Friday, August 31, 2007

Jukebox Hero

I am the intellectual auntie. The literary one. Sure, I'm a bit more of a free spirit that my nephews' other aunts, but I've always been a stickler for giving challenging, educational or otherwise odd presents for birthdays and Christmas. From an early age, they've known that mine was not the package of Harry Potter Legos or Transformers...it was more likely to be some weird monster building kit or the actual Harry Potter books.

So you can imagine their surprise when I arrived with a belated birthday present for their Xbox 360. I'd sworn I'd never contribute to this mind-numbing time waster. That I would never participate in a stupid video game when I could be doing something real instead.

Well.

Guitar Hero II was on sale at Target this week. And, though it seemed to go against every sensibility I have, I'd heard rave reviews of a fabled guitar game from people I trust...even been encouraged to try it myself because I'd love it...and so I called around to verify that this was the right one and sunk the cash for an uncharacteristically mainstream present.

The nephews were thrilled...they'd had a version of it but broke the guitar and have been content to play at friends' houses or with a standard keyboard, and they LOVE this game. It got even better when I agreed to take a turn. I knew songs they weren't expecting me to know, and I was pretty okay at it...I made it through Surrender and the bass part to Killer Queen and Rock This Town at the Medium level, and am working my way through Girlfriend. I've even encouraged them to put a little english into their performances...none of this standing still concentration to hit the notes. Star Power is NOT just for when you get points.

I'm conquering Freebird before the weekend's out. And if they have Walk this Way or The Immigrant Song online, I'm SO downloading them.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Tally: vol 2

  • One McDonald's breakfast burrito, part of an Egg McMuffin and a cup of McDonald's coffee while we read the paper
  • One viewing of Sweet Land, which is romantic and lovely and beautiful, and looks just like you want love to look
  • One trip to the post office
  • Eyebrow wax while Mom had a wash and blow dry at Eclips
  • Photo taken for the paper to commemorate an earmarked hospice donation in my Dad's name
  • One more stop at McDonald's for a soft-serve cone (they're 49 cents each, for pete's sake)
  • One trip to Culver's for an iced tea with Mom and Carol
  • One very rushed trip home so the van didn't get hailed on
  • Dinner at the Oaks, the steakhouse in the old Cliff House hotel. Say, that Dan has sure done a nice job, hasn't he? I went to high school with him. Don't I remember?
  • One game of scrabble, Mom 316, Me 313
  • One viewing of Hairspray (the Divine version), wherein I explain to Mom why CP and I adore it and she laughs at the cartoon-like nature of the original and points out how the new one is better.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Tally: vol. 1

  • One Culver's chocolate custard with butterfinger chips
  • Half of a Culver's tuna salad wrap
  • Some of my mom's Culver's Club Salad
  • Two trips to Super Walmart, one for a box fan and another for a wet/vac. We had a mega thunderstorm in the night and my mom's house is built on soil high in clay content with lots of limestone springs running deep in the ground. This means that the neighbourhood can be prone to a bit of basement flooding in heavy rain. Lucky us...the sump pump broke and we woke to much water in the basement. My day has been spent with plumbers, moving furniture of saturated carpet and sopping wet boxes from parts of the cement side of the basement, getting said carpet lifted and then wet-vaccing the carpet pad. (about 8 gallons out thus far.)
  • One game of scrabble to relax - Mindy 374, Mom 277, with a bingo for Mindy with "begonia"

The Spanish Inquisition

Women, do you find Monty Python:

a) extremely funny
b) funny, I guess
c) stupid
d) all of the above

My brother and my nephews were having an argument about whether or not women find Monty Python amusing. I was cited as an example of one who does (which is correct), thus proving my brother wrong. But this raises the question...do others?

Sunday, August 26, 2007

For an extra buck you can get it without the connective tissue

The eating and cocktailing continues.

The walk and detox were indeed canned in favour of a Bloody Mary and a classic American breakfast of eggs, bacon, hash browns and toast. I really did have the best intentions, but when I walked upstairs after finishing my post, KB suggested we step out for a bite to eat and, always the gracious guest, I complied. We went to the kind of bar that has a few hipsters, a few guys who've told they're wives they're going for a walk and headed straight for the biscuits and gravy, a few locals like us who just wanted a bit of grease to lubricate the arteries for the day, and quite a few diehards drinking whiskey and water for breakfast. It's a good thing there's a smoking ban, or this place would be unbearable.

The Bloody Marys were $1.98, with an option to upgrade (yes, I said UPGRADE) to Smirnoff for a bit more. (Seriously. That's like upgrading to MD 20/20 from Boone's Farm.) They were, however, quite spicy and delicious, and I was quite content.

Spent the morning hanging with my friend KB, the afternoon with my friend KC. (KD, if you're out there, I think you're next in line.)

Spent the evening with my friend TC (who believes I have the Hershey squirts), Kelli (his wife, who, may I add, he is lucky to have as she is whip smart and sassy and can hold her own with the St. Paul Junior League), KC (former housemate and sister I don't have), Kent (her husband, a friend from college who defies the stereotypes of Lutheran ministers with gourmet cooking, beer/cocktail drinking and a wicked sense of humour), Sonja (former housemate, dear friend and soul mate eccentric), and Brad (aka Bramley Apple Pies! or The Visitor during my March blog posts). We went to a place called Lindey's in Arden Hills, a classic Midwestern supper club with five things on the menu and a full bar.

Had a delightful few Manhattans at the bar, then moved to the table where we were presented with the menu board. We all opted for the special...I mean, the waitress had the perfect selling point. It's only a dollar more and it's the prime cut...no connective tissue. It all comes with an iceberg salad with some creamy french dressing and one cherry tomato, a side of hash browny potatoes that taste like they had ranch dressing mixed in before they were fried, and a basket of garlic bread. It was all delicious. There was much excellent conversation, I had many hearty laughs, and said some unintentionally brash things that got me ridiculed for the rest of the evening.

When dinner was over, TC/Kelli/Brad and I went to the St. Paul Grill for a few cocktails. I rode with Brad in his truck and had to do some fancy maneuvering to get into it, as it is practically a monster truck and I was wearing a cute little skirt with limited ability to take the giant stride necessary for the climb. Ever graceful, I managed. Brad successfully parallel parked without too much incident, and I enjoyed a Manhattan and a martini whilst Kelli assertively attempted to sort out Brad's love life. Better him than me, I say. Kelli is one tough-love matchmaker, bless her. Having been on the receiving end in the past, I will tell you she's got a keen eye, and often brings up exactly what you DON'T want to discuss.

Soni picked me up at 9, we had an excellent chat in the car on the drive down, and now I am in Rochester, sitting at Panera and listening to the Beat Farmers...I asked for Johnny Cash, and Brad offered that plus the BFs, some Josh Rouse, some Rilo Kiley, a bit of Drive By Truckers and some Jazz Butcher. Bo. nan. ZA. My mother will be here shortly, and I will be off to the land of pigs and corn for breakfasts at McDonalds, lunches at the teahouse and a few lemon ices from Culvers.

Vacation rocks. ROCKS, I tell you.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Damn US keyboards

All the punctuation marks are in weird places.

It's Saturday morning, and I've managed to move my body clock from the 430 AM wake ups I've been having to a respectable 715 AM. Still pretty early, but at least not awkwardly so.

The international leg of my flight was much better than usual. No missionaries leading bible study during takeoff. No crying babies or obnoxiously immature blokes sticking their buttocks in my face. I was bit worried, as they'd switched out my seat without my permission and moved me from the bulkhead aisle I had to the last row of the plane, still an aisle but directly in front of the main toilets, the big kitchen and with no recline. However, I complained politely, and after a bit of a wait I got a plum aisle seat in the front section of coach, meaning more leg room and swifter exit in Chicago. Big win. My seatmates were a French family. The mom was sitting next to me, and though she was one of those people who believes she space in the row that she wants, she was friendly enough. I wasn't that fond of the raspy nasal sniff cough she made every so often, but I put my iPod on and couldn't hear it. Flight was even a little early.

I had stopped in duty free in London to buy treats for my friends hosting me in Minneapolis. Dunhill has 100th year anniversary editions that the boys from British American Tobacco were handing out at my last weekend of lectures. They got raves from everyone, so I picked up a little boxed set for my friend D, who likes the occasional cigarette and is known for her discriminating tastes. I then grabbed a bottle of delicious rum made in a Caribbean country about 90 miles from the US for K. Sadly, she is not enjoying it with ginger ale or tonic, though..it made it off the plane and into the country, but I neglected to put it in my checked baggage in Chicago and it got confiscated by the security checkpoints at Terminal Three. Numpty.

I believe that there is no such thing as an easy flight between Chicago and Minneapolis. We boarded the flight on time, but were forced to wheel to a remote part of the tarmac and wait for two hours before we could fly. We were allowed water or juice but not actual treats. It was not fun. The same thing happened in June when I was going from MSP to Chicago, and on Thursday my friend S's flight from MSP to Chicago was even cancelled, only supporting my theory that it's best to drive once you hit the Midwest. Note to self for future bookings.

I have done little else but eat delicious food and drink delicious cocktails since my arrival. I have decided that today I am going to take a long walk and do a daytime detox before I go to dinner with friends this evening. Or maybe I'll go out for bacon and pancakes for breakfast and take a long nap. Six of one. I have fabulous new hair. It is shorter and layered, and I have some bright cherry red streaks in it. The nice man at Cecil's Deli yesterday commented that his nieces have the same color in their hair. Of course, they are likely 13 and getting ready for school, whereas I am 41 and getting ready for my post MBA job search. Luckily I work in England, where definitions of appropriate hair color are a bit more broad.

Favourite sight: Little plastic google eyes on the "Don't do this or you'll trip and fall" icon in the jetway of my O'hare-MSP flight.
Favourite sound: the floorboards creaking as my friends walk around when they get up in the morning
Favourite taste: Maybe the dill pickles that were waiting for me when I got here. Maybe the Manhattan KB made me to go with them. Or maybe the fish tacos at the Longfellow Grill, or the delicious rigatoni with pancetta and onions we had for dinner last night, or, or, or...so many choices....

Monday, August 20, 2007

Winging my way home

Tonight is packing night. Tomorrow I work, come home for a quick last minute check of the house and to grab my bags, and then I drive to my friend Patricia's. I have to be at Heathrow by 545AM Wednesday, and then I'm off for a relaxing time in the Midwest.

Hallelujah! The to do list for tonight is do-able so it shouldn't even be horribly late.

Friends are watching my house while I'm out, and there are workmen coming to replace windows and paint the interior, and gardeners coming to fix my horrible garden. When I return, I will be renewed and so will my abode. All good.

I won't be online for another few days, but will check back in once I'm properly on holiday.

I'm giddy with excitement.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

And the final blow

If all of the other evidence has not shamed him into admitting his error, then this, from the book of Hairspray in the Tom and Mindy bible, should sort this out. Baltimore. 1962....

And another thing...

Check out the date on THIS little gem....

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Nothing he could ever do would make me hate him, BUT...

Coaster Punchman is one of the loves of my life. And for twenty years, every time one of us does something that might annoy the other, we remind each other that nothing we could ever do would make us hate each other. But this time, CP has gone to far. Baby's coming out of the corner swinging, my friend.

Mr. Punchman had the audacity to criticise the fashions and hairstyle of Dirty Dancing. He claims they are not authentic. That the movie does not look like it is taking place in 1963. This criticism is a thinly veiled insinuation that this movie is not perfect, and THAT is simply not so. Easily one of the greatest movies of all time, or at least one of the top 10 dance movies of the last 20 years.

And where exactly do you come by this erroneous conclusion, sir? I submit the following to you:
- The summer of 1963 looked much more like 1959 than 1969.
- Crew cuts and various versions of bouffants were the hairstyles of the day for the fashionable.
- A young liberal Jewish teen like Baby would not care for this, and would be ahead of her time with folksy, hippie looking clothing. She is planning to join the newly formed Peace Corps, after all.
- Men's fashions for the affluent or stylish consisted of suits, skinny ties, knit sweater-polos and the like.
- The mini-skirt, nowhere to be found until 1965 in popular mainstream fashion, was nowhere to be seen. Instead, well-bred women were not seen in public in skirts above the knee.
- Jackie Kennedy fashion was the dominant in style, but casual clothes still consisted of shirtwaist dresses and the like.

Fashions from the 1963 Sears catalog

- This is, of course, a summer camp, and people would not be wearing their finest clothes at all times.
- And the dirty dancers, well, they're poor kids from the other side of the tracks. We all know they can't follow fashion as well as the wealthy. Therefore the fact that they're dressed like the Lords of Flatbush and their girlfriends is actually pretty realistic.


See? Hoodlums. There.

- And Patrick Swayze's mullet is really just a growing out duck tail.

And finally, here is historic footage from eight months later, in early 1964...tell me that the crowd does NOT look very much like the extras in Dirty Dancing. Of course, the band's haircuts were scandalous, so they're nothing to go by.

Friday, August 17, 2007

It takes a village to make a cocktail

Just back from a lovely night out with friends. We started at the Bull, a pub in Olney, where we had a typical English Friday night talking smack and sucking down drinks. It was a great way to relax, and very necessary considering how stressful the last week has been. Many bawdy jokes were made. There was some swearing and some mick-taking.

We then moved on to Cafe Brio, where they make delicious pizzas. Delicious by English standards, of course, as the pizzas here have no spice to them...they use canned tomatoes, not pizza sauce, so by American taste buds they're a bit bland. (I cannot WAIT for my night at Red's Savoy Inn later in the month.) Much more conversation and laughter, and a shot of espresso that has me pretty wired.

So I just got home, and since I'd stuck to soda and lime for the evening, what since I was driving and all, I decided to make a cocktail. I perused my liquor shelf and decided that a manhattan was just the thing. And as I picked the bottles of the shelf, I realised that I have not purchased any of the ingredients in this cocktail.

Here is my new signature Manhattan...I'll make you one when you're over for a visit.

- Two shots of Makers Mark that Bramley Apple Pies brought on his last visit
- 3/4 shot of Noilly Prat Red, brought by a friend when he came to dinner a few months ago
- dash of peach bitters, carried in the suitcase of Coaster Punchman on HIS last visit
- a cocktail cherry, from a jar given to me by a friend who got sick of me bitching about how I couldn't find them in the supermarket every time I made him a cocktail.

Four different guests, four different ingredients. One very delicious, very strong cocktail.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

The scent of the king


A nice dairy worker believes she has discovered the image of Elvis in a wheel of stilton. I guess I see it, kind of like I can see the guy in the camel on a pack of cigarettes. But personally, I think she just wanted her picture in the paper.

I wonder if Elvis smelled like cheese? I've always assumed he smelled like Old Spice. Or maybe Paco Rabanne.

Hoof, mouth and nose disease

You've heard the news stories. They're true. First I stubbed my toe and turned it purple. Yesterday there was a tiny little zit on the edge of my lip. And now there's a red spot very near the end of my nose.

It's an epidemic.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Just saying



If someone called me "Turd Blossom", I would not think it was endearing.

But consider this. Not only did The Decider use this dookie-focused term as a nickname for his long time friend, one of my Republican friends used to announce loudly that I had the "Hershey Squirts" for no apparent reason back when we were in college. By announce I mean shout it across campus, down dorm hallways, across crowded cafeterias...you get the idea.

Maybe poop is the GOP's way to tell you they love you.

Which I guess could explain their policies.

Note to Some Guy: In response to the "turd blossom" image search, google gave a partial nude on page 2, a nasty-pimple-rash ass on page 12, and a photo-shopped nude Cheney/Bush embrace on page 30. Your theory holds.

Great moments in my history

Outlanders. There.

No wonder they call it the Badlands.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Pretty Woman looks creepy from this side of 40

Richard Gere was my age today when he made Pretty Woman. Which makes him 58 today, which is odd. But I digress.

I have the kind of insomnia that makes you jumpy tonight, and I had to get out of bed before I hurt myself. So I came downstairs and turned on the telly and Pretty Woman was just starting, so I grabbed some clementines from the fridge and sat down to watch it.

For starters, may I just say that in 1990 the dress and hip boots Julia Roberts was wearing when he picked her up were skanky ho clothes. From the perspective of 2007, they look like something a 20 year old would wear clubbing on a Friday. That icks me out.

As does the fact that old-man Richard Gere falls in love with this childlike prostitute. Forget the whole ingenue as prostitute thing, which feminists much smarter than I have lambasted ad nauseum. She's not just a small town girl...there are times that she seems positively stunted. Less mature than my 12 year old nephew. And by the end of the movie she's seduced by a power-mad 41 year old multi-millionaire. He's not unable to commit. He's a sexual predator.

How is this a love story?

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Traffic and weather

I am completely enamored of the recent Fountains of Wayne album, and I don't care who knows it.

Yes, I know they're formulaic. Yes, they tell too many stories and sing pop tunes in the key of happy with the same harmonies and versions of the same clever lyrics. Yes, many of the stories are sappy. Simplistic. Of love that is resolved in three verses with a bridge. Yes, this is a retread of everything they've ever done before, and Leave the Biker has never been bested (though in my humble opinion Red Dragon Tattoo, Hey Julie, and Valley of Malls are its equal.)

I don't care.

I don't even care that they wrote the songs to that Hugh Grant/Drew Barrymore movie, Music and Lyrics, which, by the way, I loved for its sappiness, too. And for Hugh Grant's silly dancing. But mostly for the sappiness.

There truly are few things that make me happier than a well-turned pop song. And even fewer happy things are available at the spin of the iPod wheel.

Fountains of Wayne rock. Rock, I tell you. ROCK.

Thin line between love and hate

10AM - As I sit down to drink my two-shot cappuccino with delicious, creamy-lite foam I am in love. Oh, the perfection of a cool Saturday AM with the windows open for a fresh breeze, James Martin and few of his sexy cooking friends showing me how to make delicious meals and the scent of a fresh-brewed espresso wafting into my waking senses.

1PM - Feel the tension of reading and trying to take notes at the same time dissipate as I sip my second cappuccino of the day. A blissful moment of peace in my intellectually gruelling day.

8PM - Oh, to finish my delicious dinner with a slightly sweet americano...a jolt of loveliness.

1AM - What the hell was I thinking.

A pattern is developing here. My new espresso machine is the portal to both heaven and hell.

Pavlov may have dogs figured out, but he obviously has not met me. Perhaps it will help if I go stick my hand in the pretty candle flame....

Using what's in the fridge, vol 6.

It's warm. I wanted to grill. I wanted something delicious. I didn't want to go shopping for extras. So I made:

Chicken Tikka Kebabs

Cut up some chicken breasts/thighs. Mix a cup of plain yogurt, squeeze in some lemon (one squeeze is fine) and stir in some curry powder. Toss the chicken in it, put it in the fridge, and then let it sit there. I started this at 4 and cooked it at 7, but if I'd been planning ahead I'm sure I could have let it sit longer and it would have been even tastier.

Take a few bamboo skewers and put them to soak in some warm water.

Heat the broiler or grill.

Skewer the chicken. As you do it, it helps to take some of the yogurt off with your hands because too much will get all weird under the grill. Weird like burny.

Put it under the broiler or on the grill. Cook until done and nicely browned, turning frequently to make it even.

I use the broiler in the oven, so I was able to do the salad while that cooked...I cut a cucumber, a couple of tomatoes, part of a red onion, part of a red chili and some cilantro, and then I squeezed in a bit of the lemon and added some salt and pepper. Tossed it around, and used it as my side dish. Nicely cool with a little hot bite, and a perfect compliment to the kebabs.

I didn't have naan and I haven't mastered making it (though I hear it's easy and plan to try), so I just ate that. With a Gerwurtzaminer on the side.

And I'm betting this would do wonders to a firm-fleshed fish, as well. I might try that some day with intent.

Friday, August 10, 2007

How to have my friday night

If your Friday plans cancel and you find yourself at loose ends, here's an idea....do what I did when the same fate befell me.

1) Go to the grocer on your way home from work and pick up a few things to get you by until you fly home in 12 days.
2) Your sciatica is a little out of kilter, so go home instead of the gym.
3) Put the groceries away and change into shorts and a comfortable shirt. Plaid shirts are best.
4) Get out your 70's era Underdog glass from the Pepsi Collection series. Put the following in it:

Mindy's Mojito
- 3 sprigs of mint, preferably spear-type
- muddle/crush
- 1 teaspoon of sugar, powdered or granule, or even splenda if you wish, and the juice of one lime
- Stir this and muddle a bit more
- Add ice to the top of the glass
- Add two shots of white rum (I have some delicious Cuban stuff, but you can use whatever)
- Add a splash, JUST a splash of brown rum (again, I have Cuban. Nanananana.)
- Top off with soda water.
- Add a splash of peach bitters and stir.

5) Go sit down and watch the Friday night Eastenders. Multitask with some internet surfing.
6) Throw some steamed dumplings in the microwave, and while they cook stirfry some bok choy and carrots and garlic slices, tossing with a little dark soy right before you finish. Put some dark soy and a splash of white wine vinegar in a dish and make a dipping sauce, then plate it all and eat up.
7) After dinner, decide you've earned another mojito, so make one. Find a few jobs at major US corporations and put them in the cart so you can apply over the weekend. (Cover letters are best written sober.)
8) Complete the New York Times crossword puzzle.
9) Blog a little bit, so that others can replicate your fine fine evening.
10) Tune up the VCR and put in the copy of Just the Way You Are that lulu mailed you, and enjoy the delightfully bad acting and the wonderful Abba soundtrack. Nothing like a movie about a peg-legged violinist to entertain you. (So she's a crippled flutist. Same thing. By the way, who ever decided that soprano sax music was sexy? It's SO not.)

It's been a long week. This is exactly what I needed.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Jav-aahhh

I am a coffee lover. Readers of this blog will know that I have had my troubles finding the right mocha solution here in the UK. I've had a drip pot explode on me, I've grown frustrated with the inconsistency of my cafetiere skills, and even took a step into the dark side of instant during one of my weaker moments.

But one of the advantages of working for a company that sells reward and recognition products and services is that you're guaranteed to earn points for something by just doing a good job, and those points add up and turn themselves into all sorts of things. In the states, they became radios, TVs, a DVD player, a camping equipment Christmas for my nephews, several kitchen appliances and many lunches at Chili's and Red Lobster. Here in the UK, they just became a DeLonghi espresso maker!

It was waiting for me when I arrived at work today. I rushed home at lunch to make a cappuccino and savour the deliciousness that is a freshly brewed homemade cup of espresso. This one is much nicer than the basic-but-serviceable Krups one I had in the US. It makes noise like an espresso machine should, and the frother is much easier to clean. It can take Illy or LavAzza or other fine grinds, but it can also process those little pods that are so popular these days. (Not the little plastic jobbies, but the ones that look like tea bags.) I had a delicious-rich-tasty coffee after I finished my sandwich, and then I made a delightful americano when I finished dinner. Yum-Yumma Yum!

Of course, it is unlikely that I'll be sleeping anytime soon.

These are the poor decisions people like me make after a few years in the PNW. Curse you Seattle and your fine and abundant java selection! You've destined me to a caffeinated haze for eternity!

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

It worked


This rating was determined based on the presence of the following words:

* hurt (11x)
* retard (10x)
* crap (1x)

Where did crap come from? And why didn't it pick up badass? I wonder how it would react if I started talking about beavers and pussy cats?

Like Disney, except no talking animals



This rating was determined based on the presence of the following words:

  • retard (2x)
  • hurt (1x)
I knew that my blog would be rated PG because I refrain from using any profanity, as my Mom reads it and I do not use profanity around her. But I find this rating funny because a) it gets so uptight about the word retard, and b) one use of the word "hurt" has been flagged.

RETARD RETARD RETARD RETARD RETARD HURT HURT HURT HURT HURT HURT RETARD HURT.

Take that, blog-rater.

Please note...the above was intended to trick the meter into giving me cool points by making me a badass, not to suggest that anyone go out and hurt retards. If they DID, that would make them, well, a retard. Or is mouth-breather more politically correct?


This tool is obviously a m&%~*$f£&?@#! joke.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Great moments in my history


Either I was trying to recreate the moment below, or I really need to learn to shut my yap when they're taking a picture. Note the angelic halo of poppies above my head.

Two weeks and counting

In two short weeks, I will be flying back to the US for 18 days. I am very excited. It's a very necessary trip, both because I've been horribly homesick since I got back and really want to spend some time with my family, and because it is my last chance to relax before I have to hit the books heavily to finish my degree.

I have a lot of work to do between now and then...there is research on my merger and acquisition project so I am prepared for the response document I have to write before the end of September. I have an individual report to finish for Globalization, and then I have research for the group report that's due at the end of September. I have to get my head around my Leadership project and have some conversations with my Innovation team and blah, blah blah.....All in two weeks. Pleh.

So far, I've set myself a task each night and have stuck to it. The house is now one night away from being completely organised...I have the piles down to two medium size ones to sort through and shred...laundry is done, beds are made up, towels are folded, and suitcases are unpacked and stowed (yes, from the trip I took in June.) I've got my desk at work organised and all of the necessary projects under control, and I'm about 75% happy with my CV.

Tomorrow is CV night...it will be done and emailed to a few people who've offered to look at it, and jobs will be applied for by Friday.

Thursday is Cuba paper....I've given myself a deadline of Monday for that one.

And the list goes on. I'll keep you posted on my progress.

BUT! Once I'm home, I get to have my hair touched up and fashionably cut, I get to try on a few new clothes from my sales shopping, I get to have coffee and cocktails with friends, and most importantly I get to just hang with my family. I expect there will be much scrabble playing, as usual, and I'm already savouring the deliciousness of a bratwurst with a pile of caraway kraut in my head. And it's due to be sweet corn season, too, and it's the MINNESOTA STATE FAIR! What more could I want?????

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Safety first

I have a stack of things on my desk at work, and so I went into the office today at 10. I have a key, and alarm key fob, and a code for the alarm. But I got them in the wrong order, causing a right ruckus with freakish amounts of noise echoing throughout the neighbourhood while I waited for my friend Nick to help me sort things out on the phone with the security company.

Great way to start the day.

Got settled at my desk, and then the front door bell rang. Went down to meet the security guard, who interrogated me to verify I was legit. Passed the test, went back upstairs.

Spent the day working on laying out some strategic initiatives that I need to review with my managers later this week. It was a politically sensitive document, as they have an agenda and any recommendations I make that are not in line with that agenda will be summarily attacked and dismissed as heresy. This is how it goes with ideas in our department. If they align with the ideas of our manager they are lauded as excellent change initiatives. If not, they will be sunk by any means necessary. Personally, I would do things differently...but I'm not the manager and therefore it is their prerogative to manage this way. This is all further complicated by the fact that you cannot, under any circumstances say anything negative, anything that can be perceived as negative, or anything that could be construed as raining on all the sunshine and lollipops of our sunny-happy-perfect world. Critiquing is criminal.

Which brings me to my document. Many of my ideas are in line with the desired plan, but some are not. And there are some not-positive things that need to be addressed, as well, if we are to realise all of the efficiencies and ideals for which we are hoping. So I drafted one version that laid things out the way I wanted to, then edited it for content to bring fast wins from their agenda first, followed by more controversial ones that will be less well received. Then I reworded all of the controversial ones, using a two-stage roll out that puts off things they won't want to do (but cleverly laying the groundwork amid the things they DO want to do), and doing a "risk assessment" to highlight the things that are out of my control and will cause problems for all of this initiatives....risk assessment is being cautious, but pointing out problems is neg-a-TIVE.

All of this took me at least three hours longer than it should have, and I'm now having a friend proof the document and make suggestions on how to change anything that is still potentially buzz-harshing.

Exhausting.

Me, I don't like playing it safe. I don't like living in a modulated, risk-free manner. So I came home to work on my paper and do some other necessary stuff, but decided instead to head to the pub and sit in the sun and drink a pint with friends.

And I didn't wear a DROP of sunscreen. I'm so close to the edge I look like I'm floating.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Great moments in my history

My mouth may be small, but I can open it really, really wide.

I believe this sticking-out-my-tongue-business was a malicious prank taught to me by my brother, in a last ditch attempt get me sent packing. Look at his smug expression.

For Dale


THIS is the object of our heart's desire.

Not-unpleasant Tesco trip

I had no food in the house.

Okay, that's not true. I had no food in the house that wasn't in a dried state that required an overnight soaking before cooking, additional ingredients to make it palatable or a time machine to make it edible.

It's been a busy week. I've been catching up at work on some projects that I've put off, I've been trying to get a dent into a Cuba research paper that I have been half-heartedly working on since I got back from the states, and I have been working on my resume. Last night when I left work I meant to go to the grocery store, but I would have had to put gas in the car and there was a big line at the BP and I had to pee and it all conspired into coming home and walking to the local centre to get some Chinese food for dinner.

So. I woke up this morning, hungry and in need of caffeine, but the milk in the fridge had gone past sour to cheese. I could have walked to the One Stop for some sub-standard provisions, but I decided it was early enough that I could brave Tesco and maybe avoid the crowds. Waitrose and Sainsbury's in Central MK are only acceptable early on Sundays or after work, as the shopping mall across the street draws unbearable crowds.

I have two Tesco choices. There is the big Tesco in Kingston, which has unending amounts of food and household goods and a cart escalator to electronics and appliances and clothing. I prefer this Tesco because they also have a health-food store and there's a Costa near the door for a quick latte and there's an M&S in the same complex so I can stop for a few posh groceries, as well. But the downside of this one is that it is always a stinking mess in the parking lot...and I couldn't deal with it this morning. Driving before coffee is risky enough.

The OTHER Tesco option is Wolverton. It's smaller and more manageable, but is one of the scariest places I've been. The store itself isn't bad...it's the clientele that creep me out. I play a game when I go there, wherein I try to find one normal looking person anywhere on the premises. I usually lose. I have never seen such an array of missing teeth, close-set/uneven eyes, neckchins, bald women, bad skin and knuckle-dragging YOBs with their shiny chav girlfriends in clothes two sizes too small. And it's not just me being judgemental...I've shared this game with friends who shop there on occassion, and they lose, too. This place is the freak show of grocery stores.

WELL. Today I discovered that it is not actually the store that's the problem, it's when I go shopping that causes trouble. See, usually I go in the late afternoon when I'm coming home from lectures or have spent the day doing stuff around the house. But at 930 on a Saturday morning, the place is jam-packed with normal people, Audis and Beamers and Land Rovers in the car park and well-behaved children staying close to their parents. Seems the people from the quaint villages make early trips in for food, the yuppies who live in the executive housing down the street are running errands, and the mutants I'm used to seeing are still home in bed sleeping off the 25 pints they were necking the night before. Even the staff seemed more friendly and efficient. Perhaps this is the coveted shift for which the experienced staff beg. There were no screaming babies, there were no long queues, and there was an excellent selection of produce. I had to abandon my game before I even got in the store. Amazing, I tell you. Amazing.

I was in and out in half an hour, no one bumped into me, people apologised for blocking shelves or aisles and the nice young man helped bag my groceries without even asking.

I'm in a bit of shock. And I made a delicious breakfast of veggie sausages, soft-boiled eggs and toast with a side of V8 and very strong coffee. This was not at all what I expected.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Landmines

I just received a link to this.

I laughed myself silly. What a brilliant idea. How did I not know about this?

Things you learn surfing while you wait for the Daily Show

I still have a huge crush on Hyde from That 70's Show. You'd think I'd outgrow it. But I haven't. I think it's the anti-establishment intellectualism masquerading as an Everyman. Or maybe the mischievous twinkle in his eye. Or maybe that mega white-man's 'fro and those cool glasses. Hubba Hubba.

The folks on Friends really aged during the course of that show. The women lost a lot of weight, and the men seemed to have gained it all. Their haircuts from the first few seasons are hard to look at. And Joey is the funniest character.

I have not seen enough Simpsons episodes.

It's supposed to rain on Sunday, the day the person is coming to do my garden.

The King of Queens is not necessary.

There is a lot of complete and total crap on television.