allows writers to insert their copy and uses algorithms to pick out redundancies, cliches, overused words, unvaried sentence lengths and other errors which relate to neither spelling or grammar.

I put the technology to the test by entering a feature I wrote for these pages last week on 3D printing. The analysis came back with a plethora of suggestions, including four “overused words”, a couple of redundancies (“component parts”, tssk) and a massive 16 issues of “vague or abstract words”. Alright, Sir Harry Evans-robot, I get it. Though some of the points were fair enough, others still need a bit of human nuance. One of my red-marked phrases was “kind of” which might be weak for a novel but was part of a vital quote from one of the people I spoke to.

via Will Dean’s Ideas Factory: How does a robotic copy editor cope with Ulysses? – Features – Gadgets & Tech – The Independent.

Restaurant: Kitchen Table, London W1 | Life and style | The Guardian

November 14, 2012 Leave a comment

There are people who enjoy the whole chef’s table phenomenon, but I’m not one of them. It reminds me of rich Victorians peering at Bedlam inmates for sport – jammed among these people in a horseshoe of no escape is not my idea of fun. On one side of me is a man with BMW keys placed in front of him like the prelude to a spot of wife-swapping. He licks his plates, putting them up to his face and scouring them with a large tongue. Along from him is a trio of young, beautiful people who are almost entirely silent apart from the click and whirr of their cameras. To my left is a chap who orders a vast takeaway of hotdogs, “For dessert”.

The air reverberates with screeches of “Mugaritz” and “Brooklyn Fare” and “best scallops are from a little asador outside Bilbao“. This circle-jerk of oneupmanship makes me wish I could pull a battered black pudding out of my bag and poke it in their eyes. I feel sorry for Knappett, who introduces each course with bushy-tailed enthusiasm and real knowledge, having to perform for this self-obsessed, show-off audience of conspicuous consumers.

When he and Chang get a place with actual tables, I’ll be biting off hands for a booking. His cooking and her charm are a potent combination (although I wish she’d told me, when recommending a blissful, dry Szepsy Estate Furmint Tokaj, that it was £61). But until then, divine cooking or not, I’m out. Expensive, high-end food will always attract the tosserati, but this lot really are the sous-vided, thermomixed crème de la crème.

via Restaurant: Kitchen Table, London W1 | Life and style | The Guardian.

Bubbledogs Mix Champagne With British Bangers in London – Bloomberg

October 14, 2012 Leave a comment

A bore at the next table in a Paris brasserie once ruined my dinner by insisting that I was wrong to accompany my food with Champagne, which was an aperitif.

This gastronomical gendarme was drunk, which might explain it.

I myself, sober though I was, wondered about the lineup of Champagne and hot dogs at the new London restaurant Bubbledogs.

Any doubts were misplaced. I’m more excited by Bubbledogs than any new London restaurant I’ve tried since Dabbous, where you can wait months for a table. The hot dogs are great, the Champagnes are varied and inexpensive, and the service is first- class.

To use a phrase I dislike, what’s not to like?

There’s a choice of about a dozen hot dogs, each of which is available as beef, pork or vegetarian. For the purist, there’s the Naked Dog, at 6 pounds ($9.75). The top price is 8 pounds for the BLT, which comes with caramelized lettuce and truffle mayo. There are no starters and no desserts.

(Crif Dogs, in New York, helped inspire Bubbledogs.)

Sides are restricted to tots (potato croquettes), sweet- potato fries and coleslaw. That’s it. I can’t think why anyone would want more choice in a hot-dog restaurant. If anything, I’d like things simpler: no sides and a single price.

Those who shrug that it’s hard to get hot dogs wrong should eat their words. Simplicity is complex: You might get away with a mistake in an elaborate fine-dining meal, but there is nowhere to hide with a sausage and a bread roll.

via Bubbledogs Mix Champagne With British Bangers in London – Bloomberg.

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