Monday, December 08, 2008

Right, been ill, quit job, getting married in August. Thus, no blogs for a bit. But this is a good way to get started again... the joy of the meme!

I have a cold, and am thus incapable of original or profound thought.
Bold is for done, italics is for “Would like to do.”

1. Started my own blog - you're here, aintcha?
2. Slept under the stars
3. Played in a band – ok, it was a very Linda McCartney tamborine, but still. I was on stage. Twice!
4. Visited Hawaii
5. Watched a meteor shower
6. Given more than I can afford to charity
7. Been to Disneyland/world
- ah, Florida, land of the flat
8. Climbed a mountain - oodles. On several continents.
9. Held a praying mantis - I have great photos of the wild one that was on my hand all the way down river in Malaysia
10. Sung a solo – Drunk, but into a microphone at Richard's house. Repeatedly.
11. Bungee jumped – not in a million years.
12. Visited Paris
13. Watched a lightning storm at sea - cooler than something super cool
14. Taught myself an art from scratch - Calligraphy, knitting, bits of piano
15. Adopted a child - I would, but until recently I haven't had the means to support one. So it may happen yet.
16. Had food poisoning - often. It isn't pretty. Once was intentional salmonella for a drugs trial.
17. Walked to the top of the Statue of Liberty - it was high and small. The claustrophobia was a bit much for me!
18. Grown my own vegetables - and I'm doing it again this year. I'm building a raised vegetable bed!
19. Seen the Mona Lisa in France - you miss a lot of time in the Louvre to see it. I'm still not sure it was worth it.
20. Slept on an overnight train - trans-Canada, trans-Mongolian, lots of times!
21. Had a pillow fight - what would youth have been without it?
22. Hitchhiked - open for debate. I have taken lifts for short distances in the Falklands and in Brasil, but wasn't actually hitchhiking!
23. Taken a sick day when you’re not ill
24. Built a snow fort - my brother John is the most awesome snow fort builder and he helped his baby sister loads of times!
25. Held a lamb - every spring while growing up. Usually twins and we got to bottle feed!
26. Gone skinny dipping - on a few continents. Great fun.
27. Run a marathon
28. Ridden in a gondola in Venice
29. Seen a total eclipse - fabulous!
30. Watched a sunrise or sunset - many, many times. Never ceases to awe me.
31. Hit a home run - Total fluke in primary school. Mostly because the rest of the class was as inept as I was, but I was stronger.
32. Been on a cruise - not a big Princess Cruises sort of thing, but around the Galapagos and and chartered yachts other places.
33. Seen Niagara Falls in person
34. Visited the birthplace of my ancestors - I live there now!
35. Seen an Amish community - I grew up on the outskirts of them. No one ever talks about how the Amish have a great sense of humour.
36. Taught myself a new language - Spanish, Dutch, Brasilian Portuguese and American Sign Language.
37. Had enough money to be truly satisfied – then again, I'm easily satisfied!
38. Seen the Leaning Tower of Pisa in person
39. Gone rock climbing
- I suck at it.
40. Seen Michelangelo’s David
41. Sung karaoke – in Tibet. This is the most popular evening entertainment in Lhasa. On street corners. To sing Jingle Bells in July.
42. Seen Old Faithful geyser erupt
43. Bought a stranger a meal at a restaurant - after someone did this for my friend Emma when she was having a bad day, I opted to do the same for some other people at various points. It is a good thing.
44. Visited Africa
Walked on a beach by moonlight
46. Been transported in an ambulance - accident prone moi? But of course!
47. Had my portrait painted - daddy had mine and my sister's done They were rubbish and never displayed.
48. Gone deep sea fishing - and I'm pretty good at it as well.
49. Seen the Sistine Chapel in person - a non-religious friend said it made him believe in God and I understand.
50. Been to the top of the Eiffel Tower in Paris - been to the base, but I'm a little afraid of heights.
51. Gone scuba diving or snorkelling - Can't scuba dive becuase of my epilepsy but I love snorkelling. The galapagos with the seals and the hammerhead shark and all those sea turtles was the best!
52. Kissed in the rain - but my particular favourite is kissing in the snow.
53. Played in the mud - there's a great photo of Kats and I in a mud fight when we were 16.
54. Gone to a drive-in theatre
Been in a movie
Visited the Great Wall of China - it was incredible! I'd love to hike it from beginning to end.
57. Started a business - well, I've started lots of other people's businesses for them. Does that count?
58. Taken a martial arts class - Daddy made me take judo.
59. Visited Russia - one end to the other on the Trans-Mongolian Express. There's a lot of Russia.
60. Served at a soup kitchen
61. Sold Girl Scout Cookies – but I didn't win any competitions at it. I still buy them though. Lizzie ships them from the USA.
62. Gone whale watching - and also saw Killer Whales from the Vancouver Ferry.
Got flowers for no reason - one very romantic boyfriend. He also wrote me poetry. And yet, he sucked as a human being.
64. Donated blood, platelets or plasma
65. Gone sky diving - can't though. Epilepsy.
66. Visited a Nazi Concentration Camp
67. Bounced a check - a few. Never happy about it, either.
68. Flown in a helicopter - over Gettysburg Battlefield.
69. Saved a favorite childhood toy - Bernard is still on my bed.
70. Visited the Lincoln Memorial
71. Eaten caviar
72. Pieced a quilt
73. Stood in Times Square

74. Toured the Everglades
75. Been fired from a job
76. Seen the Changing of the Guards in London

77. Broken a bone - seven at last count.
78. Been on a speeding motorcycle - pillion, every time. But going across the Golden Gate Bridge at midnight that way was incredible.
79. Seen the Grand Canyon in person
Published a book - give it half points. I was published in a few books. Articles here, a knitting pattern there. But never entirely my own book.
81. Visited the Vatican - quite a place. Incredible and bigger than it looks on TV.
82. Bought a brand new car
83. Walked in Jerusalem
84. Had my picture in the newspaper
- oh, those basketball and rowing heydays!
85. Read the entire Bible
86. Visited the White House
Killed and prepared an animal for eating - fish. Lots of fish. And a chicken or two.
88. Had chickenpox - twice. Yes, you can have it more than once, but I don't recommend it.
89. Saved someone’s life - well, maybe. A little Heimlich manouver. Helping people after accidents. But I suppose you never know if you actually saved their life. It may have had nothing to do with you in the end!
90. Sat on a jury
91. Met someone famous - but let's not start name dropping now!
92. Joined a book club - I guess I have now - Harvard Book Store's monthly signed first editions!
93. Lost a loved one
94. Had a baby
95. Seen the Alamo in person
96. Swam in the Great Salt Lake
- and the Dead Sea!
97. Been involved in a law suit – I'm a lawyer for goodness sakes!
98. Owned a cell phone - got one now!
99. Been stung by a bee - though this is never good as I'm terribly allergic!

Saturday, August 30, 2008

In Which Our Heroine Reveals the True Mind of God
Turns out, much to W's claims to the contrary, that God is a Democrat. Whew, I hear you say. Finally? After all this time? I mean, we all knew God favoured giving food to the poor, taking care of the sick and elderly and stuff like that which the Democrats do so much better than the Republicans, but still the R's like to at least claim that God is on their side for so much more. Stuff like invading Iraq, the death penalty (claiming a high ground of smoting), the abortion debate, etc. The Democrats, being a bit less evangelical or fundamental in their convictions, tend not to claim the moral high ground. Which personally, I think puts them in better stead on the commandment that tells them not to take the name of God in vain, but I digress.

It is ok that I digress because at long last God has come out on the side of the Dems. It was easy to figure this out, in part because God was frankly provoked. Focus on the Family took time away from focusing on their families to exhort their followers to pray for rain to fall on Obama during his speech at Mile High stadium to accept the Democratic nomination. Now, frankly folks, this was just unwise. God hates it when you treat him like your personal fate dispenser or get the order wrong and think that God is at your mercy instead of the other way around. And any reading of the Old Testament will show you that when God gets annoyed, vengence is coming. So not only did it not rain on Obama, but instead, just to show how bad the Republicans are in a crisis or handling the weather, and enable the entire nation to witness the one thing that everyone agreed was a total fiasco (as opposed to Iraq. Whatever happened to those pro war protesters ? Anyone heard from them lately?), there is a hurricane that is predicted to land on or near New Orleans right during the Republican convention. They've already started evacuating - see here. McCain and Palin are all set to have to be called on as to what their response would be and they better be ready.

Of course, they're going to have to answer other questions as well. For starters, is Sarah Palin really the best choice to be a 72 year old's heartbeat away from the Presidency? Indeed, it strikes me as interesting that if the point was to appease the "liberal" wing of the Republican party, you know, the people who actually voted for McCain over all the others to give him the nomination in the first place, how ticked are these people going to be if something happens to him and she's suddenly in charge? She's not the values they wanted and voted for. Lieberman? Sure. But Rove vetoed that. Which is another poor move. With Rove's fingerprints all over the W presidency, letting Rove put his fingerprints on the campaign at this stage is just a poor strategy move. As I've said before, the biggest indictment of the current administration is that no one from it even hit the primaries. They just didn't run. Mostly because they knew that with W's rock bottom approval ratings, they didn't stand the proverbial snowball's chance in Hurricane Gustav. And even the conservative wings of the party, even if they didn't want to vote for McCain, weren't exactly going to defect to the Obama camp come election day. Coulter may have threatened to vote for Hilary when McCain got the nom, but you sure haven't heard her make the same promise about Obama.

Still, the mud machines are going to work overtime in this election. It has already started even against Palin - see here. As much as I think she's the best possible choice for the Democratic party, I feel for the poor woman. She's got a lot that's about to go wrong for her. And if she's not careful, the McCain loss will be blamed entirely on her.

Or, of course, Hurricane Gustav.


Friday, July 18, 2008

In Which Our Heroine Talks About Cheating

Think back, boys and girls, and remember the days when this blog was about "Hey, today I'm in Outer Mongolia, blind as a bat and cruising around on a train negotiating for raspberries when it stops?" Someday I'll get back to that kind of thing, but for now there seems to be a reactionary trend in what I'm writing. Maybe it is because I am off work "ill" (yeah. Right. I'm not ill enough to be off work. I've told them this repeatedly. My doctor MADE me take two weeks off. Then Occupational Health asked for more time to do assessments. That's taken three weeks, and then after yesterday's two and a half hour assessment, there is now a follow up, and that's not scheduled until a week from Tuesday. Even my boss is starting to wonder when and how I'll get back to work and even though I have taken back to rowing every day, a little farther and further each time, frankly I'm bored out of my brain. And that's with having completed another diploma assessment. Welcome to Europe. I'm begging to go back to work, I've been off for just over a month now and I'm on full pay and accruing vacation time because somehow between now and next June 1 I have to take off six and a half weeks. I'm floored.) but at any rate today's rant and rave is something that has been percolating through discussions round the boathouse of late is whether or not Dwain Chambers should be allowed to go to the Olympics. It is now official, he's not going and I for one am glad.

There's a lot of talk about redemption, etc in all this and while I'm all for rehabilitation and believe firmly in the concept of redemption, I'm also all for consequences of actions. Particularly intentional actions, such as taking illegal substances for performance enhancement. As with most crimes and misdemeanor, he did it because he thought he wouldn't get caught, and indeed he almost didn't. As doping gets more sophisticated, testing and monitoring are constantly a step behind in catching up, and they stayed a step behind Dwaine Chambers. But there are consequences, which he knew would happen if he got caught. He took his suspension, and now he fought the ban. What was the argument?

Restraint of trade.

Restraint of his right to earn an income.

This is where my blood pressure goes sky high. There are so many reasons why this argument fails for me.

1) As the judge stressed, the Olympics are supposed to be an amateur event. The point of it being amateur is that they're not pro. That isn't as much of an issue in track (which is something that then always makes me wonder why there is so much drugging happening in the sport - it isn' t as though someone is signing high money contracts to run the anchor leg of the 2000m relay for Wigan Athletic.) There is no money to be made from the event itself. Of course, if he had won gold or something I suppose there could be endorsement opportunities, but not necessarily. But he'd earn more staying in the UK and getting a job, not racing amateur athletics.

2) As alluded to above, nothing about his going to the Olympics or not prevents him from getting what my gran would call a "proper" job, even in athletics. He's still free to coach, etc. The question of who would hire him, tainted as he is, is another question (and one which I hope would be posed by those who woudl consider getting him as a corporate endorsement) since of course it is roughly equivalent to having Barry Bonds be your guy - the halo of suspicion is all around. Just what's in that gel he's rubbing on you, eh? And of course, like the rest of us, when what we want job wise doesn't happen he's got the opportunity to wait tables, work in a coffee shop and do what it takes to pay the bills, including slinging hash.

3) This is a self created problem. He took the drugs, and then he got caught. There are many professions where if you shoot yourself in the foot intentionally, that's it. You're out of that profession, for the good of the profession and often the public so as to maintain trust. If I, as a solicitor, wander around committing fraud, particualrly with client accounts, and I am caught you better believe I am going to be struck off the register until the day I die. Teachers who kiss their pupils, ditto. Doctors who kill their patients aren't going to be allowed to sign back up. Going to court then claiming "restraint of trade" isn't going to wash in any of these situations, and I'm glad it wasn't permitted here.

There are all sorts of rights in the world, and I'm glad some of them get enforced sufficiently. But there is no right to act like an idiot and be rewarded for it, even if it does happen all too often. If Dwaine Chambers is serving me coffee the next time I turn up at Cafe Nero, I'll admit it now - I'm not tipping.


Tuesday, July 15, 2008

In Which Our Heroine Ponders Conclusions

In my job, I spend a lot of time effectively fact checking. I'm not going to put something in a document unless I can back it up. The law says X and relevantly Y is what we've got on our hands, with a bit of nuance at point Z. In the kind of documents I have to deal with, you can't just assert, you've got to back up every statement until you get to your conclusion. Making it up as you go along is just not an option. Tempting? Sho nuff, but just not an option.

This is a trait that then goes forward into the rest of my life. If I'm going to fight with you about something, I'm going to make sure I have facts, etc to back it up. Maybe not quite as thoroughly as I might do in a work document, but I despise saying "oh,you remember that time when something sort of like this happened. You know..." Which is actually a bit of a problem as while I can recite entire plots of books, or poems or the facts of a case or song lyrics, actually naming a title, band name, case name or often a person's name is beyond me. I'm forever having to dig these things up, usually on line.

I was doing this today to respond to this conversation here and couldn't remember the name of the murder victim (may he rest in peace). As a consequence, I turned to ever trusty Google to find the name of it. Now, my Google-fu is well marked upon. I can find just about anything that's out there on the 'net with just a bit of information. There are a couple of legendary search stories out there, and that was before I got really good.***** I can talk about those later. This was a fairly mainstream news story at the time, and was relatively easy to find, I just had to come up with the search terms that would trigger a hit.

But when I had typed in "child rape murder kidnap Massachusetts" and hit return, it occured to me "Who will or could know that I've typed this in and searched on this topic?" Sure, I have a good explanation, and the truth should in most circumstances set you or I free. But what would I have to explain? And to who?

This is where I get staunch in my defense of civil liberties again, and for the same old reason. The standard line that comes up is "if you have nothing to hide, what's the problem?" Well, I have nothing to hide here, and even if I did I just confessed to it to all and sundry what I've been searching for on the internet, but I still have a problem.

All kinds of information gathering can be had, and facts are facts. But facts are totally useless without conclusions. And the intelligence putting together those conclusions can be completely at fault. Let me give you a set of facts, all true. You have a person who:

1) Has been reading the Koran. In fact, studying portions of it in depth.
2) Has been to China, Russia, Paraguay (a Hamas hotspot), and Columbia all within the space of a few months.
3) Is closely related to a known terrorist who operated on US soil.
4) Had close ties to someone on the 9.11 planes; and
5) Has an FBI file

you'd be forgiven for thinking that person is precisely the sort of person who should be detained in Guantanamo and waterboarded until they confessed to everything up to and including the kidnapping of the Lindberg baby. This is particularly when you find out that their most recent Google search involved rape and murder of children. But therein lies the problem - they are the same person. The same person who has a perfectly valid and non-sordid reason for conducting what at face value could be a rather lurid search on Google also has perfectly valid explanations for all those five files. I was backpacking through Asia and South America for a year. My time in China was spent with James, climbing Taoist holy mountains, getting a crash course in Taoism, Confuscionism and Bhuddism (since that's what you do when you're hanging with a good friend who's there researching his next books on East Asian religions, which if you're keen, you can find here), eating food of far uncertain origin, and petting pandas. Paraguay may indeed be a Hamas hotspot, but if you read down below a few years back you'll see my thoughts on it. Everyone knows about my half brother, and of course that explains the FBI file since I was three, when I was far more of a danger than I am now, mostly due to my habit of holding my breath until I passed out if I didn't go my own way. Somewhere between my profoundly pacifist beliefs and the fact that I am one of the most easily identified individuals around ("She went that way officer. She's six foot five. Can't miss her. Cracking bust.") I'm about as likely to commit a crime other than a motoring offense than I am to suddenly take the lead in a Broadway revival of "Kiss of the Spider Woman." Oh, and the study of the Koran? Anyone who's interested is more than welcome to a copy of my paper on "The Concept of the Mutawadir in Sharia Law Compared to the Hearsay Rule." If you can't sleep, it is better than Sominex. Every reason, completely innocent explanation. But if you don't have the explanation, just the "bare facts" I'm really quite dangerous.

And that's my concern. There's no need for me to explain my every activity to someone if I haven't contravened any laws. I have enough knowledge of FISA (the laws, not the international rowing organisation) and the terrorism laws to know what, and how, the data is gathered. I know enough about the internet to know that through cache, etc, nothing ever really disappears. There's all kinds of issues we need to worry about, and the recent passing of the surveillance bill in the U.S. Congress scares me senseless. But I'm still not sure where we can draw the lines, either. I'm certainly not going to trust major corporations to spy on me or protect my data - they have no reason to do so apart from their commercial interests and commercial interests can of course be bought out by the highest, or at least higher, bidder. But commercial companies don't have the ability to lock me up and torture me any further than the torture of "I want THAT one" which I usually have the ability to resist. At a certain level, I am resigned though opposed to my data being collected by the government. But I don't fear the collection. I fear the analysis of it by people who, to paraphrase Buzz Aldrin (I think) build rockets with thousands of gallons of rocket fuel by contracting out to the cheapest bidder. The intelligence of the people doing the analysing may not be enough to save us, and that is the bigger fear.

Gosh, I'm being depressing today!


*****I think the ultimate of this is about six years ago. My then boyfriend described a film he'd seen when he was a teenager on PBS. It was about junkyards in Appalachia. He wanted to track it down. He was a tech guy, talking to tech guys about this. They couldn't find it. It took me half an hour. Turns out even if you knew the name of the film (which he didn't until I found it) there were at that time only three whole references to it on the internet. He has never doubted my Google-fu again, and now if people need it found, they just ask me to find it.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Ok, there is a whole very mucho long post already half drafted about my recent road trip to Alnwick, Lindisfarne, Hadrian's Wall and the Farne Islands, but in the interim I'm too totally worked up about this Noodlehead.

I spend a small portion of my job (say half an hour every morning) taking items that violate a company's trademarks off of ebay. Many of these are innocent mistakes by people, and I include in the takedown notice that we will not object to the item being re-listed so long as the company's marks are removed from the advertisement.

Roughly 5% of the take down notices wind up with someone e-mailing me about it. Of those, half are people going "I didn't know! I'm so sorry! Please help me!" to which I write back, very nicely and truthfully that as noted in the takedown notice that if they re-list the item without reference to our marks they'll never hear from us again, along with further explanations of trademark law if they're not quite understanding what happened and why.

The other half are abusive to varying degrees. This can range from the rather classic "ebay doesn't understand their own business and you don't understand yours either." (Ah, the perpetual favourite of "no one understands anything but me. But I'm going to use their services anyway.") to one guy so abusive that I actually had to hang up on him after four warnings that if the abuse didn't stop, I was going to terminate the call. Points to the woman who drafted the single most sarcastic response to anything I have ever seen, though. That was good for its sheer entertainment value.

And the constant refrain in the abuse is dual. First, Why are you picking on me? Why aren't you picking on everyone else?

As a matter of fact, we are. We do not discuss your case with other people and we do not discuss their case with you, but what on God's green Earth makes you think that loads of professionals want to sit around and of all the infringing stuff out there, you're the only one they're going to single out? As I always wind up saying to people in take downs, and as directly stated in the article IF YOU DO NOT PROTECT YOUR TRADEMARKS YOU LOSE THEM. This is fundamental to the practice of trademark law. Fun-da-freakin-mental. And you can't adequately protect it with one random enforcement and not all the others. Protection is protection. Commercial use in any form is a massive issue.

Secondly is the other classic, applicable to so many protests of this type, "I don't feel I did anything wrong." This is usually used by people who've been caught absolutely bang to rights in error, and they'd just rather tell you how why, in contrary to years of trademark law and in defiance of the judicial opinions of many learned judges over centuries and indeed will all bow to your deliberately ignorant "feeling" of what is right and wrong, which seems to be primarily informed entirely on whether or not someone is trying to stop you from doing whatever it is.

What this woman did was wrong. Now, granted, there is a wide scope of wrong in the world. Going 31 in a 30 zone is wrong, and so is going 80 in the same zone. The 80 is measurably more wrong. But that doesn't stop the 31 being wrong as well. But there is generally a lesser penalty for the 31, and that's what happened here. When people started making a profit by selling these items on ebay, the BBC stepped in, said "now look, this is wrong and we're just going to have to stop it at source. Terribly sorry." They didn't sue her, they haven't asked her for damages, they've not broken her knitting fingers, they just said "look, this needs to stop." And with having the law on their side, they've got the potential of "if you don't stop, well, then we can make you." Pattern down, should have been end of story on all sides. It isn't as though they even took away the items which originally infringed and she knit in the first place.

But no. She's got to scream that she's being singled out, which of course she is not. And she's got to talk about how her deliberately ignorant (and continued deliberately ignorant) stance doesn't feel wrong to her. Would she feel the same way if other people were making a profit on her work, while simultaneously putting her at risk of losing her work altogether? Heck no. That wouldn't feel good to her. But then again, we've already determined that it isn't about feelings boys and girls.

Every trademark lawyer I know read this article and said "well done BBC." Ditto publishers, who deal with issues like this all the time. But hey, if you want to keep staying ignorant, well then I hope it keeps feeling good because it won't stay that way for long.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

In Which Our Heroine Tries to Get Back in the Blogging Habit

Crumbs, it has been almost a year. And for some reason the e-mails are now coming in, virtually ordering me to update the blog. Who knew I had fans? But I guess I do.

So I'll start with an e-mail that arrived yesterday.


After 2 weeks of rowing with the [insert name of guilty party's team here], I decided sweep rowing was NOT for me (was it ever?). Boy did the coach make a mistake putting me in the double one day when the boat lineups were off - as soon as I sculled I knew it was over (I think it does something to your brain - it felt 100 times better with 2 oars). So I took a captain's test this morning and am transitioning over to sculling a single in the mornings and rowing recreationally with the team 3 days a week in the afternoon. I bought a bike with clipless pedals and traverse traffic to and from the boathouse. I now have absolutely no life, no life outside of rowing and can't stay up past 10pm on a Saturday night because I'm that wiped.

You would be proud.

I don't know why it turns into such an obsession so quickly, but I've never felt better - it's like an addiction and I don't understand why I haven't been rowing these past 3 years. I feel like my life was on hold or something and I finally got it back.


Thanks for the info - had we not talked I don't think I would have ever got back into this.


xox -Mike"
[Message edited to take out identifying information and location.]

Now, I love Mike like a big sister (which is a bit pointless, as he already has two fabulous big sisters provided biologically), and of course as my friend all I want for him is to be happy. But the line where he says "I have no would be so proud" cracks me into hysterical laughter every time. I guess that's the coaching demeanour, and that is how Mike and I became friends. I was his coach, and I loved coaching him. Not just because he won every race he entered, although that was fun too. "Surrender Dorothy!" But I do know how he feels. After some rough times in the 8 this spring, and now three weeks off being ill, I've finally climbed back into the single since getting Weil's Disease last year. I suck. Suck, suck, suck. And I love it so much. Even the sucking. How did I live without doing this every day?

Well, I guess I lived with a few more inches on my hips from lack of exercise, but that's not really the point. I'm not addicted to alcohol, I've never smoked and I've never taken a drug I wasn't prescribed, but if they tried to treat the rowing addiction, they'd have a massive battle on their hands.

More soon,


Wednesday, May 23, 2007

In Which Our Heroine Moves House
Ah, getting ready to move house again. I'm amazed it is all happening so quickly. Just amazed. Saw it last Thursday, moving in this Friday (well, picking up the keys. And then buggering off out of town to drive to Exeter and fetch my things so that I can bring them back. It shoudn't be too bad as these things go. I don't have much stuff, and it is already conveniently packed. It just needs to be moved out of Tom's spare room, which is frankly a straight shot out the front door, into the van and driven on up to Henley.

Yes, Henley. Rowing central, really. Seems like a very nice place, and I'm sure I'll have a whole bunch of new best friends when people start realizing they have a friend two minutes from the finish line.

Particularly when they realize they can get out of London for the weekend. I went out on Saturday night with Dan to SoHo. Everyone was there - Kats was at one party, Jim was in another bar. But this is just it - every tourist in the land and everyone in London was there. It was heaving, it was loud, and it was being seen for the sake of being seen, which takes a bit of fun out of the company you've gone out to spend time with. Then of course, I had to take the chucking out time Tube home. I don't care what city you're in. This is never a good time to be on public transport. I was shoehorned into a Victoria line carriage. There were a group of American tourists celebrating the 20th birthday of one of their group in the loudly drunk manner that announced to everyone that they thought it was cool they could legally drink (which they couldn't do at home). They did this by proceeding to act in the manner that other Americans begin to apologize on behalf of their nation to eveyone around them. It was bad. But of course I didn't need/bother to apologize, I was focussed very clearly on trying hard to make sure that the girl vomiting next to me didn't get sick on my shoes. This was pretty hard. There wasn't a lot of space to move my feet, and she seemed ready to renounce her amateur status and turn professional. Add into the mix an Elvis impersonator ready to sing for money (and getting stiffed by the American birthday tourists. Get the cash up front next time, King.) and a very obnoxious guy who got on, grabbed on to the rail, nearly elbowed some girl in the face and then got right in the face of someone who asked him to move and I was ready to leave London for ever. I do love London - the city, the culture, the museums in particular, the river and the history, but it is very crowded and that last tube is like Mr Toad's Wild Ride.

NOt that Henley is perfect. I don't know how rowdy it is or isn't at night as I've not spent the night there yet. But my MP is none other than Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson, who is perpetually in the press for making a complete twit of himself, and a tale of whom was regaled to me by a co-worker.

"It takes a lot to get the NCT to boo you, particularly in Henley where they're a nice conservative polite lot. But they booed Boris quite heavily as he was drunk as a skunk, slurring his speech and awful to listen to." Well, there you go. It has been suggested I start looking for constituency problems just to be able to validly attend his surgery. Could be a laugh riot, I must say!

Packing packing packing.


Monday, April 02, 2007

In Which Our Heroine Plays to Her Strengths

If there is one thing I love to do, it is the old Quiz. And one of my favorite quizzes (unless you count sitting in on a Monday night competing against Pete in back to back University Challenge and Mastermind...and losing. Pete is VERY good.) is the monthly quiz down at the RAC in Pall Mall. Good company, good quiz, excellent booze and atmosphere, and 90% of the time we manage to win a squeaker.

There's a picture round. There's always a picture round. Last Friday, the picture round was mine, all mine.

Identify the companies associated with the following trademarks........

I'm sorry, did you just ask an intellectual property lawyer to identify trademarks? Can we turn it into a speed round? Please? I was 10/10. In about 30 seconds flat.

It didn't save us though. There was a seriously good team that although they didn't get 10 on the picture round, seemed to get 10 for every other round, so we got squished. But never mind, I proved those years of training good!



Thursday, March 15, 2007

In Which Our Heroine Goes Back to the House with the Clock In Its Walls

When I was about 8 or 9, I read a book called "The House With the Clock In Its Walls." I remember it as being fairly long, and I also remember it as being absolutely terrifying. It was my first encounter with a scary book, and given that I lived in an old house with a coal bin (which featured heavily in the story) I spent far too much time sneaking round the house at night if I had to get up for something with my ear pinned to the wall, desperately listening for sounds of Doomsday. Took me ages to get over it.

Then, a few years back, my friend Michaela came round and was doing a PhD in children's literature focusing on the classic gothic style horror novel. But she hadn't heard of this book, so I bought her a copy as I popped her on the plane back to Britain.

I mentioned this to her when I stayed with her last week. "It is in the room you're staying in!" she commented. I didn't think I could read it again. I mean, I know I'm 36 now, and that it was a children's book, but sometimes the memories are just too strong.

But it was night, and I was in bed, and I caved. It didn't take long to read the book, but it didn't matter. The text itself was no where near as scary as I remembered, although it was very well written, but that was mostly because I knew what was going to happen, so the air of suspense was a bit lost.

It didn't matter, though. I woke up in the middle of the night because I heard something, and immediately was ready to sneak around with my ear to the wall and listen. And I knew for a fact that these people do not have a coal bin in their house. Or even a cellar.

This sense of apprehension wasn't helped by our trip out the next day. Where did we go? I'll tell you. But first, a word of warning: do not hang out with people who study gothic literature. It will only give you many sleepless nights. For example, it is now four days later and I'm still up at three in the morning. So brace yourself. Where did we go?


What is Whitby famous for? Two things.

1) Fish and chips (and they are good); and

2) Dracula. Now I've never read the book myself, but it seems that now I have to in order to fully appreciate this little trip. Apparently Whitby is where Dracula makes landfall in Britain, before going to London and wreaking havoc. You can picture it. Get a good fog in that town, sweeping through the ruined Abbey on a cliff top, tranquil fishing boats in the harbour, surrounded by incredibly lonesome moors. Criminy. All very beautiful until you mention the Dracula factor.

I think I'm going to have to stick to much happier books for a while. Something like Frog and Toad Are Friends, or Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm.

Right after I read Dracula.


Monday, February 19, 2007

Life's been a major pain of the last couple of months. Moving house, living out of a pack for a bit, the general stresses and tribulations of existence, being told I was being offered a job and then being told that while that might still be happening, there was a yet undetermined delay.

All that was washed away by those five magical little words, uttered by my doubles partner Liz, who I swear knows me better than anyone.

"Its Girl Scout cookie time."

We love Liz.