Monday, July 31, 2006

Velkomen Til Iowa!

Here is where I am right now.

I'm sitting in the local coffee shop using the wireless internet. My parent's dialup connection is just too much to bear. (We'll be addressing their need to enter this century later in the day.) Magpie is run by a Christian group that brings city kids with drug and alcohol problems to the middle of midwestern nowhere and rehabilitates them. They work here to earn money. The coffee is pretty good, actually...I can actually get a respectable iced americano here, which you would not expect in rural Iowa.

Decorah is a little gem of a town. It's about 8000 people, and has a liberal arts college and picturesque scenery. Iowa is not known for picturesque scenery, but Decorah is nestled in the limestone bluff region in the Northeast corner of the state so it's got lots of hills and trees and craggy rocks.

I hated growing up here. There is an "elite" in the town, consisting primarily of families that have lived here for generations and own all the land, plus the doctors/lawyers and other important white collar workers who support the surrounding farm community and populate the country clubs. My parents did not belong to that group...my father was a civil engineer for the county and my mother was a secretary in the Registrar's office at the college, plus they aren't the sort to play social climbing games. Add to that the part about me being a high-spirited oddball with a better than average intellect and a propensity for overt self-expression, and you've got a mickey for sheer hell on teenage earth. My friends from smaller towns tell me that I didn't have it that bad...there were other kids in the same boat so I didn't have to be a loner, plus I could always hang out at the college to get exposure to art/music, etc. I don't buy it. Decorah is a small pond with aspirations, which makes it much more cut-throat.

Now that the sting of ostracization has faded, I actually enjoy spending time here. It's the slowest pace my life ever takes, as my retired parents have one speed and it just isn't all that fast. We sleep in, drink coffee, run errands, go for drives, play scrabble, talk about whatever, watch movies, eat out...it's a great way to relax and I thoroughly enjoy hanging out with my folks.

I think my dad has gotten a little insufferable when he talks about me. He is definitely proud of my life, and I think he may brag a bit when he's given the chance. I know it's hard for them to have me living 4000 miles away, so I'm glad that at least he thinks I'm doing good things as a result.

Thus far, I've enjoyed the annual Nordic Fest, had a barbeque with my folks, family and their friends, met my friend Mike at the local Mexican restaurant, and beaten my mom, my nephews, and my brother at scrabble. (Best play: Rumakis...used all my letters with a triple letter score on the K.) On tap for today: Pirates of the Caribbean for $4, dinner at the Hotel, and more scrabble. And maybe a walk when it cools down. And lunch at McDonald's, I'm betting. (My mom knows how to order "healthy" there, and they love the ice cream cones on a hot day.)

Happy sigh.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

New York

  1. Tom and George and I had delicious dim sum on Friday for lunch. We ate all sorts of delicious goodies. My favorite was the taro cake with oyster sauce, I think, though I like the beef noodle. We also liked the shrimp-wrapped-in-bacon, dusted-in-rice-flour, then-deep-fried-until-crispy-and-dipped-in-mayo, but we don't like to admit that because it just sounds wrong.
  2. I got blisters on my feet from walking in pouring rain in sandals that were too big.
  3. The Royalton rocks, even by my extremely picky industry insider standards. It's hip without being stuffy, the bar has a nice, relaxed atmosphere, and the rooms are pretty big for NYC. It's an Ian Schraeger design property that is part of the Morgans Hotel Group. The rooms are white and cherry wood, and feel vaguely like art deco steam ship cabins meeting modern, clean line sensibility. The beds rock...very comfortable, and great for sitting and reading. Huge closets, which I like. My room had a gigantic shower, but I know others have huge bathtubs, as well. The shower has a rain shower head AND a strange little wand-like device that was the brunt of many jokes by the group. I will stay there again, and I know Jane is going to make it her work hotel because her NYC office is around the corner and she travels there frequently.
  4. The Royalton Bar makes killer cocktails, but at $15 a pop it's a little difficult to justify more than one.
  5. The Algonquin is across the street, and I like to go there and pretend I'm Dorothy Parker, except without all the suicidal thoughts.
  6. There is a diner across the street near the corner of 44th and 6th called The Red Flame, and it's like the waiters are magic...before you finish annunciating the final syllable of your order the food appears on your table. I went there by myself for some NYTimes reading early Saturday morning when my jetlag dragged me out of bed at 7.
  7. When I was done with breakfast, I went back to the hotel and Jane and Lauren called me and invited me to their room for a chat while they got ready. Upon arrival, they presented me with a fabulous tiara that I wore ALL DAY, EVERYWHERE WE WENT. No one noticed. Okay, one tourist in a cab even gave it a second look, but I passed a thousand people. One in a thousand rounds to no one.
  8. J, L, and I returned their rental car and then wandered a street market on Lexington near GCStation. I bought fake purses, one for me, one for my sister-in-law, whose birthday was earlier last week.
  9. Bought the best cheese EVAH at Murrays in the Grand Central Market. Holy crap, it was good. I don't usually swoon for cheese, but JEEPERS.
  10. Had martinis at the Oyster Bar, and the waiter told us we all looked about 32. We do, but we liked hearing it anyway. Big tip for him.
  11. Talked to my mother, who was just up from a nap. She got a bit confused when I told her we were going to see a jazz singer that night and then out for dinner, what since Al Jolson is dead and Neil Diamond isn't exactly my speed. I corrected her. (This will now be referred to as the birthday where I went to a blackface show in family circles. We're not normal.)
  12. Blossom Dearie is magical, and the next time you are in New York you must go. No words can do justice to her spectacularness. She looks like a white-haired version of my grandma, but when she starts to play she becomes this sexy woman with style and grace. It is unbelievable.
  13. SushiSamba has great food, but the service is lousy and the place was freakishly hot. Plus there were too many hipster boys in straw cowboy hats and four-buttons-undone shirts, leading their cookie cutter model girlfriends around by the hand. We were glad to leave.
  14. We ate decadently good pastries at Cafe Rafaella. Yummy.
  15. On Sunday AM we checked out of the hotel and went to the MOMA. I love museums, I love New York museums, and I love the MOMA. Had not been since the remodel, and it is truly a work of art. Did not have enough time to explore, and will be going back in a few weeks to really chew on some of the Kandinskys. (That is not literal, FYI. Chewing on art is not good for your teeth.)
  16. Tommy picked us up and we went to Brooklyn. We stopped at a grocer for some last minute items, and I was overwhelmed by the choices in pickles and soda pop. Bought some killer kosher garlic dills that were out of this world, but could not decide between the diet chocolate Canfields or the cream soda.
  17. Had delicious blueberry cocktails and buckets of fabulous wine, courtesy of Tom, George and Imran.
  18. We walked to the Chinese restaurant for dinner. We had a private room with a karaoke machine. George had preordered an amazing meal, and the food just kept coming and coming. Tom will be getting me a copy of the menu, and I believe we have pictures of everything. Foods ranged from jellyfish and Chinese cold cuts to sharkfin soup to buddha roll to Cantonese lobster to flounder to the best chicken I've ever eaten. We listened to the entire 40@40, and I gave commentary for each song. Periodically, we'd get up and dance. (I believe the biggest dance hits were Walk This Way, You Shook Me All Night Long, and Soul City.) The waiters had difficulty making sense of us, but kept walking by and giggling.
  19. Had some cool drinks and orange almond biscuits in the garden by candlelight, then went to bed.
  20. Flew to Minneapolis, which you know.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Back in the Midwest

My. Oh my. Had a fabulous weekend in Manhattan (of which I will tell in future posts,) and got on a plane at 1130 this morning to fly to Minnesota for my 10 days here.

There is something about boarding a flight to the midwest...you somehow feel that you've actually left as soon as you get to the gate. You're surrounded by friendly types with broad Fargo-esque accents, wearing shoes that are more sensible than fashionable. The average BMI of the people around you goes up about 2 - 5 points. (This is not said in a snarky way, a) because I, myself, raise the average for most groups, and b) I did not set it off with the tell-tale "*".) Waistbands rise about two inches and you see more Dockers per capita than you have in a long time. People chat to strangers and place considerate phone calls to their loved ones alerting them to the status of their flight. (Yes, in my travels I've found this to be more prevalent when flying to Chicago and Minneapolis. Apparently we don't want our friends and family to wait too long at the airport when they pick us up.)

I was flying in First Class for this leg of the trip. NWA was running a fare deal when I ticketed and I got the better seat for a small amount more. I was the only woman up there. The hammy, golf-shirted, center-parted, slightly red-faced men wearing too much cologne gave me the skunk eye when I took my seat...Who is that slightly bohemian woman in 2D? Her hair is a mess, and she's not wearing makeup. She's got too much cleavage showing. And she's carrying a bag that looks like something my 14 year old daughter would use. This has to be a mistake. Nope, you aging frat boys, unlike you folks who bullied the desk agent to get yourself an upgrade, I paid for this seat.

Spent the flight in my iPod, listening to some calming Teddy Thompson and a bit of Arctic Monkeys. The boys around me talked about their golf game. The guy next to me made small talk during lunch, and when he found out I was on my way home from England he asked me if I was on a break from school. Those who know me will admit that I don't look anywhere near my age, something for which I am grateful as my age gets higher and higher. (I think it's the not-married-no-children thing...it keeps you young and prevents you from buying mommyjeans. In watching my friends and acquaintances, I've found they've had to be pretty Tenacious in order to maintain a sense of style after starting a family. It's a lot of work and their schedules go to hell, not to mention their budgets shrink with the demands of children.) But I found it pretty amusing that the balding alpha male next to me copped a condescending "AH! to be young and on school break" attitude with me, considering I've probably got a few years on him. It actually made my day.

The MSP airport has improved significantly in the last few years, and we landed at my favourite concourse...I love C! Had perfect tram karma, and my bags were the first ones off the belt. I felt very foreign in the airport. Was glad to get safely to Karen and Darlene's, where I've spent the afternoon napping and watching Food TV. It's been a walloping thunderstorm for the past forty minutes with vertical rain in buckets. It's good to be home.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Theraputic Dancing

FYI, Tom and I have just discovered that doing the Kate Bush Wuthering Heights dance is quite theraputic. Try it now. EVERYONE!

AA Flight 107

I am sitting on CPman's couch drinking a fabulous cup of coffee after a good night's sleep. Abigail, the fugitive kitty, was quite the talker, but I was freakishly tired and didn't let it keep me awake. It's nice to be home, even if it took a flight to get here.

I hate flying. Between work and living abroad I do a lot of it, so this is not good. I hate the confined space, I hate the whole airbound thing, I hate turbulence, I hate pretty much everything about it, except getting off the plane someplace totally different than where I got on.

I flew from Heathrow last night. I highly recommend the timing of the 630 PM flight to JFK, as you have the day to prepare for your flight, you travel to Heathrow outside of rush hour, and you land at 910 PM in New York so all you have to do is stay up really late and then you get relatively into time zone the next day.

But even the perfect timing of the flight can't make up for the goofballs that were on it. I had a great seat...an aisle in the front part of coach on the 777. (If you take a longhaul flight on American, say to VISIT ME, you should get a seat in the front section of coach as they cost the same but have about five inches more legroom in each row.) I was in the middle section, but the rest of the people in my row were friendly and quiet, and the guy next to me didn't get up to go to the bathroom and wasn't a chatter, so that part was good.

Across the aisle in the bulkhead and the row behind there was a family of five. The parents and the one year old were in the bulkhead, and the eight year old and toddler were behind them. I hated this family, primarily because the father (who was probably around 40) behaved like a child. I knew I was going to be annoyed when he was getting the kids settled, as he kept bending over in the aisle and sticking his butt in my face. Seriously, it was IN MY FACE...like less than four inches from my nose. There are ways to turn when you're in the aisle so that you DON'T give another passenger a big ole buttscent, but this guy didn't seem to know or care about that. Then the toddler got out all of his Wiggles action figures and lined them up on his tray table. He'd knock one down, and then whine until his brother picked it up. After about the 15th time, his brother...who was trying to read...got frustrated and asked his father if he could switch places. The dad refused, as he was comfortable, plus they'd already called seats. The son countered by pointing out that he wasn't responsible for his brother and therefore the dad, who'd had the stupid kid, was and should come back and play fetch. There was a bit more back and forth, and then the mother told her husband to grow up and switch with the boy. Husband claimed he couldn't because the fasten-seat-belt sign was on, but would later in the flight.

Then the meal service started. Turns out all five of them are vegetarian. Flight attendant asked if they'd ordered special meals...they hadn't...but boy were they pissed that the only options were chicken or beef. Why no pasta? Having flown a GAZILLION times, the options are ALWAYS chicken or beef, you idiot, but I kept my mouth shut. He demanded extra bread rolls, and then got out a bag of junk food from M&S. Personally, I'm thinking a vegetarian parent who's putting two kids on a flight at 630 at night should plan ahead and order some mac and cheese for the nippers, but I'm one of the barren ones so what do I know?

After the meal, Junior reminded Dad that he'd promised to switch seats, and so with much harumphing Dad gave in. And then proceeded to poke his wife in the head and dangle cookies above his son for about an hour. The eight year old finally had to tell Dad to knock it off...he was pissing people off. Although not happy, Dad let Junior give him a timeout.

It went on like this for seven hours. Once we landed and were waiting on the tarmac, he got up to get his mobile phone out of the overhead. The stewardess came and sternly told him that he needed to stay in his seat. He mocked her in a singsongy voice. I hate people who break airline rules, but I really hate adults who are obviously in the wrong and then act all put upon when someone corrects them.

I was so happy to get off that plane. I practically ran down the customs corridor, and luckily my bags got there quickly and I was gone before they caught up. CPman was waiting in the queue for me and did a happy dance when he saw me. The ladies giggled at us. We came home, Georgie made a delicious Caesar salad for a late supper, and then we stayed up late drinking Finnish liqueurs and eating watermelon and tea biscuits. The annoying family is just a distant memory and I can relax and enjoy my holiday.

Just don't get me started on the hairy guy in front of me.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Tuesday Afternoon

England is in a heatwave. It's 91F today. The air feels like bathwater.

There's not a cloud in the sky, so at least it's pretty. If you're in the shade. If you're not, then the sun is a scorcher. With some sort of laser level intensity that causes third degree burns if you're not careful.

People are wearing as few clothes as possible. The English are generally wardrobe challenged as to what constitutes appropriate office attire, but today all hell has broken loose. I saw the thong of a 50 year old woman above her trousers.

My hair is, by Mindy standards, freakishly long. Today I want to shave my head.

And it's supposed to be hotter tomorrow. Pleh.

Monday, July 17, 2006

40@40

I still have 10 or 12 entries to post for a complete online songlist, but there's no time for it now. You'll have to a) wait until I give you your copy, or b) make up the rest. If you choose option b, please make me fascinating with excellent taste. And no Huey Lewis, please.

Full blown panic

I just realised that I have way too much to do between now and getting on a plane Thursday.

Holy crap.

My team took me out for dinner tonight to celebrate my birthday, which was fun. But then I remembered that I have an appointment with my trainer at 630 AM and then I have to work and get a ton done before I can leave and then I have to mow the grass and pack and sort out my homework and prepare a presentation on what I want to get involved in for an in-company project for my MBA and hunt down the stuff for my 40@40 so I can burn CDs for my willing public and run to the bank to make a deposit and file my expense reports and straighten the house up and all of this must happen before Wednesday at 8AM.

PLEH>

With all I have to do, it's likely I will spend tomorrow night posting on this site to avoid work, but then it will be a new-entry-free zone for about a week. Too much madcap socialising with CP, Lulu, and the gang for the weekend, and then I'll be in the Midwest where I'm stuck with internet cafes, or worse, dialup once I get to Iowa.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Number 11

11) Weapon of Choice: Fatboy Slim
Great song to spaz dance to…I feel like an iPod ad. Plus the video features Christopher Walken. Yummy.

Number 37

37) Popular Mechanics for Lovers: Beulah

This QLS is one of the best, because it’s tragic and unrequited and perfectly captures the angst of the relationship-retarded (something I know a bit too much about.)

Number 14

14) You Shook Me All Night Long: AC/DC

I grew up in Iowa, and the heavy-metal influence of the top 40 from the early eighties lies latent in my hipster soul. Even at forty, when this song comes on the radio I bang my head and sing along. Ask Bethany.

Freaky sleep

Between a late night on Friday with our Oscar's party and a late night last night wearing off the caffeine I'd ingested for the drive back from Nottingham, by the time I went to bed at 230 AM I was ready for a serious sleep. I play the Garden State soundtrack every night when I go to bed and usually am asleep by track 7 or so. Last night I think I made it to track 2 at most.

I'm a bit of a sleep thrashabout so, under normal circumstances, I would have woken up in the same position in which I'd fallen into bed and wonder if it's possible that I'd not moved at all in the night. So you can imagine my surprise when I woke up at 830 this morning curled in a little ball at the foot of my bed with my back against the footboard and my feet pointing towards the pillows.

I don't remember getting up, I don't remember fitful dreams, I can't think of anything that would cause me to do this. And it took more than turning over to get myself back into a normal sleep position. I'm actually a little freaked out. Maybe I was abducted by aliens.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Number 39

39) Amy Grant: Young Fresh Fellows

“When she comes home from church, she’s gotta take off her pants…that’s what I like about Amy Grant.” It still feels like I’m subverting the Religious Right when I sing it.

Number 2

2) Add It Up: Violent Femmes

When I was 14 years old I discovered KUNI, a college radio station that changed my life. It introduced me to all sorts of great music…including the Violent Femmes. Which made me much cooler when I got to St. Olaf, because I already knew the words to this song.

Once in a Lifetime

Drove to Nottingham tonight to meet my friend Susan for a curry on her free night (she's on a study tour of England geared towards museum types.) It was a beautiful day, and I drove 95 miles an hour up the M1 with the windows wide open and Talking Heads blasting. Saw visions of this video and felt I must share it with you. Echo, David Byrne is DEFINITELY on my list. Behold him in all of his nerdy goodness.

We were robbed

We had our MTP day yesterday, which is short for the Mid-term Plan. Everyone in the company went to Oxford for the day, where we had a company meeting that summarised last year's performance and to announce initiatives for the coming year. Things are going well, and they gave us some outstanding new employee benefits like time off for charity work and opportunities to take sabbatical to do things we love. Oh. And we get our birthdays off now.

We had a teambuilding in the afternoon, and had to get strangers to lie on the ground and form letters to spell words. We found French exchange students in the park who were more than willing to oblige, and then bonked off to the pub for a few shandies on the patio at the edge of the Thames.

That evening we had our black tie dinner and Oscars ceremony. All the films were shown, and they were all great. We didn't even get nominated. I think it was because we were too cutting edge for the likes of the masses. We're the Todd Solondz of the corporate spoof video world. Our vision cuts too close to the bone.

They're definitely NOT in the Special People Club.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Lessons from VH1 Classic

Kate Bush is one weird chick. Goofy voice, crazy hair, and that Wuthering Heights song is just stupid. She looks like a reenacter.

Number 31

31) Loser: Beck

Beck Hanson is brilliant, and I’m so happy that this song introduced me into his world. The lyric, “In the time of chimpanzees I was a monkey,” has always resonated with me. Plus it’s fun to sing “I’m a loser” in Spanish.

Number 18

18) Sylvia Plath: Ryan Adams

When I was young, tragically messy lives full of literature and emotion and wild adventure seemed exotic and much better than the one I was living. This song reminds me of that time in my life. I don’t want it back, but I remember it fondly.

One Week Countdown

I always get crazy excited in the time up to a vacation. And one week from right now I'll be on a plane about halfway to New York. This is VERY exciting.

Like most people who flee the small towns of the Midwest for urban pastures, I thoroughly enjoy the thrill of living a metropolitan life. I like cities. I like public transportation. I like eating in restaurants at 1 in the morning just because I can. And living abroad has made it all more exotic...it's been almost two years since I first got the offer to move to the UK and I still can't believe I'm here. Driving on the left side of the road is second nature to me now. I've developed local comfort foods and can read the signs at roundabouts and tell people I'll give them a bell when I mean I'll call them. I actually say toMAHto. I miss my friends and my family, but I feel so alive when I think about my life here. Not only am I living a childhood dream, this has become my home and I'm relatively happy here.

But once I get within a breath of my flight home I get giddy with anticipation. I allow myself to miss things. And I get freakishly homesick. I want a good slice of pizza. I want a glass of iced tea. I want to watch David Letterman. I want to call the Poodles to see if I can come hang out and watch the Twins, and I want to drink a Manhattan on Timmy and Mark's porch. I want to call Tom and watch tv. I want a kosher dill pickle.

This is going to be a GREAT vacation.

Next Thursday I flee a Leadership Conference early to make the trek to Heathrow. My flight leaves around 7PM, I think. Tom's picking me up at JFK and we're heading someplace for dinner...he chooses.

On Friday Lauren and Jane arrive, and I hook up with Timmy and Shawn. We're staying at The Royalton for the weekend. We have quite the evening planned:

6PM - Drinks at the Delancey Rooftop Bar
830PM - Walk to the East Village for Mexican food at Mary Ann's
After dinner - dancing to 80's music at the Pyramid Club
Egg Cream on the way to the hotel

Saturday we've got the day to dork around. I'm thinking shopping, MOMA, and Central Park. This is my 40th birthday, so I'm going to do something nice for myself. Turning 40 rocks.

To celebrate that evening:

7:00 PM - Live performance by Blossom Dearie!
Head to hip bar for cocktails
10 PM - Dinner at Sushi Samba
Midnight - Dessert and drinks at Cafe Rafaella
End the evening with showtunes singing at Marie's Crisis

On Sunday Timmy and Shawn fly home, but L,J&me move out to Brooklyn to Tom and Georgie's. We'll have cocktails in the yard and the Chinese banquet that I raved about in an early post.

Sleeping in a Best Western in Brooklyn on Monday, then flying out late AM for MSP.

Talk about madcap Manhattan weekends. This is going to kick ass.

Once I'm in the Midwest, it's a little less hectic overall. I need to renew my driver's license and get my hair cut, but other than that I have a few dinners with friends, a couple of days with my brother and his family, and a week in Iowa with my folks. That's the relaxing part of the trip.

And then on the 4th it's back for two more nights in NYC and then I fly back to Heathrow on the 6th.

I have homework to do on vacation and I know things will get busy once I'm there and actually try to balance my schedule, but right now it sounds heavenly to be coming home.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Number 32

32) Soul City: Southern Culture On The Skids

Redneck soul. Good for dancing, good for drinking, good for curing what ails you.

Number 4

4) Agua De Beber: Astrid Gilberto

I fell in love with Brazilian music a few years back, and this is a personal favorite. It compares the singer’s heart to a flower, and her lover’s affection is rain that keeps her alive. (Swoon)

Retard Love Island

There is a popular reality show here called Love Island. They take C and D list celebrities, maroon them on an island with a posh house and a pool, and make them act sexy and hit on each other. It is classic British tv...take celebrities whose claim to fame is that they pose nude in "Nuts" or were once in a boyband that had one hit in 1999, be sure they're complete morons, ask them to do tasks that are either senseless or easily accomplished by an 8-year-old, and then reward them for acting sexy and doing raunchy things.

What celebrities do they have on this time? Let's see....Pierce Brosnan's ginger son Chris is on. No talent. Not particularly nice, and sadly he also appears to be adopted. And there's this freakishly skinny kid from Hollyoaks who looks like he's still in puberty and has never seen boobies before. Speaking of boobies, there are at least four sets of fake ones attached to equally fake women. And there's a professional ballroom dancer. These people are all classless idiots who haven't engaged a braincell in decades, but they work out a lot so at least they can wear swimsuits on tv. It's like Friends meets The Trailer Park Boys.

I honestly didn't know functioning adults could be this stupid. They had a geography quiz, with a big wall map of the world on an easel by the pool. Contestants were given the names of countries and they had to place them on the map. The woman who lives in the USA pulled the US out of the hat. She placed it on Canada. One guy (one of the smart ones) put Chile on the Baja. Another woman confused France and Spain. And another placed South Africa on India. (That one even tells you exactly where it is and she couldn't figure it out.)

Tonight they had teams bet on whether a contestant could complete a task or not and they won points for winning the wager. Tasks accomplished: tread water for one minute. Tasks NOT accomplished: Blow up a balloon, peel a potato, hold your breath underwater for 20 seconds, and RECITE THE ALPHABET.

This show is absolutely ridiculous. And yet, I've seen enough of this crap to tell you the details.

I am a total saddo.

Martha's getting wacky

Things are going haywire over at Martha Dumptruck.

August 3rd

Spread the word, Minneapolitans and St. Paulites...somewhere in the Cities on 3 August 2006 there will be a large social gathering. I don't have many free nights while I'm in the midwest, so this is your chance to see me. Unless you want to drive to Decorah and play scrabble with me and my folks. But be prepared for a pantsing. Hanzliks don't need no stinking "u's" to get a triple with a "q".

Details to follow soon.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Number 25

25) This Must Be the Place (Naive Melody): Talking Heads

There is a Mindy-specific genre of music called Quirky Love Songs, and this is definitely one. I’ve always thought it would be spectacular to have someone tell me this song makes them think of me. "There was a time before we were born if someone asks, this is where I'll be." Now that's some heady romance.

Number 8

8) You're Crazy for Taking the Bus: Jonathan Richman

Many a person has danced a hoedown in my living room to this one, and come to like this song in spite of themselves.

Who's Been Sleeping in My Bed

This is a classic Barry Manilow song, not because it was ever a hit but because of the sheer ridiculousness of the lyric. Plus you get the added bonus of the silly jumpsuit looking thing he's wearing and the very gay hip gestures. Why is you're wife sleeping with the mailman? Ask your boyfriend, Barry.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Jesus of the Week



This is such a happy Jesus that I felt I needed to share.


Number 30

30) S.O.S.: The Meat Purveyors

Other than Tom, the best thing about living in DC was West Virginia Public Radio, which played a lot of bluegrass. This song combines bluegrass AND Abba, which is a heady combination when you think about it.

Hairy Potter

Spent the day in the editing studio today creating the final cut of my Harry Potter film. The studio is in north London near Ealing, so we had to leave at about 7 AM to get there...the traffic is awful on the M1 in the morning. I drove, which makes this my first official drive in London proper thus far. Pretty impressed with myself, actually.

The studio was a bit of a dump. It was in this run down post-Bauhaustian looking building with lots of grime on the windows and chipping paint on the steel siding. You had to ring a bell to get in, and this grandmotherly woman let you in. The offices were unassuming, but when you got into the back rooms there were thousands of pounds of sound and video equipment.

We'd recorded about 45 minutes of film, and had to cut it down to five.

We started by arranging our favourite takes in the proper order so we had one film. This meant we first had to determine our favourite takes, which took about an hour and a half. But once they were in order we were at 15 minutes...not so bad, really.

The next step was to trim down the many shots that needed to be sliced together in order to create full flight and fight sequences. We'd gone really low tech on this. We used a toy dragon and a Harry Potter doll for much of the fighting, and then did closeups of our Harry on his broomstick doing reaction shots. It looked pretty amazing, considering that we'd filmed this by having Harry stand on a table in the garden while I laid on my back on the ground and shot him from below so the sky showed in the background. Slight problem in that the Harry shots were filmed on a sunny day and the doll shots were filmed in the rain, but what can you do?

Once we had all of this in order, we had to tighten up the different shots so they flowed quickly and evenly. That was easy, actually. By this time we had a vision and a plan and knew exactly what we wanted to emphasise.

We had the final cut ready by about 230. I had to record two voice overs, which I did in dramatic fashion in the sound studio. My colleagues were well impressed by my radio theatre reading style. It was pretty easy to time the voice to the scenes, and so all we had left were sound effects and music. Put little claps and boings and explosions in, and laid in music to cover the background noise in some of the active scenes.

The end product is 5 minutes and 15 seconds. It looks pretty professional, and is very funny. We went with a Carry On Harry theme, based upon some Benny Hill-type comedy films popular in the 70's here in England. Lots of innuendo and "naughty" jokes, with bad special effects and a corny script. We were pretty happy when the editor knew immediately what we were trying to do, not only because that meant that others would get the joke, but because he had all sorts of creative ideas to enhance our project.

The film fest and Oscar Night happens Friday. It will be exciting to see if we win!

Number 16

16) Talkin' At the Texaco: James McMurtry

JM is a brilliant songwriter and this song totally captures the essence of small-town life. Want to know why I hated growing up in Decorah? It’s all here in this simple song.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Number 3

3) Miss You: The Rolling Stones

This song will always remind me of being at the Hippens while I waited for my folks to pick me up. Ben did a killer Mick Jaggar impression. Once he did it on the coffee table.

Number 38

38) When You're Near Me I Have Difficulty: XTC

QLS extraordinaire. And XTC is the music of my years living with KC/Chris/Daren on Dayton Ave, so this reminds me of them. You can’t have naked dinner parties at 40, but it’s nice to remember when you did.

Survey Says

You know my policy...I do not forward emails, but will respond publically in this forum.

1. FIRST NAME: Melinda
2. WERE YOU NAMED AFTER ANYONE? Not really. My folks wanted to call me Mindy (after a singer named Mindy something, I think,) and so they tried to find a name that would allow Mindy as a shortened version but be respectable for when I ruled Europe.
3. WHEN DID YOU LAST CRY? About 15 minutes ago, at the finale to You've Got Mail. I'm a total sap, and must be destroyed.
4. DO YOU LIKE YOUR HANDWRITING? Yes. It's like my own secret language, as no other human can read it.
5. WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE LUNCHMEAT? Lunchmeat = very bad
6. KIDS? Love them, but won't have them.
7. IF YOU WERE ANOTHER PERSON WOULD YOU BE FRIENDS WITH YOU? Probably not. I don't like fat people.
8. DO YOU HAVE A JOURNAL? This is it, baby.
9. DO YOU USE SARCASM A LOT? Actually, I don't think I do.
10. DO YOU STILL HAVE YOUR TONSILS? No
11. WOULD YOU BUNGEE JUMP? No
12. WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE CEREAL? Cereal is bad for you. Too many carbs in the morning.
13. DO YOU UNTIE YOUR SHOES WHEN YOU TAKE THEM OFF? Only if I can't pry my way out without
14. DO YOU THINK YOU ARE STRONG? Yup.
15. WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE ICE CREAM FLAVOR? Green Tea
16. SHOE SIZE? UK 8
17. RED OR PINK? Red
18. WHAT IS THE LEAST FAVORITE THING ABOUT YOURSELF? I intimidate people with my charisma and charm
19. WHO DO YOU MISS THE MOST? Depends
20. DO YOU WANT EVERYONE TO SEND THIS BACK TO YOU? Not relevant, though feel free to copy and email or post for me to view
21. WHAT COLOR PANTS AND SHOES ARE YOU WEARING? black denim shorts, and no shoes or socks
22. LAST THING YOU ATE? A delicious Solera bar, which is basically an ice lolly of mango sorbet with a luscious vanilla ice cream center
23. WHAT ARE YOU LISTENING TO RIGHT NOW? Birds and my hedgehog
24. IF YOU WERE A CRAYON, WHAT COLOR WOULD YOU BE? Cornflower
25. PETS? my future pet, Chet the dachshund, will be my main adult pet
26. WHO WAS THE LAST PERSON YOU TALKED TO ON THE PHONE? I talked to people, actually...my mom and dad and I speak every Sunday night
27. THE FIRST THING YOU NOTICE ABOUT PEOPLE YOU ARE ATTRACTED TO? Their long, long waists and giant foreheads
28. DO YOU LIKE THE PERSON WHO SENT THIS TO YOU? Nothing he could do would ever make me hate him
29. FAVORITE DRINK? Alcohol: a tall manhattan or a dirty martini Non-alcohol: Diet Coca-Cola
30. FAVORITE SPORT? snooker
31. EYE COLOR: chestnut brown, or dung brown, depending on the shirt I'm wearing.
32. HAT SIZE? they don't make hats to fit my gigantic melon
33. DO YOU WEAR CONTACTS? Nope
34. FAVORITE FOOD? sushi
35. SCARY MOVIES OR HAPPY ENDING? French endings that leave you bereft of hope
36. LAST MOVIE YOU WATCHED AT THE MOVIES? Capote
37. WHAT COLOR SHIRT ARE YOU WEARING? Orange
38. SUMMER OR WINTER? Summer
39. HUGS OR KISSES? why is this a choice? You can't really properlykiss without hugging
41. WHO IS MOST LIKELY TO RESPOND? Everyone will do this at once
42. LEAST LIKELY TO RESPOND? Everyone will do this at once
43. WHAT BOOKS ARE YOU READING? Principles of Macroeconomics, Yes Man
44. WHAT'S ON YOUR MOUSE PAD? No mouse pad
45. WHAT DID YOU WATCH ON TV LAST NIGHT? Tivoed versions of Eastenders and the season finale of Boston Legal
46. FAVORITE SOUNDS? tearing paper, air conditioner humming, traffic noise
47. ROLLING STONE OR BEATLES? cannot possibly choose on this one, as it is mood and genre based. This is like asking if you prefer Frank Zappa or George Clinton....the correct answer is yes.
48. THE FURTHEST YOU'VE BEEN FROM HOME? Home is too complex to define when you're an expat.
49. WHAT'S YOUR HOBBY? Mormon watching, ukulele playing, blogging, reading cookbooks

51. WHO SENT THIS TO YOU? CPman

If only I lived in NYC

There's a new opera called Grendel, and it looks really exciting. It's based upon a book that retold the Beowulf story from the dragon's perspective. I loved this book when I read it back in college, and it will make a perfect opera. It's got pathos, drama, monsters...what more do you need for a compelling libretto? Plus it's staged by Julie Taymor, whose artistic vision is perfect for something mythologically complex like this.

This is going to be GREAT and I can't believe I'm missing it.

Secrets of the Site Meter

This week's favourite search phrase:

"butt crush giantess"

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Weird Al Yankovic-I lost on Jeopardy

This one's for you, Tenacious

Macroeconomics

Every Breath You Take

This is how my economics lecture opened this AM. In the spirit of "Partners Day" here at Cranfield, I though I'd have you be my dates and let you enjoy part of the lecture.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Devo - Mongoloid by Bruce Conner

5) Mongoloid: Devo
You can imagine how Devo spoke to my rebellious misfit teenage soul.
The Tubes - She's A Beauty

Thanks to echo, I've been reminded that the Tubes created one of the best videos of all time, and decided you all need to revist their perfection.

Big foreheads

I've found another physical characteristic on which to obsess. It is so distracting that it may well replace the long-waisted proportion on my list of things to categorically avoid. What is so horrific, so vile that the long waist would become acceptable, you ask?

Giant foreheads.

I'm not talking about receding hairline type foreheads where the hairline has abated. Or an expansive forehead that is balanced by a face. I'm talking about a Texas-sized forehead that throws a human face out of all proportion, dwarfing the eyes/nose/mouth section so that it covers less than half of the facial area. I'm talking about bulbous Pinky and the Brain type foreheads. Foreheads that look like Squidworth or that John Pankow who played Ira on that show with Paul Reiser and Helen Hunt.

I am aware that this is shallow and unkind, and that my physical imperfections certainly outnumber any potential offense committed by these mammoth heads. It is right to loathe me. I should be ashamed.

George Bush joke of the day

Yesterday in Economics this was the GWB joke of the day.

It's like George Bush says. The allegations are false. We MUST hunt down the allegators.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Secrets of the Site Meter

I am closer to Bombay than I am to Seattle or Sacramento.

Number 28

28) I Believe the Lies of Handsome Men: Blossom Dearie

Don’t we all? Thanks to Tom and Georgie for showing me the wonders of Blossom.

Eye of the Storm

Just got home from school. Stopped for dinner and a beer with my old teammate, Ashish, and then sat through the first half of the Germany/Italy game. There was an obnoxious guy named James heckling me from across the room so I decided to take my leave at the break. James gets a bit too much pleasure out of teasing me. In a room of 20 people he kept asking me questions like, "Mindy, when do you think Germany should put Balloch back in?" and "Could you explain the offside rule to me one more time? I'm kind of fuzzy on it." Seems every time we're out in a group he decides to have a go at me...always in supposedly good natured fun, but he doesn't seem to know when to stop. I think he's harmless enough, but he gets on my nerves.

I'd intended to leave anyway, but it was great to have a reason to make a show of leaving because James had made it clear I wasn't welcome. I believe I could use one of my new words to describe him.

Success!

We have officially finished our warehouse, with NO big hiccups. We even managed to redo steelwork (not our fault) mid project, only had one week of deadline slippage, and made £96K profit. This is roughly 13.5%, and for construction they tell us this is excellent. We placed second of ten. Quite pleased with that!

The boys are not happy with Tom's analysis. Simon is not scary, and now he feels bad. Kieren is asking for clarification that he is Australian, not British. And Joe wants a new picture so you'll see he's actually a bit of a catch.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Totally Excellent Band Name No.2

Chucklehead. Indie band from Boston that Sarah Brown used to listen to. Not famous, but great name, none the less. And their music was good, too.

Number 12

12) You’re Going to Make Me Lonesome When You Go: Bob Dylan

Blood on the Tracks is still one of my favorite albums, and I think this song is romantic, bittersweet, and lovely.

My Team

Since Friday AM, I've been pretty much at uni fourteen hours a day. The project management course we're doing this week is miserable. We've got to figure out how build this warehouse, we've been drawing up Work Breakdown Structures, Critical Path Networks, gantt charts of the project, and generally ripping our hair out managing workers and accommodations and cranes and equipment and materials. P-L-E-H, pleh.

For the next five months, the five gentlemen you see below will be my life for three full weeks and the occasional weekend. They all have strong personalities and opinions, and you've probably figured that I'm no shrinking violet myself. In fact, the boys seem to think I'm kind of scary. Especially when I get quiet and scowly because I'm thinking. Or because I'm frustrated that I'm making dumb mistakes, so I berate myself and give a mental spanking but people assume I'm mad at them because I'm not myself. One of the problems with being a chatty, outgoing personality is that people freak out when I'm not what they're expecting.

They hold the door for me and help me carry things, which is nice. And most importantly, they're not dismissive of my ideas, though we've all got some learning to do about listening when others speak. I believe I originally said I thought they'd be gentlemanly enough not to get all lads-mag on me, which is true. But they do like their innuendo (much of which is lost on me until it's noticeable I haven't caught on,) and I think that British men have more ways to call someone a "dick" than eskimos have to say snow. (Today I learned the phrase "bell end" or something like that. Yesterday there was talk of the phrase "semi by the sea" in that annoying James Blunt song, and of course I thought they were talking about condos or something.) This is going to annoy me, mostly because I hate it when people figure out what a Charlotte I am.

We'll see how the term progresses. Tomorrow will be telling on the teamwork front, as we have about six hours of warehouse building ahead of us. Did I say pleh? For now, here they are, my Pips, my Homeboys, me Julies...Meet Blue 7.

Simon

Scott

Joe

Justin

Kieren