February 25, 2007

Kew Gardens

Kew Gardens is a beautiful day trip and it seems to be in bloom all year. We caught the end of their Intensely Tropical flower festival. It was spectacular.

The first photo is of the lawns which have 1.6 million crocuses flowers in full bloom. In the next image is a sample of the flowers in bloom for the tropical festival. It was a window into paradise.

Our visit was spotted with rain showers. My favourite lighting is when the sun comes out and highlights a tree just after the rain. The sky is still dark so the tree appears to be painted into the picture.

Victorian glass buildings house all kinds of plants including the world’s largest indoor plant and the world’s oldest potted plant. The final image is looking up at the sky from inside one of the glass buildings.

February 24, 2007

Impact of Many People Living in a Small Area for Thousands of Years

London has been a city, or at least occupied by people, for nearly two thousand years. This has a direct impact on its cleanliness. Rubbish falls and so does hair and of course bodily waste. You see the hair in every nook and cranny along the streets and especially in the walkways of Tube and train stations. Most bodily waste finds its ways into corners as well but I’m not going to gross you out further. Or maybe I will…

I’m getting over the endless hairballs continually floating along the floor in these public places. But now they are in my house. The floors are covered with them. Its not that we are dirty people they just seem to follow us in. Now I’m finding this gunky stuff in everything. Yes, I’m suppressing an extreme freakout.

Then there’s the water. People will tell you strait out that water form the tap has been through something like six people before it gets to you. At first I was filtering it thinking that would make it clean. Hah! Stephen doesn’t even drink the water and he can eat from foodstalls on the streets of Mexico City without getting sick. Now I use bottled water for everything food related except brushing my teeth. Now that I think about it I’m switching to bottled water for that too.

Have you seen those people who wear surgical masks while they walk or bike around cities? That’ll be me in a year’s time.

February 23, 2007

Mission Driven Math

When I was a Freshman in college I enrolled in Microeconomics – or was it Macroeconomics? I lasted a few weeks and then dropped the course. I had never heard business speak prior to the class and it wasn’t fitting into my artist/photography student head. Math in general was not a strong spot. In fact, I scored so poorly in math that I was not allowed to take computer courses in college. How’s that for old school logic?

Well, now I love creating business strategies that are bottomline focused. My favourite tool is Excel. I regularly willingly volunteer to be the one who puts the numbers into a spreadsheet and creates financial forecasts. Yes, I embrace =sum(A2:A10)*B3.

I’m finding that in the charity, not for profit, nonprofit, volunteer organisation world I am a rarity. People are mission driven, which is essential but often find it difficult to link the vision to business acumen. Every day I drive joy from wearing two hats - being the translator between math and mission.

February 20, 2007

A Reason to Celebrate in 2028

Great news! I will have paid off my student loans from graduate school in the year 2028. That may seem like a lifetime but really it is only 21+ years away. Just the prospect of having an end-date is thrilling. I think I began paying in 1998.

Some may think that I am being sarcastic but I’m not. It is something to look forward to, a reason to buy an expensive bottle of Champaign…and put it someplace special for 21 years and try not to forget where that special place is. Maybe I have to create some secret clues and maps for myself. Or, perhaps I can put a reminder on my yahoo calendar to be emailed fifteen minutes before the special event. Please do mark your calendars as well.

February 17, 2007

Intriguing Tube and Pub Grub Names

Every time I hear these London tube station locations my creative mind starts wandering.

Pimlico – I still can’t say that one out loud
Piccadilly Circus – sign me up for one ticket
Elephant and Castle – did they escape from Piccadilly Circus?
Euston – often confused with Houston

The best way to get a smile in the morning is to hear the very polite electronic voice on the Tube say in the most sing-song uplifting lilt “transfer here for the Jubliee and Bakerloo lines.”

Another set of amusing terms are those used on pub menus – pub grub. Match the name with the actual food. (Photos from Wikipedia and www.cornwalls.co.uk.)

Toad in the Hole

Bangers and Mash

Cornish Pastie

February 16, 2007

Tag Clouds

Have you heard of Tag Clouds? It is a visual representation created by search terms people use to hit a website. The more people who search on a term, the larger the word. This is an example of the website flickr taken from the wikipedia definition. It shows that people searched for this website related to birthday, japan, beach, friends.
I can't figure out how a website gets tagged. If someone knows please tag The Kweskin Report!

Visit this blog called Cloudalicious and enter a website URL in the top text field at the top of the page to see a graph of terms used to build a site's cloud. You have to use a site that already is tagged such as CNN, BBC and suprisingly two of my previous employers San Francisco Chamber of Commerce and Aurora Picture Show.

I love these groovylicious tech terms.

February 13, 2007

Getting a Chai High

I dream about chocolate but I don’t do caffeine. No chocolate, soda, coffee or tea – even decaf. They all have the same impact. Once in a while I do have a chai, like today and I will now describe what it does to me. First of all let it be known that this is a Starbuck's chai latte which probably has double the sugar and twice the caffeine. Of course to be politically correct I had it with soy milk (or soya milk as it is called her in the UK).

I am high. I am shaking, I can’t see straight, I don’t feel tired, I want to keep working, but I can’t see very clearly. I have the shakes, my hands are twitching and my heart is racing. This is from one cup of chai consumed four hours ago. It also makes me nervous, anxious and nauseous. But at the same time I feel hungry.

Caffeine does other things in my body such as causing me to retain water – but we won’t go into that other unfortunate side effect in detail.

I do however buy chocolate for my friends, enjoy making brownies and love to get a good whiff whenever Stephen is eating something super chocolaty delicious. As you can imagine nobody believes that I don’t do caffeine and I’m sure it makes life quite a dilemma for Stephen on Valentine’s day.
Of course I do have some decaf chai ingredients at home but it just never tastes the same as Starbuck's.

Photo from flikr

February 9, 2007

New York State of Mind

All day I listened to WFUV radio on the internet at work. It put me into the best mood. There’s something about hearing the 5am weather and traffic that makes you feel connected to the Big Apple. Hearing the names of familiar expressways and bridges put me in a New York state of mind.

WFUV played an all day tribute to The Police who seem to be reuniting. Very exciting. Even better, they played lots of folksy bluesy tunes that took me back to my years in Ithaca. What trip down memory lane is complete without a search on the web for your favourite places? I found the café that I worked at following graduation - ABC Cafe (Apple Blossom Cafe). I even recognise some of the people.

PHOTO: Ken one of the ABC Cafe Co-Owners - image taken from their website. Amasing that's he's still there wearing the same shirt and hat too.

February 8, 2007

The Snow Danced Worked

It is snowing! Yippee Yippee Yippee. Big fluffly flakes.

Getting to work didn't take any longer - I just left a bit later. Almost everyone is working from home except for us adventurer types. Mostly the streets and sidewalks are sludgy. People are wearing their every day shoes which is quite amusing, also trying to keep the snow off with umbrellas.

Me, I’m rejoicing with my hiking boots, long underwear, ski jacket and super warm LL Bean hat, gloves and top. Bring it on.

February 7, 2007

Doing the Snow Dance

Snow snow snow
Yippee hi ho
Tomorrow it will glow
Snow snow snow

Oh yes, it is supposed to snow ten inches tonight and I am so excited. All day I’ve been excited ever since hearing the weather report this morning. Poor Stephen was trying to sleep but I kept doing the snow snow snow dance.

All the sidewalks are prepped with sand and salt. Now they’re doing the streets. This is one pro-active city. Not even a flake has fallen. They know it is going to be chaos tomorrow when it snow snow snows. The Tube can barely handle rain.

This morning on my walk to the Tube I encountered a photographer with two giant digital Nikon cameras slung around his neck. We smiled at each other, which is very rare in this city, and then he held up an ice scraper. Secret message?

Paparazzi: Can I take your photo scraping the ice off that car?

Amy: Why? How are you going to use it?

Paparazzi: Its for the newspaper. I need photos showing that its cold.

Amy: (bundled in warm outfit) Okay. Do you have permission to scrape the ice off that car?

Paparazzi: Oh yeah sure, I’ve been having people scrape the ice off these cars all morning.

Amy: OK.

Paparazzi: Look at me and smile at the camera while you scrape.
(takes multiple flash photos in five seconds with both cameras)

Paparazzi: Great, thanks, don’t be surprised if you see this in a national newspaper that identifies you with a made-up name.

Amy: Cheers. (is this journalism) I don’t even have a license much less a car.

Paparazzi: Grazzi as they say in Italy.

Well, I think he said the Express newspaper. I bought it after work, stood at the newsstand and flicked through every bloody page but no photos of me. Almost famous.

Tomorrow they’ll get great shots of me doing the snow snow snow dance!

February 5, 2007

Post #365!

Well, this is post #365 and I'm happy to say that I love writing the blog. I hope you enjoy reading it.

Here's the real post...

Americans in London: A Panel Discussion

The British Library presented a panel discussion this evening called Over here: Americans in London (FYI – the British do not capitalise all the words in a headline so “here” is deliberately lower case. They also don’t seem to use FYI – for your information. I sent an email with fyi and the recipient that I was saying F*** You Idiot.)

The panelists were Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Mary Jordan of the Washington Post, Author James Pfiffner of George Mason University and Loyd Grossman who seems to be a British icon and no longer has any whisper of his Boston accent. All gave their take on life as an American in the London and I could totally relate to their tales. Pfiffner has been here a month, Jordan 18 months and Grossman 30+ years.

Some memorable take-aways:

Is it England, Great Britain, Britain or the United Kingdom? Only foreigners who now hold UK passports will ever call themselves Britains because anyone born here first identifies with being Scottish, English, Welsh or Irish.

Some say that there isn’t a class system in the US. George W. Bush is evidence of a US class system. Here you can tell someone’s class by their socks.

Britains and Americans are family, that’s why there is so much fascination between the two countries.

You have to boil water to make great tea and that’s why American tea isn’t great.

The British aren’t so socially bold as to use bumper stickers on their cars.

February 4, 2007

The Mystery Spot

I have a lot of time on my hands here in London. It’s a good thing. In my past life in San Francisco I rushed around constantly and felt quite stressed a lot of the time. Houston was the stepping stone to mellow. I streamlined my projects. In London I’m finding that I have so much free time.

At first I thought I would pursue more education – applying for the PhD program and then trying out the coaching training. Just didn’t hit the spot. The past week or so I’ve been trying to identify what “the spot” is exactly. Perhaps I want to take up kayaking along the canal or try a batik course. Both sound interesting but they are not quite “the spot”.

This week I entered a play writing competition called the Westminster Prize which is open to anyone living, working or studying in Westminster – which includes me. (Even though we’re in London the actual City of London parameters are very small – Westminster is our area.) Well I wrote a ten minute play. My first excluding the one scene I wrote for a college course I took one summer at University of Connecticut.

Writing was inspirational. Perhaps my play is one long therapy session but I still think it turned out well. Soho Theatre, sponsors of the Westminster Prize, presented a workshop that I attended a few weeks ago to prep us for playwriting. It was super. I felt totally inspired.

Okay, so here’s what I’m figuring out:

I liked writing the play and posting on my blog
I want to continue being creative and find new outlets
I’m in a fabulous city with endless inspiration
I have time on my hands

Back in college I took a TV production course that I loved. Working on a tv production seems interesting, or a film, but not a student film since I've played that game already.

I need to awaken the artist inside me who I think may be the one searching to fill that mystery spot.

Photographing London

Met up today with The Girl in the Cafe and Simon to take photos around London. I still have this obsession with my mobile phone going on so while they used fancy digital cameras I used my happy little mobile. I love it. No thinking required. Easy.

The first couple of months over here I took touristy photos. Now I think I'm onto the next phase - detail shots.

These were taken along Fleet Street which is turning into my favourite area of the city.

Now that I'm looking at the photos I realise that I don't have the same control over the images as I do with my big fancy camera. It is more like taking snapshot. Maybe that's part of the attraction.

February 1, 2007

Show Me the Holidays

Tomorrow is my first official day off from work - better known as annual leave - whereas in the states it is called taking a vacation day. In the US you have to savor your vacation days, if you even get any, like dulling out your favorite dessert. But not here. Oh yes, I’m living large.

Go ahead, guess how many vacation days I get? You got a number, now multiply it by two. Yes, I’m sitting pretty.

25 days of annual leave
8 bank holidays
8 days associated with bank holidays
Grand Total: 41 lovely vacation days

Plus, I’m carrying over two vacation days from last year bringing the total to 43. So, as you can see, I'm not at all concerned about taking a day off in February just because I need some Amy-time.

Wish you were here, don’t you?