Tuesday 29 December 2009

It should have been a Monday...

So... One of the inherent problems of sleeping in for a few days is that when one does have to go to bed early, to get up early the next day, one can't sleep. Meaning - I was back to my usual state of zombietude this morning. I was supposed to take my bike in to get a few things worked on, only to discover that the back tire had gone completely flat (after talking about flat tires yesterday with the woman at the bike store - I should know better!). That meant a lot of farting around, waiting for the 0954 train into London (not allowed to arrive before 10 with a bike) - I figured that they might as well just fix that while they were fixing everything else. I get more flat tires - with supposed puncture resistant tires as well! What I clearly need is a (very fast moving) slave out ahead of me on the road, clearing up glass and other pieces of debris. I think that is a very good idea - one more thing to aspire to once I become queen of the universe.

The rest of the Xmas mini-break passed rather without comment. In a way, I was actually happy to go to work today, as I was getting so bored. However, we did watch District 9, which I enjoyed, and Avatar, which I absolutely loved. I think I might have a new, blue boyfriend now (along with every other gay man and 12 year old girl... Sigh). David and Robin and I went, along with Robin's porn star/rent boy friend (who apparently has the hots for me). There is something very satisfying about watching someone whose entire persona is built around being a super-macho dominating sex object blubbering like a girl at a screen full of CGI. (I really am a horrible person, I suppose, but there you go...). Actually, I like the guy - I just find his whole schtick amusing - still though, it pays well.

I ventured to Selfridges last night in search of underwear. (Very exciting!) Unfortunately, underwear were not on sale (of course!), and I think the entire populations of a small country and one or two mini-galaxies were dumped in there for the after Christmas sales. The horror, the horror.

And not much else really. Oh, I suppose I was going to make some snide remark about how convenient it was that some numbnuts came from Yemen just about the time that the US decides to expand its warmaking in that general direction, but I would hardly be the first to say that, so I won't bother. Plus, I would probably end up on a list of people who don't like mushrooms or something (which I don't).

Friday 25 December 2009

Xmas in a silly land...

Well, I'm sitting here next to the world's most organized Xmas tree (all blues and whites and silvers, thanks to Mr. Hyper Anal Retentive David ;-), feeling a little bit bloated and a little bit tiddly (thanks, in part, to Robin's mulled wine, which would likely take the paint off the walls). We just finished watching '9', which, if you want a nice, normal, non-freakoid movie is not the movie to see, bathing in our post-Christmas glow.

We had a fairly low-impact Christmas Day - slept in until 1215, then farted around here for a while. Eventually we all cycled into town to Balans Restaurant, where 8 of us packed into a rather small restaurant with rather a lot of screaming queens to pay £65 for Christmas lunch. The food was, admittedly, a bit mediocre, but the company was good. We did manage to not consume too too much, as we had to cycle home (thanks to no public transportation and all of us feeling like tightwads and not wanting to pay 3x normal cabfare home).

And, get this - last night I actually went to midnight mass - voluntarily, at St Paul's Cathedral - and, most importantly, I was not struck by lightning (though the dean did suggest that anyone using a mobile phone during the service would, in fact, be struck by lightning - I liked him). I have to admit that I kind of liked the service, though I was a little surprised to have to stand for nearly the entire time - apparently the Episcopal (American Anglican) church has wussfied a bit, given that most of the service is sitting! They had a real boy's choir - I'd never actually heard a real boy's choir before, and an organ that would blow the roof of lesser buildings. The funny thing was, even with thousands of people inside (they had to close off the building to more entries), you could barely hear people singing - I think because most people were just sort of quietly mouthing the words, rather than belting them out. And, of course, being a bit tourist attraction, there were numbers of people who just wandered out during the middle of the service. I'm sorry - I'm not that terribly religious - but have some respect - it's not there for entertainment purposes only - if you start on a church service, as far as I'm concerned you're there for the long haul unless they start sacrificing virgins or something of similar magnitude. Anyway, we felt slightly superiorr to everyone afterwards - all those silly people waiting for buses that weren't going to come (no buses on Xmas) as we pedalled off into the night. Oh, and the Bishop of London, who reminded me a bit of Gandalf, what with his silly hat and staff, said 'Happy Christmas' to us as we waited to cross at the light, after the service (we waited for the light to change... ;-)

So, that was Christmas Day. I do miss being back in CA on Christmas, but I still enjoyed it a lot... Tomorrow is Boxing Day, and the beginning of the after Christmas sales... Must hide credit card...

Oh - milestone I jusr realized was past without much fanfare... I've now lived here longer than Minnesota, which means I've lived here longer than anywhere since I left San Diego at age 9... And I still can't fake an English accent worth a crap... Irish, however, I can pull off pretty well - I suppose b/c Irish English is so much closer to American English. Hmm...

Monday 21 December 2009

City Buried by Massive Snowstorm - Drifts 1.5 inches deep - Life Grinds to a Halt!

Well, so, you'd think that the fiasco of London falling over and dying for several days last February after six inches of snow would have convinced the local governments that, hmm, maybe we should salt more than once this winter, especially because salt dissolves in the rain and washes off the roads. This might be particularly important, seeing as how, apparently, molasses, which sticks the salt to the roads (who knew?), has gotten more expensive this year, so the governments are cutting back in these times of austerity. You'd think that, but you'd be wrong. We got a whopping 1.5 inches of slushy snow this evening at rush hour - well-predicted by the Met Office, and what happened... No gritters, no salt trucks, no plows. Nada. The streets turned to skating rinks, people slipping and falling all over the sidewalks, trains delayed and cancelled, airports closed, and don't even get me started about the Eurostar. Apparently there are 100000 or so people stranded here and in France after 6 trains got stuck in the tunnel for hours and hours with no food or water, and little air. So, one trains goes into the tunnel, shorts out, and gets stuck. They send in another. Another short circuit (apparently the 'wrong kind of snow' melting and screwing up the electronics in the warm tunnel). Six trains are sent into the tunnel, and they all get stuck. Sounds a bit like continuing to send things down the toilet once it gets plugged - doesn't work well.

The British are blaming the French. The French have called for an investigation. Eurostar has apologized by saying that, basically, shit happens, deal with it. And all this right after Copenhagen, when the leaders of the world all collectively laid down and died. Apparently the Kool-Aid was tasty. Sigh.

Anyway, tomorrow morning should be interesting once the slush freezes overnight...

I kind of thought today might be a ridiculous day. I woke from a dream that I had taken the hovercraft (as one does) to Morocco for the day - Marakesh, to be exact. In my dream, Marakesh had moved down to the coast, and the port, well, the port resembled the Disneyland Small World ride, except that everything was in shades of brown. I passed through customs (where they were all wearing red jackets) and suddenly realized I had to pee (nothing unusual there! ;-) I decided I didn't feel like paying 30 dinars for the privilege (apparently, the currency is actually the diram, so not bad) - so I trecked up a hill to use a tree. In the process I stepped in a cow pie. I was just washing it off my foot when my alarm went off, and I thought, Oh dear God this is not going to be a good day...

And then I was nearly killed by a dumpster. There I was, walking along the street, talking on my phone, minding my own business, when some numbnuts in a van backed into a dumpster, which rolled across the sidewalk and crashed into my elbow (which hurt!). I had some pleasant and polite words with the driver about his lack of care and attention, and then continued on my way, sure that a piano would fall out of the sky or some other such sillines.


Oh, the highlight of the weekend (another weekend of no cycling, thanks to the crappy icy roads) was seeing 2012. That was a bag of popcorn and bag of candy movie, with 30 minutes of commercials beforehand! That was definitely a record. Anyway - plot holes I could have driven a continental plate through, but what fun - lots of things blowing up and Los Angeles falls into the ocean! What's not to love? My fave stupid mistake - Woody Harrelson standing at the rim of the Yellowstone supervolcano, next to a sign saying Elevation 2726 (or some such) feet/ 976 (or some such) meters. Um, hello, perhaps that should actually be 2726 meters? There ain't no part of Wyoming below about 3800 feet, never mind 2726. Dur!

And that's where babies come from... ;-)

Cereal now - more exciting news to come, I'm sure.

Friday 18 December 2009

A Wild Friday Night in the Big City...

Well, we're really letting loose tonight... David is parked in front of the TV, watching 300. Fortunately, the Christmas tree is in the way, so I can only see it - but my God what a bunch of overblown twaddle! I may need a sick bag. Robin is back in Birmingham with the padres - his 'enforced rest period', as he calls it (as his parents are some pretty serious thumpers... Fortunately, I'm sure, for him, it sounds like he already has his, um, 'social calendar' laid out for the next week. Our very own United Nations Representative of Love...

I'm sitting here, blessfully blocked from seeing blood and guts and pencilled in abs+, though I can still here a lot of shouting, bad dialogue and silly music. Hell - it could be a January sale I'm listening to for all I know. And I'm eating a really yummy toffee cookie I just bought at Sainsbury's. It's a damn good thing I run and cycle, or I'd weigh about 800lbs - especially around Christmas!

So, we had our big, monster blizzard last night, with at least 1 inch of snow. I guess the suburbs got more, but the way they reported it, you'd think that the British Empire was about to crumble under the weight of the fluffy menace. Oh wait... I took the train today, not trusting the councils to do more than a half-assed salting of the major roads. Thomas (boss) cycled in, and wiped out just before he got to work. I parked my butt on the (delayed) train. David and I did have the dubious pleasure of watching a drunk domestic play out on the train this evening - that's always fun, watching people be very English and pretend like there aren't two people shouting at each other.

So, yeah - par-tay! I suppose we'll have a good NYE party (if we don't have to put to bed at least one useless person it just won't have been worth it... ;-)

Thursday 17 December 2009

City Threatened with Snow Flurries - Call in the Army!

Well, in usual style, London, the city that has withstood invasions by the French, the Viking and the dinosaurs, and which made it through the Blitz calmly and with great aplomb (so the History Channel leads us to believe) is threatened by the prospect of fluffy white things falling from the sky. Travel alerts! Possible cancellations! Snow emergency! Be afraid! Maybe the dinosaurs should have won.

Anyway, I don't actually have much to say at the moment (unusual, I know). I managed to peel my butt out of bed at the ungodly hour of 650 (I'm pretty sure that should be illegal when the sun doesn't rise until 8) and headed off for my morning bike ride. Generally a good ride, except for the dickhead in the Mercedes (I'm reminded of a joke about Mercedes and porcupines...) anyway, this prick comes up behind me on a road with miles and miles to pass, and honks. Naturally, I ignore him, so he honks again. Ignore. Finally he rushes around me in a big blast of Mercedes engine noise, and gets stuck at the next traffic light. So, I come up alongside him and manage to launch a nice big glob of spit on his window and door. Given my usual ability to aim spit is fairly abyssmal, I was pretty proud of my result, and was very pleased (I checked this first) that there was a whole lot of traffic ahead, meaning there wasn't a snowball's chance in hell he'd catch up to me again. Yet another small triumph for cyclists worldwide, or something like that.

Anyway, I should probably look useful, and I have to go off to a meeting in a bit anyway. Yucky.

Wednesday 16 December 2009

Grey, cold and blechy...

Well, as usual, weeks have passed and I haven’t written anything. My aim was to keep a travel diary on our Dublin trip, of which I managed one day (I will add that after this), but, as usual, life got in the way and I didn’t write anything. That and I never seem to have time to do this at work, and it’s too late when I get home in the evening after the gym. Whine snivel complain.

Anyway, today is the first day of any snow this winter. Or, rather, today is the first day that any snow has fallen out of the sky. It’s dark and gunmetal grey outside – cold (rather shockingly, given that it was snowing). Robin is off work today, and every day until after Xmas – bastard! David is off tomorrow and Friday. Unfortunately, my leave year goes until April, so I don’t have a pile of days to use up at the end of the year. Woe is me.

David purchased a rather large (7 foot) tree over the weekend. It was his turn this year to do the decorations (I think I am banned from doing decorations because my idea of a Christmas tree is, well, cheerful and fun, whereas David and Robin seem to have this quasi-militaristic need to have everything colour-coordinated and matching (and they say I am a big homosexual). I was, however, allowed to help David pick out the tree (oh lucky me), so I met him down at the local garden centre, where we rummaged through the piles of trees – everything from the little Charlie-Brown trees to the truly humongous. We settled in the middle – for the low low price of only £50. Good God – one should be able to buy an entire forest for that! Anyway though, the tree is a very nicely shaped ‘Nordman Fir’ – apparently native to the Caucus Mountains. Us being in the city and all, David took the tree home on the bus (I cycled into town, so didn’t join him). Some old biddy at the bus stop eyed the tree and said, ‘Isn’t that one of those trees that drops all its needles?’ I put a hex on her and politely informed her that I did not think it was. Anyway, that was Sunday. Today is Wednesday and we still have a large tree sitting in the middle of the floor, sans decorations. Why no decorations? Well, mostly because David decided that Christmas this year was going to be blue and white. Sounds rather Jewish or Israeli to me, but, again, I’m just along for the ride, apparently. So, David spent two days, 8 stores, and something like £100 finding ornaments and lights that met his colour scheme (last year Robin’s scheme was mostly gold and white). True, the ornaments are actually very nice, and the lights – these little tiny points, are quite cool, but my God. Tonight shall be the official decorating of the tree – each ornament, I’m sure, placed an optimum distance from every other ornament. I’d not be surprised if he had devised blueprints and sought planning permission for the entire operation.

Oy vey.

Anyway… Back at work… This morning I sat through a meeting with the nice folks over at Planning – this was actually kind of instructive, because it made me feel a lot better about our inability to get anything organised. As the saying goes – these people couldn’t organise a pissup in a brewery!

This weekend I hope to cycle out to Ashford (which is, itself, a shithole) because I want to go for a ride on the new trains heading out to Kent. Apparently, they run along the Eurostar line and go about 140mph. Sounds like a good reason to go cycling out into the cold murkiness to me – as long as it doesn’t snow. Snow is great. Snow in southern England is crap, however, because southern England pretty much falls over and dies when it snows.

Our Dublin trip… Well, David and I went, two weekends ago, to Dublin, where I’d not been since I lived there 14 years ago. We had a great time, and I managed to eat most of Ireland, I think. (Pics at: http://picasaweb.google.com/statlerandwaldorfonline). It was interesting to go back though. A few things became abundantly clear in Dublin. The first was that a whole lot of money came through Ireland in a big hurry. I’d never seen so much change in a place in such a short period of time – new buildings everywhere. New freeways. New tramlines. Chic restaurants. Actual non-white people (this in a city where people would actually stop and stare when a non-white person walked by). It felt as if Dublin had suddenly realized it was part of Europe. It also seemed that the powers that be knew that their little bonanza of cash was going to come to an end, and figured they’d better spend it just as fast as they possibly could. In a way, it felt like visiting a place that had won the lottery, and squandered the cash. There are still buildings under construction everywhere, and three major projects due to be completed the week we visited. However, the Irish economy is absolutely shot all to hell, with huge budget cuts, unemployment, etc. They are cutting salaries, cutting welfare, raising taxes, having general strikes – all sorts of fun things. It was a little surreal, actually – on the surface everything seemed fine – crowds out shopping, tourists everywhere. One only had to look at the graffiti, or the fly-posters, read the newspaper, or turn on the TV though to see that things were actually quite bad. Oh, and the church is still getting in trouble for diddling little boys. At least some things don’t change.

So, the one bit of travel writing I did actually manage, from 4 December:

Decided I should try to do a travel diary again. David and I are sat, windowside, on the Holyhead to Dublin ferry, looking out on a choppy grey-green sea and a grey-blue misty nothing of an indefinite horizon. Very relaxing actually, though not so relaxing I’m going to miss it when we fly back the other way. We took the 0910 train out of London – supposedly in the quiet car. Unfortunately, we had a drunk Irishman, who fulfilled every single stereotype of the drunk Irishman – right down to the photograph of the racehorse he was carrying. It was like having a 3 year old in the carriage – every single thing we passed he would make some inane, and loud comment. David tried to get him to be quiet. Other passengers laughed along (why?). I’d finally had enough and stormed out of the car – noting rather pointedly that I’d had just about enough of the ‘drunk’. Subtle as always. Ugh – wish they would have dropped him into the Irish Sea!

The ferry might be rather relaxing, but the ferry terminal was fairly exciting. I beeped going through the metal detector (boots, I think). Then, while being patted down for contraband, my backpack (in which I had a chicken-chutney sandwich) set off the sniffer dog (go figure). Suddenly someone whisks my passport off into another room and I’m faced with a guy with a rather large gun, while another rummages through my backpack. He is particularly interested in the plastic bag I am carrying – ‘What did you have in this?’. ‘Nothing, actually – I’m flying back and just needed something to put my toiletries in’. Eventually, he is satisfied that it was the chicken that set off the dog, but, wow, I was beginning to be concerned there was going to have to be a little cleanup operation on aisle 2… Anyway, there goes my future career as a drugs mule…

Thursday 3 December 2009

Life in the rainforest...

Hey, well guess what it's doing today? No, there are not blue fluffy things flying about through the sky (well, there might be, but only after the use of many illegal substances) - it's raining! Yes, that's right, ladies and gentlemen - there is water falling out of the sky, which has happened, oh, I don't know - nearly ever day for the past week or so (I've lost count). The trees are all (mostly) dead, but the grass is lush - squishy, but very lush. David and I went walking through Hampstead Heath last weekend, and I was very happy my hiking boots were (sort of) waterproof. But still I dutifully (that word doesn't look right) - anyway I get up at the crap of dawn (actually, even before dawn passes wind) to head out into the morning traffic. I was especially pleased with myself the other morning that I managed to find a side-street to cut out one of my least favorite parts of the morning commute. Simple pleasures...

Actually, I was thinking the other morning as I was weaving my way through traffic - I cycle every morning over Tower Bridge. People come from all over the world and take pictures of Tower Bridge. Apparently, it's one of the most famous bridges in the world. Yet, on my morning bike ride, it's just parked traffic, and moron pedestrians wandering out into the street without looking. I walked over the bridge the other day, on my way to a meeting at City Hall - it was really nice to actually be able to see the bridge, and see the view from the bridge, rather than just see the bus that cut me off, or the group of Japanese tourists who have not, it seems, encountered moving traffic in a road before. I like walking along my bike routes - it helps me remember why I think London is a fantastic city, and not just a moving obstacle course full of dimwitted numbnuts.

Anyway, we (the whole house) went over to friends of Robin's last Saturday for Thanksgiving dinner (as we all had to work on Thursday). It was, of course, raining. The food was excellent. The flat was, well, unusual. Both of the denizens are (gay) architects, meaning that everything was arranged just so. Even the books in the shelves were arranged by height order, whereas our books are generally arranged by where they get crammed. They had six gay men and one very neurotic Spanish woman (fag-hag) who had just moved to London from New York crowded around the table. Naturally, the conversation was, at turns, catty, bitchy, political and generally snarky. It reminded me a bit of the dinner scene in Beetlejuice, though, fortunately, our dinner didn't reach up and grab us.

David and I are heading off to Dublin tomrorow morning on the 0910 train from Euston. I've not been to Dublin in 14 years, since I lived there. It may have changed a bit! Actually, what I'm really looking forward to is seeing whether it still feels like travelling 50 years back in time. I doubt it does - there might even be real, live, non-white people there now! I do know that Ireland has just been decimated by the recession - but then, I lived there before I became the 'Celtic Tiger', so maybe it will feel as if nothing has changed. We're taking the train and ferry there, which takes all day. David's never been there, and he's never taken the ferry, so it seemed like a fun thing to do. We're flying back though. Once is fun, twice is a pain in the ass.

Blah - I suppose I should do some work before the bosses get back from whatever inane meeting they are at.

Oh, funny thing - we had our 'GIS User Forum' yesterday - which consisted of a few of us talking about various things to a room full of 20 semi-interested (or perhaps semi-comatose) people. I just sort of got up there and blathered, as opposed to some of the more organised talks, and people said they really liked it! I suppose all those years of teaching undergrads was good for something. The meeting was supposed to finish at 430, but it was dragging on a bit. Get this - people actually got up and left at 430. How rude is that? Some guy was still talking, and they just left! Stupid bureaucratic people. If I was up there talking, I would have shamed them, because the speaker was very English about it and just kept speaking, though I could tell he was very embarrassed. People suck sometimes.

Ok, work now. Yuck.