Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Gem Sweater

I love the people who inhabit the web. Try the videos on this site. Performance art at its finest.

Tuesday Night

1. The swans are back. For a couple of weeks a year, swans move into the small pond across from my house. A pair, even. They're huge, I tell you. Gi-normous. Folks in the neighbourhood bring their kids on walks and stop to feed them. Personally, I'd not let a kid within 10 feet of those monsters. They could take out a toddler in one swoop. And they stare. A lot. With a soul-less, dark gaze. ("Outlanders there.") And they're not really that graceful. Sure they float nicely and all, but when those necks are bending cleaning their feathers and reaching for food, they're downright freaky. I guess it's kind of like I live in their home and I'm seeing the belching/farting/no-makeup version of the supermodel, but to me they just seem kind ugly. No wonder Susan hates them so much. Oh. And at night they tuck their weird necks down under their wings and look like white floating bags of rubbish. It's time for them to move on.

2. I am sick. I have a sore throat and huge swollen glands and my eyes are watery and I'm tired. I feel punched. Not happy about this. Which means I'm irritable tonight. Sorry if the entry is reflecting that.

3. Speaking of swollen glands, last night I was flipping channels and I happened upon a documentary about penis enlargement. (They'll show anything on Channel Four after 11.) Always the sucker for gawker slowdowns and freakshows, I couldn't stop watching until I was totally sickened. There was a guy who has been injecting silicone into his scrotum and now he has balls the size of a human head. Yup. 22 inches in circumference. That ain't right, I tell you. Ah, the wonders of British TV.

4. Probably shouldn't have blogged about that. Now every guy searching for "balls the size of a human head" will end up reading about what I had for dinner. Good thing I don't have spot advertising on the site. Imagine the ads you'd be seeing.

5. I had Burmese Pork Salad for dinner (recipe in late October or early November entries) and now the house smells like chili and fish sauce. It was tasty but now I'm wishing for fresh air. Unfortunately, it's really cold outside and I can't open the windows. Guess I'll suffer.

6. The Purple Rose of Cairo is on. I love this movie. TPROC and Alice are two nice little Woody Allen movies with the right mix of odd, funny, romantic, and real. Small tidbit: this movie is the reason I became fascinated with the ukulele. There's a great scene where Cecelia and Gil are in a music shop and she's doing some mighty fast strumming while he sings along. It's a great little moment. And it's one of the first movies I rented on VHS. I was working my way through as many Woody Allen movies as I could find.

7. Back in my college radio days one of my finds was an album called Looking for Anything by a guy named Chris Hickey. It's in a box in Seattle with the rest of my vinyl but I wanted a copy now. I searched the internet every place I could think of. I even enlisted the help of a couple of net-savvy types who might know how to find something like this but to no avail. So I took a chance and emailed the artist from his website. He's a totally stand-up guy, responded immediately, and now he's digitizing it and sending me a link to download it. How cool is that? I'm really pleased. Plus, my search brought me to his new album (he hadn't released much in 20 years) and now I have that, too. Check him out here. He's an insightful and talented and I'm a big fan of his music.

8. If you're really bored and feel like helping out a busy student, do a little searching for odd things to do in England. I don't have time to spend planning any free time these days, and I don't want to get in the rut of staying in Milton Keynes. MK is not the sort of place it's good to stay for too long. I can use some suggestions. (Pam, I'm on tap for one of those uke nights in London soon, I promise.)

9. Glad to see some of you joining the Skype-o-sphere. I had a great, long, FREE conversation with Tommy in NYC on Sunday, and he sounded like he was upstairs and just on intercom. It's great, I tell you.

10. Thank God for the Daily Show with Jon Stewart. And thank God for More4, which broadcasts it every day. (TPROC is done, and now I'm on to last night's Daily Show.) I love his impressions of GWB.

11. Have you read Freakonomics yet? It's extra important that you do now, as he puts forth some data that refutes conventional thinking that will soon be the law of our land, specifically regarding the effects of abortion and family values (hint: Rudy Giuliani isn't the only thing that lowered crime rates in the 90's, and two-parent, church-going families don't make children more moral/successful/intelligent than single atheists.) Not that I necessarily agree with everything Dr. Levitt has to say. But it's good to hone our questioning skills and to learn to consider data to determine truth. Good practice for these our times.

12. I wonder if the Bush administration can monitor Skype calls? I mean, technically I live abroad and I am anti-GWB...I believe this qualifies me for NSA monitoring. You might find yourself inadvertently on an ole fashioned party-line if you call me on the phone. But remember, they're protecting the safety of the nation. And it's not illegal.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Ye Gods, Grad School is hard

This has to be a short entry because it's already 11 and I have a 630 date at the gym in the AM.

I have officially survived my first week of grad school. I am exhausted. It was a 730 AM departure for school every day, arriving home after 11 every night with a big stack of reading still to do. I learned that Cranfield takes this "more work than you can possibly handle" thing seriously...as I believe I've mentioned, they assign us teams of six and then you work together to get all the reading and work done. They fully expect that you will not do everything yourself, and that you'll be learning to rely upon others to keep you updated with summaries. It is really hard to trust people you don't know to do work for you on something this major, and it is going to get worse...they anticipate that you will actually work on about half of what you get assessed on during the course of the programme. In fact, not only do we share all work amongst the people on our individual teams, we also have a major breakdown for course prep that spans all ten teams, so heavy is the workload of the programme.

How this works: for example, last Thursday we had six classes, each with about 30 - 80 pages of reading, plus problems or case studies to work out, etc., and we got out of class at 630 pm. Each team took one class and divided the work. We got Marketing. One person read the text book and typed up a summary of terms and concepts. Three of us deciphered the key points from the case study and broke it into talking points for discussion. We emailed these documents to the other 56 students in the programme, and they emailed us summaries of the other 5 subjects, which the remaining two members reviewed to be sure they understood, and then they explained it to the rest of us the next morning before we went to class. That was our prepwork.

I guess this is good prep for being senior management. They keep reminding us that they are training us to be MDs and to run huge divisions of major corporations...and these people are managers, not doers. They know how to get others to do their best, but they don't necessarily do all the data collection and writing themselves. So I guess we're learning the power of delegating, too.

The classes themselves are really interesting. I am enjoying the challenge, and I can't believe it but I'm enjoying studying, too. (Who would ever have imagined I had it in me?) This term I've got to learn statistics, microeconomics, managerial accounting (deciphering, not double-entry stuff), strategic marketing, and operations management, as well as study organizational behaviour. OB is actually not just about managing people, but it is a bunch of high-falutin' psychometry, as well. This week alone we've been discussing learning styles (I'm an activist, which means I learn by doing,) and we've taken Miers Briggs tests and analysed our results against those in our learning team for potential benefits/problems. (I'm an ENFP to the extreme, which means I babble, I prefer dealing with the big picture, I care about people, I change my mind a lot and can't stick with a plan to save my life, and I make my decisions on instinct, usually spontaneously. No surprises there.) I'm working with a bunch of ESTJs. Potentially problematic, since we approach all data and problem-solving differently...but we all need to talk about it ad nauseum to understand it.

My laptop battery is going, so I really should cut this off. (I'm in bed typing, and I left my plug-wire in the dining room/office downstairs.) I'll be back tomorrow with more.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Musings on Monday

How's that for a cheesy title? Forgive my unoriginality. I am beyond dead tired. Can't even STAND how tired I am. It's all I can do to write, but while I was home catching up with my faithful readers I promised to pick up the blogging pace this year, so I'm posting in spite of the fact that I'd give big money to be in bed right now.

Actually this is good for me. I have to make it until 1030 or I'll have gone to bed too early for sure. I am STILL totally messed up with the jetlag thing. I've been back a week, so it is NOT okay that I'm still wide awake from 2 - 4 AM each night. It's definitely taking it's toll. I have a low-grade headache, I have tea-sized bags under my eyes, and my concentration is crap. (So is my spelling, so please bear with me.) Last night I had a grand total of 3.5 hours of sleep. I could have gotten more but I had a 6AM date with my trainer and since I can't meet her next week due to school I felt I needed to keep it. Plus, you can't really text some poor girl who's at the gym waiting at 6AM (who wouldn't be there had you not asked her) to say that you're tired and want a little more sleep.

My maths class starts in 36 hours, and then 48 hours later grad school does. I'm beyond stressed, which perhaps is contributing to the lag situation. I haven't been in school since 1989. In fact, 16 years ago right now I was in France on my first ever trip to Europe. When I finished that interim class I graduated. That's a long time ago to have done my last homework. I was reading "the meaning of company accounts" yesterday (teaching me to decipher company financial statements,) and let me tell you...this is going to take some getting used to. I caught on well enough, but MAN it's hard to concentrate on schoolwork at 39. I'm wondering if I'm crazy taking this on.

I have begun working on my 40 at 40. For those not in the Rose and Tiara club, the 40 at 40 is a double mixed cd set that you create for your friends and loved ones to commemorate your 40th birthday. Lauren and Sharon started this with their birthdays last year, and it's such a good idea that it's caught on. Tom gave us his set right before the Ab-Fab birthday re-enactment. Many of you reading this will be receiving a set in about six and a half months (though it would help to email me your mailing address, as you probably know by now that I am incompetent when it comes to retaining any useful information about my friends' whereabouts.) I'm hoping to have the list compiled by Feb or so, and then I have time to work on the liner notes and locate stuff I only have on vinyl. I must say, putting 40 influential songs that you love into some kind of cohesive mix is thought-provoking stuff. I can't imagine that I'm really as eclectic and bizarrely composed as my playlist would have you believe, but I live this life everyday so who knows. I can say that there is probably not one person in my acquaintance who will like every song. In fact, I'd bet that there's not one person in my acquaintance who will not find at least one song they adore AND one song they revile with the strength of 10,000 suns. And yes, there is likely to be Manilow on it, unless of course I can't make the sophie's choice with the Elvis Costello.

I have two new favourite British phrases:

tits-up: To go horribly awry, as in, "I don't want to be standing here by myself when this goes tits-up, so you're staying right where you are." Colorful, funny, slightly raunchy, but not something you can really find fault with. Much better than the "you're getting on my tits" phrase that indicates irritation.

he/she can talk for England: long-winded, loquacious, a bit of a gabber, as in, "She's normally pretty quiet, but she can talk for England if you get a drink in her." I really like the idea of talking as a world-class sport. That's a medal I could DEFINITELY win.

Okay. Clock says I have time to move a load of laundry to the dryer, brush teeth, and get settled into be and I'll have stayed up sufficiently late. Must do this now. 'night.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Umbrella shop on Oxford Street

There're some general England shots on flickr, too.

Oh. I'm not a great photographer, so please excuse the amateur framing and lighting and slight blurs. I'll get better.

Holidays in the US

Thomas at 40
Thomas at 40,
originally uploaded by marimbaprune.
I still have a free flickr account, so I am limited in my number of posts. I've added a sampling of Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Tom's Birthday photos at flickr. When I have time and money to get a pro account I'll get them all up there. For now, though, you can at least get these from the site.

Rose and Tiara - mindy

Rose and Tiara - mindy
Rose and Tiara - mindy,
originally uploaded by marimbaprune.
The photos are in...link to MarimbaPrune, as listed by the photo...and you can see all the Rose and Tiara sittings from Tom's birthday.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Stinking Jetlag

It's 4:30 AM. I've been up since about three. All was well...sleeping like a baby...and then WHAM suddenly awake and tossing and turning. Came downstairs for a little telly and a snack...any insomniac will tell you a glass of milk and getting OUT of bed always make it easier to get back to sleep. So far, no luck. Finally gave in to check email, which turned into blog reading, proofing and catching a spelling error in my earlier entry, and now this.

I hate this. Once you are awake, your mind starts racing. I've been thinking about my finances, my holiday, those coal miners, how cheerios were invented, window drafts, how you say Abramoff, punchlines for "How do you say Abramoff?," Ariel Sharon's stroke, Israeli politics as a whole, toenail polish and the impact nailgrowth has on a pedicure, Woody Allen, snow, cats, Tim's white Christmas tree, the emotional effects of the color red and the odd movements of butt-dancing...and that's just a little cross section of topics. Be glad you're not here...I'd probably be thinking out loud in that way in that stream-of-consciousness way I have when I'm tired or off my guard.

Why, oh why, am I not asleep?

I had my alarm set for six so I could head to the gym. That isn't going to happen. I'm going to make a slice of peanut butter toast and try sleeping again. I am not hopeful.

Cold, Grey England

I am back from hols, and bloody England has given me a cold, grey welcome. I'm sitting in my sitting room under a duvet in yoga pants, a long-sleeved t-shirt, a fleece, and a stocking cap. I should probably turn up the heat, but I'm trying to conserve. It's drizzly-rainy out and it has been all day. In fact, when I went to lunch today I felt like it was dusk, not noon, such was the cloudy haze of the day.

My flight itself was uneventful, though delayed. Luckily, I followed the advice of the airlines and arrived two hours in advance of my flight to check in, as my actual Minneapolis flight was delayed beyond the departure time of my second flight from Chicago. I was able to grab an earlier one that was delayed just slightly beyond my original departure time, so that worked well. Of course, one delay is always an indicator of others...and my Chicago flight was delayed an hour, as well. Spent more time enjoying the lovely K concourse (which I already knew well from my 5 hours on the way to MN.) Once we actually left the flight was easy. My seatmate, Russell, was a 30ish Asian guy who was nice enough, though not my favourite. He had not-so-great breath and he elected to sleep with his mouth aiming directly at my nose. I elbowed him in hopes of getting him to turn another way but to no avail. I think he just thought I was a jerk. Oh. And he drank apple juice. I don't trust adults who drink apple juice by choice. (Perhaps cutting back on the apple juice would improve Russell's halitosis situation. Man, was I glad when my nephews quit drinking juice all the time...not sure I've smelled much worse than a kid with juice breath that hasn't brushed their teeth recently.)

We had about an hour of holding pattern once we arrived at Heathrow and then I waited FOREVER for my luggage. In fact, one bag didn't turn up. Hate that. Had to fill in the paperwork and by the time I left the airport I'd been on the ground for two hours. Had to pay a waiting fee to my driver due to the delay.

Am a bit jetlagged today, though I was so knackered yesterday that I dozed some through the evening when I was trying to stay up and still got a full night's sleep. I'm trying to stay up until 10, but that's 45 minutes away and I'm not sure I'm going to make it. I thought about going to the gym tonight but have decided to give myself the day off. I might feel better if I went, but it's more fun to be lazy. Tomorrow I will be good, I promise.

Work is the same, really, though we did hire someone for one of our open jobs. Her name is Dawn and she seems really great. I spent the day getting started on two new projects and dealing with grad school paperwork. All is sorted and now I'm getting ready for next week's start.

I'll be more interesting tomorrow, I promise. But now, I need to get up to bed before I drop here on the couch and wake up with a stiff neck.