Thursday, November 30, 2006

Christmas Memories Vol. 2

My Grandma B came of age right before the Depression. She was one of eight children, raised by their mother after my great grandfather left the work camp and disappeared to Indiana to start a new family. These were not friendly times for a single mother. My great grandmother had to take in a lot of laundry and put in a lot of time to earn enough to feed her family. As the second oldest child, my grandmother was required to shoulder a lot of responsibility for her younger siblings while her mother worked. She helped stretch the food to feed them all, helped with darning and mending and other household chores to extend the life of their belongings, and learned frugality as a way of life before she turned 18.

Throughout her life, she retained this frugality. She fell in love and married my grandfather, who was a kind, generous man with a good sense of humor who valued happiness and life much more than wealth. Instead of trying to use his engineering background to make money, he ran the town implement and spent his time gardening and fishing and hunting...things that made him happy. Between his good nature and her natural ability to stretch a dollar they didn't take trips to Europe or anything, but they managed just fine.

When my grandfather died, my grandmother was about 50. She couldn't drive, she had no office skills and she lived in a tiny town. So she made money babysitting and cleaning houses and doing whatever she knew how. She walked everywhere, she kept her house at 60 degrees, and she darned her pantyhose. She got by.

Grandma B never spent a dime on herself. Ever. My mother, an only child, took responsibility to make sure she had clothes and shoes and other necessary items. But Grandma was proud, as well, so there had to be an OCCASION for her to accept anything. She would not hear of taking money from my parents for basic necessities.

There were a lot of things she needed, but we couldn't just buy them for her. So my mother, who is one of the cagiest people I know, concocted a brilliant strategy. Grandma B was a born-again Christian and loved Christmas about as much as anything. She was like a little girl, giddy with anticipation of the holiday. Before her conversion, my grandmother was pretty and vivacious and dramatic and loved a good laugh. And though her conversion made her a more serious, somewhat stern person most of the time, when it got to be Christmas time she'd loosen up and you'd see flames of mischief and glee in her eyes. She would not say no at Christmas. Therefore Mom would buy 6 months of anything Grandma might possibly need and give it to her for Christmas. (Her birthday was in June...perfectly timed for Round 2!)

So we would buy paper towels. Toilet paper. Dish soap and laundry detergent and Saran Wrap. Canned goods and flour and crisco and pantry items we knew she'd use. Pots of rouge and face powder and tubes of red lipstick, the cosmetics she still allowed herself. Housedresses and slips and all the Leggs pantyhose we could find in her size. White leather oxfords with a separate heel (her preferred shoe for all but the dressiest occasions.) And cans of Dinty Moore Beef Stew, her favorite dining treat in the world. We would wrap every item individually and put them under the tree and hand them to her on Christmas Eve, and she would open each one and gasp with surprise and gratitude and tell us we shouldn't have. She'd marvel at each little package, and she'd mean it, because a can of Dinty Moore Beef Stew was an extravagance in her book.

My mom and dad and brother and I would head off to church around 11pm...they did the standard candlelight service of carols, and it's always fun to cram into a pew in a jam-packed church and harmonise to Joy to the World at midnight. Grandma B would stay behind to clean up the kitchen. We were Lutherans, after all, and as a Baptist she felt that we weren't saved...our service wasn't really her cup of tea. But when we'd come home, Grandma had always lined up her sundries with the same sort of pride I found in my Barbie Dream House.

Man, I loved my grandma.
Catherine Tate - Gingers for Justice

I'm watching Catherine Tate right now, and decided I'd check out youtube to see what I could find. Here it is...Gingers for Justice.
Catherine Tate - Helen Translates

Another one of my favourites...Helen can "do" lots of things.

Rhubarb yogurt

I love rhubarb yogurt. It is a standard yogurt flavor in the UK. You can even buy generic rhubarb yogurt. My new favorite breakfast is rhubarb yogurt with grapenuts, two cups of PG Tips white, no sugar, and a glass of ruby red grapefruit juice.


Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Christmas memories - Vol 1

I am quite the fan of Christmas. I like the way it smells. I like the way it sounds. I like the cold air (the one month of the year where I DO,) and I like the way snow looks with Christmas lights. Or ice on Christmas lights. That's REALLY cool. So in honour of the holiday season, I am going to share my favourite Christmas memories and other Christmas trivia over the next few weeks. Many among you will find this sappy. You're right. Got a problem with that?

Today we will start with my stocking.

Back when we were babies, older female relatives knit. Booties, scarves, blankets, you name it. There's a baby coming???!!! It's knitting time!!! (Crocheting was for multi-colored afghans.)

When my brother (who is two years older) was born, my dad's Aunt Til knitted him a fabulous stocking with a jaunty Santa climbing out of a chimney and BOB (his name, luckily) on it in big letters that look like they're straight from a laser. (Even though his given name is Robert, they all knew he'd be called Bob. We grew up in an era where nicknames were just fine...everyone had a nickname and a real name. It was cool. Just ask Tom, whose family called him Thomas.) Bob's stocking is awesome. It's practically three-dimensional, it is so cool. Santa looks like he's winking. He has a fuzzy beard. Aunt Til was a master of the knitcraft. Such an example of perfect holiday cheer is hard to find, I'm telling you. Draw a picture of the perfect Christmas stocking, and this is it.

By the time I was born, Til wasn't knitting anymore. (She may have died in those two years, or perhaps her arthritis got the best of her. Not really sure.) Luckily I had many knitting great aunties, and my Aunt Irma stepped up to the plate. Irma, bless her heart, is saucy and interesting and full of life and love. But she was a bit more.....oh, shall we say abstract in her knitting style? Bob's stocking has a lovely arch and heel square as the calf part turns into a foot. Mine had a bulbous end/foot, making it look more like someone sewed a stocking cap on the end of a legwarmer. Mine says Mindy (as it should,) but the M is in a slightly different font than the rest of the letters. There's a Christmas Triangle with little sequins for ornaments. And a Santa who looks like he used to weigh 6 bills and slimmed down to 250 on a liquid diet, leaving him pear shaped and cave chested. And he looks kind of like a mouse carrying a sack of rocks.

When I was a kid, I totally coveted my brother's sock, but couldn't really swap them because it's hard to change names that are knit into fabric. (I think I may have suggested this before I could read, though.) A complete ingrate as most kids are, I couldn't believe my misfortune at having such an ugly sock. I learned the true meaning of mixed feelings when I wanted desperately to have my stocking displayed but felt total shame when I realised it would be. My mom and dad, who are lovely supportive people, always reassured me and tried to help me find the beauty in my mis-shapen Santa Mouse stocking. Of course, my brother would have none of this. He would point out its flaws any chance he got. He couldn't help it. That was his job.

But as I got older, I learned to love my sock. I realised its hidden joys. For starters, it holds much more than Bob's does. And that bulbous end just begs for extra special presents to be hidden in the toe. And I'm old enough now to appreciate the love that went into knitting it. And the prophetic irony in the fact that I got the oddball stocking.

Of course, 40 years later, my parents figure I can handle the truth. Now they ALL make fun of it when it comes out of the box each year.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Why I'm Not Married

If you don't read Coaster Punchman's World, here's a little story of our wacky life on the left coast. I was really annoyed at first because, while I find the story quite funny, his retelling made me feel like I didn't handle it well. But I thought about it a bit more and I thought about the Five Crushes tag, and I realised that, in fact, I've had to handle more than my fair share of whackjobs with a lovejones. I'm entitled to be sick of this, and therefore handling it at ALL is handling it well.

The story of Bodhi explains, tangentally, why I am not married.

I am not a dater, nor do I engage in casual pickups. It is not wise for me to trust men. This is not man-hating...on the contrary, I love men. And men love me. But it's like I'm magnetic north in the world of crazies. I have to be very careful.

My logic has always been that sane men just don't find me that attractive, but actually, that's not true. They do, but I'm intimidating and a bit odd. They usually don't tell me they fancy me until they have given up and moved on to someone who doesn't terrify them and it's all past-tense. The ones who DO profess their devotion, well, they tend to be freakshows, mean bastards or lying. Here is a sampling of the men who HAVE told me they love me.

There was the one who, when I was eight, used to snap my training bra and pull me by the hair. Eventually I got a pixie cut and could get out of his reach before he got hold.

There was the one in junior high who was a year younger than me and had anger management issues. He used to follow me around after school and threaten to beat me up if I didn't go on a date with him. He used to call my house, too, and make the same threat. He stuffed one of my male friends in a trashcan in a jealous rage.

There was the nasty piece of work who cornered me at a high school dance, told me he loved me and then smothered me with tonsil-scraping a kiss. His friends had dared him. For the rest of the year, he would taunt me in the hall and call me sweetheart. The best I can figure is that I was a foxy rebel chick and the jock boys figured I needed to learn my place.

There's the guy who would tell me I was beautiful and then tell me I was disgusting and fat, just to keep me guessing.

There's the one who professed his love and then slept with my friends. There's the bible-thumping jerk at my old office who used to call me to discuss a proposal and then try to talk dirty. Seriously, I had an ongoing working relationship with this person, and he'd ask me to tell him about my panties. And it wasn't a joke.

Need I go on? Cause I can.

Don't get me wrong, I am not a sad-sack-feel-sorry-for-me type. I quite like my life, and being single suits me. There have been some excellent boyfriends in the mix, as well. And the weirdos make for good stories.

But I will admit I am now more cautious than most when I sense someone is attracted to me. And that IS sad, actually, because in my heart I'm a diehard romantic who believes deeply in pure true love and soulmates and finding someone spectacular who makes you gasp when you think how lucky you are. And thus far it eludes me.

I figure some day this will change. Somehow, someday, there will be a nice one who thinks I'm fabulous AND has the balls to tell me so even if I am a little scary, and I'll trust he's not crazy and let us fall in love. Who knows. It could happen.

But it seems more likely some nutter will read this and turn up on my doorstep with the severed head of a kitten. (Note to nutters...this will not get you points. I would hate that. It will get you arrested. Don't be getting any ideas.)

In the Holiday Spirit

My tree is up. It is a 3-foot tall tree (ok, maybe 4) that I got for £2 at a carboot sale. It has colored twinkle lights and a lovely angel on top that was a gift from my friend Bethany. Bethany also left me a cute little caroler/angel last year when she was here, and it's right up there where I can see it.

There are childhood ornaments that my mom made. She was crafty...I know other people that have these same ornaments, but my mom's are much nicer, I must say. My favorites are the sequined mittens (the red ones), the Santa slipper with sequins, and the fake skates with paperclips for blades.

There are dreidls from my friend Larry in Seattle, who added a bit of Hannukah to our forest of trees to make them more inclusive. When I lived with Knox and Ellen, the Christmas trees from Chubby and Tubby were only $3. So we got three. They were Charlie Brown trees, but they were AWESOME.

There is a set of vegetables from Tim and Mark...a bulb of garlic, a potato, a tomato, and an eggplant. I have a teapot and a kitchen set of mini utensils that were a gift from the Poodles. Back before I moved to England I used to be a great cook.

There is a little cotton boll angel from the Atlanta History Center, purchased on a Thanksgiving trip to Atlanta to visit my friend Susan when she was still just the Curator of their textile collection. There's also a little diversity bus that I think she got me in Chicago. I think that there's a sequined bee somewhere in my stuff that should be on the tree for awhile, but it's due to be smuggled into her luggage on my trip home.

There's a handprint from my godchild, Sonja, done in air-drying spongy craft goo. And a weird cathead thing my youngest nephew, Nick, made me in preschool.

And the pickle is in plain sight, so I can make as many wishes as I like.

I like to sit by the light of the tree and practice Christmas carols on my ukulele. I'm doing really well on Angels We Have Heard On High, Silent Night, and Deck the Halls. There's a Bmin chord that's a bit troublesome, though, so I need to work on that. If I get good enough, I'll play them for you online.

Going to a Christmas Market this weekend, though I haven't decided between Bath and Bury St. Edmonds (both are supposed to be great.)

And the mince pies are out in force.

I love the holidays.

Movie News

Dale has tagged us with a little movie quiz. I have elected not to discuss my five grossest moments because that wouldn't be polite, and don't care to reveal my life's crushes because, well, I've traditionally had some freakishly bad taste in men, and that stems from freakishly bad taste in boys.

But this one I'll do.

1. Popcorn or candy?

I generally don't eat anything at a movie theatre, but if I do I buy the popcorn with a bit of delicious butter-flavoured topping, put salt on it and then dump Milkduds, Sugarbabies, Goobers or M&Ms in it. Just like the boyfriend/secret service agent in First Daughter.

2. Name a movie you've been meaning to see forever.
The Women. I know I will love it, just haven't had time to see it. Note, I have not put Mommie Dearest down here because, as my mother always says, there are just some things that shouldn't be given your attention. Psycho actresses who look like transvestites and abuse their children fall into that class for me. Call me crazy.

3. You are given the power to recall one Oscar: Who loses theirs and to whom?
I might make the folks at Lord of the Rings: Return of the King hand it over to Sofia Coppolla for Lost in Translation, but that still leaves my man Bill Murray without an individual Oscar and I'm not sure I can take it back from Sean Penn so that leaves me stymied. Or I might tell Cuba Gooding Jr. to give it up for William H. Macy, who kicked butt in Fargo. Gwyneth would be in danger for beating both Cate Blanchett in Elizabeth and Emily Watson in Hilary and Jackie. Or Roberto Benigni might need to give up his best actor to Jason Schwartzman, who was positively brilliant in Rushmore.

But most likely, I'd have Mel Gibson turn that Braveheart Oscar over to Todd Solondz for Welcome to the Dollhouse. Now THAT'S a struggle for independence.

4. Steal one costume from a movie for your wardrobe.
I want Doris Day's wardrobe in Pillow Talk. (Confidential to CP...We made an agreement. You were on my time.)

5. Your favorite film franchise is....
Ma and Pa Kettle. Now that's a lotta yuks.

6. Invite five movie people over for dinner. Who are they? Why'd you invite them? What do you feed them?
I like Tom's list of Best in Show/Guffman/Mighty Wind people, but I feel I need to be original. Therefore I'll have:

Jack Black because everything he does is funny. And I think he's hot.
Frances McDormand. I'd make her do her Fargo accent. And she seems like a good conversationalist. And I think she's hot.
Bill Murray, because he likes baseball. Plus, he's hot.
Sarah Jessica Parker and Matthew Broderick, because they are an excellent couple. Plus I think they'd like me and we would become excellent friends and I could stay with them at their place in Ireland. And they're hot.
And I'd invite Kevin Bacon, too. Hot, AND would give me a degree of one.

I don't live in a good place for entertaining so it's hard to imagine cooking here. Maybe I'd order takeaway curry and have a ton of Cobra to chase it down.

7. What is the appropriate punishment for people who answer cell phones in the movie theater?
I'd allow them to take their calls, but they would have to sit in a seat surrounded by stinky people and crying babies for the remainder of the film.

8. Choose a female bodyguard:
I don't want a female bodyguard. I want Spiderman.

9. What's the scariest thing you've ever seen in a movie?
Molly Shannon. That girl ain't right.

10. Your favorite genre (excluding "comedy" and "drama") is....
I like Kung Fu movies, musicals and nerd movies (Napoleon Dynamite, Welcome to the Dollhouse, Rushmore, Election, Bridget Jones' Diary, etc.) If I am snorting/laughing and whispering "Please make it stop," I am really enjoying myself. But isn't that true of most things in life?

11. You are given the power to greenlight movies at a major studio for one year. How do you wield this power?
I will ask them to give me a setup of the first 10 minutes, and if I can guess the ending then they go down the toilet. Plus I'd insist that at least half of my movies are entertaining documentaries.
12. Bonnie or Clyde?
Rock Hudson and Doris Day

13. What movie have you watched more than any other (my revised question, because the Jesus question has been answered well by others)?
I have gawker slowdown with the following movies, so it is likely that, though these are not the best movies ever made, I've seen them more than I should have. What's more, they have all made me cry. I am a sad, pathetic loser.

When Harry Met Sally
Napoleon Dynamite
First Daughter
Dirty Dancing

Sorry I've been away

So sorry I've been absent. Have been off doing various things, allowing me to reconnect with the life I ignore when I'm in school. It's been lovely. I've also had a bit of a dodgy tummy with the antibiotics I've been taking. But I have finally lost most of my cough and I am well rested and have started going to the gym again. All good.

It's good to feel like myself again.

Friday, November 24, 2006

And the iPod says...

This first song is dedicated to Dale. See, everyone's iPod has hidden depths.

1. Bandstand Boogie - Barry Manilow
2. Gimme Some - Nina Simone
3. Long Hot Summer - The Style Council
4. Don't Worry Baby - Los Lobos
5. Ain't Got a Thing - Josie Kreuzer
6. Blister in the Sun - Violent Femmes
7. Workin' In Corners - Nanci Griffith
8. Sick Day - Fountains of Wayne
9. On Green Dolphin Street - Gene Harris
10. Evidence - Joseph Arthur

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Gingers for Justice

On tonight's (or more specifically last week's) episode of The Catherine Tate Show, a pack of gingers decide they're tired of hiding out in Russet Lodge, living in shame. So they break out and form Gingers for Justice, and begin protests at the Houses of Parliament dressed as carrots, gingernut biscuits and Duracell batteries (the Copper Top). Of course, the protest is cut short because it's a sunny day and they forgot their sunscreen.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Pray for Fidel, please

So I had been approved for the study tour to India, and then I started thinking. There is a tour to Cuba. As a US citizen, I can't go to Cuba without a damn good reason. Education, now THERE'S a reason. So I decided to check into it. And I've been allowed to switch. In June, I will be traveling to Cuba, assuming the Treasury Department approves my request for a license.

This is really, really cool. We'll get to see first-hand their exceptional school system and health care. We'll get to do a community service project. And if he's still alive, rumour is that we may even get to attend a reception with El Presidente. Now THAT is an educational experience.

I have always wanted to go to Cuba.

I used to have past life dreams about how I AM Cuban. (Or, more specifically, WAS.) In the dreams, I am from a wealthy Havana family. I fall in love and marry a farmer/landowner that I meet while I'm strolling with my sisters on a lovely spring day. I move to his estate and we're very happy, but then I have an affair with the brooding neighbour. My husband catches us and is furious, but I beg and I beg until he agrees to take me back on the condition that I am never to see or speak to our neighbour again. This works for awhile, but then one day I'm in the garden and the neighbour confronts me and tries to get me to admit that I love him. I protest, he grabs my arm as I try to flee, and at that point my husband see us and he has a gun and he shoots us both. One dream would be too many mojitos and too much black bean soup. But I've had this dream a lot. Almost as much as the one where I marry Dennis Hopper and he systematically kills my friends and family before turning into Frank Booth and strangling me while laughing a sinister, wheezy laugh.

I wonder if I'll instinctively find my past life home?

Trinny and Susannah know the score

On night one of my brief reprieve from student hell, I have come home, made dinner (some tesco healthy living crunchy fish and sweet potato fries with fresh green beans and tomatoes on the side,) and decided to watch telly. I turned to Trinny and Susannah Undress, their replacement show for What Not to Wear now that they've moved to ITV1.

Instead of dressing one person (or two, as they settled on in their last WNTW format,) they dress couples who have started taking their looks for granted now that they're all paired off. Tonight's couple are a bit odd and quite frumpy. She is short and four months pregnant. He is tall and FREAKISHLY long wasted. Trinny picked up on this immediately. She said, "My LORD you have short legs for a tall man." Susannah didn't see it right away, but when she took Andy shopping she realised that Trinny and I were right. In fact, she told him to take one of his outfits on because he looked "positively deformed."

Somehow, I feel vindicated.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Half Way Through

One year ago right now, I was getting ready for my trip to New York for Thanksgiving, where I would spend a few blissful days with my friends Tom and George seeing plays and eating delicious food. I was mulling over the idea of applying to grad school, but was frankly a bit frightened that they'd laugh at me when they saw the application. But I took my laptop with me anyway and I sat on Tom's couch working on the essays. I knew I'd never actually get in, but figured I had to try.

Little did I know. As of 4PM yesterday, I am officially half way through my MBA. And I'm good at this. My right thumbtip is still numb from the pressure on my pen for three days and I'm not able to actually focus for long on the screen because I'm freakishly tired, but all in all things went relatively well. I was as prepared as I could realistically be, and I figure I had an alright answer for most things. I may not have lit the sky on fire with my eloquence and ability, but I think I held my own.

Here are the sorts of things I've been writing about. Many of you will find this amusing, as these are not typical topics of Mindy conversation.

macroeconomics (3 hours) - the multiplier and accelerator principles regarding injections into the economy; the Phillips Curve (regular and augmented) and why there isn't actually a tradeoff between inflation and unemployment; comparing and contrasting endogenous and exogenous growth; Balance of Payments, the US trade deficit, and the potential consequences for both us and for the rest of the world.

Strategic Management (3 hours) - customer strategic matrices, culture webs, Porter's five forces, VRIN resources, causal mapping, and various permutations thereof

People Management (2.5 hours) - analysed the effectiveness of Starbucks' HR policies and how they must/must not change in the future to accommodate exponential growth; international HR policies and how to manage expats; appropriate methods for performance appraisal and why they work

Finance (3 hours) - did discounted cash flows for two possible plans for manufacturing a new product, and made a recommendation as to which one the company should implement...and then I calculated stock prices, company value and made various investment recommendations

Supply Chain Management (2 hours) - Value-added time and time based compression; activity- based costing; procurement policies and potential gains from the RFP process; and then discussed the causes of amplified demand how companies can deal with it (the bullwhip effect).

When exams were through, we had a nice little party at a place here in MK where we ate and drank heavily and danced. We had a great time. I could actually drink this time because it was taxi-distance from my house. Many shots of tequila and sambuca were consumed. (Seperately, because simultaneously they would be vomit-inducing.) Got home around 130 last night, slept until noon, and have done nothing of consequence today. I started watching things I've been tivoing over the past two months and made a run to Tesco so I had food in the house. Unearthed the Christmas tree and decorations and will likely put them up tomorrow night. Had intended to do it today, but it's more fun to sit here and feel lazy/sleepy. (Note - I get to put my tree up early because a) there is no Thanksgiving here to mark the season, and b) I leave for home in the middle of the month so I wouldn't have enough time with the pretty lights if I didn't.) Intend to continue to listen to the iPod on shuffle while I read some FICTION and maybe drink some tea.

I have an incredible sense of achievement right now. I've been talking about my MBA for years. I really wanted this. A year ago, I figured people would forget I'd mentioned it eventually and I wouldn't have to be a failure in their eyes forever if I didn't get in. But I did. And in a year I'll be done.

Lazy Sunday iPod list

Two days late, but I have my reasons. They're called exams.

1. I Lost It - Lucinda Williams
2. Denise - Fountains of Wayne
3. Johnsburg, Illinois - Tom Waits
4. Suite: Judy Blue Eyes - Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young
5. Up In the Sky - Oasis
6. The Girl In the Corner - Lyle Lovett
7. Bop Gun (Endangered Species) - Parliament
8. It's Hard to Kill a Bad Thing - Isobel Campbel & Mark Lanegan
9. Brown to Blue - Elvis Costello and the Attractions
10. I Ain't Living Long Like This - Emmylou Harris

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

And the defense rests

So today, in the middle of my revising, I took time out to go to Magistrate Court.

As I mentioned yesterday, last Friday night I received a notice from a bailiff who wanted a crapload of money for a speeding ticket I didn't know I had or he was going to turn the warrant in and I would go to jail. Not the best place to finish studying for exams.

I had a panic. I had a cry. I had another panic. Then I got some perspective. My friends Nadine and Pratap talked me down, my friend Kieren's wife, Corrie, suggested I check to see if it was even real, and my friend Justin reminded me that I had to immediately talk to the court because they simply can't do this if I didn't know.

Armed with all this advice and support, I called the magistrate court that issued the warrant. Turns out they had a speed camera photo of my car speeding, and had put a slew of fines on it since I'd never gotten in touch. I explained that I would have, if they'd TOLD me they wanted to talk to me. After telling my story to about seven people in various transfers and referrals, I got to the people who were handling my case at this stage and they explained that I could file a statutory declaration here in MK to get the thing thrown back into the system so I'd have a chance to defend myself.

So. I called the necessary people, got the necessary appointments and had the paperwork sent up.

Everyone was very helpful. A series of men named John helped me fill out the paperwork. One of them (the usher, who plays the role I traditionally think of as bailiff - as opposed to the cat-burglar ruffian type the call a bailiff here,) even wears a robe. I went into court and told my story to three magistrate judges. I got to swear on a bible. The clerk asked me questions. I read my statement outloud...I didn't remember the incident, I'd never received notification of the offense before and if I had I would certainly have responded, all of which is the truth. I couldn't prove it was me, I couldn't prove it wasn't me, but if I'd known I needed to I would have tried. They approved my request, and now the case has been cleared. It's possible that the original police authority may refile the claim, but then I'll be able to go to court and defend myself again. And one of the Johns tells me that its likely it won't resurface. Probably more hassle than it's worth. And now I can focus on the Phillips curve and aggregate demand and exchange rate policies and why the US deficit is threatening the global economy.

The whole thing was quite interesting, actually. I got to see the legal system at work, I got to meet the Johns, and I got to see yobs. This kid who looked about 18 was also in this court today, and while I didn't hear what he was actually charged with, the final verdict was that he could be out on bail as long as he didn't approach or have contact with his ex girlfriend, could not enter the village in which she lives, and has to "live and sleep" at his mother's house until his next court date. If he violates these terms, he goes to jail. He had to ask for a reprieve on the contact with his ex thing, as they have an appointment with social services tomorrow because they need to discuss the health and safety of their children, who are currently in foster care. He wasn't sure where the meeting was, he didn't know when, and he had to be told that the 15th is, in fact, tomorrow, but he knew he had a meeting. They allowed him contact if social services was there.

You could tell he was classy. He'd worn a clean track suit to court.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Things that have happened while I've been revising

I'm allowing 15 minutes for an update on the things that have happened while I'm revising. Exams begin on Thursday, so it's likely no major posting will happen between now and Sunday, except, of course, for the Friday 10 and maybe an anxiety post mid-exams.

In no particular order:
1) Still have a cough.
2) Have a lodger named Pratap, who is also in exam trauma. We drink Bailey's and discuss our day's studying at midnight each night.
3) Had a snafu on a previous assignment that caused me a bit of a freakout, but am calm now and all is fine.
4) Had a bailiff show up at my house on Friday demanding payment for a speeding ticket I didn't know I had. Bailiffs are like vampires...don't invite them in, or all hell breaks loose. They can jump garden fences and climb in windows and do pretty much anything to collect. They are scary. But Dog the Bounty Hunter gave me until Monday to sort this out, and since I legitimately don't know anything about the ticket it looks like the court is now going to work with me and the bailiff is no longer going to threaten me. Crisis averted, and will likely end up with a regular old speeding ticket.
5) Created a fabulous new playlist of women artists performing songs I like, and now I listen to it a lot. I have called it "You Go Girl." Am going to make a similar playlist of men and call it "'Atta Boy."
6) Found my kitty cat finger puppet from the birthday card Timmy gave me. Kitty is helping me study. I put her on my index finger and she follows along the page as I read.
7) Was studying in a small breakout room at the School of Management on Saturday, listening to my iPod to help me concentrate. I took a short break to do a little boogie dance around to Copacabana. Man, that was great.
8) Did it again on Sunday when Living Thru Another Cuba came on.
9) Have been confirmed for a week in India next June for my international study tour. Will be in Bangalore and Mumbai. Very excited.
10) Got a good mark on my trucking and shipping WAC. Shocking, considering I think the course is silly and haven't really taken it seriously.

Friday, November 10, 2006

And the iPod says...

1. Half Acre - Hem
2. Twilight - Shawn Colvin
3. Hang on St. Christopher - Tom Waits
4. Spread - Outkast
5. I'm a Man - Bo Diddley
6. Ice Cream - Sarah McLachlan
7. Cinnamon Girl - Matthew Sweet and Susanna Hoffs
8. Pretty and High - The Roches
9. Jack-Ass - Beck
10. One Monkey - Gillian Welch

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

I love this photo, but I bet she doesn't

Leslee Unruh is chairman of Vote Yes For Life, a group that unsuccessfully lobbied for a referendum banning nearly all abortions in South Dakota. (MPR Photo)

What a difference two years make

On 1 November 2004, I boarded a plane at 6:30 PM in MSP and flew to the UK as the start of my secondment here, landing at 7:30 AM on the US's election day. I am quite the politically opinionated liberal and I'd voted a few days before I flew by absentee ballot, but I wore my "I Voted!" sticker on the plane and was a jamble of nerves the whole day. I hadn't had a good night's sleep in at least two weeks prior to my departure, so I spent my first day in the UK wondering what the hell I'd done and trying to figure out my shower and falling asleep sitting up, so I had things to keep me occupied while I waited. My body clock was a stinking mess, and I couldn't help it...I committed the cardinal sin of taking an actual nap midday, so my sleep that night was fitful at best. I turned the TV on to keep me company, and from midnight on there was wall-to-wall coverage on both BBC1 and ITV of the US elections. I drifted off to sleep about 3:30 AM with the comforting knowledge that John Kerry looked to be the next US President.

Obviously, I woke up to a very different story. It was horrible. But I got ready for work and went in for my first full day, answering all sorts of questions about our political system and what people were thinking. I was furious, depressed...I felt so far away from home, like my country had deserted me and I was truly in exile.

Fast forward two years.

Last night I went to bed at 11. It's been a long week and I'm exhausted and I need my brain and health in good working order for exams next week. Wall-to-wall coverage of US midterm elections started at midnight, but my heart wasn't in it. I was sure that we would lose. I was sure I would wake up to the bad new that the Dems had not only not won the Senate, they'd not won the house, either. Why lose sleep over something that was going to ruin my day anyway? Better to be well rested.

Woke up at 6 to go to the gym. Turned on the radio. Sat bolt up in bed. Dems controlled the house. They were closing in on the Senate. Bush had been shamed. The world was excited that the US might finally come to its senses. OH MY GOD.

I have been sitting on a cloud all day. I've been answering questions about our political system and what people were thinking all day. But this time, I enjoyed it. My faith is renewed. I have hope.

I still think we'll not get the Senate. We're going to get Virginia, and then Joe Lieberman will declare that he's going to caucus with Republicans. He owes them. And I'm worried that the relative success of these elections will lull people into thinking Diebold machines can be trusted or that the Dems will go back to their same milquetoast mamby pamby posturing instead of trying to actually do something. And don't get me started on Hillary. She's phenomenal, bless her, but she cannot, will not win.

But for today, I'm happy. I don't feel exiled. I feel like hugging every single voter who voted for change.

And Donald Rumsfeld's resignation? That's Jacob's birthday present. Rest in peace, Jacob.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Little Miss Sunshine - Late Entry

Back in early October, beth hosted the "Little Miss Sunshine Pageant," wherein many in my blog community submitted a childhood photo of themselves. Since I live far away from any pictures of me in my younger years, I was dependent upon my family to email me one and for various reasons they had other things to worry about and I didn't get my photo in time.

My brother, however, has been scanning pictures lately and has now posted a series from my fifth birthday. I can now, therefore, reveal my five-year-old self in all my splendor. Too bad you can't see the culottes I'm wearing. They were short short ones with a navy/white/fuschia hawaiian floral pattern. I made some bold fashion choices from an early age. (FYI, I'm the girl. The surly one with me is my brother, Bob. He still makes that face.)

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Funny Headline

Saw this at

G.O.P. Glum as It Struggles to Hold Congress

Silly GOP. Diebold will make it look close, but they're on your side. You're going to be fine.

Friday, November 03, 2006

And the iPod says...

Oh my. This is gonna be a scorcher.

1. Play That Funky Music - Wild Cherry
2. U - Arrested Development
3. That's Just What You Are - Aimee Mann
4. Boulder to Birmingham - Emmylou Harris
5. Leave Me Here - Hem
6. Hello Like Before - Bill Withers
7. Suddenly I See - KT Tunstall
8. Fish Below the Ice - Shriekback
9. Dodge Veg-O-Matic - Jonathan Richman & the Modern Lovers
10. Bitchin' Camaro - The Dead Milkmen

Thursday, November 02, 2006

A comment on comments

I love comments. I love YOUR comments. I love it when people respond to what I write. And I love what you write. I check all of your sites at least once a day if I'm able to find the time. You make me laugh. You've become a hobby.

But the thing is, I'm not a commenter myself.

I'm a bit shy sometimes, even though I appear not to be. And as much as I wish it did, commenting just doesn't come naturally to me in blogland.

You're not going to know that I've been to your site unless a) something immediately strikes me as a potential comment, and b) I have enough time to actually type the comment in. (Compulsive site-meter readers excepted.) Think of me as the quiet one who's laughing at the jokes, flitting about to make sure everyone has a drink.

There's also the issue that sometimes I don't have commenting time when I'm reading you all...many days I only have 15 minutes of blog time allowed, so I need to get to as many sites as I can and I don't want to slow myself down with chat. I might want to do a stop-and-chat, but I have to put it off because there's some damn MIT project or a WAC breathing down my neck.

So please don't take it personally when I don't comment, or if it takes me a while to comment back when you are here. It's not about you. It's about me. But know that I'm paying attention. And I encourage you to chat amongst yourselves. I'm a good host, able to start a conversation and then move on to the next group of people standing in awkward silence.

And in two weeks I have more time again, as exams will be through and I won't have pressing schoolwork until after the holidays.

My Delicious Cauliflower Cheese Soup

While I enjoy my delicious bowl of soup (without scalded skin) I thought I'd share the recipe so you can make yourself some and be as happy as I am. Or, as CP does, listen to my 40@40, read my blog, and eat my will almost be like having dinner with me.

You need:
A head of cauliflower
A carrot
A potato
3 cloves of garlic
2 leeks (or onions)
some salt
5 cups of water

Peel/chop all of the veg above into relatively cookable dice. Bung it in a pot with the water and the salt (or replace some of the water with stock), bring it to a boil and then simmer until it's squooshy.

Use the hand blender to pulverize.

Stir in a dollop of creme fraiche/sour cream/yogurt (lowfat varieties acceptable.) Dump in a tablespoon of lowfat herb cream cheese just because. Now add about one and half to two cups of finely shredded cheese...I use swiss, but cheddar works, too, the sharper the better. Now put in a splash more water for consistency (in case it's too thick), about a teaspoon of dill and about a teaspoon of caraway seed. Shake of hot sauce (tabasco or similar) and some black pepper (or Penzey's red and black blend!) With the heat kind of low so it doesn't separate, let the cheese melt and stir once in awhile. Meanwhile, toast some rye bread (or other crusty dark thing) and pour yourself a glass of Australian Red.


Kismet at Tesco

I had everything I needed to make delicious cauliflower cheese soup tonight except my hand blender is broken and I need it to puree. I have a regular blender, but frankly, hot liquid, conventional blenders and Mindy do not mix. I know the part about leaving air and venting the lid so the steam doesn't cause the hot soup to fly everywhere, scalding anyone in its path and making a serious mess. Just ask Mark and Tim about the cranberry sauce incident and the effect it had on their tile grout. I needed that hand blender to make the soup. So, even though I am seriously pressured by a looming deadline for school and have been running from end to end with work lately and hate Tesco pretty much more than anything, even under the best of circumstances, I decided to stop at Tesco on the way home for a £4.98 hand blender replacement so I could have some comfort food tonight.

The parking lot wasn't too bad, always a good sign at the big Tesco. I swear, I think the only thing people do in Milton Keynes is shop, so the Tesco lot can be a serious mess. They've moved everything around to fit in the Christmas stuff, so I had a bit of a wander before I found the appliances. Hooray! Blender in stock.

While I was in the appliance section, I decided I'd check for an air popper. I love air poppers. Air popping allows you to put butter on the popcorn without jeopardising the calorie content. Just a little butter, but it's still delicious. I've been looking for an air popper for two years and have never been able to find one, but I check once in awhile just because. No air popper. Bummer.

BUT! As I went down the conveyor belt (ramps instead of escalators so you can take your cart), I happened to look at the Christmas Gift Idea display along the side. And there, in all its splendor, was a HOT PINK AIR POPPER by Rival, just waiting for an impulse buyer to snap up as the new Christmas unnecessary present! Snap up I did! £7.98!

So then I needed popcorn. Ventured into the food part of the store and got sidetracked by the juices...drank the last of my grapefruit juice this morning and I need it to keep pumping Vitamin C. This sent me into produce, where I ran into the head of my programme and his partner. I've been very stressed and under significant pressure lately and I've sought his advice dealing with it, and so he asked how I've been holding up. I confessed I'm a bit snowed under, and that I expected a frazzled night tonight finishing my project that's due tomorrow. He told me not to worry, and gave me an extension on the spot if I need it. Pressure is off now...I can work on my slides tonight, but if I don't get them done then I have options to work on them over the weekend!

Found the popcorn, grabbed some lowcal hot chocolate mix, found a teller with no queue right next to the door by my car (no small task...there are 30 lanes and you usually end up waiting at least 10 minutes in line.)

Came home, started the soup, and am getting ready to work on MIT.

This was the perfect Tesco experience.