mcgillianaire: (South Park Me)
I'm in America. I've been here 3 weeks, and I'll be here for 9 more. The weather in Providence, RI is a lot warmer (and sunnier) than London - so far. I'm thoroughly enjoying it. I'm staying with my sister and future bro-in-law. I'm taking a couple of online courses from Harvard's continuing education school and a course to prepare for the GRE. The GRE is a standardized test for postgrad studies in 'Murica. I've decided to turn my back on the legal profession and return to university next year. I'll be applying for public policy degrees in the neighborhood. Boston is commuting distance so there are quite a few options to pick from. I definitely don't have the grades or accomplishments to even consider the likes of Harvard's Kennedy School of Government, but hopefully I will get admitted to the next rung of alternatives below it.

My family would like me to remain in America after my postgrad degree, preferably close to my sister, but I am pretty clear in my mind that this is just a short adventure across the pond. That said, I am really looking forward to the opportunity of studying in America, and I am open to the idea of staying here for a year or two afterwards if I can secure a job in DC (or anywhere else, as long as it's in public policy). But I would like to return to London eventually.

I haven't quite left permanently either. Once my three months on the visa waiver program ends, I'll be flying back to London for the Christmas period. As amazing as the weather is right now and as cool as it is to be in America, I miss Blighty. Thank fuck, if you'll pardon my French, for smartphones and tablets. And thank fuck for the BBC. The radio app has been a godsend. It's like I've never left. Although waking up to You & Yours has been an interesting experience; sort of like the opposite of waking up to Up All Night when I'm in Oman or India. And with free VPN apps, I've even been able to tune into Sky Sports to watch live events, while catching-up on the latest comedies via the iPlayer app!

It was also interesting to vote in the Labour leadership election while sat on my computer here in America. I didn't give Jeremy Corbyn any of my nominations and instead plumped for Kendall, Cooper and Burnham in that order. None of my choices did well in the deputy leadership and London mayoral candidate election either. But nothing was as amusing as the media and shadow cabinet meltdown that greeted Corbyn's victory declaration. The Tories and right-wing media predictably labelled him a threat to humanity. And Blairites clearly didn't know what to do; cross the floor, jump ship or piss from inside the tent. Basically a raft of similar options that will not change the result in 2020.

And poor Corbyn, the chap clearly wants politics to change, but I don't think he feels comfortable leading the circus. Leadership necessitates compromise, and if there is something that sets Corbyn apart, it is his principled consistency. Love or loathe him, he has made a career out of it. The leadership will be a test of his political ambition and nous, neither of which he has displayed until now. Yet there are many attributes that I admire in Corbyn (the backbencher), and it is refreshing that someone of his disposition has risen to the top of British politics.

Alas, one wonders whether Labour should reduce itself to simply a party of protest, or seek to position itself as a government-in-waiting, ready to take over from the Tories at a general election. It's one thing to secure a thumping mandate from the cheerleading squad, quite another appealing to a wider electorate.

I wasn't even bothered about his appearance at PMQs, at St Paul's cathedral, his insistence to remain silent during the national anthem, or the chaotic manner in which the shadow cabinet was formed. It reflected a person for whom substance matters over spin. But I can understand why the electorate may have viewed it differently. You know, the same people whose votes he needs in 2020. Corbyn faces an uphill battle. The Tories plan to reduce the number of MPs and re-draw constituency boundaries - largely to their benefit. And there's still no sign that Scotland will abandon the SNP. Which leaves about 50-75 marginals to gain from the Tories in order to form a government.

Corbynistas are banking on three things: the 35% that didn't vote in May, old Labour UKIP voters and old Labour Green/Lib Dem voters. It's true, a lot of people didn't vote in May and Corbyn's election may inspire some people to vote for the first time/again. On the contrary, Labour voters who really don't like Corbyn's policies, but voted for Labour earlier this year, may jump ship too. It also remains to be seen whether young voters stick with Corbyn, if he continues to compromise on his principles (eg: accepting a role as a privy counsellor etc). As for old Labour UKIP voters, UKIP finished second in many Labour-held seats. There wouldn't be much point if those voters returned to Labour. Labour needs UKIP voters in Tory-held seats to 'return to the fold'. It's a big ask. One suspects such UKIP voters would not have been impressed with Corbyn's refusal to sing the national anthem at an event commemorating the Battle of Britain. And as for old Labour Green/Lib Dem voters, well they may gain a dozen seats or so that way, but what use will that be? They need at least 50. I just cannot see Corbyn winning a general election.

It may all be be a moot point. Several pundits have chipped in with their predictions of how long they think Corbyn will last, ranging from a few days to three years. Even members of his shadow cabinet refuse to say with any conviction that he will fight the next general election. For what it's worth, my guess is between six months to a year. Once the novelty wears off, once conference season ends, once there are a few more media "gaffes", and once the opinion polls tank, we'll see whether he roughs it out. Unlike power-hungry careerists who would refuse to fall on their sword until the last possible moment, I think Mr Corbyn would recognise his role in a sinking ship and jump.

One of Corbyn's illustrious predecessor's is often quoted (though perhaps incorrectly) as saying that a week is a long time in politics. Well, what a week it has been. To those who complained that politics had become a sterile affair, you've got your comeuppance. Now then, are you prepared for the consequences? I'll be watching from afar with interest.
mcgillianaire: (Changing Guard London)
...I arrived in London to settle here permanently. The photos below were taken on the night and subsequent morning of that memorable journey. It was my first flight to Blighty in three years - and I only stayed a night on that occasion - so this was actually my first proper visit in nearly four years. I was over the moon, making childhood dreams come true and all that jazz.

With mum at check-in in Muscat (then Seeb) International Airport. Dad had a separate flight that night to attend a conference in Italy. I think my sis was still in India. You can see bits of my Liverpool jersey that I was wearing in honour of the Champions League Final that was taking place as we were flying towards the Continent. The Mighty Reds were taking on The Rossoneri (AC Milan) in Athens. The pilot was kind enough to give us two score updates along the way. Unfortunately, we lost 2-1.

Read more... )
mcgillianaire: (Royal Coat of Arms)

Now that I'm the owner of an iPhone again, it only seemed appropriate to use the device's Autostitch app to create this panorama of Durham Cathedral. Founded in 1093, it is regarded as one of the finest examples of Norman architecture and is part of an UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The two western towers of the cathedral rise up 44m and were built in the early 13th century.

5 More Snaps )
mcgillianaire: (Royal Coat of Arms)
Three years ago we made a family trip to Bristol and Bath. I came up with this bright idea to take photos of every bridge I saw enroute. This is a summary of what I came up with. Enjoy! (As per usual, click to see a bigger version)

Pulteney Bridge in Bath was designed by Scottish architect Robert Adam and completed in 1773. It is one of only four bridges in the world with shops across the full span on both sides!

Clifton Suspension Bridge in Bristol was designed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel and completed in 1864. This picture doesn't do justice to the 214m long, 1500 ton beauty, but believe me, it's one of the modern wonders of the industrial world.

9 More Bridges, Some Remarkably Dull therefore Viewer Discretion Is Advised )
mcgillianaire: (Default)

The Sultan Ahmed Mosque, popularly known as the Blue Mosque for the blue tiles adorning the walls of its interior, was built between 1609 and 1616 during the rule of Ahmed I. Like many other mosques, it also comprises a tomb of the founder, a madrasah and a hospice. While still used as a mosque, the Sultan Ahmed Mosque has also become a popular tourist attraction.

10 More Pics )
mcgillianaire: (Hooka Pipe)

It costs 20 Turkish Lira (US$11.2/£7) to visit the museum. We pre-booked a guide for the day which I recommend because they save you from standing in the long queues at each of the main tourist attractions in the old city. The guide we had was very good and he was easy to understand, which cannot be said of many Turkish people speaking English, because he had studied and lived for several years in America and Canada.

The current structure is the third church to be built on the same spot but the marble remains of the second church (415-532 AD) can still be seen next to it, including reliefs showing the Lamb of God. They were part of a monumental front entrance.

15 More Pictures )

Who knew?

Sep. 14th, 2011 06:45 am
mcgillianaire: (Hooka Pipe)
Windows Live Photo Gallery, which comes pre-installed with Windows Vista and Windows 7, has a panoramic stitching feature. Judging by the image below it's bloody good. You can even use the program to upload directly to Flickr and Facebook!

The result using Windows Live Photo Gallery.

The result using Autostitch.
mcgillianaire: (Default)
The Hagia Sophia was the most beautiful building that we visited in Istanbul. A church for more than 1000 years, a mosque for nearly 500 years and now a museum since 1935, a trip to this city would be incomplete without paying your respects to this magnificent structure. And it's huge, so big in fact that it was the world's largest cathedral for over 1000 years until the Seville Cathedral was completed in 1520. Unlike previous photostitched posts, this one is dominated by vertical panoramas.

The Hagia Sophia is located on the European side of Istanbul, on the peninsula that is also home to the oldest parts of the city. The current structure dates from 537 AD but the original cathedral was dedicated in 360 AD.

As usual, click on any of the images to enlarge them.

5 more to give you a complete picture! )
mcgillianaire: (Hooka Pipe)
After the last post you might've been wondering what the Tower actually looks like and how prominent it is within the city skyline. This entry attempts to put the previous one into context. You can click on any of the images to see a bigger version.

Can you guess what it's made of?

In this picture the Tower doesn't look much taller than the buildings around it but...

2 more pics )
mcgillianaire: (Hooka Pipe)
The Galata Tower is a 67m tall watch tower originally built by the Genoese in 1348 but has since been rebuilt several times. It's an iconic Istanbul landmark and perched as it is on a hill, provides fantastic views of one of the world's greatest cities.

Click on any of the images to view them in their original size. In this panorama you can see the European side of Istanbul with the Golden Horn inlet to the left and the Bosphorus to the far right.

Panning to the right, you now have a clearer view of the Bosphorus and in the distance beyond the cruise liners, you can see the Asian (ie, Anatolian) side of Istanbul. To the far-right of the picture you can see the mouth of the Golden Horn and the tip of the peninsula that houses the oldest parts of Istanbul. If it wasn't clear before, the European side of Istanbul is split into two parts, separated by the Golden Horn inlet.

As we continue to pan right, you can see the Anatolian side of Istanbul to the left in the background and the two bits of the European sides in the foreground to the left and right, separated by the Golden Horn, which itself feeds into the Bosphorus and Sea of Marmara beyond (to the right in the background). On the left side you now have a better view of the two cruise liners parked at one of the touristy ports and on the right side, on the peninsula housing the oldest parts of Istanbul, you can see some of the city's world-famous mosques/museums including the Hagia Sophia and the Blue/Sultan Ahmed Mosque. The two European parts of the city are connected in this image by the Galata Bridge, named after the Tower.

And to complete the 360-degree circle you now have a complete view of the old city peninsula, the Golden Horn and several of the city's massive iconic mosques.

3 more panoramic views similar to the ones above but taken at sunset )
mcgillianaire: (Hooka Pipe)

Click to enlarge. The Yeni Cami (New Mosque) in the foreground and Nuruosmaniye Mosque in the background. The photo was taken from the Galata Tower. [2 September 2011]
mcgillianaire: (Football player)

The Fiyapı İnönü Stadium is the home to the second oldest football club in Turkey and is located very close to our hotel.
mcgillianaire: (Royal Coat of Arms)

A panoramic view of the Laurieston district in the Gorbals area of Glasgow as seen from the north side of the River Clyde. The two delightful bridges of contrasting styles date from the Victorian era. [Taken 29 Jul 2011]

I've just returned from attending a wedding in Scotland but no it wasn't the Royal one. I spent the weekend in the Scottish Highlands celebrating the nuptials of a close friend who I have LJ to thank for meeting in the first place. She posted as [ profile] 3neonangels but stopped a few years ago. Thanks to her and her new hubby, I got to visit Glasgow and the Isle of Skye for the first time but in a bid to keep expenses to a minimum, found myself travelling by bus for about thirty-five hours in the space of three-and-a-half days. Of course it was worth it. And needless to say thanks to my old camera working again (albeit flash-free) the memorable experience will linger long in the memory. Unfortunately I can't be arsed and am too tired to make a proper pictorial post but I will leave you with a few panoramas to whet your appetite. In the meanwhile, have yerself a wee bonnie night!

Glasgow Central railway station is the busiest in Scotland and second-busiest UK station outside of London after Birmingham New Street. As you can tell, it has an endearingly Victorian dated look to it. [Taken 29 Jul 2011]

A panoramic view of the Scottish west coast taken from Armadale on the Isle of Skye, within the grounds of a castle and gardens that once belonged to Clan Donald, one of the largest Scottish clans. [Taken 30 Jul 2011]

Portree, the largest town in the Isle of Skye. Population: 2500. The scene of a beautiful wedding earlier in the day when the sun was shining, the men were wearing kilts and we were led by a bagpiper. [Taken 30 Jul 2011]
mcgillianaire: (Lock Stock Still-frame)

I've recently acquired a taste for Bloody Marys to recover from a night of heaving drinking but I was sober when I had this one. It was on an US Airways flight from Detroit to Washington DC. [26 May 2011]

20 More Hungry Pics )
mcgillianaire: (Scale of Justice)

You can click on the image for a bigger view. [Taken Sat 28 May 2011]

As taken from Brown University's website:
    "The Baccalaureate Service, with roots in medieval academic tradition, honors the achievements of the candidates for the bachelor’s (“bacca”) degree by presenting them with the laurels (“lauri”) of oration. Brown’s baccalaureate tradition derives from the immense range of religious, ethnic, geographic, linguistic, and musical traditions present within the campus community. The ceremony includes rituals, readings, and prayers from Islam, Judaism, Hinduism, Christianity, Buddhism and animist traditions, as well as choral and instrumental music, the Chinese lion dance, poetry, dance, and Taiko and Senegalese drumming.

    The service is conducted in the Meeting House of the First Baptist Church in America, completed in 1775 “for the Publick Worship of Almighty God, and also for holding Commencement in.” Significant portions of the University’s Commencement ceremonies have been held in the church ever since."

As family we witnessed the ceremony from College Green on the main campus. It took place at the same time as the European Cup Final between Barcelona & Man United, but I chose to stay until the end of the Baccalaureate address that was delivered by Kenneth Roth, a 1977 Brown graduate and human-rights crusader. He has been the executive director of Human Rights Watch since 1993 and he spoke about "Finding Your Way When There Are No Rules" by "explaining what human rights' work and the Arab Spring say about making one's way in the world." Even though all the goals had been scored by the time I left, the talk was worth it.
mcgillianaire: (Default)

Where Liberty Dwells There Is My Country, a quote often credited to Benjamin Franklin. [Taken on Sunday, 22 May 2011]
mcgillianaire: (Hooka Pipe)
According to Wikipedia, "Edison is one of the more diverse townships in New Jersey. It and the surrounding communities of Middlesex County are commonly known throughout the state and the New York metro area as being one of the region's main centers of Asian American cultural diversity." This is borne out in the demographics with 44% of the population classified as White and 43% as Asian. It's a pilgrimage for Indians in America.

Some of the following pics were taken with my sister's new retro-styled Micro Four Thirds camera, the Olympus PEN E-PL1. Can you guess which ones?

This is no joke and is a real movie. It won Best Film at the London Asian Film Festival and released in theatres on May 6. It marketed itself as "The Year's Other Big Wedding!" You can read more about it here.

9 More Pics )
mcgillianaire: (Football player)

The English Cellar Alehouse in Providence, Rhode Island - conveniently located in the middle of Brown University's campus on Angell Street.


mcgillianaire: (Default)

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