Wednesday, December 31, 2008

No, really, just tell me

Some of us are leaders. Some of us are go-getters and pro-active doers and know what the world is about.

Some of us are not.

Some of us are just lazy, some of us read detective novels without trying to guess who did it. Some of us get by on occasional jolts of coffee and manager-induced adrenaline. Some of us just tag along and wonder when someone is going to explain the explanation. Some of us read popular science, not to understand, but because it entertains us. Pretty pictures. Interesting ideas. Chaos theory = awesome, but it doesn't stop us, the bewildered, from completely forgetting/failing to understand what all of it means.

Some of us go out there and find explanations. Some of us are Einstein, most of us are not. I don't say "Einstein" as a placeholder for "incomprehensible genius". No, I actually mean Einstein, because he is the scientist everyone wants to be, and everybody has this idea that it should be simple. Hence the multitude of crackpot ideas*. Those are all people trying hard to lead, but without taking the intermediate steps.

Anyway, my labyrinthine point is that we do not all strive the rule, or to understand in depth. Well, I guess it would be nice to understand, but mostly if someone else does the work.

So here's two questions on behalf of the muddled and non-desiring-of-leadership:
Question A: Given that some of us are not inclined to extensive research, how do we keep from being ignorant and foolish? How do we figure out which popular science book to read? What do we base our beliefs on? Who can tell us what it all means? How do followers keep from following the idiotic or obscene? Who do we trust?

Question B: Given that some of us are not leaders, and that that is the societal norm for success, how is it that we have careers, often successful ones? What is the professional goal if not management of something or someone? What with the ambition of the unambitious? How can they best use their skills?

*And just in case you though I came up with idea, I didn't, I actually stole it from A Little Knowledge, one of This American Life's better shows (which says something)

Monday, December 29, 2008

Global warming

Or so it seems on our return from the South - it is far too warm here.  I have been much occupied eating Christmas cookies and wrapping things. All that is done now, we are back, I am exhausted and yes, I go back to work tomorrow.


Tuesday, December 23, 2008


Yesterday was the day of the Open House. There were children, and foods, and lots of cool people. There was Sorcia, in a very fetching outfit. (Yes, I did think of The Devil Wears Prada - "You are very fetching. So, go fetch.")
There were dainty things on toothpicks. There were Christmas cookies. It was all very seasonal, and slightly alcoholic. Not for the children, we don't believe in intoxicating anyone under the age of six.

So here's a jolly ho-ho to the Spouse's good efforts.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

The best thing about being seventeen

Very consciously I never wanted to be sentimental about being a teenager. I find myself, however, remembering some of that time with that gut-wrenching intensity that pulls you through some loophole in spacetime. I listen to A Bit of a Blur - read by Alex James - and then to For Tomorrow, a song I listened to twenty million times when I was just sixteen, and I remember it was not all bad, and most of all, it was all-consuming in a way that nothing ever quite is after that. Maybe that is what people see in their teenage past; not so much the good or the bad, but the overwhelming implacable absoluteness of it.

And then I start remembering all the bad things.

Somewhere in there I asked my sister's then-boyfriend "Which is better, to forgive or to forget?" He said it was better to forget, because what is forgiveness with a memory?

Can you forgive your past? Or maybe yourself?

Holding on for seems at present such a small tomorrow, just Christmas shopping, no whole new world, and always talking just a little too much.

For those of you who have seen the movie, but not read the book, please read The Neverending Story; you may find it houses your memories as well as Bastian's this Christmas.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Things I never thought I'd see

This is for those of you who remember the obscure and obscured past - from my beloved friend

[Blur's] Bassist Alex James is currently hosting a show on Classic FM and has expanded his family, welcoming four children to the family cheese farm in Oxfordshire since 2004.
It sounds a little like something Alex James might have written in a drunken haze sometime in the mid-nineties as a dark parody of his dissolute lifestyle. Terrifying, that. Is this what awaits sexy bass players if they are lucky? Family cheese farms? Classic FM? Hell, it had better be an organic, animal friendly cheese farm, and he had better not like Wagner. He should at least have gone for Radio Four. Audible, give me that autobiography.

Editor's Note: I realise that this post is mostly an reference to things you don't know, and wouldn't necessarily understand if I explained. Blur: British band to which I devoted endless hours and discussions in the dark nineties. Alex James: I said he was a sexy bass played with a bad name. What more could you need to know? Classic FM: Semi-cheesey (ahahaha! no pun intended) British classical music radio. Radio Four: The real thing, full of erudite things, classical music and Stephen Fry reading Harry Potter. Audible: Wonderful place of digital audiobook downloads. All legal and therefore, sadly, only for the monied classes. That biography: A Bit of a Blur (pun sadly intended obviously), Alex James's book about hisself.


It has been a while since I have written about the quest in the title. This is in part because the quest such as it was had been mostly achieved; and I have been struggling to formulate new goals. Not because I couldn't think of any, but because I couldn't figure out what I wanted. Well, that strategy - no strategy - has, unsurprisingly enough not really paid off.

I think you should all go and get some tea and a biscuit (cookie for the Americans) while I figure this out.

You know, I am not the only person in the universe with self esteem issues. Mine aren't so bad. I think I'm ok. I think I do ok. Only I don't - I feel increasingly incompetent. I wonder if this is because my current job is a bad fit. I love my job. Well, I love some of my job. I love how I get to do new things all the time. I love that I get to write for it. But there is a lot of nitty gritty - the glorified secretary part. Hey, I'm not too good for that; but I am not very good at it. I try to be. It is not that I have no aptitude for detail. I have some, when I can work consistently and with focus; but juggling a million details with my increasingly bad memory, well, it's not my forte. I drop stuff. Saucers. Suitcases. USB cables.
So the quest - I must find one. Get over myself. Get some more education. Figure out what I want (pick a card - any card). Do something to keep from feeling so damn stupid all the time. I am getting increasingly impatient and disoriented. Meanwhile, let's see if my modest achievements can get me a press pass for the Consumer Electronics Show in Vegas.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008


Ah yes, I have been too busy with the prosaic nature of life to write. I do apologize. Stamping Christmas cards is an onerous task. My sense of humour has been mostly occupied with my place of employment; it requires one. Most of all, one should not underestimate the effort involved in making tea to resist the current cold spell, and the time spent in making soup and reading mysteries. I contemplate others' creative efforts with pleasure; but my inner artist is all taken up with that stamping business and picking out Christmas gifts and listening to Loreena McKennitt. Nobody every warned me that being an adult would take such an awful lot of time.

Depeche Mode. Winter is the best time to listen to Depeche Mode. Maybe a good time to motivate myself for some eighties party? Or chocolate. Yes, chocolate would be nice. And a sharp knife for this Gordian knot of future possibilities. And lack thereof. Yes, I am thinking about career options yet again. Yes, I am at least a bored with that as you are. Yes, I would love to make a decision. I am not good at making decisions when I don't already know what I want (Indian or Japanese? The black dress or the suit? Sprouts or leeks? Do we want it wrapped? Mustard with that? Oranges or tangerines? Theatre or music? Paper or plastic?) It all just makes me feel like I am not good at anything.

Time for a nice walnut, endive and blue cheese salad? Yes, I think so. When faced with arbitrary choices, always choose all options.

Monday, December 08, 2008


This post goes where something else should go. Something interesting. Some plan or exciting outcome. Construction has been delayed due to budgetary shortfall. Instead, I will be driving to Arbutus; but I promise I will chide myself on the way.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

(Quoth she, over breakfast grapefruit)
So here we are again, Thanksgiving is over, I have eaten my weight in pecan pie, and will now have to live on salad without dressing for the next two weeks. Also, Obama has named Hillary his Secretary of State, and everybody is wondering if he took the Doris Kearns Goodwin book too seriously. No, seriously, good for him, I think she'll do a good job. I finished reading Tolstoy's The Kreuzer Sonata and Other Stories which I had picked up in a moment of careless optimism (I love the Kreuzer Sonata - the music that is) only to confirm my hunch that Tolstoy was a grumpy, misanthropical, misogynist old man and a total waste of my time. I am still listening to that endless FDR biography, which may have destroyed my respect for the man for ever, and is certainly testing my patience. On the upside, I am also reading Bridge to Terabithia, and so far that is pretty good.

Moral of the story: do not eat pretzels for dinner. Also: do not read Tolstoy, no matter how tempting it may be. Finally: kids books are, I think, better than adult books on average. They have a better eye for craftsmanship, for the art of keeping a reader's attention, for being creative without being pointless. The moral then: if in doubt, read children's books.

I know, I have some good adult reads waiting for me, and I should tackle those.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008


Last week, we (the Spouse and I) saw an excellent performance of Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? When I say that it was excellent, that can be taken to mean bruising, heartbreaking and slightly traumatising. A confronting thing for any couple to watch. Like the best kind of theatre, it filters into your life, translates into all sorts of questions. They are good questions, if not easy ones. Maybe it should be considered a supplement to pre-marital counselling - if you can see Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? and still want to get married, you probably ought to. That said, you may not know eachother well enough at that point to see how the play relates to you (it does; it always does). In which case you should probably hold off on that white dress.

On the more cheerful side, I have been slaughtering pumpkins. Thanksgiving is coming up and in a moment of well-intentioned insanity I offered to make pumpkin pie from scratch. Making it from scratch is not insanity. It is simply better. What is insanity is transporting mashed pumpkin the lenghth of the country, and then facing the ever-stressful task of making pie crust. Why stressful, you may ask; well, because I am a failure at making crust. Forget all that fluted rim stuff. If it covers the pie pan it is a success; and even then, I mess up at least one time in three. So why not simply obtain one of those wonderful (er...) pre-made crusts, or better still, take my mother-in-law up on her generous offer to make the crust for me? Because I am stubborn, that's why, and because I would rather spend a morning being stressed out than admit to my crust issues or stoop to store-bought crust, especially after all of the pumpkin-bashing. I have to learn sometime, right? I just wish I could do it ahead of time, and fail in the privacy of my own kitchen. If you hear clanking and swearing from our kitchen tonight, that is me, miserably messing up a practice session.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

The little things

I am at home, watching the Colbert Report, making popcorn and blogging. Aaaah. Life is good. If I were feeling motivated I would make apple pie. If that doesn't convey the mood, try this.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Strange and elusive time

This is how you know that you are now, appalingly enough, an adult:
- You realise that what bothers people about getting old is not the age, but the fact that your face crinkles when you smile, and that you have seriously considered putting a quota on smiling
- All of the cool people you know are too busy to hang out with you because they have babies
- You haven't had hot chocolate in years because it has too many calories for a drink
- You own napkin rings
- Phone bills no longer confuse you, and you have financial planning in place
- Dry cleaning bills still confuse you (in that you have them)
- Your place of residence always has a small stack of clean towels. So do your friends' houses
- Your employment requires actual engagement, and some portion of your soul

I'm not even being facetious. Being an adult is a baffling business. Every once in a while I wake up, look around and wonder what happened. How did I go from my mother having to convince me that I needed a collander (not long ago!) and telling me I didn't care for dating (it was more that it didn't care for me) to living here with this job, and a husband (tall guy - glasses - nice looking - smart too), and a blender and champagne glasses. No, more than that - a champagne bottle stopper. Handy thing, that.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008


The first of the season. I must celebrate Sinterklaas this year, I can tell. Clementines, chocolate letters and speculaas. And maybe, if I'm good, Sinterklaas will give me a new giant inflatable deer head

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Hotel rooms, old friends, the rain and the mermaids

The hotel room is in Ocean City, where I am, somewhat reluctantly, for work. It is not bad as rooms go - a mini fridge, a microwave, free wireless, the Spouse. I guess one would have to bring a spouse, but the rest is courtesy of the hotel.

Outside it rains on the Atlantic Ocean, which I can smell but not see; the mermaids are hypothetically playing there.

You know how it sometimes breaks your heart when someone you care for is hurting and there is nothing you can do? Yes, there is nothing I can do. It isn't even just one person; there's a few people and it isn't even that I can't think of what to do - it's just that there isn't anything. It is, like many things, beyond my control.

Well, there is always banana tempura to make things better, I guess. For those of us here by the seaside.

Thursday, November 13, 2008


Currently, I am almost, but not quite, a techie; I am almost, but not quite, a content person; I am almost, but not quite, an admin person. I am also disoriented, and feeling a little underqualified/overqualified for all of the things I do. What's a girl to do?

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The Political Experience

I am still blogging about American politics for the Belgians. As I sit in a hotel room in the Rockies, I wonder if I shouldn't overhaul this blog and give it a proper Topic and some ostensible legitimacy. I have shown myself that I can consistently and somewhat cogently on a single topic. It has been a great experience, and good for me. Good for my self-discipline. But the truth is that I enjoy these meanderings, and that while I do have some intention of writing more focussed, thought-out posts, I also don't want to confine myself to this. I have enough confinement; let me ramble and whinge and rave if I like. I want to be able to not write about politics or literature or Snape for a while. My variety may not be the spice of your life, but it works for me.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

What gives?

With the best sandwich in the Western world and the best coffee in town in my recent past, I am feeling pretty upbeat about life. I am still listening to the stultifyingly boring biography of FDR, and as a consequence, am getting to rather dislike the man. Meanwhile, in politics people keep talking about Team of Rivals and asking pointed questions about who Obama is going to appoint to be Secretary of State. The fact that nobody is suggesting that he might pick Hillary Clinton, which would be the analogous pick to Lincoln's, should be a reminder to us all that Obama is not in fact Lincoln. And in spite of MSNBC repeated statement that he is "renewing the promise" he is not Jesus either.

Berlusconi, the Italian clown-in-chief, has declared that Obama is "tanned". People have taken offense, but personally I think it's pretty funny. I think it means that Berlusconi secretely wishes he could be as tanned a Obama.

It has been quite a ride, this election. It is not proving easy to kick the news addiction. I am still blogging for the Belgians too, which means I should think of something interesting to write today. Hm. Actually, thanks to my blogging there I had an election night with some Belgians in virtual attendance, which was a lot of fun. The Spouse's Co-Host is now very popular with a very select selection of Belgians.

Anyway, it is Friday, and I am truly grateful.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008


I've been nice. I have not said anything much about politics. It is all over now, and I am drinking champagne. McCain made a great, touching speech; Obama made exactly the speech he needed to make. I have earned a drink, a fancy, elitist drink.

Friday, October 31, 2008


I have been reading appliance manuals all day. Maybe I should celebrate Halloween by dressing as a stove. With nice tactile controls. That sounds kind of dirty, except it's literal and boring. Besides, can you imagine a sexy stove? Yeah, me either. You know why? Because stoves aren't sexy. Even stainless steel stoves. I don't care what this fancy stove is trying to tell me. Even with the black - nope - not sexy.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

The revolution, or not, as the case may be

I am so tired I just misread "endgame" as "edamame". Let me backtrack - yesterday night, in the car, the Spouse and I had brief discussion about Billy Bragg's song "Waiting for the Great Leap Forward". It went something like this:

TDEC: I love "Waiting for the Great Leap Forward"
S: Is he being ironic calling it that?
TDEC: Hmm. Sort of. He is being ironic like he is when he says that "the revolution is just a t-shirt away". He is ironic on one level, but also sees that to some extent the revolution is all about t-shirts.
S: Layered irony...?
TDEC: Something like that.
S: Could he not be ironic about something that doesn't involve a reference to the suffering of millions?

The has a point, in fact he often does. I don't think Bragg is Maoist (I hope to goodness he isn't) but then what does that mean for the song? Maybe he just means a great leap forward, no connotations? Is that possible? Because I really can't see the song as a Maoist anthem. No, it has to be ironic. But no, irony is not his strong suit. No, I think he is advocating for a great leap forwards in the modern sense while acknowledging the failures of the past. Or something.

Well, I don't exactly agree with Billy Bragg's politics all the time, but essentially I really value his honesty and unwavering commitment to what he believes in - the good stuff - equal opportunity, equal access to healthcare, equal rights.

Let me backtrack further. Yesterday I found myself in the Rams Head Live, surrounded by people with shaved heads, cute student girls with odd clothing, middle aged middle class folks, and some oddments. People shouting socialist things at a graying man in a lumberjack shirt. Bragg's American audience is certainly different; who knew men could get all emotional about Billy? You know, that's kind of sweet.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008


For some reason my stomach has been upset for days, and I have been chewing antacids by the handful. I feel quite American. I can't even blame the politics, because I have been avoiding coverage lately. Oh - wait- yes I can. So many signs/stickers/cardboard cutouts. Actually, no cardboard cutouts; that was just wishful thinking.

Saturday, October 25, 2008


It's Friday, and I just got back from drinks with a friend. It's been a busy, somewhat odd week, so it warranted a few beers and a good chat. Tomorrow the Spouse gets back and I can't wait, can't wait to see him. Still listening to Kate Nash. Wonderful. You know, all in all, things are pretty good right now.

Friday, October 24, 2008


Today has been kind of an odd day. By all right I should have felt awful - I didn't sleep much (too much caffeine!) and yesterday was a long day. I should have been exhausted and miserable. Instead I have felt increasingly chirpy, perky to a fault. There's life for you, you never know what you get; and bad days are easier to redeem than ones that have to be good. I've been listening to Kate Nash's Pumpkin Soup over and over and over (because I'm obsessive - may as well make the best of it). Thanks to the lady in the cool costume for the tip. I just want a Queen of Hearts costume so I can yell "off with his head!" at people. Bust the best costume of all would be the Cheshire Cat, but I don't think they make disappearing costumes yet.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Again, I am not

Optimal, that is. I did my duty, by which I mean I worked, then talked to the Spouse, then blogged fairly sensibly. I am done now. I am sensible no more. My throat hurts and I am getting sick. I already was tired. I am sorry. I will be better next week, really, I will, I'll apply some of my intelligence here, I do have some small amount thereof. But right now I've used up my ration and I'm just missing my Spouse and feeling knackered.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

I need to watch Scrubs

I need to watch Scrubs because my brain is fried from today and the blogging and MSNBC's ludicrous (but entertaining) coverage.

Jeremy is talking about Orwell on Voters Broadcasting and I love it when people talk about Orwell. Also I need to make salad. I need leafy greens (not pumpkin pie, not pumpkin pie) and not to think. Too much thinking.

I'm going to wander off and sing little Winnie-the-Pooh humming songs. Toodles.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Why? Because I can.

Well, folks, I am the victim of my popularity these days. I am going to be blogging elsewhere as well as here for the next while. Since both of the other blogs are under my actual name, I won't list them here, but suffice to say that I shall be blogging politics in two languages! Though this involves some amount of work, I look forward to it, and am attempting (!) to write actually substantive posts. We will see how I do. Loading work on myself seems to be what I do these days, so I may as well do something fun, I guess. It does me good to have a clear topic and audience to write for, and it's great practice.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Perfection, and lack thereof

This weekend I was walking amid the autumn leaves and perfect cool blue sky, and it was one of those days where perfection seems only just out of reach (though I put my hand in the cold water of the stream by the path).

I keep listening to Katie Herzig's song Hologram. "A mystery with nothing more to see" indeed. I've been working so hard lately, at doing a good job at work, at being a good hostess, at being a good friend. By the time the returns (on investment!) arrive I'm already gone.

There's the expatriate life for you: living between a place you can never quite be and one you can never quite return to.

There is all this news. I listen to NPR's Planet Money. I read the good voter in my sidebar and a million political blogs. I'm informed, I guess. It serves two purposes: it informs the discussions I try not to have, and it reminds me that I am not an American citizen.

The best thing I've done all week was to talk to a moose handpuppet; and the best thing anyone has done for me this week is to have their toy seal talk to me (over the phone).

Actually, the best thing I did all week was listen to FDR. It says something about the times (and the TDEC) that when I heard Sarah Vowell say on The Daily Show that she had gone back to the "Fireside chats" for reassurance, it sounded like a great idea to me. It was. The first fireside chat in particular is elucidating, and has one thing that politics lack just now - a desire to see the American people as intelligent, a desire, not to dumb down issues, but instead to explain them, to render the complex, not to reduce it. It's a shame the man is dead.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Radio Free Snape

I found another Snapecast. I had missed it. I really must keep a closer eye on the folks over at Anyway, I'm now caught up, and it was good. I listened to it before I listened to the glorious radio that is "The Giant Pool of Money" (see previous post); can you blame me? It was not as good as that, I admit, but then Snapecast is ten or so people on skype obsessing over Snape, and This American Life is famous radio by people paid to do radio. It was still pretty good. I always like the silly songs at the end, and the unabashedness.

So these are the things that have been keeping me from politics. That and Bone, the apparently incredibly well-known graphic-novel-comic thing with these bone creatures and the most wonderful dragon (he need italics; he has tassled ears; see link). And there's this bug called Ted...anyway, it's great. The phrase "Is you pickin' on Ted?" has been the most cheering thing on a gloomy day. The drawings and visual humour are exquisite.

The politics do get a bit much sometimes. Huzzah for other things that aren't politics.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

National treasure

One of the great pleasures of living in the US is listening to the manifold permutations of NPR, National Public Radio.  The local station is a little boring, so I listen to the public, sort-of-NPRish-except-with-music-not-talking-all-the-time WTMD. WTMD is wonderful. I do not know a better radio station, and yes, that does mean it has superseded Studio Brussel.

Anyway. My point was about NPR, and how great it is. If you didn't know yet, one of their most popular programmes is This American Life, a fantastic programme. I can't explain. You need to listen to it. Really. I read somewhere that I need to listen to their episode about the sub-prime mortgage crisis cum financial armageddon, "The Giant Pool of Money", so I finally downloaded it, then waited (too depressing). I listened to it today because I had a long bus ride and ran out of other things. 

"The Giant pool of Money" is some of the best journalism/broadcasting I have ever had the pleasure of being exposed to. You need to listen to it. It is like having someone turn on the light. I didn't think that was possible. It is fantastic. I paid 66 cents for it, since it is not the current episode and I have an Audible subscription. You can get it on the site, or on Audible or iTunes. You may have to pay 75 cents. It will be the best 75 cents you've ever spent. I promise. Get it. Really. These folks, when they're good, they're great.

Go ahead. Listen to it. I promise it will be worth your while.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

The future, as seen by a banker

I had set up a meeting with the person who manages our pension plan investments today. I did this as much out of interest in his reaction to the current financial armageddon as out of interest in my investments. I'm not sure that I am entirely comfortably with having investments; but I have them, and I have no real doubt that it will all be ok. I have more than thirty years, and frankly now seems as good a time as any to be buying stock. The investment banker looked like an investment banker, which was very gratifying. In his sixties, pinstrip suit, half-moon spectacles (well, something like that) - really, very Dickens. Nice man, quite helpful, and all reassurance of course. Zenlike calm. The economy will recover. No steepling of fingers. No suspicious looks, cunning plans or eagerly fingering of gold coins - in short, not quite Dickens enough, which is perhaps for the best insofar as my pension plan is concerned.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

I'm bored

That was a boring debate. Really. I took wine to get through it all. Obama was flat and wordy, McCain repetitive and petty, and really, Brokaw looked like the only sentient being there.

My brain hurts, I'm so bored. 

The best thing was that last question (not the answers). 
"What don't you know, and how will you learn it?"

I will resist the urge to provide an obnoxious answer, but feel free to answer better than they did.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

The election coverage is possibly damaging my sanity

It is hard to imagine the surreal politics in the US unless you're here to witness it. With Fox and MSNBC competing for most crazily partisan network, there is always plenty of silly/made-up/offensive/funny news. The closer we get to the election, the more the reports sound like Stephen Colbert and  Jon Stewart respectively. That should be disconcerting, but instead is somehow amusing.

Monday, October 06, 2008

The smell of

Pumpkin pie. Which I just made. For the first time ever. I must be turning into Martha Stewart.
(but the pie does smell good)

I am also watching Princess Bride, because there is no limit to the times one can view it.

Meanwhile I've been absorbing a bunch of political stuff, and watching debates and Sunday morning tv. I should have something to say about that, but I don't know what. I've read too much, I think - I can find nothing to say that isn't already written up somewhere.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Everything is craziness

And tomorrow we're watching the debate. Yeah, there is wine to ease the pain. I have a feeling I will need it. I'd write about all of it, but a good voter kind of has it covered (and broadcasts, which I don't). I'm kind of useless this week. There's too much going on. Some of it is really good. I can't really talk about it, hush hush, all that. I wish I meant that in a Cambridge Spies sort of way, if you take that to mean "involving sexy men and wit" rather than "involving destroying your soul and your family for the sake of an illusory greater good".

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The cure for everything

Vivaldi isn't very sophisticated, most of the time, but he is incredibly boisterous.

Vivaldi makes everything better, particularly when these guys play him.

Otherwise, everybody is yelling "wolf" at the top of their lungs, and while there are a few wolves about, there aren't nearly as many as one would think. Frankly, a lot of us can afford to lose quite a bit of stuff. I worry about the large numbers of people who can't, but ironically I think they stand a better chance of being helped now than they did a year ago - the magnitude of the issue has properly come into focus.

But then what the hell do I know anyway.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Special edition: the Questing Beast Armageddon report

My mother just called me to tell me two things:
a) that she's having her birthday party next week
b) that one of the Home Country's biggest banks is dramatically going under
Belgium has never seen anything like this, unlike the US, which at least has the precedent of the Great Depression, which, while being a black page in its history, shows that such things can be survived. People back home are scared that they will lose their money, even when I think that is not a realistic risk; and the government is apparently not doing a good job of explaining why people shouldn't be pulling out their money (not because it is not available - but because it would destroy the value of the bank).

It really does feel a little like Armageddon, I'm sure, though I don't think it actually is.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

The dragging end of a long week

This week should be over, but it isn't. I am watching the presidential debate, thinking how tired I am, and that I have to get up early tomorrow, and it feels like it never ends, all the work and the activities...(*tries not to focus on Obama's incredibly white teeth*)

Friday, September 26, 2008

You know I've watched too much political coverage

I saw this commercial, and thought - way to go, Microsoft! It has been a long time since I thought that. I wonder how they're doing in the polls?

So today, I want to hug Microsoft; even though I still think Vista is awful and Steve Ballmer is rightly nicknamed Uncle Fester.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Bears! Glamour! Drama! Turkeys!

Last weekend I saw bears, saw a shooting stars and ate Jefferson's figs*. It was a good weekend.

*No, that's not some dirty metaphor. I am being entirely literal about Jefferson's orchard.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

A day late

Well, you'll have noticed that the last two weeks have been busy. Between work and play and commitments, I have not had much spare time. Or sleep - though that is not so much because of my schedule as it is because of various minor things interfering with sleep. So it goes. I feel like I am somewhere in between Martha Stewart (I keep baking stuff and straightening sheets) and Maggie Gyllenhaal in Secretary (not in any sexy sense, only in the sense that I am swamped with work and error-prone).

Not that any of this is your problem.

Meanwhile, I'm still listening to Lincoln, which is giving me the odd sensation of being a spectator, walking around in the rooms of the White House. The book seems to keep pace with my mood; or I with it. Anyway, I recommend it.

That's all you're getting out of me today. I am off to some dinner or something.

Thursday, September 18, 2008


I am listening to A Team of Rivals, the book on Lincoln's cabinet politics. It is an interesting book, and makes it impossible not to be drawing parallels between it and current politics. The rosy colours with which it paints Lincoln bother me a little - no one is as good as their myth. Still, the book is a great listen, and Lincoln is of course one of the great compelling figures in American history (FDR is next up on my list). He is a reminder of what great leadership can do for a country (help it through the greatest troubles in its history) and what it can't (prevent those troubles). It is a reality check that possibly the greatest American president is also the man who failed to prevent the Civil War, and not for want of trying. Perhaps this is too often forgotten; that even greatness has its limits. It is what makes me wary of Bohama, incidentally - people expect too much of him, and he, in turn, promises the moon. I know it's a tradition, but it is not a good one. McBane, on the other, seems to only promise the illusion of a return to the happy status quo of (oh irony) the Clinton years. Somehow that is even more depressing.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008


Saturday I was in New York looking in befuddlement at an little Asian lady posing with a bull's testicles. It was, of course, the Wall Street bull, but I was not to know. I don't know if it brought her good luck, but certainly it didn't do much for Wall Street. While the folks there were panicking, the Spouse and I were charmingly viewing the Statue of Liberty and the Empire State Building. One should never let a financial crisis get in the way of sightseeing.

Monday, September 15, 2008


It has been a crazy week, but here is Andrew Motion.

Andrew Motion?

Andrew Motion, for those of you not partial to modern poetry, is the British Poet Laureate. The British what? The court poet - the guy who writes poetry for the Queen. Not sexy poetry; stately poetry for anniversaries and weddings. That guy.

So what about this guy Motion?

Well, he has apparently been complaining publicly about the job, saying that it has killed his poetic soul, saying that it is a thankless job, because the Queen says thank you but does not reveal the true nature of her feelings about Mr. Motion's poetry.

It occurs to me to walk up to Andrew Motion some day and shake him. "Andrew" I would say "you work for the Queen. You are in all likelihood renumerated generously for your services, an unusual state of affairs for a poet. You work for a woman whose entire adult life has been devoted to maintaining decorum on behalf of her fickle country and her impossible, indiscrete and most ignoble relatives. To berate her for not betraying emotions is a little like getting a pizza from your freezer and complaining that it is frozen. It's a freezer. Freezing is what it does. If you want hot pizza you're going to need an oven, or better yet, a good pizza restaurant. Don't get angry with the freezer. Instead, you should apologise to the Queen for comparing her to a freezer in the first place (my apologies, your Majesty) and be grateful that she did not express her feelings about frankly mediocre your poetry. Once you have done that, you should stop complaining about being expected to do exactly the job you were hired for. Quit, if you so desire, and I believe that you are in fact leaving the job. Just don't be such a sad-ass, lame, whiny loser about it, Motion. Don't you think Ted Hughes had feelings?"

(For the record I will state that I actually like Andrew Motion's poetry better than Ted Hughes' - but ungraciousness is unbecoming, most of all in a poet, who should know better)

But here's the right of response...and it is a bit lame

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Crab, of course

There is Family in town, a fact which we celebrated with some crab dip last night. The Relation in Question and her friend commented on the election madness, specifically the t-shirts. They laughed - "who would wear that?"
It occurs to me that
a) I am at a loss to explain the phenomenon
b) I never thought the t-shirts were even the least bit unusual
c) America, like the Borg, has assimilated me.
As with the Borg, it is kind of hard to tell whether this is a good thing or a bad thing. Perhaps neither.

The Visiting Relative is, of course, the excuse for some further travel for which there is actually no money. Whee.

On another point, living, as I do, in geekland, I have acquired an affection for Chrome. It has that Apple-esque really slick user experience, that crowd-pleasing niftiness. I am not about to give up Firefox, but find myself missing Chrome when using Firefox. Shame that Google didn't think it was worthwhile opening up their shiny new browser to blind users. Yep, quite like Apple, this experience.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Watching the weather

I was just watching Palin say "What does he [Obama] actually seek to accomplish, after he's done turning back the waters and healing the planet?"

You have to love how she makes it sound like somehow global warming is a liberal ploy, a distraction from her duty to shrink government. If Obama does only those to things she so scorningly lists, he will be the best thing that ever happened to the US. You know, I thought that with McCain, at least some awareness of the climate complex situation had finally reached the republicans; but it seems like they like their denial more than their lives and livelihood. Bring on the rising water and the hurricanes. Maybe they will think it is a biblical punishment for someone else's (anyone else's) sins. One can but hope that there is not enough of them to win the debate, or the election.


Spreadsheets (especially large, pretty ones) are the solution to everything, and now there is this decision-making spreadsheet. For now, the focus is on recruiting:
It is easy to see the virtue and limitless possibilities of such a spreadsheet, such a sparkling thing of beauty.

I shall play with it and make it all-powerful.

Perhaps I shall send it to Barack Obama as an executive tool.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

The emotional oddity

There has been little politics here, not because I haven't been paying attention, but because I don't feel qualified to talk about it. Yesterday, though, I was watching the Republican National Convention and there was one thing which completely baffled me: time and time again, republicans of every stripe said that they expected Hillary voters to vote for McCain/Palin because Palin is a "strong woman". Political parties often foster delusions, but this one seems particularly poignant. Why would any woman who had thought of voting for a feminist, pro-choice, experienced, fairly consistent senator now vote for a creationist, rabidly and unnuancedly pro-life, relatively inexperience governor?

People vote with their, well, let me generously say their heart, not their brain. That we know. But would they go so far in ignoring every issue that Hillary Clinton stands for when picking a new favourite? Are politics so dependent on simple choices? I'll be watching the polls.

Frivolous, yet again

Labor Day weekend. I did not a shred of work, which suits me just fine. Instead the Spouse and I we out for a drive, and also to an American football game. The football game was surprisingly unboring, helped by the fact that, unlike real football/soccer games I have been to, it did not take place lateish at night some day when I hadn't slept much. So yes, hair in the wind and face to the sun, it was a good weekend.

I finally, finally finished my Juvenile book, not to be confused with Juvenal - I mean some pointless book I read when I was fifteen and though might be fun to re-read and was then too stubborn to quit reading. I can now move on to more stimulating stuff, like any of the pile of books I acquired on my last trip, especially since my audioread is The Code of the Woosters, as frivolous and light a book as was ever written. Still, Wodehouse is fun. It's just that I think my upper limit has been reached for frivolity, an unusual enough thing, previously thought to be impossible.

Otherwise, too much politics. I am tired to the Republicans already.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Bohama and his speech

Yeah, we all know I love Al Gore, so I won't say I loved his speech. It was a good speech and he delivered it well. With his heart.

Bohama now. I want to to buy it. I do. I want to be enthused like I was about Tony Blair. We all know what happened to Tony. But this Bohama. He's giving a great speech; a very well-pitched speech, a touching speech. Technically perfect, done with perfect dedication and conviction. Perhaps a historic speech. Very good. I hope he's got more than good speechmaking under there. I want to see him be right. I want him to keep his professed ideals.

Hope? Who knows.

Update - boring stuff about people with sharp objects

So here what I probably should have mentioned earlier. Some of you will know that I've been going through a series of tests/doctors over the last few months, undoubtedly much to the dismay of our health insurance. I had another doctor scheduled for this Tuesday, and he has given me a clean bill of health. It is, I think, entirely appropriate that I should have a rareish "congenital anomaly" which was diagnosed by chance and (probably) completely asymptomatic. It's good; and a little funny. It's been scary though. Brain stuff is almost by definition scary, I think, because it is so utterly unpredictable, and because it affects those parts of us we don't like to think of a hardwired into our bodies - moods, personality, social behaviour, sleep patterns etc. Going through the "discovery" of the TDEC's Strange Brain was interesting, because you (Everyman with similar condition) oscillate between too little information (the doctor who found the anomaly) and too much (the internet, of course). This is where a good doctor comes in, if you're lucky. My PCP did as good a job as anyone could have expected, and that was incredibly valuable. It's good if you can check the stuff in your imagination against some medical common sense. Of course there we specialists involved and you know, for neurologists, they weren't bad at all, particularly that last one; I could have sworn he was an actual human being, and good with the information managment.

Humans will be humans, and because neurological symptoms are so vague it made me a little paranoid to think about it, and so I am very glad to be relieved of that, of wondering. My back pain can go back to being just back pain, and my forgetfulness, well, blast, I guess I will have to live with it.

My only significant complaint is that I can't frame the pictures of my brain; I'm supposed to keep them in the dark for future reference. Meh.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Shocking news

So Bohama just got nominated. W00t. Why am I not excited?

I am excited about finally listening to the Snapefest Snapecast episode. It also made me glum because I didn't actually get to go to Snapefest, which is sad, especially since I've been to the hotel and recognised all the references.


Tuesday, August 26, 2008


I finally finished Wuthering Heights. I am not sure what to think of it. I think on the whole I like it better than I did when I first read it. The brutality is both more appalling and more comprehensible. Still, I can't see it as a love story, I just can't. I guess I am one of the Lintons of the world. It astonishes me again that it was written at all, considering who wrote it. I also think it is one of the truly Romantic works, more than I ever thought it was. So maybe I can read one less Austen book to make room for this.

There is a tall stack of books for me to read still, and truth be told I'd like to get on with it, but have some books to finish before I can. I am terribly stubborn about not stopping books even when I am past bored/annoyed with them.

In other news, I spent some time working on our wedding album this weekend. It is not a year and a half ago, so I guess it is about time. It is one of those things that didn't get started right and is now impossible to finish. Aye, we'll get there yet.

Also, what ever happened to my sense of humour on this blog? Maybe it is because I don't write about my work. My work really does have its moments of...
Well. I had better not elaborate.

Friday, August 22, 2008


How is it that I don't remember all this stuff I am listening to in Wuthering Heights? It is becoming quite unbearable to listen to. I am about two thirds of the way through and the whole thing just makes me want to fling something. It really is Romantic with a capital letter, not romantic: like nature at its most dramatic, like climbing mountains - harsh and unforgiving, though grand, the view drowned in the effort of climbing. Like a hurricane. I always did like Jane Eyre more.

An old thing

You know, after a busy weekend I could have the decency to bore you with my activities. Or would it be more polite to talk about current political issues, or to just make things up? Something involving garden gnomes, they always make for a good story. Like how some people from a writing group I was in made a short film re-enacting Snow White with garden gnomes; but that is actually true, so I suppose it doesn't count. Or I could tell you about plans I'm making. On the whole, I think not.

It is a rainy; drizzle, good English drizzle. With this weather, one might as well be in Scotland. Barren hills with sheep, dreary pools bordered with rushes. Maybe a tent, for those desiring prolonged misery. On the upside, some doctor has prescribed me some new meds that seem to help some with some of what ails me. Although it could be a coincidence.

Camping; there is talk of going camping, and it seems like a good idea, even if it does not take place in Scotland; reduces the need for extra sweaters.

Ireland, when I first went there, was exceedingly wet. In fact, I think it was probably the rainiest vacation I ever took, though it possible that it only seemed so because we were camping. The level of lanscape wetness is much more tangible in a tent.

Northern Ireland, on the other hand, was gorgeous, the only sunny part of the trip.
Lesson one in Irish geography:
Northern Ireland does not equal Ireland; nor Ulster. Ulster = one of the four provinces of the island. Ireland = the Republic; also, the entire island, depending on who you ask. Northern Ireland = seperate political and social entity. Pending the re-integration of the national territory, according to some.
Lesson two in Irish geography:
Do not discuss the geography of the north with the locals.

It turns out that the Spouse and I are returning to the ancestral soil (mine, not his) this summer. He has been wanting to go to Spain for a long time, and I will enjoy showing him around ineptly. Personally, I wouldn't mind a trip to Scotland either, or to Norn Iron.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Muhaha, I can foist my taste on you

Because I really do love Scott Joplin.

and Mozart.

actually I think Mozart might have enjoyed the glorious abuse of one of his iconic almost drifts into Scott Joplin land.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Sense and sensibility

Really, it has been an awfully long time since I wrote anything sensible here. I am trying to think why I have been so abstracted, or perhaps superficial. I feel like something in a small box, forever preoccupied with little things. So it goes: I've just filed another round of paperwork with USCIS; because these things matter. They are also expensive. It is part of a two-fold initiative to make immigration a non-issue: by making it pay for itself, and by making it very hard to do. Speaking of which, I do have some of the conventional blog-fodder. I saw The Visitor, much-lauded film about a "passionless professor" getting involved with the immigrant community. Predictably, the immigrants he befriends are illegal, etc etc. I was a little disappointed; the movie struck me as a two-fold charicature: the wealthy, emotionally deadened Conneticut professor vs. the vibrant, musically gifted, esthetically appealing immigrants. The most realistic thing about the movie is the end, which I guess I shouldn't give away. I'd hoped for more. The plight of illegal immigrants is worth speaking for, and this just doesn't feel adequate. I doesn't cover enough, not enough of the Catch-22 of the situation. It also doesn't convince me, this story of finding redemption in another group. It is a fantasy, perhaps intended a such, though brutal reality has its say. No - on a human level, I don't buy it.

I saw Kung Fu Panda at last, and it was better than The Visitor in my book; and by this I mostly mean that it was unpretentious, funny, and involved Jackie Chan. Kind of like Blades of Glory: glorious, pleasing, almost entirely mindless entertainment. Speaking of entertainment, while on that plane, I also saw Iron Man. It was also good, genuinely riveting, a bit of a pointless plot with some serious question marks, but good action, and lots of Robert Downey Jr. doing what he does best, looking good and repenting for his sins in style.

It's not that I mind a good, thought-provoking movie. I wouldn't mind one right now. It's just that I am awfully demanding when it comes to having my emotions assaulted. I like for movie makers to know what they're doing when they propose to engage my emotions and my intellect. I should, of course, watch Pan's Labyrinth, but it kind of scares me too. Maybe I can convince myself in my current Spanish Civil War-oriented mood.

No, that is still not all. I am also re-reading Wuthering Heights, or rather I am listening to the audiobook at an agonisingly slow pace. I read it as a teenager and re-reading it now I feel almost out of patience with it. Like I forget whose reaction to The Deathly Hallows on Snapecast: please, not more angst! It is a lot more brutal than I remembered; I find the book exasperating as a teenager might be; without a glimmer of light. Without a sense of humour, too. It's why I like Byron so much; he showed that he could mock himself with the best of them. It is, of course, also why I love Austen, who can see all this domestic drama and its seriousness, and still be snarky about it in the sweetest way.

Once more I think about starting a book club, perhaps a subversive one, but I always have such an excess of foolish plans and shortage of time that I don't know if I should.

So there, I hope that counts as substantial.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Me and Jean-Luc Picard

I am back, and after my first day back at work am home alone with Jean-Luc, since the Spouse is away.

It was good, I am tired, somewhat glad to be sleeping in my own bed again, and huge. Also, I've realised there's a new Snapecast I must listen to. I have books to read, an intellect to us. But not tonight. Tonight is all about sleep and Star Trek.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Because there is

never enough time to find souvenirs, or to see more mountains.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008


Because Catalunya is lovely, my friends, even if it is really, really warm here and people aren't much into airconditioning. There is something to be said for spending the hottest time of the day eating elaborate meals and having wine in the shade.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Up, up and away again

We're off on a much-deserved transatlantic holiday to see family and some other stuff. You may hear from us, but it is also possible that we will lounge on the beach/terrace all day. Who knows. Personally I am looking forward to being there rather than on a plane. And maybe some fresh orange juice and a chocolate croissant?

Thursday, July 31, 2008


I know, I haven't been here much.

I have been waiting for Snapecast to put out their Snapefest podcast. Is there not going to be one? Did I somehow miss it? Am I obsessive?


Soon we'll be off on our travels, hopefully there shall be some blogging from there.

The rest is really not worth mentioning.

Sunday, July 27, 2008


I'm a pretty loyal Meet the Press viewer, and this week they are in London with Barack Obama.
For the first time in a while I watched Obama and was consistently impressed. He answered everything just right, on his own terms, like he'd spent all those years reading George Lakoff's Don't think of an elephant. This is exciting. Watch the netcast if you can. It's worth it.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Too long

I am watching David Cameron, leader of the British Conservatives, on the CNN, and he sounds sensible and moderate to me. I have obviously spent too much time listening to the crazies. Or maybe it's just that he is British, and I fall for his well-educated, RP, charming, smart puppy tactics. Well, I don't really fall for it. The very vagueness of him is disconcerting, and I can see the Thatcher in him, though he hides it well. But I definitely need a political reality check.

Friday, July 18, 2008


I need something useful to do with my brain. Any suggestions? Feeding to zombies is not a valid option.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

The state of the nation

"It's clear to me that England is becoming more Satanic in nature every day, and the people who work for the BBC must take some responsibility for that."

You know, that is almost as funny as the quote about people being in hell eating pineapple. (The comment is a propos this story about BDSM and Max Mosley. Personally, I am far more disturbed by Max Mosley (or, say, Mark Thatcher) than by BDSM.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008


So for the last month or so, I have been mostly insomniac. There are all sorts of circumstantial and psychological reasons for this. I have never been particularly prone to insomnia, though I have bouts of it; nothing that couldn't be helped by a glass of wine or some valerian. I can recall only one other period of a week or two when I slept 5-6 hours a night (I need 8), but I was in college, there were good reasons for it, and it ended after that. Anyway, I don't really want to talk about that. The peculiar thing is that now, on 3-5 hours of sleep on week nights, there is absolutely no way to predict how I will feel and function. Some days I'm afraid to drive because I am so dazed; but strangely enough I function pretty well physically, and am not particularly sleepy. Instead, I am just...odd. More error-prone. Slower. A little more easily annoyed. It's disconcerting, like being a different person.

In other news, that idiot prime minister of ours (and I mean of Belgium) has offered his resignation, spawning yet another political deadlock. It never ceases to baffle me how my countrymen will squabble like old ladies over electoral districts and devolved government. It annoys me immensely, because there is no actual reason, no good reason for all this nonsense. The Walloons are decent people, the Flemish are by and large acceptable, so what's the problem? Really. Sadly, the tomfoolery is mostly with the Flemish. I love my home country, but I swear, if they break it into two miniscule states, they can keep their idiot Flemish republic (or worse still - their union with the Netherlands *shuddder*). I become eligible for US citizenship in a year, and if need be, I'm sure I can swing citizenship for at least one other EU state. Or the Walloons can have me, if they want; just as long as they don't join France.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Frenchies, food, 'allo 'allo and other foolishness

I am full of French food, as befits one on Bastille Day. Moules frites, my friends, which really is Belgian rather than French, but I am happy to celebrate the French Revolution with it, happy to celebrate every single snooty, obnoxious French person with it, and every nice, congenial one too, because there are very many nice French people.

Consdering all the wine I had, I will also celebrate the third season of The Wire, and the fact that it has Aidan Gillen, because Aidan Gillen goes well with alcohol. I heart Aidan Gillen; for being wonderful and unabashed in the original, entirely uncompromising Queer as Folk while being, in real life, a responsible, soft-spoken father and heterosexual. He is a backstabbing politician in The Wire, and while he is not very convincing as a Baltimoron, he is certainly all about the sexy backstabbing. I keep vaguely expecting him to seduce Burrell. Which I guess he won't, though what with all the gratuitous sex in The Wire, one never knows.

Monday, July 14, 2008

A desire for the unnecessary

When I was seventeen, all I wanted from life was good looks, good literature and dandy clothing (cufflinks, canes, some good hats, silk stockings, lace-up boots, gloves, all that). I got plenty of literature. One out of three is not bad when you're seventeen.

I still kind of want dandy clothes. On my trip back last weekend I bought Vogue, my surreal eye candy of choice. I left it lying around, and this morning the following conversation happened:
Spouse: I read the article about the new art director (or whatever) of this Spanish fashion house. I didn't get it, and I didn't recognise any of the names of the designers.
TDEC: *laughs* You mean you actually read an article in Vogue? Why?
Spouse: ...
TDEC: It's a bit like reading articles in Playboy - they're there, but really, it's all about the pictures.

Well, one has to love a straight man who is not afraid to read Vogue, even on an experimental basis. I do love Vogue; about once every two or three months. This month it had Nicole Kidman in wizard sleeves (buttons! lots of teeny little buttons!) and I had to put it down. It was too much; not fair really. Maybe fashion really is women's porn.

One of the joys of being a grown-up female is assembling a Wardrobe. There is real pleasure in having clothes which are special, and reserved for Occasions. Yet one still desires riding boots (I'm too short & poor for riding boots), boxer boots (too short) and Louboutin ankle boots (too poor). And more gloves, though I own some lovely, lovely leather ones. And something with wizard sleeves, damn, how hard can it be? At times like these I miss my pretentious bourgeouis hometown which has all these things available (at a premium). Then I come to my senses, thank the good gods for my good fortune, and rejoice at not being there.

Friday, July 11, 2008


Yes, more dentistry.

Otherwise...a little like this:

Thursday, July 10, 2008


It has been a long time. In fact, it has been a longer time than it needed to be. When I finally made it back to sanity, I was burned out on people, technology, putting on a social face and generally on anything that wasn't sleeping, quality time with the Spouse, or quality alone time. I am still a bit burned weary of it all. I did my duty, and some above and beyond as well. I didn't exactly sleep. It was kind of a rough time; in some ways it still is. Not all of it, or even most of that, was because of my employer; but it is making me think about some of the things going on in my life right now.

Here's the thing: I have an idea that decisions about the future will get made without my having anything but a consulting role in it; it is almost a relief. Part of me feels worthless and undecided.

Can you visualise the future? That is the question then. Can I?

And yes, I survived the crocodiles...

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Pay no heed

Well, folks, I'm off on my mission. If you don't see me back here in about a week and a half, call in the rescue squad. Meanwhile I'm looking at pictures of the teeniest member of the clan, whom I will get to meet after all this is over. I can't wait to go.

Well, maybe coffee first.

(There is a very small chance that I will blog remotely. Probably not though.)

Friday, June 27, 2008


I am not talking about the red alert, box-cutter-wielding, suicide bombing sort. That is probably a good thing. No - I am talking about my personal terror at presenting in a few days. You know, I've never been very nervous about presenting. I'm a decent public speaker, and usually pretty good at winging it. When I took this assignment I thought something along the lines of "My, aren't I selling coals to Newcastle." Meanwhile I have come to believe that I am not so much selling coals to Newcastle as selling tires to a Formula 1 driver, assuming my knowledge of tires to be no greater than it actually is. Hence terror. Like when I was in college and performing Julius Caesar with our Eng Lit prof in the audience, except that here I'm playing Brutus (rather than a random minor character) without the supporting cast, without necessarily knowing my lines, and with a small, aggressive robot named Smee shouting abuse at me and trying to shoot me; and instead of an audience with a prof, there is only him, and he is less of a persnickety hamster and more of an armed Eng Lit fascist, with a moustache, sadistic tendencies and a detailed knowledge of Shakespeare's work, life and hygienic habits. And my career here kind of depends on this presentation. The only thing that could make it more terrifying would be a shark tank. Or maybe a couple of alligators; no, make that crocodiles.

That kind of terror.

Thursday, June 26, 2008


Time for another book rant, methinks; though rant isn't really the word. The book in question is Catch-22, origin of one of the best, most accurate expressions in the English language*; and I have no question in my mind that it is an overpoweringly good book. Heller is one of those few writer whose one book I read discourages me from trying to read any of his others simply because I cannot image them even coming close. I read Catch-22 years ago, and remembered little of it except the description of catch-22 and the pivotal scene which I won't describe so as not to spoil those of you who haven't read the book. If you haven't read the book, you need to read it. There are few books which I think one needs to read. Tolkien, Wilde, Rushdie, Joyce - all very lovely, but not necessary. Important, yes; worthwhile, certainly; adding to one's joy and personality, absolutely. Not necessary. Catch-22 on the other hand, stands with Art Spiegelman's Maus as a book which is in some ways essential to understanding who we are as people, as a society, what hope we have (or not).

Perhaps literature matters after all. I'm not kidding: I've wondered. I think, in the final analysis, that it does, and certainly Catch-22 is on the short list of what to get to if you live in the west (I don't want to speak for anyone else). Along with the Bible and Hamlet, probably, though for other reasons. And frankly, you could probably skip Hamlet as one might easily be tempted to give up the arduous quest for good performances.

Why this book then, this convoluted, irrepressible, impossible book? Well, if you make your way through the story it brings you right up to what you are as a person. The narrative, I realised/remembered on re-reading it, is set up as a spiral, a path leading up a mountain, revisiting the same situations as the reader is led closer to the center, seeing bigger patches, until the top is reached and the full view unfolds. It gives you no room for manouever - only the confrontation; which is no more painful than it needs to be.

*other magnificent examples I have to cite being Douglas Adams' "Somebody Else's Problem Field", Bunyan's "Slough of Despond" and possibly Douglas Coupland's description of cubicles as veal-fattening pens.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Not what

I wanted to post a clip of yesterday's appearance of Cookie Monster on the Colbert Report, which was wonderful, but copyright got in the way. Alas. I hope many of you saw it.

So...instead here's Moxy Fruvous.

Also, what's the deal with Jerry Yang on Fake Steve? I miss Steve. And Bike Helmet Girl.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Not a whinge

Today is somewhat worthy of a whinge, but it would be ungracious to complain when the weather is nice, life is pretty good, and I have cherries ready to be eaten.

So...let me unabashedly share a happy thought. Amazing that I never thought to search youtube for this before. It's from Cambridge Spies, the beloved mini-series, and very funny.

I heart Tom Hollander. He is so small and fierce.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Mix and match

You know, the other day I was thinking something along these lines - "Gore. Where is Al Gore? Here are the most exciting primaries in twenty years (or longer - it's not like I actually know) and Al Gore, formerly the Man Whom Everyone Tried to Convince to Run, is nowhere to be seen. What is he doing? Is he saving baby seals? Is he making powerpoint presentations? Is he hiding in a Hungarian vineyard with a bottle of 2003 Kadarka?" Well, I would kill for a nice bottle of Kadarka right now, or at least steal, but anyway, wherever Gore was, it seems like he has found his way back to civilisation so that he can endorse Obama. Funny, that. He could have been a kingmaker if he wanted, but as he made so abundantly clear last year, he Does Not Want. I guess it would have been a no win for him to endorse anyone before. If he endorsed Clinton, he was bound to look like a crony; if he endorsed Obama he would have looked like a backstabber. I can't help it folks, whenever I look at Al Gore I wonder how he went from being a Kerry-esque bore to being this hip, Apple affiliated, world-saving person, and why he didn't do it when he was running. My conclusion: he never really wanted it. Maybe he wanted it abstractly, for the greater good, but he tried too hard to be something he is not. Ah well, that's all familiar enough stuff.

Enough politics. Really, my interest is in bright colours and shiny things, as the Spouse will confirm. Well, and literature. I just finished Alfred Bester's The Stars My Destination, which was lent to the Spouse by one of his Awesome and Science-Fiction Obsessed Friends, and which I subsequently stole. I was going to say "it is really very good"; but that is the least descriptive way to say what I mean. It is astonishing to find a sci-fi book fifty years old that has not dated. Neil Gaiman says in the introduction that it requires more effort than a contemporary sci-fi book. Neil Gaiman is mistaken, at least as far as I am concerned. You could perhaps say that it is a challenging book; but it is not a hard read. I finished it in a few days, even in these times when I don't read much. It reminds me of nothing so much as Camus's L'Etranger, which I read a very long time ago and don't much remember. The incapability of responding to human morality resonates in The Stars My Destination; but the book comes to a decidedly non-existentialist conclusion.

Bester's characters are incredibly fascinating, and his reference to Blake tiger poem made me almost want to read Blake so I could understand the book better. Not quite, because Blake is one of the items on a long list of things I don't get, along with cricket, ponchos and Wagner. Sometimes the logic of the story is a little strange, or rather, sometimes the other characters, like the incredibly kickass women, behave in a way that does not seem realistic to me; but who am I to judge future/past women? Their covert desire for conventionality is perhaps understandable in a world where women are confined to traditional patterns...

Monday, June 16, 2008


Marriage is a good thing, especially when it involves wine, cheese and good conversation. All I need now is some shoes with ostrich feathers so that I can be properly bourgeouis.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Well done

Perhaps I have too much anger in me, but I am so done with people being such a bloody load of work. I thought I had given this up, this business of working hard for little return in making friends. Screw that. I am done inviting people who don't return invitations/don't respond/don't show up. I am done trying to befriend people who give nothing back. I can feel the difference when I am with people who do, and suddenly none of it feels like work, suddenly I get things back I didn't expect. I don't mean anything physical; just time and energy; empathy sometimes. It's so much nicer to hang out with people who think of you sometimes when there's something fun to do, some play to see, or festival to go to. And the rest of them can just make dinner for themselves.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Not in good faith

The BBC is my friend. Really. I can get annoyed with it (Justin Webb) but it is still my friend. Today I am at the outer edge of my patience with it though, and not over Amercan politics. Over Northern Irish politics. I should have known. Sadly, what upset me was not Iris Robinson's intolerable comment. Iris Robinson is with the DUP, Ian Paisley's party, home to hatred and immovable views. Does it surprise me to hear her describe gays as an abomination? It really doesn't. Would it surprise me from Martin McGuinness on the other side of the aisle? Only a little. Northern Ireland is not a good place to be gay. It is too pre-occupied with its other problems to notice that in the outside world, homosexuality is no longer classed as a psychiatric issue. Some days I think NI is trapped in an alternate reality.

So from these politicians it disappoints me, but does not surprise me. What shocks me is to hear the BBC host siding with the vile politician. See the podcasts here. Pleae do at least have a look. He defends her free speech - fair enough. But, ladies and gentlemen, this is not a private citizen; this is a politician. Even in the deepest south, in fact perhaps especially there, no high profile politician could say that gays/African-Americans/hispanics are "vile and disgusting" and have a career. And yet Stephen Nolan insists on repeating the phrase, time and time again - Lakoff would say, if you're using their (Robinson's) frame, it doesn't even matter what you do with it - you're telling their story. He insists that Robinson has a right to her opinion, in spite of listeners' comments that she is not representing her constituency when she makes such statements, and that she is disregarding their right to be spoken for. He doesn't mention that she is reinforcing the ideas that get gay people beaten up. Nolan even proposes that perhaps psychiatric treatment is an option (as Robinson suggests), in spite of centuries' worth of evidence that attempts to "turn" gay people don't work. Or rather: they may succeed in turning a functional human being into a deeply miserable, dysfunctional liar. To even entertain the option is to blatantly disregard all evidence. I feel exactly like I would if he were doubting evolution - perhaps people out there, for their own crazy reasons, doubt scientific fact - but surely the BBC knows better?

The best comment (of course disregarded) came from one man who pointed out how similar all this nonsense about "love the sinner, hate the sin" is to some other problems they had in their neck of the woods, when people used to say they didn't mind the people, they only minded their religion...

So, to vent my anger, and because I need to believe that these people will not win out:

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Two years

It has been two years. When I got here off that delayed flight, I had just finished some last-minute pre-US travelling, packed up back home and then left. I got here, and it was my fourth international move in three year, and I thought - that's it; I'm done. I'm staying here for at least two years. I'd exhausted all of my copious desire for international living. Two years later, I am here still, comfortable. Now, for the first time since I moved here there is a twitch, a faint prospect of adventure. Now, when I look at that June, I feel kind of wistful at how filled it was with great things (lots of travel, lots of great new experiences, and getting married). This June, instead, is filled with crazy scheduling of the non-pleasant kind for both of us.

It is the impossible balancing act: on the one hand there is adventure, plans, hectic scheduling, the discomfort of change and uprooting; on the other hand there is comfort, community, stability, boredom and routine. What do you do?

Part of me is envious of the Spouse. I'm used to being the one taking on the adventures, getting the opportunities; and most of all I am used to doing whatever I want. Now he's getting all that. He's deserved it, and I've had my turn. Whatever the next adventure is, it is likely to be his, and I'm happy to go along with it. I think.

So, after two years...? I'm happy to stick to the original plan - at least two years - and up to five. I like it here. Most of the time.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

It is too warm here


It is all I can do to remember that there are places where if they're lucky, they get about a week of summer. I am, of course, referring to Northern Ireland. Like in this Northern Irish song with its accurate depiction of average weather. Great song for a chilly day at the end of May, except we don't have them here.

Friday, June 06, 2008


I have just kicked the Justin Webb's blog off my list. He has been annoying me for some time. So he's pro-Obama. Ok, fine, it's a blog, and it is a valid opinion. He has been getting progressively more anti-Hillary, and me, I'm fed up. I don't know whether my sympathies lie with Obama or Clinton. It doesn't even matter. But good grief, have some manners man. Just because you report on politics doesn't mean you have to use that same antagonistic rhetoric. Maybe I'll put in Matt Frei instead, to keep up the BBC participation.

By the way, while I'm on politics, did anybody notice that there is some suggestion, apparently from John McCain, that it would be a good idea to introduce Prime Minister's Questions in the US, making it President's Questions? While I am not sure that it will happen, I do think that this is a wonderful idea. PMQs are the 30-minute summary of democracy, and it exemplifies all that is best in the British Parliament. I loved watching it as a teenager, I really did. Tony Blair questioning John Major; it was so polite, yet so rude; so rowdy; so political, yet so compelling. You know, perhaps it is time for me to thank Margaret Thatcher for perhaps the only positive thing I can trace to her: the televising of PMQs. And really, it is surprising that the US never noticed that it suits the system here well - it epitomises accountability in a first-class entertainment format. Moreover, it makes sure that whoever is in charge has to be able to hold his or her own without any cronies or speech writers. So bring on the infotainment and, to quote E.M. Forster, two cheers for democracy.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Travelling, or not

Maybe I'm hallucinating, but I think I just read that US Homeland Security will start requiring visa waiver visitors to register online three days before their visit. Somehow this is supposed stimulate tourism and make travel easier, as well as making it possible to screen visitors beforehand. The information to be filled in will match the information currently required on an I-94. For those of you who are blissfully unaware of I-94 forms, it asks you about your travel, where you will be staying, and whether you were a nazi, or are a terrorist. In that order. So this will help Fight Terrorism, this new rule. Ok. Whatever. I am not sure how, but then no such details have been released. It is not this that concerns me. The thing that really gets me is that all of this is somehow, by some warped logic, supposed to stimulate tourism. I'm trying to understand how this will work. Here's my pro/con analysis of the status quo versus the new rule:

Tourism pro: one fewer paper to fill out during one's event-filled and riveting descent towards the United States. You'll still have to hunt for you pen, though, because there will still be customs forms. Still, it is one less piece of paper. You will still have to go through customs and immigration, waiting in line and fingerprinting and all.

Tourism con: you will now have to remember to register your visit three days ahead of time. If you happen notto own or not be near a computer, tough luck. If you forget...tough luck. If US Homeland Security finds something it objects to - well, who knows what happens then. Will they let people know? Or will they just lock them up on arrival? I guess it might stimulate the non-travel of the non-wealthy. Other than that...I don't see it. Perhaps someone can explain?

Tuesday, June 03, 2008


I feel like after last night's post I owe it to my poor harassed readers to post something a little more intelligent. After all, I have a decent education, perhaps even the odd interesting thought. Or maybe I used up my quota of intelligent commentary on Barbara Kingsolver earlier. Maybe I should stop reading my silly (but fun) Entertainment and read something Intelligent to make me more suitable for public viewing.

So here's a porcupine.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Meryl Street, I love you

What better way to indulge oneself on a Sunday evening than by watching The Devil Wears Prada again? Sometimes superficial is good. Especially when it involves Chanel and Meryl Streep. And maybe a drink.