June 30, 2007

Months are Like Days

Was June compressed this year? I can't believe that we are on the eve of July. Our friends David and Rachel joined us in early June at the start of their month-long honeymoon and they return this week at the tail end.

Their blog 100% Chance of Happiness has the most stunning photos of their travels. We'll be together on 4th of July. The question is how will we celebrate? Perhaps by going to a smoke-free pub!

June 29, 2007

Bonnie Banks O' Loch Lomond

Stephen and I are heading up to Scotland for the weekend.

Oh! ye'll take the high road and
I'll take the low road,
And I'll be in Scotland afore ye;
But me and my true love Will never meet again
On the bonnie, bonnie banks of Loch Lomond.

This song always seemed happy to me until I learned what's behind the song. Follow the link and learn more.

Mon Cherie

Two of the best benefits of working in a Not for Profit organisation are the places you go and the people you meet. Last night I attended the Legal Aid Lawyer of the Year Awards, better known as the LALYs and the Chair of the event was Cheri Booth aka Cheri Blair, the wife of former Prime Minister Tony Blair.

Cheri is a lawyer with the ranking QC (Queen's Council) and a portion of her practice are Legal Aid cases. This means that her practice, like other Legal Aid lawyers, depends on the government's willingness to continue to support Legal Aid cases. The government is proposing cuts in fees for these lawyers to the point of greatly jeopardising their ability to help those most in need. These are the issues that the organisation I work for, Legal Action Group, take most seriously.

Now back to our regularly schedule programming...

The event's Master of Ceremony interviewed Cheri on stage - her first major event as the wife of the former Prime Minister. She was eloquent, passionate, articulate and willing to answer all sorts of questions - nothing like she is portrayed in the press. Her most memorable moments?

1. Answering the door in her nightgown to find it was the press taking her photo.
2. Meeting world leaders including two popes.
3. Having a baby at 45 and while her husband was in office.
4. Dining at the White House with the Clintons and being serenaded by Stevie Wonder to the tune of Mon Cherie Amore.

I think the wig takes the cake - although that's for her day job.

Photo from Wikipedia.

June 24, 2007

Whole Foods New Business Paradigm

Whole Foods opened a London mega store two weeks ago in South Kensington, just a 20 minute walk from our flat. The place is HUGE and some have said soulless, although with all the customers packed in it is quite soul-full. Stephen compares the experience to his first US visit to Ikea. People stare open mouthed at all the products.
Bulk foods seems to be a new phenomenon requiring a black board with instructions. Some differences to the US Whole Foods - an egg section, unrefrigerated, that includes quail and ostridge eggs, a muesli bar and an entire cheese room.

I've been there twice and will classify the experience as a food field trip. Stephen and I went to compare it to the US stores - filled with Americans. The second visit was with my friend Shelley who, like me, has some food choice "issues" meaning that it is a real challenge eating out with us.

Both times I arrived at the end of my shopping to face the world's longest check out line. With just a few items in my hands I've wondered if I should just plop them down and walk away. In fact, the lines are speedy. Today's New York Times has an article about Whole Foods mastery of the check out line. Apparently one long line moves more quickly then having many short lines in front of each checkout.

Here's an interesting blog posting and illustration about the Whole Foods New Business Paradigm (scroll down interview post). Mission, vision and core values are more important than making money.

June 22, 2007

Smoke Free

London goes smoke free on 1 July and let me tell you, I'm counting the days. Pubs will now be inviting places. Restaurants will be appetising.

Check out this biting commentary Smoking ban: the benefits
by Time Out London columnist Michael Hodges.

Hodges also had some harsh word for London cyclists, ouch. Two-wheeled fascism: the trouble with London's cyclists.

As a pedestrian it made total sense. I'll have to re-read it now that I have a bike.

June 20, 2007

Blooming Gardenia

Ever tried to grow a Gardenia plant? We received one when we first moved into the flat and it was covered with blossoms that looked beautiful and smelled great. That is until they all fell off a few days later. For the past eight months it has continuously produced buds and off each has fallen off without ever opening.

While I was in Las Vegas last month Stephen took care of the plant and his green thumb worked again. Its blooming all over. He worked the same magic on orchids in the past. The gardenia secret seems to be lots of water soaks in the sink.

Two Wheeling

Check this out - I won a folding bike from Time Out London magazine. I didn't want to reveal it until the bike was actually in my hands. Here it is - a Ridgeback Emmisary. Seven speeds, came with a rack and has its own bell. Would you believe the contest was sponsored by British Gas? How ironic.

Rode the bike home today along the Canal from Kings Cross to Paddington. Took me 50 minutes door to door including 10 minutes of walking the bike from my office to the canal. That's much better than the two hours it takes me to walk. Now that the Tube is getting steamy, no air conditioning and it seems to be facing constant delays, the bike is a super alternative.

Quick lessons learned include braking is opposite to the US. Left is back and right is front. Plus, I immediately learned to ride on the left as I nearly caused several water crashes. Also, ring that bell. Going under overpasses takes some care as well - they have low head room.

The best part is that I feel free for the first time in London - and - people smile at me. Some even said Cheers when I let them pass. I am happy as a lark. The bike rides like a dream.

I'm thinking of naming it Ike the Bike although am tempted to call it George like my Houston Scion.

June 19, 2007

Hidden Pleasures

A Washington Post article about the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History Insect Zoo - quoting my brother Matthew.

Hidden Pleasures
Whether you decide to go or just enjoy reading about them, we guarantee there's something here you didn't already know about

Washington Post Magazine, Sunday, June 17, 2007; Page W12

By Christina Ianzito

Probably the most transfixing few seconds you can offer a kid in Washington can be found at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History. At a recent tarantula feeding in the museum's Bug Corner -- soon to be back in the refurbished O. Orkin Insect Zoo on the second floor -- a crowd of families huddles around a small rug, where a museum volunteer places a clear plastic box featuring a very hairy, black five-inch Mexican redknee tarantula named Olivia next to a vial containing a large cricket. In the box with Olivia is what looks like her twin, but is actually her molted old skin, volunteer Matthew Kweskin explains. Just then a girl of about 10 interrupts.

"That cricket has no idea its life is gonna end!" she exclaims.

"No idea," Kweskin agrees. He proceeds to dump the ignorant bug in front of Olivia, who senses its movement -- tarantulas have eight eyes but can hardly see -- and, in a flash, uses her front legs to reach out and pull the cricket to her mouth. Her bite injects a toxin that turns the inside of the cricket to liquid, we learn. "It's like a cricket Slurpee," another bug-savvy volunteer explains, eliciting a few "eewwws" and a sarcastic "yummy!" from the audience.

Of course, if an expert weren't on hand to explain the biological back story here, and if you'd blinked, it would look as though the spider had remained immobile and the cricket had magically evaporated. The younger kids, including my 2- and 4-year-olds, are too young to appreciate how fascinatingly gross the spider's digestive process really is, but a handful of older boys gather around Olivia's box for 10 or 15 minutes afterward to marvel at the cricket's thin legs still poking from the tarantula's jaws. After a half-hour or so, a small, brown pea -- what's left of the cricket -- is ejected.

Olivia is just one of the museum's roughly 35 tarantulas, whose bite isn't usually deadly to humans, says the insect zoo manager, Nathan Erwin, but they have venom and long fangs, "so if you were bit, I think it would hurt." And, as with a bee's sting, some people are highly allergic.

Bug Corner rotates the spiders for the thrice-daily public feedings, as each tarantula is fed only once a week. (Upon hearing this, one woman exclaims wryly to a friend, "Imagine going an hour without food?!") Sometimes the tarantula isn't hungry and will ignore the cricket or flick it away, Erwin reports -- not too exciting for observers. And the mostly motionless spiders seem to have no other perceptible tricks in their repertoires. But the staff offers visitors other live enticements, such as the chance to feel the soft skin of a bright-green tomato worm or rub the back of a walnut-size Madagascar hissing cockroach.

June 16, 2007


All of my leadership development research focusing on midcareer arts and cultural workers and developing the leadership pipeline started to gel for me in a conversation Stephen and I had yesterday. Relaxing in a super hip pub, The Oak (ironically since we lived in Oakland and are now in London), a block from our flat we sat amongst mismatched furnishings and over fancy mixed drinks started to philosophise about our state of being. Sounds a bit esoteric and it was. We talked about all our travel and where in the world we see ourselves settling next. Then the conversation turned to careers and we realised that despite our different business sectors (Arts/Publishing Not for Profit and Corporate Communications Consulting) we are both in creative industries and face the same leadership development challenges. We are GenXers bumping up against Baby Boomers and being over taken by GenYers.

We are in fact what I am now coining as a new phrase ReGenerationXers. The term emerged out of me stating that at this phase in the GenXer life we are nearly midlife and certainly midcareer. We are experts in our fields, have plateaued and are now looking at that vast, flat landscape in front of us and are saying to ourselves, What's Next? Unlike our parents we are extremely mobile, redefine ourselves continuously and are loyal to our own visions of ourselves much less than to a particular company or even sector. This kind of existence sounds liberating but in fact it is challenging to stay energised and avoid burnout.

Amy: Its like we need to regenerate - find ways to circle back into growth on the career lifecycle. [takes sip of expensive cocktail]

Stephen: ReGenerationX. [looking very pleased with himself]

Amy: That's it exactly! [jumping out of her seat] We're GenXers ReGenerating.

I am now officially coining the term RegenerationXers and am starting a website ReGenerationXers as it is who I am, who we are and I believe we're not alone. More to come.

June 14, 2007

Curious (Be)Longing

Tonight I made a foray into the alternative arts scene with San Francisco International Arts Festival's Andrew Wood who is in London for a visit. He took me to a placed called artsadmin in East London explaining that the performance would speak to me. And so it did.

Leslie Hill and Helen Paris, a performing duo called Curious, presented (Be)Longing. Essentially there were two monologues and each touched on something that is happening in my life.
Leslie (pictured with neon sign that cleverly changes from Lodging to Longing during the show) presented her portion while doing yoga poses in an effort to keep her mind off "that other thing." How much clutter have I also created to keep myself distracted from those voices of the inner Amy - sometimes doubt or fear and other times the inner creative eager to express herself.

Helen (pictured with guitar) is an American in London. She's lived her 20 years and last summer, when she turned 40, Helen decided to learn to play the guitar and also go back to the US Southwest to find her routes. But unlike the yuka plant she sees in the dessert her roots no longer run deep in the US. Where is her home? Where does she belong? The longer I'm in the UK the harder this question becomes.

I loved that these two women have found their voice, taken a risk and ask the hard questions of themselves and their audience. My interest is midcareer leadership development but at the same time I think it is a pre-midlife personal development question?

I am becoming more curious about my (be)longing.

June 9, 2007

Transcitizens of UK and US

Stephen handed me today's Financial Times and said "read this its about us." Transcitizens of the world unite is a commentary piece by professor John Sutherland who lives his life between the US and UK. "Not quire resident, not quite alien - Sutherland describes the peculiar state of living between two countries."

Like Sutherland and ironically Posh and David Beckham, Stephen and I live between two worlds. Currently we are residents of the UK but we are just as comfortable in the US. It reminds me of when I first met Stephen and was amazed by how much we had in common despite his being from Scotland and me from the US. Perfect candidates for a reality tv show?

But there are challenges to being transcitizens notes Sutherland. Green cards are not forever and neither are work visas. At some point we have to decide if we live in the US or the UK as we can not easily split our time between both countries because of the tax implications. This "choice" is much on our minds these days as we think about next steps in our careers. We've both proven that we can be successful over here (UK) or there (US) but in which do we land...next?

Meal in a Bag

The UK has taken the art of the potato chip to new heights. Here they are called crisps and practically any flavour you can imagine is available for your overeating.

Walkers is the most widely sold brand. I think they are related to Doritos (I highly recommend checking out this website - I've never seen this level of production value.)

Here's a sample of Walker flavours. Vegetarians should run for the hills - or - hope that the flavouring is completely artificial and dig in to a bag.

Cheddar Cheese
Heinz Tomato Ketchup
Lamb & Mint
Marmite Yeast Extract
Pickled Onion
Prawn Cocktail
Roast Chicken
Smoky Bacon
Spicy Chilli
Steak & Onion
Chargrilled Steak
Cheese & Onion

Designer sensation flavours that sound like items off of a Take Away menu:

Caramelised Onion & Sweet Balsamic Vinegar
Gently Infused Lime & Thai Spices
Lamb with Moroccan Spices
Oven Roasted Chicken with Lemon & Thyme
Vintage Cheddar & Red Onion Chutney

According to Wikipedia these flavours are no longer being offered by Walkers...

Cheese On Toast
Toasted Cheese
Bovril (thick salty beef extract - no wonder it is off the list)
Paxo Stuffing
Cheese And Chive
Beef and Onion

I've also seen Ox flavour but can't seem to find it on the Internet.

Here are the Lamb & Mint ingredients and I do think they can pass for vegi and note that Potatoes are the first ingredient!

Potatoes, sunflower oil (33%) , lamb & mint flavour [maltodextrin (from wheat), whey powder (from milk), hydrolysed soya protein, flavourings, cream powder, lactose (from milk), hydrolysed protein (from wheat), vinegar powder (from barley), dextrose (from wheat), flavour enhancers (monosodium glutamate, disodium inosinate), colour (paprika extract), lamb powder], salt.

June 7, 2007

Endless Honeymoon

Our friends David and Rachel visited us last night from San Francisco via Boston on the way to their month-long honeymoon. They had the pleasure of joining me at the gym this morning to take showers as our bathroom is now flooding the downstairs flat. Yes, yet another water disaster.

You can read about their honeymoon, as well as history of their wedding planning and that Special Day at their blog 100% Chance of Happiness. They'll be back on July 4 in the last leg of their trip prior to returning to the US. Seems like an appropriate day for expats.

Photo of David and Stephen with duelling laptops.

June 5, 2007

2012 London Olympics Logo

The 2012 London Olympics team launched their brand campaign and here's the logo. The Brits may not complain about customer service but boy they let it rip when it comes to critique. People hate it and the media is having a field day.

The logo is animated, shaking back and forth like a migraine headache. On the website there were all kinds of videos displaying the vibrating logo and apparently people started having epileptic seizures so they removed the footage.

This city is not amused by the Olympics. Tax dollars are being diverted to cover the escalating costs and all kinds of grant funding for Not for Profits is being cut as well. After visiting Montreal Olympic Stadium this summer and hearing their economic horror stories I'm wondering if the Olympics is the cash cow that everyone believes.

Here is one comment from the BBC website blog:

The "branding" fee charged is quite honestly vulgar.I do not dislike it and will be fully behind the Olympic, however, I believe that a great opportunity has been lost.The design should have been an open public contest. WE the tax payers should have been allowed to vote via the phone & net on a BBC Saturday night Lottery Spectacular. WE the tax payers would then have all been included in the process.Revealing that the logo cost £400k is a massive PR own goal. Anyone applying for a lottery grant for a new sports hall at their school must be fuming, Sport England could have built a new one for that sort of money!The cost of the games is a massive issue.This the first example of the Olympic Committee interacting with those who will pay the bill and they have failed miserably

Valley of Fire Photos

Another obligatory camera phone self portrait this time in the Valley of Fire about 40 minutes outside of Las Vegas.

The rocks are beautiful and you can spot hundreds of petraglyphs.

June 4, 2007

Wynn-ing Entertainment

Wynn Las Vegas has become my favorite hotel/casino on the Las Vegas strip. When my mom and I visited earlier in the week I wasn't impressed, not sure why. But after staying at the Flamingo I can appreciate the quality of the Wynn.

Saturday night my friend Brechin and I watched two of the nine different free mini-shows presented in an outdoor wading pool. The first image is of a giant frog that appeared over the top of the waterfall and sang jazz. You can get a sense of the size if you note the two small figures in the foreground. These are actually life size sculptures of a man and a woman.

The next four images are of a giant glass head that comes up out of the water. Bits of video are projected on or from inside this head to make it come alive. I can only imagine the other 7 shows.
We also saw Spamalot at the Wynn. It was just as good as the performance Stephen and I attended in London. Plus, it featured John O'Hurley, Seinfeld's J. Peterman travel catalogue editor. He was wonderful. Our seats were excellent and reasonably priced too. It was fun to see how they incorporated Vegas into the show. What a night!

Back in London

It is good to be back in London even if my luggage is still in Philadelphia. The Philly airport was a mess with bad weather. Our jumbo jet was empty which was fantastic for me as I slept across three seats. Plus, got to watch Music and Lyrics with Drew Barrymore and Hugh Grant. It was very sweet.

I welcome the sanity and, surprisingly, the prices back here in London. My last meals in the US, in the Vegas airport, cost me a fortune. A $7.31 yogurt with fruit and granola, $10.00 chicken salad (for the flight since there was no meal service), $3.00 bottle of water (that security confiscated and chucked in trash, unopened - in the desert no less) and $4.59 Odwalla. US airports are really taking you for a ride.

Walked into a Marks and Spencer at London Gatwick and there were countless healthy, fresh and affordable choices. Purchased a lovely egg salad sandwich on whole meal bread and a fruit smoothy - total - 2 pounds and 50 pence.

June 2, 2007

Okay, I'm Ready to Come Home

I'm vegassed out. Been here for a week and it has blown my mind. Everything is full-on, over the top and frankly, draining. The Americans for the Arts convention is amazing and I'm learning in every session. But vegas - oy. Can someone turn down the volume?

Heading back to London tomorrow and arrive on Monday. I will need a vacation from this holiday.

June 1, 2007

In Real Time

Visit my other blog www.careergoals.blogspot.com to catch my real time feedback on the Americans for the Arts www.artsusa.org convention sessions.