Monday, April 30, 2007

Wherein I tell Bubs all....

In an effort for new material, I decided I wanted to join the interview circuit and asked Bubs over at The Compound to hit me with his best shot....and if you'd like to play, just follow the directions below.


1) As someone who reads travel lit like a freak consumes porn, I'm incredibly envious of your ex-pat lifestyle. How does an earnest midwesterner end up living and studying in the U.K. while jetting around to places like Oman and India?

Like most things in my life, my expat life is sheer fluke. Here is a step by step guide to how it’s done:

Step 1) Grow up in a small town. Develop an insatiable fascination with big cities, foreign lands, and anyplace without cornfields. This will give you a mindset that keeps you focused on the prize.

Step 2) Get a really useful major from a small liberal arts college…something like English or Art History. You’ll be well read and able to hold party conversation about the free-wheeling lifestyle of the German Expressionists, but will be virtually unemployable.

Step 3) This will force you into a slacker life of retail, but will give you lots of time to develop strong social skills and to throw parties for the disparate groups of people you know. You will learn to build rapport with strangers and to make small talk to even the dullest party guest.

Step 4) When this life starts to bore you, have drinks with a childhood friend who’s done well for himself. Let him seduce you into quitting your job and starting over in a place you’ve never been. If you’re lucky he’ll sell you on Seattle. You will fall in love with this foreign familiar place, and develop a restlessness that makes it hard to move back to your Midwestern roots ever again.

Step 5) Now that you live in a new place and have no specific skills, doctor your resume and temp for awhile. You’ll learn to think on your feet. Finally end up working for a start-up company where you will get to do everything, including planning trips to major sporting events for customers. Your party planning and social skills will come in handy, and you will get to go to Hawaii and Wimbledon, often entertaining people who have sinful amounts of power. Learning to be at ease with these people will make you appear confident in odd situations, which is more important than actually being confident.

Step 6) Stupidly fall out of love with Seattle. Move to DC. You’ll hate it. Then you’ll have to find something else to do, so you’ll move back home and live in your friends’ garret until you find a job.

Step 7) Now that you’re unemployed and desperate, network your way to a new job planning meetings and conferences all over the world. It may mean doctoring your resume, but by now you are a well-travelled bullshit artist and can blag your way into pretty much anything. This job is the best kept secret going...you get to travel to interesting places, stay in fabulous hotels, eat in world-class restaurants and do really cool things. on someone else's dime. (NB...if I ever marry, I've decided that I want to go someplace like here on my honeymoon. More likely, I'll drag Tom and George there in a few years for our birthdays, but it's nice to know it's waiting.)

Step 8) Using your well-developed skills from steps 1 – 7, establish a reputation as an ambitious sort who does good work and can get along with pretty much anyone. Convince them you are a strategic thinker, a “change agent” and a person willing to try pretty much anything once. Make it known that you’re looking for a challenge.

Step 9) Out of the blue, your company will ask you to move to the UK to help rebuild the proposal team there. You are the only one they ask, because your colleagues are all married with children and don’t have the sense of adventure or adaptable personality you do. Say yes.

Step 10) Once you’re living abroad, convince them they need to keep you there. They will offer you a permanent job. You will counter offer, telling them they can have you for a year, but then you and your skills and ambitions are going to move back to the states and go to get an MBA. They will counter by offering to assist you with funding for school if you will stay a bit longer and go part-time here. This gives you a long-term expat life, an education from a noted international business school and confirms the unlimited possibilities for your life.

Step 11) Say yes.


2) What's with the clown fear? And the swans?

When I was seven, a clown killed my puppy.

Not really.

And actually, it’s not so much fear as it is disgust. I hate all things in masks. Masks are a handy way to avoid taking responsibility for your own behaviour. I hate Halloween and I hate costume parties and I even hate people who create figurative masks out of their everyday faces. I also hate moronic humour, magic, balloon animals, tiny cars and ponies. Considering all of this, clowns never really had a chance, did they? And I believe I’ve already posited that swans are the clowns of the bird world.

3) Why did you start blogging? I see you got started back in 2004, whereas most of the people I find myself reading got started within the past year or two.

My entries from November 2004 coincide with my move to the UK. I am a horrific loser when it comes to sending letters, and Melinda June was originally meant for my friends and family to help them keep track of me. If any of you ever meet me, you will learn that the voice you hear on this site is, in fact, exactly how I am in person. I drag stories out like a bad dream, I’m slightly obsessive compulsive and fixate my energies on ridiculous things, and I really am this shallow.

For people who miss me, reading my blog is pretty much like having me over for cocktails and it helps them not miss me so much. It never occurred to me that strangers would ever read this site more than once.

4) Do you have any advice for aspiring MBA students? Like, say, for middle-aged burned out cops waiting to find out if they've been accepted into a 4-th tier program at a state university in the suburbs of Chicago, for instance?

DO IT!!! I love my MBA programme. It’s a lot of work, but it’s great fun and has completely changed my perspective.

Don’t worry about the school tier unless you want to be an exceptionally high-flier, in which case it pays to take time to get into the best programme you can. Otherwise just make sure that the people you eventually want to work for will appreciate the degree once you have it.

Find a programme with strong personal development courses…they’ll help you figure out your strengths and weaknesses and teach you to manage them, which will give you an advantage once you’re working. Go networking crazy, because it really is all about who you know. In fact, when you look at a school ask about the size and effectiveness of their alumni network. Buy a book on grammar. Buy one on properly citing references and writing bibliographies. Plan on not getting much sleep for a few years. Then dive in and get it over with.

By the way, have you thought about the modular programme at Cranfield?

5) What is your greatest pleasure?

Just one? Fool. You know me better than that.

I love lazy, convivial evenings with my family and friends. I love a mind-numbingly difficult Scrabble game. I love doing dorky crap with my nephews…they are delightful. I love a perfectly made slightly sweet Manhattan. I love going to Culvers with my Mom and Dad. I love watching TV with Coaster Punchman, reading the comics to my friend Susan over the phone, watching Twins games with the Poodles and spending a day doing nothing with my friend Bethany. I feel physically energised and emotionally calmed when I am by large expanses of water. I love walking on beaches. I love companionable silences. I love a sheltering arm casually draped across my shoulders. And no one will believe this, but I really love holding hands.

Want some questions of your own? Leave me a comment saying, “Interview me!”

I will respond by e-mailing you five questions (if your email is not on your profile, email me your desire to be interviewed so I know your address). I get to pick them, and you have to answer them all.

You will update your blog with the answers to the questions.

You will include this explanation and an offer to interview someone else in the same post.

When others comment asking to be interviewed, you will ask them five questions.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Things that are fundamentally wrong with Footloose

  1. No one is named Ren. Or Wren. No one.
  2. A Quiet Riot Mental Health listener would not, under any circumstances, monitor cool points by asking about Men at Work. Or the Police.
  3. A town like that in the middle of nowhere would not have a gymnastics team. And if they did, popular guys would not be on it, so they wouldn't get a kick out of kicking the new kid off.
  4. Only Billy Elliott and the Jets get so mad they have to dance off their rage. (Maybe that Flashdance girl would, but I think she'd weld instead.)
  5. Rednecks in a honky tonk would not dance to the song Footloose. And they'd have pummeled that Ren kid for sport.
  6. None of those guys are high school age. 17 year-olds don't have bodies like that. Unless they're on steroids. Which kids weren't in 1984. Maybe they were all held back.
  7. There just wouldn't be that much eloquent forbidden literature graffitied into a wall. People in a town like that would write things like swear words.
  8. If that Ariel had gotten the beating they portrayed from that Chuck when she breaks up with him, she'd have a broken nose and a black eye, not the purple little smudge they gave her.
  9. All that kissing of Ren after the punch would have been painful, too.
  10. And her father would have SO grounded her for that black eye. But it seems he never saw it.
  11. Someone in the movie calls Ren "monkey boy", and it is not John Lithgow.
  12. The woman playing Kevin Bacon's mom was 40 when this movie was released.
  13. Seriously. That black eye healed in like two hours. That is so not real.
  14. I'm assuming they checked all those books out of the library before they burned them. Otherwise they're stealing. There's even a commandment about that.
  15. I'm a bit skeptical that they have a law to prohibit dancing but don't have one requiring motorcycle helmets. Though the bible probably doesn't say much about protective headgear.
  16. Why is there a turkey on the buffet at the dance? I don't remember roasted meats at my proms.
  17. For kids who haven't been allowed to dance in their lives, they can sure bust a move. And there's no way white kids in a remote town without MTV would have known how to breakdance.
  18. At no point in the movie does Sarah Jessica Parker wear Manolo Blahniks. Or Jimmy Choo's. Yeah. Right.

Demographics

I wonder if they advertise laxatives and stool softeners in the morning for the same reason Dominos sponsors the Simpsons at 7PM? If so, maybe coffee and cigarettes should buy some time, as well. Or pancakes. I hear they work for some people, too.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

beauty - becoming the beholder

You've read these posts a hundred times. But tonight it's my turn to write one.

I watched a documentary the other night called F**k Off, I'm A Hairy Woman, wherein an Asian comedian decides to stop waxing/plucking/shaving/depilating to see how both she and society react to a bit of body hair. (BBC Three is doing a whole series on self esteem...sadly, I missed Me And My Man Breasts, but there are always reruns.) It wasn't particularly good, but I must admit it made me think about standards of beauty.

She did a lot of man/woman-on-the-street interviews, and pretty much everyone she spoke to, male or female, shared the opinion that body hair is bad on women...it is a sign of a lack of grooming, laziness and pride, not just on underarms or legs, but on arms, on the face (except for meticulously kept eyebrows) and CERTAINLY not in the nethers, unless you've got a tidy little Brazilian or perhaps a heart for Valentine's Day.

I expect this from most men, but was a bit surprised by the number of women who felt this way. I suppose I shouldn't be, what since the gender roles are almost cartoonish in England and women of all ages here spend inordinate amounts of time slaving to fashion, but it still seemed odd that they would be so unforgiving of arm hair. I mean, what's the big deal about a bit of peach fuzz on a forearm? But it would seem everyone in Britain has been brainwashed to believe that every inch of a woman should be smooth as a baby's bottom, and those who are not are inadequate, ugly.

I am not particularly hairy...although my hair is quite dark, I have my mother's ginger-complexion, and with that comes light-toned body hair and very little of it....therefore I've never really spent any time thinking about this. But when I did, it seemed silly that so much negativity was being channeled at women for something that is perfectly natural. It's bad enough when the frat boys at Loaded criticise the attractive, fit narrator because she's got stubble on her legs (even though she looks like a goddess in her sexy sundress and has a fantastic rack, two of the highest priorities for a lads mag.) I can only imagine how horrible it must be for the punk rock girl from Brighton who has a peach fuzz beard. No wonder some of the "hairy women" she interviewed looked like kicked puppies, with absolutely no self esteem. It's ridiculous that something so simple as body hair can be the difference between being beautiful and being hideous.

Which forces me to acknowledge my own complex. Life is difficult enough without beating ourselves up about inconsequential things that are a natural part of being human. I may meet the beauty standards for hairiness, but I more than make up for this success with obsessive hatred for my overly-round figure even though, as Lulu says, I'm "clever, bright, funny as hell, and have a great rack." My nose and chin are pointier than the average cover girl's, my makeup always fades or smears and my lips are so tiny they disappear when I smile. I beat myself up for not being beautiful. I hate myself for not being slim. But when you get right down to it, what exactly IS wrong with me? Nothing, really. I'm actually quite foxy, in a completely unique, no-one-is-quite-like-me way. I'm a walking talking Dove commercial, for god's sake. (Except that I mainly use Lush and Aveda products, but you get the idea.) It's pathetic that I let myself listen to voices that demand I change to look like everyone else.

And how sad that I'm 40 years old and have to give myself this pep talk. Now THAT is ridiculous. In fact, whether it's me or any of the millions of other women on the web who've written exactly this post in their own words, it is completely moronic that we can't get comfortable in our skins and just live happy lives.

My new mantra: F**k Off, I'm a Chubby Woman. (Repeat as necessary until I actually believe it.)

This is me. (And CP and Dale.) So be it.

Friday, April 27, 2007

apropos of nothing

1. I am watching Friday Night with Jonathan Ross and he's interviewing Sarah Brightman. She refuses to sit on the couch and is perched instead on the arm of the sofa. It looks ridiculous. I think it's because of her giant shoes. She's wearing four-inch platform sandals. She as a very posh accent and acts as though she's regal. I say a woman who made a name for herself in Cats shouldn't be so hoity toity.
2. Tonight I was at the gym and was doing an ab exercise where I lay on my back, extend my legs into the air and then, holding a 4kg ball in my hands, extend my arms and touch my toes. I was gassy. About 5 reps in, all hell broke loose. There were people walking past me on their way out of a spin class. I was very embarrassed, but since I was a sweaty red mess by then I don't think I blushed noticeably. I'm hoping they thought it was the guy next to me.
3. Ransom pictures of the kidnapped Oscars have included a hostage photo tied to a tree, Barbie giving him a polishing, an escape attempt at a local bowling alley at last night's social club event, and word has it that one of them has now been taken to Malta in carry on luggage. Meanwhile, lesser trophies have been released, most recently in the compartments of the food vending machine in the lunchroom.
4. Made moules meuniere for dinner. Ate it with crusty bread and a crispy salad. It was delicious.
5. Found a website where, if I really wanted it, I could pay £6.40 for a box of Captain Crunch, £4.66 for a jar of Jif, and £18.71 for a box of tide. Think I'll wait until I come home. Though they do sell Vlasic pickles. Not perfect, but at least they're not sweet.
6. For the first week in many, I have made it through an entire issue of the Economist before the next one arrives tomorrow AM.
7. Dirty Dancing is the greatest movie of all time. Okay. Maybe not. But is there a more poignant tale of earnest liberal virgin meeting hood from the wrong side of the tracks with a heart of gold, who then fall in love against everyone's wishes and dance like there's no tomorrow? I think not. Unless maybe it's Footloose, except that preacher's kid wasn't a virgin. Or Pretty In Some Kind of Wonderful Pink, though there may not have been dancing in that. There was dancing in Strictly Ballroom, though... neither of them are hoods, but it has a good soundtrack and that Paul Mercurio is oddly compelling. Scratch what I said about Dirty Dancing. Maybe it's in the top ten greatest dance-related movies of the last 20 years. But it still made for a good Friday night.
8. Jack Black is king. Jack Black should be a guest mentor on American Idol next season. Jack Black is perfect. Jack Black IS better than Sanjaya. Jack Black is better looking than Seal.
9. Today, the swan was floating on the still pond in a moment of tranquil beauty, and just for a second I thought it was beautiful. Just for a second.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Legact Part II: Lessons Yeltsin Taught Us

Saw this this morning on BBC Breakfast, with the anchors openly laughing. (I'm sure it's been all over the news for hours back home, but it was quite the amusing wake up message for me.) Mr. Bush. Iraq is bad enough. You didn't need this, too.




Unless maybe this was your clever way to offer a diversion from it in your legacy reels...You're a cagey one, Mr. President.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Melancholia

It's happening again. I am sad. Really sad. I have been crying for about four hours now. The kind of crying you can't stop. The kind that isn't even sobs, but more like an eye leak, so constant is the flow. (Sobs happen, too, but no one can sustain sobbing for four hours.)

I hate this. It doesn't happen often, but when it does it is positively paralyzing.

I'm thinking this is fear of the unknown manifesting itself as sorrow. It is becoming plain that I will not be able to stay with my current employer if I wish to actually use my MBA to any extent, which means that I don't know what I'm going to be doing a year from now. Usually that sort of uncertainty is fine. But right now it's causing a minor panic attack. There's a lot to do to find a job. I've started the process. I'm not unprepared. It's just that it's sinking in now that there is a monumental task ahead and I am momentarily panicking.

I'm also plagued with self-doubt, and am hyper-critical of my job and school performance and am just generally convinced that I suck. Plus I'm exceptionally broke for the remainder of the month, which hasn't happened in a very long time and so I feel like a loser for draining my reserves down as far as I have this month.

So now we've established that I'm a no-talent pathetic DEADBEAT loser with no future. No wonder I'm crying.

Or maybe it's the PMS. My boobs are sore and I am doubled over with cramps and have tiny chin zits that are cropping up faster with each passing minute.

Nah. I suck. AND I have pizza face, which makes me suck more.

I guess at least I'm excelling at something.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

The European Speciality


The Client Services Director in charge of the account that I've been working on this last week wanted to thank my team for all of their efforts. He brought us TWO boxes of Ferrero Rocher chocolates as a token of his appreciation. Really kind of him, and I was thoroughly impressed, as most of our CSD's haven't so much as remembered to verbalise the words "thank you" in the 2.5 years I've been here, let alone given us presents. (There are one or two exceptions, but you get the idea.)

Ferrero Rocher ads were always a joke back home...posh European people acting impressed by their high-brow host serving these gold-wrappered chocolate hazelnut morsels...very tongue in cheek, pretending to create an aspirational brand out of what is basically a high-end Whitman's Sampler. And though I've always thought these chocolates were fine (they are chocolate, after all, and they are certainly tasty,) I've never considered them all that special. They're just another candy, if you ask me.

But it seems I don't know posh. No one actually needs two boxes of these, so I thought I'd take them on a walk around the department and offer them to my colleagues. You should have SEEN the eyes light up. "Oh MY! Ferrero Rocher!" Everyone had one, many asked if they could have two, and even the ones who won't eat fruit for fear it would make them fat were willing to have a sinful little treat. They were FERRERO ROCHER, after all. The buzz preceded me, and by the time I got to the far end of the office everyone had stopped working in anticipation of their chocolates. There was no sense of irony in the room. I was beside myself with laughter.

Who knew it wasn't a joke?

Seven Songs

I didn't get tagged, but I don't care. I'm doing it anyway. Here are seven songs currently in my obsessive-compulsive head. Links are to youtube, in case you don't know the song but want to hear it anyway. (I'm not a sophisticated enough user to just load them in as mp3s. Sorry.)

1. I'm Going To Stop Pretending That I Didn't Break Your Heart - Eels
Thanks. It's about time. And it makes me feel better, even though I've been over you for a long time now.

2. The Revolution Will Not Be Televised - Gil Scott-Heron
The revolution will not go better with Coke. The revolution will not fight the germs that may cause bad breath. The revolution will put you in the driver's seat.

3. Flathead - The Fratellis
I'm working my way up to running a solid half hour, and I'm currently sitting at about 15 minutes (which is then surrounded by 45 minutes of other torture, but the running is my focus these days). Random shuffle is either a blessing or a curse, depending upon whether it hits fast or slow...a bit of Buzzcocks, some Suburbs or a good Fat Boy Slim is magic, some Karrin Allyson or Chet Baker stops me in my tracks. So I created a special mix for running. Dead on minute 13 of my treadmill mix, this is the perfect thing to pace myself to make it to 15. (Confidential to Ten S and Bubs: the music makes me think of T, the women in the linked video make me thing of B. Scrappy Scottish lads with a retro sound and pinup girls...a heady mix, that.)

4. I Believe In A Thing Called Love - The Darkness
Also on my treadmill mix, this one comes in about minute seven. Laugh if you will. The Darkness ROCK.

5. Miss You - Etta James
Even though this is on my 40@40, I totally forgot about it. Then the other day I was making dinner and drinking some wine and feeling a bit funky, (yes, "feeling a bit funky" does happen to me now and again,) and then Etta came on the shuffle and now it is in my head always. I'm listening to it about four times a week. Sadly, there's no youtube of this one, so instead I'm linking to this, which has a similar funky feel.

6. If I Can't Change Your Mind - Sugar
Again, I'd forgotten about this song and then it popped up in the random shuffle and now I am listening to Sugar constantly. Bob Mould is brilliant.

7. Christ for President/Chocolate Jesus - Billy Bragg & Wilco/Tom Waits
All this talk of elections and bigotry and Kristians has dredged these from my mental jukebox and now I find myself humming these without thinking when I'm reading blogs and watching the news. (Or at least as much as one CAN hum Tom Waits.)

Monday, April 23, 2007

It's the little things

Man, it has been a nasty few days. I've had a large project due at work and have spent the majority of the weekend and the day getting it done. This meant ducking in and out of school over the weekend, working Saturday and Sunday, and basically giving up any sense of a life. I hate that.

But it is 930pm now, the work is done and I am home on the sofa watching The Daily Show With Jon Stewart- World Edition, a Monday-night compilation show of highlights from the last week. (We get shows a day late Tuesday - Friday, but I use Mondays to catch up in case I missed something from Rob Riggle or Jason Jones.) Things are much much better.

And I've had a few triumphs, as well. The document is 70 pages long without budgets (each of the three budgets is about 12 pages) but it all looks very organised and detailed. And I got a difficult point across to a stubborn supplier without losing my temper, even though I was squishing her head in my mind.

My top achievement, though, is that I figured out how to turn off my car stereo.

I have one of those pop-off face stereos in my little Audi, and for the two and a half years I've had this car the only way I've known how to turn off the stereo was to pop its face off....if you didn't, it kept playing when you turned the car off, and I was sure it wouldn't go off on its own and would drain my battery. To be fair, it also shut off if I popped the CD out while the car was off, but that wasn't always convenient. If you know me at all, you know that this bothered me immensely. IM. MENSELY. But as hard as I tried, I couldn't figure out how to turn it off, so I kept popping the face and tossing it in the glovebox, and am lucky I didn't slam it in the door and break it. Sure, it gave me an excuse to fondle the occasional knee or two, but as a rule it was dead annoying.

But, this weekend, I figured out that if you push one of the buttons and hold it down for a little over a second, it turns the stereo off and you can leave it in place when you get out of the car.

And how, you ask, did I figure this out?

Well, I took the manual out of the glovebox and looked up "Off".

Why it is important to think about your legacy

Because you may have been a world leader, but when you die, every news station in the world will play this.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Good Parenting

Maybe Ireland Baldwin/Basinger really is a mean-spirited cow raised to hate her father. She's 13, she lives with her mother and her mother hates her father with the fire of ten thousand suns. Isn't it possible that she's giving him the shoulder, refusing to take his calls and being disrespectful to her dad?

I guess not. Teenagers always treat their parents with respect. Especially when they're 3000 miles away. Alex Baldwin is a horrible, horrible man. Way to find the hard-hitting news, guys.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Offal is Awful, or The Unsophisticated Palate

I hate picky eaters. I firmly believe that, if you are over the age of breast milk (which I put at about the first birthday, though I'm willing to stretch this as long as the suckler is not old enough to ask for a drink or understand that lifting its mothers shirt gets it lunch,) you have to be willing to at least try new things.

And though I am not a parent and therefore will be immediately attacked for stating this opinion, I firmly believe that children can learn to try things they don't think they'll like, and learn to eat things that are not chicken fingers, pasta, pizza or hot dogs. (I have seen many a parent succeed in this, albeit perhaps after a strong battle of wills, so I know it can be done if you have the mettle.)

But by the time you're an adult, I believe you should be able to eat pretty much anything. You may not elect to be adventurous, but unless you're allergic to an ingredient you should be able to live with it if your host puts it in front of you, and if you inadvertently eat something with a less preferred ingredient you can gracefully finish a polite amount without making a face or letting anyone in on your secret.

Since I hold everyone else to this standard, I must live to it myself. But truth be told, I have my own list of please-god-no foods. And for you, my gentle readers, I am willing to share.

- Chevre: see last night's entry. Pleh.
- Offal: Meat may be murder but it is also delicious. However, I am four-square against the organ meats. Ick Pleh. I have made my way through a respectable portion of haggis, I have tasted sweetbreads, eaten a tongue sandwich, gulped obligatory pate canapes and once staged a coughing fit to transfer a chicken-liver-filled wonton from my mouth to my napkin to prevent public gagging at a formal dinner. I have even made it through an entire dinner of liver and onions without complaint (though I severed that friendship immediately, as I figure anyone who would serve guests liver and onions is a nitwit.) But I HATE offal. HATE IT.
- Oily Fish: Not a fan of fishy fish. I even plug my nose when I take fish-oil supplements. Oily fish makes my upper palate quiver in revulsion which, in extreme cases, can induce gagging. I've made inroads. All those years in the Pacific Northwest have trained me to eat salmon (though when I thought I'd get by with it I steered guests towards the Dungeness crab for their home-cooked meal.) And I quite like taramasalata, caviar/roe, and smoked mackerel if it's done right. But if there's a graceful way to get the caesar without the anchovy fillets I will, and the likelihood of me eating a kipper snack is, well, slim.
- Red Delicious Apples: I like my fruit either tart or tangy. Red Delicious apples taste waxy, the skin is bitter, and the flesh is mealy and bland.
- Papaya: I always want papayas to taste like mangoes, and I guess I just can't forgive them. Green papaya is good, but the rest of it? Pleh.
- Cold ketchup: Room temperature is fine, but cold ketchup makes me think of that clump of congealed red gunk around the neck of the bottle.
- Zucchini/Courgette: If you can hide it or disguise it with other flavours, I'm fine. But it is my least favourite squash and I'd be perfectly fine if it never came my way again. And I'm here to tell you you CAN taste it in the cake or bread or other baked good you're trying to smuggle it into, so don't think you're pulling a fast one.
- Oysters: Gross if you chew them, gross if you swallow them. If you want lemon and horseradish, just have that. Once had an enormously embarrassing moment in a restaurant where I put the oyster in my mouth and couldn't get it down without an eye squint and a head shake. Luckily my dinner dates found this funny and unexpected rather than rubeish.
- Tarragon: If used subtly it can be a delightful flavour. But there's a fine line, and too much is unbearable. Ditto with parsley.
- Snickerdoodles: Dumb name, stupid cookie. Maybe it's the nutmeg, though I like nutmeg fine in a pasta sauce or on custard. So it's probably the snicker. Or the doodle.

Offhand, I think that's it. Now remember, as Spiderman says, with great power comes great responsibility. If I come over for dinner and you serve me goat cheese salad with tarragon vinaigrette, sauteed kidneys with cold ketchup and a side of zucchini, and then follow it up with snickerdoodles for dessert, we're SO over. And I'm not going to suppress the upchuck before I leave your table.

Link Maintenance

I've been doing a little site maintenance this morning.

  • Firstly, never one not to follow a trend, I've alphabetized my links for tidiness.
  • Secondly, I've added links to blogs I read regularly, partly because it makes it easier for me to get to them if I don't have access to my bookmarks, and partly because it only seems fair I come clean about who I actually stalk...anonymous blog reading starts to feel a little seedy to me if the content is personal. Plus these are very good sites and you all should know about them if you don't already. Keep an eye on that, by the way. There are a few more soon to receive my endorsement but I'm tired of this game so it may be a week or two.
  • Lastly, I've now separated non-personality driven blogs and other frequent use sites into "Diversions". Because sometimes you want information and amusing anecdotes, and sometimes you want to read someone's diary.

There. Now you know.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Toe cramp update

The latest stretch to make this stop did not help, but it did give me a dull charley horse like cramp in my right butt cheek. Who knew that could even happen?

Toe Cramps

For the last three hours, my right toes have been in a clenched spastic cramp that no amount of stretching, walking or massaging is fixing. There is a good inch between my thumb toe and its neighbor. the four little piggies are kind of concave and flat looking and I cannot bend them because of the tension in the muscles.

This sucks.

Chevre

I hate goat's cheese. I really, really hate goat's cheese. It tastes like they pee while they're being milked. Nothing good will EVER come of goat's cheese. They should either stop making it or create a health and safety standard that requires all people to label it "Hazardous Waste Alert - Goat's Cheese".

Sheep's cheese, on the other hand, is delicious. Yum.

I've also decided that I can take stinky cheese as long as it doesn't smell like an unwashed body part. But if I start to think I'm near a toilet all bets are off.

Here's an unexpectedly delicious recipe using stinky cheese that does NOT make me worry I need a shower:

Baked Sweet Potatoes with Leeks and Gorgonzola

Things you'll need:
1 Sweet Potato per person
leeks
gorgonzola
olive oil
salt and pepper

Wash the sweet potato/es. Dry them. Anoint them with (olive) oil.
Put them in a pan, sprinkle them with salt and pepper, and bake them at 375/190 for an hourish.
Slice some leeks (your call how many, but remember that leeks are, in fact, delicious). Bung some more olive oil in a pan. Saute the leeks until they soften and start to brown. Stop now.
When the potato/es are done, cut them in half. Put them cut side up in the pan. Cover with sauteed leeks, sprinkle with salt and pepper. Now lay a slice (yes, a SLICE, not crumbles) of Gorgonzola on top, and then slap them under a hot broiler for about 2-3 minutes until that cheese starts a bubbling.

Eat. I like a sauvignon blanc with this, but an Italian white would be just fine, too.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Delicious Dinner

Effortless, and cooked while I showered after the gym.

Flatten a chicken breast.
Put it in a shallow baking dish.
Slap on some serrano ham.
Put a thin slice of lemon on each end.
Dot the middle with a little bit of butter and then grind some pepper over it.

Put it in the oven (180C, whatever that is F) and bake for like a half an hour.

Ten minutes before it's done toss some asparagus with some olive oil, sea salt and pepper and toss it in the pan, too.

You have just enough time to blow dry your hair, pour a glass of wine and get the plate ready.

And if you're as lucky as me, you'll sit down to find Pretty in Pink is just starting, so you can keep one eye on it while you read your Globalisation prepwork. By the way, why is it she's such a funky dresser throughout the movie, but then creates that butt ugly prom dress? (And technically gingers shouldn't wear that much pink.)

Monday, April 16, 2007

Best thing ever

Check out the April 4th and 5th posts here.

Then go here to sign up for alerts in your town.

I cannot WAIT to participate in one of these.

Oh. And completely off topic, I love Eric Cartman's edition of In the Ghetto.

Music tag from CP

What was the first recorded music you bought?

I'm 40. Like I can remember this. I've bought a lot of music in my day, and I can't even hazard a guess. Knowing my taste in the 70's, it was likely something by Abba, though I liked a bit of 10CC and had my share of Osmond and DeFranco Family albums. I was really, really cool, FYI. I even had dance routines.

What was the last music you bought?
Badly Drawn Boy, Amy Winehouse and I replaced my Weezer album (all electronically)

What was the first "professional" music show you ever went to?
The Carpenters. (They could have been my first purchased music, as well.)

What was the last?
I am such a saddo that I don't remember. I think it was the band I saw on Tom's 40th birthday. They had a chick playing a typewriter. Let me think about this some more and I'll update it later. Unless the Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain counts. I saw them a few months ago.

What's your "desert island" album?
I hate these questions because I love music and I have different music for different moods and I would go down with the ship before I'd limit myself to one album until I was rescued by sailors. For purposes of this list I will, however, cut it down to Elvis Costello's Imperial Bedroom, Nanci Griffith's One Fair Summer Evening, Tom Waits Rain Dogs and SCOTS Doublewide and Live. And I'd like to have Dave Brubeck's Take Five handy, too, if it were in easy reach on my way out, not to mention whatever Beck I could grab. And a little Smiths would be good for the inevitable bouts of melancholia as I cursed my fate. And if sailors are doing the rescuing, a little Barry White or Marvin Gaye or Me'Shell N'degeocello might not be bad to have on hand, either. Just saying.

What's your favorite album/song title? (the *title* , not the actual album or song).

More Songs About Buildings and Cows by the Meat Purveyors.

Thank God, because you can never have enough songs about buildings and cows. Talk about filling a market gap.

What's your favourite album art (include an image of it if you can)?


Ideal choice for a karaoke song?
If you're Bill Murray, What's So Funny About Peace Love and Understanding or More Than This can make the girls swoon. If you're me, Girl from Ipanema or Walking After Midnight or even a little Liz Phair won't get you kicked out of the bar.

Song you don't like that WILL NOT LEAVE YOUR HEAD if you hear it.
Take it in turns...these cycle through my head regularly (though with Barry it isn't because I don't like it).

I've Never Been to Me
(thanks, Larry Aldrich), I'm Henry the Eighth, I Am, Wildfire (FYI, I hate horses almost as much as clowns and swans), Who's Been Sleeping In My Bed, Stand, In the Name of Love, The Twelve Days of Christmas.

Which is cooler? -- Vinyl? CD? Cassette? 8-track?
Vinyl, obviously. Though I think it's actually cooler to say you long for the days of vinyl than it is to actually listen to vinyl these days. I mean, sure, it has that grainy authenticity blah blah blah, but iPods are much more convenient and they don't skip when you dance.

And ditto to CP on the 8-track memory. One of my happiest ever.

Everyday person

Now that my guests are gone, I am getting back to routine. Other than the office scandal....which is nothing to do with me...really....things are heading back to normal.

We went to the pub on Friday night after work, and then out for a curry. Simple Friday night, but there was something in the air. First the waiter at the restaurant welcomed me to the UK in his think Indian accent, and ordered my friend Marina to take good care of me. (Marina goes to this restaurant more than I do so they know her.) I explained that I live in the UK, and thanked him for his kindness. He nodded and smiled. Then the owner came to welcome me. Thanked me for coming to his restaurant. I told him I'd been there many times before, and that I was looking forward to my delicious dinner. He smiled and bowed. By this time the waiter has returned. He served me first. He started calling me Miss New York, as though I were a) not from Iowa, and b) a beauty pageant winner. When he came to the table to check on us he spoke directly and only to me. I was very gracious. About halfway through dinner, two new customers arrived. On their way past our table, they stopped to greet me and shake my hand. Yes, MY hand. Not the hands of my three dinner companions. Just me. Finished dinner and walked to the car. Even the gang yobs in the street parted like the damn Red Sea before my power. I was MAGIC. It was almost as good as when they guy told me I was the Boss.

The remainder of my weekend was uneventful but quite productive. I mowed the lawn. (Much like mowing hay, so long had it gotten.) I took a nap. I cleaned out my dining room so it's useable again, and organised my storage/dryer room into storage/dryer/office. I did a bit of grocery shopping. I hosted a baby shower for my friend Mel. I had a team call to discuss action steps for my Globalisation group report. (My action step: do the reading I was supposed to do for Sunday. Not that I was the only one that hadn't done anything.)

Tonight I am getting a bit caught up on the blogging and the emails, and will then be reading up on Russia and corruption and transition economies. And I might do a bit of financial reading, as well. I like to live on the edge.

Aren't you glad boring MBA Mindy with stressful job and no life is back?

Office Wars

We had a quiz night at work on Thursday. My team scored 51 as did another, effectively a tie for first place. The quizmaster, who was a solid 8 pints and counting into the night, didn't have any tiebreakers ready so he proclaimed the boys from Creative the winners since they won the last time. This was patently unfair. We did a bit of trash talking and told them they would pay. (Seriously, how ridiculous is that? Why would anyone think it is fair to arbitrarily decide a contest like that?)

The next day the "winners" were all agloat. On and on like a bad dream about how great they were. Rubbing their NOT-victory in. And then they went to lunch.

While they were out, a mysterious vigilante went down to their department and, in about two minutes, cleared out every trophy they've ever won. (We do lots of teambuildings and these guys are really competitive, so there were a lot of trophies.) Their go-karting trophies? Disappeared into thin air. Their bowling trophies? Missing. Oscars from last year's film fest? Nowhere to be found. If it was shiny and had a plastic name plaque, it was gone.

When they received their quiz night trophy during the drinks roundup that afternoon, they took it down to their trophy case (yes, their trophy case) and discovered the theft. Oh my, were they irate. Stormed up to my desk, assuming I was the ringleader. I showed them my outlook calendar...I'd been in meetings all day. No way I could have stolen anything. They searched my desk (like I'd hide them in plain view, duh) and then moved on to two of my teammates. Who knew nothing. Really.

About an hour later, the plot thickened. They received an email from someone named Steve Tate (second cousin to Brad Wyatt, who was a Luther student with financial difficulties. He had to sell his exquisite stereo at rock bottom prices to buy books one semester, but he accidentally listed our RA's phone number as his contact, Silly Brad.) Steve sent a dastardly photo of the Best Actor Oscar, hanging from a noose (made from a nametag lanyard, I believe) perilously close to the water of the toilet. The note said, "Give up the trophy or Oscar gets flushed."

Oh, the humanity.

Steve will not return the trophies until the boys acknowledge that they did not, in fact, win and must share first place with the women from Events. And if they don't? Word has it that Oscar is tied to a ficus and being held at gunpoint by Barbie. She's got a hairpin trigger, that one. Who knows what will happen?

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Bugs in Amber


"There is no reason why good cannot triumph as often as evil. The triumph of anything is a matter of organization. If there are such things as angels, I hope that they are organized along the lines of the Mafia."

Rest in peace, Kurt Vonnegut. You changed my life, and I will be forever grateful. So it goes.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Not all UK ads are good

I hate this ad. And I hate all the other ads like it. Dumb, stupid annoying ad. Maybe you'll see it in the Annual Awards clips and laugh, but try having to watch it three or four times a week.


Ah, England

You've got to be kidding me.

Tom and Mindy in France

Had a long drive with heart to heart chatting on the way to the ferry. It was good to be able to confide in a dear friend like that...you forget how important that is when you don't get to do it every day. We were hungry by the time we got there, but I figured there would be a food court for passengers so I just got us in the queue. Unfortunately, I forgot to factor in the part about how England doesn't seem to like to let stores be open when people actually want to buy things. There IS a food court, but it closes at 10pm, so people on the midnight ferry are screwed until they get on board. We did find a restaurant open when we got settled on the voyage, though, and we had a so-so meal of meat and potatoes. I slept, Tom read the map. Two hours later we were in France.

With the time change, it was now 3 AM. Tom had reserved us a hotel near Dunkerque (where the ferry lands), but had no clear map and no phone number to get us there. We drove around the deserted streets of a sort of depressing little french town for over an hour looking for it. Eventually we backtracked to a sign that had an indicator to "hotels", and we were able to find our way there. It was a serviceable three star motel, and we had a double bed with a bunk single above. (I claimed the double bed and, though I magnanimously offered the other half to Tom, he took the rooftop bed instead.) The bathroom/shower was one of those all-in-one french things with a drain in the middle of the floor so it felt kind of like we were in a train instead of a hotel.

Had a wardrobe panic, what since Tom had forbidden me to wear jeans around his French friends, but did so without warning in a kind of panicky voice that made me think they might be the sort to care a little too much about what I was wearing. I made sure he approved of my clothes before leaving for the day. He did, so we got in the car and headed to Chantilly.

I took a semester of French my freshman year in college but currently don't speak it at all. I understand some if the speakers are going slowly and not slurring, but by no means do I understand a whole conversation and I can't answer a question if my life depends upon it. Wouldn't you know it. All of our French hosts had limited English...the two men could have basic conversation, and their wives were like me - able to understand some but unable to respond... so I did a lot of animated gesturing and face making to ensure I was making my point. It was torture, I tell you, not to be able to effectively communicate.

The couple we stayed with had a gigantic three-storey house with a huge walled garden and a spectacular veranda. It was impeccably decorated with the shabby chic of high-priced french antiques and artfully placed clutter of books and pictures and magazines and artifacts that had collected an elegant amount of dust. There were oil paintings of relatives on the walls and lovely little landscapes and drawings by vaguely known French artists. It was almost surreal, so frenchly posh was this house.

We had dinner at local restaurant. Tom and I both ordered the snails, which garnered comment from the owner, as the English don't generally like the snails. I successfully avoided organ meat without appearing a rube, though I believe they altered my request for a rare steak au poivre, assuming that I'd be happier with medium.

Tom told our hosts about my job and, as all good Rotarians with a good level of civic pride would do, they took this as a prime opportunity to promote their city. Sunday AM we were given a breakneck tour of the area, including a four-star hotel, the world-class polo grounds and race track, and the local Chateau (including a running tour of the inside) all in about an hour and a half. Tom and I went to another family's home for lunch, and were served a delicious lunch with aperitifs, an avocado/tomato/basil salad, a navarin printanier, fantastic cheeses and ice cream with raspberry coulis. After lunch we drove to Senlis, a walled medieval city nearby, walked through the cobble stoned streets and toured their fantastic Gothic cathedral. Returned home and had a leisurely dinner of lamb chops and snow peas with our hosts, followed by coffee and the most amazing peanut brittle egg with little chocolate bells. (He nice, the Jesus.)

Monday we went back to the Chateau for a more leisurely tour. It was a perfect, sunny beautiful day. The house is lovely and ornately French. There are galleries with many of those 18th century paintings with hidden meaning. For example, there is "Portrait of a Man", which would be more precisely named "Portrait of a Drag Queen", and "The Oyster Lunch" which is basically a giant metaphor for a homosexual orgy, with all these men gorging on oysters and watching a champagne cork fly into the air while draped upon each other in vaguely lascivious poses. Love this stuff. Walked into the gardens, where we had a delightful lunch in the sun.

I got to see numerous stereotypes incarnate...there was the greasy, smelly little french man with the suit in need of laundering that lead the tour of the private apartments. And the growly bear-man with the rumbly voice that was so low-pitched he made the guy that starts We Want the Funk with "Tear the roof of the mutha.." sound like a tenor. And there was the poncey French guy wearing loafers and a button-down shirt with a white scarf tied around his neck and a sweater around his shoulders. It was great.

Before leaving Chantilly, we stopped at a baker for treats...a baguette, some chocolate croissants, and some meringue treat with an appalling name. Made the drive to the ferry, got there early and were allowed to take an earlier sailing, and made it home by 1130. Tom beat me at two games of Skipbo during our sail, a humiliating defeat that more than pays me back for the humiliating defeats I dish out to my fellow scrabble players.

Tom made me breakfast this morning, and then I took him to National Express around 11. He should be home in a few hours. I will miss him.

CP and Mindy in England

As I type, Tom is in mid-flight, winging his way to lovely Newark NJ courtesy of Virgin-Atlantic. We have had a lovely time, and so I'm going to do two quick posts - one for England, one for France - chronically our adventures. For a more acerbic, slightly off-colour edition (and with 50% fewer "u's", go here.)

Each day I'd work, and then in the evening we would dine well and talk smart.

Tuesday: Tom spent the day in the City. He wanted to get a new European wardrobe whilst in the UK, so he went to Selfridges looking for a personal shopper. They claimed they were all booked up for the week, but Tommy suspects that they were pulling a Pretty Woman on him. (If only I'd been available to force them to help him, we could have had an elegant dinner and jetted to Dublin for some penny flute music that would make him cry. But I digress.) I grabbed a train around 5, and met Tom outside the Goodge Street station for a quick walk to his friend Babette's flat. Tom lived with Babette's family when he studied in France in high school, and had reconnected with her via email to arrange a meeting. Babette and her partner, Nat, have a fabulous little walk up flat in the heart of the city that sent me into conniptions of jealousy. We chatted over crisp German wine and tzatziki and olives, and then headed out to a Greek restaurant around the corner. Lovely evening. Home a bit late, but it was a short week at work, so who's counting?

Wednesday: Tom went into the city again, and I have no idea what he actually did. None. Seriously. Oh WAIT. He went to the Tower of London and almost got in a brawl with a family of German tourists while waiting for the Crown Jewels conveyor belt. Seems they were talking to each other and it upset him, or something like that. He came home around 7pm, and I made us a delicious tapas dinner, if I do say so myself. Grabbed some manchego, chorizo, serrano and olives, a bit of hummus with carrots, heated up a little dish of pre-done tapas potatoes from Waitrose (in with chorizo and onion in that not tomatoey red tapas sauce...even came in their own little brown clay dish), and made Gambas Pil Pil. Timmy, KC, this is how you do it:

Dice a red chili with seeds included, and about five cloves of garlic. Heat a pan, add about half a cup of extra virgin olive oil, then toss in the chili and garlic. (I added some dried Aleppo Pepper, but this is not a necessary item...it just added a little smokey peppery flavour into the mix.) Stir a bit, and fry for about two minutes...don't let it burn, though. Then you add the peeled/deveined prawns, and stir/fry until they're pink and done. (Stir/fry does NOT equal stirfry, FYI. There is a giant pool of oil in the pan.) Take off the heat, squeeze in half a lemon and add a bit of freshly chopped up parsley. Put it all in a dish, serve with delicious bread to sop up all that delicious oil.

OH! And we had flan for dessert with strawberries.

Thursday: Tom slept in and did laundry. I picked him up at 5 and we took a train into the city to meet my friend Patricia for drinks. We went to Refuel, a great little cocktail bar in the Soho Hotel. I like it because it has a vast cocktail menu and all things considered, it's pretty affordable, as well. I mean, in London, £11 for a martini is nothing, really. WELL. Tom disagrees. I gave a £20 for our first round, and when the tab came to £23 he had a fit. Tom refused to obey the cardinal rule of visiting London - stop with the converting everything to dollars and then complaining because it's twice as much as you'd pay in the states and only convert to keep track of your credit card limit....you're just not going to FIND it for what you'd pay in the states. Tom forbade us from ordering another round (which also violates the cardinal rule of round-buying, what since I paid for the first one, but he doesn't live here so he didn't know any better.) He was right, I guess, what since I was bitching about how broke I was and had no business spending more money than necessary. Patricia brought along a foxy young co-worker. He had a fabulous Black Country accent and was good fun to hang out with. We had a great time, and stopped in Chinatown for a passable (if not sublime) dinner before heading our separate ways.

Friday: Up mid-morning, packed for the weekend, and headed out to catch a train. Stopped at Halford's for these goofy little spots you're supposed to put on your headlights when you drive in Europe with a UK car (something about blinding oncoming traffic.) Realised I'd forgotten my passport (since I never need it if I'm not flying) and went back to pick it up. Stopped for a car wash and petrol (Tom could not abide my untidy car, especially when he was seeing friends), and we couldn't get the car wash to work because I was entering the wrong code. I didn't know this, though, and I had a stressed out meltdown and then Tom yelled at me because I was being unreasonable. (I maintain that I had all the hallmarks of unreasonable excitability that day, and he should have expected it.)

Drove to Watford, caught a train to the city, grabbed the tube to Kensington, and went to the Orangery to meet Dale and John. This is my first meeting with a blogger I'd never met before, and it was very weird. I don't hug strangers, but it seemed right to hug Dale upon meeting him. He and John are lovely, by the way. Absolutely delightful. We had much fun over cucumber sandwiches and earl grey, and then took a little walk through the park. Tom and John were almost attacked by a crazy squirrel with a giant bald bump on it's head while stopping for a cigarette (that'll teach you to smoke). Dale and I spied a fantastic mullet, the kind that makes you stop in your tracks and say, "Seriously, dude, look in the mirror!" We demonstrated our synchronicity by making simultaneous snide remarks about this poor fashion victim. Bless him, I think he thought he was hot. Shared a pint at a pub, and then Tom and I headed to Euston to catch a train to Watford so we could make our midnight ferry to France.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Monday

Not sure what Tom did today. I think he watched telly and slept. He called me at work around 4, completely lost in the redways of Milton Keynes. Once you're lost you're going to have a hard time finding your way out, I tell you, because everything looks exactly the same. By 530 he'd made his way to a little pub in Newport Pagnell and I met him for a beer after work. We discovered that the pub was decorated with Victorian pornographic drawings, which seems an odd choice for an olde worlde pub but there you have it. Made us laugh pretty hard, actually.

Went to a Chinese restaurant in the city centre called the Royal Lido, which Tom declared worthy of George which is a good thing. We had delicious Cantonese barbecued duck and bok choy in garlic. Came home and within about 10 minutes Tom was fast asleep on the sofa. I've sent him to bed with orders to get a good night's sleep so he makes it into London tomorrow, and I'll be right behind him as soon as I finish typing this.

In other news, the swans have a giant nest and I think they're expecting. This is partly because I've seen one of them sitting on the nest in the reeds, and partly because several times in the last month, the first thing I've seen upon leaving the house is one swan appearing to drown the other. (Once I had a few cups of coffee I realised that this was not actually what was happening.)
God help me, there are going to be more of them.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Tommy

Tom is here.

I left school immediately after lectures on Saturday and stopped home to finish picking up the house, because Tom is a bit of a neatnik and gets annoyed at excessive clutter. Threw the towels and bedding that I'd laundered that morning in the dryer, ran to M&S for some essential foodstuffs, and then headed to Heathrow to pick him up. (Always schedule trips to arrive on Saturday or Sunday and you get a friendly smile upon exiting customs and immigration.) I hit horrific traffic on the M1, but I'd allowed an appropriate buffer because organisation is one of my hallmarks.

Heathrow was a total zoo. Tom was on Virgin, which goes to Terminal Three along with virtually every other giant plane coming from afar on a non-BA carrier, and the stop and go traffic started before you even got to the big Heathrow roundabout. T3 has a great new car park, though, so at least it has spaces and was better lit than the old one. I seemed to arrive just as half of Pakistan was trying to get to their car, so I had to push my way through throngs of people and carts full of luggage. Made it to the customs greeting area just as his flight popped up as arrived. Perfect timing.

It was 745pm by this time, so I ducked into one of the snack shops and got us car food snacks. Came back and waited anxiously for My Friend Tom. I had to wait over an hour before I saw him wander out.

It was a pretty interesting wait, actually. There were flights from Bangladesh, Pakistan, and India all arriving around the same time, and I was standing amid families who were waiting for grandparents to arrive, kids running around completely unable to contain their excitement. Many sons would see their parents coming out of the doorway looking dazed at the sea of faces, and they would come forward and bow, touch their mom/dad's feet, then they reach up and touch their heart and then embrace. Never seen that greeting before, but I googled it and it is actually quite a common Kashmiri greting for younger generations when greeting elders after long seperation, especially when the younger lives outside of Kashmir.

My favourite fellow waiter was an extremely skinny boy in highwater, kind of tight pants (he was about 6) who, upon seeing his grandmother being wheeled towards him by a customs agent with her cane in her hand, started whelping WHOOO HOOO, flailing his arms about and jumping up and down like a leprechaun (imagine him bending his knees outwards and hitting his but with his heels), only to stab himself in the gut when he ran into her cane with his tummy. He fell to the floor in a heap, but didn't lose his enthusiasm.

I think Frances McDormand and Joel Cohen were on Tom's flight. They came out about 20 minutes before Tom did. She looked just as cool in person as you think she will. I think I'm the only one that recognised her. Tom was very jealous when he found out about my star sighting. Suffer, fool.

Tom talked the whole way here about his job and the dumbass sales people he works with. There is nothing so awful as hearing about someone who would sell their grandmother down the river to make their quarter's quota. Took him here for dinner and we had a very spicy curry, and then we stayed up very late. But the cocktails were delicious.

I made toasted hot cross buns from M&S for breakfast with PG Tips, and now we're making a roast dinner of chicken, stuffing, and fine beans. I plan to drag him to IKEA this afternoon, and American Idol is just coming on. How great is that?

CP + MJ = FUN FUN FUN!!!

Hey kids,
Coaster Punchman here blogging live from Melinda June! We're together for the next ten days, so prepare ye the way for several joint blog entries and tales of our mishaps together. My posts will be relatively short until I figure out how to work this infernal European keyboard.

I've already said about three derogatory things about England, which Mindy appreciates since it can be annoying always being the ex-pat amongst a bunch of Limeys. Now that I know she likes it, I go out of my way to say things like "an English person would make guacamole like that!" while watching Nigella on the TV.

In fact, I can't wait for my first opportunity to have a real English meal so that I can do my Jacks imitation: "Food like that is why I live in France!"

So far our misadventures have been minimal: After my semi-horrid flight, Min picked me up at Heathrow, fed me English treats in the car (the good kind) and then took me for a wonderful curry dinner at a fancy Indian place. It was in a quaint old village just a few minutes from her house. One of those neighborhoods where they only let rich people live. Delicious! And cute!

Then we came back to Min's adorable little suburban cottage (funny how in Europe even suburbs are cute), opened gifts (I got a Gordon Ramsay cookbook; Min got Absolut, pickles, jelly beans and Peach Bitters) and talked until the wee hours about how her life is superior because she lives in Europe now. Oh, and drank peach vodka tonics all the while. Pretty much a perfect evening.

We're going to be shopping, visiting friends old and new, traveling a bit and just general carrying on for the next ten days. (Min will be working some of that time but I'll manage for the both of us - that is if I don't get myself killed driving on the wrong side of the road.)

Check back for regular updates. And if there is silence for too long, check with the local police station just to be sure.