Monday 27 July 2009


Ugh – So, my first day as 36 has been not entirely auspicious. David and Robin gave me a Spongebob cake last night at midnight. While lovely, I think the excessive amount of pre-bed sugar gave me bizarre dreams (one of those dreams where you’re actually not entirely asleep, but you can’t wake up), and I’ve spent the entire day out of it and migrainey. I should have just gone out to celebrate – at least I would have had a reason then to feel like crap. Sigh.

I’m going for a bike ride after work today, then meeting David and possibly Robin for dinner. I finally managed to take the both of them cycling yesterday, which was a bit like herding cats (only cats don’t whine as much). They took the train to Hertford, about halfway to Cambridge from London. I cycled from London. Met them at the Hertford Castle, where Robin had to pose for various pics in his bright red Assos cycling gear (rolls eyes). The ride to Cambridge from Hertford is about 35 miles (70 from London) and isn’t that hilly. You’d think though that we were climbing the Himalayas with the amount of carping that went on. We stopped a few times, once for food, and a few more times so that Robin could regain feeling in his hands. We only got to spend a brief while in Cambridge (long enough for Robin to take pics of King’s College Cambridge, which apparently has a really big organ in it or something…), then took the train back to London. People ask me if I don’t get lonely cycling on my own, and I do sometimes, but it’s a lot less stressful than trying to do it with two other people who don’t necessarily cycle at the same speed. I got myself in trouble then on the way back from Kings Cross b/c I took a way that was too hilly for David (to avoid Robin bitching about bumps on Blackfriar’s Road) and too slummy for Robin (to avoid David bitching about cycling through Elephant and Castle). Yay, what fun! Anyway, I think I may cycle this autumn to Brussels from here – likely by myself (though it’s a little scary, to be honest).

Not much else going on at the moment, really – I had a few reflective thoughts about becoming middle aged or some such bullshit, but mostly I just want to go home b/c I have a headache. Blah.

Wednesday 22 July 2009

Knees and Other Knobbly News

So - I had my first day of physio on Monday for my knee (which I injured 12 years ago wrecking my car and have injured about 987987 times since). Had it down at King's College Hospital, which is just down the street at home. There are signs all over the hospital stating that if you have the flu, you should stay at home and dial NHS Direct, blah blah blah - it's a little late for that, isn't it? Anyway, I sit around in the waiting room with a whole random collection of little old ladies and gentlemen and eventually a doc calls my name. He's wearing two very prominent hearing aids and is accompanied by an older woman who sort of trails along behind. She seems a bit old for a student, but, you know, people are living longer these days and all. Turns out he's deaf and she is there to mouth back what I say in case he can't read my lips.


I wondered why they don't just sign, but then I realized that the physio guy is busy manoeuvring my knee around with his hands, which I suppose would make signing a bit like talking with his mouth full - very rude, I'm sure. Anyway, the whole thing was a bit surreal, and I was diagnosed as having a 'mis-tracking patella', which probably isn't fatal but does hurt a lot. And I got homework. Blah. More of my tax dollars at work. I can't believe the whole discussion in the US over socialized medicine. OF COURSE it should be socialized - it's a basic human right! The NHS may be a pain in the ass, and there may be waiting lists, and it may take 9% of my income, but I really really really like never ever having to be asked if I have insurance, or having to worry about will the insurance pay for something.

Anyway - I saw a woman in a very silly cycling outfit - blue lycra and white high heels. Nice.

And yesterday I saw demonstrated the dangers of trying to lower a sofa out of a first (US 2nd) floor window with a rope. I was cycling to the gym and passed this house with a number of people leaning out the window. They were trying to lower a sofa to the ground (as I'm sure there was a very narrow stairway going up to the floor - we may have to do the same thing when we finally move). Apparently, they got the sofa swinging a bit too much. There was a tremendous crash of broken glass, as the sofa went right in the ground floor window. Oopsie - I'll be their neighbours will appreciate that!

And I've been trying to cook up my autumn bike trip. I thought originally I'd cycle over the Alps from Switzerland to Italy (Bern to Milan - I know people in both places), but I think that's going to have to wait until next summer, as I don't want to get snowed under on a mountain pass. Coast of Spain maybe? A bit far on the train, but tempting. There is always this country. Hmm - October in England. Yeah, that's going to be sunny and beautiful. Ireland? Even closer to the Atlantic and sources of endless rain. Could cycle down the Rhine - very doable from here. There is always that whole pesky language issue, but I'm sure I'd manage. You know - just speak English very loudly and slowly. They like that - esp in France. I've been trying to get David, or even Robin to go with me. Yeah right. Sigh. Perhaps I could get them along behind on roller skates with a bungee cord attached.

Anyway, I have to leave soon - bike home and cut my hair, which is getting a bit fluffy. David pointed out recently that it has gone entirely grey on the sides and that the top is quite balding. How loving.


Friday 17 July 2009


Ugh what a stupid day. I’ve spent my day sending back and forth emails b/c of some stupid mapping project that a Local Councillor wants, to show investment made by the council, basically so that she can look good to her constituents. Of course, b/c a Councillor wants it, we have to jump and do it right away, even though the project is a big load of crap and shouldn’t really come before other, more relevant projects. Polish boss-woman is running around like a chicken minus head, b/c her boss (who reminds me a bit of one of the aliens in Mars Attacks) wants it and wants it now. People really do get worked up over the silliest things.

Anyway – I get to fix both of David’s tires tonight – someone put a hole in one of them when he had the bike parked in the West End. I made fun of him for saying that he would take it to the store and get it fixed, so, of course, now I get to fix it. Yay.

Which reminds me – said hole came while we were finally meeting our total-fag hag landlady for the first time – not at all how I imagined her (kind of frumpy woman, blue shortish dress, Birks…, melodious Edinburgh brogue).

Robin is off in Paris having his internal organs rearranged (he does that a lot).

I’m going to have a very exciting evening of gym, supermarket and haircutting. Schlepping lumber for a few hours tomorrow morning for Avi b/c I was stupid and didn’t say no. Maybe a movie tomorrow night, then a big bike ride on Sunday. I suppose one of these days I should do something cultural as well.

And, I’m so bored at the moment I actually ran out of things to talk about – maybe I will go examine my elbow or something, as it’s 521 on a Friday and I certainly can’t do any work…

Monday 13 July 2009

I'd rather be riding my bike...

Not surprisingly, my lofty goal of writing every day on my bike trip came to nought, as, quite simply, there were a lot more exciting things to do. So, here I am on the 1530 back to London, from Edinburgh, in 1st Class (I paid the extra £25 b/c Coach was packed and I really didn’t want a shitty end to an otherwise fab trip). Speaking of, we just pulled into York and a very loud and obnoxious group of American tourists (incl kids) just piled on. Oh Canada…

Anyway, tourists of no, the trip was excellent. I took the 0800 to Newcastle on Thursday morning (a city that seems to be full of strange people with pinched faces). Headed off west on my bike. I had the choice of the coastal or inland route – I chose the inland. Day 1 was about 70 miles, most of it through Northumbria. I spent quite a lot of time and energy cycling up the moors. I’m going to launch a campaign to have them renamed ‘mores’, b/c there is just more, and more and more – one false summit (and dashed hope) after another! Anyway, I crossed the Cheviot Hills into Scotland… I had no idea that the Cheviots were the remnants of an old Rockies-style mountain range. The road seemed fairly well determined to experience every last inch of the remaining height. I’ve never quite understood the attraction in this country between road and steep hill. The border itself is kind of a funny thing – heading into Scotland there is a huge sign – ‘Welcome to Scotland’ – in English and Scottish (or perhaps Swahili? Not sure…), as well as a parking area and helpful informative board where you could read all about how the Border towns bravely resisted the bastard English until they lost, got put on reservations and given blankets and casinos, or something like that (it was all in Swahili – what do you want?). Heading towards England, on the other hand, there is a small sign saying ‘Welcome to Northumbria’. God bless regional identity!

From the summit it was a long and welcome downhill into Jedburgh, through replanted forest (bad sheep!) into a town so cute I just wanted to squish it. I arrived just in time for a march and piper’s band. Apparently, this marked the beginning of the Jedburgh Festival – an ancient tradition dating back to 1947, celebrating the fact that they didn’t have one before. The highlight, which, unfortunately, I missed, was the firing of the cannon 4x at 6am on a Saturday morning by a young, unmarried man, after which the brave townsfolk take to the hills on horseback to survey the bounds of the common land, of which there apparently isn’t any, and bill the council for any discrepancies, or something like that. And my God the tourista family is so loud and Midwestern – I just want to crawl under the floor.

After my lovely breakfast (served at Scotland’s oldest continuously running hotel), I headed north once more. I’ll give Scotland something – the weather may usually be crap – but the place is just gorgeous. Over hill, over dale, up a few grades that merited climbing gear, and 55 miles later, thanks to the wonder of my legs and satnav, I pulled onto Doug’s street and discovered that he and his new beau, James (and he is a beau!) were across town drinking a bottle of wine in the park. Oy! Anyway, we met in town – I got myself a sandwich and sat on Princes Street, gawking at tourists. Our action packed first night consisted of a tub of Ben and Jerry’s each, wine and Alien 2. Just about my speed… Oh, and a geriatric cat named Eddie, who spent most of his time stepping on someone’s nuts or stomach…

I slept on the worst aerobed known to mankind (I mean, really, who puts a built in pillow on an aerobed?) and had to hear some amount of slap and tickle in the next room. No matter – we had a yummy breakfast at one of Doug’s local haunts, saw his ex (they are all still friends – how nice yet how odd), then I cycled off to Queensferry to see the Forth Bridge. I wanted to cycle across, but it was too windy – I had visions of myself being blown hundreds of feet down into the Firth. Not nice. Only 30 miles that day, which is probably good, as I need new brake pads – they are squeaking something awful. Hard to look cool and manly when you come up to a traffic light screeching like a banshee… We went out that night to one pub and one bar. The pub was cosy but empty, and the bar was having ‘bear night’, which meant it was mostly full of guys who had never been to a gym in their entire lives. I felt very fit.

And then it was today (or rather, at this point, yesterday) – fattening breakfast at the Blue Moon (the waiter I bagged there 13 years ago seems to have moved on – pity). We had a brief visit to TKMaxx (as one does) and then it was southward bound (in so many ways) ever since. And they just won’t shut up – but I’m getting a good (or at least entertaining) potted history of Britain on the way. And I do still love Edinburgh – a lot. I could live there again without a fuss. Hmm.
Oh God – I just wandered back to steerage – drunk people and people sitting on the floor (clutching my pearls, dearie!). They are now reading aloud from some guide to London. How exciting. Ooh, and someone’s eating potato chips – all the wan on the other end of the car. Fat cow – moo!
So, that about wraps up my time at work today – suppose I’ll go to the gym. It was just back to the usual blah-ness, London traffic and stupid London cyclists. I’m already cooking up my autumn trip – thinking the Rhine… Very practical.

Tuesday 7 July 2009

Sturm und Drang...

Well, summer was fun while it lasted - gave me something (extra) to bitch about - being hot and all that. Today has been pleasantly cool, with occasional giant pissings down of rain, thunder, general hoohah and whatnot. Suppose it's what keeps it green.

The battle of the air conditioner has heated up again, so to speak. We have at least 3 thermostats in this office, as they keep adding to them to try to keep the peace. They do actually all connect to different air conditioners, and they did actually turn the radiators off at least a month ago (from Brigadoon). The local thermostat sits right by me. I have a tendency to turn the temperature down. Some of the other people in the office have a tendency to turn it up. I sit at my desk with my shoes off, usually, and occasionally with a fan blowing. They tried to turn it off completely today - I held my ground, but conceded 1 degree, and taped up the offending vents pointing towards the particular delicate flower of the day. I will stand up for my right not to sweat in my underpants at work!

Mr annoying telecoms manager is yapping away on his phone - I can hear him all the way across the office in his irritating Essex accent. He reminds me a bit of Humpty Dumpty. At least he hasn't shredded any CDs lately.

Ooh, I was hit by a Mercedes yesterday. Very exciting. Granted, it happened at about 2mph and just sort of doinked into my leg, but I still managed to have a pleasant discussion with the driver about his lack of driving finesse afterwards. Brings me to the comparison between a Mercedes and a porcupine - something about the location of the pricks, I believe.

Ooh, and our 4th was a rip-roaring success. We had about 12 people over, and all congregated out on the roof. We took the skylight off, so as to afford easy access (can't expect drunk people to limbo out underneath the skylight door. Robin printed off suitably tacky patriotic (or ironic) posters, which we stuck very subtly around the entire flat. In the place of red white and blue bunting, he printed out sheets of paper with flags and beefy men on them - much more tasteful, I think. Ooh, and it's gone all dark out and it's pissing buckets - more fun for my biking to the gym! We put together a compilation of American songs, ranging from the classy (Kid Rock) to the sublime (Dolly Parton), and poured enough alcohol to, well, to get a bunch of British folks drunk (always a laudable goal in this country). David cooked up lots of dead stuff, and we gnoshed down buckets of Doritos, corn on the cob, weird little snacky things I'm not sure what they were, and everyone had a lovely time. One person though forgot his sunglasses, b/c he got down to the street on his way home, and realized he was too drunk to navigate the steps coming back, and one person had to be put to bed (again - not bad for a bunch of British folks). Robin and I played party babysitters, while David let his hair down once he'd finished cooking. And no one lost any fingers or toes. We'd saved up a bunch of fireworks from Guy Fawkes, back in November, and Robin shot them all off the roof at about 1045, once it finally got dark(ish). Despite his safety precautions (standing well back, putting fireworks in a big clay pot full of soil), have of them exploded in the Plane trees across the street, a few landed on the neighbouring buildings, and at least one went into the street - and the flower pot blew up. So, a good time was had by all, nothing caught fire, and no police were called - a rip roaring success! :-)

Thursday I'm off to Scotland on my bicicleta, where I am sure it will NOT RAIN. Toying with Ireland in the fall... Hmm.

Anyway, I am now going to devote my energy to making the thunderstorm pass so that I can leave here to go to the gym to become buff und huge.


Friday 3 July 2009

Yackety Schmo...

I am reminded today, in these patriotic times, of Calvin and Hobbes' pledge:

I pledge allegiance, to Queen Fragg,
And her mighty state of hysteria.
And to the reporters,
with delicious hams,
One nation, under bob, indefensible,
With quibbling and lettuce for all.

Now rise - Judge Woppner presiding...

Oh wait, I got confused.

So, London is now back to more civilised temperatures, after a week of sweating it out in the low 90s. This may not sound like much, but in a place that declares a heat emergency when the temperatures go above 30 (about 88), it is not a pretty thing. At the first hint that there may not be rain for a period of more than five minutes, the grass turns to straw, the trees get grumpy, and people start appearing on the street in clothing that should probably be illegal. London doesn't do hot and gross very well, to say the least. In Hackney, it also seems to bring out the wierdos, and in a place that is just crawling with them on the best of days, that usually doesn't count as a GOOD THING.

Today's big and exciting project was figuring out how to lighten the colors (colours) in a TIFF map file in a way that could be replicated and automated for many different files. Wow - that's pretty exciting. Actually, and perhaps scarily, I really enjoy spending the day nerdifying over something like that - makes my brain feel like it might have a purpose - I even had to remember algebra. Now if I could just find something that actually used calculus, I'd be over the moon... I will refrain from holding my breath.

We're having a 4th of July BBQ tomorrow - Robin is threatening to put up posters of George III. We still have boxes of fireworks left over from Guy Fawkes day, so we're going to shoot those off the roof at 10 or 1030, once it gets dark - just late enough to really piss off the neighbours (but not late enough to get past the 11pm no-fireworks rule!). Off for a bike ride (probably Cambridge) on Sunday, and then next week is my big exciting ride up to Scotland, from Newcastle - can't wait!

Anyway, I should probably go. The gym beckons, and then I have to head off to the gas station to get more propane for the BBQ. £28 for 5kg - not cheap.