Saturday, April 30, 2005

Look!

So I'm experimenting with adding a few photos to my blog. I will be working on a more effective way to do this, but for the time being I'll do it this way to help you all get a glimpse of England. (If you want to actually look at the picture, you can double click on it to make it bigger.)


View from my kitchen window Posted by Hello

My backyard Posted by Hello

Chocolate tools at Harrods Posted by Hello

Kimmy, Abby, and me at Tower Bridge Posted by Hello

Pope

I know...I'm not a Catholic, so the choice of pope shouldn't be any of my business. But in the new theocracy that is the USA his policies will have a big influence on me, so I DO care. And I need to get this off of my chest.

There are all sorts of things about which I disagree with Joey Ratz. But that's probably a given with any post-JP cardinal. My real beef with the selection of Pope Benedict the whatever is the whole Nazi thing.

Whenever you're looking at German males of a certain age, it seems obvious to check into his whereabouts during the war. And where was Ratz? First in the Hitler Youth, then in the Nazi Artillery brigade, and finally in a US prisoner of war camp for captured Nazi soldiers. (All this can be found in his autobiography.) Of course I'd like to think I would have stood up to Nazi tyranny were I a German in the 1940's....but having not had to make the choice yet between quietly allowing evil to reign around me and staying alive, or speaking out and being imprisoned or killed, I can't actually say that I would have had the moral temerity to do the right thing. We all know that a true threat of death makes even strong people do desperate things to stay alive.

But I'm not the Pope. Ratz is. And it seems that a bare minimum we could ask of a modern pontiff is that, when asked to decide between fighting for good or condoning evil, they WOULD make the choice not to go along with the masses, thus enabling pure evil to terrorize humanity. To not wait to flee evil's ranks until he knew that the war was lost to good.

Someone who is now the moral leader of the majority of Christians in the world should not be the guy who stayed quiet to protect his own skin until others had done the work necessary to get things back on track.

Think this is unfair? Well, Ratz just left the position that lead the investigation into sex abuse scandals in the church. Look how well he's held evil accountable there. Wasn't that Cardinal Law READING at the pope's funeral, a position of honor in the realm of Cardinals?

Seems evil is acceptable if it makes it easier to achieve your goals.

Oh. And by the way, did you see the note on the bottom of the screen on CNN that said his family was vehemently anti-Nazi? (Nice job, CNN!) Perhaps I should take a page from their book and make a statement against the Catholic church....I hear they're looking for members.

(Need proof? You can see it on the Daily Show with Jon Stewart website....go to the video collection and view "Ratz!"....it shows up right around minute 4 of the video. I noticed it because I happened to view this clip on the same day that the British press broke the story about the Hitler Youth thing.)

Friday, April 29, 2005

Amazon.oops

I tried to order this.

Instead, I received this.

I'm adventurous and all, but even I have limits. Luckily, though, in the UK no CDs are sealed with that nasty tape, so you can play a CD and still return it. And it's just as bad as it looks.

I figure they send it out periodically hoping to find someone too lazy to send it back.

I did, so they'll have to try another day. Beware.

Gas Prices

Quit your griping about high gas prices. I'm currently paying the equivalent of $8 a gallon.

Saturday, April 23, 2005

Cambridge

Ir qA norhwe vS QWWK ....

That's misplaced hands on keyboard for It was another bad week.

Didn't work with the screamers (who I wrote about last weekend, and then removed so my mother wouldn't worry.) Mostly just had too much to do and too little time to do it in. But Thursday afternoon, my friend Mel and I left at 4 and drove country lanes to Cambridge, where we were going to see Nanci Griffith at the Corn Exchange.

The drive to Cambridge is a bit of a pain. If you take direct routes, you end up in traffic waiting endlessly at roundabouts. If you take lanes, you see really fabulous little villages with thatched cottages and one-lane streets. But it takes a long time, and there aren't nearly enough sheep to keep you occupied, as it's mostly cropland.

We made it in plenty of time to check into our hotel and change close. I wore a close-fitting skirt with prints of Botticelli paintings covering it and a cute little tulle ruffle at the bottom. Paired with my black sweater, a denim jacket and a pair of black boots, I felt really fabulous.

Our hotel was about 3 blocks from the Corn Exchange, so we could walk. Contrary to the images conjured after many stops at the Corn Palace in Mitchell SD, this place is not, in fact, a building with murals of grain coating all surfaces. It's a big old warehousey building that used to be a public marketplace (for the cropland we passed on the way, I'm assuming,) and it's been turned into a concert hall. It's actually a really comfortable venue and the sound was pretty good.

The concert rocked, as Nanci always does. I've seen her a bunch of times, but this was Mel's first chance. She's been a big fan for years, just couldn't find anyone else who appreciated the music. We felt a little silly all dolled up like we were since half the crowd were bluehairs and the other half were in jeans, but no harm done. She didn't play Ford Econoline or So Long Ago, but she did a lot of things from Flyer and a kickin version of Sonny Curtis' Walk Right Back. And, at the Corn Exchange it seems folks sing along regularly so we got to belt out a few tunes without feeling like dorks. It was also nice to hear an unabashed liberal American speaking out about the good, the bad, and the ugly of our international politics. (Nanci gets a little impassioned. Solidarity, sister.) Thoroughly enjoyed the concert. Stopped off at a little greek place for a late supper and a bottle of wine before hitting the sack.

Oh. And I was reminded again that the standing ovation is no longer obligatory now that I'm out of the midwest.

Friday was perfect. Clear as a bell, and my room had a spectacular view of a lovely public lawn so I could watch an early morning cricket practice and the rush of folks heading to class/work for the day. We took our obligatory tour of the hotel (in exchange for the free rooms,) and then hit the streets for a leisure day. Cambridge is full of quirky shops and boutiques as well as all the big chains, so we wandered the shops imagining ways to spend money and had a nice little lunch at an open air bistro. Finished the afternoon with a walk along the river. Didn't go punting because it was a little chilly, but will definitely go back for that soon.

Excellent kickoff to a good weekend, and much needed after the month I've had.

Sunday, April 17, 2005

If you could come to dinner...

If you've lived in the same town as me, you know I enjoy cooking for my friends. If you could come over tonight, here's what I'd be serving:

Dirty 007 Martinis
Tuna Steaks with tomatoes, olives, and herbs
Green beans
Sweet potato Oven Fries
silhouette Fudge Bars

If you come see me soon, I'll create this just for you. Otherwise, you can recreate an evening with me as follows:

Plan on Dinner at 7.
Stand in your living room and play some sort of stimulating noise loudly for two minutes. Arriving at my house is never simple...I bluster about and talk loudly.
Put on Beck's Sea Change for background music
Necessary discussion about the corruption of Tom Delay and the abuse of Christianity's good name and message by the Radical Right, whilst you make yourself a cocktail.

007 Dirty Martini
Based upon the popular version at Moscow on the Hill in St. Paul...
1 Part Vodka (using Absolut right now since that's what I can get here)
1 Part Bombay Sapphire
dash of tobasco
1/2 part dry vermouth
splash of olive juice

Pour the above over ice and shake....sieve into glass filled with three green, pimento stuffed martini olives.

Normally we'd talk about our bad weeks while we cook...read Satan in the Office entry and write something similar for yourself. Periodically imagine me agreeing and saying something pithy. Oh. And we'd cover your love life (we know I don't have one) and my difficulty figuring out what to do next, and then maybe we'd discuss Footballer's Wives or some other tv show.

Now, time for dinner...it's probably 7:45 by now, so make another martini, or switch to a Manhattan for security. By the way, it's probably time to switch music. I'm probably going for Chet Baker or Brubeck next.

Cut up 1 smallish sweet potato per person into oven fry shape, preferably a bit thin as opposed to chunky. Toss with Penzey's Fox Point and a little olive oil, and then spread single-layer on a cookie sheet and roast in a 400F oven. (Takes about 20 minutes, but if you follow the order given here without pause, there's no need to time.) Oh. And on the other shelf, put an oven proof dish in there that can hold the tuna and some saucy bits, say a ceramic lasagna pan.

Now the tuna. Take out a fresh tuna steak and rinse it. Salt and pepper to each side. Heat a pan. Heat some olive oil in that pan. Toss in tuna steak, 3 - 5 minutes per side. You want it pretty brown seared outside, slightly pink inside. Really. That slightly pink adds to the experience.

While tuna is searing, mince two cloves of garlic, finely chop one smallish medium sweet yellow onion, and about 14 green olives (use the same ones in the martini...they'll give a vaguely caper-like flavor to the sauce.)

Put the green beans in the microwave and steam them, just under done so they can sit awhile if necessary without getting overdone.

When each side of the tuna is seared, take out the oven-proof pan, move the tuna in there and then cover loosely with foil.

Flip the oven fries now, and put back in the oven.

Now, a little more olive oil in the pan. Add the onions and garlic, make them translucent, then add one can of chopped tomatoes and the chopped olives. Fresh ground pepper to taste, no salt needed with the tinned 'maters. Simmer this until it reduces. Cover and let sit until fries are done.

Okay....we're ready to plate. Put some of that tomato ragu on the plate and place a piece of tuna on that. On the remainder of the plate you'll cover 1/3 with green beans (I don't dress mine because they're fresh and delicious plain,) and 1/3 with oven fries.

Grab a glass of red wine and enjoy.

You can dictate our dinner conversation. Here are some topics:

the new Pope and why the Catholic church makes me mad
How much I hate the weather
the Twins
Books I've read or am reading: Sharon and my Mother-In-Law, The Tipping Point, Blink, Time Traveller's Wife, Sleeping Arrangements, Under the Banner of Heaven: A Story of Violent Faith, Small Island
Music (open to lots of things)
Racism and sexism in the UK (both more prevalent than at home)

Give me something outrageous or objectionable to say once in awhile. You know I like my shock value.

When you're ready for it, grab that Silhouette bar and savor the chocolatey goodness.

See...almost like being with me.



Changes to my routine

Being the risk taker that I am, my routine isn't all that structured. I establish patterns like everyone else, but it's not that big deal to toss them out the window. This is good, because I've made a few changes this week.

1) Forced change: On Monday, the One-stop near me burned down. Well, technically it didn't burn down...it was attached to the take-away that burned down and suffered damage accordingly. But it's closed indefinitely, which means I've had to find a new route for Sunday AM walks and paper pick-up. I've now moved from walking around the lake to walking along the canal...only two blocks away, and quite pretty...it has those weird houseboaty skiffs that you see on the Thames going through the locks, and it's actually got a pretty good sized marina not too far away. I've just added the paper to my normal grocery shopping, so I don't read it until later in the day but since I don't really wake up that well it's not a big loss. I absorb more in the afternoon.
2) Voluntary change: One of my young co-workers decided to move out of the flat she shared with her boyfriend and she needed a place to stay. Since I have no anticipated guests for April, I've let her take the spare room until she finds a new home. Anyone who's known me in the last 10 years knows it's high time I put some karma back into the home-for-wayward-girls fund. I'm happy to have a chance to help her out. It means changes to my life, though. Sharing the already tiny fridge means different shopping patterns. I have to pick up after myself and not leave piles of things around and shut cupboard doors so as not to annoy my housemate. (See, former housemates...I've learned from your input!) I've also had to overcome any shyness about playing the uke in front of people, because I'm on a roll and have to practice. Oh. And you can't talk to yourself without looking crazy and you have to shut bathroom doors and you have to be considerate of the noise you make if you can't sleep....all things that I've not had to worry about while I've been living alone the last few years.
3) Gradual change: I'm meeting people and getting invitations to do things in my free time, which means I have to learn to stick to a schedule and plan my time a bit better....I'm never that good at being on time, but I've gotten worse since I seldom have appointments anymore. Yesterday I actually had to race around the house getting ready because I was meeting my friend Mel for lunch and I lost track of time. (Have discovered a whole new trove of fun little places nearby, so future guests will have lots of variety from which to choose.) I've also found some American pals in London through a couple of industry connections and we're vowing to meet for dinner every few weeks. Since that involves a trainride, that means even MORE planning ahead. I guess that's the price you pay for friendship, huh?
4) Personal growth change: I have decided that I absolutely must apply myself to getting an MBA before it's too late to get good use from it. Therefore I am studying via an online course for the GMAT and will be making an appointment this summer for the test. Means lots of time relearning calculus, not the easiest thing for me since I haven't done any major math since my sophomore year in college.
5) New hobby: The garden looks like crap, with weeds overtaking everything. I have to figure out what to do. Pleh. I wish I had someone to do it for me, but since I don't I'm going to grit my teeth and figure it out. There are way too many spiders out there for my liking, but I guess that's nature for you.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Day to day life

Sorry I've been kind of quiet. Please don't mistake my lack of entries lately as any reason for concern.

I am loving my time here. It's just that periodically life is pretty boring...but considering that I'm 38 and have a career, that's not really shocking. I go to work, I exercise, I try to eat my 5 -8 fruit and veg a day, and since I don't know a lot of people I often spend time by myself. Sometimes I'm exploring or just out observing things in the world, sometimes I'm reading a book or watching tv. Now that the newness of England has worn off there's nothing particularly exciting in my day to day life, and it takes an occasion or a lot of time off to really do something extravagant or adventurous. Which is why sometimes I don't feel like blogging. I mean, who really cares that I had a long day at work sitting at my desk and writing about Dubai, and then went on a walk and came home to make chicken tacos?

Back in our 20's, my friend Tom and I decided that the thirties were your worst decade. In your 20's you can pretty much waste time and enjoy yourself with little consequence. You can go listen to bands every night of the week, you can get by on 5 hours of sleep a night, you can pick your vacation destination by flipping a coin. (New Orleans won, FYI.) Once you hit forty, you can start getting a little eccentric because you've built a life and an identity, plus by then you are entering the ruling class...and if you set the rules no one can tell you you're doing it wrong. After 60 you're supposed to get opinionated and kind of crotchety and be a bit of a character, which means hours of entertainment watching people react to the goofy things you say and do. With age comes privilege...you've done your time in the gristmill of life, and now you can start wasting time and enjoy yourself with little consequence. Sure, you could get in and out of furniture better when you were 20, but you make up for lack of mobility by being smarter and most folks have better finances by then, as well.

But people in their thirties, man. Dull as dishwater. Cardigan-wearing pasty-white-stay-insides. Never do anything fun. Always have to be responsible. Listen to boring oldies music and look like they need more sleep.

Now that we're older, Tom and I have certainly gotten a bit more sanguine about the joys of aging, but our theory about the thirties has proven dead on correct.

There is very little fun to be had in your thirties. You can see all the woulda/shouldas and glaring errors of your youth. You have to work ALL THE TIME. People have kids and mortgages, and making bad choices can have consequences from which you can't recover. The first few years are spent dealing with first wrinkles and the realization that people in movies are all younger than you, and then all of a sudden you look in the mirror and your belly hangs over your belt and you've developed a little slouch and things you thought were stationery are suddenly moving south. You recoil in horror, and you throw your back out. You can't go out on Friday because you know you'll be asleep by 10. On Saturday you go to a friend's for dinner and you try not to notice the little groans and sighs people make from moving after sitting too long.

Yup. I'd say the thirties pretty much suck.

But we're sliding into 40 now, which means the renaissance is nigh. Perhaps I'll just pretend I'm 40 already and get on with the fun.

Monday, April 11, 2005

Patriotism

I am a patriot. I believe in the USA and I know that, in our best moments, we can be an positive influence and a force for good in the world. But sometimes, even with the best intent, we fall short. Click here for an example of patriotism gone sadly awry. (And keep an eye out for the ghostfighters in the sky.)

If you want to be truly patriotic, find a way to silence David Hasselhoff. In the third installment of a documentary about Windsor Castle which aired on BBC1 last night, Mr. H was interviewed at the Coronation Cup polo match in the Cartier tent. And how did he represent America? I paraphrase, but basically he said something like, "Dude, it's totally amazing to be here. I mean whodathunkit? Like, little old David Hasselhoff from Detroit MI (or some other non-descript middle American city) at the Coronation Cup. It totally blows my mind. I called my old man today and he said, "Hey, what are you doing, Son," and I said, "Having lunch with THE QUEEN, man. I'm totally having lunch with the QUEEN." "

Thanks, Beavis. U-S-A! U-S-A!

Sunday, April 10, 2005

Helpful Definition

Thinking some of my friends on the far-right need a little language refresher...

Main Entry: conflict of interest
: a conflict between the private interests and the official responsibilities of a person in a position of trust

Ex. 1) Hiring someone who profits from marketing bad food to market the new food guidelines to the country; 2) Asking people who benefit from the profitability of private companies (i.e. affiliates of pharmaceuticals, energy companies, financial service firms, credit card lenders, etc.) to give input on matters of policy affecting their industries; 3) Letting people who owe their position to a PAC sit on the ethics committee investigating the leader of said PAC; 4) Expecting judges who vacation with leaders of a political party (and whose family members make their living from this same group of people) to be objective when deciding issues that could potentially harm or impeach this party; 5) Relying on an exile to be forthcoming and truthful when he stands to gain power and profit financially by providing crucial intelligence that will lead us to invade a sovereign nation; 6) Allowing journalists to provide news stories, opinions and commentary on subjects for which they've received payment to endorse one view.

Using the phrase in a sentence: Considering the above-market salaries paid to political event planners and consultants, I should really move to Texas and get a job with a PAC...but due to my liberal take on most issues, I would have a conflict of interest with the best paying jobs.

Note...Conflict of interest is best avoided, as it leads to charges of corruption

Main Entry: cor·rup·tion
Pronunciation: k&-'r&p-sh&n
Function: noun
1 a : impairment of integrity, virtue, or moral principle : DEPRAVITY b : DECAY, DECOMPOSITION c : inducement to wrong by improper or unlawful means (as bribery) d : a departure from the original or from what is pure or correct

There. Perhaps that will make some sense of the kerfuffle created by the press. (Silly liberals. You're just out to get Tom because he's morally righteous and you're all angry that his goodness stands in the way of your depraved anti-culture-of-life ways.)

Saturday, April 09, 2005

Best wishes, Chuck and Cami

Today was the big day. Prince Charles finally married Camilla Parker Bowles. They even delayed the start of the Grand National (a steeplechase horse race that is extremely popular) so that the two events wouldn't cause conflicts with avid TV viewers.

It has been a big scandal about how this wedding would take place. Beyond the whole adulterous divorcee problem, there is the fact that the couple wanted to marry in a private home, but by law royals have to marry in public so that any member of the realm can object or take notice. Then there was the whole boycotting of the civil ceremony by the Queen. Then the Prince and future Princess Consort had to call her ex-husband and apologize to him for cuckholding him. (By the way, doesn't Princess Consort sound like a fancy way to say "ho"? I'd be a little crabby if I were her.)

Oh. And then the pope died.

I have a love/hate thing with the royals. I love Wills (because you have to love a well-behaved young man like that, plus he's dishy), and Harry, well, he needs a hug and a stiff talking to, but with an older brother who is positively perfect one can hardly blame him for acting up a bit, bless him.

Charles, on the other hand, seems like a jug-eared doofus. Let us for a moment forget his taped conversation longing to be a tampon so he could, um, spend some quality time with Camilla. (In fact, let's forget it forever, because it's absolutely heebie-jeebie-inducing.) Let's just take the dumb stuff he's done since I got here:
  • Made public statements about how kids should stop thinking they can do anything, because some people are supposed to be laborers... that's their state in life.
  • Remained silent for three days after his youngest son's fancy-dress homage to Hitler. (Even Will made a public statement of responsibility and shame before his father did, and he had finals.)
  • See above paragraph about the wedding
  • Borrowed against income from one of the counties that support him, amounting to something like £20M in excess income payments over the last few years.
  • Just last week, he did a grimace at the camera and bad-mouthed the press, specifically the BBC. During his scheduled interview/photoshoot.
I'm sure he's not a bad guy....he's just inherited the less that ideal character of his father AND the lineage to the crown from his mum. If he were just some guy, he'd be annoying but not worth ink in the papers. He'd just be the blowhard you avoid sitting next to at dinner parties. Unfortunately, he gets £12M each year from the UK, lives in some pretty spectacular palaces, and gets every perk you can imagine. It seems the least he can do in return is give people a pleasant king-in-waiting they can be proud of. I think it's appalling that he has no clue how privileged he is. He really seems to thinks he's owed this good fortune.

I guess my colonial roots are showing.

Camilla I might actually like if it weren't for the fact that she hasn't really answered for the manipulation of the Diana situation. I liked Diana...she was pretty and friendly and gracious and didn't seem to assume that she was better than everyone else. And no matter how funny, or personable, or warm and easygoing Camilla may be, the thought of her identifying Diana as the perfect virgin bride who would provide an heir AND let Charles continue his ongoing affair is just creepy. It's too bad, really, because they say she's a bit bawdy and loud and tells funny jokes. That's a refreshing add to the royal family not seen since Fergie left.

I will admit that I watched the whole spectacle, and I thoroughly enjoyed the silly hats. If this wedding is any indicator, foliage and goofy feathers are coming in in a BIG way. Perhaps I'll get some peacock feathers and rapeseed flowers and make myself a bonnet. I suppose the bonus to wearing twigs and hay on your head is that people behind you can still see the action. And the wedding did make me long for a pastel suit...perhaps a robin-egg blue one with a bias cut skirt at the knee. Just have to figure out where I'd wear it.

And in the end, I guess that after 30+years of shenanigans and secrecy, Charles and Camilla have probably earned the right to a life together....they must love each other quite a bit to leave such a path of destruction behind them and still be together. I suppose you have to wish them well. And ultimately, it's hard to imagine Camilla could actually bring the royal family down from where they've been lately. Perhaps the wedding will close this chapter and allow them to move on.