December 31, 2006

New Year's Resolutions

I resolve to not read gossip blogs. It is a bad, bad, bad habit that only perpetuates the horrible work of the paparazzi. Plus, it is a waste of time even if it is so totally interesting and indulging like eating a full bag of potato chips.

Because of our various activities this week in Scotland and London I’ve been internet-access-less and have already started to make good on my resolution. I’m trying not to be upset that I didn’t’ know that Tiger Woods and his wife are expecting, Arnold Schwarzenegger was in the hospital and James Brown died. Now I will be the last to know and that’s OK. Please give me strength to really believe that it is OK.

Sliding Down the Tate Modern

Last night we ventured out to the Tate Modern to experience their slide installation. These aren't the traditional types of slides you would see in a gallery, ones that would be viewed in a slide projector. These are actual slides that you can swish down on a magic carpet.

The installation, by artist Carsten Holler, is in central core of the building. Each of the slides, descending from a variety of heights, is a twisting tube. The best possible time to experience these seems to be between 8-10pm as we did. The gallery is actually open late on Fridays and Saturdays and it still seems to be a secret. People were running up the escalators and down the slides as though it were an empty amusement park - which it was.

None of us actually went on the slides but they made for super photos.

December 30, 2006

Changing Laptops

My folks are visiting from Connecticut and have been generous enough to drag along my old laptop to the UK with them. It weighs about 10 pounds but it is good to have her back. Feels like a bit (albeit big) of the US here with me.

The one I have been using is a UK keyboard and a British spell check. Ah yes, the beauty of the butchered Queen's English back at my fingertips.

December 22, 2006

More Updates

For those who are wondering - here are the updates on various issues I've mentioned over the last couple of weeks.

Tesco Club Card - not going to get one. I'm feeling spiteful. Instead signed up with other grocery stores. Unfortunately still order from Tesco online. Damn I am loyal despsite myself.

Boiler - Still broken. British Gas was supposed to come on Wednesday. Stephen was going to take the day off to be there, since they are requiring that we are now present for their work (punishment for annoying customers) but with my twisted ankle I stayed home. They called at 11.30am to inform Stephen that they didn’t have the parts and the company that does have them will install them and Stephen will have to coordinate. Duh! Can you believe this? We’re on week eight or nine with this. Plus, they sent us a bill for the final instalment as well as another evaluation form. Please continue to punish us, we enjoy the pain.

I've learned we're not alone. Check out the similar stories from other British Gas customers More Flak for British Gas.

Ankle – About 75% better.

We’ll be in Scotland again for a couple of days. My folks are flying in from the US to join us and then taking the train down to London for NYE! Stay tuned.

London in a Fog

And I thought San Francisco was foggy. The London fog has engulfed the airports bringing holiday travel to a halt. Luckily Stephen and I have train tickets for travel up to Edinburgh for the holiday. We'll be warm and cozy as we travel up to Scotland. Ah yes, no security lines, room to walk around, a variety of food services, beautiful scenery. Join us, won't you?

December 20, 2006

Twist and Shout

Walking to the Tube station yesterday morning I twisted my ankle. Didn’t think much of it after about 30 seconds and continued on my journey. I was on the way to my first UK dental appointment and had a lot on my mind – like possibly saying goodbye to this toothy smile. Reaching the dentist’s tube stop I took a wrong turn and went quite a distance in the wrong direction. Realising I was lost I called their office and learned that I had to hike back about a mile in the opposite direction. So, I ran.

Remarkably I arrived only ten minutes late if a bit sweaty. The appointment went super well. Turns out I don’t have any problems with my teeth and don’t even need a cleaning. The only worrying thing was that when they took an x-ray they didn’t cover me with a protective lead bib like they do in the US. “Your flight over here exposed you to 100 times more radiation than this machine. Plus, the new technology ensures that there is very little radiation exposure.” explained the dentist when I expressed concern. Okay, I’ll just knock a few minutes off the end of my life for that one.

Feeling very good about my gold star dental appointment I walked to the office which was about a mile up the road. For the next few hours I sat at the computer and then headed off to lunch with an associate. But upon standing after lunch my ankle was very painful. Suddenly I remembered I had twisted it and then walked 152 stairs down the tube station, run to the dentist, and then walked to work. Maybe I should have taken a bit of care of this key joint.

After work I had a dinner date with Simone and her kids. Hobbling to the tube I made it to their stop and then of course had to do some window shopping. Clearly my priorities were blinded by that must-shop affliction associated with the holidays. Stepping down on the curb I twisted the darn ankle again. Now I was really in bad shape.

Late that evening, after numerous calls to various cab companies, we finally secured a ride back to my flat. Yet again I had learned the lesson of not having cash on hand and only a credit card. The cab driver had to stop at an ATM machine. After hobbling across the street and dodging several cars and buses I reached the cash point and of course it was broken. The next option was going into the grocery store to buy something and get cash back. Can of Heinz tomato soup in hand and £40 richer (or is it poorer) I hobbled back to the cab much to the driver’s relief.

Of this entire story the good news is that the ride from Simone’s cottage to our flat was only 20 minutes including the cash stop. I had never done the journey above ground. The tube trip is one hour. Cab fare was £11 plus £2 tip (to which the driver expressed concern for such a huge tip.) Frankly, it was cheap, fast and cheerful. Plus, I realised how close I live to Simone. This city feels so big when you travel by Tube but when you walk, take the bus or cab you realise it is not that large. Unless of course you’ve double twisted your ankle.

December 16, 2006

Update on Tesco Club Card

Referring back to my December 13, 2006 posting Club Card Programs Gone Bad Stephen has informed me that he never had a card. Oops. I'll try to tone down the angry outbursts in the future.

Now That’s an Office Party!

Our company holiday party was on Friday. I am proud to announce that no one got stinking drunk – at least during the party. Can’t vouch for after. We launched the afternoon with mince pie (fruity concoction) and mulled wine at the office. Next we moved on to a nearby pub that is frequented by locals. Needless to say they all fled as soon as the twelve of us invaded their safe drinking space.

The eating festivities took place at a whole-in-the-wall Thai restaurant also in the neighborhood. It is one of those places that have the most spectacular food but you would think is a dive. Duck in red curry sauce was a winner.

A highlight of the afternoon was the Holiday Crackers. We all criss-crossed hands with a cracker in each and then pulled. These are always filled with silly joke cards, small toys and a paper hat. Our hats adorned our heads for the next two hours. Being Jewish we didn’t have these growing up, the closest were Cracker Jacks which perhaps have the same origin?

Here's the joke in my cracker: Whose the most famous women in the United States?

Answer: Mrs. Sippi

December 13, 2006

Everybody Loves Peter Boyle

Peter Boyle, who played the dad everyone loved to hate on Everybody Loves Raymond, died today at the young age of 71. This is by far one of most favorite sitcoms. Although an Italian NY family they remind me of my Jewish CT one. It is so sad to think Frank is gone. Well, the series has been off the air for a few years but it lives on a reruns - especially in Mexico and the UK.

The CNN obituary highlights his amazing life which started with him studying in a monastery for three years. Then he ran off to NY to be in theatre. An amazing fact is that Peter played Frankenstein in Mel Brook’s Young Frankenstein. Even more fascinating, he was friends with John Lennon who was best man at his wedding.

The Everybody Loves Raymond website doesn’t have any “goodbye” yet but I’m sure it will soon.

It is touching to read that one of his daughters is named Amy. See, I am part of his family.

Club Card Programs Gone Bad

The following is an email I sent to Tesco one of the UK grocery stores. There are so many I don't know why we're using this one if they are so bad with customer service. Fine, call me American, which I am, but I'm not going to roll over and take any more poor customer service like a wimpy dog. Arff.


My husband has lost his card and I would like a replacement plus one for myself. It is a very strange loyalty program that as his wife I can not have a card on his account or get a new card without him being here on the phone with me to talk with you about this request. Is it assumed That I would take his club card points and do something with them? Very strange. It makes me not want to be in your club.

Additionally, you sent us coupons that we are supposed to be able to use online but they do not work. I would use them in the store, although we never shop in the store, but we do not have a card to do so. Very strange. I am regularly very enthusiastic about club card programs but this one is being run like some kind of security bank. Believe me, I would enjoy shopping in your store and using our card to ensure that you can track our purchasing habits. Doesn't bother me as I have a marketing background. But now I'm just not interested in your program, at all.


December 12, 2006

The Scream-ing Google

Yet another fantastic google image. Today is Edvard Munch's birthday.

Polite Sardines Squished in a Tube

This is the key ingredient to the London commute. I’ve only been on my job for two weeks and two days but I’ve already hit my limit in the tube situation.

The ancient system operates with all kinds of delays, every day, during both the morning and evening commutes. A mechanical voice comes over the ominous loudspeaker to announce, “Significant delays on all London lines because of a…” and here they make certain to insert the exact cause.
…customer illness
…signalling error
…switching error
…train fire
Thanks for too much information. Just make the trains move, please.

In addition to the delays we are smooshed into the cars. Everyone is very polite so no one says a word while we squish into each other. Yesterday morning we approached a station with a platform filled with commuters all hoping to get onto our train. Franticly people pushed to get off and others to get on. Suddenly we hit max. In a very uncomfortable five minute silence, that was like a stalemate between six hundred commuters, people stood face to face on and off the tube while the doors…didn’t close. No announcement, we just stood there. Finally the driver announced, “the radio is broken and we will be here a few minutes while we wait for a technician. (Oh yes, the technician. Like waiting for the Spanish Inquisition as you know from our British Gas stories.)

The ultimate insult in this situation is when there is a hacking cougher on the train. Being new to the country I am getting every cold and flu. Being too close to someone who is even thinking sick thoughts ensures that I catch their germs. So each time someone coughed I turned to another direction, making sure I gave them the evil eye. The problem is that there is no room to turn and no one makes any facial expressions. I feel like a lone extroverted East Coast American expressing my frustration and no one seems to respond.

Polite sardines. Heck, if no one complains the service will continue to be piss poor.

December 8, 2006

Xtreme Xmas Partying

It is 3am on a Saturday morning (as in the end of Friday night) and I am waiting for Stephen to get home from his company holiday party. Its not that I'm worried he won't show up - its that we are sharing one set of keys today and he can't get into the building or our flat without me buzzing him up.

Company holiday parties in London are quite scary. People party until they scream and then get sick. Stephen's company had a non-partner party meaning that all the significant others were not invited. Just too expensive in London Stephen says. Hum. I wonder.

To ensure that a good time was had by all I spent the evening in Central London with my new friend Hidy who is married to one of Stephen's consultants. We had a super time at the British Museum then out for Thai food and finally ending at Starbucks. We actually had to stop by the restaurant at which Stephen's company was partying so that Hidy could pick up her flat keys from her husband Bob. When he came out to the street he looked quite sober considering it was 11pm. We had been out last night together and that was a rather juicy scene of too much wine. Good golly when do these people work?

When Hidy and I parted ways, after she showed me how to catch a bus (and the woman has been in London for only a month) I had the "pleasure" of watching hundreds of drunken folks wandering down Oxford Street. I had to dodge the drunks as they wobbled past the bus shelter. It has finally dipped into the very cold weather but chicadees were wearing very little clothing.

Stephen's home!

Tea Time is Any Time

What they say about the English drinking tea is true. They drink it constantly. Perhaps it is the cold and wet weather that encourages the drinking. Or, perhaps the government with its campaign encouraging people to drink four cups a day.

At work they supply us with endless tea. Thankfully my boss is very politically correct and has purchased herbal tea as well as the traditional Tently stuff. She also supplies the office with the freeze dried coffee that the Brtis seem to love.

The teapots used over here are electric and are able to heat your water in about thirty seconds. Unfortunately the one at work was melting from so much use and had to be replaced this week after a year of service. Photos here show the new beautiful pot as well as the skanky manky old one. Look inside and see what I've been drinking for the past two weeks. You wonder why healthy teeth are an issue in this country.

The first photo showing the new teapot has some other intersting features. This is our office kitchen. Note the cannisters of tea, cereal boxes, a rickety old toaster, an accident book in which we record things like cutting your hand in the papercutter, and a mouse deflector plugged into the outlet.

Speaking of teeth I've purchased dental insurance and go for my first dental appointment next week. I inquired if the dentist was "conservative" in his approach to dentistry. "Oh yes, very modern here." They assured me he only pulls teeth as a last resort. I'll bite the dentist's fingers if he tries extracting any of my lovely pearly whites.

December 5, 2006

London’s Kings Cross

My new job has its offices located in Kings Cross an area of London which is the location for the recent film Breaking and Entering featuring Jude Law, Juliette Binoche and Robin Wright Penn. Sadly none of those folks work in our office. But thankfully the area is not as depressing as depicted in the film.

Kings Cross hosts several train stations including Kings Cross, Thames Link and Saint Pancras. The area is always a hustle and bustle of people, luggage, buses, taxis, bicyclists and endless street construction. Kings Cross is also the home of the Flying Scotsman train which goes directly north to Scotland.

I can tell that are many story opportunities in the area. For instance I was searching for a birthday card for my mother yesterday and wandered into a bookstore. It looked clean, lots of well-displayed books and racks with cards. But the guy behind the register gave me a look like, “what are you doing in here?” Then I noticed that all the books were pornography. So, I had to make like I deliberately came into the shop. I tried to chit chat with the guy as I casually looked at books displayed behind him featuring all kinds of unexpected nudities. Would you believe there was a book of Frida Kahlo art? So, I said, “what a nice selection of artwork. Any birthday cards?” Then I noticed that the card racks were filled with gay porn cards. He said very curtly, “No birthday cards.” Okay, I get the picture. Ended up getting her a card in the Marxist bookstore down the road.

The next shop I explored was Tony’s Organic Café across the street. I felt a cold coming on so I ventured into the shop to see what homeopathic stuff they could offer me. Sure enough Tony the owner was eager to convince me of the benefits of Echinacea syrup extracted from plants that were planted on the eve of a new moon and hydrated with only the best filtered water. I got aggressive, “Look mate, I’m getting sick and I can feel it coming on this minute – what do you have?” He was happy to fill up my bag with all kinds of goodies including the old standby and grandmother favourite Ricola. Ironically the Ricola is artificially sweetened with aspartame.

photo source.

Updates on the Same Old Same Old

Good news on the bank card - arrived at work!

British Gas - Stephen has taken on the project. Off my plate.

Photo Expedition with Fellow Blogger

Found a posting on London Craigslist posted by a woman who wants to go around London and practice taking photos. What the heck, I need a social life. So, I emailed her and we met up this evening. Checkout her amazing blog Girl in the Café.

It was fun – I gave her pointers on how to use the SLR camera and she gave me pointers on blogging from my mobile phone. I'm addicted to the mobile's camera which is very picky about night time photography. I pushed it to the limit. Also was inspired to try shooting some video on it but unfortunately can't upload those images to this blog as of yet.

Here are some of the betters photos.

Public art built into the new office buildings at Euston Square.

December 3, 2006

Hush, its a secret

During my adventuring around London yesterday I found this mysterious book store called Persephone Books. It was sunset when I discovered the store and it was curious that the lights inside were very low and the store was filled with women. Didn't look like a regular book store either - more like an office that was secretly selling books. All the books were covered in the same grey cover and there weren't any prices. The only helpful information was “This book good for a Sunday read” and “Perfect to read by the fireplace” and other comments of that sort posted near each pile. It was clearly a hush-hush kind of place so I grabbed a catalog and snuck out.

Once safely on the tube I could read the catalog and figure out what the heck this place was about. Check it out…

“Persephone prints mainly neglected fiction and non-fiction by women, for women and about women. The titles are chosen to appeal to busy women who rarely have time to spend in ever-larger bookshops and who would like to have access to a list of books designed to be neither too literary nor too commercial. The books are guaranteed to be readable, thought-provoking and impossible to forget. We sell mainly through mail order, through selected shops and we have our own shop.”

Through further investigation into Persephone I discovered on Encyclopedia Mythica ™ that Persephone is the goddess of the underworld in Greek mythology. Ah yes, it is now all making sense.

Here are some of their 70 titles (which apparently sell for £10 each):

Title No 1William - an Englishmanby CICELY HAMILTON

Title No 4Fidelityby SUSAN GLASPELL

Title No 6The Victorian Chaise-longue by MARGHANITA LASKI


I’m a cover shopper which is also how I buy bottles of wine. If the cover looks interesting then I’m in for a whirl. I think I’ll have to trust their selective judgement and pick one up. Hopefully they have a title that is “Perfect for a long night beside a dripping boiler whilst you wait for your bankcard to arrive.”

Various Updates

Boiler - British Gas tech (new one, Steve is gone) was here on Friday and supposedly fixed the dripping. Ha! Still dripping - now more than ever. Still no electrician to fix our clothes washer/drier which was incorrectly reconnected.

Bank Card – supposedly tried to deliver it to my office but couldn’t find it.

December 1, 2006

Banking on the DaVinci Code

I’ve opened an account at a reputable London bank and I now feel like I’m reliving the Davinci Code.

To obtain my new debit/credit card I have to:
-Pick it up from the branch, or
-Have it delivered by messenger to my flat or office, and
-Provide ID for pickup

The branches are only open 9-5 Monday – Friday. So, no pickup at the branch since I have a job. Delivery to my flat is impossible because it is any time between 8-5 and you can’t setup the time. Can’t do that since I have a job. I received a letter from the messenger company stating that I have to go to their website and confirm that I want delivery and to what address. I can’t schedule a date or time so it is pretty much a guessing game. It was supposed to be delivered to my office yesterday and they didn’t show up. Still no card.

To begin internet banking I have to:
1. Call to request an internet ID
2. Wait for the ID to arrive in the mail
3. Log onto the website
4. Create a password and “memorable information”
5. Be told to call the bank
6. Answer bizarre and tricky security questions
7. Be told to log on to the internet
8. Enter my ID and password
9. Then enter items #1, 6 and 8 from my memorable information (what the???)
10. Now I can begin internet banking

This bank must have had some serious security and theft issues to go this far.

Does service delivery have to be this difficult? To add insult to injury I am now late for work waiting in the flat for British Gas which was supposed to show up an hour ago.

November 30, 2006

First Week on the Job

I'm alive again! The first week on the job has been great. My associates are friendly, professional and hard working. Like any nonprofit they are a bit burnt out from over-working. The resources are limited but I'm blown away by what they produce.

What I love about the job is that my role is strategy. What a dream. Essentially I'm an in-house consultant on a two year assignment focused on business development. Entering with an exit strategy.

Being outside the arts really isn't bothering me. In fact, I feel that my horizons are expanding.

What you really want to know about is the boiler. Still running on high and dripping. No sign of the tech. And now...the clothes washer isn't working. Seems that when they reinstalled they didn't connect it properly. Am I living in a Monty Python skit or what?

November 27, 2006

Boiler Saga Continues

Boiler Saga Continues

Steve the British Gas Tech has now become a member of the family. When I was away in Scotland we talked at least once a day and today he made a visit after work. Although I think he is a great guy, the reason he is around is because the new beast is broken.

When we arrived home from Scotland yesterday the flat was warm, actually super hot, some might call it tropical. In fact, we had a pool in our rainforest. The boiler had leaked onto the floor as well as the heat being stuck in the “on” position. So, we went from cold to hot hot hot. This morning preparing for my first day of WORK my face was melting. It was like being back in Houston. (Work went very well!)

One of the calls Steve made to me in Scotland was to inform us that he thought there was a pipe leaking under the floor. After much discussion we agreed that he could take up a part of the floor as long as he did it with care. Yup, he found a broken pipe. Unfortunately after his visit today he now thinks that there is another leak under a different part of the floor. Plus, the heat being stuck in the “on” position is apparently due to the electrician’s error. He’s going to come back later in the week.

The good news is that we paid a flat fee for all this work. The bad news for Steve is that we have his personal mobile phone number. I suspect I better put him on the Christmas gift list.

November 26, 2006

Castles and Ruins

Lauriston Castle is located just about half a mile from my in-laws house. Stephen and I regularly visit the property when we are in the area since it is an easy walk in any weather. Today we lucked out with sunshine.

The property overlooks the Firth of Forth as well as Crammond which is an old Roman port. It is a lovely part of the city that appears untouched by time.

There is also a lovely Kyoto Friendship Garden that was installed in 2002.

Here is a detail of some kind of fountain on the property that has the date1672 carved in its crest.

Translating Thanksgiving

We had a wonderful thanksgiving at my in-laws house in Edinburgh, Scotland. In the first table you can see the table set with pumpkin soup and my cranberry chutney side dish next to the centerpiece. We even had little American flags at our place settings to make sure it was very American. Growing up we had little pilgrim candles on the table and I really never felt that it was a patriotic, flag-waving kind of holiday.

The turkey was delicious and we had the traditional potatoes in a variety or preparations.

To launch the meal we made hot apple cider. The funny thing is that cider here is only hard and not fresh pressed and juicy as in New England. We heated up the carbonated beverage and added traditional mulling spices. To our delight it tasted quite nice.

Displayed in the foreground is the scrumptious home made apple pie my mum-in-law made for dessert. Yum.

See the Light

Me and Stephen in Scotland today. Now back in London.

November 22, 2006

Thanksgiving in Scotland

Stephen and I are off to Scotland for Thanksgiving. Stay tuned for photos.

Boiler Nearly Done

Check out this scene - that's our new boiler on the wall in the corner of the living/dining room. Obvious enough? That's Steve and Mark getting ready to do some more welding. Mark is a bit afraid of heights but I'm sure he'll do a good job. You can't make this stuff up.

November 21, 2006

Mid-Destruction/Construction Photo

This was our living room and kitchen. Day one of three of the new boiler install. That's our tiny fridge in the center next to our fancy trash can. You can only see Mark the tech's torso as he takes out the old beast. Steve the other tech is out of the shot.

They are great guys and I am just happy they're here! Plus, they keep calling me Madam with a beautiful English/Carribean accent.

I had some time to waste as they cleaned so I took the opportunity to head down to the pub, have some wine and sticky toffee puddin'. Feeling no pain.

November 20, 2006

A Sick Day is Not an Option

You are looking at the pile of supplies that is sitting in our flat waiting for the British Gas installation technician to arrive and install. Unfortunately he called in sick today, his first day on our job. Lovely. Computer says "no sick days!" (Joke only fully understood if you watch Little Britain.)

Dude, we're on week four of no heat and no hot water. You're sick, well me too. I finally got over my cold which I'm sure was caused by showering with cold water.

The new boiler is in that big box in the center. I could just open it and give it a go. But not sure how to use all the pipes.

Well, if you think I'm sad you should see the guy who delivered this stuff. He told me that he is quitting this horrible job because non of the techs were at any of the houses and he needs them to help him bring the beast up the stairs. He was nearly in tears. I was going to give him a hug but he smelled quite bad. Anyway, I think this is a scam since clearly all the techs called in sick today. Or, maybe there is only one tech.

The supervisor promises that we'll have someone tomorrow. Oh sure. You would think this was a free service and we weren't paying close to £4,000 (= $8,000).

By the way, we have a room in the hotel next to us so we are able to shower. It is funny that the hotel doesn't wonder why we arrive each morning to shower. I mess up the beds to make sure they clean the bathroom. Like having a second home. Too bad I can't figure out how to make the heaters work.

Can we say this is officially culture shock?

Playing it by Ear

When my friend Simone from London worked with me in San Francisco people would go gaga over her accent. They had no idea what she was saying but they just loved to hear her talk. She had to frequently remind us "I'm a person, not an accent!"

I get it and it goes both ways. If anyone thought that the US had a million accents try the UK. Having absorbed (kind term for conquering) so many cultures, countries and ethnicities the UK is a melange of accents. I’ll be honest, I still can’t discern a Scottish accent and I’ve been with Stephen for 5+ years – but it does sound dreamy.

Calling customer service help lines takes a certain talent for deciphering what the person on the other end is saying. Forget that they are using terms I’ve never heard – I can’t even make heads or tails of the words themselves. These tend to be lower paying jobs so you get all kinds of accents from little corners of the city. But the people are always patient and end the conversation with the obligatory “Lovely.” I’m now in the habit of saying Cheers but it seems to have gone out of style.

I just got off the phone with a lovely customer service person from my new bank. She (or was it a he?) asked me if my name was American. I said it isn’t but my accent is. Oh he/she went gooey. “That is so nice, how lovely, just lovely, very nice, oh yes. Have a lovely day. Thank you. Oh yes.” I believe from their accent that they were from Asia so it was all very sing song and sweet. I felt like a movie star. You know what, I’m happy to be an accent for a while.

My First Job...In the UK

Put away the defibrillator because my brain will no longer need jump starting in the mornings…I have a job and a great one at that.

Starting 27 November I will be the Business Development Manager for Legal Action Group This NGO (non government organisation, aka non profit) is similar to Business Arts Council where I worked for five years in San Francisco in that it provides training and publications in best practices.

“We are a national, independent charity which campaigns for equal access to justice for all members of society. LAG was formed in 1972 out of a desire to encourage a more active approach to the delivery of legal services and the role of non-lawyers. A major concern was the inadequate access to advice for private inner city tenants.”

Stepping away from the arts you may say? Actually, this fits beautifully with my interest in strategic planning and audience development. I’ll be working with the organisation on a two year assignment to help redefine their products and services, identify new audiences and development mutually-beneficial funding, sponsorship and presenting partnerships.

On the arts front I am considering doing the PhD studies part time. Details to follow.

November 19, 2006

My Boy Bond

I'm in love with the new Bond Daniel Craig because he reminds me of my boy Stephen. Look at how much they share in the rugged face, blue eyes, good hair and sexy smile.

The film Casino Royale is spectacular. Stephen didn't want to admit how much he loved the film since Sean Connery is and always will be the Alpha Bond - Scottish of course. But I know he loved it because his palms started to sweat - which is his "tell" as they discuss in the film. Plus, he thinks Craig could be a Scottish name.

This new Bond is sexy, sensitive, strong and yet vulnerable. So sweet. Okay, I'm gushing.

Photo of Stephen in San Francisco, 2004, at Jazz at Pearl's for my cousins Carma and Michael's wedding.

November 15, 2006

Phobias Uncovered

This post will make better sense if you read the previous one first.

These are from the website Complete Phobia List.

Names for my fears...
Aeroacrophobia — Fear of open high places
Deipnophobia — Fear of dinner conversation
Blennophobia — Fear of slime

Hare are a few others I think I may have...
Angrophobia — Fear of anger or becoming angry
Globophobia — Fear of balloons - This is a big one that should be on my list. I don't like lound noises including fireworks, banging doors and gun shots.
Spectrophobia — Fear of specters or ghosts

Here is one that I've gotten over...
Aviophobia — Fear of flying

Here are a few that I don't suffer from - thank goodness...
Anglophobia — Fear of England, English Culture, or English People
Arachibutyrophobia — Fear of peanut butter sticking to the roof of the mouth
Phobophobia — Fear of phobias

This one says it all...
Anxiety — Fear of Anxiety

Conquering My Fears - Holding Mummie's Hand

I've set out on a mission to conquer my fears. No, I’m not going to re-enact the ear wax removal process. Here is my list – not sure if these have names.

Fear of being high up in a building and falling out or building swaying, cracking and falling – Eiffel Tower, Empire State Building, Last row in the balcony at the opera, the London Eye. For some reason bridges don’t scare me, unless I’m on a bike riding over the bridge – think Golden Gate Bridge.

Looking at Mummies – I can’t open my eyes when I’m near one in a museum. Started on a visit to the Met when I was in Elementary School. My classmates tried to un-wedge my eyelids. Not successful.

Touching slimy creatures – even if they are in touching zoos – bugs, snakes, sea creatures.

Anyone getting near my eyes – this one comes from getting something stuck in my eye when I was in sleep-away camp as a youngster. I rubbed the eye until it was swollen and then they had to take me to a creepy doctor. Reinforced the fear when I splashed Potassium ferricyanide in my eye as a high school photography student. That resulted in a lovely trip to the emergency room. Final reinforcement in 2002 when I had a really bizarre eye surgery (that Stephen watched…) Result is that I can’t have someone put make up my face, can’t take certain eye tests and certainly can never wear contact lenses (although I don’t need them).

Chit chatting with people that I don’t know - this has to do with train and plain rides, restaurants when the people at the next table try to be friendly, a nice but lonely homeless person sitting down next to you while you’re eating in the park, even small talk in general freaks me out. Actually, many of these situations happened to me this week. My folks and Stephen are super stars at this stuff.

Today I overcame one of these fears – seeing mummies! The British Museum has several on display. Tons of six year olds were swarming around the display case before I realised what was inside. But I didn’t even flinch and even got a photo (so that you can get over your fear too!)

November 14, 2006

Foot on the Gas

For Immediate Release - British Gas is delivering the supplies on Saturday and starting work on Monday! I bet this is one of their biggest sales for the month. Or, maybe it is the American accent pulling through for me again...

Regents Canal

The London canals feel like me own secret find. Yesterday I ventured out to Camden Town, an area much like the wacky street life of Berkeley, California. Once again I used the canal system - this time taking the Union Canal to Regents Canal. The pace of life along the canals is peaceful as the city moves above you.

Yesterday's adventure took me through the London Zoo, over three locks and along a nature preserve.

The photo at top is in Regent's Park. The next is a closeup of a bridge that is marked by tow ropes used in the 1800-1900s.

This is Saint Pancras lock outside of King's Cross and the next shot is a futuristic buildingthat caught my eye.

The red Asian-influenced creation on the left is a restaurant built on a canal boat.

Boiler Update

British Gas visited today to evaluate the boiler situation. We have to install a new one clear across the room against the outside wall. This requires all kinds of pipes across the floor. Most likely the new beast will sit up near the ceiling on a little perch. I imagine it watching us from its vantage point. Looks like replacement will be in the next 3 weeks. For now we have a hotel room for showering.

November 12, 2006

Beast is Dead

The boiler has expired. It was a slow and painful ending. British Gas arrives on Tuesday with the replacement estimate.

Rose for All Occassions

Found this rose in a posh flower shop on our street this morning. I can’t figure out how they died the individual petals and the leaves – which are also multi-colored.

November 10, 2006

Sleek Yellow Kayak

Having moved from San Francisco to Houston and then London in the past twelve months has required strength and flexibility. This lifestyle demands that you constantly revisit the big picture. London is an opportunity for me to gain international business experience, make new friends and have loads of fun.

I am a bright yellow kayak
Adventuring down the river
Expertly navigating obstacles
Playing in the waves.

Buoyancy keeps me settled
While I whisk through the water
Thriving on the interplay of the elements.

November 8, 2006

Back in the Chill

British Gas fixed our boiler but the beast died again. When the tech was here last Friday, for the first visit, he condemned the 20 year old clunker and said we needed to get a new one as soon as possible. He would fix the current one but it wouldn’t last. Very true.

Photo of our boiler with mysterious burn spot, post-it notes with my instructions for operating the beast, and a tag from British Gas condemning the appliance. Gas detector is mounted on the wall. This is in our kitchen above the sink.

You would think that a company that has condemned our appliance and offered to fix it would actually give me a call back to make an appointment for an estimate. Appointment equals customer spending money. Nope. I am now stuck in the bureaucratic hell that is the remnants of a former national utility. I have spoken to no fewer than six representatives from British Gas just to make an appointment. Still nothing on the calendar.

Repeatedly I am told that this customer service rep or that supervisor will call me back. When I call to follow up they say, “Oh yes, it is on her desk, she only works three evenings a week and she’s trying to get a hold of the district supervisor to set up an appointment for you and he only works during the days. When I do get someone on the phone I either can’t understand what they are saying – accent issues on both sides – or I don’t know what they are talking about – technical jargon. Now the estimate is £3,000 (=$6,000) to put in a new boiler because of gas lines. Of course this is based on phone conversations and no actual visit as of yet.

If I can find their nearest office location I'm going to bed down for the night in the lobby, it has to be warm.

November 6, 2006

Theatre on the Rugby Pitch

Much to Stephen’s delight I have increased my ability to watch sport on TV. In other words I can have the game on in the background and still be able to read a book or nap on the couch.

To my delight I have found an aspect of Rugby that I truly enjoy – and only the New Zealand All Blacks team features it – the Maori Haka. This is a war dance performed by any New Zealand sports team prior to competing. Regardless of their heritage all the players participate. It is really a spectacular site.

The players stand in rows and face the opposing team. They crouch into a squat and cross their arms over their chests. They take a few deep breaths and then begin the war cry and dance. Their faces look like tribal masks as they contort their features. Fingers pulse to imitate heat rising from the ground. Screams and shouts in the Maori language reinforce their fierceness. It is no wonder that this is the best team in International Rugby.

The team’s website states “More than any aspect of Maori culture, this complex dance is an expression of the passion, vigour and identity of the race.” Stephen believes that Rugby has brought the European and Maori cultures together in peace. You can never call Rugby peaceful but seeing the dance and then hearing the New Zealand national anthem sung in Maori proves him right. It is a true melding of cultures.

Check out the Haka videos on the All Blacks website.

November 4, 2006

Borat Takes on America

The mocumentary Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan was our cultural intake on Friday night. I laughed so hard that my face still hurts and my eyes are swollen from tears (or maybe the smoky pub that we visited before the film).

Borat is the genius humour of Sacha Baron Cohen. Every minute of this film movie (as Borat says) is entertaining and takes the piss out of the US. If you go to see it try not to be offended by the Jewish humour – that is Jews being the butt of many bits (only a Brit would get that alliteration). Sacha is not only Jewish but he had pretty much the same upbringing as me – Jewish community, education and culture in his every day life. Hum, maybe that's why I find this funny - sorry folks. The depth of the film is Baron Cohen’s ability to let people prove their foolishness by opening the ugly inner-dialogue door and letting them walk through.

My favourite scene is when Borat and his film producer end up in a battle, okay, naked wrestling match, over a Baywatch Magazine. Of course it is the basest moment in the film. Stephen loved a dinner party scene in a nice Southern town and also enjoyed when Borat sings the National Anthem at a Rodeo. Actually, he sings the Nation of Kazakhstan’s anthem to the tune of the American National Anthem. See it to believe it.

Checkout the review from this week’s New York Times.

For a full Borat experience visit his website

Turn up the Heat

Flat update: Heat and hot water still not working but I have now become comfortable with cold showers. The secret is that you need to boil water and put it in a bowl at the bottom of the shower. Then turn on the cold water. Allow it to rush over your head and then distract your senses with a wash cloth covered in warm water. It does cause cramps in your legs as you franticly try to stand on your toes while enjoying the ice cold river flowing down your back. I’ve never felt so alert.

Remarkable but true my hair has never looked so good.

Monday it should all be fixed.

British Gas generously gave us some hot air heaters to take the chill off the air. I’m cuddled up to one and Stephen has the other. How generous they are here with solutions to broken utilities.

November 2, 2006

Bloody Cold in the Flat

The heat and hot water in our flat aren’t working and I’m bloody cold. British Gas comes out tomorrow to fix it but until then it is cold showers and winter coats. I know this sounds very ghetto but I have the oven on and am about to open the door just to defrost my nose.

In the US we take our heat and hot water for granted. Here, you actually set a timer for the hot water to start up in the morning. There is a tiny little heating tank in our kitchen and then in the wall we have a giant cistern that holds the warm water. When they renovated the building for some reason our flat was the place that all the cisterns were placed. We actually have access to all the water tanks for the building. Maybe I can siphon off some warm water from our neighbors.

Outside the weather is beautiful. The days are sunny even if they are cold and crisp. To warm up today I played hooky and went to see the film The Queen mid-day. How indulgent. It was interesting to get the behind-the-scenes take on Her Majesty. Much of the film takes place in Scotland with its beautiful rolling hills and meandering streams. You really do see the influence of the landscape and serenity reflected in the Scottish personality. Seeing the beautiful vistas always makes me think of Stephen and his deep rooted love for nature, hill walking and of course poetry. Maybe I could warm up if I wrap myself in his kilt…

October 31, 2006

Wedding Blog

My super sweet friends David and Rachel are getting married in 2007. As they begin their wedding planning adventures they've setup a blog called 40% Chance of Rain. I love wedding planning stories. People get swept up in the activities. Plus, this is a great way to stay in touch even though they are back in Oakland.

What is super cool about D&R is their love of arts, food, wine, cats, and breaking out of the norm. I hope they post some stories about the interesting ceremony they are planning. (Hint).

Learn more about Rachel at her Vampituity blog.

P.S. - I've got my dress for their nuptials - purchased it in Montreal. Now I have six months to work on super sleek arms. I'm hoping for a warm day without rain.

P.P.S - I think I should start a second blog... not yet sure of the topic...

Inmates Training Guide Dogs

Today's New York Times has an article about guide dogs trained by inmates, "Trained by Inmates, New Best Friends for Disabled Veterans" by Stephanie Storm. Although the article focuses on the advances in services that the dogs offer - aiding in walking and wheelchair movement - I am more fascinated by the training component.

PHOTO: Andrea Mohin/The New York Times
Roland Paquette, who lost both legs in Afghanistan, and his new service dog, Rainbow, visiting Thomas Davison, right, who trained the dog.

What a tremendous idea to utilise inmates to train the dogs. From the article:

It takes about half the time to train dogs in prison as it does in foster homes, Ms. O’Brien said, because of the more intensive training they get from inmates.

Inmates are enthusiastic about the program. “It’s great to do something that really helps someone else, especially a guy like him [the veteran],” said Thomas Davison, who trained Rainbow at the Northeast Correctional Center here. “I’ve never had a chance to do that, and I wasn’t sure I could handle the responsibility.”

Kathleen M. Dennehy, the state correction commissioner, said the program had profound effects on the culture of a prison.

“Officers stop by to pat the dogs, they smile, maybe they strike up a conversation with the inmate training the dog,” Ms. Dennehy said. “It establishes a basic human connection.”
James J. Saba, superintendent at Northeast, is unsure, however, whether the program, already in six prisons in Massachusetts, can be expanded.

“We have 268 inmates in this prison alone, which is already too many,” Mr. Saba said. “And for every puppy, we lose a bed because the dogs take the place of an inmate in the cell.”

Mr. Paquette and Rainbow visited Mr. Davison and the four other inmate trainers at the prison on Thursday. Mr. Davison gave him a few pointers and handed over the toys he had bought the dog with the $28 a week he received for training her.

Investing in programs that allow inmates to build confidence, social skills and provide a service creates a positive opportunity out of a negative situation. The fact that this inmate spent his small pay on toys for the dog is a selfless act that illustrates his commitment.

Learn more about NEADS - New England Assistance Dog Services. They also innovative when it comes to fundraising, offering the opportunity to purchase naming rights for the dog. Rainbow, the dog featured in the New York Times story, was named by a troupe of Rainbow Girls who raised $500 from pancake breakfasts to help underwrite her purchase and training. I admire this organisation's vision for galvanizing communities and individuals towards a common goal.

October 30, 2006

Ear Wax Removed

Despite all the advice against sticking anything in my ear Stephen was able to get the offending waxy bit out of with tweezers. It was not easy since I put up such a fuss. Frankly, I was scared about him poking my ear drum. His gleeful smile indicated that this was the most boy fun he had had for a long time - poking around in an ear.

I am not going to post a photo of what came out because I don't want to upset anyone's dinner. The entire time it was lodged in there I imagined a small piece of wax. When Stephen was probing away at it, as we laid on the couch and he held the flashlight in his teeth, I imagined he was trying to pull out the tiniest bit of wax. We were both shocked into awe when he pulled out an inch long piece of wax that was perfectly molded to the shape of my inner ear. No WONDER I couldn't hear for four days. I immediately freaked out and chucked it in the trash and then spent the next thirty minutes asking Stephen all kinds of detailed gross questions about the probing. He likes to do the work, I like to analyse it.

His final comment, "did you hear it make a pop when it came out?" Frankly, I hadn't. So absolutely disgusting. Tell me more. Okay, no more ear plugs for me.

October 28, 2006

Images of Paris - Updated

Stephen treated us to a roundtrip train ride on Eurostar - first class through the chunnel. Here he is sending me a kiss. We started the trip off with champagne and dinner - the start to five days of French cuisine.

Musee de O'rsay features impressionist, post-impressionist, pre-impressionist, impressions of impressionists as well as Rodins and Art Nouveau in an old converted train station.

Our hotel was situated in the Jewish neighbourhood with all kinds of Kosher restaurants and this Folies Bergere which was premiering Cabaret while we were there. It was fun to watch them spiffy up the front of the theatre in preparation for the red carpet event.

These two painters are in the Louvre. What fun to be able to paint and also take photos in all these places!
The stately older man standing amongst the bushes in front of Notre Dame is feading birds from his hands. The bushes were filled with them. He was training the little girl by his side to feed the finches too.
The Pantheon, where multitudes of French heroes are barried and Foucault's Pendulum swings hosted an organic and dreamy art installation.
Views of Paris from Arc de Triomphe. Stephen smiles in anticipation of climbing the stairs to the Eiffel Tower. I pushed myself past my fear of open spaces and actually walked up to the first level. Coming down was very scary and I was "that lady hyperventilating on the stairs" which was probably the amusing highlight of some folks' vacations. But, I made it down and I think I'm almost over that fear. Next to concure ear wax removal - read the next post for details.