Friday, March 30, 2007

And the iPod says...

Home at midnight after a long day at school and know I'm reading my globalisation case studies for tomorrow. Seems a great time to procrastinate by logging the first 10 out of the gate.

1. You Know I'm No Good - Amy Winehouse
2. I'm Diggin' You (Like An Old Soul Record) - Me'Shell Ndegeocello
3. Can't Help You Anymore - Sugar
4. Peaches - PUSA
5. Down To Zero - Joan Armatrading
6. I'm Using My Bible For A Roadmap - Bad Livers
7. Till the End of the Day - The Kinks
8. Here Come the Martian Martians - Jonathan Richman & The Modern Lovers
9. Chain of Fools - Aretha Franklin
10. Valley Winter Song - Fountains of Wayne

Thursday, March 29, 2007

YouTube Rocks

There are some seriously weird things on youtube. Like this. There's something very wrong about watching the Charlie Brown Kids while listening to the lyric, "Don't want to meet your momma...just want to make you (well you get the idea)."

More Ukulele Fun



Fortune Smiles

Get a load of this....It is a rendition of "There Is A Light That Never Goes Out" (from the Wales post below) played by a kind of creepy young woman on a uke that looks EXACTLY LIKE HOWARD. What are the chances???

Inspiration

I just had an in-the-mouth belch that sounding surprisingly like the start of "Modern Love" by David Bowie. I wonder if that's where he got his inspiration?

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Thanks, iPod

Sometimes you're sitting there engrossed in some economics essay wishing you were doing pretty much anything else, and then, from the depths of your iPod, comes salvation. I forgot this was even hiding in there.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

My new shoes


I am such a badass.


Elvis has left the building

The Ymwelwr is gone. The remainder of his trip was relatively basic...The Visitor had a lazy day on Monday while I was at work and then we had dinner at a Thai restaurant last night. I somehow felt like I'd made a huge breakthrough when he actually finished my entree. After all of this "used soup" business I was beginning to think he had psychological issues with food sharing, which I like about as much as grown-ups who are picky eaters. Dropped him off at the coachway around 6AM, with instructions to go see a doctor about that GI tract. It ain't right, I'm telling you.

Mr. Morning Person tried to convince me that I should sing him on his way with a rousing Zip-a-dee-doo-dah this morning. Obviously, I declined...and held steadfast even while he hummed it under his breath the entire way to the bus with a goadingly devilish grin on his chirpy damn face. Freak.

Now that I'm awake I thought I'd find it on youtube so I could pass it along here, but all the versions there are completely lame. But I did find this interesting commercial. Way to go, American Motors. Between this, the ingenious design of the Gremlin and the Pacer, and your expansion into the brilliant Renault Le Car, no wonder you only made it 30 odd years.



I now have three nights to get caught up on my Globalisation assignment and to review the Finance case studies for Friday, and then on Saturday guest number two arrives...my beloved CP will be here for Tom and Mindy fun, including an Easter weekend in France. He is leaving Georgie at home, so we will get into much more trouble. Prendre garde, mes camarades français! Le CP et La MindyJune viennent, et ils sont jusqu'à aucun bon. (I sure hope the Google Translator knew what it was doing.)

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Wales

Just arrived back from Wales. It was perfect weather. Sunny, blue, and relatively warm.

I'd hoped to leave work early since we had a five hour drive ahead of us, but that went to hell by midday. Instead I left at 445, and managed to get myself home and packed by about 515. We stopped at the BP near the A5 to fill up the tank. Fortune was smiling upon us, and as we walked in to look for a flashlight and pay we were serenaded by The Smiths singing "There is A Light That Never Goes Out", which is always a bit of serendipity, because it's just not that often you're going to hear that over the loudspeakers.

All in all, we made good time. Around 930 we were hungry and I was skeptical that we would make it anywhere sane to eat before kitchens closed so I forced us to eat at a Burger King at the services. Bad decision. Not tasty, and gas-inducing - not a good thing with The Visitor. We made another stop at an ASDA near Swansea. We bought:

A twelve pack of Tetley's Bitter
Four bottles of welsh ales
(Back) Bacon
Eggs
Bread
PG Tips
Milk
Bramley Apple Pies
Sugar
Cream
Pickled Eggs
Welsh Cheese called Green Thunder

Continued on to the little National Trust lodge we'd rented for the weekend. It was about the same as a hotel, and it gave us a cute little well kept cabin in a remote setting with excellent views and many lovely hikes in the woods and along the nearby estuary. It was at the end of a windy little one lane road, down a steep hill through dense woods. Scary when you're driving it the first time in the dark. They'd left the light on, though, so we could easily find the key.

The cottage was freezing, and so The Visitor set to making the fire to warm it up. With his new-found coal burning skills, he piled wet wood and fire starters and lumps of coal in the grate, and then blew on it for about an hour and a half. I unloaded the car, unpacked, got us each a beer, turned on the heat and the hot water, read the house manual and read the visitors book. Once The V learned that he didn't have to build the fire to keep us warm for the night he was willing to let it fizzle out... I was able to use a quote from retiree Jan from the guest book (whose husband "John" was "able to build a roaring fire" back in February) to goad him into the dark woods in search of dry lumber to prove he was more of a fire starter than an elderly British gentleman. This worked wonders, and soon our fire was roaring, as well. The Visitor went to bed, and I stayed up listening to my iPod and reading the book my friend Susan sent me.

Oddly, I was the first up on Saturday. Made a pot of tea, and we enjoyed a breakfast of oatmeal with brown sugar, scotch and cream and a side of bacon. The Visitor decided to pee in the yard before we left for the day...this makes five countries where he's done this, something of which he is quite proud. (Two in one trip...he also peed in my back yard earlier in the week.)

The first item on the agenda was the Cheese Centre in Llangloffen. We headed to Fishguard and then turned down the coast. We stopped along the coast for a quick look at the map, but there was a crazy man pacing in a parking lot speaking loudly to himself in Welsh so I demanded we leave. We had no problem finding the Cheese Centre, but unfortunately it had closed recently when the owners retired. Bummer.

Went on to St. David's Cathedral. Very cool Norman church, and the home of Anglicism in Wales. Made a beeline for the toilets, as we both had to pee by this time and there was no way I would allow The Visitor to pee in the churchyard. (He complied and used the gents like a civilised person, though he did make a few idle threats.) I had to give a little etiquette lecture about the level of voice one uses to speak when one is viewing the echoey sanctuary of a church in England, to which The V responded, "Really? I'm supposed to talk quietly?" in full voice. We wandered the grounds, including the Bishops Palace...a ruin from the 14th century built for the presiding Bishop of the time. It has no roof, but many original staircases and little warning pictures of how you'll look if you smack your head on the low ceiling or go ass over teakettle on the slippery floor. There were some excellent dioramas in the information centre depicting servants being beaten for not spinning the roasting rod fast enough, or up to their elbows in blood when they butchered meat for the banquet.

On along the coast to Solva, for a big bowl of delicious cawl with some cheese and a few lagers. Proceeded to Newgale and took a long walk along the beach. The V took three leaks on the beach, one for each pint from lunch. I insisted he seek cover and ensure that children couldn't see him, but since you see men peeing along the shoulders of motorways throughout the UK you figure peeing on a beach when there aren't a lot of people around isn't the end of the world. The scenery was positively beautiful, there was a fresh, crisp breeze off the sea and there were some really cool sedimentary rocks on the far end of the beach that required climbing upon. About halfway back to the car I had to pee but, having been raised a lady, I made it to the little shed by the parking lot. Not without a challenge, though, as the slidey rocks you had to climb along the bank make holding one's water less than easy.

We went on to Pembroke where we stopped in a pub for a pint in the shadow of the castle, but it was too late to tour it so we went on to Stackpole and saw the spectacular cliffs as the sun was starting to set, which accentuated the purple and orange stripes of the giant rockfaces. It was time for dinner, so we headed to a place called Something's Cookin' for dinner...killer fish and chips and mushy peas. (I had crab cakes with cockles and laver bread, of which The Visitor could not partake, a) because he is allergic to shellfish, and b) they were "used soup" anyway.)

Back at the cottage we built a lovely fire (this time so roaring it smoked out the living room and we had to open the windows), and drank beers and cocktails and read the Children's Encyclopaedia from 1957.

Today we had a very slow day. I got up early and started making my way through back issues of The Economist that have been piling up while I've been writing papers, and The Visitor slept the morning away, getting up just before noon when I would have kicked his sorry ass out of bed. We made breakfast, read more of The Economist (I even convinced The Visitor that it was not liberal propaganda, but rather sanguinely pro-American), and then headed back to MK. Since there had been no horribly inappropriate behaviour all day, The Visitor was rewarded with a stop at the local Kebab hut for dinner. Now back at home, he is drinking his Tetley's and watching Top Gear while I type.

It has been an enjoyable weekend, and all in all I think Wales rocks. Tomorrow I believe The Visitor will attempt to plant currants along one wall of my garden without disturbing the hedgehog's hibernation, and I will go to work.

I would also like to state for the record that there are no bears in England. So there.

NB. The Visitor, whilst he makes every effort to be as uncouth and slovenly as possible, is actually not nearly as poorly raised as he seems. His mother deserves no blame in this. She's tried, bless her. Can she really help it if he's a contrarian?

NBB. He has to pee again, and he's heading to the yard, just because.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Visitor

I have a visitor until Tuesday, and therefore there will be less blogging in that time frame.

He arrived yesterday. Poor thing, had to ride National Express up from Gatwick. It is a long trip with many stops, but when people arrive on weekdays it is the price they pay. Luckily an elderly Chinese man sitting in front of him got carsick and barfed partway through the trip, so he appreciated the fresh air upon arrival in MK.

We had dinner in the Indian restaurant in the church, a staple here for visitors. And it really freaked the waiters out when I did the ordering. That is the man's job. We barely got a "please" or "thank you very much" out of them as each dish was placed on the table.

I worked today, so he spent the day in London. Last time he visited, he spent his day in London taking pictures of tourists taking pictures of famous sites, but this time he tried to take in a few himself. I know he went to the British Museum, and while it was enjoyable he was annoyed that it was not, in fact, about British history but rather the things they've pillaged from their colonies, making it "The Diversity Museum" instead. Note to the British Museum: FYI, he's very sorry about the crime committed in the men's room. It's too bad you didn't pillage some plungers while you were out there foraging in the world.

I believe he spent the rest of his day walking around and then going into pubs and having a pint whilst chatting with the locals. I hear he has learned how to burn coal, which we will test tomorrow night upon arrival in our little house in Wales that we've rented for the weekend.

Tonight I met him at a pub after work and then we went to the Swan at Salford for dinner, then came home and watched the Torchwood finale, which he had seen and I had not (but had tivoed to make sure I caught it eventually.) Tomorrow it is likely he will sleep off the seven or eight pints he's had through the day, and I will go to work and wait for my discounted leopard print doc marten boots to arrive. Nothing now until Monday or Tuesday, but adventures are afoot. Wales is supposed to be pretty freaky. Have good weekends.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Yuck


I saw a commercial for this tonight.

Please, God, tell me that this is synthetic milk, or soy milk or rice milk or some other kind of non-milky milk. Because if they're hooking little machines up to innocent kitties even I'm joining PETA.

Or perhaps CP has found his new job!

I bet it's great on cereal.

Fish Tuesday

Check it out...two days in a row of cooking!

Chopped a chili, grated some ginger, tossed it with a little sesame oil and soy and used that to marinate a tuna steak. (Little means little, FYI...don't kill the tuna.)

Chopped up some baby bok choy, a scallion and a clove of garlic.

Put some whole wheat noodles to boil.

Heated the wok. Just a little oil in, then dumped in the tuna and the marinade. Seared it on both sides, then put aside to rest.

Little more oil, stir fried the garlic and scallion for a second before adding the bok choy. Tossed in a little soy when it was almost done. (Little is key, again. Don't kill the bok choy.)

Drained the noodles, tossed in just a few drops of sesame oil and then put noodles/tuna/veg in a deep plate. Sprinkled with sesame seeds and enjoyed.

Endangered

One of the members of the House of Lords is trying to ban Muzak in waiting rooms and elevators because it raises blood pressure and makes people angry. What on earth will the masters of the pan flute do? Please don't let them march.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Heart-throb of the Housing Market


I have a bit of a crush on this guy. His name is Phil Spencer, and he co-hosts several property search shows on Channel4 with an equally dishy babe named Kirsty Alsopp. They're funny and smart and make a bit of fun of their clients' bad decisions in their narrative of the show.

Phil is exactly what Americans expect the English to be...stylish, smart, kind of "proper" and a bit effeminate, which is usually not my bag anymore. But on Phil it is very, very sexy. He kind of reminds me of my friend J, actually, who I'd swear was gay if it weren't for the occassional blokey joke and his lovely partner who is decidedly female. (It's sexy on J too, but he is real and therefore not fanciable.) I blame El Ben for my love of vaguely gay straight men, but that is another story.

Now that I have no pressing schoolwork, I've spent a total of six hours watching Phil (and Kirsty) find houses for England's masses. My conclusion? Hubba Hubba. And if I were to ever decide to buy a house here, I would DEFINITELY apply to be reality television just to spend some time with this guy. Mmmm MMMM GOOD.

Not Fish Monday

After my fast start to Fish Some Day or Another, last week was too dang busy to really cook. My fish day was sushi from M&S because it was fast and easy. And frankly, I didn't feel like cooking this weekend, either, so I ordered takeaway and ate ready meals and whatever else I could find hiding in my fridge and cupboard.

So tonight I decided I was going to cook if it killed me. I had quite a few vegetables that I needed to use, and I have likely not met my 5 a day in the last few so it seemed like a good idea to make something full of planty byproducts to catch up. Here's what I did:

Congolese Eggplant Curry

Start the brown rice.

Chop up an eggplant, salt it to make it weep and then give it some alone-time.

Smash two cloves of garlic, chop up two chilis (seeds and all), chop two large onions and grate about a thumb's knuckle worth of ginger root.

Chop up about three cups of cauliflower, a yellow pepper and some mushrooms. Open a tin of tomatoes and a can of coconut milk. (I dumped some of the coconut in the rice water to give it some sweetness, as well.) Get some curry powder and black mustard seeds out so they're ready.

Grab the eggplant, put it in a strainer, rinse it and then squeeze out the remaining water.

Time to cook. Heat a deep stew pan. Put in some non-olive oil. Start by sauteeing the mustard seeds, then add the onions for a few minutes, then add the chili/garlic/ginger. Toss around for another minute. Put in two teaspoons of curry powder. It's going to start getting gunky, FYI, so keep stirring. After a minute, you can toss in the eggplant and the cauliflower and stir a bit, then add about a 1/4 cup of water. You'll need it to pick up the bits of curry that have stuck to the pan. Maybe three minutes in, add the pepper and the mushrooms.

Cover, reduce the heat to about medium and let stew for 10 minutes or so. Stir it once in awhile, but it can pretty much sit while you do something else (like the dishes). Now you add the tin of tomatoes, stir and stew some more. When it's all smelling luscious, it's time for about 1/2 the coconut milk. Lower the heat, but let it bubble away for about five minutes and stir occassionally or it will blacken the pan. You should taste it for salt, because if you rinsed your eggplant really well it might need some.

During the final stewing, you can chop up some almonds.

Rice should be done, stew should be done...put a bed of rice in a wide bowl, cover with the eggplant stew, sprinkle with almonds and enjoy. Your house will smell sweet spicy delicious, you'll sweat a little from the chili and the curry powder, and you'll be warmed and nourished from the inside on a blustery winterspring night.

Had a nice glass of crisp white something or other with it and was quite pleased.

Snowflakes and Daffodils

It is incredibly cold here. A week ago, the daffodils and the crocuses were popping and the trees were budding. But now it's been a blustery couple of days. Yesterday we had blue sky, sleet, hail, snow, rain and 70 mph wind gusts all within an hour, and then it repeated twice. Tonight it was snowing when I left work, and the daffodils in my front garden had lovely large flakes clinging to their edges.

Three of you are on your way to England in the next few weeks, so be sure to check the weather forecast and come prepared. It could be warm, it could be cold. It will likely be wet. And it will definitely be expensive, but you knew that.

And Bramley AP, be prepared to laugh heartily, as it is supposed to be snowing on Wednesday which means snarled traffic for barely a dusting as you sit on the M1 on your ride to MK.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Here we go again

Not only have the swans NOT left the pond for the season, but the spiders are coming out in force with the warmer days. Is there no God?????

Bay of Pigs Part II

It was a busy weekend at school. As I've mentioned, I had a lot of things due...a paper on Friday and a large group project on Saturday. I hadn't had much sleep the last few days of last week, so I was tired and cranky on Friday morning. Made it to my 8:30 AM class, though, so that was a good start. At 11, we had a meeting for our International Business Experience, and for those of us going to Cuba we had a special visitor...the Cuban Ambassador to the UK and his wife were coming to meet us! How cool is that!

His Excellency gave us what can only be called an oration about Cuban life, Cuban history and Cuban American relations. (FYI, when he tells it we are not the heroes.) His wife, a lovely woman who was in the front row listening attentively, would occasionally make exclamations in support of what he said. It was kind of like a storefront church call and holler dynamic, but more political.

It was very serious, economics-focused stuff. Really thought provoking. And then my cell phone rang.

I'm not a morning person and I forget important things like turning my phone to mute before going into a meeting with a sober topic.

I dove for my bag...and couldn't find it. It just got louder, and louder and louder. The ambassador stopped speaking. The room was waiting for me to sort it out. I had to empty my bag before I found it and silenced it.

And the worst part? This is my cellphone ring. It was like laughing at a funeral or swearing in church.

I am a complete loser.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Fork or Vampire Pt. 2

Other useful facts about a deep puncture wound in the palm of your hand:

1) The nerves under your life line seem to control your ability to grip things, and run down the side of your hand to the inside of your wrist, thus limiting your hand motion considerably.

2) I own this shampoo, which is a lovely tapioca-pudding-like consistency, but with sea salt crystals creating that bumpiness.

FYI, Sea Salt Shampoo + Puncture wound in hand = Not Good.
Not Good = Screaming in Shower.
Screaming in Shower = Letter Carrier knocking on the door to be sure you're okay.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Fork or Vampire

My right palm bears two distinctive puncture marks, making my whole hand a bit numb and tingly. (Not to mention stinging in pain.)

a) Did I hear a knock on my door, think it was the Ocado man, open it to invite the caller in, only later to realise it was a vampire who, though stronger than a normal man, was easily pushed back out because he fought like a girl, but who did manage to bite my hand while I was pulling his hair?
OR
b) Did I Accidentally stab myself in the hand with a fork while unloading the dish drainer?

Hint: The offender was suspended in my hand against gravity, and had to be pulled out at some resistance.

Monday, March 12, 2007

The wonders of spreadsheets

I finished my ENT spreadsheets for our company financials...9 pages of interlinked financial planning assumptions, all culminating in a four-year cash flow and profit and loss account that show us making a lot of money.

Although I think my ears bled from the pressure of developing it, now that it's done I can spend hours fiddling with numbers so I can watch the changes cascade throughout the workbook. It's mesmerizing, noticing that 10 extra people a night per store do astronomical things to our overall profit, or that 30% fewer people buying from us will send us into a tailspin.

I'm like a cat with something shiny. Who cares if then numbers are correct? They're so pretty when you manipulate the formulas.....

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Hot and Sour Chicken Soup with Rice

I really wanted chinese food for dinner and I didn't want a gloopy takeaway. So I rummaged through the house and decided that I'd make some sort of stirfry. Which then morphed in my head into soup. But I'd started the rice, so I had to get creative. Here is the result.

Hot and Sour Chicken Soup with Rice

Put some brown rice, some water, and a chicken stock cube in a pan and start boiling it. (I think I used about 1/2 cup of rice and two cups of stock.)

Smash two cloves of garlic, chop an onion, chop a red chili (seeds and all) and grate about a thumb of fresh ginger.

Chop up some baby bok choy, greens and all.

Chop up some mushdogs.

Slice a chicken breast into mouthsize pieces.

Open a can of bamboo shoots.

Okay. Now heat up a soup-holding pan, add some oil (healthy not-olive), and toss in the garlic/onion/chili/ginger and two tablespoons of chili garlic paste you've purchased at your handy dandy asian market. Stir it around for a minute or two.

Add the chicken, and stir some more. Maybe a minute?

Add the bok choy, bamboo and mushies. Stir another minute. Then add three cups of chicken stock, and dump the rice/stock boiling mixture into the soup. Cover, and simmer/boil for about 20 minutes, or until the tooth of the rice is where you like it.

Add about three tablespoons of white wine vinegar, another tablespoon of rice vinegar, a teaspoon or so of sesame oil and a tablespoon of soy, then stir it and taste the broth. Sour enough? Spicy enough? Salty enough? If not, adjust. (Sesame adds the nutty bite, soy or sea add good salt, more rice vinegar will adjust the sour, and tabasco is a perfect way to adjust the hot.) Grind in some black pepper, too, because it adds bite.

Put two tablespoons of cornstarch in a measuring cup, add some boiling water from the kettle and dissolve it, then add this to the soup. Stir/boil/simmer for about three minutes until it starts to thicken. (You can up or down the cornstarch to your personal preference of goopiness to the soup...I prefer just a bit of a sheen but a genuine brothiness.)

Ready for eating. Excellent way to take a half an hour away from the books.

Bleary Eyed and Miserable

The nice part about the second year of my MBA is that my electives don't require exams, per se, but instead have staggered assignments relevant to their individual topics/schedules. It's a lot easier to prepare for lectures because I only have four active courses right now instead of the six I had last year. And things don't follow a strict two-term format, so their peak times do not fall into several weeks out of 52, which means that you can pace yourself without too much trouble. There is one individual component (a paper or class test), and one group project for each, save OB which has two individual components since it has to do with personal development only.

Now for the bad part...I now know without a shadow of a doubt that I'm in a Master's programme. Somehow all the structured learning of Part One seemed challenging but more a matter of endurance and taking it all in. Part Two is all about applied learning, which means a lot more thinking and a lot fewer rules upon which to rely in times of pressure and deadline. Assignments in most courses are pretty general, leaving it to me to define, research, refine, write and cite everything according to my best ability. Great practice for real life, but not exactly easy when you're also doing this 45 - 50 hours a week for a wage, as well.

Today I had a nice day for awhile. I did a bit of prepwork to gather all the data I've been collecting for ENT and outlined a structure for writing my OB report, both of which must be completed one week from today. I took some time out for laundry and a long walk, as it was sunny and crisp today and I needed the fresh air. Came home, returned some of the backlog of correspondence in my email and then settled in to work up the financials for our new venture.

I hate spreadsheets, and though I did well in my last Finance exam, I still have a fear of making mistakes when working with numbers. It took me two hours to pull together the Sales Turnover worksheet and I still haven't started on Cash Flow, Cost of Goods or the Income Statement. I know that once COGS is done it will all be a lot easier, but I can't believe how much more I have to do before I can start writing for the Business Plan. It is incredibly frustrating.

Once I do start writing, I have my work cut out for me. You see, in the first part of the course, I was the smartass critic punching holes in every assumption made in every business plan, as there was not clear logic stated for most of the numbers and therefore I didn't trust them. Now it's my turn to WRITE the damn business plan and I find I've been pulling numbers out of the air with no rhyme or reason other than the fact that I think they seem correct. This is definitely not something I can justify well in the written section of the document, so now I need to do further research to benchmark against competitors to find something to justify my instincts, lest I have some know-it-all bitch like me reviewing our final document. It's certainly not an impossible task, but it is a lot of work.

And, ultimately, there's an expansive grey area that requires you use someone else's success/costs/volume but also apply your ingenuity to customise these numbers to your own venture. All told, the numbers become facts based in ambiguity...and you use every ounce of your persuasive skills to weave a compelling enough story to get through the gate to the next stage, where you can actually do a detailed analysis.

Pleh, pleh, and double pleh.

With any luck, they'll be done by this time tomorrow. FINGERS CROSSED.

Booklist

I've avoided these tag things lately, but my brain is hurting from all the homework and I like this one, so I'm doing it.

Here's someone's list of books. BOLD the books you have read, and Italicize the ones you want to read. Leave them as is if you don't care one way or the other. Make them blue if you've read them multiple times. Make them red if you would use them for toilet paper.

1.The Da Vinci Code (Dan Brown)
2.Pride and Prejudice (Jane Austen)
3.To Kill A Mockingbird (Harper Lee)
4. Gone With The Wind (Margaret Mitchell)

5. The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King (Tolkien)
6. The Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring (Tolkien)
7. The Lord of the Rings: Two Towers (Tolkien)
8. Anne of Green Gables (L.M. Montgomery)
9. Outlander (Diana Gabaldon)
10.A Fine Balance (Rohinton Mistry)
11.Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (Rowling)
12.Angels and Demons (Dan Brown)
13.Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (Rowling)
14. A Prayer for Owen Meany (John Irving)

15. Memoirs of a Geisha (Arthur Golden)
16.Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (Rowling)
17. Fall on Your Knees(Ann-Marie MacDonald)
18. The Stand (Stephen King)
19. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban(Rowling)
20. Jane Eyre (Charlotte Bronte)
21. The Hobbit (Tolkien)
22. The Catcher in the Rye (J.D. Salinger) (obviously, I have mixed emotions on this one)
23. Little Women (Louisa May Alcott)
24. The Lovely Bones (Alice Sebold)

25. Life of Pi (Yann Martel)
26. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (Douglas Adams)
27. Wuthering Heights (Emily Bronte)
28. The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe (C. S. Lewis)
29. East of Eden (John Steinbeck)
30. Tuesdays with Morrie(Mitch Albom)
31. Dune (Frank Herbert)
32. The Notebook (Nicholas Sparks)
33. Atlas Shrugged (Ayn Rand)
34. 1984 (Orwell)
35. The Mists of Avalon (Marion Zimmer Bradley)
36. The Pillars of the Earth (Ken Follett)
37. The Power of One (Bryce Courtenay)
38. I Know This Much is True(Wally Lamb)
39. The Red Tent (Anita Diamant)
40. The Alchemist (Paulo Coelho)
41. The Clan of the Cave Bear (Jean M. Auel)
42. The Kite Runner (Khaled Hosseini)
43. Confessions of a Shopaholic (Sophie Kinsella)
44. The Five People You Meet In Heaven (Mitch Albom)
45. Bible (parts only)
46. Anna Karenina (Tolstoy) (couldn't finish it)
47. The Count of Monte Cristo (Alexandre Dumas)
48. Angela’s Ashes (Frank McCourt)

49. The Grapes of Wrath (John Steinbeck)
50. She’s Come Undone (Wally Lamb)

51. The Poisonwood Bible (Barbara Kingsolver)
52. A Tale of Two Cities (Dickens)
53. Ender’s Game (Orson Scott Card)
54. Great Expectations (Dickens)
55. The Great Gatsby (Fitzgerald)
56. The Stone Angel (Margaret Laurence)
57. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (Rowling)
58. The Thorn Birds (Colleen McCullough)
59. The Handmaid’s Tale (Margaret Atwood)

60. The Time Traveller’s Wife (Audrew Niffenegger)
61. Crime and Punishment (Fyodor Dostoyevsky)
62. The Fountainhead (Ayn Rand)
63. War and Peace (Tolsoy)
64. Interview With The Vampire (Anne Rice)
65. Fifth Business (Robertson Davis)
66. One Hundred Years Of Solitude (Gabriel Garcia Marquez)
67. The Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants (Ann Brashares)
68. Catch-22 (Joseph Heller)
69. Les Miserables (Hugo)
70. The Little Prince (Antoine de Saint-Exupery)
71. Bridget Jones’ Diary (Fielding)
72. Love in the Time of Cholera (Marquez)
73. Shogun (James Clavell)
74. The English Patient (Michael Ondaatje)
75. The Secret Garden (Frances Hodgson Burnett)
76. The Summer Tree (Guy Gavriel Kay)
77. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (Betty Smith)
78. The World According To Garp (John Irving)

79. The Diviners (Margaret Laurence)
80. Charlotte’s Web (E.B. White)
81. Not Wanted On The Voyage (Timothy Findley)
82. Of Mice And Men (Steinbeck)
83. Rebecca (Daphne DuMaurier)
84. Wizard’s First Rule (Terry Goodkind)
85. Emma (Jane Austen)
86. Watership Down(Richard Adams)
87. Brave New World (Aldous Huxley)
88. The Stone Diaries (Carol Shields)
89. Blindness (Jose Saramago)
90. Kane and Abel (Jeffrey Archer)
91. In The Skin Of A Lion (Ondaatje)
92. Lord of the Flies (Golding)
93. The Good Earth(Pearl S. Buck)
94. The Secret Life of Bees (Sue Monk Kidd)

95. The Bourne Identity (Robert Ludlum)
96. The Outsiders (S.E. Hinton)
97. White Oleander (Janet Fitch)
98. A Woman of Substance (Barbara Taylor Bradford)
99. The Celestine Prophecy (James Redfield)
100.Ulysses (James Joyce)



And the iPod says....

First ten out of the box as I work on my Entrepreneurship cash flow:

1. Lover's Rock - the Clash
2. Rabbit Fur Coat - Jenny Lewis with the Watson Twins
3. Tear Off Your Own Head (It's A Doll Revolution) - Elvis Costello
4. White Trash - SCOTS
5. By the Mark - Gillian Welch
6. Lost Love (Bacon and Quarmby Remix) - Rhinocerose
7. Touch, Feel, & Lose - Ryan Adams
8. Who Cares? - Gnarls Barkley
9. Let's Get It On - Marvin Gaye
10. I Would Rather Do Without It - Michelle Wilson

Come on, Michelle. He's MARVIN GAYE. Say yes.

Daylight Savings Time



For those who are phoners or skype-ers of me, I'd like to remind you that, from tomorrow through 24 March, we will have one less hour of time difference between the US and the UK, unless you're in Arizona, Hawaii or any of the colonies.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Fish Thursday

My friend Pam does Fish Wednesday, wherein she buys some fish, does some killer preparation, takes a picture of it and then eats her delicious meal, sometimes with her husband, sometimes with her friends, sometimes by herself. I've been to dinner at her house and let me tell you, she's a fine fine cook, that Pam, regardless of the meal. So I'm betting Fish Wednesday is fabulous.

Since she lives in Seattle and I live in England, as much as I'd like to I won't be able to join her any time soon. But she's inspired me to try eating more fish, as well, and so I'm going to start logging my fish preparation here in my blog, because it will keep me honest since you'll notice if I don't come up with something. I'm not sure my schedule will be able to accommodate an official Fish Day, but I will try to fit it in at least once in a calendar week.

As luck would have it, I was ordering from the Ocado Man and watching Nigella Lawson the other day. She was making fast meals and she had a lovely chunk of salmon that looked delicious when it was done. So I threw me a bit of organic Scottish Salmon into the cart and made the following for dinner tonight.

I chopped up a shallot and a strip of streaky bacon and put them in a non-stick skillet on medium high. Tossed it around a bit while it cooked, and soon it was smokey crispy brown. Put it on toweling to drain, and then put a salted/peppered salmon fillet in the pan. Left it about four minutes on each side, maybe a little less, but close. It got golden brown crisp on each side, while the center was just medium. Put it on a bed of quinoa, sprinkled it with the shallots and bacon, and tucked in with a nice big mixed green salad on the side. I had some succulent French Breakfast Radishes delivered, as well, and they were delightfully crunchy on the salad.

All in all, a successful Fish Day.

Shame on you, CNN!


Just stopped in to CNN to see what's going on in the world, and look at the video offering they have for me! Sick and wrong, I tell you. Who knew they were a porn site?

Monday, March 05, 2007

Of Kasbahs, Genies and Feral Dachshunds

I love Marrakesh. I absolutely LOVE Marrakesh.

After my busy week and weekend, I spent last Monday feverishly running around the house preparing for my trip. Threw a hodgepodge of summer weight clothing into my bag, selected two pairs of shoes for walking and one pair of nonsensical fashion shoes for evenings, and added all of my Entrepreneurship books so I could do homework while I was there. Had a fitful night's sleep, as I had to be up by 4AM to make the drive to Heathrow for my 8AM flight.

Made it in plenty of time, and left England in the chilly mist...it was probably about 4C that morning, with intermittently heavy rain pelting down. (Not quite squally downpours, but close.) The flight wasn't full so I had a row to myself, which was great. Stretched out and took a snooze, and three hours later I was deplaning in the warm sun of Africa.

Marrakesh has one of those tiny airports...no jet ways, just stairs to the tarmac and you walk to the double doors, where you stand in a short customs line and head straight out to one of the two baggage carousels. Hicham, my host, met me outside, and took me to my lovely hotel.

I had a fabulous one bedroom suite, with luxurious marble bath, huge bed with luscious white sheets, an open fireplace surrounded by low-slung and cushioned furniture, and giant windows and patio doors that opened onto a beautiful garden.

I'd not been to Morocco before, and I didn't quite know what to expect. It is a fascinating mix of modern and old, of European and Arab. It was surprising and strange and exotic and interesting. Streets don't have lanes...you drive on the right, but beyond that you find whatever space you can in the stream of movement. Cars, trucks, scooters, bicycles, and donkey carts weave in and out of each other as they make their way across the city. You'll pass some toothless old man in a caftan, sitting sideways on a donkey whose packs are laden with merchandise for the souq, and then you'll stop next to a Land Rover with a sat nav and a booming stereo. The modern city has tons of sidewalk cafes and stylish restaurants and hotels, with wide boulevarded streets and high rise apartments. And then you get into the Medina, and you are weaving on foot through the labyrinthine streets, past little shops, and plain doorways that open into luxurious riads with elaborately tiled foyers and peaceful courtyards. The souqs are fantastic. Twisty little corridors (much of it is covered with slat metal that lets a bit of light peak in, but shades you from the midday sun) brimming with stalls carrying spices and olives and jewelry and tapestries and carpets and silver and metal and slippers and leather bags and caftans (and even trainers or baby clothes in some parts of the market.) The city square is home to snake charmers and story tellers and palm readers and musicians, all offering their talents in exchange for a few dirham. I even saw TWO (yes TWO) feral dachshunds wandering the market, looking for scraps and a bit of kindness. Feral cats (and there were many) you see every day...feral dachshunds seem like magic.

The food was phenomenal. Fresh, delicious vegetables, succulent lamb and moist chicken, spicy sweet sauces infused with saffron and cinnamon. And crusty, delicious breads in abundance. The coffee is strong, deliciously so. And at least five times a day you're offered a delicious-refreshing glass of peppermint tea, sweetened to varying degrees, depending upon the tastes of your host.

Morocco is a Muslim country, and the calls to prayer echo through the city from loudspeakers in La Koutoubia, the main mosque in the Medina. Yet many Moroccans are more liberal, with less restrictive dress (often women wear western dress and no hijab) and even a taste for wine and beer at the cafes and restaurants. French and Arabic are both widely spoken in Marrakesh, as is English in the main parts of the city. Marrakesh feels exotic and familiar at the same time, and the people are friendly and courteous, making it great fun to wander their home.

We even managed a little trip into the snow-capped Atlas mountains, which loom in the distance like some fake movie set. Seriously, there is nothing I like more than palm trees and arid landscape against a backdrop of craggy snowy peaks. We made our way out of the city in our 4x4, towards the horizon dotted with kasbahs, through Berber villages and olive groves and around hairpin turns through sheer redrock cliffs, taking a detour for some offroad driving that put us in places where donkey carts are the ONLY transportation for the locals. Just incredible. We stopped for lunch at a quaint little hotel in a mountain village, and had a scrumptious meal alongside a rushing stream, overlooking the most beautiful rose garden I've ever seen. (This hotel rocked, by the way, as it was populated by retirees and gay men, and the gardens were full of people reading and drawing and drowsing under straw sunhats to protect them from the sun.)

We made a beeline to the airport, and about 62 hours after I'd left the UK I was back in my car, driving through the drizzle in the dark, on my way to a fitful night's sleep before heading to uni for a weekend of classes. It hardly seems real.

I'll have to go back to believe it.

Chunder Bandit

I learned a new term, Chunder Bandit, from one of my new favourite blogs, ScaryDuck.

And just in time, as I seem to have caught some sort of gastroenteritis. While I have not done any public vomiting today, I have definitely been closer than I'd like. I actually went to an absent colleague's desk and grabbed their rubbish bin to keep handy, just in case. Figured it would be better to puke in an empty bin than on top of the accumulated rubbish in mine.

I am now home, and while I have a horrific amount of schoolwork to do, my head hurts and I don't like to sit upright, so it is likely that I'm going to go to bed shortly.

Chunder Bandit. I think I'm going to name one of the AI contestants this. Maybe Sanjaya, because he is vomit-inducing. But so is Jared Cotter. In fact, Jared Cotter is DEFINITELY nastier than Sanjaya. Jared Cotter it is. Henceforth, Jared Cotter is christened Chunder Bandit, Inducer of Vomiting to the Masses.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Articulated Lorries and Airplane Farts

I had a great time in Marrakech (and will blog about it over the weekend once I'm done with classes on Saturday,) but right now I'd like to download two frustrations that began and ended my trip.

1) I hate going to the airport early and coming back late. On Tuesday I had to leave the house by 5AM, and tonight I left Heathrow at 11PM. Both directions, it was just me and two hundred Polish articulated lorries. Talk about driving hell.
2) The worst part about flying is definitely the smell of airplane farts. I think it's the food they serve on planes combined with the air pressure. Since I first started flying I've noticed that a) people on airplanes are always gassy, and b) they create a stench that smells vaguely of day old Kentucky Fried Chicken. Think about that two hours after the meal on your next flight.

To bed now. More soon.