February 29, 2008

Dickensian England

Living in London and working so close to the haunts of Charles Dickens' characters I figured I better read his writing. Oliver Twist was my first attempt and boy was it dark. Many of the streets mentioned in the book are close to my office in Kings Cross. In fact, our offices are on Pentonville Road which is a primary location in Oliver's twisted life.

It is incredible to imagine that the tiny, twisted side streets that I venture through each week were so dirty and depressing not long ago. Kings Cross is ever-improving and now that the Eurostar is stationed at St. Pancras the area is going into an economic boom. Many of the buildings are recent construction but you can still easily find bits of Dickensian England in the neighborhood.

Roman Polanski seems to have made a film of Oliver Twist - now that seems like an appropriate director. Poster of the film pictured above.

February 26, 2008

Be Kind ReMind

Be kind to yourself and go see Be Kind Rewind. The title of this blog post says ReMind and that is how the title of the film is introduced and then the M turns upsidedown to become a W. This film is all about reMinding. Remember your neighbors, your history, your passion, and your old movie favorites. If you want to change history simply Swede - mix it up and make your own version.

Visit the movie website for some cool Sweding including a Swede of Google. Type a movie title into the Sweded Google search field and, amazing, it comes up with all kinds of results that have been Sweded.

For some reason this film made me more homesick for the States than anything I've experienced in a while. Something about that American dream of becoming anything you want.

British Gas Breaks into Couple's Home (not ours)

This is from yesterday's Telegraph. I had to share.

British Gas broke into couple's home
By Lucy Cockcroft
Last Updated: 3:36am GMT 26/02/2008

A couple who returned from holiday to find the locks on their front door had been picked were shocked to discover that energy giant British Gas behind the break-in.

A British Gas engineer gained access to the two-bedroomed flat in Willesden Green, London, with the help of a locksmith, and swapped their meter for a pay-as-you-go version.

Proper checks would have revealed the couple did not owe a penny. But from 2005 the British Gas computer system wrongly began to bill the couple with demands rising from £90 to £900.

Mr Houghton dealt with numerous threats of legal action and visits from the bailiffs, before a personal apology from the energy giant’s managing director, Phil Bentley, convinced him that his troubles were over.

But when the couple went on a long weekend to New York in June 2007, they returned home to find British Gas employees had picked the locks on their front and internal door and installed a new meter.

They then left a note informing the couple of what had happened. Investigators have since worked out that it was the occupants of the next-door flat who owed the money to British Gas.

Mr Houghton said: “I am totally disgusted and bewildered by their behaviour. It felt so intrusive that they had been in our flat and could have gone into every room if they’d wanted to. “I spoke to manager after manager at their call centres and each time was promised the problem had been sorted out.”

A spokesman for the company claimed last night that the Gas Act allows workers to break into a customer’s home to change the meter, providing he or she has been warned in advance. However, Mr Houghton claims he was never notified.

A British Gas spokesman said: 'Our managing director, Phil Bentley, has spoken to Mr Houghton and apologised.

“We’ve since corrected our records, changed the meter back and Mr Houghton has been given £200 in compensation.”

--Now I know why my tech didn't show up all those times - he was busy providing quality customer service to his non-customers.

February 24, 2008


I've always wanted to see U2 in concert but haven't had the chance. No worries - there's a new film out of a U2 concert in Buenos Aires shot in 3D. Plunk on those glasses and whamo you're in the arena and sitting in every best-possible seat.

The concert was so good that at times I found myself applauding. Of course I was also singing along. Thankfully the other audience members, all two of them, weren't bothered by my singing.

Their message of peace was prominent throughout the concert. As was there theme of love. Bono seems like an affectionate person with all his touching and kissing - of the fellow band members. You could see them light up with joy when he put his hand on their shoulder or put his back to theirs. Really inspirational.
Here are photos from the concert taken with my mobile. As I said, it was like being there. If you have 3D glasses you may be able to make the images work.

February 22, 2008

Take the Leap

People have been sharing some good ideas for celebrating February 29 as it is a leap year. Here are a couple:

1. Let your employees take the day off since it would have been a holiday anyway.
2. Give employees the day off and ask them to volunteer or do something for the planet.
3. Challenge yourself by "taking the leap" do something challenging, new, different.
4. Celebrate my brother-in-law Michael's birthday!

The Pies That Evoke Your Dreams Project

Welcome to Sugar High Friday a monthly online recipe exchange amongst bloggers. Each month a different blogger hosts the event and chooses the theme. This month my friend Rachel of Vampituity is the hostess and her theme is Pies that Evoke Your Dreams.

Here's my recipe
ChocoIceDream Pie
Serves: 1 (because dreams are only in our minds)

Meringue base
Dark chocolate ice cream center
Heavy cream topping
Fresh raspberries

To be honest, this is more of Stephen's dream.

Sound delicious? Make a contribution to a non-profit helping to transform the world of food through pie- Pie Ranch. Please specify "Pie Ranch/Green Oaks Fund” in the "Designation" field of the online donation form (Pie Ranch is fiscally sponsored by the Rudolph Steiner Foundation) at: http://tinyurl.com/3bmn4c

February 21, 2008

Living in the Capital

Living in the capital city of a small country (sorry but it is true) has huge advantages. Yesterday I attended the National Council for Volunteer Organisation's annual conference here in London and because we are close to parliament a couple of MPs were able to attend. I suppose this is how life is if you live in DC. On TV and radio you only get sound bites. Here we were able to hear how articulate they are about their constituents, trends and ways of government.

I was particularly impressed with Ed Miliband - his official title: The Rt Hon Ed Miliband MP – Minister for the Cabinet Office and Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster. You gotta love the titles in the UK. He spoke without notes with clarity, enthusiasm and knowledge of The Third Sector (UK title for the not-for-profit sector). Also impressed with his ability to take three questions from the audience, remember people's names and clearly address their concerns. This guy is a pro.

The other MP who spoke was Rt Hon Oliver Letwin MP who, unfortunately didn't get me quite as enthused. I think part of it may be the accent - so melodic and upper-crust British it lulled me to sleep (Sorry again UK).

You can watch their addresses online here.

February 20, 2008

Ithaca is Gorges

Anyone who has lived in or visited Ithaca knows the expression Ithaca is Gorges. It was invented by Ithaca College professor Howard Cogan. Ithaca notified alumni today that Professor Cogan passed away.

Here's the obituary on United Press International website.

Ironically, my folks where in Ithaca over the weekend enjoying the gorges.

February 19, 2008

Obama a Mac and Clinton a PC?

The New York Times had a clever article today comparing Barack Obama's website to a Mac computer and Hillary Clinton's to a PC. I could totally relate. Despite my rant in 2006 that Macintosh Computer Encourage Confusion I do feel that Obama is more user-friendly - an easier graphic user interface. While Clinton has that no-nonsense, no-creativity, non-transparent PC feel to her.

Check out their websites for yourself.


Illustration from the New York Times.

Green Eggs and Spam

Feel like you're getting a lot of spam these days? I read an article that said over 90% of the emails ending up in people's in-boxes are Spam. That's a lot of green eggs and spam.

I was swimming through my spam the other day and found some important emails in there. To think I could have lost out on the millions I won from the Nigerian government. Yes, you are looking at a winner.

February 17, 2008

Smashing Pumpkins Go Through the Roof

We're not too old to rock out once in a while. Last night Stephen and I went to see the Smashing Pumpkins perform at the O2 Arena. It was my Valentine's Day gift. What a fantastic night! The heavy guitar and drums awakened my sleeping heart which has been dulled by life in London. This American band rocked! So nice that we Americans can show the English a good time.

However, I will admit that I'm too out of the rock scene enough not to know that this band has been around since the 1980s. I thought they were more recent. Here's what Wikipedia says - you really have to know your music genres to translate this..."Disavowing the punk rock roots shared by many of their alt-rock contemporaries, the Pumpkins have a diverse, densely layered, and guitar-heavy sound, containing elements of gothic rock, heavy metal, dream pop, psychedelic rock, progressive rock, shoegazer-style production and, in later recordings, electronica."
What the heck is a shoegazer?

The other good news was that our seats were nearly at the top of the stadium but I was able to enjoy the show despite the height. It took me a bit of time to work my way up to our seats but I was well supported by the usher and Stephen - both of whom encouraged me to take my time. The secret was not looking up at the roof which was oh-so-close. Having the heavy rock beat was an added benefit to staying focused on the fun and not obsessing on my fear. So, I think I've made a huge step.
As you can see the O2 looks like a giant circus tent. Besides hosting a rock concert of 20,000 last night there was also a movie theatre, an ice skating rink, another performance venue and numerous restaurants and shops.

February 14, 2008

Eton Mess for Valentine's Day

For Valentine's Day I'm making an Eton Mess for Stephen. This is one of those desserts that is lost in translation. My mum-in-law has made it for us when we've visited Scotland and let me tell you it is the best tasting mess you'll ever eat.

Here's an explanation from Wikipedia:

Eton mess is a dessert of English origin consisting of a mixture of strawberries, pieces of meringue and cream, which is traditionally served at Eton College's annual prize-giving celebration picnic on the "Fourth of June" One anecdotal story is that the dessert was invented when a Labrador accidentally sat on a picnic basket in the back of a car on the way to a picnic.

-Crumble some meringues (pronounced murangoos as my sister Marlene and I would say)
-Mix them with whipped cream
-Add in some strawberries
-A few spoonfulls of strawberry jam
-Top with more sugar (if you're looking to have a heart attack)

February 12, 2008

Bratislava the next big holiday destination

Bratislava - that's the capital of Slovakia. Why am I telling you this? Because my folks and I are going to visit there in March for my birthday (and my Dad's too). Yes, it is an unexpected destination and I'll tell you how we settled on it.

Our holiday starts in Budapest, Hungary and we were thinking of going to Krakow, Poland for a few days to close out the trip. Unfortunately, we couldn't figure out an affordable and speedy means of transportation between the two cities.

Thanks to Google Maps set on the satellite feature I was able to pull up Budapest and then take a virtual trip up the Danube River. From the bird's eye view I could see that there was a big city north west of Budapest and turns out it was Bratislava at just 200 kilometers away. It may be possible for us to take a hydrofoil on the Danube between the two cities if the weather is good.

After Bratislava I'm heading out on my own to Vienna since it is only 60 kilometers. That takes me to three capitals in three countries I've not yet visited. Actually, I've only been to Spain and France so there are many places on my list to visit. Honestly, Slovakia wasn't on there. That's what I'm liking most about this adventure.

February 7, 2008

Speed the Plow

Nicole and I were lucky enough to score tickets to see David Mamet's Speed the Plow at the Old Vic Theatre starring Kevin Space and Jeff Goldblum. I didn't see any advance advertising and it was opening week so I think we snuck in before the publicity hit the fan.

What a show! Imagine seeing two great film actors live on stage in a tour-de-force of hyper-activity. They jumped, screamed, danced, battled, hugged, cried and seduced all in under two hours. The best part was that you could tell they loved every minute of their performance. It was a pleasure to experience the dynamic energy of professionals.

The third actor is Laura Michelle Kelly who I never heard of before and didn't much enjoy next to the star power of Spacey and Goldblum. Now that I've researched her it turns out she plays Sweeney Todd's wife in the Tim Burton film. Amazing how different she looks here.

Now I have to figure out what the heck Speed the Plow references in the play.

Mall Blindness

Growing up my sister Marlene and I coined the phrase Mall Blindness. It is the phenomeon that happens when you do enough shopping that suddenly all the outfits that you thought were hideous and not your taste are things you find yourself buying. The disorder lasts just long enough for you to arrive home, unpack your bags and ask yourself, "what was I thinking?" The illness hits twice as strong during sales season.

I suffered from Mall Blindness today but thankfully I wasn't at the point of sale. It was more a kind of mind-shift from hanging with my super fashion friend Nicole who is visiting from San Francisco. She is always dressed in the height of fashion and looks amazing. Over the past two days we hit all the shops that make me go "ick" but somehow she puts on the outfits and looks awesome. Today her friend Liz joined us from Barcelona and the two of them went back to the shops Nicole and I hit and they went sale-crazy. Instead of my normal "ick" reaction I heard myself saying that I actually thought their items looked good. You just have to widen your lense, take off your Amy-filter and it all starts to make sense. Oh wait, I'm back home again and it really is "icky" afterall. It must be a 24 hour virus.

Ellis Island website lists passengers

A Kweskin cousin contacted me to say that you can use the Ellis Island website to research passengers. Visit http://www.ellisisland.org/, choose the passenger search function, type in your search term and you're on the way to accessing some pretty remarkable information. The site is free, you just need to register.

You can see the names of passengers, residence, year they arrived, their age, view their passenger record, ship manifest and even a ship image. The documents, which are PDFs of original records, can be purchased on the site. Breathtaking.

February 6, 2008

Election night

Photos from my visit to the Democrats in the UK polling place last night. What a scene. So many Americans. So many drinks - I've never seen poll workers drink before. Adds a relaxed party element to the experience. We had paper ballots and were asked to step on stage and put our ballot in the box for the candidate we voted for. Not exactly a private way to vote. No one seemed to be paying attention to the voting - it was the see and be seen element that made the buzz.

February 5, 2008

Post #601

Amazing but true, this is post #601 of The Kweskin Report. What a fantastic coincidence that today is a monumental day in American politics with the looming Democratic Primary. With Obama and Clinton in the running and my ability to vote as a Democrat here in the UK I decided to leave behind my No Party Affiliation status and go for the vote.

Obama is my man. He speaks to me. He speaks of change. He gives me hope.

At a rally in California yesterday four powerful women stood together to bring Obama's message of change - California's first lady Maria Shriver, Daughter of President JFK Caroline Kennedy, Michelle Obama partner to Barack and Oprah Winfrey. In the February 4 New York Times Editorial Observer Michelle, Maria, Caroline and Oprah on the Hustings in California Andrew Rosenthal wrote,

Ms. Winfrey — finally — spoke to the most emotionally fraught aspect of this contest. “Now look at this campaign: the two front-runners are a black man and a woman,” she said. “What that says to me is we have won the struggle and we have the right to compete.”

Instead of seeing a painful choice, voters, Ms. Winfrey urged, should see a moment when they “are free from the constraints of gender and race.”

That is a truely inspirational reason to celebrate posting #601.