Sunday, April 30, 2006

Stephen Colbert is KING

My goodness. I'm watching/listening to the White House Correspondent's Dinner on CSPAN online, and GOOD LORD Stephen Colbert is on FIRE! The nervous laughter in the room is unbelievable. He's being pointed and critical and completely biting. He's saying all sorts of things that need to be said, both regarding the Bush Administration and the complacent reporting of the last few years. He's saying what every liberal has been DYING to say to someone in power. It's unbelievable. These things are usually good-natured ribbing, like some sort of Dean Martin roast from the 70's. But Colbert is actually saying things that are too based in truth to be funny to the audience.

He is king. Long live Stephen Colbert!

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Saturday Night

Since I don't do much anymore except study and work, I've found my blogs are turning into daily/weekly/semi-monthly updates rather than actual posts about subjects. Sorry. I promise to be more interesting after exams. In fact, by next weekend I'll have my travels to write about, so maybe you'll get one entry that's not a day of the week soon!

But for today, it's just a bit of an update on things.

Had school yesterday. It was review stuff, plus some info on the next few terms. I've been keeping a tally, and it is official...at least once in every weekend of classes, someone says something really negative about George Bush to substantiate the worst-case scenario of something we're discussing. Sometimes it's the lecturer, sometimes it's a student contribution. It is never me, although you can imagine that I usually want to second the statement. I don't. Mostly because I don't think a public forum like this is the place to do it. If someone asks about my politics or my opinions, then fine. But in these situations I don't think it's relevant. This week's comment was regarding self-presentation. One of our lectures was about how to effectively present yourself....body language, how you enter a room, nervous ticks, etc....and the GB remark was to site pretty much a bad way to do all of it. It started with reference to him grabbing the Thai president when he was walking out of a photo and Bush wanted another one (it's culturally inappropriate to grab a thai person like that.) It escalated to general remarks about his presence in public...how it helped him with average Americans, but has really hurt him abroad. Policy remarks followed, but then we got back on topic. I thought it was interesting, actually, that his good-ole-boy crap can make him non-threatening as a campaigner, but the save thing makes him look like a redneck rube when he's abroad. It's not that I didn't KNOW that, (and his policies don't help,) but it got me thinking, you know?

Have been sifting through my clothes trying to figure out what to take along. I know I don't need four pairs of shoes, and I know I don't need black things, and I know that it will be beastly hot. And I'm better off than I was with Oman, as I have my summer clothes from the states here now so I have things to choose from. But I am a compulsive overpacker and I can't seem to narrow things down. Crap. Plus since it's hot, I want to have something clean for evenings, as well. I also have to iron a lot tonight before bed. Pleh.

I'm taking malaria pills. I have the kind you only have to take two days before you leave, and then for an additional week when you return. They've been making me feel a little woozie. But I guess it's better than malaria. The ones I'm taking are also supposed to give me freaky dreams, according to the woman on my learning team who works for the manufacturer. Since I don't remember my dreams, I'm wondering what that means...will I have freaky dreams and just not know it, or will I actually remember them this time?

I need to go to the dentist, as its time for a cleaning/checkup. I'm in England. You can imagine my skepticism.

I'm watching Bull Durham. Susan Sarandon was 42 when she made this movie. This is reassuring, as she looks fabulous. Odd to think I'm now almost that age.

One of the things I find fascinating about movies from the 80's and early 90's are the incredibly high waists on the pants. (If your waistband is that high, FYI you are not fashionable anymore. Not that it matters, just saying.) I just tried on two pairs of shorts that have that waistband. Thinking they may be retired this season.

I got one of the hotels wrong. When I'm in Botswana I'm actually staying here.

Discovered a varicose vein today on the back of my left leg. Really pissed about it, too. It's ridiculously big, and I've never had one before. Not sure when it got there. Grrr. I guess I can live with ageing signs, but must I also have teenage acne? Life is not fair.

Losing battery life. Must sign off. More next weekend when I return.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Wednesday

Time for a quick update:
  1. My partially severed thumb has healed nicely, and though still a bit sore it looks like I just ripped the nail, rather than cleavered it.
  2. My hair is freaky long by Mindy standards. I can put it in a pony-tail. It's longer than Ace's on American Idol.
  3. My mom and dad sent me peeps for Easter, a few of which I enjoyed at home before taking them into the office. You'd think I'd brought in chocolate covered ants. Brits had no idea. Of course, they sell marshmallows year round here as candy, and they don't even make them into shapes.
  4. I've noticed that British people seem to have more kids than people in the states. I'd say three - four is common here, in all social classes. Seems odd.
  5. I treated myself to two new uke song books. One is full of Christmas carols to prepare for the holidays, and the other is called, "60's Uke-In," and I've already been working on When I'm Sixty Four and Build Me Up, Buttercup. Jam on!
  6. My new favorite phrase is, "I'm the decider, and I decide."
  7. Closely followed by, "I listen to all the voices, but mine's the final decision."
  8. Scott McClellan, we hardly new ye. If only it weren't for those pesky ongoing investigations that made you so reticent.
  9. By the way whatever happened to the policy of firing anyone in the administration involved in the CIA leaks? Since it came from Bush, does that mean he has to fire himself?
  10. The new orientation of my bed continues to offer improved sleep. I should check the Feng Shui about this, cause it would seem I like the South/North orientation. That was my best sleep on Goodrich, as well.
  11. I only have one day of school this week, so I will take the second day to study. I'll have to do laundry and pack, too, but a full day of studying will help.
  12. They actually call studying "revising" here. It freaks me out. Imagine...every time you'd say studying someone says revising instead. I get really bogged down in the fact that I'm not actually revising anything...just reviewing notes and class handouts and trying to memorize formulas. I get so preoccupied that I can't focus, so no revising OR studying happens.
  13. It has been a full week since I spilled on my shirt while eating. I think that's some sort of record.
  14. My car went in for a tune up, and they've changed the oil and the air conditioner fluid, and a tire, and the brake fluid, and all sorts of things. Plus they vacuumed up biscuit crumbs in the front seat from my recent roadtrip and reattached the floor vent that had come loose. It will be like having a brand new car.
  15. Remember how I said I'm going to Africa on Sunday. Here's where I'll be for the first few days, and then for the next few.
  16. By the way, the first link works better on IE...firefox does something goofy.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Happy Easter

What a week.

Had to write an Accounting WAC this week. (WAC stands for "Written Analysis of Case.") My task was compute key performance ratios from the annual statements of Ryanair and easyJet and decide which was a better midterm investment.

Accounting has been a difficult subject for me. In theory, I should be fine at this. I have always been a math person, and I am good at questioning and analyzing. But I'm so not used to doing things like this. Let's just say it's been a struggle.

So I spent a lot of time on it. Others on my team did the ratios, and I then did them on my own to check my work. (I did fine.) I read the annual reports and pulled all sorts of interesting info out of them. Basically, the Ryanair CEO is an aggressive guy who's out there pissing people off and making enemies and doing anything to make a buck. (As anyone who's flown Ryanair will tell you.) The easyJet CEO is new...he did a turn-around for the RAC recently, and now he's joined easyJet to do the same. He's compensated by significant stock options, and the more their profits grow the more he gets. And he's a Cranfield grad, so I can network with him through the alumni organization. Plus, management aside, easyJet is nicer, they invest in their people, and they are doing more to improve the environment.

You can tell from the paragraph above that I lean towards easyJet. Which goes totally against the numbers, as Ryanair's performance is really good (18% growth in earnings per share last year) and easyJet's are not (just 3%). The only saving grace was that their profit:earnings ratio indicates they're in a growth mode. My team thought I was crazy. Numbers say Ryanair...so you recommend Ryanair. I say no risk no payoff...bet the longshot and hope that the promise is realized.

Luckily this was an independent project, so I was able to write what I wanted and they did what they believed. I guarantee that less than 15% of the class will come to the same conclusion, but I stick by my recommendation. easyJet is the one to watch.

So when I finished the homework, it was already the Easter weekend. Easter is a four-day event here...Good Friday and Easter Monday are both bank holidays. I had work to do, so I did a bit of that. I had taxes to do, so I finished them. (Don't have tax liability in the US now, so I was quite please with my refund.) Finished my 40 at 40 and burned a sample to test for flow. Have identified a couple of tweaks, but we're almost there. Studied Statistics, the other vexing subject, as I have a WAC coming on Friday for that one. Mowed the lawn for the first time of the season.

OH! And I got a new refrigerator. The one I had was tiny, didn't shut well, and was probably built in about 1970. The new one is larger, auto-defrosting, and clean, new, and shiny. Very pleased.

This is a short week at work, but looks to be long as I have two major projects to finish in three days since I'm out Friday for school. And then Sunday I fly to Africa. I'm going to Botswana and Zambia for work. Will take lots of pictures.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Albino Pigeon

Today there is an albino pigeon on the roof next door. It feels like this should be lucky or something. I think I'll make a wish, just in case.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

April in Paris

When I got to work on Monday, I had an email telling me that I had a presentation to do in Paris on Wednesday. Cool, I thought! Paris! I haven't been to Paris in years!

I tried to connect with my colleague who owns the account all day Monday, but to no avail. No problem, I thought.

Tuesday I saw her in the hall in the AM, and we promised to speak. I started making my slides, putting together the presentation, and by 8 PM we were set.

I was crazy hungry, and so when I got home I immediately started work on my chicken and bok choy soup. I had gone to Ikea on Monday and bought a better knife. Wasn't used to using it. You can guess the rest....cleavering the bok choy I cleavered my left thumb something horrible. I had a gusher coming out...it was horrible. Positively grisly with the red coating of blood all over my hand. Ran upstairs and got things under control. I'd sliced through my nail and part of my thumb, but there was no way to stitch this thing...it was mostly nailbed trouble. I applied pressure and put on a bandaid (plaster, actually.) My hand was THROBBING. Went downstairs and finished making dinner, and kept my hand elevated.

I went to bed thinking I needed a good night's sleep, but that was impossible with the excrutiating pain of my partially severed thumb. Had to get up at 5 AM to get ready, as my ride was getting here at six. Pleh. I am not a morning person, which many of you will view as a significant understatement.

So with virtually no sleep I headed to Paris. We trained to London, cabbed to Waterloo station, and took the Eurostar. It was pretty cool, actually, though it really just feels like a big tunnel and then suddenly the architecture of the country churches changes. We got into Paris around 1 PM local time.

I thought the client's office was in the city, but actually they're way out in the suburbs...past Versailles even. And I'd forgotten how unfriendly Paris is to people who don't speak French. We tried to take the Metro and it took us half an hour to figure out what we had to do. Got to Montparnasse and caught our train to the countryside just in time.

We got off at the station they'd told us to, but it was like a ghost-town. No shops open, no taxis, no one around. We looked at the station map and decided to walk into town in hopes of finding life. We went about five blocks and found a bar with people and taxis parked outside. If you live in St. Paul, imagine coming across The Spot, except full of smokey french guys. And with tackier sexist art...lots of pretty girls on postcards exposing their breasts and buttocks. Did I mention it was smokey? Because it was really smokey.

Luckily one of the guys spoke some English. We got cokes and asked directions. He was also, conveniently, a taxi driver and agreed to take us to the clients. We were hungry so they offered us some sandwiches from the kitchen. We were at the French equivalent of oh, say, Swede's Office, so you can imagine that I was less than enthused about the food they'd produce. But this is France after all...we got the most exquisite baguette rolls with camembert that was sweet and delicious. Go figure.

Cabbie took us to the clients, and we were early so we had time to settle down from our epic travel. (It was now 3 PM London time and we'd just arrived at the destination.) Our presentation went well. Clients were very nice. We answered questions and got an idea of the next steps, then got in a cab to head back to the station. (No more local train crap.)

But there were strikes and demonstrations in Paris. Which means we were parked along the Seine waiting for traffic. We had a spectacular view of the Eiffel Tour, and got to see the Louvre and the Musee D'Orsay and Notre Dame on our way to the station. But it should have been an hour or so drive, and instead it was two and a half. Sitting in traffic. With a maniac driver who swore constantly (in French, but I assumed it was profane from the tone.)

It was sunny and lovely, though, and Paris was beautiful. Crowded and gridlocked, but beautiful. I've decided that I'm going back the second someone who speaks French arrives for a visit. (Hint, Tom.)

Our original train was practically in London, so we had to find seats on the next one which was also the last of the day. Coach was sold out and so we had to either a) upgrade to first, b) take a train in the AM, or c) stand for three hours to take this one.

We upgraded. Got a free copy of the Economist out of it, as well as a totally tasteless dinner of parts. My tummy has been funky all day, and I think it was definitely the Salmon Mousse.

Got home after midnight, crawled up the steps and tumbled into bed. (FYI, I reoriented my bed at 1 AM on Monday and am sure that I'm sleeping better now. And when I wake up the window is at the foot of my bed and I can look out to see the sun.)

I'm so glad that day is over.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Update in Haiku...A narrative of my life...Since we last caught up

My friend Brad arrived
Shortly after my last post.
Hooray! A new guest!

He brought me pickles,
Surstromming, and berry snus.
The pickles were great.

We went to Scotland
So Brad could see the UK.
It rained. Constantly.

We took my Audi
Through the hills, along the coast.
The drive was lovely.

Glaswegians chew gum
and spit it on the sidewalk.
They're full of gum dots.

I like museums
But Brad is not keen on them.
We walked. In the rain.

We had a Guinness
At the longest bar in town.
And we had snus, too.

We walked. In the rain.
Brad peed in a dark alley
Whilst I talked to Tim.

I wanted chinese.
Brad ate prawn crackers and lived.
No hives or choking.

The rain didn’t stop.
We saw the country by car.
It was a bummer.

The hotel desk clerk
Told us to try a curry.
Brad plugged the loo there.

Brad liked all the sheep
But did not “help them over
The fence”, as they say.

Once Brad left, school called.
I wrote three major papers
In three short days. Sheesh.

All is well with school
And there's a three week break now.
Big sigh of relief.

Katrina moved in.
She is neater than I am.
The house is now clean.

Last night’s pilgrimage
To Ikea was needed.
I have floorlamps now.

She hates the parrot.
But we all do. It’s too loud.
And needs a new song.

Spring arrived today.
Pigeons are mating outside.
Please make them stop now.