Tuesday, October 18, 2005

In Which Our Heroine Improvises around the Key of Pistachios
Ah, so much to tell, so much. I almost don’t know where to start.  So once again I shall go the easy route and just answer people’s questions.

So what about the new job?
So far, so good.  I have not at least been sacked, although due to European working practice being a bit different from American I spent the first week utterly convinced I was about to get stopped before I even started.  I had to fill out a health questionnaire when I started work, and then when they admitted that they weren’t doctors and didn’t understand what it was I’d just told them, they sent off my form to some specialist doctor they use.  I had to consent to this (privacy regulations and all that) and I was quite sure it was only a moment of time before either the epilepsy, Cushing’s or PTSD meant that I was not long for the working world of Devon.  The stress was seriously getting to me by the end of the week, and I had placed a call to my friend Steve, who conveniently happens to be an employment mucky mucky partner up at Hammonds to ask him what my rights, if any, were in this whole thing.  He filled me in on what was actually going on, which was that legally they were under a duty to make sure that if I could be accommodated, I would be, and were just getting background information and it was all standard.  The law is pretty much the same in the States, actually, but they don’t ask you these things ahead of time, the onus tends to be more on you to go and say “I have a disability.”  Disabilities make it one thing, but I do not consider myself to have one as it really doesn’t interfere with my work, so in the States disability law doesn’t really apply to me.  There are certain times that they’re allowed to say “this condition means you can not be employed in this job”, for example I could not pilot a plane as an epileptic, for the safety of the passengers, and I am too tall to be an astronaut as they’d have to redesign the space suits (I am not making that up.  I checked the NASA website.), but really I can do almost anything else.  I was glad Steve phoned me and sorted this out, even though it was late on Sunday night, as first thing Monday morning the doctor phoned me up and started asking the practical questions on my illnesses, etc and what work could do to help. Knowing what was actually going on made the conversation quite practical and focused, and not panic inducing at all, and then I could get on with my work.

What is your middle name?
I don’t get Gmail at work, so I set it up to forward automatically to my work account, and I reply from there.  People now frequently get reply e-mails from axw@my new firm.com and consequently keep asking me suddenly “What is your middle name?” (frequently phrased as “What does the X stand for?”).  The answer is, I don’t have a middle name, but the convention of the firm uses three letters so for those of us without middle names, they put an X.  I suppose were there more of us with the same initials, they would move to Y or Z or Q or something.  In the meantime, the new answer to the above questions is that it stands for what Xs usually stand for in my correspondence.  Kisses.  Now that makes a great middle name.

Are you making friends?
Of a fashion, I guess I slowly am making friends.  Mostly from work so far, as that’s who I’ve met.  There’s my landlord, for a start, who also works in my department (if you look over there off to the left you can see him.  He’s by the window.  Wave if you feel like it. The whole place is open plan, so you can see all the people I talk about here if you would just look around.)  He’s been very sweet and kind, and things keep arriving at my flat to compensate for the fact that I don’t own, say, a Hoover, or chairs.  And when the washing machine didn’t work (even though it was brand new – there was a leak somewhere) and I was running out of smalls, he offered and executed to drive me home one night, pick up my laundry, take me to his, cook dinner (ok, I wound up making us soup from scratch, but he did offer to cook me dinner so points for effort), let me do my washing and then take me home.  He’s also offered to take me to the store outside town to do a big shop if necessary, but I’m managing so far at the shops in town and toting it on the bus.  I’m working on a minor deal with him as well, and so far have managed to not get berated, either because he’s exceptionally nice or my work is sufficiently up to scratch, maybe both.

I haven’t really been out though, as I’m not so good at meeting people and really dread walking into places on my own.  My one night out was to watch another work guy play water polo.  Yes, I said water polo.  I will even confess that this is not the first time I have watched water polo – there was a period a while back where I knew someone who played and would go along and cheer.  After nights of being cooped up watching telly (which has arrived, and is very good, although it looks rather odd having a big telly in a room whose only other furniture is two folding chairs, a file cabinet and a small table), even a night out at the water polo watching someone who at that point I didn’t really like that much seemed like a welcome respite.  I didn’t like him mostly because a) I was greeted the first time I met him with the phrase “So, you’re South African, right?”  This confused me.  I did not find it insulting, just very very odd.  When I said no, not to be deterred, he said “But you’ve just been there, right?”  Well, no.  Not recently, not ever, although I would like to go at some point.  Puzzled, I went off.  Then followed what I now refer to as “The Great Beehive Hat Debacle”.  As most of you know, I have my little knitting pattern for a Beehive Hat published in Stitch and Bitch Nation.  After a conversation with a potential client about knitting (it happens, and she brought it up, not me) I’m sending her a copy of the book and some local organic wool to go with it.  Having ventured into town for this, I brought it back, and water polo picked up the book, immediately liked the look of the one sweater, kept going through, and when I suggested to look at the appropriate page, took one look at the hat, at MY hat, and said “That’s awful! Truly heinous!  Hideous!  Who would wear that?”  It took two days for someone to point out to him that my name was at the top of that page, by which point the iron was starting to enter into my “I’m going to get fired because of my health” soul.  He was, to his credit, truly sorry for what he’d said, and was happy I was going to go to the water polo.  For my part, I was just happy that I wasn’t sitting home of an evening.

It was fun, actually.  I enjoy watching sports, and I enjoy watching men in their swimmies (although desperately trying to avoid looking at work colleague as, well, I have to work with him.  This is a basic rule of mine: desperately try to avoid seeing work colleagues in their Speedos.) and I enjoy shouting at really lousy refereeing calls, of which there turned out to be many.  Thankfully, Water Polo’s team won, which puts them through to some sort of national final.  And then in the great English tradition, everyone adjourned to the bar, which I was duly warned was not very nice, and there might be (and there was) karaoke.  Exceptionally bad karaoke.  And loud as well.  Never mind. It was an interesting exposure to Devon nightlife.

That’s it?  Water Polo and Karaoke?
Well, no.  First, I went to church at the Cathedral on Sunday, where one of the nice vicars turns out to have done a year of his training at my church in Boston, and also introduced me to the younger people of the congregation, meaning people my age.  This is good, as up til that point I had been chatting to a nice man in his late 70s who had been a Hammer Horror (I think in the States this is what we classify as a B movie) film actor long ago and freely admits to having ripped off Bela Lugosi in his portrayal of Dracula. A bit of a shocker, actually, as this morning a formal, handwritten card has arrived here at work from this gentleman, asking me to dinner.  I was stunned, to say the least.  Then I thought I might be getting the wrong end of the stick, so I handed said card to Water Polo and said “Am I misinterpreting this?”  His reaction, and I quote here, was “Oh My God!”  Watch this space.  And no, I can’t get Kirsty MacColl’s “I’m Going Out with an 80 Year Old Millionaire” out of my head either, so just you stop.

I’m not going to church this weekend, however, but nothing to do with that. Instead I am away on the Company and Commercial Department (affectionately known by all as CoCo) training weekend.  Near as I can figure, the training involved is the surfing lessons we have arranged for tomorrow morning.  Wetsuits, boards and instructors have been hired for those of us who don’t know how to surf.  (Lots of people in my department do know, actually, and own their own boards.  Surfing’s popular here.)  This seems to violate my rule about work people and Speedos, though, and I think if pressed that rule also applies to seeing work people in wetsuits, or in fact being see in a wetsuit myself by work people, or for that matter by anyone.  Being new, I’ve been roped into providing dessert for Saturday night dinner.  This has proved good fun, as I haven’t had a good cook up for a while.  I’ve spent the last two nights poaching pears (most of you have had those), making an absolutely divine cheesecake with an artistic topping of pistachio brittle, a tart of apricots roasted in earl gray tea leaves, sugar and lemon and surrounded by cardamom infused cream, and making chocolate caramel and fleur de sel truffles by hand from scratch.  Given that my kitchen gear is all borrowed, this has proved a challenge as I’m rolling dough without a rolling pin (tin of apricots), and chopping nuts by mooshing them with a bottle of framboise, and haven’t really cooked in Centigrade before, there is a lot of “work around” going on.  Hopefully it will all pull together in time.

Waves for the weekend are rumoured to be ten feet high, and we’ve been asked (jokingly, I think, but I’m not sure to be honest) to submit our blood type to the coordinating secretary.

And on that note, back to work.

Monday, October 10, 2005

In Which Our Heroine Puts a Roof Over Her Head

Well, here I am. The great South West, by hook or by crook. And I have to say, initially it wasn't looking like a good idea but things have settled down.

You wouldn't think, with cash in hand, that finding an apartment would be all that hard down here. Looking on the net, there were lots of furnished places that seemed to be going, and I wrote and left messages for the estate agents (in American, that's "real estate agents") thinking that ever eager to make a sale and get commission, they would be eager to help me find a place. Turns out, this is not so. I don't know what if anything the estate agents are paid by the landlord's over here, but rather than the month's rent in commission you'd have to pay them in Boston, here you just pay a flat fee, which ranges from £60-£100, at least here in Exeter. Consequently, the push just really isn't on so much from the agent's point of view. Lots of places don't even "do" letting of places.

It also turned out that I chose the week to come down and look for a place that was the same week that the freshers and the post-grads started at the local Universities (of which there are two in town). So I found myself traipsing from agency to agency, recognizing the same groups of people, almost all of whom were looking for two bedroom furnished flats. It then became clear why just being invited to sit down at an estate agents was becoming a major accomplishment. Heck, now it is two weeks later and I still haven't had a phone call returned from four places. In fourteen agencies, I managed to arrange one place to look at, that appointment would be in three days, I got a phone call subsequently to say it had already been let, and frankly at that point despair was beginning to set in.

All those freshers and post-grads seem to have Mummies and Daddies and require interim places to stay of their own, so it had been impossible to find a B&B or hotel room for under £150 a night, so I had grabbed a bed in a youth hostel. In fact, I managed to grab the last bed in the youth hostel. It was close enough to town and things for walking to all those estate agents, but really it wasn't very nice and being stuffed on the bottom bunk with my feet hanging over the end just wasn't helping the situation any. It was starting to feel as though I just wasn't meant to live here, whatever job I'd arranged, and I was getting more stressed about it as the hours wore on. Yes, hours. Nervous just doesn't cover it!

The answer came, as it so frequently does, by way of my friend Lian. Through my wailing and gnashing of teeth down the phone at her about how horrible it all was, she quickly pointed out that I had one thing that the grad students didn't have, which was an income and therefore I could rent an unfurnished flat and quite simply purchase a sofa and bed and chairs and the like. It didn't need to all happen over night. She made complete sense. Immediately after her, I talked to the Bakers (who I spend Christmases with) up in Bristol, as I was going up there for a home cooked meal and a little TLC the next night. I told them my new plan. Mr Baker immediately threw his shoulder behind the grindstone, and got quite excited in fact. Things were moving quickly. In fact, very quickly, as I had been notified that someone in my new firm in fact had a flat for let, but since it was unfurnished, I had written it off as a prospect. Arriving the next day at the firm to sign contracts and things, I asked if it was still available, and on finding out it was promptly was whisked upstairs to be introduced, and as it turns out, to head out and look at the flat immediately.

It was fine. More than fine – it is great. It is brand newly built, so it doesn't seem to leak or anything, and the insulation and heating are all top notch efficiency, etc. I am the first person to live there, and while I was given the keys right away, I had to take up the sticky plastic they'd put in on top of the hallway carpet to stop construction people from getting mud and stuff all over it. It is also an easy 15 minute walk to work (and an even easier walk home since that's downhill that way). Life was goo again, and so I left for Bristol with a large chunk of life seemingly settled and a huge weight off my shoulders.

The Bakers were incredible in helping, but they really do excel at this sort of thing. While I had been just coming up for dinner and to stay the night since the trains would be late and I wouldn't have to be anywhere the next day anyway, I wound up staying most of the day going through their attic, and having them take me to look at the bed a friend had for sale cheap since she had moved to Australia. I arrived back in Exeter with a box full of cutlery, plates, saucepans, and a radio to make me feel not quite alone in my flat. Even more importantly I had not just one but two types of home made Mrs Baker jam, the pleasure of which cannot be over-estimated.
With my little radio (complete with short wave for listening to cricket commentary) plugged in, I rapidly became addicted to Radio Four, which was a little odd as it kept never being what I expected. First up was "Book at Bedtime" which rather than being a soothing little nighty night story was this week excerpts on the devil from Milton's "Paradise Lost." Not quite soothing. Thankfully it has now finished with that, and is on to Graham Greene. I then recognized the theme tune to the Archers (very perky, very quirky and upbeat, and suggested by Billy Connolly as the alternate to the British national anthem) so I listened for the first time ever. I thought it would all be tepid and rather, well, geriatric, but no. Someone's leaving her husband, telling him that the baby is some other guy's, etc, and then whap, after the high melodrama, there's that perky theme tune again. I was shocked, shocked I tell you! And of course immediately addicted.

Never mind, there was a flat to set up. With still no bed (the Bakers were bringing it down on Sunday, with a spare chest of drawers, bless) I attempted to blow up the air mattress to discover it had a slow leak. Still, sleeping bag on the floor was fine, and much better than the bottom bunk of the dorm room in that hostel. And I thought a hot bath would go down a treat, but it meant that I then had to figure out how to turn on the never before used hot water, and at that moment I was not up to the task. So after a cold bath, and the discovery that totally unfurnished means things like no toilet paper, paper towels, etc etc, I gave up and went to bed anyway. All that could get rectified the next day, and indeed it did. I also got to discover my closest town, which is Topsham. Topsham is very Olde Worlde and pretty with an excellent real ale pub down on the water, and is less than a ten minute stroll from the flat. It also has an incredible cheese shop. These things matter to me.

Right, that's long enough. I have work to do and I'm going to do it. More on starting work later. Suffice it to say for the moment that everyone is incredibly friendly and nice so I'm sure I'll fit in eventually!


Saturday, September 24, 2005

In Which Our Heroine Emigrates

Well, things are in full throttle here at GoAnneGo Towers. Having the job offer made, I have now accepted, and things are moving quickly. Very quickly indeed, as I start a week from Monday. This involves minor things such as moving down to the West Country and finding a place to live. Getting to Exeter is easy enough - just train it down from Paddington or Waterloo. They leave every hour at least and arrive two and a half hours later. The only problem is that with my back I can't currently carry all my stuff at one go. Thankfully Harters has a shed. Granted, it is more of an outdoor patio thing than your usual shed, but it is just right for storage of two large bags for a week or two. I am using the 'net to find flats to look at on Saturday and Sunday, and to find accomodation in the meantime. Still, it is stressful. But I know how to deal with stress and I know how to prep for travel to a foreign clime (ok, we're talking Devon, but still I don't know anything about down there.) I therefore killed two birds with one stone and hit the five level Waterstones on Piccadilly, where I purchased the following:

The Rough Guide to Devon & Cornwall (what to see, where to go, etc. I will never use Lonely Planet again as they are useless.)

The Hound of the Baskervilles (Set right there on the Moors.)

Lorna Doone (which is not in Scotland the way I thought, nor does it feature those little cookies of the same name they always give you when you donate blood)

The RSPB Guide to British Birds (a duplicate copy, to give as a gift to Harters as his book has nothing but European birds in it for some reason)

A Bad Birdwatchers Companion, mostly because I still can't classify that many birds, and this sorts out the top 50 in the UK. Which is handy when you can only classify the magpie, the wood pigeon, coots, herons, greylag geese and moorhens. Oh, and of course crows, robins and blue tits. But I digress.

I have a sneaking suspicion that I won't want to move to Devon after reading Hound of the Baskervilles late at night, but then risks must be taken. Apparently I also need to get ahold of some children's book called "Tarka the Otter" which is renowned as an example of both Devon and nature writing. I even passed a surprise quiz this evening by looking at Aki and saying "Hey! Those cufflinks are the Devon flag!" He was most impressed.

I've also been studying up on my new county and have started to crack it. In a nutshell, it is just like Massachusetts, except it isn't.

Coastline? Check. Loads of it.

Pilgrims? Check. Left Devon, arrived Massachusetts.

Sylvia Plath? Check. Left Massachusetts, eventually arrived Devon. (Ted Hughes is buried here.)

Top university? Check. Exeter University is pretty renowned. I hear rumors that some place called Harvard is ok to do A-level equivalents.

Associations with tea? Check. Devon cream teas (and clotted cream) are famous. Boston Harbour a teapot tonight and all that.

Crime writers? Check. Agatha Christie v Denis Lehane.See? Just the same, really.

I'm now pricing out where to live on the web. Conveniently, it looks like I will be able to afford something with two bedrooms, which given that so many people claim they're coming to stay is a good thing. You are all welcome, just let me find a place first. I almost lept for joy at one listing until I found out it wasn't furnished. Two bedroom, 10 feet from the sea, 1 minute to the train station to work, thatched cottage (you shouldn't own them as they're a pain to maintain, but to rent hey it is the landlord's problem!), oak fittings, big fireplace, £600 a month (my budget). If it wasn't unfurnished, I'd have been in like a shot! But the quest will continue, so start pricing out those flights! The cheap flights are already upon us and will continue til the end of March so get your eyes peeled now.

And to answer all the questions that have been flooding in:

Who are you working for? That's not the kind of thing I put on the web. If you really want to know, e-mail me and if I know you I will e-mail you back their website to check them out.

Are you a solicitor or a barrister? I will be a solicitor, but there's an exam to take yet. Solicitors do not wear the wigs. Unless they really want to at a fancy dress party.

Are they sponsoring you for a work visa? Yes, they are. Otherwise I'd be home soon.

Is "Congratulations. Oh crap." an appropriate sentiment? Apparently so. It has been expressed in various forms by a few people. I understand. I'm pretty excited, but definitely miss my friends back in the USA.

Is it Devon or Devonshire? It is Devon.

What is the town like? I defer to wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Exeter

Can I come and visit? Yes, you can.

When? Whenever you like once I have a place, which of necessity means any time after a week from Monday. Try to call first so I can prepare your room, but if not we'll wing it. Stay as long as you like.

What about your cat? I am having him chipped and he'll be here six months after that. This is turning out to be a real pain (and is currently falling to my friend Heike, bless her), but hope perserveres!

Will you post pictures? Yes. Give me a little time!

Is it really ok to come and visit? Yes. Stop being nudgy or your invitation will be revoked.

Are you going to row? Yes. Exeter Boat Club has an excellent sculling program and I'm already in touch.

Why does clotted cream clot? It is the cream content in unhomogenized milk, which rises to the top when you heat it on a low temp for several hours. The best stuff is from the butcher's, not the supermarket.

Is there a God? You may wish to talk to someone more theologically qualified than myself about this. I am, however, quite certain that God does not take either the form of Shane Warne nor Louise from Two Pints of Lager and a Packet of Crisps nor David Icke, whatever any of them may try to tell you.

Right, back to the house hunting.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

In Which Our Heroine Agonizes Over the State of Her Nation
It is hard to take, watching all the news filter through out of New Orleans. What is even worse, although totally understandable, is having to be the resident American around these parts. It means that people keep asking me "How? How has America let this happen? And why hasn't Bush lost his job already?" There is a perception here that it might all be race related, as it is almost nothing but black faces you see on television. I keep having to tell people that 70% of the population of New Orleans was black to start with and of the underclasses that wouldn't have been able to evacuate, that percentage was most likely to fall into it.

Then, of course, I have to explain that Bush can't lose his job. The "lame duck" concept isn't sitting too well over here. Were this sort of thing to happen on UK soil, Tony Blair'd be out of a job in hours with one "no-confidence" vote. The spectacle of celebrities managing to get in there to help (Sean Penn) and airdrop food with their own planes (John Travolta) just seems to pound it home. The government won't help, but celebrities will. Shocking. Completely shocking.

I don't know what it is like there in terms of press and things, but the news reports here have been pretty harsh towards Bush, and that's even the conservative commentators. The news though that the head of FEMA hadn't heard there were people needing to be rescued there until Thursday was pretty galling, particularly when you find out he has no emergency management experience and was sacked for not being even able to organize horse shows, at least according to this link from Sunday's "Observer" paper http://observer.guardian.co.uk/international/story/0,6903,1562515,00.html. I think this guy is going to be the first to go. Sadly, he may well be the last.

I couldn't help but notice that when the government made up its mind to get people out, it happened. So why didn't it happen sooner? I have even tried to cut Bush some slack. Knowing that I don't like him, I think it prudent to actually look at what's happening rather than just take the easy tack of dismissing him altogether because he's a jerk. Unfortunately, actually looking at what he's doing or not doing just makes me even angrier.

I then feel in the weird place of having to defend my government's indefensible actions, just by dint of being the one who can explain the system a bit better. It is very odd to be the foreigner abroad. If I was just a tourist, no one would ask me. They're certainly not stopping the annoying tourists in Fortnum & Mason's (where I had to go shopping for a little pressie for my friend Brian. Great food, but you'll pay for it, and the first floor (or tourist floor, as I call it) can try the patience of anyone). But if you know an actual American who you can ask her opinion, which of course I give all the time anyway, all the better.

I've spent the time kind of in retreat. Done nice things. Went to Kew Gardens to check out the Chiluly exhibits and get a sun burn. Gave my Victoria & Albert Museum membership card a workout. Having tea tomorrow at the British Museum with a friend who works there in the European Art division and checking out the Arabic Calligraphy exhibit (another of my weird interests, that.) , checking out the Stubbs and the Horse exhibit at that National Gallery. And of course writing my Dar Williams article. But in the offtime, I keep catching myself tapping into a more frenetic mood while listening to The Killers at top volume, maybe with a bit of Goldfrapp thrown in to calm down. Obviously, I'm not calming down as much as I want, and have become obsessed by the news.

I've been to New Orleans, and it was a great city. I have confidence it will rise again. I have less confidence the US government is going to be much help with that, although I have awful premonitions of Bechtel getting contracts out of it, notwithstanding their lousy experience in Iraq and with the Big Dig (now springing more leaks in a large tunnel near you).

Right. Time for more diversion, obviously. Tonight: theatre tickets to see Euan MacGregor and Jane Krakowski tap dance and sing their way through "Guys & Dolls". Civilization goes on, I guess.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

The phone is surgically wired to my head.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

In Which Our Heroine Gets Tagged

My turn, apparently.......
Three Things You Like About Yourself
My deep brown eyes
My totally bitchin hair
My crackin bust

Three Things You Don't Like About Yourself
Have you ever tried to shop for female formal wear when you are 6'4"?
The fact that I am apparently shrinking
My baby toes. You know, the ones on the end.

Three Things That Scare You
Anyone touching the back of my neck

Three of Your Everyday Essentials
Something to Read
Rowing\Biking\Walking (Preferably all three!)

Three Things You are Wearing Right Now
Black clam diggers
Blue V neck T-Shirt from M&S
Toenail polish (Deep Red)

Three of Your Favorite Bands or Musical Artists
Crowded House

Three Things You Want in A Relationship
A Lot of Great Sex

Two Truths and A Lie
I have an FBI File.
I ran off with the lead singer of a band on my 21st birthday to tour with him for three weeks.
I make the best cup of coffee you've ever had.
Anyone who knows me knows which is the lie!

Three Physical Things that Turn You On
I default to Sarah , Emma and Steve on this one. The always tease me about my type!
Public School Boy looks. (English Public School, not American. Doesn't have to have gone there, just look like they did.)

Three of your Favorite Hobbies
There are so many more!

Three things You Really Want to Do Right Now
Pat my cat Lexi
Cook a three course dinner for six people and wow them. I haven't had the chance to do that for a while.

Three Careers You'd Consider
Law Professor
Naval Architect
Neural Network Engineer

Three Places You Want to go on Vacation
Trekking in Nepal
The Gambia
New Zealand

Three Things You Want to Do Before You Die
Let the people who should know, know that I love them (They don't generally.)
Knit myself a totally incredible sweater.
Clean my room.

Comments, please. I would love to know what you think.
In Which Our Heroine Plays The Numbers Game
Today, children, for the not so mathematically inclined, the lecture will be all about numbers. But fret not, this is not a particularly mathematical lecture, it just involves numbers of two types. The numbers of my bank acccount, and the numbers of test cricket. Despite that phrase, there will not be an examination involved.

It is quite spectacular in this day and age what it takes to open up a bank account in this country. Somehow, a passport as proof of identity just isn't enough any more. I went down my first week at Kat's place and tried to open an account. In addition to my passport, they needed some kind of lease or bill or whatever sent to me to confirm my residence. Since I didn't have any of these, they had to take a letter from Kats as a "reference". After stating she had known me for 18 years and been a customer of theirs for 20, they sent off my form to be reviewed. I have yet to hear back, despite a few phone calls. You have to realise, this is for an incredibly basic account. No overdraft, not even a cheque book, and not a debit card facility. Basically, I would have one card with which I could deposit money in and take it out at cashpoints. Which, frankly, was fine until I didn't have it.

Here in England, standard practice is to deposit your earnings right in your account. Saves the hassle of cashing cheques, etc. This is partly because it is actually pretty hard to chash a cheque here without depositing it into your account - you can't just endorse and turn up to have it cashed without a letter from the person writing the cheque in the first place. So my last employer would run to the bank two days in a row, and then pay me out of petty cash. This led to me walking around every week with four hundred pounds in my wallet, terrified I would get mugged or lose the thing on the way home. And then it led to me saving money by literally stuffing it in my Dutch copy of "Miffy at the Zoo" figuring no thief would ever look in there. Oh, I am so clever it just pains me.

But now, after two months of effort, it turns out that really all it is about is who you know. And this time I know my new temp agency, who have an arrangement with their local Barclays. It took 24 hours and a copy of my passport, and now I have all the bells and whistles, except an overdraft as I don't want one. And given the problems I have had with my bank and identity theft in the States, I think i may well keep this one forever and a day. This also means the temp agency can now deposit my earnings directly into my account. Whee.

My friend Deborah, who understands me well enough to buy me a mug with a Shipping Forecast map on it, spent a little time in the midst of this process having to read some bizzarre fundamentalist website that explained how the cards and numbers, etc are all the tools of the Devil, and that how by having this account and my cards (which should arrive on Friday) I am now Doomed with lots of extra oooos to spend eternity in the Lake of Fire. So long as the Lake of Fire has yummy cabana boys, I'll be fine. Apparently, I am meant to be spending eternity suffering, not fooling around with Raoul the towel boy, but if I settle for a Raoul over a Sven for all eternity, it just might might be classifed as suffering. Either way, I plan to be buried with my life jacket. And my survival suit, if I can help it.

The other bit of numerology in my life at the moment is the Ashes. The Ashes are a bienniel cricket tournament between Australia and England, and date way back. Long ago (1882), but not that far away (The Oval, which is here in South London), when they had the first of these series, they burnt the bails and put it in a little teensy weensy trophy. You should see this thing. Very Un-American as it is just much too small. And from this stems a rivalry that honestly puts Red Sox v. Yankees to shame. Check out the Wikipedia entry on The Ashes for more detail on that one. Basically, there are five matches, and each one can last up to five days. There are breaks for lunch and tea, because this is England. If you are really dedicated, you watch the cricket with the sound turned off on the telly and the radio commentary. And if you don't know what you are watching, it can be a little hard to follow since both teams wear the same colour uniforms. White, white, white. With white accents. But if you have a basic knowledge, and lots of enthusiasm (I got hooked on cricket when I was in college) like I do, then one of the most exciting games ever finished on Sunday. I had nothing else to do but watch it even though it was a lovely day outside as I have sprained my back. There should be some kind of exciting story to that, to do with rowing, or mountaineering or biking or wild sexual positions, but there isn't. I just slept funny and then carried a bunch of heavy luggage and there you go, sprained back. Ow. And of course, when people see me limping around, they ask me "Did you do that rowing?" I want to say yes, and just can't. Hoping to work Monday, which I did, and having biked 20 miles on Saturday (which I thoroughly enjoyed, but was stupid to do with a sprained back) I spent Sunday completely horizontal and resting, and enjoying the fact that where i am currently housesitting (the cause of the luggage moving) had two cats, and a really big tv.In the closest test match ever, England won by two runs. 587-585. Yes, that was really the score. And yes, with that many runs being scored, it was still a fascinating game. A bit like ultimate baseball. Just not balls and strikes, but rather the intricacies of the leg before wicket rule, which I understand, but won't bore you with here. Lots of mental calculations going on.

Then came the last bit of numbers: what time to leave to get to Exeter. I have been offered an interview for a permanent, move to England forever job by a firm who does not currently have an opening, but anticipates one in the near future and considers my resume so interesting that they want to meet with me and discuss it going forward. After years of relations and boyfriends (what is it with boyfriends? A recent one who hadn't even graduated college seemed to think I was mad for getting so overeducated (which meant, of course, not spending time with him so I could go to class and get my LLM), and one prior to that just could not stop holding me up to his ex-girlfriend who worked in my field. By all accounts except his, she was neither good nor well regarded, and yet I was never going to be allocated one legal brain cell in comparison to this woman. Sometimes, you just learn to look the other way, and they learn not to bring it up.) wringing their hands about why I was getting all these degrees and why didn't I just get a real job (which was not for lack of trying), it is literally setting me aglow that someone wants to talk to me because my resume is so great. I knew all these honors would be worth more than just wallpapering my wall. I may not get a job out of this, but it is inspiring me to apply to more places just to see what happens. And that kind of self confident glow is worth more than anything else I have out of this trip so far.


Thursday, August 04, 2005

In Which Our Heroine Reviews Another Book
As some of you know, I review legal books from time to time for the Bi-Monthly Review of Law Books. This is a sweet deal for me, in that I get free books that I pick to read (I have to get them approved first) and then I have to actually read them and digest whether or not they are any good. Generally, by the time I want to read them, they have been through enough editing, etc that they are actually worth reading. I might not like it, but they still might be worth reading.

This also makes me one of the few people in the world who reads 1, 000 pages treatises on legal topics from cover to cover. Treatises are not designed to be interesting, but rather authoritative and comprehensive. Consequently, I tend to read my books in pairs. One treatise type thing, which will make me the Clifford Claven of the IP law set (last go around 2,000 pages on Intellectual Property Crime, this time 1,500 on International Domain Name Law), and a more popular culture type book to read a bit more like a novel. These can be quite enjoyable.

Not this time. This time Bozo here picked Pat Choate's "Hot Property". I now feel on a vengeful mission from God not to let people read this book. It is just that bad. It is not just that I disagree with Choate's politics. That was always going to be a given, but I figured he might have something worth saying. I was very wrong on that front.

This then presented an interesting challenge. How can something that is so woeful that by the fourth page of the introduction you know you're going to have trouble not mumbling under your breath constantly while you are reading it have a review written about it that is more constructive than "This sucks rocks. Purchase at your peril."? This actually provides the impetus for finishing it. I had to actually compile why it was so bad. I had to sum up the bad research, the blindly unanalysed "America is number one" stance (we might be, but not by just saying it. You've got to back that assertion up!), and the fact that the man doesn't know what he is talking about and put it into words. Turns out that if you have to read the book, putting it into words is better than any therapy you might ever have to do for reading it. If only they had told us this when we had to write Book Reports in school!
Thankfully, I have done well enough to a) be put as the lead review this edition, and b) get asked to edit the others. Huzzah for me!


Wednesday, August 03, 2005

In Which Our Heroine Catches Up on the Backlog
The one good thing about being unemployed is that it gives you time to finally catch up on email and things. The last bit of work there was totally mad insane, with just enough room to breathe and not much else. Until the previously noted festivities that accompanied my leaving. Never mind.......

When we last left our heroine (that's me, by the way), I was soliciting advice as to what to wear to an 80s party. This was harder than it looked as it had to not just be part of the 80s, but ALSO had to meet the following criteria.
1) It should mostly come from clothes I had, which wasn't much.
2) It couldn't cost me a fortune to get decked out, as it was just the one night.
3) It couldn't draw too much attention on the Tube while travelling to Nicki's for the pre-party.

This was starting to look like an impossible challenge, until my friend Andrew stepped up to the mark thinking in a more lateral direction. "A Happy Monday" he suggested, or "Prefab Sprout". No one, not even Andrew could figure out waht this later would look like, but it did seem a good idea, and with a bit of brainstorming in that kind of direction led to dressing all in black, having a bag full of candles at my side, a very northern black flat cap (no whippet), and tucking a black Kohl eye liner pencil in my bag so I could smudge up my face when I arrived at Nicki's.

I was a miner's strike power cut.

This worked amazingly well. I doled out candles to lots of people, and everyone got nostalgic about how harsh those days had been. Jam sandwiches were a popular food. I, of course, don't remember them at all as it was before I got here, but my friend Mark had been telling me how incredibly harsh it was in those days if you lived up North. I, of course, would have been on the side of the miners. You can't other wise be a leftie, or have gone to university in a mining town and be otherwise.and I am "guilty" on both counts.

The party was fun. First was the pre-party which was scarily like being back in high school. Madonna tunes blaring, net fingerless gloves, puffy ponytails on the side of the head and pouts. Oh yes, I do remember it just like it was last week. Even more fun is the fearlessness that happens when tall girls get together. I like to dance, but I need to be a bit drunk as I am self concious of being so much bigger than everyone else. But when you get three girls over six feet together all with the same thought pattern, welllllllll, there was a lot of jumping up and down, hands in the air like you just don't care going on, as how can they be staring at you if there are three of you?

Especially if you spent too much time before arriving drinking absinthe. I do like the stuff, but it is a) very strong, and b) an excuse for drunk people to set things on fire, as you dip your spoonful of sugar in the absinthe to soak it, then light the sugar on fire to caramelise it. When that is done, you drop it in the absinthe to mix the caramelised sugar in, and then down in one go. If you have a room full of people doing the same thing, a candle is ever handy......see? Practical as well, those candles.

As per the usual, I didn't realise I was being chatted up by some bloke until far too late in the game. I was, however, impressed at the depth of my discussion on obviousness in US patent law while drunk at 2 in the morning on the boat club balcony. Geek or dork are the words you are currently looking for. I must have looked quite good that evening as in addition to that incident, I had to extricate myself from the rumour that I used to date Richard Hartman. I have never. I have only met the lad twice, and that is because he is my best friend's brother. He just also used to row at the club next door. As if that wasn't enough, the cab driver on the way home asked me out. I said no on the grounds he keeps unsocialble hours, but had a good laugh when the lights went on as I got home and he said "what did you do to your face?" I explained. He thought it was a good costume as well.

The next day was mostly spent recovering. It was a very good party.

This last week has been spent rejoicing in last weekend. First off, we won the quiz again at the RAC, thus giving me two more bottles of wine. Frankly, that is like winning a pie eating contest and winning a pie. I really am not a big drinker and am off the stuff for a while as I have just had too much of late. I think these bottles could linger a while. I love the quiz itself more than the wine. Mostly because it allows me to show the odd things that I do not know how I know. We only won by a point, but I came up with the key ones no one else knew. Then again, I do not know how I knew that Charlotte Church's new album is "Tissues and Issues" as I have literally never heard the girl sing. Ever. This is what I mean. Of course it is also the same reason I am great at Jeopardy and Trivial Pursuit.

Saturday was looking at flats and a BBQ to celebrate Kat's new fence, complete with ribbon cutting. As this was an English BBQ, it was held in the rain and this was not considered unusual. And Sunday I finally got my bike, a very shiny blue thing that almost immediately got labelled George from "and I will love him and squeeze him and call him George" as I was so incredibly happy to have a bike again. No helmet, but as I was getting a helmet the next day I didn├Ąt think it would be a problem until I got back to London (I was in Cambridge) and the Thameslink home had gone for the night. I couldn't take my bike on the Tube, and had to get to Victoria somehow. I had lights, but no helmet, was dressed all in black, it was raining, and I also didn't have a map. I did have a good sense of direction ("I think it is that way") but I was scared out of my tree, as I knew I couldn't be seen and that I had to work hard to remember which lane to turn into (they drive on the opposite side of the road and all that.). I made it though, and it was rather fun. I wiggled my way to Trafalgar Square, and then asked a cab driver who happened to have his passenger window open where to go. Such terribly English directions: "go through that arch, and when you get to Buckingham Palace, take a left and then your first right." Loved it, didn't die, and then made it to Victoria as the gates opened for the last train home. Whee!

PS I now have a helmet.

Friday, July 29, 2005

In Which Our Heroine Realizes She's Behind her Deadlines

I am late in sending out my book review. Consequently I sent the following e-mail to my editor:
"Dear Mike,
It is amazing the whooshing sound deadlines make as they fly by. I will have my review to you by Monday or my name isn't Anne ****. Yours sincerely, Katrina Postakovich."

I think he understands.

Friday, July 22, 2005

In Which Our Heroine Joins the Pop Masses

My official joining into UK pop culture occurred a couple of weeks ago, when I walked into Waterstones (how I love that bookstore), put my £2 down on the counter and said to the clerk "I'm here to join the madness please and pre-order my copy of Harry Potter and the Whatever It Is This Time."

"Certainly, madam." The clerk was obviously quite used to the mass madness. Which was good, seeing as he had a big badge on his shirt counting down the days to the launch of Harry Potter and the Hound of the Baskervilles or whatever it was.

Filled out a form with my name, address and whether I wanted an adult printing or a childrens's printing, took my receipt and left without even knowing the price of the book, as Waterstone's had yet to determine what they would sell it for. All they knew at that point was that it would be less than the cover price, and that there would be a free second book ("Lion Boy" by Zissou Corder, if anyone cares) to go with it. Quite a marketing strategy if you can swing it "you've put a deposit on it, but we don't know what we're going to charge you yet. Mwahahaha!"

The countdown was quite a topic for a long time, with store displays in all the shops, news reports on who was selling the book for a loss to get customers in the shops, etc etc. And then the bombs went off on the Tube and no one seemed to care as much for a week or so. But by the time the launch came round, it was a rallying escape point for Londoners and a convenient excuse to show that they could relax a bit. Plans were still altered, however, when they moved the launch from Kings Cross Station (the station itself is re-opened, but it was felt that it would be quite tasteless to have a celebration above while they are still bringing up wreckage from underneath) to Oxford Street where people started camping out the night before to be into the shop at midnight to get their copies of the book.

Joined the masses I may have, but it was obviously just provisional membership as there was no way on the face of this earth I was going to be in a book store at midnight for a book launch. Well, ok, maybe someday when it is *my* book, sure. But not until then. Instead, as Friday came, a few plans were thrown together to go up to Nottingham to hang out with my friend Sarah and her parents for an evening.

I shocked her father. Not in my usual way of stating something that I really ought not to have said(that happens rather too much), but rather that after spending all this time in England I was not familiar with the works of Flanders and Swan. A trip to town the next day was in order.

And so we went. Flanders & Swan proved a bit tricky, but was eventually tracked down, and of course the now launched Harry Potter copies, sold to us by people who were forced to wear t-shirts with "Muggle" in big letters on the back. We made our way round the new sights of Nottingham (the tram, the sky mirror, things like that) did bits of shopping and eventually retreated back to the house for a cup of tea while Flanders and Swan sang away on the CD player about "The Bold Hippopotamus", and why the English are superior to all others. (Chorus: The English, the English, the English are best, I wouldnt' give tuppence for all of the rest.). Rather tongue in cheek, I hasten to add.

Back to the university to revisit halcyon days by wandering round the lake and then an attempt was made to catch a train, which after a 90 minute wait with no news, no instructions, and no train, we finally got word (via a totally different train) that it was cancelled. We attempted to make a dash to the pub but there was no room. Giving up (and facing a very early train the next morning) home was good and Gin and Bitter Lemon was even better.

Sunday trains. Ah. So much fun. To get to St. Albans in time for Matins (where I'd arranged to meet Sarah and Tati, who were visiting, and we were all going to watch Neil's daughter sing in the choir) I had to be on a 7:30 a.m. bus from Loughborough, change to train at Leicester, get different train at Bedford, hop off at St Albans. Every person on any of these modes of transport had their copy of Harry Potter and was reading it feverishly, as though it was some kind of requirement for being on the train at that hour. And yet, it all worked, even to the extent that having met up with S&T, when I heard a voice go "Do you need directions?" while my immediate thought was it was some exceptionally dodgy male preying on tourists, turning around to view revealed Neil, who while exceptional and male is most definitely not dodgy, and a tourist's friend (if they knew him, which thankfully for Neil they don't as a rule).

The thing about English choirs is that they're just unbelievable. I mean, you sit there and watch this incredible sound come out and you cannot match it up to the teeny kids you're seeing. This was no exception. If I had that kind of lung capacity, I'd be a much better rower. And if I could sing like that......well, I don't know what. I just wish I could sing like that. Amazing. They retire the kids out at 14, which is part of what the service we saw was about - kicking three of them out with a book, a cheque for services rendered, and then a party at the Dean of the Abbey's house. "As befits the ladies of the choir" he said "they will be bungee jumping in my back garden." He wasn't kidding either.

It is all just too English for words, the whole time. Even Harry Potter didn't get left out of church as Neil's non-singing daughter had her copy with her to read before and after the service. She's hoping evil's going to win in the end on that one. Impressive for someone who'd just sat through an hour of religious choir music, I thought.

But when it was over, it was back to the work week, back to the grind, and now back to the bombs. Still, the English are taking it with black humor and stiff upper lips. My friend Deborah has declared that these bombs (since no one has been killed) were by Very Dumb Terrorists who don't know how to connect the brown wire. She is laying the blame entirely at the feet of the comprehensive educational system, and calling for the return of compulsary national service.

The bombs do keep going off though, and every morning there's another security scare where large bits of London get sealed off. Everyone is on guard, and taking luggage on trains of anything larger than a handbag is liable to get you severe stares, not to mention glares as everyone is so wedged on with lines still out of service that bags take up too much room. And the lines get stopped during the rush hour all the time, which means that the buses get overcrowded, etc. People are turning more to bikes all the time which is a good thing I think, but the daily hassle and fear is hard to put up with.

I've turned to rowing. I'm finally out on the water, which is brilliant fun. At first it was a bit unnerving as I would go to the boathouse and no one would speak to me. This isn't rude - it is just English. The assumption is that you know someone and they will talk to you but it is rude to just start talking to someone you don't know. This bothered me as even though I knew what was going on, it was still rather excluding. But once in the boat and introduced, everyone couldnt be nicer. You have to kind of band togethre to fight the tides of the Thames (there's maybe a 15 foot rise and fall at Putney where we row, and it is a wet launch every day), and the debris which after the rains is like nothing I've ever seen. The damage caused to a blade by a floating fire extinguisher is pretty impressive.

There's a party at the boat house on Saturday. For some reason it is an 80s themed party (costume/themed parties are popular here) and I can't figure out what to where, although the friendly girls have invited me to the boat pre-party at their place before heading over and there will be plenty of prep time. Suggestions on a postcard please!


Thursday, July 14, 2005

In Which Our Heroine Gets Back to Her Love

I finally went rowing. Having at long last been introduced to people, they were incredibly friendly. The boat was rigged for someone much smaller and this was pretty bad - zero connection on the front end, which of course led to zippo at the finish, which when rowing feet out made for lots of joy. And right near the end the gal behind me caught a massive crab which sent an oar handle into my back, which is coming up nicely in pretty colours. The water conditions could best be described as Force Nine gale, plus the wake of HMS Plymouth.

I loved every freaking minute of it.

I am now covered in Germolene for blisters, taking asprin for the bruise and walking a little funny, as I ache in weird spots due to the boat not fitting. Happy happy joy joy.


Wednesday, July 13, 2005

What a Difference a Day Makes

Greetings to all from the newly reopened front for terrorism. I say newly reopened because a) London is indeed back in business, and also of course because b) London has been through this before on a longer but smaller scale when the IRA used to shut down the Tube at its whim. The IRA though gave warnings beforehand.

The biggest unreported news for me though is the sheer contrast of the day before and the day after. On July 6, at 12:46 in the afternoon, the 2012 Olympic games were awarded to London. This was something that in the run up had completely gripped the nation. Every bit of commentary and gossip was analyzed after six weeks ago reports came out showing that London was now neck and neck with the long time favorite of Paris. It is pretty widely believed (and certainly reported by the tabloid press here) that the day before, Paris lost the eventual vote by declaring in front of some Scandinavian voters that you couldn't trust the English because their food was only superlative to Finland. Consequently, the day of the sixth dawned to more tabloid headlines extolling both the virtues of British cuisine, and the boorishness of Jacques Chirac.

I had my friends Sarah and Tati (they're sisters) making their first visit to England at this point. They really only had one day in London at that point, as they arrived the night before and were flying out the morning of the 7th to a wedding in Poland, but were eager to explore and be joyous coincidence landed in Trafalgar Square (where the victory party was to be held if London won) about two minutes before the announcement. Sarah's photos show crowds of happy people, confetti, a military flyover by the Red Arrows, and a general sense of jubilation.

Both Sarah and Tati had had a great day, and were very enthused about how nice everyone was, how helpful people were, and the cleanliness, history, just plain everything about how London was grand.

The next day, of course, tried to change all that.

At a certain level, it was a day like any other day. I did the morning rituals and strolled to the Tube stop, where it was hot and steamy. An announcement was made that "due to a small fire, the Piccadilly line at Kings Cross station is currently closed." This explained why five trains went by before there was room to shove onto one, as everyone a couple stops up would have hopped off the Piccadilly line to change to the Victoria line (that I was on) to still get off at Kings Cross. Except that once wedged in like a kipper in oil, the doors shut and they announced that this train was now not going to open its doors at Kings Cross either. People were annoyed, but no one was terribly worried. The London tube system is massive, the trains run during peak times at a rate of one per minute, and stuff does happen. It is inconvenient, but that's about it really. I didn't care so long as I finally got to work. I'd been taking the bus the last couple of days, which instead of getting me in 15 minutes early got me in five minutes late which I felt was unacceptable. But I was now running late again. I made it, had the normal sort of "gosh, my commute was annoying this morning" grump at Ali who sits opposite me, and then she had her normal sort of grump, saying there'd been some sort of fire at Aldgate. That seemed odd, I told her, since there was also one at King's Cross. About that moment, Jim phoned in asking me how I'd come to work as Highbury/Islington station was now shut (where we both come from). I told him the thing from Kings Cross must be affecting it.

At that point, Ali and I both started looking on the net, but there wasn't much. When Jim phoned a bit later saying that his walk to the next tube station revealed that all of Zones one and two were shut for trains, it was obvious that something was up. He couldn't get a bus as they were all crammed with people coming off the trains, so he was going to walk. We began to get worried and went back to the net.

Pictures started coming through, along with the first reports that it was not what they initially thought (a power surge causing explosions) but rather bombs going off. Then the report came in of a bomb going off on a bus as well. It was very similar to 9/11 - watching events unfold around you and not knowing what to do or what was coming next. With cell phones shut down across the city as a security precaution (in case the bombs were rigged to phones, and also to deny the bombers a way to communicate easily), it was hard to know who was ok and who wasn't. The streets of London became eerily deserted very quickly.

By this point, I got a call on the business line from Sarah and Tati, who had just made it to Paddington by bus after their tube station shut, and when they arrived there, the bus driver ordered everyone off, saying that zone 1 was now shut to buses as well. They, and the others around them, had no idea what was going on, and they'd missed their flight, so they rang. I debated whether or not telling them was just going to scare them, erred on the side of "knowledge is good" and stressed that Heathrow is about the safest building in Britain. They wound up flying standby, but the miracle is they got there at all as they got on the last Heathrow express before *that* was shut as well.

The next hours were spent pretty much in lockdown in the office, along with the rest of London. With no subway, trains or buses, the only ways out of the city were by foot, bike and taxi. But the police were advising people to stay indoors for safety. We had no idea how long we'd be there, but I did manage to get out to go next door for sandwiches. By the time Jim arrived, we just did what British people do in such times of stress and anxiety.

We made a pot of tea, and we ate a lot of cookies to go with it.

It was all we could do, really. I had notified my family and friends in the US that I was safe, but they were yet to wake up at this point (apart from one friend, bless, who'd had insomnia, e-mailed back and forth with me while I was a raving loon and managed to get me my doctor's phone number. I need to send him something to say thank you. Like a Lotus Elan.)

Eventually, the buses started running again, but lots of people walked home anyway. I grabbed a bus (and a number 30 bus at that) but it should be noted that no one wants to sit on the top of them any more.

London is back in business anyway, and people have coped admirably. They admit they dont' want to be on the tube and the buses, so what did they do? Driving in costs £8 a day, plus parking, so that's not so much of an option. Staying at home isn't an option either. So London, en masse, went out and bought bikes. They sold 5,000 of them in two days, and they're very evident on the roads. Bike commuting is a popular thing here anyway, but it is a very noticable increase this week. According to Charles (a partner here in the office, who cycles to work every morning) it is even more noticable if you are on a bike. "Don't know where they're going, and they're all in my way." says Charles. But he is helping them out, as is everyone else. The CCTV cameras and forensics have already led to arrests, and the realisation that this was native born Britons that did this, not some scary outsider force. While this scares people, it has also made them resolute that this sort of thing will not be tolerated from one or more of their own.

The big story of yesterday was that the US military wouldn't allow its 12,000 personnel into London at the same time Bush was pledging "cooperation." As this escalated into the PR fiasco it should have been, they backed down quickly. Of course, no one kept out the tourists. They were back in force the very next day. As well as on Sunday, when 200.000 people gathered in St. James for a commemoration of the end of the Second World War. It is truly amazing how as a city London has refused to shut, bow, or consider knuckling under. There are changes - the bikes on the streets, the way everyone stops with a bit of alarm if anything with a siren goes by, the palpable tension if a train stops in a tunnel unannounced, and I've started carrying my gym bag unzipped so people can see inside. (I'm not the only one to start doing this.) But the more there are changes, the more the changes are aimed at keeping things the same.

Sarah and Tati are back tomorrow for a few more days. Nerves and all, I think they'll hardly notice the difference. And I think that's wonderful.


Friday, July 01, 2005

The Differences in Culture Between Americans and the English

These are key differences, as the failure to understand can cause insult on all sides.

The office Christmas Party:
English: Only considered successful if someone, hopefully not you, faxes or e-mails their resignation in the next morning rather than be seen in the office ever again. Clients are invited, and are considered to be entertained if you ply them with copious amounts of champagne. Frequently black tie.
American: Only considered successful if employer will spring for more than one drink. Guests are not invited, and the real party is when everyone leaves the employer's do to go somewhere else and actually enjoy themselves without boss watching. To appear to be having a good time means that you cannot at any moment be stopped and asked for advice which could then be billed to a client, and therefore is seen as poor form.

English: Plimsoles are black and can be used for casual wear with jeans and things. White sneakers are for sport, and should not be worn outside as may then scuff up squash court.
American: Status symbol. (Men) White sneakers are not to be laced, should weigh five pounds each and be as large as humanly possible. Worn with white socks, and under all types of casual clothing, whether or not they clash. (Women) Not as big, but worn to look as if about to burst into a run at any given moment, despite the fact that the furthest the wearer runs is to the car if they're late for work.

English. Tea. Can't make coffee to save their lives, and don't particularly feel the need to try. Complain vociferously that when they travel abroad they can't get a decent cup of tea anywhere that wasn't once part of the Commonwealth, and they are correct.
American: Coffee. Can't make tea to save their lives, and don't particularly feel the need to try. Complain vociferously when they travel abroad they can't get a decent cup of tea anywhere, thus showing they've never been to Southern Europe, South America, Antartica or Canada.

English: Topless women on third page of most popular newspaper, with attributed thoughtful quote on today's top story that you know they never made. After the watershed hour of 10pm, anything goes on telly. Contraception free on NHS, as is abortion. Considers Americans to be promiscuous.
American: Janet Jackson's nipple during Super Bowl causes uproar. Contraception must be paid for, ditto abortion (which on practical level is difficult to obtain in some states at all). Abstinence only sex education. "Ring thing" wait til marriage movement popular. Considers the English to be prudish.

New York Yankees Hats:
American: Shows loyalty to highly overpaid team currently languishing near bottom of American League East. To start discussion, mention new found "Curse of A-Rod."
English: Shows marketing savvy of Major League Baseball to people who've never watched a baseball game in their lives, but know that NY stands for New York. To start discussion, ask them if they've ever seen a game. When they say no, inform of current bottom dweller status, and offer to replace with proper Red Sox hats for winners.

English: Wonder aloud why World Series is so named, when only America participates. Excel at sports they invented, such as rugby, cricket, fives, and badminton, which is a professional sport in the UK. Also known to excel at watersports, as befits island nation. Many sports events are upper class social events involving dress codes and royal attendence, such as Ascot, the Grand National and the Epsom Derby (horse racing), Henley (rowing), the Boat Race (no dress code required, but broadcast on telly), Cowes Week (sailing), and gardening (Chelsea Flower Show). Queen enters horses in many races, and is known to enjoy betting on the ponies.

American: Wonder what on earth are the rules to cricket and rugby, aren't they just forms of baseball and football (meaning: American football, not soccer-known-in-rest-of-world-as-football)? Have never heard of fives. Know that World Series has players from all over the world, predominantly South America and Japan, it is just that teams are owned by Americans, rather like Manchester United, which is soon to be relocated to Manchester, NH. Excel at sports they invented, such as baseball, football and basketball. Most popular sport to watch is NASCAR racing. Most sporting events are seen as opportunity for everyone to go and watch regardless of class, but this is rapidly being overtaken by the opportunity for everyone to go and watch on TV since corporate boxes are the way to go at the sporting arenas and your average person now cannot afford tickets. President used to own major league baseball team, has T-ball field on Presidential lawn, and enjoys photo ops with winners but not losers of major tournaments.

American: Fast food predominates. One mega meal can provide entire days recommended caloric intake, and is cheaper than fresh fruit and veg. Considers English food bland and overcooked, but has never eaten it. Portions humongous. Eating out cheap and frequent.

English: Spicy food of former colonies predominates (Hong Kong Chinese, Indian, etc.) along with roasted hunk of meat and veg. Fast food considerably more expensive than fruit and veg. One mega meal equivalent to small size meal in America. Portions small. Eating out event which requires making reservation to guarantee table.

American: Petrol is cheaper than milk, so why not make your car the size of your house and live in it? Cup holders and fast food drive throughs mean that you don't ever have to leave your car except for the call of nature, which comes in handy when driving across, say, North Dakota and there's nothing for miles and miles. Road signage variable at the best of times, and if you don't know how to get where you're going, you didn't really want to get there in the first place.

English: Stop every two hours for a cup of tea. Cup holders non-existent. Roads good and fast, and radio set up to interrupt broadcast if there is a travel alert so you can take a different road around the trouble. Economy matters, since petrol costs per litre what a gallon costs in America. And besides, if you take the train, you can eat and drink on it, which you would never do in your car unless you're common.

Road Directions
American (well, New England): unofficial motto: "Can't get there from here." So accurate, they spoofed it on Saturday Night Live as a game show. One way systems and lack of signage make every trip to the shops an adventure as you never know where you might wind up. Spring brings pothole season. The spotting of the first hubcap flying off the car in front of you is much like seeing the first robin.

English: will conduct extortionately long discussions on which is the fastest route from A to B, and the cleanliness of the Happy Eater rest stops along the way. The discussions on directions are held at cocktail parties, thus increasing alcohol consumption for everyone listening as they try to cope.
In Which Our Heroine Hops to Vla Vla Land
One of the great things about being in London is that it is so close to the rest of Europe, at least in relation to America not being particularly close to Europe geographically (if at all in any other way). All of which allowed me to conspire over the last few weeks to actually head off to a friend's surprise baby shower.

In Amsterdam.

Just one of those things people do, you know. My friend (Marieke)'s sister (Annelise) had organised a rather excellent event, but knew that Marieke had friends all over the world from both her studying in the US and the fact that the Dutch do get a bit peripatetic. To include everyone, Annelise e-mailed all the foreigners, and asked them to e-mail a baby picture and a recent picture so that Marieke could match them up. I wound up being a bit slack on this as baby pictures had to be dug out, what with my mother moving house (kudos to Grandma for a bit of search and retrieve, and a very good quality scanning job on short notice, although she did in fact meet Marieke many years ago so that helps), When Annelise e-mailed me to politely say "where are the photos?" I said "oops, sorry, Mom's just moved house and can't find anything, and I just moved to London two days ago so I can't find anything either." Upon finding out that I was so close, conspiracy of great nature ensued. Marieke's husband bought me a ticket to Amsterdam for the party and it was all sent via e-mail. And as Annelise and I coordinated stuff, the one thing that wound up lacking was actually corresponding with Marieke, who would occasionally send these notes saying "Um, I haven't heard from you, are you all right? You seem a bit quiet at the moment!"

Not to worry, not to worry. A bag was packed, a bear was purchased (along with Yorkie bars and salt & vinegar chips for Marc and Annelise!) and courtesy of the whole "check in and print your boarding pass the day before you leave for the airport" concept, I whipped in and was in Amsterdam easily. I was pressed into service decorating anything above waist level, and then popped out to the shops to get some vla for the next morning (it is a custardy type thing. And tasty. It is also fun to say, as you sound like a vampire. Vla! I vant to suck your blood! Vla!) and stay there until Marieke got home so that first she could be surprised by her party and then I could surprise her with me.

The first problem that struck me was in the market. I can pronounce words in Dutch, as Marieke taught me to read outloud. The problem is that my actual vocabulary reflects how I learned to read, which was from reading aloud from Miffy books. Miffy (www.miffy.com) is actually a Dutch artist's creation named Nijnte and with all the books written in rhyming couplets, this helps learn the sounds of words. It also left me with a vocabulary not terribly suited to wandering around Amsterdam looking for vla, as I know such handy phrases as "Hij is een stoute rups. Hij at van de mooie bloem!" which conveniently translates to "He is a naughty caterpillar. He ate a beautiful flower!"

There are very few naughty caterpillars in the local shops in Amsterdam. In fact, there are very few caterpillars at all, regardless of behavioural standards.

Never mind. I knew where the shop was, I remembered where the vla was in the shop, I had some Euros, this was going to be easy. And indeed it was until the nice gentleman in front of me in the line turned and seeing I was just holding my little vla container, immediately said something terribly complex in lots of Dutch words, none of which seemed to be "caterpillar." Suddenly reimersed in that year when I didn't understand a word that I was spoken to me, and couldn't communicate back, I actually started to have a full on panic attack and hyperventilate. The nice Dutch man promptly said something else not involving caterpillars or naughtiness so far as I could tell, and I finally managed to gasp out "I don't speak Dutch." hoping all the while he wouldnt' think I had just escaped from the local mental institution.

Being Dutch, he promptly responded to me in perfect English with "is that all you have? Why don't you go ahead of me?" Crisis averted. I was equally handled with kid gloves by the teenage chap behind the till, who also addressed me in full English, asked if I had a card, counted out my change, and told me to have a nice weekend. All very kind of them, but I did feel a bit stupid.

But back for the surprise. It did occur to me that two surprises in 15 minutes might not be the best thing to do to a woman who was seven months pregnant, but there was nothing for it now but to go through the door. All was well, Marieke was happy and the party went off without a hitch. Except that I didn't understand anything that was said. To give me something to do, I read the little quiz cards. Marieke got asked questions, and if she got four answers right, she got to open a present. I read out the questions, and then she gave an answer and there was a bit of discussion. After four, I said "Ok, now you get to open a present. Huzzah!"

That was when she told me that in fact she'd gotten all the last questions wrong, so no presents for her. Sometimes, it does indeed help to understand things.

Silly silly Anne.

Lovely evening out biking through Amsterdam (yes, even at seven months pregnant - I love the Dutch way of biking everywhere!) and noshing on Indonesian food but unfortunately the next day meant a 7 am take off at the airport, so it was all too short. I've vowed to brush up on my Dutch before le bebe is born for my next visit, but I think that that age, he'll understand me perfectly anyway!

More later. So much work on at the moment. The things a gal does for an income.


Thursday, June 23, 2005

In Which Our Heroine Gets a New Hat
Right. Bit sleepy of late, which is what comes of not getting to bed on time. And the actual concept of work means not lots of time to run around and cover the bits and bobs of what's been happening here in Britannia. But a bit of a recap.

When last we heard of our heroine (that would be me) she was headed to Ascot without a chapeau. This was causing her great consternation, as it seemed to be rude and just not the done thing, but in typical form she (still me, that is) would not be stopped.

End third person narrative, it is just plain pretentious.

Anyway.......first there was the back to work element, which was a most joyous occasion, and there was much rejoicing. I had one day at work before heading up to York for Ascot, and everyone was very nice. I think it will be a good job until I get replaced (they're looking for someone permanent, and that isn't to be me). One of the perks of the job is that at the end of the week, the PAs (personal assistant) get to take the flowers home if they like. I wound up taking a massive bunch of expensive flowers up to York which were a hit for the following reasons:
1) Michaela loves flowers, and this provided four vases of them scattered around the house.
2) Gareth, in his Yorkshireness, likes the fact that I didn't have to pay for the expensive flowers.
3) They have a son with quite severe autism, who occasionally destroys things. Were he to destroy the flowers, no big deal as no out of pocket cost. All in all, a winner.

This actually worked out particularly well the next morning when I was trying to adopt a proper stiff upper lip attitude re lack of hat. Mic remembered that she had a couple hats up in the cupboard, and suddenly she had her old hat from her wedding/going away outfit which matched her new dress, and she had a big straw black hat which was very plain "but maybe we can put a scarf on it or something."
\r\n \r\nI promptly pinned two whacking lilies to it and voila, it was perfect for Ascot. Matched the flowers on my dress and all. We were set.\r\n \r\nWe were actually more than set, as Lian had arrived nice and early and poached us a table, enough chairs and a blue parasol. This all came in handy, and as other people realized this they attempted to nick them off her. The force runs strong in her, though - more than we ever realized. In addition to successfully defending our chairs from the rabble, she also went from "so do all the horses have four legs then" type expertise to coming out substantially in profit on the day\'s betting, winning four out of six races. The rest of us were far from so lucky, although we mostly broke even apart from Kevin, who couldn\'t win a pence despite trying. Never mind, we oogled hats, we waved to Queenie (who waved back - very sociable that Queenie) we tried to pick the form, and we drank Pimms amidst an ever deepening coat of 30 proof sunblock.\r\n\r\n \r\nIt was great.\r\n \r\nIt was also exhausting, all that sitting out in the sun drinking gin based things. \r\n \r\nWe met up with Gareth for dins, but beat a relatively hasty retreat back to the house after that as collapse was iminent. And the next morning I had to head to Cambridge for loads of birthday type celebrations. Thankfully, these were understated as was truly warranted. Mostly sitting out in the back garden in the sun (not so hot as the day before though) sipping champagne with strawberries and then having afternoon tea with homemade fresh scones, jam and clotted cream as one should. Back to London at night, and back to work the next morning. It all went well, and tomorrow is payday, which is not to be sniffed at. Ah, the end of iminent poverty!\r\n\r\n \r\nAnd again, there was much rejoicing......\r\nLove\r\nAnne-- Anne Wolfe, Esq, LL.M.Mobile: ( 07890) 462-212",1]

I promptly pinned two whacking lilies to it and voila, it was perfect for Ascot. Matched the flowers on my dress and all. We were set.

We were actually more than set, as Lian had arrived nice and early and poached us a table, enough chairs and a blue parasol. This all came in handy, and as other people realized this they attempted to nick them off her. The force runs strong in her, though - more than we ever realized. In addition to successfully defending our chairs from the rabble, she also went from "so do all the horses have four legs then" type expertise to coming out substantially in profit on the day's betting, winning four out of six races. The rest of us were far from so lucky, although we mostly broke even apart from Kevin, who couldn't win a pence despite trying. Never mind, we oogled hats, we waved to Queenie (who waved back - very sociable that Queenie) we tried to pick the form, and we drank Pimms amidst an ever deepening coat of 30 proof sunblock.

It was great.

It was also exhausting, all that sitting out in the sun drinking gin based things.

We met up with Gareth for dins, but beat a relatively hasty retreat back to the house after that as collapse was iminent. And the next morning I had to head to Cambridge for loads of birthday type celebrations. Thankfully, these were understated as was truly warranted. Mostly sitting out in the back garden in the sun (not so hot as the day before though) sipping champagne with strawberries and then having afternoon tea with homemade fresh scones, jam and clotted cream as one should. Back to London at night, and back to work the next morning. It all went well, and tomorrow is payday, which is not to be sniffed at. Ah, the end of iminent poverty!

And again, there was much rejoicing......

Monday, June 06, 2005

In Which Our Heroine Lives the Life of the Shiftless Poor
I don't have a job yet. It isn't for lack of trying, although my friend Jim insists there are council estates just waiting for people like me, the shiftless layabout unemployed. Frankly, it is driving me mad not having anything to do - I can't take it.

So, apart from more applying for jobs and more appointments with temp agencies, today I got even more proactive. I was asked at a lunch after graduation if I would keep writing book reviews for the Bi-Monthly Review of Law Books. I confirmed this today by e-mail (me in the UK, the head of the BMRLR in Mexico, which he says is hot and polluted), and then set about looking for newly published books that would be interesting to me to read and then review. This serves a few purposes. It gives review and criticism to books, which is somethign publishers are looking for (and something doens't particularly happen a lot with legal tomes). It also gets them a bit of publicity - people may not know the books are out there, and bearing in mind the price of books (one I requested today is $300 or £165 in the UK) they may be a bit wary about forking it out if they don't know it is good. It also gives me a free copy of an expensive book in my field, and makes sure that I actually read it.

The downside is that I actually have to read it. Which when you're contemplating 1000 pages on International Domain Name Law and Practice, gets a bit daunting. Good for the practice, keeps me up to date, so on and so forth. But 1000 pages on one topic is more than enough for anyone I should think. Particularly when it is an international comparison, jurisdiction to jurisdiction on the same topic. Oooo, that's a lot. I bet it repeats a lot. Wow. I am destined to acheive even higher levels of dorkiness than before!

I also fired off an e-mail to a friend in Australia saying "Wanna write a paper on international privacy regs together?" Dork.

But I did get to do cool stuff. I was sent via e-mail a travel ticket. It is a surprise. Can't wait to find out what it is!

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

In Which Our Heroine Goes Back to the Basics
I've always encouraged my coaching students/teammates/self to identify the best and worst things about an outing on the water. There are days where sometimes the best thing you can identify is "I didn't flip." There are also days where the best thing suddenly shifts to "I didn't drown." There is still something to be gained from those days, and at least this practice does to an extent short circuit completely beating yourself up for things.

I'm having one of those days generally today, and with no rowing outings currently in sight! (I love rowing. More than ponies!) I've contacted the local RC, but haven't heard back yet. Grrr.

I had to really reach around today to find a good thing and in the end came up with "organic raspberries are cheap, plentiful and in season" - they're incredible. That's all I could come up with today, but it still works. When compared with the joy of the fresh raspberry, life ain't so bad.

Friday, May 20, 2005

In Which Our Heroine Packs Her Life Up. Again.

Well, the big move happens Monday. Over to England for six months. The packing has commenced.

You'd think it would be a lot easier - what with having done it before to take off for a year, but it is completely different and a lot harder. All the packing last time was hyper practical. Tent, sleeping bag, hiking boots, it all has to fit in the backpack and has to be carried. Now, all it has to do is fit within the luggage limit (which I've never ever gone up to), and yet it has to cover work clothes, non-work clothes, hiking gear, rowing gear, and always the clincher is shoes, shoes, shoes. Don't fit in compression sacks, can't wear the hiking boots with the work clothes, can't wear the work shoes to go hiking, take up all the space shoes.

I think you can tell by now, I'm not about to inherit the next "Imelda Marcos" shoe title. But still, the packing is a royal pain and a half becuase it has to involve all these weird things I'm not used to thinking about packing for. And I keep being seducted by the fact that since I have this extra huge bag and not just my backpack, I have what seems to be all this space. Soooooo much space. And I want to avoid filling it with soooo much stuff.

Monday. Ack! Graduation at 9 a.m. Sunday, then lunch with full on family (Mom, Gran, Uncle Bob), then small gap, and then graduation/farewell party. oh help me!


Thursday, April 14, 2005

In Which Our Heroine Realizes Her Identity
I realized it the other day.... I'm a Bostonian.

This is impressive, as I've never really felt like I was from somewhere before. We moved a lot when I was a kid. Granted, it was never very far, but it always was far enough to change schools (and once even change back.) But only one person I know lives in the town where I grew up now, and I wouldn't recognize the place if I went back. I'm not from there any more, if I ever was.

But I sat there on Monday, having taken most of the day off work to watch the Red Sox home opener against the Yankees, and even more importantly watch them get their World Series rings, and during an opening video of Boston sports moments (which was at least 20 minutes long) I realized I'm now *from* here. I recognize Bobby Orr and Ray Bourque, and I'm not even a hockey fan. I know why the new bridge should be called the "Bill Buckner Bridge," I know the curse of the Bambino, who Yaz, Teddy Ballgame, and Catfish Hunter were. I can name my senators, and even my US Representative. I know the history of Beacon Hill, where the opening shots of the Revolution were fired, that the Battle of Bunker Hill was fought on Breed's Hill, and that where the current tea party ship is docked is not where it was docked when Sam Adams and co staged the Boston tea party. I know that Evacuation Day is Marathon Day, when the Head of the Charles is, and the names of every bridge on the Charles for over 10 miles.

Most importantly (and this is the true test), I can "get they-ah from he-yah." And once you can do that, it is official. You are from he-yah.
P.S. Visa arrived today. Now that I'm from here, I'm leaving!

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

In Which Our Heroine Catches Up
Agh, almost two months, no posting. First off, the blog move. And hopefully eventually the move back. My exboyfriend was hosting this. This experience, while initially very kind, can best be described as a hassle. I don't think he particularly likes me (though he tries) and I've given up waiting for his exceptionally sporadic e-mails so that when they do come, they're a complete suprise. Actually, given how he lives his life, his e-mails always contain some sort of surprise, but that's an entirely different kettle of chum. At any rate, he decided to stop hosting altogether as my domain name was needed renewal and it all has gone horribly pear shaped, but never mind it'll get sorted out soon enough. I just couldn't deal with it at the time since.....

I just spent the last two weeks in hospital. Dramatic, eh? I'd mostly like to forget about it, but I can comment in the following semi-cryptic ways.
1) Salmonella is a small (and I've discovered tasteless) bacteria, but it is certainly stronger than I am.
2) If you're sick, you sleep for copious amounts of time.
3) Apparently, even if you take "attenuated" (read: weakened) GM bacteria for an experimental trial, you can still mount a spectacular immune response, even if you spend a week on uberantibiotics.
4) Hospital PJs suit no one.
5) Even good hospital food is still hospital food at the end of the day.

I'm out now, and I'm "fine"- a statement which can be taken to mean that I'm safe to be let into the general public, but still pretty weak, although getting stronger every day. And I"m hoping to go rowing later this week (numerous plans have been made.)

All of it seems to pale into insignificance when I just go outside and spring is definitely on the way. Somehow this was all confirmed by riding on the T this morning to come into town. There was this lad, he couldnt' have been more than 15, and he was going somewhere with a lass who if she was not his girlfriend needs to wise up and BE his girlfriend. The amazing thing about this kid was the way he looked at the girl. It was love, true love, quite possibly in a way you can only experience when you're that young and not bashed around by the vicissitudes of growing up and getting your heart broken here and there. Of course, part of growing up is learning to overcome the getting your heart broken part, but somehow I was really rooting for this kid and just hoping (beyond hope, I dare say. I remember what 15 year old girls are like. I was one, and I was not at that point worthy of such adoration, compared to say ...now!) that this girl really did appreciate him and the joy she created for this boy. It was hard not to stare like some sort of psychopath, but it did make me feel really exuberant and filled with the joys of spring.

Go out and appreciate someone that way. We'll all be better off.

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

In Which Our Heroine Tries to Create a Curriculum

I've wanted to teach law for about as long as I can remember, and I'm getting invited to submit a curriculum to do just that right now. I saw an opening for a course I thought needed to be in the progam, and so I'm going for it.

This is an interesting challenge, and not just because I finally get to be mean and cruel for a living if this all pans out. But there's lots of decisions you have to make. Like grading. How do I want to grade this class? I think there should be more writing in law schools, but I also think that writing a paper for a final grade is a bit of a cop out, especialy in a survey course, which this would be. I know in that instance I always wound up writing the paper, learning loads in depth for one teensy weensy slice of the subject, and frequently not paying attention for the rest of it (it rather depended on the strength of the lecturer.) I also tended to put it right off til the last possible minute, and I can't say my compadres were much better. But three hour exams aren't exactly the best way I think to get people to answer things - more to see if they can recall stuff under stress. Luckily for me I'm good at that, but I don't really want to sit down and have to wade through panicked writings of crapola. And so I arrived at the compromise of.....the take home exam.

It is this way with everything. And I'm just drafting the curriculum. Not being able to wait on the lectures, I've already started drafting PowerPoint presentations for those. Gosh, what a weenie.

Of course, the really cool thing about what I do and what I'm trying to teach is that the cases will at least get the kiddies (who are probably going to be older than I am) reading. Extreme Pornography - new case. Interesting take on obscenity. And of course the new case on the unconstitutionality of the bootlegging statute - where else in the law do you get to read about porn, sex, bootlegs and the rock band KISS? Nowhere but IP, baby.

Suggestions, anyone?

Saturday, January 29, 2005

In Which Our Heroine Takes on MassBike and in particular Tom Revay
(There was a Christmas in England, part the second, but it was depressing and the computer seems to have committed suicide (ok, the cat unplugged it) roughly two minutes before posting.)

It has been a harsh couple of days.

As many of you know, I used to volunteer and be a member of MassBike. And I left them. I left for a number of reasons. The biggest reasons were:
1) The stuff they were accomplishing wasn't very much.
2) What they were accomplishing mostly seemed to be happening outside of Massachusetts.
3) My volunteering efforts got left by the wayside, both by the staff members and the people who were supposed to be leading my volunteer efforts, and
4) a guy called Tom Revay.

Tom, and I've said it before, but not in print like this, is a certifiable, grade-A, class one jerk. When I first met him, my overwhelming reaction was "why is this guy so angry?" coupled with "really, shouldn't someone be coming by any minute to adjust his medication?" He's a computer guy, which is probably just as well - he doesn't have to have a lot of social interaction with people. Sadly, that shows.

Unfortunately, this week MassBike/Tom and I had cause to tangle again, which is a bit of a shame as I was hoping it was pretty much said and done. MassBike was holding a meeting to organize a Boston chapter. No biggie for me. I obviously wasn't going to go, and eh, it is a blip on the screen. But someone on a list I'm on asked for a sort of press thing whether or not people were going to go to this meeting and what they thought of the idea. My mistake was answering. I started typing and said that I wasn't going, and wasn't too impressed with MassBike. Sadly, Tom was the first person to reply. Thankfully though he gave a list of what he considered to be MassBike's accomplishments. Since he's their VP, he was speaking for the organization. He obviously didn't recognize my name, but in trying to throw him a bone, I cited back to a circumstance where I'd met someone at another event. I honestly couldn't remember if it was Tom or the old MassBike pres Tim, since I've met them both a number of times. Tim's an ok dude, Tom you've already heard me rant about. Either way, I figured a bit of the old physical description would certainly trigger a few memories for him. Let's face it. I've got that special physique. To meet me is to know you've done it.

It didn't trigger anything. I guess he's that much of a jerk to everyone.

He certainly kept right on being that much of a jerk to me on line. I would respond to points, he would start spewing reactionary vitriol. I would say, for example, that it was a waste of MassBike money to send people to DC to lobby the Mass Congressional delegation, and he would say that since he thought the Exec Director was nice and not paid enough it was the least they could do. These are not arguments that were exactly winning me over. He did invite me back to the organization once, but I missed it until he had to point it out again. Of course, I missed it because he also called me a troll, ranted on and on about how I should have read the newsletters for MassBike even though I didn't belong any more, and generally acted like the Tom I had encountered previously. And this guy is their VP? He's their elected public representative? This is not an organization that I want to belong to, and certainly not re-join.

I was put in a bind at the end of the day though when their new Exec Director, Dorie Clark, e-mailed me personally to say that she had been reading the thread and apologized for my previous bad experience, and that if I wanted to come back, MassBike would be enthused to have me.

I was impressed by this. For a first encounter, this shows a bit of moxie on the Executive Director's part. I e-mailed her back and said:
1) I was impressed she'd done this.
2) I didn't have a bad experience at MassBike, I'd had a *really* bad experience.
3) Tom Revay was not a great advocate for the organization, and that getting e-mails from other staff members at MassBike saying that they thought maybe I'd left because someone disagreed with my ideas was not helping either.
4) If there was tangible change at MassBike, I would consider re-joining. But for now I was winding up my other charitable commitments with a view towards leaving the country for 8 months, so now was not the time for a number of reasons.

A small conversation ensued. I think it is still on-going. Feeling that it was poor form to bad mouth Tom to the ED behind his back, I sent Tom a copy of the e-mail. Jerk or not, he should know what has been said about him, good or bad. That's only fair. Dorie informed me that he's not a paid staff member, but he is (as I already knew) on the board and the VP. That's pretty prominent to me, even if it is unpaid. But there's something about Dorie which says to me that she may be the one to turn this organization around and actually achieve some of the things they set out to do. If that's the case, I'd seriously reconsider joining. Because at the end of the day, it is a cause I'm passionate about, and would like to get stuff done. Of course, with this guy spouting off, not much actually is going to get done as he's so incredibly offputting, so de facto if stuff is going to happen, he's going to get shut down somewhere in the process. That's a shame, as he's obviously enthusastic as well, and that enthusiasm should find a way to get channeled. Maybe serious behavioural therapy can mold him into a more productive member of society. In the meantime? I'll stay out of MassBike, and right out of the whole spiel.